Reach, He’s closer than you think.

Sunday Readings for July 14th, 2019.

val-vesa-ihFWKicceNk-unsplash.jpg

My eighteen month old son isn’t very good at jumping. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it is because is actually pretty bad at landing and he knows it. If he leaves his feet, it’s a near certainty that he will face plant. 

His lack of jumping and landing confidence leads to some humorous moments. Sometimes he won’t grab something above his head, even if it isn’t beyond his reach, because he just isn’t sure. My son will sometimes reach up with a crooked, alligator arm and strain towards the sky all while bending over. If he just stood straight up and extended his arm, he could easily reach his goal. 

I think we are like this in our faith lives far more often than we would like to admit. In the first reading this Sunday, from Deuteronomy, it is written,

“For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.

It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’

Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’

No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.”

When Jesus is asked in our gospel about what must we do to inherit enteral life, his answer is simple (paraphrased), “Love God all the way and Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Not complicated. Difficult at times, but not so far from us that we can’t imagine doing it. 

Sometimes we spook ourselves out of following Jesus Christ. Sometimes we imagine that loving God is so complicated and beyond our ability that we don’t do exactly what we can with what we’ve been given. 

For us baptized Christians, we have been made sons and daughters of God. We have been welcomed into God’s own family. As Catholics we receive the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ at Mass. God gives us his very Spirit over and over. When we mess up, he gives us healing and grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And yet, we whimper at trying to know God and follow Jesus. Really!?

Maybe it is as simple as this – Pray everyday. Read your Bible. Receive the Sacraments. Love (self sacrificially) whoever comes before you each moment. Standup straight and reach. 

LIVE IT: Go somewhere were you can be alone (or do this in public if you are into that kind of thing). Stand up straight. Reach up. Look up. Stretch. Keep reaching!! Up!! Whisper, “God I want to be near you!” Now say it louder if you dare. Go up on your tip toes! Now relax. Take a deep breath. Smile.  

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. 

 

What should I do?

Dec 16th Sunday Readings.

Three groups of people ask John the Baptist the same question in this week’s gospel, gianna-trewavas-740067-unsplash“What should we do?” The gospel doesn’t tell us if they listened to what he said or liked his answer or if they went and did what he directed. 

What we do know is that after he answered, the gospel says people were filled with expectation and wondered if John might be the chosen one of God. John’s teaching was so radical and life changing that they wondered if John could be Christ.
John’s response is beautiful and powerful. He says that while he purifies with water, the Messiah will purify with fire and the spirit. In other words, the work of Christ will bring about even greater transformation, even more complete purification. 

One way to think about this gospel. This gospel is a formula for how to repent and believe in the good news. 

Step 1: Ask “What should I do?” Be direct. Ask the big question. Expect a response.

Step 2: Listen. Actually wait for a response. God works in mysterious ways and on His own timeline. Ask and and keep listening.

Step 3: Look for the messiah who will cleanse you with fire and the Spirit. Receive the Sacraments. Go to confession. Let the love of God burn up the rough, tough, and gross parts of your life and behavior.

Step 4: Preach the good news. Share what you’ve been given. Every gift of God is good enough to be shared in some way.

LIVE IT: Take some time for an honest and earnest prayer only asking one thing, “God, what do you want me to do?”

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.

Don’t Keep Score.

September 17th Sunday Readings.

233 Fenway Park - Scoreboard (June 2, 2007)-L-2During my marriage preparation our mentor couple told us a beautiful piece of advice – don’t keep score. Despite not yet being married, we knew exactly what that meant. If your married or have a deep friendship, than you probably know what that means too. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of seeking to “earn points” by doing things our spouse wants us to do. It feels natural to take away points when our spouse disappoints or hurts us. Keep score comes so naturally to us in so many areas of our life that we just naturally apply it to our relationships.

The truth is that relationships are not a competitive endeavor. No seriously. I know it’s funny to joke around about it – I certainly do that with my wife. But the reality is when we treat our spouse as our competition, as our adversary, we both loose.

