You’re Glowing.

August 6th Sunday Readings.

1505CNS-popemarried-couplesWEB2“You’re glowing.” Have you ever heard this phrase used? I’ve heard people say this to grooms and brides on their wedding day. I’ve heard people say this to pregnant women. Something about moments of incredible joy that seem to have us radiating light.

A friend of mine once told me that in Mexico the traditional way to ask a pregnant woman when she is due is, “Cuado vas a dar luz?” or “When will you bring forth the light?” The birth is a moment of brightness, of light.

In the gospel and first reading this weekend, we read about God in his glory shinning brightly. Daniel describes The Ancient one as bright white as snow sitting on a flaming throne. In the familiar story of the transfiguration, Jesus’ face “shone like the sun,” and his clothes become “white as light.” In another moment from scripture, Moses encounters God on Sinai, comes down the mountain, and the skin of his face became radiant.

A couple years ago, an acquaintance of mine heard a talk about the Eucharist and went to Eucharistic Adoration and for the first time in her life, she believed that the Eucharist really is Jesus. She walked out of the church and the first person who saw her, before they even spoke, remarked, “Wow. You’re glowing.”

I think when we encounter God in an intimate and profound way, there is a fundamental The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896change within us. That change can manifest itself in a noticeable way. People can literally see the change in us. We radiate. That light is a manifestation of receiving and giving unconditional love. That is why the newly married couple glow. That is why the mother grown a human, with a soul, within her radiates light. That is why when we encounter this God of love who would do anything to be near us, we radiate his love into the world. Let your light shine.

LIVE IT: Take sometime this week to light a candle and sit in silence. You could do this at the Adoration Chapel or in your home. Let God speak to you in the silence.

I am not a farmer.

July 16th Sunday Readings.

I am not a farmer. I am barely a gardener. Mostly I feed the bunny rabbits that roam Anim_Homepage.gifmy neighborhood like an emboldened street gang looking to destroy plush vegetation wherever they go. My wife seems, naturally, to know how to grow things. I just do what she says.

Sometimes Jesus’ farming parables get a little lost on me – maybe I don’t have ears to hear. This Sunday’s gospel is the classic parable of the Sower and the Seed (which, to me, sounds like the name of indie band. I digress). It seems pretty straight forward that Jesus is saying only about 25% of people who hear the good news are going to get it and follow.

The problem for me, and maybe this is my ignorance of farming, is that I don’t think that the overall premise of the story makes sense. What I know about gardening is that you don’t just walk around your property randomly throwing seeds. Like I wouldn’t trying to plant tomatoes in my driveway.

No, a reasonable farmer/gardener would either only sow seed where it would likely grow well or change the bad ground into well tilled, fertile soil. What does that mean? The sower should be turning over the path, digging up the rocks, and pulling the thorns – then sowing seeds.

What I think it means for us is that we need to be preparing the soil in our own hearts and in our world where we are planning to plant the seed of hope in the gospel. Listening to preaching or reading a spiritual book is all fine and dandy, but if haven’t prepared ourselves to really listen and reflect on what we hear/read, we won’t bear as much fruit as we could.

The absolute best way, I’ve found, to till up the soil of my heart in order to receive the gospel, is to go to Confession. Not as punishment for my sin, but as the way that my heart is turned over and prepared to be a fertile place for God’s word. The rocky sin gets removed. The habitual thorny vices are ripped out. Then there is opportunity for the seed of virtue to grow without sin getting in the way.

If I’m trying to plant the good news of the gospel in a rock hard world full of thorny people, I’m not going to have much success until I’ve earned the right to be heard and made the kind of friendships that open others to my witness.

Having said all that, last year I had a fennel bulb grow in between my driveway and cement front porch. How? I’m not sure. Sometimes all it takes is a crack and brave soul with good aim to grow the good news even in the most inhospitable of environments. So go and be bold in sowing the seed of the gospel, but trying tilling the soil first.

Live It:
Go to Confession. If it’s been a while, tell the priest that. If you aren’t Catholic, tell the priest that. If you don’t know how to go to Confession, tell the priest that. Just do it.

