A Man of Action

Do you know someone who is a person of action? Anytime a job needs to be done, they are the first one to volunteer. They move, organize, motivate, and build until the goal at hand is accomplished. They execute with dogged determination. 

In the gospel this Sunday Peter demonstrates this kind of action. Jesus brings Peter, James, and John up on a mountain to pray. There Jesus is transformed and his clothes are made dazzlingly white. Two men appear and it’s clear, somehow, that they are Moses and Elijah. After it appears Jesus is done speaking them, Peter jumps into action. He cries out, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter jumped at the chance to start doing something. Peter wants to build something. Peter wants to leave his mark and he wants to start now. 

Then a cloud overshadows the group and when it came to rest upon them a voice said, ”This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

We don’t often think of listening as an action item. When we imagine people who take action and get things done, we rarely think of them as good listeners. Listening, in our our culture, seems to be thought of as simply a passive activity. 

Our gospel this Sunday is trying to show us the first movement of any active response to God is to listen. The first thing we must do if we want to follow Jesus is, not to move, but to listen. 

The cost of not listening first is that we may act or move in the wrong way. Peter seems to do this. In the gospel after he suggests making three tents the scriptures say, “But he did not know what he was saying.” That isn’t a good sign that he was on the right path. We know the rest of the story that Jesus had to come down off the mountain and head into Jerusalem to suffer and die for us. 

If we want to follow Jesus, then we must do what the voice in the cloud suggests, we must listen to Jesus. The first step in any action plan must be to first sit still and listen. 

Live It: We are a week into Lent. How is your Lenten promise doing? Whether you have given up something or added something, consider adding some silence into your day for the remaining days of Lent. Try just 5 minutes of silence every morning. Here is how to do it. Set a time on your phone for five minutes and then leave it across the room so you can’t reach it. Sit and listen for the Lord. If you get distracted, write down your distractions or say Jesus’ name over and over until the distraction passes. Honestly the more times you do the better it will go. Give silence a try this Lent in order to “listen to Him.”

Sunday Readings for March 13, 2022.


Both/and – This has got to be one of my favorite phrases. Often in life we are faced with “either/or” situations. Either it’s cold or it’s warm. Either I am happy or I am sad. Either I have everything I need or I have a wish list a mile long in my Amazon account. While it is true that often we are faced with either/or circumstances, I think sometimes we apply this divisive mindset in places where it doesn’t work. 

In particular, I am thinking about Peter in the gospel for this Sunday. In this passage from Luke, Peter exhibits incredible faith and follows the command of Jesus by putting out into the deep and casting his nets once again. Of course later we know he becomes the rock on whom Jesus builds the Church. Peter is the leader of the Apostles and the first pope. 

On the other hand, the guy tells Jesus, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In another story he sinks in this same lake because he doesn’t fully trust Jesus. Jesus refers to him as Satan in another moment. 

We could say Peter is either a saint, disciples, and leader of the early church or a sinner, failure, and poser with weak faith. The question at hand has to be is Peter a saint or a sinner?

Of course this isn’t an either/or answer. Peter is both. Peter was a sinner and Peter is a Saint. Both are true. Our world wants to say if you are one you can’t be the other. We would say every sinner can be a saint (and unfortunately every saint can be a sinner.). 

Each and everyone of us is made in the image and likeness of God. We are made good. All of us who are baptized are the very sons and daughters of God. We are God’s children. Yet each and everyone of us sins. We fail and fall and don’t live up to our true identity. 

Am I saying it’s okay for saints to persist in sin? No. Every single Saint has actively worked against the sin in their life. What I am saying is that If you consider yourself a sinner, that doesn’t disqualify you from seeking sainthood. 

In other words, we are worth saving and we need of a savior. 

What I think this means for us is that we should be confidence in the Lord. When we sin, we should be confident that he love us, wants to forgive us, and can save us. If we are feeling particularly saintly, we can be confident that it is only by God’s grace that we sought goodness. Whether you think you are a sinner or a saint you might just be right. God wants to save you either way. 

Live it: Sometimes it is helpful reflect on our desire to be saints. On a scale of 1-10 how much do you want to be a saint? What would it take to increase your desire for the sainthood by just one degree? Go do that thing. 

