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Sunday readings for June 30th, 2019.

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Five years ago my wife and I did a ten year anniversary trip to Europe, without our children (bless their hearts). We spent eleven glorious days in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. We ate incredible food, drank delicious wine, saw beautiful art, prayed in breathtakingly inspiring churches, and held hands more than we had in the previous ten years combined. About day four my wife started to miss our kids, but it wasn’t until day nine or so that I uttered, “I’m kinda looking forward to going home.”  

As wonderful as travel is, we humans seem to find such comfort in going home. In the midst of busy schedules there is something wholesome and heart warming when my family gets a night just to stay home and be together. I’m a pretty outgoing guy, but as I get older, I seem to appreciate more when my plans get cancelled I just have to stay home. 

In the gospel Jesus is denied entry into a Samaritan town. The disciples ask if he wants them to call down fire and destroy the town (can they do that?!?). Jesus rebukes them and eventually  responds to a follower stating his dedication, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” One way to read this is that Jesus is saying he doesn’t have a home. In so many ways this makes sense, Jesus is exercising his earthly ministry as an itinerant preacher. Jesus doesn’t stay in any one place for very long, but continues to heal, preach, and drive out demons on his way to Jerusalem and the cross.

Yet, I think it is wrong to say Jesus doesn’t have any place he calls home. Jesus finds his home in his mission. If Jesus’ mission is bringing God into the hearts of humans and bringing humans into the very heart of God, then whenever and wherever Jesus is seeking to fulfill this mission is home. 

Moreover, home for Jesus is the perfect unity of the Trinity. Jesus doesn’t have a home where he can rest his head because Jesus himself isn’t a building where he eats and sleeps. Jesus himself is home. 

If we want to follow Jesus like the eager disciple who exclaims, “I will follow you wherever you go,” then we must consider having the same home as Jesus. If disciples seek to imitate the master, then as disciples, we must seek to find our home in the mission of Jesus and the Church, not in a particular building. If we want to be like Christ, we must look for our home in the heart of God. 

Live It: Go to church 1 extra time this week. If you have an adoration chapel, pop in there. If not, just head into your main worship space.  Sit in a chair or pew, close your eyes, take 5 deep breaths, and then pray, “Lord make me at home in your heart and in your mission.” Repeat as necessary.  

 

Unsatisfied? Really?!

Sunday Readings for June 23rd, 2019.

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Last week a friend of mine and I went to dinner at one of the top restaurants in the state of Minnesota. When this restaurant opened, it was heralded as the number one new restaurant that year. The chef is a James Beard award winner. The room is elegant and simple, as is the food. Our meal was spectacular. One of my finest dining experiences ever. 

Later, when asked about my meal, I raved. But then I made some small critique of one of the salads and one of the opening plates. The food and the restaurant were phenomenal, but my small criticisms seemed to indicate that I wasn’t exactly satisfied. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel a certain pressure to be critical. It’s as if to demonstrate my sophistication, I need to criticize everything I experience. If I enjoy something or I am too positive, it almost feels like I haven’t really examined it yet. If I don’t hold a negative opinion, I am base, lowbrow, and simple. Negativity is the sign of the cultured sophisticate. 

Unfortunately I think this attitude and disposition towards negativity can invade our faith. I can’t tell you how many times in a Bible study I’ve heard someone (sometimes myself) critique the author and fail to examine what the text is trying to teach about God. It’s almost like we are saying, my opinion about this author or program or situation is proof I am a discerning Christian who cares. But in reality we are often so busy critiquing that we miss being blessed by God.

If I can be so bold, I think this attitude and behavior is most often exhibited by us when we talk about the Mass. I know people who always seem to have something negative to say about the homily or the music or the worship space or the vestments whenever they walk out of Mass. In fact, I think judging Mass has reached an epidemic level. And in all honesty, I’m the number one offender.

At Mass, Heaven and Earth meet. Really. The God of the universe becomes bread and wine for us to consume and we are physically united with our Creator. Really. God invites us into the inner life of the Trinity. Really. With every single Saint who has ever lived, we worship Jesus who died on a cross to save us from death. Really. We are drawn into intimate communion with all of our brothers and sisters in faith. Really. And after all that, we leave unsatisfied? Really?!

