What’s your #1s?

Sept. 18 Sunday Readings.

I recently heard in a homily from Fr. Mike Schmitz (click here for podcast homilies), that 6a00d83451b36c69e201b7c87ccd69970b-600wibefore about 100 years ago the word “priority” was never pluralized. Like the word never had an “s” on the end of it. Now we talk about our “priorities,” but 100 years ago we never used the word like that. Why?

The word “priority” actually means “first thing,” and basic logic tells us we really can’t have more than one “first thing.” And yet, we try to hold onto many things as our first, most important thing.

Jesus calls us on our bologna in the gospel today. Jesus reminds each of us that, at the end of the day, only one thing can be our #1 priority. No matter what we do, no matter what we say, one thing always comes first. One thing will always end up being our most important thing. If we aren’t purposeful about choosing our priority, we might end up prioritizing something that actually enslaves us.

Jesus uses the example of money and possessions to explain that if we try and hold onto multiple priorities (with one being money) eventually, our money, our status, our possessions will work their way to the top and we will become slaves to wealth.

Honestly ask yourself right now – what is my priority? Stop reading and really think about it.

Ha! Caught you, you tried to list a number of things, like family, friends, church (cuz you thought you were supposed to), and maybe other things.

A simple (but not-so-easy) way to figure out your priority is to analyze where you spend your time and your money. It’s as straightforward as examining your calendar and your checkbook (or online banking statement).

Ask these questions:

  • How do you spend the most of your time?
  • If you have nothing else to do, how do you spend that time?
  • How do you spend the majority of your money?
  • If you have some extra money, how do you spend it?

Did you like your answers? Honestly, I didn’t like mine. Time to recommit to a new priority.

LIVE IT:
Figure out how you spend your extra time and money. If the answer isn’t the absolute best thing you could be doing with that time and money, consider fasting from spending money and time in those ways. Then pray about how you think Jesus would want you to spend that time and money. Tell me how this goes; I’d love to hear if anyone tries it.

Unexpected

For our first Valentine’s day after we got married, by wife told me she planned a surprise date. She said I needed to get dressed up nice and to have a light lunch because dinner was going to be memorable. My expectations were set for only the best of the best, the most interesting restaurant, the most creative food – she took me to White Castle. whitecastle2

You can imagine my disappointment. She thought it would be cute and funny and White Castle did a whole Valentines day thing with flowers and reservations, etc. My expectations were not met.

Usually when our expectations aren’t met, it’s something bad. When we say something is unexpected, it isn’t a good thing. If we are an ardent consumer of the news or twitter addicts, we might think that unexpected news is always horrible stories of terrorism, violence, or tragedy.

Our readings this Sunday say something different. Our God is the God of the unexpected. In the first reading, Moses seems to talk God out of destroying his chosen people (even if they deserved it). God unexpectedly listens to one of his creations. In the second reading, Paul explains that God took him, the worst of the worst, a blasphemer and killer of Christians, and have made him his missionary disciple to the world. God chooses the unexpected to serve him.

In the gospel, Jesus tells three stories that all feature an unexpected characteristic of God. The shepherd seems to abandon 99 sheep to save just 1. That isn’t what is expected of shepherds. The woman loses a coin, finds it, and then invites everyone over for a party that probably cost more than the coin. Not sound fiscal strategy. The betrayed and disrespected father is expected to punish his wayward son, but instead welcomes, loves, and restores him.

We think we know what to expect from God. Mostly, we’re wrong.

The readings this weekend invite us to be open to the unexpected love, mercy, and joy in our God. What do you expect from God? How do you expect God to respond to your sin? Are you willing to say yes to God and let him surprise you?

Live it:

Grab your phone and set a reminder – 7 a.m. tomorrow morning – to say this prayer, “God, surprise me today.”

The Good Word for Oct 26th

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

If your house was on fire and you only had time to save one thing, what would you save? We can tell a lot about what our priority is by our answer. Obviously, we would rush our families out of the house, but beyond that, what would you grab? I’ve heard people answer that they would grab their wedding albums or their baby books. Others may answer that they would grab important documents. Still others would probably say their phones or computers. What would you save? What is your priority?

In the gospel, Jesus is asked what is the priority of our spiritual lives. The question is about what law is the greatest. Jesus answers definitively, “You shall love the Lord, your God.” It really is as simple as that. Our priority is to love God. Jesus doesn’t say that we should “like” God or “appreciate” God. He commands us to love God.

When we use the word love we often mean affection or entertainment or delight, like, “I love ice cream,” or “I love dogs,” or “I love movies.” But when Jesus says love he means to desire what is best for the other person. The Church’s definition of love is putting the needs of another before our own, to put others before ourselves. When Jesus commands us to love God, he is telling us to put God’s will before out own. Simply, the greatest commandment is to put God’s will before our own will.

How much? Jesus says, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all our mind.” What is our priority? To desire God’s will in our life. What is the greatest commandment? To make God the most important thing in our life each day.

I don’t know about you, but that is hard and I am not very good at it. So what should we do? Pray for God to change our hearts so that we desire it.

Live It:
Make the sign of the cross and say this prayer (if you mean it).
“God please change my heart so that I desire your will for my life. Help me to make you my number 1 priority.”

The Good Word for Sunday Oct 12

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Confession time. I am regularly given a honey-do list from my wife. When my wife hands me that honey-do list I almost never say no, but honestly, sometime I ignore parts of the list. (Oh man, I hope she doesn’t read the Good Word this week…)

I don’t purposely reject her request for something to be done, but I do conveniently ignore it. Even though these are different acts, the result is still the same – I don’t do what she asks.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about king who gives a wedding feast for his son. The first round of invited guests flat out refuses the invitation. The second round of invited guests simply ignores the invitation and does something else instead. Even though the response is different, the result is the same – neither goes to the feast.

We don’t think of ourselves as the kind of people who flatly refuse God’s invitation. More often, I think, we are people who simply ignore it and go do something else. God is inviting us to a great feast, a huge party, and often I just throw the invitation on my stack, thinking I will get to it later. The problem is that this invitation isn’t to “just another thing.” The invitation is to the greatest thing. It is an invitation to the thing we were made and destined to do – grow closer and closer to God.

Do you ignore God’s invitation? What do you do instead of attending God’s feast?

Live it:
Treat Mass this weekend like a party you were invited to. Dress well, get excited, and do the kind of things you would do to prepare for a party. If you have children, be creative and involve them in the preparation.