 

Lose.

July 2nd Sunday Readings.

When was the last time you experienced something that made you say, “That was IMG_1552amazing”? Recently, I was at a concert where the lasers, lights, music, and performance were so overwhelming that I kind of forgot where I was for a moment and just stood in awe. This past weekend I stood on the beach of a beautiful lake and got lost in the sunshine and trees and water. Playing a game with friends recently, I laughed so hard I was concerned I might pass out (seriously), and I lost track of time.

I think the experience that these moments all hold in common is this sense of forgetting myself. I was so overwhelmed with awe or joy or beauty that I lost myself. If I really think back about the most memorable and profound moments of my life (wedding day, birth of my children, etc.) those moments also seem to be when I stop thinking about myself and focus on another.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I think this experience of losing one’s self is exactly what Jesus is talking about here. In other words, when we are able to forget about what we think we want or need, only then do we get to experience a life fuller than we could ever hope for.

As good as the concert, the sunshine, and the laugher was in helping me lose myself momentarily, it is really in moments of profound prayer and in helping others that I truly forget myself. The music faded, the sun set, and the game ended, but 10 days later, I am still thinking about the moment at the end of Mass over a week ago when I prayed a prayer of surrender and I lost myself in the Eucharist and music of Mass. It’s the faces of the children in Mexico or my own children that push me outside of myself and move me to lose myself more than a mere memory.

If you want to live the fullest life possible, then give your life your life away. Lose yourself; find God.

LIVE IT: Make 15 minutes this week to go and sit in a quiet, empty Church this week. If it’s Holy Name of Jesus, make your way into the Adoration Chapel. Be silent.

I trust you (kinda).

June 11th Sunday Readings.

originalI’m scared of heights. I don’t mean I don’t like them or they make me uncomfortable. All that is true, but my fear of heights is so much more than that. When I find myself in an potentially unsafe heights situation, I loose the ability to think rationally and clearly.

One time on a high ropes course, I got about halfway up the rope ladder when I totally and complete froze up. I couldn’t move up or down. I wanted to do the ropes course, but my body wouldn’t move. I was tied into two safety lines and had a rope controlled by a climb instructor attached to my belt.

Rationally, I could say to myself, “Self. You are totally safe. You have a rope tied to you. The rope holds 500 lbs. You are safe.” I believed that the rope was there, but I couldn’t trust it. I knew it existed, but I wouldn’t trust it with my life.

Our gospel this Sunday is a familiar passage, John 3:16-18. We hear it so often that we can take what it means for granted. One of the keys to unlocking this verse is to understand what Jesus meant when he said the word “believes.” Jesus doesn’t mean the kind of belief that recognizes that God exists. The devil believes that God exists.

The kind of belief that John writes about here is putting our trust in God. In other words, everyone who puts their life into God’s hands will be saved. It is through a full submission and surrender that we are saved through Jesus Christ.

When we understand “belief” to be “acknowledgment of existence” we can be stuck in our faith or our lives just like I was stuck on that rope ladder. It is only when we believe in God so as to trust him with our lives that we can move forward fearlessly.

LIVE IT:
Go to a trusted person in our life – spouse, parent, child, friend, priest, etc. – and start a conversation by asking them this question, “What do you think it means to trust in God?”

How many times…

March 5th Sunday Readings.

“How many times do I have to ask you bring your clothes basket upstairs?” I uttered in is-that-not-brilliant-i-think-it-s-brilliant-hv4hw7-clipartfrustration. It finally happened. I realized I was becoming my mother.

Which honestly isn’t a bad thing, my mom is great. As my kids have gotten older, I feel like I understand my parents better and better. It’s like I understand why they said what they said. More than that, I understand something I really didn’t understand as a young person –

Obedience is a form of Love.

In the second reading, Paul outlines this way of thinking about Jesus as the one who, when Adam was disobedient, was totally obedient to the Father. If Adam disobeys God, it is Jesus who redeems through total obedience. If Adam’s disobedience caused a separation between man and God, then Jesus’ obedience repaired that rift. If Adam’s act brought death, Jesus’ obedience brings life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually value obedience. Maybe it is that us Americans seem to enjoy a rebel. Maybe it’s just that I rather like being in control and obeying someone else means that I have to give up that control. Whatever the case, I rarely have thought well of simple obedience.

