Perfect-ish

Sunday Readings for July 21st, 2019.

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Mary owes Martha. I don’t mean because Martha served while Mary sat. And not because Mary’s “better part” looked good compared to Martha’s complaining. No, Mary owes Martha for what Martha does at the beginning of this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

We are so familiar with this story we might miss Martha’s first action in the reading. The gospel starts with Jesus entering a village. In that village, a woman named Martha welcomes Jesus into her home. Martha invites Jesus in. 

Scripture doesn’t say, but I would venture a guess that Martha eventually introduces Jesus to her household and to Mary. Wherever the story goes from here, the fact remains that Jesus enters into the home of these sisters because Martha invited him. 

The first two lines of this gospel story points to a truth about meeting Jesus. The people in my life who have introduced me to Jesus aren’t perfect. The people who first taught me about following Jesus don’t always follow him all that well themselves. 

In stead of that being a disappointment, I think it is a calling to us not to wait to introduce others around us to Jesus. We don’t and shouldn’t wait until we are perfect disciples to introduce others to Jesus. We don’t have to wait until we have our stuff together before we welcome Jesus into our home. Invite Jesus into your life whether you are Martha or Mary. 

LIVE IT: Next time someone asks you about your weekend plans, include the fact that will be going to Mass. Then follow that up by actually doing it. 

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.

Mary had it right.

December 24th Sunday Readingsangelico_annunciation

Life is complicated. Whether it is family or work or buying mustard, it seems like our daily decisions get more and more complicated each year. It can feel like the whole world is out to fool us out of our time or treasure. We’re constantly told that if we don’t do this or that, we are going to mess up our lives and miss out on being, owning, or having the best.

In the gospel this Sunday Mary shows us that faith is simple. Having faith is as simple as saying yes to God. When God asks something of us, we just say yes. It really isn’t more complicated than that. When we say no and turn away, we head down the road to unhappiness and death. When we say yes to God, we walk down the path of joy and fulfillment. Simple.

Mary doesn’t promise us it will be easy. In fact, to say yes to God is to love and to love is to sacrifice. Mary’s own life is an example of this truth. Mary watched her own son suffer and die, but her yes changed the world forever.

Mary didn’t just say yes to God with her words to Gabriel that are recorded in our gospel. Mary’s life was a yes. She eagerly strived, in her own way, to say yes to God. Saying yes to God isn’t just something we say; it is something we do.

How do we know what God is asking of us? Read scripture, pray daily, and go to Mass. What do we do when we mess up? Go to confession and give God another shot.

It’s not more complicated than that.

LIVE IT: Between today and Christ, say yes to God in prayer and ask God to show you how you can say yes with your life.

Ask Anyway.

The Good Word for January 17 ~ for the complete Sunday readings click here.

What’s the best advice you have ever received? I’ve received lots of advice and wisdom over the years. All of it was well intentioned; some of it was actually helpful. Statements like, “Never play cards for money with a man who has the same first name as a city,” seems to be helpful, but only for specific situations.

Other advice seems to apply more broadly. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been told is, “Go ahead and ask; let them say no. Don’t answer for anyone else. Ask anyway.” In other words, sometimes we don’t even ask for something we want or need because we believe the answer will be no. The answer could still be no, but ask. Following this advice is how I got my first girlfriend and probably why I often eat two cookies when the sign says, “take one.” So results may vary, I guess.

In the gospel, Mary asks Jesus to help with a very delicate situation. The wine has run out at this wedding feast. Wedding celebrations could last multiple days in ancient Israel; to run out of wine meant the party was over and was a major embarrassment. She went to Jesus, explained the problem, and he told her no. But then he helped.

A friend of mine asked the question, “Did Mary know that Jesus would make more wine? Did she know he could change water into wine? Did she know that he could do this miracle?” This got me thinking. I don’t think Jesus just regularly was doing miracles at home. He probably wasn’t transforming stuff around the house. “Look mom, I dusted by turning all the dust bunnies into real bunnies!” No. Mary didn’t know how Jesus would help. But she trusted that Jesus would help.

Mary asked.

Sometimes we answer for God. We say, “God’s too busy for my little problem,” or, “God doesn’t actually do things just because he is asked.” Sometimes we use past experiences of not getting exactly what we want to stop us from asking now.

But what if we ask like Mary asked? What if we prayed, “God I don’t know how you are going to help this situation, but I put it in your hands. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

So let’s ask God. Let’s not keep any thing from Him. Let’s give him our good stuff, and our problems. Let’s ask for God’s help. And let’s do whatever he tells us to do.

Live It:
Ask something of God. Don’t wait. Right now stop, ask God for something spectacular (or small if that is what you need).

The Good Word for December 21 The fourth Sunday of Advent

For the complete Sunday readings click here. hello_my_name_is_jesus

God loves to name people. Have you ever noticed that? All throughout the Old Testament he is changing people’s names. The new names God gives always mean something. So it should be no surprise that when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to explain God’s plan, Gabriel tells Mary the name of God’s Son – Jesus.

Jesus means “God Saves.” By naming his Son Jesus, God is telling his people that it is through this baby boy that he intends to save the world once and for all. From our perspective, this makes sense and we’ve heard that truth a thousand times. However, for Mary and any first century Jew this would have been a radical claim. Somehow Mary accepts this truth, but asks the very practical question, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will come and overshadow her and that all things are possible with God. How does Mary respond? By saying yes. She agrees to the plan and tells Gabriel that she is God’s servant and whatever God wants, she will do.

I think a lot of us believe that Jesus is the savior of the world. I think a lot of us believe that Jesus is God. And I think a lot of us have a similar practical question, “How can I know this Jesus, if I can’t see him or hear him? How do I have a relationship with God when I don’t know if I’ve ever met God?”

The key here is to pay close attention to Gabriel’s response to Mary. Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…” It is through the Holy Spirit that God makes himself manifest in the world.

Then Mary says her beautiful “Yes!” When we say yes, then Jesus is someone who we begin to recognize. It is our “yes” that allows us to see all the ways that the person of Jesus is present to us.

How do we say “yes?” Honestly, with words and with actions. We pray saying, “Yes God I want to know you and be close to you. I want to see you and experience you. Help me to know you.” And then we act by attending Mass, praying daily, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, caring for the poor and vulnerable, loving the unlovable, feeding the hungry, sharing our lives with the estranged and more.

If you want to know Jesus Christ, seek him out and I guarantee you will find him. It all starts with God’s reaching out to us and our “yes” to his plan.

Live It:
Go to Mass this weekend and during Communion, tell God you want to have a close relationship with him.