We eat donuts and complain about the length of this or the music of that, but in reality we are missing God smack in our faces. 

Do we have things we could do better? Sure, no doubt. And we all have preferences when it comes to what helps us encounter God at Mass. But do we really think that our satisfaction is an indication of whether God was present to us or not at Mass? Really?!

The reality is that God is powerfully, intimately, and transcendently present to us in the Mass. God is in the proclaimed words of scripture and the Eucharist. If we can be humble enough to put aside our sophistication, we can experience the same satisfaction of the 5000+ plus who were fed multiplied loaves and fish. If we want to be satisfied, we have to come on Sunday ready to worship God and seeking to forget ourselves. 

LIVE IT: On your way to Mass this week or when you enter your pew before Mass, Ask God to help you forget yourself, fully enter into worship, and to become more aware of how God wants to satisfy you. 

Post Script – I recognize my rant above (mostly directed at myself), is not the whole conversation. Certainly we can desire to celebrate Mass in a way that more perfectly demonstrates Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Volumes of books have been written about the Mass and what constitutes good liturgy. Today, this was the message I needed to hear and my gut (and the last 10 years of donut conversations) says many of you needed to hear it too. Thanks for reading and reflecting. Ck

 

You cannot bear it now.

Sunday Readings for June 16th, 2019

ray-fragapane-1483223-unsplash.jpg“Wait, everyone, I need to know what the plan is today!” This phrase is a pretty common request in my house these days. On a busy Saturday morning as we are dressed and heading out the door, it isn’t uncommon for one of my children (or me), to request to know what all the plans are for the day. 

I don’t think this is an inappropriate request. We all like to know what is planned for our days. This seems to be especially important when we aren’t the one in charge. When someone else is in control, it makes sense we would want to know what is happening.

I think the more we trust the person making the decisions, the more are willing to let go of knowing what is happening. If the person in charge has proven their ability to lead well, we are more likely to not need to know every single detail of our day. 

In the gospel Jesus says to his disciples, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” He explains that he has more to reveal to them, but they can’t hear it yet. I wonder how the disciples felt in that moment? What is like to be told they can’t handle all that Jesus wishes to tell them? 

Do you think God has told you everything you want to hear? Has God revealed perfectly his plan for your life? Have you received a detailed itinerary for the rest of your life? Yeah, me neither. 

So how do we react knowing that God isn’t telling us everything? I think the answer depends on how much we trust him. 

I think there are three general categories in which our answer can fall.

First, we trust God as much as he is willing to share his plan with us. Reflecting on my late teens and early twenties, I think I trusted God, as long as he told me what the plan was going to be. It was as if I was saying to God, “Lord, I trust you completely, now just tell me what it is I need to trust you with.” 

Second, we don’t really trust God at all. We believe we are the best judges of what is best for us and no one else, even God, should be in charge of our own life. I might not ever think this sentiment, but I certainly act like I believe it. 

Third, we trust God with control and with knowledge of the plan. In this way we might say, “God, I not only trust you with my future, but I trust that you know what is best for me and give up the desire to know what the plan is.” I think when I vowed to love my wife for the rest of our lives, I was gifted with this level of trust. 

If we want to grow in trust with God, how do we do it? Jesus clearly says that it is the Holy Spirit that helps us grow in trust and the knowledge of the truth. Lean into the Holy Spirit and ask for a spirit of trust.

LIVE IT: Trying praying this prayer from St. Augustine for 7 days straight. See what happens to your trust in God!

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. 

 

3 ways to find Peace.

Sunday Readings for June 9th, 2019.

Last Wednesday was a good day. I worked out in the morning, prayed morning prayer, jordan-wozniak-256456-unsplashgot a tremendous amount of work done, met a friend for lunch, spent time with my children and wife, hit golf balls, cut the lawn while listening to an inspiring podcast, and watched my St. Louis Blues win a Stanley Cup Finals game while sipping a cold beverage. It wasn’t my perfect day, but it was pretty darn awesome. And yet I woke up the next day with a lump of anxiety lodged in my gut. 

