November 11th Sunday Readings.

jordan-rowland-716475-unsplashA number of years ago my friend was lamenting his current faith practice. He shared that when he was in college and right after college, he would attend daily Mass. He started and ended his day with Liturgy of the Hours. He had a weekly holy hour in an Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. He would stop and pray the Angelus in the middle of the day. He read scripture and studied theology. He had intense, spiritual conversations late into the night with faithful friends. But at the time he was sharing, he said if he prayed in the morning and said goodnight to God that was a good prayer day. 

I asked him what changed and he said, “I got married and had kids.” 

He explained that for a while he beat himself up about this. He was frustrated and tired and no matter what he tried, it was difficult to practice his faith like he did when he was in his early 20s. 

That was until a priest friend explained that after giving himself away to his family all day, whatever my friend gave to God was a treasure. In the gospel, Jesus admires the poor widow who gave what little money she had to the treasury. My friend wasn’t financially poor, but his poverty had to do with how much time he had. My friend was time poor. 

So when it came to giving God time, even though he felt like he was praying so muchandrik-langfield-426760-unsplash less than he used to, God was receiving an even greater treasure. He was receiving what little time my friend had as a gift of prayer. 

Where is your poverty? What do you lack? Do you wish you had more time, money, friendships, joy, faith, or focus? Where in your life are you like the poor widow? What would it look like if you gave that thing to God? What would it look like if you gave God your poverty?

Take out a sheet of paper. Write down 3 things you feel you are lacking in your life. Then write down a way you can give each to God. Do one of those things this week. 

The Impossible, Please.

February 11th Sunday Readings.

One of my children’s favorite books when they were little was “Papa, Please Get the 27454Moon for Me.” It is a beautifully written and illustrated book by Eric Carle. The basic premise is a child asks their father for the moon and he gets it. My children loved this book because they realized that the request was unreasonable and impossible. Yet, they also delighted in the idea that the impossible, just might happen. I liked the book because the dad is a hero.
What is interesting about he book to me is that it speaks to some truth of childhood. Sometimes small children will ask, without irony, for something that is seemingly impossible. When they ask they don’t hesitate. Whether it is a pony, a 2nd trip to Disney the day you get home from the last trip, or a new sibling, little children don’t shy away from asking for something big.
In the gospel, the man with leprosy asks Jesus for something impossible. Yes, he asks Jesus to heal his untreatable disease. But more than that, he asks Jesus to restore his place in society. He asks to be welcomed back into a community from which he was excluded because of his disease.
Jesus’ first miracle isn’t curing the man. Before Jesus removes his leprosy, he reaches out and touches the man. In reality, I bet there was a gasp from the crowd. People may have been shocked that Jesus poke to the man, but that Jesus would touch him was, well, impossible.
The man with leprosy asked for something that no one could do. He asked for the impossible. And Jesus fulfilled that request.
When we pray, what do we ask God for? Often we temper our requests before we even ask. We often ask God for the reasonable and possible. I think we temper our request because we are scared of being let down by God. We are fearful that if we ask big, God won’t pull through and our faith will be shaken. So how do we ask God for a God-sized miracle without risk? We can’t. Asking for the impossible takes a risk on our part.
What we can do is put all of it God’s hands. We can, like the leprous man, ask first that God’s will be done. Just as he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” we can say, if it is your will, grant this request Lord. Whatever we ask for, whether it is the moon or something just as impossible, we must do so with God’s will in mind.
What is the impossible that you would like to ask God for? A miraculous healing? Healing a broken relationship? Forgiving the unforgiveable? Whatever it is, ask. Ask for that God sized thing. Say something like, “God, I know if you will it, you can……..and in all thing Your will be done!”

Get Salty

February 5 Sunday Readings.

saltandriceHave you ever seen a salt shaker at a restaurant or church basement that doesn’t just have salt in the shaker? Sometimes in addition to salt, people put white rice inside the salt shaker. Why? I’ve been told it soaks up moisture and keeps the salt from clumping. Who knew?

But I wondered if it ever happens that all the salt comes out of the shaker and all is left is rice. Does someone ever sit down at chicken dinner at Our Lady of Perpetual Church Dinners and goes to season their mashed potatoes, only to find a rice shaker instead of salt. Would be able to do it’s job?

This is exactly what Jesus is talking about when he says in this Sunday’s gospel, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Because, if you think about it, salt can’t loose it’s flavor. If a white granular substance doesn’t taste like salt, it isn’t salt. If it’s not salt, then it isn’t any good for seasoning or persevering food.

