As she wept.

April 1st Easter Sunday Readings. 

Have you ever cried, almost, against your will? My mom is fighting cancer and I’ll never tom-pumford-254867-unsplashforget when I told my children. I was fine. I wasn’t worried. When I told them they were understandably scared. I reassured them and comforted them. I was fine. Then, I tried to explain to them how I was feeling. I though sharing how “fine” I was would help fill them with hope too. I started to say, “And daddy is feeling…” and I burst into tears – huge, gloppy, free flowing tears. I sobbed-cried before I could stop myself. I didn’t know I was feeling this way until I started to cry.

In John’s gospel, we hear about the moment the empty tomb is discovered. Mary of Magdala sees the stone rolled away and goes and gets Peter and the Disciple whom Jesus loved. They enter. The gospel says that the Beloved Disciple saw and believed, but they still didn’t understand and returned home.

andreas-wagner-532692-unsplashMary stayed and wept. I think that is a beautiful moment. Mary is mourning the death of her friend, her leader, her teacher. God uses that sadness and emotion to do a great thing. Only because Mary lingered and wept did she see the two angels and eventually Jesus himself.

I think sometimes we are ashamed of our emotional response to spiritual or liturgical moments. We want to be clear-eyed and sober in our faithful prayer (and that is a good thing). Yet, at times God can use every aspect of us, even our emotions to help us to grow closer.

John’s account of the empty tomb is a story about Mary of Magdala’s transformation from follower of a teacher to believer in the resurrected, death-destroying, Jesus. She cries because she is mourning the loss of the way things were, the wonderful life of following Jesus. Yet God has even more in store for her.

At the completion of this story, after Mary has come to let go of her former way of knowing Jesus and accepted Jesus resurrected, Jesus sends Mary to go and share this good news with the disciples. Mary becomes the apostles to the Apostles. Apostle means one who is sent. Jesus sends Mary to the disciples who will go out into the world to share the good news that Jesus has risen from the dead and death is conquered forever.

This Easter it does us good to think about the areas of our life that need transformation. Where do we need to more fully believe that Jesus has risen. What tears do we need to shed for our old way of living so that we can enter more fully into the reality of Jesus’ resurrection? How are we going to draw near and hear Jesus say our name?

Live It:
Go to church sometime during Holy Week when you normally wouldn’t. Maybe that means attending an extra Mass or service Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Maybe that means going alone to the church to pray. Let God into your brokenness, your biggest loss, the place you wish you could instantly fix. Let Jesus call you by name.

Can I ask you a question?

The Good Word for Oct. 18th ~ for complete Sunday readings click here.Pope Francis

A friend of mine posted on social media that a relative of his took his baby to see Pope Francis in New York. Miraculously, while they stood along the parade route, Pope Francis stopped the pope-mobile and the motioned to bring the baby to him. The Secret Service carried the baby to the Pope who kissed and blessed the child before returning the baby to the mystified parents. Can you imagine? How cool, right?

Encountering someone of power and humility like Pope Francis has got to be a momentous experience. Imagine this: Pope Francis not only kisses your baby, but then turns to you and says, “What do you wish me to do for you?” You could ask Pope Francis anything. What would you ask?

In the gospel, Jesus’ disciples, James and John, men he choose to follow him and found the church, said that they want him to put them into positions of power when he finally overthrows the government and is in charge. They believe that Jesus is a political revolutionary and that if they ask him, he will give them great power in the new Israel. They want to sit on the right and the left of Jesus’ throne.

The issue with their request is that Jesus’ throne is the cross.

James and John thought they were asking for worldly power and fame, but in fact they were asking for something totally different. They didn’t realize it, but they were asking to serve as Jesus serves and to die as Jesus dies. When they said they could drink from the same cup, they were committing to a life and a death of service for others.

I don’t judge them too harshly because I’m not sure how I would answer if Jesus turned to me and asked what I want him to do for me.

What would you ask for from Jesus if you could ask for anything? What would you ask him to do for you?

Every other time Jesus asks this same question in the gospels, he is asking it of someone who needs healing of their blindness. In both the other cases, the individuals are instantaneously healed and immediately follow Jesus.

