Are you busy?

May 7th Sunday Readings.busy-full-calendar.jpg

Are you busy? Yeah me too. I can’t wait for summer, but on the other hand I know that with it comes soccer games and running around and kids off school and maybe a different level of personally busyness. I don’t like complaining about busyness because complaining about being busy is like complaining about having too much food at dinner – it sounds ungrateful and not self aware.

If I’m honest, though, busyness is life sucking. Being busyness leaves me exhausted. Also, no matter how busy I am in a day, I still feel like I missed out on something during the day. Busyness leaves me unsatisfied. Somehow I don’t feel like God made me to be busy.

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus offers us something related to, but different, from busyness. In the very last line Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Jesus tells us that he came to free us to have an abundant life. Jesus didn’t come so that we could have a busy life.

I’m not sure what the difference is between busyness and an abundant life, but I know how each one feels. Busyness is exhausting and life draining. A life in absence is refreshing, inspiring, and feeling a good kind of tired. Its the difference between “getting everything done” and going on a beautiful hike in the mountains.

Screen-Shot-2013-09-17-at-5.34.05-PMI also don’t feel like it’s just the difference between fun stuff and hard, boring stuff. Sometimes after a full day of work where I feel like I got something done and contributed to the mission, I know I lived abundantly. Sometimes after a day of busy vacation, I’m not any more inspired or refreshed.

I’m not sure how to move from a busy life to an abundant life (If I did, I would have already done it). But I do know this – Jesus wants us to. The God of the universe came to give us an abundant, fulfilled, joyful life. I’m not sure how to make it happen, but I know the first step is to put my busy life into Jesus’ hands.

LIVE IT:
Take out your calendar or your phone or whatever you use. Hold it in your hands, look up and pray these words, “God, I give you my busyness. Jesus I want a life of abundance. Holy Spirit transform my life.”

Thunder Stolen.

April 30th Sunday Readings.

Have you ever had someone steal your thunder? It happens when you have something CCPYfEmUkAA8PBr.jpggood or amazing to share and then someone else steps in first with their news or follows your story with an even better story. Nobody likes getting their thunder stolen, but it is just part of life. In the gospel Sunday we have maybe the worst stolen thunder moment of all time.

The Sunday after Jesus dies on the cross on Friday, two of his disciples are leaving Jerusalem to return to their home in the town of Emmaus. On the way they meet a stranger who opens scripture for them and explains Jesus’ death and resurrection. When the disciples arrive at their home, they invite the stranger in for dinner. When he blesses and breaks bread, their eyes are opened, they realize he is Jesus, and then he vanishes. The two disciples encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ. Wow.

So amazed by their experience, they immediately leave Emmaus and head back to Jerusalem to tell their fellow disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. I can only imagine their excitement with each step towards their friends. If it was me, I would have rehearsed what I was going to say to everyone. It would start like this, “You guys are never going to believe this and you probably want to sit down, because this is going to blow your mind…”

Then imagine walking in and before you can even start your friends blurt out, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Scripture doesn’t record what they immediately said next or what they were thinking, but my best guesses are, “Well, good for you!” or “Us too! Meh.”

What scripture does say is that the two recounted what had taken place along the way and how they encountered Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Even if this may look like the most epic stolen thunder moment in all human history, in reality, the two share in the joy of their friends and fellow disciples in realizing that though Jesus died, he lives. The news of encountering Jesus overcomes any and all human jealousy or hurt in this moment.

With news this good, there is no stolen thunder or one-upping the other, simply shared joy.

Yet, most of the time we are scare or intimidated to share when we’ve had a close moment with Jesus. “What will people think?” But the reality is that if the person you are sharing your experience with knows Jesus too, or if they really love you well, they won’t be upset or jealous or feel badly, they will share your joy.

In this Easter season, we need to share our joy more often. We need to be over joyed when someone shares good news with us. There is no such thing as stolen thunder with news this good.

LIVE IT:
Think of the person who loves you the most. Got it? Now make a plan to do one of two things: 1) tell them about how you encountered Jesus this Lent/Easter, or 2) ask them how they encountered Jesus this Lent/Easter. Then rejoice because Jesus lives!

The Nuclear Option

April 23rd Sunday Readings.

