Doesn’t apply to me

With a lot more time at home during this pandemic, my family has discovered or maybe developed some new habits. One of my kids always (I really mean always) leaves her breakfast dishes on the dinning room table. The dishes sit there all day. Often we have to ask her to clear them before dinner time. This drives my wife crazy, which, in turn, drives me crazy. 

I tried to remedy this situation by making a general announcement and setting an expectation for the entire family. “All dishes should be cleared within 30 minutes of the completion of a meal with water glasses being the exception.” To which the serial offender turned to her sister and said, “That means you!”

The kid who created the need for a new rule and who needed to receive the direction didn’t know it was her who was the problem. How often is it that those who cause the issue don’t think the new rule is for them?

This weeks gospel is a prime example of this. Jesus tells a parable that paints the chief priests and elders as the villains and yet when Jesus asks what the evil tenants’ punishment should be, the chief priests and elders pronounce a harsh and merciless judgement. They didn’t know the story was about them! Idiots.

Oh, also, the parable is about us.

At least, it’s about me. Of course, the parable is about Israel and how when God wanted to bear much fruit, those in charge rejected the prophets and eventually Jesus. Yes. But the parable is also about every single time that God wanted to harvest a beautiful bounty in our lives and we failed to give God his due. This story is about every time we reject the prophets in our own lives and are selfish. This story is about when we deny Jesus Christ and choose our own path. When we sin we throw Jesus out of our vineyard and our sin brings about the cross. 

Jesus tells this parable as an invitation to return to God, to repent, to confess our sins and give God what belongs to God. What do we owe God? Everything. What do we get from God in the first place? Everything. The only thing God doesn’t give us is our sin. So we need to give him that too. 

Just as the vineyard owner is ostentatiously merciful, giving the tenants chance after chance to repent and give over the fruit of the harvest, God gives us chance after chance to respond to him with love and surrender. Will you give God what you owe him? 

Aren’t convinced that this parable is about you? Neither were the chief priests or elders.

LIVE IT: You probably live a fruitful life. You have produced many things, experiences, maybe even people. Have you given them to God? Make a list of everything you have produced in the last 7 days – work, home, hobbies, children, etc. Take some time over the next 3 days to offer those things over to God. One by one offer them up in prayer to God. 

Sunday Readings for Oct 4th, 2020.

Words and Actions

When I was about 11 years old, I asked my parents if there were any ways I could make some money around the house. I wasn’t a big chores kid when I wasn’t getting paid, but a couple greenbacks changed everything. My dad hired me to wash the family car. I put soap and water in a bucket, grabbed some towels, and pulled the hose around to the driveway. 

After washing and rinsing the entire car, I got my dad to inspect. I was looking forward to his congratulations on a job well done and a handful of cash. Instead, he simply said, “You didn’t wash the car.” I ended up getting really upset. I did wash the car. I covered the thing in soapy water and rinsed it off with the hose. How could he say I didn’t wash it? Did he not see me out here?

He showed me on the front where there was still a bunch of dried, stuck-on bugs. He showed me where there was grime in the wheel wells. He pointed out dirt around the windshield wipers. I may have done all the actions of washing a car, but the outcome was a car that still needed to be cleaned. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells the story of a father and two sons. The father asks the first son to go work in the vineyard. This son says that he will not, but he changes his mind and eventually goes and works. The second son says he will go work, but never does. Then Jesus asks his audience which of these sons did the father’s will.  

God asks us every moment of everyday if we will do his will. That we exist at all, is an invitation to answer the question: what are you going to do with your life? Then the fact that we have received Sacraments where we promised, before God and the Church, that we would do God’s will, further invites us to answer the question: what are we doing with this short, single life we’ve been given?

We can say yes with our words, but still stay no with our lives. We can say all the right things, call ourselves Christian, but if we aren’t living it, are we disciples of Jesus? 

