Ghost Written Life

Getting back into the swing after a month off, I wrote but didn’t get this published before Sunday Jan. 28th. Take a read to see what caught my eye in this past Sunday’s readings. 

I have a friend who wrote a book in 31 days. My friend followed this schema to help him write a book efficiently. Every step of the way, my friend got to make decisions about the book. He named the main character, developed the world in which this character lived, conceived of every action and wrote every word that the main character spoke. My friend not only decided the big stuff, but the patrick-fore-381196little stuff too. Every word of the story was a decision. As author no one decided anything about this story other than him.

In our gospel this Sunday, Jesus teaches and those in the audience are astonished. They say that he teaches with authority unlike the scribes. The word authority has some funny baggage for us. When we hear the word authority, we likely think of an iron fisted, difficult, bossy-McBossy-pants.  But the root of authority is the Latin word “auctor” which means “originator.”  In this way, Jesus doesn’t teach as heavy handed demander of submission, but as originator and the writer of the teaching. His teaching isn’t something he is repeating from someone else. He is the origin of that teaching. Even when Jesus is quoting the Old Testament, Jesus is the Word that existed then and inspired those sacred writings.

The question we have to ask ourselves is who authors truth in our life. Are you the soul originator and authority in your life? Everyday we have choice to make. Am I the sole author or am I willing to give authorship of my life to Jesus Christ? If we believe God loves us more than we love ourselves, if we believe God knows us better than we know ourselves, why do we make decisions without first consulting Jesus? If you want to be happy and lead the best life you can lead, make God the author. Let God write every word of your life.

Live It:
Let God help you make 3 small decisions today. Pray for his help in making those small decisions and then make those decisions. See how inviting God into small matters helps to make him the author of larger matters.

 

Who’s the Boss?

October 8th Sunday Readings.

When I was 23 years old I was hired to lead a group of adults in doing youth ministryboss with and for high school teenagers. Every adult was older than me and had more experience in parish life and youth ministry, but I was in charge.

Having taken over this ministry, one of the first things I had to do was take teens to a conference out of state. The permission forms needed to be reworked and I was asked to add information about dress code and behavior. Being the early 2000s the dress code clause needed to be specific and I made it so (think Brittany and N’sync).

The conference came around and most of the group, teens and adults, had gathered in our parish’s gathering space waiting to depart for the conference. The group suddenly became quiet as the doors opened and one of my key volunteers walked in. Art was in his early 60s, 6’ 2” and 300+ lbs. He was wearing a white shirt that he had cut the bottom 10 inches off of, exposing the bottom half of his ample belly. A clear and certain violation of my newly minted “No Midriffs” dress code.

The group didn’t know whether to laugh or wince, and they looked to me to do something. Before I could, Art bellowed, “Oh, is that what you meant by no midriffs? Sorry, I’ll go change.”  And we all had a good laugh together.

I’m not sure if Art was just trying to be funny, but what happened was that he cemented my authority in the minds of those present. It was as if he had said, “I’m going to follow Chris, even if I don’t like or understand because I trust he is going to lead us well.”  In 11 years of youth ministry, I never had a single significant behavior problem.

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who has a very different experience with his tenants. The landowner invests significantly in a vineyard, wine press, tower, and wall. He leases the vineyard to tenants and when he goes to collect his rightful portion of the harvest, they rebel, refuse, and rebuke every attempt collect. The landowner finally sends his own son and the tenants kill him and throw him out of the vineyard.

The question for me in the parable is this – Who is the boss? Who is in charge? The tenants don’t want to be beholden to anyone but themselves. They are willing to murder to protect their independence and personal authority. Unfortunately for them, this attitude results in their destruction and the vineyard being given to someone else.

The question for us is this – Who is our boss? Who do we answer to? I think it is important for us to consider carefully who has given us our “vineyard.” We must reflect on who has give us a life and breath and all that we have. We may be tempted to say that we worked for it; we earned and deserve it. But so did the wicked tenants. No, everything we have has ultimately been made by God and is a gift. In fact, the work to receive these things was a gift from God, as was the ability to work. All is gift.

Who is your boss? Who is your ultimate authority? Who do you give authority to day in and day out? Who sets your schedule, tells you how to spend your money, and how to treat others?

If it is anyone other than God, consider how to take a step toward returning to God what was always his to begin with.

Live It: This Sunday when you go to Mass, at the time of the consecration and reception of the Eucharist, pray simply for the grace to make God the boss, to give God authority over your life, and ask for the grace to change.

The Good Word for February 1st

the-stacheHave you ever met someone who really commanded a room? I used to be in Boy Scouts and we had great adult leaders in our troop. One time we paired up for a campout with another troop and one of their adults was this old, grizzled, veteran leader with a huge, bushy red mustache. When he spoke everyone listened and trusted what he said to be true. When he asked us to build a fire or clean up or go get firewood, we immediately set to doing what he asked. This leader spoke with authority.

In the gospel today, Jesus confronts unclean spirits who have possessed a man. Immediately the spirits know who Jesus is – “The Holy One of God.” Then Jesus orders them out and frees the man. Those who saw Jesus heal this man are amazed and said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority.”

People who speak with authority usually do so because their actions back up their words. We listen to them because they walk the walk. Our gospel twice confirms that people think of Jesus as one who teaches and then acts with authority.

This simple story begs us to make a decision about Jesus.

Either Jesus teaches with authority or he does not. The question for us is whether or not we let Jesus have authority in our life. Do we listen to his words as if they carry final authority? Do we let Jesus “author” or write our lives? The people of Capernaum recognized the authority of Jesus’ teaching and actions. Will we?

Live It:
Pick 1 teaching of Jesus. Pray the words every morning and live it every day for one week.
Here are some examples of simple teaching:
Turn the other cheek – Matthew 5:39
Do not let your heart be troubled – John 14:1
Sell your belongings and give alms – Luke 12:33
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’ – Matthew 5:37
Love your enemies – Matthew 5:44
Ask – Matthew 7:7
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart – Matthew 22:37
You shall love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:39