My news feed is full of the phrase “The Nuclear Option.” We heard about the nuclear Nuclear-explosionoption when the Senate voted to end the use of the filibuster in approving Supreme Court nominations. That use was metaphoric. Now warships are headed to the waters around the Korean peninsula and Kim Jong-Un is threatening war with a more literal version of the nuclear option. Not good.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly have warm and fuzzy feelings toward this phrase. I grew up in the last moments of the cold war and the idea of the nuclear obliteration of humanity seems like a bad deal to me (insightful, I know)

In the gospel this weekend, we will hear about Jesus Christ coming back from the dead and appearing to his followers. I think we are so used to that idea or hearing this scripture that we usually fail to really think about what this means.

Jesus’ death and resurrection is the nuclear option.

God was willing to becoming a human being and then die, just so that he could save you and I from our deaths. What was God willing to give up to get us? Everything. Literally his own life. God stepped over the separation we created through sin to bring us back into relationship with himself.

The Gospel this weekend is a witness to the fact that this really, truly, and actually happened. Jesus wasn’t a ghost. Jesus didn’t fake his death. Jesus died and three days later ate with his disciples. When they doubted, Jesus invited them to touch his wounds.

God was willing to go nuclear to save you. There is nothing God wouldn’t do to love you. God’s mercy, which we celebration this Sunday on Divine Mercy Sunday, is extreme.

The question is how do we respond. Do you believe? Will you accept God’s radical invitation to know him?

LIVE IT:
Do something extreme this Easter to meet God. Take a lunch break to come to Church and sit in silence in the main church. Come to daily Mass. Go meet the poor and pray with them, feed them. Find and read you Bible. Go do something “out of character” for you, something that would be your nuclear option to respond to God’s love.

Run like you’re being chased.

April 16th Easter Sunday Readings.

“Run like you’re being chased!” was a common mantra barked out by my high school baseball coaches. We used to run conditioning laps during the beginning of the season. When shaming us for running “like we had a piano on our backs” didn’t Runningmotivate us sufficiently, our coaches would try to move us with this phrase.

A couple summers ago, I ran my first 5k. I wasn’t being chased. I wasn’t running from anything. Actually I think I was running for something. I wouldn’t say I was running for fun, but maybe for the experience or for my wife because she wanted us to run together. I believe most of my friends who are big runners run for something as opposed to running from something.

In our Gospel, this Easter Sunday, we read the first moments when the disciples discovered that Jesus wasn’t in his tomb. In John’s gospel, Mary of Magdala, when she saw that the tomb was empty and the stone had been rolled away, ran to tell Peter and the beloved disciple. Then Peter and the beloved disciple both ran to the tomb. Mary, Peter and the beloved disciple all ran towards something. Why? What would motivate someone to run to somewhere or someone.

I think it was love. I think they loved Jesus Christ (though imperfectly like us), and they were loved by Jesus Christ (perfectly). I think we run toward the people or things we love.

I don’t know about you, but I want to run towards Jesus Christ. I want to run towards resurrection. I want to run towards ever lasting joy and perfect bliss in the arms of a God who loves me unconditionally. But sometimes, I run away.

This Easter can’t be just an end to Lent. This Easter isn’t just the relief of getting to do the things we gave up or stopping the things we began this Lent. This Easter, I want to continue to run towards Jesus, to the empty tomb, to a soul saved. Where are you running?

LIVE IT:
Running always starts with a decision. Decide now that this Easter is going to be different. Decided now that it won’t be a return to life before Lent, but a new celebration of Joy and Gratitude in the resurrection of Easter.

Pain Tolerance Zero.

April 9th Sunday Readings.

How do you react to pain? I don’t react well. Whether it is a splinter or a stubbed toe or 3e5b23ef9b8d9bbbdfeffd8615959c62an upset stomach, I tend to make a big deal out of any little bit of pain. Honestly, when I experience pain, I am usually at my most selfish. Nothing makes me put myself above all others than being in pain.

Unfortunately my pain-leads-to-selfishness extends to emotional pain as well. When I’m hurt by what someone else has done or said, I usually turn inward and protect myself. How about you? What do you when you are hurt and in pain?

This Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus’ suffering and death. It is difficult to get our minds around the physical pain he endured on the cross. But I think it must have been even more emotionally painful for Jesus. His mission in life was to save the lives of the very people who were crucifying him. Imagine being denied, betrayed, and abandoned by those people you were sent to help.

Yet, when faced with this overwhelming physical and emotional pain, Jesus didn’t turn inward. Instead, while dying on the cross, Jesus continued to forgive, heal, help, inspire, give, and love. When we say, “God loves you,” this is what we mean. When we have done everything to turn away from God, when we layer hurt and insult upon hurt and insult, when we literally try and kill God, Jesus still turns to us in love. In the midst of our rebellion, Jesus comes to save us.