I was convicted reading this gospel this week. I feel like I say yes often with my words and fail to follow through on those words. It’s like promising to wash the car, but the final product isn’t a clean car. For these failures, I go to confession. I lean into the mercy of God. 

The reality is that we’ll never be perfect in both our actions and words. The more we rely on God to lead us, the more we will be able to do God’s will. The more we seek to make our actions match our words, the more we are going to need to depend on God.

LIVE IT: Read these short (really it is brief) couple of paragraphs from the Catechism. You will find what are called the Precepts of the Church. These Precepts are the very basic things we must do as Catholics. If you are looking for the 5 ways to make your actions meet your words in your Catholic faith, these are the absolute basics. Check out the Precepts here. 

Sunday Readings for September 27, 2020.

It’s Not Fair.

If you are a parent, then it is likely that you’ve heard someone complain that something isn’t fair. If you are parent like me, you’ve heard this phrase yelled at you while one child gestures wildly at another child. I don’t need to explain to you that comparing ourselves to others is a death sentence to loving them well and being happy. If you want to lose your joy, then start comparing yourself to others.

When I would yell at my parents about the fairness of their parenting my younger sister and I, most often their response was, “Fair doesn’t mean equal.” I never liked that answer. I used to think that equal portions, the same rules, etc absolutely means equal, but then I started to say it to my kids and it started to make sense.

In the gospel this Sunday Jesus tells a parable about a man with a vineyard who hires workers throughout the day and at sundown pays them all the same wage. Whether someone worked twelve hours or one hour, they all got a full day’s wage. The workers who worked a full day complain that they didn’t get what they deserved. The vineyard owner explains that they were paid what was promised, which is true. Then he explains that it is his choice if he also decides to pay the partial workers the same amount.

As the person who holds strict rules about standing in line and always returns the shopping cart to the cart corral (yes that is their technical name), I still struggle with this answer. I want to shout at Jesus, “BUT THIS STILL ISN’T FAIR!”And maybe I’m right. Maybe it isn’t fair, but it is love.

God isn’t fair, he is love. He is extraordinary love.

God is wild generosity and total self-gift especially when someone doesn’t deserve it. Who doesn’t deserve a full portion of God’s love? Me. You. All of us. Few of us started working at dawn in the vineyard and none of us have worked perfectly all day long. We don’t deserve the wage God wants to pay us. So who are we in the story? We are the workers who come at midday and the end of the day, and yet because of God’s generosity, we still get a full portion.

What is the wage we are paid? Paul says that the wages of sin is death. So what is our wage for working in the vineyard? Life. The reward at the end of the day of working is a life of eternal bliss with God Almighty! There is no half measure of Heaven. If Heaven is infinite joy and perfect communion with God, then those who receive it won’t have more or less than someone else. There is no comparison in Heaven because everyone there is perfectly satisfied. More and less no longer matter in a state of perfect communion with God. 

Finally, this gospel teaches us that it is never too late to receive that full day’s wage. If you are reading this, but have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, if you are reading this and aren’t in full communion with God, now is the time to reach out and take the job. Say a prayer that puts yourself at God’s mercy and God’s will. No matter how far away you feel. No matter how long you’ve been gone, God will welcome you back with extraordinary love. 

LIVE IT: Tell God you want to work in his vineyard. Actively seek to commit yourself to God. Use whatever words come from you heart. 

Sunday Readings for September 20th, 2020.

Not Even the Bare Minimum.

Readings for Sunday Oct. 6th, 2019.

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I sleep pretty well. But every once in a while, when my head will hit the pillow and I am just about to drift off, my brain brings up some huge mistake from my past and I am wide awake again with worthless, unnecessary worry. No sleep for me.

One of those burdensome worries comes from my time in grad school over ten years ago. I had an experiential learning assignment at an elder care facility. My final assignment was to gather a list of potential actives and field trip opportunities for the residents. I started the process but never finished. I told my field supervisor that if he signed my form, I would complete the assignment after the semester was over. I never did. 

