You gotta play by the rules

February 12th Sunday Readings

I loved recess. I’m not saying it was the best part of my day or that I didn’t like actual class, but at recess I could play with my friends, do whatever we wanted to, and just have fun. For the first half of 4th grade, I spent most recesses arguing. My friends and I were trying to play football, but usually we would just end up arguing, sometimes about what happened, but usually about the rules. The reason was we didn’t develop or agree to any set of rules for our pickup football game. So after picking teams, we would just start and then something would happen that would cause us disagree. The lack of agreed upon rules kept us from being free to really have fun.

Sometimes rules get a bad rap. Rules are seen as the things that keep us from being free. Sometimes we even paint Jesus as the ultimate rule breaker and rebel. Yet, in the gospel for this Sunday Jesus says this, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”

When the rules come from God, they are rules made for our own good. If you believe in God and you believe that God loves you and you believe that he knows what is best for you, then the rules he sets are not restrictions to suffocate you, but, truly, rules to let you be free and happy.

G.K. Chester wrote this, “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.” He goes on to describe an island in the ocean with walls all around the cliff edge of the island. When the walls remained, children ran free and happy. When the walls were removed, the children silently huddled together in the center of the island. When we know our boundaries, we can have more fun, freedom, and happiness within them.

Live It:
What rule or moral guideline or teaching of the Church do you struggle to agree with? When was the last time you prayed about it and took your objection to prayer? Take 3 minutes this week (all at once or broken up into small segments) to pray about that rule or law that you struggle with. Offer it up to God, offer up your questions and objections, and then be silent and let God speak.

If I won the lottery

November 6th Sunday Readings

What would you do if you won the lottery?lottery

I don’t mean a $5 scratch off. What would you do if you won a life changing amount of money today? What would actually change? Some of us would quit our jobs, buy a car or house, or maybe even make a big donation to the charitable organization close to our hearts.

It’s kind of fun to fantasize about the things we could do with nearly unlimited amounts of money. What would I do? 1) Tricked out cj-7vintage Jeep CJ7. 2) Fantasy Baseball weekend in St. Louis watching my Cardinals. 3) Dream Kitchen (that one sounds like decorating, but really its all about the cooking.)

The only problem is that most of us (myself included) would probably end up putting all our desire for joy and fulfillment into that money. We may never say it (or even think it), but it’s likely we would start to act like that money could solve all our problems. I think, without intention or purpose, we would start to put our hope in our bank account.

Why do I think this? Because we already do it. We already say things like, “If I can just get this job…” or “Once I retire…” or “If I can just pass this class…” or “If my team can just win this game…” – “…then I will be happy”. We make our happiness dependent upon the next thing. We put our hope, in things of this world.

The truth is, we will always be disappointed if we put our hope in anything other than God. Even the very best things in life – like our children or friends or our beloved spouses – won’t ever be enough because we were made for more – we were made for God.

The readings this weekend are an invitation for us to put our hope 100% completely in God and in heaven. The brothers killed in the first reading gave their lives to be faithful to God and put their hope in heaven. Paul writes to the Thessalonians a prayer of encouragement to for them to put their hope in God. In the gospel, the Sadducees challenge Jesus’ notion of the afterlife. Jesus responds by sidestepping their question and instead, teaches us that the things of this world matter so much less than our relationship with God.

God desires us to be the kind of forever happy that only he can provide. Are we willing to put our hope completely in Him?

LIVE it:
Say this simple prayer today, “Jesus, help me put my hope in you.”

Black Friday vs. Happiness

The Good Word for Nov. 1st ~ for the complete Sunday readings click here.

Black Friday has become kind of a big deal. If Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate the good gifts in our life, Black Friday has become the day to buy ourselves more and more and more good gifts. People spend a lot of money on Black Friday. Which is why hearing that a store has decided to forgo the Black Friday money rush and instead close and then still pay their employees comes as a bit of a shock. REI, which is an outdoor gear co-op, has decided to closeOutdoors all 143 of its stores, but still pay their employees. What are they paying their employees to do? Go outside.

Their rational is that they have always been a company that is about getting people outdoors. With that goal in mind they are inviting their employees, and whoever wants to join, to head outside on Black Friday instead of spending the day shopping. Obviously REI wants to make money. They sell goods and services. But they have decided there is something more central to who they are and what they are about.

The readings this week point to a similar reality. Sunday is All Saints Day when we celebrate those who have examples of obedient discipleship of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the Beatitudes, which Jesus preached during the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew’s gospel.

Each beatitude starts with the phrase “Blessed are the…” This “blessed” can be translated as deeply, perfectly, or supernaturally happy. Not pleasure or minor good feelings, but true lasting happiness.

Who gets this deeper level of foundational joy? Those who abandon minor goods for still greater things. The Saints sacrificed money, control, security, and even sometimes their lives, to receive an even great joy – life with God forever.

Just as REI is sacrificing some profits in order to stay true to their identity, when we, the Sons and Daughters of God, sacrifice some minor convenience for the greater glory of God, we too are staying true to our identity.

What would you be willing to sacrifice to follow Jesus Christ? Last week Bartimeaus gave up his security and source of financial income. This week the Saints give up their control, popularity, or even their lives. What is deep, beautiful, and profound joy, found in following Jesus, worth to you?

Live It:
Throw off your cloak. Just for 3 days this week, give up something that makes you feel secure and replace it with something that brings you closer to Jesus. (Example: instead of checking email/social media first thing in the morning, start your day by saying the Our Father or another prayer of your choosing).