I wonder if Jesus was hoping for James and John to ask for healing of their blind ambition. At any rate, Jesus uses this opportunity to teach the disciples that antidote for ambition is humility. He teaches that in order to lead, they must serve. In order to give life, they must die.

What is your answer? What would you ask Jesus for?

Live It:
Answer God this week. Close your eyes, and answer Jesus’ question, “What do you wish me to do for you?”

The Good Word for June 28th

note-4For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Have you ever been asked, “If there was one thing you could change about yourself what would it be?” Every now and again, I get thinking about this question. The funny thing about it is that 90% of the time the thing I would change is totally changeable if I was willing to do the work. It’s like if I just made a plan and then followed through on those action items, I wouldn’t procrastinate writing this blog each week (but I digress).

In the gospel this weekend we hear about two people that want to make a change in their life. However, they are powerless to fix their own problem. Jarius’ beloved daughter is sick and is near death. The woman with the hemorrhage has seen many doctors, and yet continues to be plagued by bleeding.

In their desperation they make a plan to turn to Jesus for his healing. They follow through on this plan; Jarius by confronting and begging Jesus, and the woman by secretly touching the hem of his cloak. In both cases Jesus says the same thing, it is the faith of those seeking to be healed that will save them. Jesus heals both Jarius’ daughter and the woman because they put their total trust in him.

When was the last time you really prayed for something and trusted God with it? If you are anything like me, it can be easy to think that God has bigger fish to fry than my stress or my struggle. But the reality is that God wants to be fully present in you life. God wants your complete trust and faith in him and his healing power. God wants to save you. The Greek words used to describe the “healing” that Jarius’ daughter and the woman received is the same word early Christians use to describe being saved from death and resurrected with Jesus to life eternal!

Whatever your cares and stresses are this week, even if they seem small and insignificant in the big picture, offer them up to Jesus. Give Jesus your worries. Trust that our God wants to heal you and give you a new life in him.

Live It:
Take a post-it note and write your stress, illness, or struggle on it. Then leave that post it not somewhere for Jesus to find. Say this quick prayer, “Jesus I trust you to heal me. I give you _________. Help me.”

Feel free to bring your post-it note to HNOJ and leave it somewhere here! If we find it, we will pray for you.

The Good Word for February 15th

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

A friend of mine just told me that she is expecting. She couldn’t wait to share the good news. She was so excited to expand her family and bring a new life into the world. When she told me, her face lit up and she could barely get the words out she was so over come with joy. Have you ever had such good news you couldn’t wait to share?

In the gospel today, Jesus heals a leper. But this wasn’t just a simple healing of a skin disease. This wasn’t even saving the man’s life from leprosy. We hear in the first reading that lepers were required to live away from society. They were to demonstrate that they were unclean by dressing differently. And when they approached someone, they were to yell out the words, “Unclean! Unclean!” Can you imagine that today? Now imagine being healed. This man wasn’t just healed; his place in society was restored. He could again live with family and friends. He could enter the market place. He could actually practice his Jewish faith again. Jesus didn’t simply save this man’s life. Jesus gave back his life, dignity, and worthiness.

Receiving such a great gift, the man couldn’t be silent, even though Jesus tells him to. The former leper goes and immediately begins to tell other people that Jesus healed him. He was so vocal about it that Jesus couldn’t enter a town openly.

By Jesus’ healing action, he actually traded places with the man in a way. Now Jesus has to live in the deserted places just as the leper used to. Now Jesus gets announced every town he enters just like the leper used to have to do.

Jesus doesn’t want to just improve our lives. He doesn’t want to make us better. He wants to radically change everything. Jesus wants to turn our lives completely upside down and the result will be that our lives will be saved. Jesus wants to change everything because only a radical reorientation of our lives will lead to eternal life. This change is such good news that when we truly experience it, we too won’t be able to contain ourselves. Instead, we will shout the good news from the rooftops, “Jesus saved me! My life is completely different because Jesus healed me!”

Live It:
From now until Ash Wednesday (Feb 18th), pray this simple prayer every night, “Jesus if you wish, you can change my life.”