LIVE IT:

Read the gospel before Mass this weekend – Matthew 26:14 – 27:66
. It’s a long one and it is easy to tune it out during Mass.

Minnesota Nice?

April 2nd Sunday Readings.

Last week, I got flipped off while driving . I had moved into a turn lane to make a left at a stop light when a TruckCensoredlarge heating and air conditioning truck swerved into the turn lane. I clomped on my breaks and gave a little “honk honk” with my horn to let the driver know I was there and to avoid an accident. I didn’t lay on the horn angrily or scream – just a little, “maybe you can’t see me, fyi, I am here” kind of a honk.

The fellow Minnesotan driving the truck looked at me through his side mirror and proceeded to let me know that I was #1 in his book. This didn’t seem very Minnesota nice. Nor is it wise since his company’s name and phone number were painted on the side of his truck.

To further compound this awkward exchange, we were both heading to Menard’s and pulled into the parking lot at the same time. In a true act of Minnesota nice, we both avoided each other on our way into and while shopping at the home improvement store.

Minnesota has this reputation of being full of nice people. For the most part, this is true. When I told my wife the story of my morning, she responded that it wasn’t Minnesota nice to honk at the other driver in the first place, even if it did prevent an accident. Which made me wonder, is “nice” always good?

Sometimes we use the word nice when really we mean kind or generous or charitable. If those are the kinds of things we mean when we say nice, then by all means, be nice. But I don’t think that Jesus Christ left heaven, came to earth, suffered, and died on a cross just so that we would become irrationally polite.

Our readings for this Sunday teach us that Jesus’ mission was not to make mean people, nice, but to make dead people, live.

In the first reading God says through the prophet Isaiah, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” In the second reading Paul writes to the Romans, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” And the gospel is the beautiful story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

If Jesus didn’t come to make us nice, but to make the dead, live, then the question we need to ask ourselves when we lay our heads on our pillows each night is not, “Was I nice?” but instead we should ask, “Was I fully alive today?”

Man-Fully-AliveIs being kind, generous, and charitable part of being fully alive? Yes. Is being nice our sole goal each day? No. Being alive in Christ is our #1 priority and purpose each day. Are you alive?

 

LIVE IT:
Right now – Take 3 huge breathes and let the air slowly out of your lungs. Feel what it feels like to be alive. Now make a plan for something you are going to do tomorrow to be more alive than you were today.

She said, “Maybe.”

March 26th Sunday Readings.

When I was sixteen years old, I asked a girl out for the very first time. I didn’t ask herrejected red square  stamp friends if it would be cool ahead of time. I didn’t make sure she was open to it. I just went for it.

She said, “Maybe.” Not a good sign. That maybe turned into a “no” the next day.

I was rejected. To be honest, I wasn’t that upset. Mostly I was just proud of myself for having the courage to ask. Have you ever been rejected?

In the readings this Sunday, we are going to hear about two people who have been mostly rejected by their families, cultures, or communities (find  the readings here). In the first reading, Samuel goes out looking for Israel’s next king. When he comes to Jesse’s house, Samuel thinks he’s found the guy in Eliab, but he’s not the guy. Samuel goes through all of Jesse’s sons and doesn’t find the chosen one. Finally he asks if Jesse has any more sons and that is when David, the youngest, the one sent out to do the worst and grossest job-shepherding, comes and is chosen.

In the gospel, Jesus heals a man born blind. This man is reject by his culture because they believe his blindness is punishment for his or his parent’s sin. They see his affliction as a sign of God’s rejection. In actuality it is that affliction that is the reason he is chosen by Jesus for a sign of God’s desire to heal and restore humanity.

In both cases, God choses the rejected. In the first reading we hear, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” These are two examples of times that God choses someone that maybe we wouldn’t have chosen for that task.

I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t chose the qualified; he qualifies the chosen.

David wasn’t ready to be king immediately after his anointing, but it is through his time as a shepherd that he is being prepared to shepherd the people of Israel. The man born blind doesn’t know who Jesus is, but he know that Jesus healed him. His witness is simple, but powerful.

Could it be that God is choosing you for some task? Maybe you feel like the last person God could use to demonstrate his love. Perfect, that’s just how he likes them.

LIVE IT:
Take out your phone and open up the calendar app. Make a daily, repeating reminder to say the following short prayer each morning, “Dear God, whatever way you choose to use me today, I say yes.” Then pray that prayer everyday for 7 days.