Sunday Readings for February 6, 2022.

How to get ready for Christmas

The lights are lit. The tree is up. Gifts are being purchased. Decorations in various shades of green and red are festively strewn around the house. Cookies are being planned. Meal menus are being discussed. Airline tickets are purchased for travel to relatives homes. Candle #2 is ready for lighting on the Advent wreath. Advent calendars are slowly being emptied of the chocolates (and in my household beauty supples #dadofdaughters).

Needless to say, preparations are underway for Christmas. Christmas is a big deal. Even our secular culture makes a big deal about his high holy day. There is a lot for which to get ready. By the time it is all said and done we will probably spend hours, maybe days or weeks, preparing for how we celebrate Christmas. That isn’t a bad thing. 

In the gospel this Sunday it says that John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Then he went on to quote the prophet Isaiah extorting the listener to prepare the way of the Lord. The gospel is seeking to convey that the manner by which we prepare for the coming of our Lord is the forgiveness of sins. 

In other words the way to straighten the path, to bring mountains low, fill in valleys, and smooth rough roads is to seek forgiveness for our sins. God can do anything and overcome any obstacle, but our road to God is made substantially easier if we seek forgiveness for the ways we have sinned against God and others. If we want Jesus near to us this Christmas, the way is to be near to him by seeking forgiveness from him for our sins. 

While twinkle lights, indoor trees, stockings, and cookies may be a way to prepare to celebrate the coming Christmas, we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ by seeking forgiveness. You want to give God a straight shot to your heart? You want to make your path towards heaven easier? Go to Confession this Advent. Prepare the way for the Lord by seeking forgiveness. 

Live It: Double challenge this week. 1) Go to confession. Here are the times at HNOJ for my fellow parishioners. Find your local Catholic Church and go to Confession. 2) Offer forgiveness to someone in your life. Do this quickly and without making a big deal out of it. Make a simple offering of forgiveness and mean it. I promise it will straighten some things out.

Sunday Readings for December 5th.

When it’s dark

Monday morning everyone seemed off. It was the Monday after the end of Daylight Savings Time, but it wasn’t just that. November has arrived in full dreariness in MN. The autumnal brilliance of colorful leaves is done. The last warm day is giving way to cold and child. Yet we seem far from the beauty and fun of significant snow accumulations. The world is dying, the news isn’t getting any better, and all is blah. Some in the church I work in are mourning for significantly more intense reasons than the weather. It seems death is all around. 

The readings this Sunday match this feeling. In the first reading from Daniel we hear, “It will be time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.” In the gospel Jesus says, “In those days after the great tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the power in the heavens will be shaken.” Dark stuff. 

Then Jesus preaches, “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds.’” Just when all hope is lost. Just when the very sun moon and stars are collapsing around us. Just when death seems a forgone conclusion. Jesus comes and saves. 

In this time of year and, let’s be honest, ALL of the last two years, when death, destruction, and failure seem to be winning, Jesus reminds us that a savior is coming. We are not left alone to contend with this darkness by ourselves. 

Jesus is our light. Jesus is our life. Jesus is the answer to the question of Death. Jesus is the remedy to the illness of sin and death. When the world is dark and broken, Jesus is the light and the healer. 

Live It: If you are feeling dark, seek the light. Go directly to Jesus. Go for a walk outside no matter how cold it is. Go seek out his light on earth, the Church. (I know the Church is full of sinners and we make mistakes, but the Church always seeks to be a light in the darkness. Contact your local church and explain why you are seeking them out. You may be surprised the light you find.)

Sunday Readings for November 14, 2021.

I could eat.

“I could eat,” is my favorite response to the question “Are you hungry?” I like this response because of how much I appreciate the act of taking a meal. There is something human about having a meal or sharing food with someone. Also it acknowledges the truth that sharing a meal and physical hunger are only weakly correlated. A meal is about so much more than simply meeting a caloric need. 

My family of origin and the family I married into understand the importance of sharing food. Okay that may be the understatement of the week for me. When I broke some rules and got in trouble my senior year of high school my punishment was that I had to be home for dinner every single night of the week. What genius. It was a painful punishment for an active and social high school kid and by it’s very nature I reconnected and my family sought to heal the broken relationship caused by my breaking of trust. 