In the same way, Jesus warns his disciples to be authentic believers. If they go and try to season and preserve the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ, but they themselves don’t believe or practice it, well, they won’t be very effective. If we try to pass an authentic Catholic faith onto our children, but we don’t really practice or believe, will it work?

Jesus’ message is two fold in the gospel. First, be real. Really seek to grow your prayer practice, be close to God. Secondly, as that faith is grown, don’t hide it. Let it light the world.

It’s been said that if you want to change a behavior, two actions are essential. 1) Measure it. 2) Do it for 21 days straight.

So if you want to improve your lived relationship with Jesus, make a plan to pray consistently at the same time and in the same way for 21 days straight and find a way to measure it. A simple journal entry, to do list item, calendar item could help.

Perfect Positioning

Oct. 30th Sunday Readings

la-sp-shift-illustration-20150718I watch more sports than I should. Honestly, I enjoy watching them all. It’s a thing of beauty when a baseball infield puts the shift on and the heavy hitting batter pulls the ball within reach of the 2nd basemen for an easy out. When a quarterback appears to have thrown a pass directly toward the free safety and he easily picks it off, I am impressed. When a strong forward kicks the ball out to the hot handed guard and he nails the long 3 pointer from the corner, I cheer. When the center wins a face off and the puck goes directly to the defensemen who blisters a shot to the upper corner of the net past the goalie, I wonder “How did they do that?”

The answer is almost always, “They were in position.”

Talent, practice, coaching, and hard work are all well and good, but the most immediate cause of a great play is that the player was in position. They were in the right place, at the right time. Sometimes, I suppose positioning is luck, and maybe those plays make the highlights. However, when a player is in position it gives him or her a better chance for success.

In our gospel this weekend we hear the familiar story of Zacchaeus who climbs a tree to see Jesus. The story doesn’t start with a big confession or tremendous conversion (that’s how it ends). No, the story starts with Zacchaeus putting himself in a position to see Jesus.

Scripture says that Zacchaeus was short in stature, and so to see Jesus he had to climb that tree. The fact that Zacchaeus put himself in position to see Jesus made the story possible. Only then does Jesus call to him and invite himself over for dinner. Only then does a conversation ensue during which Zacchaeus repents and seeks to make restitution.

Woody Allen is credited with saying, “80% of success is just showing up.” I think that is true for Zacchaeus and probably us too. So the question about our faith is, are we putting ourselves in a position to encounter Jesus?

What does it mean for you to be in a position to be close to Jesus? When was the last time you went out of your way to see Jesus?

LIVE it:

Here are three ways to put yourself in a position to see Jesus:

  1. Get out of bed – when your alarm goes off, get out of bed and make the sign of the cross. That simple 4 second prayer will put you in a position to start your day with God.
  2. Kneel when you pray – okay, this one is going to be awkward the first time you try it. When I was a kid I used to kneel every night to say my prayers. Why did I stop? Try this again.
  3. Go to Mass – If you don’t go every week, try going every Sunday for a month. If you go every Sunday, try adding a weekday Mass. When you are at HNOJ for Mass, you are in a position to encounter Christ.

No talent.

Oct. 16 Sunday Readings

I’m a cruddy golfer. I don’t play very often, but when I do, I get as many swings as I camping-finistere-golfpossibly can out of 18 holes. If I quit my job and moved to Florida and played golf every single day, I bet I would get better. But no matter how many times I practiced or played, I probably wouldn’t ever be good enough play professionally. The same holds true for baseball, tennis, bowling, poetry, guitar playing, or wood carving (I don’t think I’d have to move to Florida for most of those, thank goodness).

Why? No talent.

Some things we do take practice and persistence, but they also take talent in order to really excel at them. My eldest daughter practices her flute regularly, but she is also blessed with her mother’s natural musical talent.

In the gospel Jesus uses a parable to tell us that prayer isn’t one of those things that takes both talent and practice. The story he tells is about a rotten judge and a motivated widow. The woman keeps bothering the judge to the point that he renders a decision in her favor. Jesus doesn’t mean to say that God is a rotten judge, but rather that if even a rotten judge would respond to persistence how much more would a God who loves us listen to our plea. In the story Jesus makes no judgement on the worthiness of the woman’s situation. The story isn’t about whether the judge is right or wrong in granting the woman’s request, but just that her persistence leads the judge to act.