In the gospel Jesus is trying to teach us that our relationships with God and with others are not competitive endeavors. No matter how many times someone else hurts us, they aren’t loosing. No matter how deeply we harm God, we aren’t down for the count. Why? Because God isn’t the divine referee. God is our Father and wants, not to have a point system with us, but instead, an intimate, lived relationship. God desires to be closer to us than we can ever imagine and keeping score just gets in the way.

God forgives you. He does. He wants to, because he wants you. We don’t go to Confession to have the score reset or to reset the clock. He go to have a conversion of heart. To turn away from keeping score and turn to acting, responding to God’s love with love. We do that by worshiping God and serving others.

The wicked servant in the story does the exact opposite. He keeps score and thus is judged by his score. Don’t keep score, love unconditionally, because God loves you first.

Live It: Do something nice for your spouse. Doesn’t matter what it is – get their car washed for them, bring them flowers, empty the dishwasher, let them pick the movie. Whatever it is, pray that you don’t do it for points, but out of love.

You’re Glowing.

August 6th Sunday Readings.

1505CNS-popemarried-couplesWEB2“You’re glowing.” Have you ever heard this phrase used? I’ve heard people say this to grooms and brides on their wedding day. I’ve heard people say this to pregnant women. Something about moments of incredible joy that seem to have us radiating light.

A friend of mine once told me that in Mexico the traditional way to ask a pregnant woman when she is due is, “Cuado vas a dar luz?” or “When will you bring forth the light?” The birth is a moment of brightness, of light.

In the gospel and first reading this weekend, we read about God in his glory shinning brightly. Daniel describes The Ancient one as bright white as snow sitting on a flaming throne. In the familiar story of the transfiguration, Jesus’ face “shone like the sun,” and his clothes become “white as light.” In another moment from scripture, Moses encounters God on Sinai, comes down the mountain, and the skin of his face became radiant.

A couple years ago, an acquaintance of mine heard a talk about the Eucharist and went to Eucharistic Adoration and for the first time in her life, she believed that the Eucharist really is Jesus. She walked out of the church and the first person who saw her, before they even spoke, remarked, “Wow. You’re glowing.”

I think when we encounter God in an intimate and profound way, there is a fundamental The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896change within us. That change can manifest itself in a noticeable way. People can literally see the change in us. We radiate. That light is a manifestation of receiving and giving unconditional love. That is why the newly married couple glow. That is why the mother grown a human, with a soul, within her radiates light. That is why when we encounter this God of love who would do anything to be near us, we radiate his love into the world. Let your light shine.

LIVE IT: Take sometime this week to light a candle and sit in silence. You could do this at the Adoration Chapel or in your home. Let God speak to you in the silence.

How many times…

March 5th Sunday Readings.

“How many times do I have to ask you bring your clothes basket upstairs?” I uttered in is-that-not-brilliant-i-think-it-s-brilliant-hv4hw7-clipartfrustration. It finally happened. I realized I was becoming my mother.

Which honestly isn’t a bad thing, my mom is great. As my kids have gotten older, I feel like I understand my parents better and better. It’s like I understand why they said what they said. More than that, I understand something I really didn’t understand as a young person –

Obedience is a form of Love.

In the second reading, Paul outlines this way of thinking about Jesus as the one who, when Adam was disobedient, was totally obedient to the Father. If Adam disobeys God, it is Jesus who redeems through total obedience. If Adam’s disobedience caused a separation between man and God, then Jesus’ obedience repaired that rift. If Adam’s act brought death, Jesus’ obedience brings life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually value obedience. Maybe it is that us Americans seem to enjoy a rebel. Maybe it’s just that I rather like being in control and obeying someone else means that I have to give up that control. Whatever the case, I rarely have thought well of simple obedience.

Yet Jesus shows us that one way to love, and to love well, is to obey the virtuous request of those who love us. Obviously, I’m not suggesting we just do whatever someone else tells us. But when asked, by someone with total care and love for us, obedience is a way to love.

How can I love my spouse? How can I love my parents? How can we love God? Obedience.

Live It:
How do we know what God is telling us? Read scripture. Try reading this Sunday’s readings by clicking here.
or if your my kids, take your baskets upstairs. 😉