In the gospel reading this Sunday we hear about another appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Jesus shows them his wounds and then asks for some food. They give him a baked fish and he eats in front them. What a strangely specific detail. Why would Luke include this aspect of the event? I think it is because of the importance for two things: Jesus’ bodily resurrection and the effects of sharing a meal. And I think they are related. 

It would be easy to misunderstand the resurrection. I think most of our culture does. It is assumed that Jesus was kind of like a ghost or some sort of spirit when he appeared to the disciples. The gospel writers go out of their way to demonstrate this isn’t the case. Jesus was physically, bodily resurrected. Luke even says the disciples thought he was a ghost, showing that they knew he was truly dead. Then they physically touch Jesus and even watch him eat food. Spirits don’t eat. Spirits don’t have wounds you can touch. Jesus does. The dead man really is alive again. 

Jesus eats more than once while appearing to his disciples. He eats cooked fish and breaks bread with his disciples. He wants to show them that sharing a communal meal is at the very center of Christian community. He want to show us that sharing a meal is at the center of our faith community as well. It is in these meals that Jesus’ identify is revealed to to those who don’t recognize him. It is in this meals that the reality of his bodily resurrection is confirmed. The post resurrection meals recorded in the gospels matter to the Church and to our faith. 

Mass isn’t extra. It isn’t nice that we get to do it (I mean, it is). Mass, a shared meal, is necessary for the Christian life. Mass is where we most vividly encounter the resurrected Jesus! Our communal meal is where we are fed and fortified and prepared to go try and save the world. Mass is where we realize our faith in the Father, resurrected Son, and Holy Spirit is real. Live it: Go to Mass. I get it. It may have been a while. You may not be going out to eat or going to Costco, traveling, or going to kids sporting events – in other words, avoiding crowds are all costs. But make this the first thing you do when you come back. You need Mass. 

Sunday Readings for April 18th, 2021.


When I was about 11 years old, I was waiting outside of my elementary school. I was taking a summer science program and I had just completed my journal of native plant species. A shiny, silver, two door sports car pulls up and out of the driver’s seat pops Tony Pena. Tony was the starting catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. For a kid in St. Louis this was a big deal. It’s kind of hard to explain how amazing meeting a Major League baseball player was for me in this moment. 

Tony was picking up his son who was also there for a summer program. He graciously greeted all the children and was signing autographs. I got Tony’s signature on my native plant species project and walked home in a daze. I don’t think set that piece of construction paper down for about two weeks.

I didn’t expect to come face to face with a real, live St. Louis Cardinal that random summer afternoon. In reality nothing major actually changed in my life, but my day seemed to be totally upended and the next week was completely different than the previous or the next, just because of this unexpected encounter. 

The woman at the well in this Sunday’s gospel didn’t expect to meet anyone important when she went to go get water. In fact, she didn’t expect to meet anyone at the well. The gospel says it was about noon when she went to the well to get water. Noon wasn’t the normal time for women to get water. Typically they would do it first thing in the morning to avoid the midday heat and to have water for the day. 

Instead of no one, she encountered the most someone who has ever lived. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, came into her life. He didn’t give her an autograph, but instead offered her living water. He knew her troubles and gave her peace.

God can break into and show up in the most unexpected places in our lives. 

Imagine if we actually looked for and expected to find God. How could God work in our lives if we actually invited him in and sought to have him show up not only in the unexpected times, but always? 

Often we don’t do this because we don’t want to be disappointed. If we ask for God to come into our lives and don’t find him, we are fearful we will loose faith or have a reason to be angry at God. This is a real concern. 

The reality is that if we humbly invite God in, he will come. If we let go of our desire for the kind of control that seeks to know when and how God works and instead lets him love and heal us without us even knowing – God will do this. God wants to intimately act in our lives. God isn’t some distant Olympian deity just watching and occasionally throwing a lightning bolt. God is wildly present in our lives. If we will pay attention and invite him in, we will find him. And he will find us. 

LIVE IT: Every time you unlock your phone today say this 3 word prayer, “Come Lord Jesus.” OR Pray the prayer “Come Lord Jesus.” 100 times today. Do whichever one is more. 

Sunday Readings for March 7th, 2021.

That’s Heavy.