Oh man, even writing about this makes my skin crawl. Most of us aren’t the kind of people who dodge assignments or fail to complete at least what we are told. 

In the gospel Jesus gives an example of real faith is. servants who do the bare minimum, and just do what was commanded do get special rewards or extra thanks. No they did was they were supposed to and that is good, but it isn’t extraordinary. 

The reality is when it comes to our faith lives, we rarely even accomplish the bare minimum. When it comes to following Jesus, we so infrequently do even the simple things Jesus asks of us. Most of the times we aren’t even unprofitable servants, we a servants who fall short of the bare minimum. And that is why we need mercy. We have a God who is love and who loves us so much that even when we fail to do only what was commanded of us, Jesus completes the rest, forgives us, and still invites us to dine with him. Will you receive God’s mercy?

Live it: Go to confession. I know, this is the “Live it:” like, at least 4 times a year. That’s how important God’s mercy is. So just go. What is keeping you from God’s mercy?

An honest reaction.

Sunday Readings for September 15th, 2019.

I want to direct a short film which depicts the 3 lost parables of Luke 15 (spoiler alert, kal-visuals-6JNdQAitqWU-unsplashthis is the gospel for this coming Sunday.) 

The reason I want to artistically represent these parables is because I think most people’s reaction to hearing them is fake, lame, and personally dishonest. It’s not our fault really. We’ve heard these parables so many times that I think we tend to ignore their je ne sais quoi. I think we easily dismiss them as a lesson in acceptance and general nice-ness.

When it comes down to it I want to show the part of the story that Luke leaves out – namely, the honest and real reactions of everyone listening to Jesus. 

When Jesus says, “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” and then have one of the Pharisees say, “Hey Jesus. No one. Not a single one of us would do that. That is stupid. That man is a bad shepherd. Why are his sheep in a desert anyway?” 

Then when Jesus describes the woman who loses a coin and throws a party to celebrate the finding of said coin, I want catch on film, the emphatically confused and questioning glances shared between Scribes (and maybe between the disciples too). Why waste more money than the coin is worth celebrating finding it? Please someone with a finance background talk to this woman about retirement planning. 

Then when Jesus really goes for it and tells his audience about the dignified Jewish man who gives away his inheritance and then runs (like a common slave) to meet his now gentile son (you know – the one who not only wasted his financial inheritance, but also his very identity as a Jew), I want to see half the audience roll on the ground laughing at the wildly unlikely story while the other half shout with great support for the righteous older son. 

God’s mercy is crazy. It doesn’t make sense. We don’t deserve it. But he offers it to us. God gives it freely because we don’t deserve it. The moment we think we don’t need God’s mercy is likely the moment right before we do something that proves our need for mercy.

I need mercy and need it badly. I need mercy to be excessive and irrational and free. I don’t just want God’s mercy and love – I need it. Without it, sharing a trough with a sounder of swine would be a dream. 

Do you need God’s mercy? Why? How do you know?

LIVE IT: Go to Confession. There is no greater moment of mercy than a full, rich, specific, honest, life giving Confession and the absolving of sins. Even if you’re not sure you have any mortal sins on your heart, go and receive the grace given in the sacrament. 

 

Who are these older people?

Oct. 23rd Sunday Readings.

The other day I was online and saw a picture of a group of people posted by one of my

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Funny, cuz I pick the Chocolate Chip Cookie every time.

Facebook friends. I didn’t recognize the name of the person or anyone else in the picture and when I looked at the people’s faces I thought, “Who are these older people and how do I know them?” Turned out they were all people I graduated college with who are basically my same age. How did these classmates of mine age so much, while I have stayed the same?

Comparing ourselves to others is dangerous and not in a good way. When we use comparing ourselves to others to build ourselves up or comfort ourselves, we can actually become addicted to the practice. Needless to say, when we compare ourselves to others with more or better or prettier or funner, it’s hard to feel good, to be grateful for our life. Sometimes we compare ourselves to how we used to be, and we can take pride in that, but it can also lull us into a false sense of accomplishment or perfection.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus tells a parable of two different people who went to the temple to pray. The pharisee extols his good deeds and thanks God that he isn’t like the sinners of the world. Meanwhile, the tax collector bows his head as he humbly asks for mercy. One man spends his prayer comparing himself to others, while the other focused solely on his own need for God.