For us it means that our prayers don’t have to be good. Honestly, I feel like is kind of a relief. We don’t have to pray well for God to hear us. It isn’t about having the magic words or the perfect petition; It’s about doing it every day.

A successful prayer life doesn’t consist of perfect prayer, but daily, persistent prayer. For me, this means praying when I don’t want to. I know this sounds funny, but I want to want to pray, but sometimes I don’t. My prayer life is going well when I pray when I don’t really want to.

How? Just do it. Set a time/place, schedule it, and do it.

One of my favorite quotes about prayer is by Peter Kreeft, “Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.” (Check out Kreeft’s full article here.)

Live It:
If your prayer life is going strong add this 5 second prayer, “Jesus thank you for the grace to pray persistently.”

If your prayer life could use a start, restart, or jumpstart (like mine), try this:

  •  Take out your phone/calendar
  •  Open calendar or calendar app
  •  Pick a time and schedule 5 minutes everyday for the next 7 days (I suggest right away in the morning.)
  •  Assign a location (big chair in living room).
  •  Options for prayer: silence, read gospel of Mark, say words of thanks petition or praise directly to God.
  • Try this consistent, persistent prayer each day for 1 week

Jesus, HELP! Prayers from the top of the play set.

The Good Word for Oct. 25th ~ for the complete Sunday readings click here. 

Have you ever had to call out for help? I have a 6 year old who loves our backyard refurbished-backyard-adventures-playset-fullplay set. She doesn’t always use the hanging rings or swing or ladder in the way they were intended. Every now and again she gets herself stuck. Usually this means she is hanging upside down with a foot wedged somewhere and she can’t quite figure out how to get down with out landing on her head. It’s then, when she knows she needs help, that she yells for help.

In the gospel today, when Bartimeaus hears that Jesus is near, he cries out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Bartimaeus needs help. He knows that he is stuck in his current situation and calls out for help because he really believes that Jesus will help him.

The difference between Bartimaeus and my daughter’s cry for help is that my daughter knows what I am going to do for her. She knows I will hold her up, help her get un-stuck, and lower her down without her getting hurt. But when Bartimaeus calls out for Jesus he does so trusting that Jesus will do something for him, but he doesn’t really know what.

For me the lesson is that when we call out to Jesus, open to whatever he is willing to do for us, great things can happen – maybe even greater than we imagine in the first place. And our cry doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be the right incantation of words as if prayer is a magic spell. Prayer is as simple as calling out Jesus’ name and waiting in hope for his answer.

When was the last time you cried out to Jesus? Are there people or pressures in your life telling you to be quiet and stay in your place? What do you want God to do for you?

No matter what is going on in your life right now; whether you feel like you are blindly moving forward, barely surviving each day or you feel like you have everything under control, God wants to help you see better than you do right now. Cry out to him. Call Jesus and he will come near.

Live It:
Next time you are alone, find some silence, and say out loud, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And then listen.

The Good Word for July 19th

I'm too busy to tell people I'm busy.For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Have you ever told someone you were too busy for them? I wish I didn’t, but the people in my life I probably say this to the most are my kids. I never actually say those words, but what I often do is suggest they go play outside or in the playroom or go ask mom. Rarely is what I am doing so important that I shouldn’t take the time for them. Gosh, I don’t even like admitting this truth.

The thing is God is never too busy for us. He is never too busy to hear our trivial story or complaining or good news. God is never too busy to pay attention to exactly what we are saying. God is never too busy to give us exactly what we need. Certainly he doesn’t always give us what we ask for or want, but he is never too busy for us.

However, we often treat God like he is too busy, right? We say things like, “God doesn’t care about whether I am sitting in traffic, God has bigger issues in the world.” And yes it is true that there are bigger issues than Minnesota construction traffic, but that doesn’t mean he is too busy to listen to us.

God attends to us absolutely.

In our Gospel Jesus and the Disciples are exhausted. They are so busy ministering to people they, “had no opportunity even to eat.” Yet, on their way to rest and food, the crowds follow. Jesus “moved with pity” decides to forgo his rest so minister again to the people.

The same is true in our life. Jesus never tires of ministering to us. If we turn to God, God is there. If we speak, God listens. If we listen, God is powerfully present (sometimes we have trouble hearing – another blog topic altogether).

We can trust that no matter what, God won’t abandon us. God is never to busy for you.

Hearing God’s voice in the midst of our noice is tough, but he is always there. Take 5 minutes everyday this week to sit in silence. No words. No pressure. Just 5 minutes of silence.