In the cinema classic Back to the Future, Marty McFly uses the 1980’s slang term “heavy” to describe the hi jinx he has unleashed with his unplanned trip to 1955. His friend Doc Brown responds by saying, “There’s that word again. ‘Heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?”

This is funny not only because of the mash up of 1955 and 1985, but also because Doc seems clueless to the meaning of the word “heavy” in this context and we the audience know exactly what Marty means. We know because the feeling of heaviness isn’t just 1980’s slang.  

We all know when a situation is heavy. We all know when we hear a story or statement that weighs upon us. We can feel it when we walk into a room and sense a heaviness among those already presence. 

On Monday I read the final three paragraphs of the Passion of Jesus Christ from Matthew’s gospel at a Bible Study (online) in preparation for this coming Sunday. When I read about Jesus crucifixion and death you could feel the heaviness in the group. When we heard of Jesus’ suffering one could sense how heavy we all felt. When Jesus cries out and breaths his last, we paused, and we could feel the weight of this reality upon us. 

This Sunday is Palm Sunday and Catholic Churches everywhere will read the Passion of Jesus Christ from Matthew’s gospel. Granted it will be proclaimed to an online audience or to empty Churches in many places in the world. More than ever, it seems we know what it means to feel that somber weight of death and rejection. 

Another reality remains. While we may know what a heavy situation feels like, our God, the source of Light and of all creation, knows what our heaviness feels like. Jesus dying on the cross isn’t just about his suffering, but about ours as well. We have a God who knows what it is like to be us. We have a God who loves us so much that he wouldn’t let us persist in suffering without changing the story. In fact, he came to save us from suffering and death. Jesus died on the cross to conquer death forever. 

This week when you feel heavy, when the weight of the world falls on your shoulders, remember that you don’t bear the weight alone. Remember Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

LIVE IT: Let God give you rest. If it means an extra nap or a vigorous walk, when you feel light or rested, thank God for his gift to you. 

Read for your self: Sunday Readings for April 5th, 2020.

Faith Enough.


A few days ago I read a tweet that said, “It’s easy to pray that God’s will be done when it lines up with what we want done.” I found this to be true. Recently I’ve found it much more difficult to accept what is happening in the world as either God’s will or what I want. For me at least it has been harder to pray that “God’s will be done.” 

Martha and Mary must have been scared and anxious when Lazarus got sick. They must have found a glimmer of hope that they knew a healer who they thought might be able to save him. Can you imagine what they felt when Jesus didn’t show up in time? Can you imagine what must have been like to be let down by Jesus? 

Jesus arrives too late and cries over the death of his friend. He asks them to take away the stone to Lazarus’ tomb. When the protest about the stench, Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

He then raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus prays to God out loud so that the crowds know that Jesus comes from the Father. Then he calls Lazarus out and the dead man rises. 

And that’s that. That’s kind of the end of the story. Many people came to believe in Jesus, but the scene changes in John’s gospel to the beginning of a plot to kill Jesus. 

When do we decide to believe? Do we believe Jesus and what he says about himself or do we believe only after Jesus has proved himself and do what we want? To be honest, I’m writing this question for myself because I need to hear it right now. 

We are living through the most uncertain of times. What I do know is that someone believed before they moved the stone and before Lazarus was raised. There’s nothing wrong with believing in Jesus after the miracle has occurred. However, someone has to trust God enough to believe him at his word and move the stone. Will it be us?

Live it: In Mark 9, a boy with a demon is cured and Jesus tell the boy’s father that things are possible for the one who has faith. The man responds, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Say that prayer as many times as it takes – “Jesus, I do believe; help my unbelief” “Jesus I trust in you; help me to trust you fully.” “Jesus I love you; help me to love you completely.”   

Do You Fear the Lord?

When my wife and I were first married but before we had kids, some friends asked us to family-sit their brood of children while they traveled out of town for a weekend. We had a blast. We fed them meals. We did their activities. We played games. The only thing was one of the boys wouldn’t talk to me. In fact, he usually rushed out of the room when I entered. Mystified we asked our friends what was he so afraid of. They told us, “He knows that you are friends with the priest and the priest is close to God on the altar. He figured that you are close to God and he is scared of God.”

