The Good Word for March 22nd

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

avocadoWhen I was in elementary school and we were studying earth science, I was given the “Avocado Pit” experiment. The experiment was simple. Basically it involved putting an avocado pit in water and letting it sprout. Eventually the pit would break open, a small shoot would come out and begin to grow. The next step was to plant it and start an avocado farm, but I never really got that far.

The key to that experiment is also present in our gospel today. Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” For the avocado pit to make an avocado tree, the pit must break open and die. It is only by being broken open is it able to grow.

Each Sunday when we attend Mass we hear four pieces of scripture. The 1st reading is from the Old Testament. The psalm, which is usually sung, is one of the 150 Psalms. The 2nd reading is from a letter or Acts. The Gospel is from one of the four gospels in the New Testament.

I don’t know about you, but far too often I just sit there while this abundance of scripture is read. Then I wait for the homily to wow me. I put the responsibility for this part of the Mass to be fruitful, all into the priest’s hands. I make it his job to make scripture come alive for me.

See, all this scripture is like the grain of wheat or the avocado pit. Like the seed, the Sunday scriptures must be broken open. If we really believe that scripture is the living word of God, then it truly is a seed ready to be broken open. When we take the time to really break open the Sunday scriptures, then the word of God can grow and give us life.

Great metaphor, but what does it mean? For me it means two things – Reading and Silence. For me to break open the Word, I need to read it before I get to Mass and I need to sit in silence while the scripture is fresh in my mind. One way to do this is an ancient prayer form called Lectio Divina. Pope Benedict said that if the Church (you and me) practiced Lectio Divina we would set the world on fire with our faith.

What if every reading at Mass moved you and grew your faith? They can, just break scripture open a little ahead of time – you won’t regret it.

Live It:
Read the Sunday readings before you get to Mass this weekend, by clicking here. Want to try Lectio Divina? Try out HNOJ’s Lenten Prayer Guide. It contains instructions on Lectio and has a short version of the Gospel for each Sunday to use in Lecto Divina.

The Good Word for January 25

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

In the gospel today two things happen. First, Jesus declares that the kingdom of God is at hand. Second Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him. Though it doesn’t seem like it, these two sections of the gospel are very much interrelated.

When Jesus declares the kingdom and invites us to repent and believe, he really is announcing good news! In the kingdom of God the hungry are fed, the broken are fixed, the angry are calmed, the sick are healed, the lonely are included, the thirsty are given water, the tired are given rest, the naked are clothed, and much more! This is great news, but lets make it more tangible. By the time you are done reading this blog, 3 people, likely children, will have died from unclean drinking water (get the facts on clean water.) In the kingdom of God that Jesus is declaring, that won’t happen. This really is good news.

Jesus then invites us to repent, which is another way of saying that we have the opportunity to repent because in the kingdom of God, the sinner can be forgiven. He then ends his statement by saying that we can trust this good news to be true.

The very next story is about Jesus going out to call people to follow him, see the good news first hand, and then continue to spread the good news through their lives. Jesus declares the kingdom and then calls people to live it.

The thing is that you and I are also called. Jesus Christ is calling us to not just be Christian in name, but to be true believers of the kingdom of God, the good news that sins are forgiven and all will be made right. And as disciples, just like Simon and Andrew, James and John, we are called to go out and tell others about the good news.

Live It:
Sometimes it’s hard to really hear the good news because we’ve heard stories about Jesus our whole life. This week take out your Bible (or look it up here) and read John 3:16-17 and pretend you are reading it for the first time. It really is good news.

The Good Word for Oct 19

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

MLB: NLDS-Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis CardinalsI am a St. Louis Cardinals fan and this time of year is like Christmas to me. My Cardinals are usually in the playoffs and are almost always a contender for a World Series title. The only issue is that almost every night is a baseball night. I stay up watching games. There is no chance any other TV will be watched. Plans get cancelled or rearranged. Baseball rules all.

In the readings today, we heard some pretty powerful statements. In the first reading from Isaiah we hear God say, “I am the LORD, there is no other.” Isaiah is talking specifically about Israel not being ruled by other kings and princes. God is God and there are no other gods. No one rules but God.

Then in the Gospel Jesus tells those Pharisees trying to trick him that they should give “to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God.”

The thing is that we often let a lot of things rule our life other than God. Just like how baseball rules my schedule in October, I choose to make things that aren’t God be LORD of my life. I often, sometimes unintentionally, put something ahead of God. Honestly, today it was work. Instead of taking solid prayer time this morning, I jumped right into email and I haven’t stopped working since.

Often we think of sin as doing or saying bad things. In reality, sin is sometimes putting good things in the wrong order.

God wants to be our priority, not just one of our many priorities. Priority means “first thing.” We literally can’t have multiple first things. Either God is first or something else is.

The good news is that we can change. The process of making God first is life long. But every long process starts with one small decision.

Live it:
Take out your phone right now. Look at this week (or maybe today if you are a crazy busy person). What rules your life? What takes a majority of your time? Make a plan to put God first tomorrow in some small way. Schedule 5 minutes of prayer in your calendar.

The Good Word for Sunday Oct 5

For the compete Sunday readings click here.

ab90a0a11eaa73fd83ed1eae905baae4Ron Gardenhire the longtime manager of the Minnesota Twins was fired this week. Gardenhire was beloved by players, fans, and the general manager. At the end of four consecutive 90+ loss seasons, it was time for him to go. It didn’t matter how much people in the organization personally liked Gardenhire, the team didn’t win enough games. Gardenhire himself said, “We haven’t won enough games. It’s nothing more, nothing less than that.”

On the surface, the gospel this week looks pretty similar to the Gardenhire firing. The tenants don’t produce any fruit and so the master eventually kicks them out. However a closer look reveals one small but important difference. The story never says they don’t produce fruit. Instead the scripture simply states that when the servants of the master come to obtain the fruit, the tenants beat, kill, and stone the servants. It isn’t that the tenants aren’t successful in growing grapes and making wine; it’s that they don’t give to the master, the owner of the vineyard, what they owe him.

What’s crazy about this story is Continue reading