Here’s the funny twist – the pharisee is doing all the right things. He is exceptional at following the law. He gives alms, prays well, and even fasts more than the law requires. Compared to others he is “better” at following the law. The twist in this parable is that our relationship with God isn’t dependent on how good we are at pulling it off; it is dependent upon how much we are willing to rely on God.

The pharisee is comparing himself to other sinners and consequently felt pretty good about himself. However, if we compare ourselves to perfection, we all fall short. Both the pharisee and the tax collector aren’t good enough to be justified with God. Neither are perfect. As good as the tax collector is; he isn’t perfect. Thus both are in need of mercy. If our measuring stick isn’t other broken people, but in fact perfect holiness; we all need mercy.

Are you perfect? No? Then our prayer is this, “Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

LIVE IT
Take 1 day to try and stop comparing. Here is a method: Whenever you find yourself comparing to another (good or bad), thank God for this person. Instead of comparing ourselves to them, thank God for them. When in doubt, start and end your day with the prayer, “Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Real Change.

The Good Word for Sunday March 13 ~ for the complete readings click here. 

Change. Nobody likes it. Okay, I guess some people like it, but once people get comfortable it is hard to change. My dad has had the same haircut for 50+ years. It’s kind of like behavioral inertia. Once we stop moving or once we get moving it’s hard to start or stop.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written about change. Some explain how we change. Others give steps for organizational change. Still other books are all about how to avoid change.

Even when something is really bad for us, it is hard to stop doing it. Even when something is really good for us, it is hard to start (and keep going). In Lent some of us have given up something or added a new behavior. I bet most of us will fall right back into our old ways after Lent is over no matter how good our Lenten promise has been for us.

That’s why the readings today are so amazing. The first reading references the Exodus out of the slavery of Egypt and into the promised land. But the reading is from Isaiah who is writing many, many years later during the time of the Babylonian exile, when the people of Israel were conquered and moved hundred of miles to Babylon. The people had been freed from the slavery of Egypt, but had fallen away from God and ended right back in slavery to a different master. Change is hard.

In the gospel, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to catch him disagreeing with the law of Moses. Instead, Jesus does some extraordinary; Jesus shows mercy.

He not only shows mercy to the woman, but he using the moment to teach those gathered about who is need of mercy. Who is a sinner? Everyone. Who needs God’s mercy? Everyone. Who needs to change? Everyone.

The thing is when Jesus turns to the woman and tells her to go and sin no more, he is really talking to everyone. When one is shown mercy, the appropriate response is to change. When mercy is given, the one receiving mercy gets a do-over. Wouldn’t it be crazy if someone got a do-over and then did the exact same thing again?

We get a do-over every time God shows us mercy. We get another chance to be better, to do good and avoid evil. We get the chance to change.

If you had a second chance to live your life again, how would you choose to live differently? Do that.

Live it:
With just two weeks left of Lent, make a plan to make a change following Lent. If you gave up something consider what it might mean to continue to abstain in some way. If you added prayer, think about how you may continue that practice.

The rest of the story.

The Good Word for Sunday March 6th ~ for the complete readings click here.

The late, great radio host and social commentator Paul Harvey used to sign off his broad cast with the phrase, “And now you know…the rest of the story.” If you ever heard him on the radio you probably just imagined him speaking those very words in his gruff, but kind voice.

I want to know the rest of the story when it comes to our gospel today. We are all very familiar with the story of the prodigal son that Jesus tells in our gospel. We may be so familiar with it that we simply assume we know what it says. Younger son asks for his inheritance, goes off, feels bad, returns home, dad welcomes him, older son upset, and that’s it.