Honestly, I’m pretty humbled by this. He thinks I’m close to God. As the tremendous sinner that I am all I could think about was how far away from God I usually am! Then it occurred to me that while it is true I can choose to turn my back on God, God chooses to be close to me.

In the gospel this Sunday we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. He goes up on a mount with three of his disciples. His clothes insta-bleach themselves and the very voice of God speaks. They were walking next to God this whole time and only now understand exactly how close to God they had been.

The gospel writer says that they were very afraid. Jesus says, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” The very disciples, the ones closest to Jesus, Jesus’ senior leadership group, were scared of God.

There is a way that we shouldn’t be afraid of God. Signs of this kind of fear of God can be if we pull away from him, if we hide from him, if we avoid church or prayer or even identifying as a church person. If we only see God as a spiteful judge ready to damn us for every mistake, that isn’t a real healthy vision of God.

However, I don’t think that is most of us. Most people don’t hold enough of a healthy fear of God. If you catch me in a moment of honesty, I will tell you that most of the time our understanding of God is far, far too small. God is too much like us in our minds. God is a “just bigger, smarter, more mysterious” version of a human. Because of that we don’t fear God. We don’t fear what we know as much as we fear the unknown. If we don’t fear God it might be because we feel like we know him much better than we really do. If we don’t have a healthy and holy fear of God, it’s because our understanding of him is just too small.

We do fear the powerful. We fear what could end our life like heights or snakes. Public speaking is the fear of the unknown – we don’t know what everyone thinks of us.

Acknowledging that God is marvelous and amazing and big and a little fear inducing while still trying to get close to him is an act of trust. Bowing down before him, holding the dual truths that God is far, far beyond us and yet desires to grow closer to us than we can imagine is an act of worship. Acknowledge the fear, draw close anyway.

LIVE IT: Take 3 minutes before bed tonight to think about your image and understanding of God. Answer these questions – Am I afraid of God? Why or Why not? How does my understanding of God influence my daily life?

Sunday Readings for March 8th, 2020.

All the Flavor.

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About 5 years ago, my dad and I tried to make our own, from scratch, Italian sausage. We found a recipe in an older cookbook that we thought sounded authentic. We ground up the pork shoulders. We prepared the casings. We added various spices and finally the kosher salt.

While we were adding it, I remember thinking, “This seems like a generous helping of salt, but I’m sure the author of this recipe has more experience and expertise than I do.” But something went wrong. 

After filling the sausages, we fried up a little of the bulk sausage meat just to taste it. WOW SALTY. No one could eat the sausages. We tried cooking them in tomato sauce, but even then we found our family suffering through dinner. This salt was salty and our sausage experiment was a failure. Bummer. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells us that if salt loses its flavor it should be thrown out. The thing is, salt can’t loose it’s flavor. Salt is salt. So what is Jesus talking about?

We, in the 21st century, have refined, pure salt in our spice drawer at home. But imagine a time when one bought salt from a neighbor who only sifted it enough to get the large chunks of dirt or rock out of the salt. As one used the container of salt and get near the bottom, one probably got to the point where one had less salt and more dirt. Thus it no longer was salt.

Salt seasons and salt preserves. Salt does particular things. If you tried to use something less than salt to do either of these we are going to end up with dirty or spoiled food. What we need in cooking and food preparation is authentic salt. We need the real deal.

When it comes to sharing our faith, we need to have the real and authentic faith. Can we have questions and moments of weakness? Absolutely, that is part of growing in faith. But when it comes to sharing our faith, we can only share what we actually own. When it comes to inspiring and preserving faith in our family and our friends, we can only do so to the extent that we hold true faith. 

You and I can fake it till we make in terms of our own faith life and devotion (and sometimes we must!), but we can’t fake it for anyone else. We can’t share what we don’t have. We can’t lead where we won’t go ourselves. If we desire or feel called to help influence the faith of our children, spouses, neighbors, coworkers, or friends, then the first person we must help grow in faith is us. We must get salty, if we are going to season the world. 

LIVE IT: For the next 3 meals add this following prayer to your food blessing. If you make these meals, saying the prayer when you season the food. If you are picking up food, say it during the blessing.

“God, Give me the true and authentic faith you desire for me. Help me to be salt for those around me.”

Sunday Readings for February 9th, 2020.