Yet Jesus shows us that one way to love, and to love well, is to obey the virtuous request of those who love us. Obviously, I’m not suggesting we just do whatever someone else tells us. But when asked, by someone with total care and love for us, obedience is a way to love.

How can I love my spouse? How can I love my parents? How can we love God? Obedience.

Live It:
How do we know what God is telling us? Read scripture. Try reading this Sunday’s readings by clicking here.
or if your my kids, take your baskets upstairs. 😉

Proof is in the Vinegar.

February 26th Sunday Readings.

I don’t believe in all that homeopathic mumbo jumbo. Intellectually, I can maintain that

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Not medicine. 

eating newt’s eyes and massaging a particular place in my thumb doesn’t really do anything. I wouldn’t ever try and talk someone into non-traditional medical care.

And every day for three weeks I’ve been drinking this concoction of Apple Cider Vinegar, Turmeric, Honey, and hot water. While my whole family spent days in the pits of a gross cold, I have remained cold free and feeling good. I’m not willing to say the not-so-delicious vinegar drink is working because I don’t believe in crazy home remedies. But I drank my weird drink this morning and I’ll probably drink another one tomorrow.

I say I don’t believe that homeopathic remedies work, but my actions don’t really match my words. In the gospel, Jesus points out that sometimes we act this way with God too. Jesus said, “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek.” He was pointing out that even though someone may say they believe in a loving and caring God, when they don’t really act like it, can we say they really believe it. In other words, is it our actions or our words that define us? I might say I am a Christian, but if I live like God doesn’t exist, aren’t I just an atheist in practice?

If we say we believe in God and believe Jesus is God, do our lives reflect that? If we say God loves us and wants to show mercy towards us, do we actively seek that mercy? If we say God is good and knows what is best for us, do we really trust him fully?

Fr. Mike Schmitz often says that if we want to know how we are doing at following Jesus Christ, we shouldn’t look to our words, but instead, examine our calendars and our bank statements. Examining where we spend our time and our money is probably a good way to examine what we value and who we trust. If we truly trust and believe in a loving God, our lives will reflect that belief.

LIVE IT:
Open your calendar and your bank statement. Ask God to bless these two items and to help you trust and love more, worry less, and give more over to God. If you’re brave, examine how you’ve spent your money or time and discover what you value most.

You gotta play by the rules

February 12th Sunday Readings

I loved recess. I’m not saying it was the best part of my day or that I didn’t like actual class, but at recess I could play with my friends, do whatever we wanted to, and just have fun. For the first half of 4th grade, I spent most recesses arguing. My friends and I were trying to play football, but usually we would just end up arguing, sometimes about what happened, but usually about the rules. The reason was we didn’t develop or agree to any set of rules for our pickup football game. So after picking teams, we would just start and then something would happen that would cause us disagree. The lack of agreed upon rules kept us from being free to really have fun.

Sometimes rules get a bad rap. Rules are seen as the things that keep us from being free. Sometimes we even paint Jesus as the ultimate rule breaker and rebel. Yet, in the gospel for this Sunday Jesus says this, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”

When the rules come from God, they are rules made for our own good. If you believe in God and you believe that God loves you and you believe that he knows what is best for you, then the rules he sets are not restrictions to suffocate you, but, truly, rules to let you be free and happy.

G.K. Chester wrote this, “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.” He goes on to describe an island in the ocean with walls all around the cliff edge of the island. When the walls remained, children ran free and happy. When the walls were removed, the children silently huddled together in the center of the island. When we know our boundaries, we can have more fun, freedom, and happiness within them.

Live It:
What rule or moral guideline or teaching of the Church do you struggle to agree with? When was the last time you prayed about it and took your objection to prayer? Take 3 minutes this week (all at once or broken up into small segments) to pray about that rule or law that you struggle with. Offer it up to God, offer up your questions and objections, and then be silent and let God speak.