But I want to know what happened next. What happened the next morning when the older son went out to work the fields, all of which were his? What did the father say to the younger son then? What happens in 15-30 years when the Father dies?

Of course we’ll never know because it is parable, a story told by Jesus to make a point. The point is that no matter what, father shows mercy to his younger son. Yes, even though asking for his in heritance is like the younger son telling his father he wishes his father were dead. Yes, he squandered his money on licentious living. Yes, when he returns home he really isn’t sorry, he is just hungry. Yes, the son never really apologies. Nonetheless, the father loves unconditionally and welcomes home his son with open arms. The point is that no matter what we’ve done (even if we were tax collectors and prostitutes, the very people Jesus is telling this story to) God will welcome us home if we return to him.

I get that. But I can’t help but wonder about the next day. See for the father to give his son half of his inheritance, he didn’t just write him a check. No the son’s inheritance was the father’s land. So to give it to him, the father had to sell it. The next morning when the younger son stood in the kitchen with a cup of tea and looked out the window at his father’s property, he probably saw a new fence and strangers (or the neighbors) farming what should have been his land. What was that like for him?

God is merciful. The theme of this Holy Year is “Merciful like the Father.” Yes, God is merciful in a profound and almost irrational way. He loves us more than we can even understand. And there will still be consequences when we turn away.

The good news is that though this is the last we hear of the brothers, our story isn’t finished yet. When we do return, God will welcome us with open arms. If you are feeling burdened by the consequences of your sin, go back to God anyway. If you are worried you won’t be good enough, go back anyway. If you can’t imagine a God who would want you in heaven with him forever, return to him because God desires to be with you more than you know.

Live It:
Who do you miss? Think about someone you miss and what you would do to be reunited with them. Then thank God for his unconditional love for you.

 

We all need this.

The Good Word for Sunday February 28th ~ for the complete readings click here.

If you have kids you’ve probably been asked this question, “Do you really ‘need’ that thing, or do you ‘want’ it?” If you have a 3 year old, the answer is usually absolutely I need this candy bar and lip gloss and ninja PEZ dispenser. Duh.

But what do we really need?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow created what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs.” The basic premise is that one needs to have their most basic needs met before the next set of needs matter. For example, what we are going to eat for lunch in 2 hours doesn’t matter much if we can’t breath. And what we are going to wear to work the next day doesn’t matter much if we haven’t eaten in 3 days.

Maslow theory states that our most basic needs are physiological. We need air, then water, then food. Without these we can’t go on to care about things like which fonts to use on our blog. Everyone needs air and water and food, if they want to survive.

In the gospel this weekend Jesus explains that there is something that everyone needs: Mercy.

Jesus comments on two different “news” stories of the day in which people were killed. He asks the audience if the victims deserved death because of their sin. You probably already know that if Jesus had let crowd answer they would have said, “Of course their sin was greater; they died didn’t they?”

Instead Jesus says this, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” Jesus is trying to explain that those poor souls who died violently either in the temple or because of the building collapse weren’t any worse sinner than us, not because they weren’t sinners, but because we are! Everyone is a sinner. You. Me. Pope Francis. Mother Teresa. And if we are sinners, then we all need God’s mercy.

I recently heard in a funeral homily the priest say that when there is a funeral of a really good and admirable person it is easy to just spend the whole time talking about how amazing they are. It is easy to forget that they were also a sinner in need of God’s mercy, just like us. In other words, every saint was a sinner in need of God’s mercy.

The good news is that God is ready to give you and I all the mercy we need. God can’t wait to pour his mercy upon us. He won’t hesitate to show us mercy when we don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Live it:
Go to Confession. If you haven’t gone in a while or don’t see the point or don’t feel comfortable telling a priest, I really encourage you to pray about it first. Want to check out a sweet talk about Confession? Check out “The Healing Power of Confession” By Dr. Scott Hahn by visiting formed.org, use our parish code, log in and then check out the talk. How to do all that can be found here.