What’s it going to take?

April 8th Sunday Readings.

Getting kids to eat whatever they don’t want to eat can be a monumental task. I realize Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplashthat there are strategies that work. Also, negotiation is not most effective way to get children committed to a power struggle to do what you ask them. And, there are times when getting a child to eat green beans or ham (depending on the kid or the moment) just boiling down to the questions, “What is it going to take?”

When faced with unbelief in the lives of our family or friends, or even in the dark corners of our own doubt, I think we could easily ask this question, “What is it going to take?” What is it going to take for you and I to really believe the good news of the gospel? What is it going to take for our sibling or parent or spouse or offspring to believe that Jesus is their Lord? What is it going to take?

In the gospel, we hear about Thomas who states clearly what it will take for him to believe. He says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” It would appear that for Thomas it takes touching the wounds of Christ to believe. At first blush, this seems like a lack of faith. Thomas appears to be put conditions on what it will take for him to believe in the resurrection, but I think there is more going on here.

John, the gospel writer, never states whether Thomas actually touches the wounds of Christ. In fact, Thomas says, “My Lord and my God,” when he simply sees Christ. For Thomas encountering Jesus face to face is enough. Meeting Jesus is what it takes for Thomas to believe.

I believe this to be true for most of us. For most of us, we believe once we have had a face to face encounter with Jesus Christ. Christianity isn’t only a set of beliefs or a moral code, but it is a relationship with a person. To really meet the person of Christ (and not just the idea of Jesus) fundamentally changes us at our core.

When Thomas sees the resurrected Christ, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God.” This profession of faith is one of the most vivid and explicit in all the gospels. By giving Jesus the titles of both Lord and God, Thomas is proclaiming Jesus the same God as the God of his fathers, the Lord God of all Israel and the Old Testament. When we encounter Jesus face to face, we know Jesus is God.

Live It:
Jesus lives. If we really believe in the resurrection we will look for him now. Two suggestions: Look for Jesus in the Eucharist and in the poor.

I trust you (kinda).

June 11th Sunday Readings.

originalI’m scared of heights. I don’t mean I don’t like them or they make me uncomfortable. All that is true, but my fear of heights is so much more than that. When I find myself in an potentially unsafe heights situation, I loose the ability to think rationally and clearly.

One time on a high ropes course, I got about halfway up the rope ladder when I totally and complete froze up. I couldn’t move up or down. I wanted to do the ropes course, but my body wouldn’t move. I was tied into two safety lines and had a rope controlled by a climb instructor attached to my belt.

Rationally, I could say to myself, “Self. You are totally safe. You have a rope tied to you. The rope holds 500 lbs. You are safe.” I believed that the rope was there, but I couldn’t trust it. I knew it existed, but I wouldn’t trust it with my life.

Our gospel this Sunday is a familiar passage, John 3:16-18. We hear it so often that we can take what it means for granted. One of the keys to unlocking this verse is to understand what Jesus meant when he said the word “believes.” Jesus doesn’t mean the kind of belief that recognizes that God exists. The devil believes that God exists.

The kind of belief that John writes about here is putting our trust in God. In other words, everyone who puts their life into God’s hands will be saved. It is through a full submission and surrender that we are saved through Jesus Christ.

When we understand “belief” to be “acknowledgment of existence” we can be stuck in our faith or our lives just like I was stuck on that rope ladder. It is only when we believe in God so as to trust him with our lives that we can move forward fearlessly.

LIVE IT:
Go to a trusted person in our life – spouse, parent, child, friend, priest, etc. – and start a conversation by asking them this question, “What do you think it means to trust in God?”

Proof is in the Vinegar.

February 26th Sunday Readings.

I don’t believe in all that homeopathic mumbo jumbo. Intellectually, I can maintain that

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Not medicine. 

eating newt’s eyes and massaging a particular place in my thumb doesn’t really do anything. I wouldn’t ever try and talk someone into non-traditional medical care.

And every day for three weeks I’ve been drinking this concoction of Apple Cider Vinegar, Turmeric, Honey, and hot water. While my whole family spent days in the pits of a gross cold, I have remained cold free and feeling good. I’m not willing to say the not-so-delicious vinegar drink is working because I don’t believe in crazy home remedies. But I drank my weird drink this morning and I’ll probably drink another one tomorrow.

I say I don’t believe that homeopathic remedies work, but my actions don’t really match my words. In the gospel, Jesus points out that sometimes we act this way with God too. Jesus said, “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek.” He was pointing out that even though someone may say they believe in a loving and caring God, when they don’t really act like it, can we say they really believe it. In other words, is it our actions or our words that define us? I might say I am a Christian, but if I live like God doesn’t exist, aren’t I just an atheist in practice?

If we say we believe in God and believe Jesus is God, do our lives reflect that? If we say God loves us and wants to show mercy towards us, do we actively seek that mercy? If we say God is good and knows what is best for us, do we really trust him fully?

Fr. Mike Schmitz often says that if we want to know how we are doing at following Jesus Christ, we shouldn’t look to our words, but instead, examine our calendars and our bank statements. Examining where we spend our time and our money is probably a good way to examine what we value and who we trust. If we truly trust and believe in a loving God, our lives will reflect that belief.

LIVE IT:
Open your calendar and your bank statement. Ask God to bless these two items and to help you trust and love more, worry less, and give more over to God. If you’re brave, examine how you’ve spent your money or time and discover what you value most.

The Good Word for August 16

For the complete Sunday readings click here.i-hate-selling-things

We had hail damage to our roof this summer. What a pain. Our neighborhood was hit pretty hard so for the next month swarms of roofing companies came through trying to convince us to look at replacing our roof. With every guy that came to my door, I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether I might trust him enough to work on my house. I had to decide whether he was trustworthy and if he worked for a reputable company.

When it comes to our faith, we have to make a decision about Jesus. Are we going to believe Jesus? Do we believe that Jesus is who he says he is? C.S. Lewis, the writer of the Narnia books, says in his book Mere Christianity that there are only three answers to the question about who is Jesus. Lewis says that Jesus is either 1) a lunatic, because he really believes he is God, but isn’t; 2) a liar, because he knows he isn’t God, but keeps telling people he is and thus a very bad man; or 3) God almighty, and is telling us the truth.

So, who is Jesus?

Many people believe that Jesus is just a good guy or a wisdom figure, but not exactly God. But Lewis explains that Jesus can’t be just a good guy, because good guys don’t pretend to be God. He is either crazy, evil, or God.

Which is true?

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus teaches that he bread of life and his flesh is the life of the whole world. The Jewish crowd responds by grumbling and questioning Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

The crowd that heard Jesus preach had decided that Jesus was a good teacher and maybe a miracle worker, but not the Son of God. The teaching that Jesus could give them his flesh and through that gift save the world was too much for them. Further along in the gospel they leave and stop listening to Jesus. Only the disciples stay. Why? Because they believe that Jesus is God!

So the question is before you, “Who is Jesus?” If Jesus is God and this weekend he is preaching that the Eucharist is his true flesh, then how does that make your Mass experience different? If you believe Jesus, then the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. If the Eucharist is truly God, then we aren’t just going to Mass for familiar songs and a comforting homily. We are going to Mass to meet and physically consume God Almighty.

Live It:

Make a decision! Think and pray about what you believe about Jesus. Make an intentional decision. Before Sunday, think about how your decision impacts how you go to Mass.