I examined careful the rest of the week, but found not a single anxiety producing plan. I examined my conscious to make sure I wasn’t carrying some hidden sin that was pricking my anxious heart. I didn’t but I made a point to plan a Confession time just in case. I even bravely asked my wife if everything was okay, just in case she knew. Nothing. Everything was good. The sun was shining, and I couldn’t find the cause of my fretting. So I went back to reading the news (oops). 

I don’t know about you, but for me, even on my very best days, I can feel pretty anxious. Some of my worries can easily be attributed to a source, and other times I can’t quite identify why I’m worried. Truth be told, when I can’t identify the source of worry, it is usually because I am reading the news or paying too much attention to social media, or am taking on other people’s concerns. It’s almost as if I find comfort in worry in some weird way.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus offers his disciples Peace. In fact, twice Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” to his disciples. With this Peace Jesus calls them to continue his mission of preaching the gospel and trying to save the world. Then Jesus literally breaths his Spirit into them and gives them authority to do this mission. 

Jesus wants to offer you and I that same Peace. I need it. I want it. Most of the time, I live in such a way that I deny it. Rather than receive the Peace that Jesus offers me, I try to distract myself from my daily stress and, in turn, only stress myself out more. 

If we want to receive and accept the Peace Jesus offers us, what must we do? I think there are 3 steps that will help us know the Peace of Christ. 

  1. Get Quiet – Find a small period of silence in each day. Turn off the car stereo. Hide your phone in a drawer. Turn off your TV. How can we find peace when our day is filled with noise? Maybe even make a news or information fast – don’t read the news or look at social media for 3 days or a week. See if you find some peace.
  2. Receive the Holy Spirit – Jesus Christ offers us the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity (like literally God) to be our guide, helper, and dynamic catalyst. The Holy Spirit will help us find peace if we ask. Invite the Holy Spirit into your life and then ask the Holy Spirit for peace. 
  3. Go on Mission – There could be loads of reasons why we don’t have peace, but one reason could be is that we aren’t doing what we are meant to be doing. Maybe we’re stuck in someway that isn’t God’s will. We are all called to help other know Jesus. Ask a friend how they are doing. Invite someone to Church with you. Start a Bible study or book club. Go on Mission and you might just find peace. 

LIVE IT: Choose one of the three steps above and give it a try. Or be bold and go for all three. Peace! 

Power.

Sunday Mass Readings for June 2nd, 2019.

vanveenjf-1167425-unsplash.jpgI wasn’t worried. I wouldn’t say panicked either, but I did have a 3+ hour flight and with less than 20% battery life, my phone wasn’t going to make it. I searched in my immediate gate area for an open plug, a source of electricity, but finding none, my pace quickened until, mercifully, I saw it – an open plug 2 gates away. I plugged in and power rushed into my device. 

My phone can’t generate power. It needs to pull power from another source to charge its battery. What happens if I don’t plug it in? The phone dies. 

In our readings this Sunday, we read about Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. In both Acts and the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that when he leaves the disciples, he will send them power. That power comes from the Holy Spirit. In the gospel he says, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus desires to give us power. Not just confidence or inner strength (which are good things), but true power. The Holy Spirit is the true source of power. Jesus has committed to us not just stories about his life or a set of teachings, but his very spirit so that we might live powerfully. As Catholics, we aren’t just supposed to follow the rules and be nice people – Jesus promises to give us the very power of God. We are called to act powerfully.

What exactly are we supposed to do with this power? Witness. Jesus leaves us the Holy Spirit so that we can bear witness to the truth about Jesus and about our faith. In Acts of the Apostles Jesus says it like this, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The source of power is the Holy Spirit. The purpose is for us to be witnesses of faith. The early Christians were witnesses during a time of great Christian persecution and often witnessed by dying for their faith. How are we going to witness about our faith? How have we received power from the Holy Spirit?

(Oh, one other thing. Without receiving power from the source, the Holy Spirit, our faith tends to become like phone that hasn’t been plugged in – dead. No connection to the source – no power and thus we can’t do what we were made to do, love and witness.)

LIVE IT: Want to feel powerful? Ask for power for the Holy Spirit in prayer. Whether it is in personal prayer time or at Mass as God to send his Spirit into your life so that you can live powerfully. Then offer God to use that power to help you witness. 

Dwell.

Sunday Mass Readings for May 26th, 2019

When I was a kid, I used to love going to sleepovers. My friends and I would stay up late and watch movies and scarf candy. We’d sneak out of the house in the middle of night for no real important reason and then rush back inside when we got scared. In the morning, we’d sleepily eat pancakes made, usually, by the far too chipper dad of my friends. 

More than what we did, I loved the effects of a sleepover. Something about going to sleep and waking up in the same place seemed to bring me closer to my friends. I think this might be because sleeping in the same place is something that families do. Brothers and simon-matzinger-633741-unsplashsisters go to sleep and wake up all in the same house nearly every night growing up. So when we do this with our friends we begin to build family like connections. Maybe that is why freshmen year of college friendships seem to build so quickly. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus describes what it means to love God. Loving Jesus means following his word. Jesus promises that the one who follows his word will have Jesus and the Father come and dwell with him. 

Jesus is explaining that religion isn’t just a set of rules. There are rules. There is a way to be. But the rules are the purpose they are the means. They are the way to get God dwelling with us. God wants to go to sleep and wake up with us. Jesus promises God’s desire to be close to us. 

In our Catholic faith, God just doesn’t want to dwell with us. God wants to dwell in us. Through the Eucharist God shows he just doesn’t want to be around us, but he desires to literally enter into our very being and does so when we consume him. God does this so that we can also dwell in him.  

How important is this to Catholicism? When the bishops summarized what we believe in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the very first sentence in the very first paragraph says this:

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.

Our very purpose in life is to dwell in God. Unable to do this perfectly, God reaches out and does this first by dwelling in us. 

LIVE IT: This Sunday, go to Mass, if/when you receive the Eucharist, pray, “God come dwell in me, so that I may dwell in you.”

 

“Glory” is an overused song lyric.

Sunday Mass Readings for May 19th, 2019.

Some have accused the writers of old-school Top 40 songs of using the word “baby” whenever they ran out of words or ideas. I think you could make the same accusation of Christian music writers of their wild overuse of the word “glory.” It seems whenever modern Christian lyricists want to make a vague mention of God’s general goodness, they tend to lean heavily on God’s “glory.” Glory

Though we may sing of God’s glory regularly, what are we even saying?

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus uses the word glory, in one form or another, five times in two short sentences. Take that Chris Tomlin. 

What is Jesus talking about when he says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”?

Glory is great honor or renown, brilliance or great beauty. In other words, Glory is something worthy of wow. Of course, for God, what is worthy of honor or renown is not what we humans tend to recognize. 

Jesus is glorified and glorifies the Father, not in his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, but in his degrading death on the cross. Jesus is glorified at the very moment that he is lowest by human standards. Jesus is brightest, at his darkest.  

The gospel quickly pivots from Jesus and God’s glory to Jesus writing a new commandment: love one another. Why? What’s the connection between Glory and Love?

True Love – self sacrificing, death on a cross kind of love – is maybe the only thing worthy of renown. True love glows with brilliance. Anyone who has seen a new parent hold their newborn infant, when that parent comes to realize they would happily give their life for this squirmy little thing, understands that love is brilliant and beautiful and glorious. 

Vainglory is selfish. Vainglory is seeking renown from anyone who will give “likes” to anything. Vainglory calls the truly ugly, beautiful. Vainglory serves the one who seeks it. 

Glory is the byproduct of self-gift, true love, self sacrifice.

We give God glory by recognizing his great gift of love, by worshiping him with our words and hearts, and by living our life according to his great commandment – Love one another. 

Live It: Try to Worship at Mass this Sunday. Seriously. Close your eyes and pray, “Glory to you, my God.” As many times as it takes.