The Good Word for March 22nd

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

avocadoWhen I was in elementary school and we were studying earth science, I was given the “Avocado Pit” experiment. The experiment was simple. Basically it involved putting an avocado pit in water and letting it sprout. Eventually the pit would break open, a small shoot would come out and begin to grow. The next step was to plant it and start an avocado farm, but I never really got that far.

The key to that experiment is also present in our gospel today. Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” For the avocado pit to make an avocado tree, the pit must break open and die. It is only by being broken open is it able to grow.

Each Sunday when we attend Mass we hear four pieces of scripture. The 1st reading is from the Old Testament. The psalm, which is usually sung, is one of the 150 Psalms. The 2nd reading is from a letter or Acts. The Gospel is from one of the four gospels in the New Testament.

I don’t know about you, but far too often I just sit there while this abundance of scripture is read. Then I wait for the homily to wow me. I put the responsibility for this part of the Mass to be fruitful, all into the priest’s hands. I make it his job to make scripture come alive for me.

See, all this scripture is like the grain of wheat or the avocado pit. Like the seed, the Sunday scriptures must be broken open. If we really believe that scripture is the living word of God, then it truly is a seed ready to be broken open. When we take the time to really break open the Sunday scriptures, then the word of God can grow and give us life.

Great metaphor, but what does it mean? For me it means two things – Reading and Silence. For me to break open the Word, I need to read it before I get to Mass and I need to sit in silence while the scripture is fresh in my mind. One way to do this is an ancient prayer form called Lectio Divina. Pope Benedict said that if the Church (you and me) practiced Lectio Divina we would set the world on fire with our faith.

What if every reading at Mass moved you and grew your faith? They can, just break scripture open a little ahead of time – you won’t regret it.

Live It:
Read the Sunday readings before you get to Mass this weekend, by clicking here. Want to try Lectio Divina? Try out HNOJ’s Lenten Prayer Guide. It contains instructions on Lectio and has a short version of the Gospel for each Sunday to use in Lecto Divina.

The Good Word for February 1st

the-stacheHave you ever met someone who really commanded a room? I used to be in Boy Scouts and we had great adult leaders in our troop. One time we paired up for a campout with another troop and one of their adults was this old, grizzled, veteran leader with a huge, bushy red mustache. When he spoke everyone listened and trusted what he said to be true. When he asked us to build a fire or clean up or go get firewood, we immediately set to doing what he asked. This leader spoke with authority.

In the gospel today, Jesus confronts unclean spirits who have possessed a man. Immediately the spirits know who Jesus is – “The Holy One of God.” Then Jesus orders them out and frees the man. Those who saw Jesus heal this man are amazed and said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority.”

People who speak with authority usually do so because their actions back up their words. We listen to them because they walk the walk. Our gospel twice confirms that people think of Jesus as one who teaches and then acts with authority.

This simple story begs us to make a decision about Jesus.

Either Jesus teaches with authority or he does not. The question for us is whether or not we let Jesus have authority in our life. Do we listen to his words as if they carry final authority? Do we let Jesus “author” or write our lives? The people of Capernaum recognized the authority of Jesus’ teaching and actions. Will we?

Live It:
Pick 1 teaching of Jesus. Pray the words every morning and live it every day for one week.
Here are some examples of simple teaching:
Turn the other cheek – Matthew 5:39
Do not let your heart be troubled – John 14:1
Sell your belongings and give alms – Luke 12:33
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’ – Matthew 5:37
Love your enemies – Matthew 5:44
Ask – Matthew 7:7
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart – Matthew 22:37
You shall love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:39

The Good Word for Sunday Oct 5

For the compete Sunday readings click here.

ab90a0a11eaa73fd83ed1eae905baae4Ron Gardenhire the longtime manager of the Minnesota Twins was fired this week. Gardenhire was beloved by players, fans, and the general manager. At the end of four consecutive 90+ loss seasons, it was time for him to go. It didn’t matter how much people in the organization personally liked Gardenhire, the team didn’t win enough games. Gardenhire himself said, “We haven’t won enough games. It’s nothing more, nothing less than that.”

On the surface, the gospel this week looks pretty similar to the Gardenhire firing. The tenants don’t produce any fruit and so the master eventually kicks them out. However a closer look reveals one small but important difference. The story never says they don’t produce fruit. Instead the scripture simply states that when the servants of the master come to obtain the fruit, the tenants beat, kill, and stone the servants. It isn’t that the tenants aren’t successful in growing grapes and making wine; it’s that they don’t give to the master, the owner of the vineyard, what they owe him.

What’s crazy about this story is Continue reading

The Good Word for Sunday Sept 28

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

the-princess-bride_image

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Princess Bride. The movie is an old-fashioned fairytale told by a grandfather to his sick grandson. In the story a young woman named Buttercup, who is engaged to a prince, is kidnapped to start a war. Her childhood love, Westley, returns, from a life as a pirate king, to save her and prevent a war. If you haven’t seen it, seriously, watch it tonight – great for the whole family.

At the beginning of the film Buttercup asks Westley to serve her in a variety, and often unnecessary, ways. Westley’s response is always, “As you wish.” He is without question, obedient to her request. This total obedience and complete surrender of will eventually wins the heart of Buttercup and she falls in love with Westley.

We don’t often think of it, but obedience is an act of love.

To do what is asked is like saying, “Your desire is more important than mine.” To be obedient takes a great deal of trust, sacrifice, and love. When Westley said, “As you wish.” He was really saying, “I love you.” (Watch this video to see the phrase in action.)

There has been no greater act of obedience and of love, then Jesus Christ giving his life on the cross. Jesus did it out of love for God the Father and for us. Jesus was obedient even though he asked for the cup to pass. Our second reading explains this so well when it says, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2).

Every Mass and every time we pray the Our Father, we pray the words, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We are literally praying for God’s will to be done not ours. We are actually saying to God, “As you wish.”

Live it:
Take a Post-It note and write the phrase, “God – As You wish.” And stick it on your bathroom mirror. Every time you see it, pray the phrase and ask God to give you the grace to live it out.

The Good Word for Sunday Sept 21

For the complete readings click here.

If I had a nickel for every time I screamed the words, “But mom, it isn’t FAIR!” at my mother when I was a kid, I would have more than a little walking around money. I was the oldest and nothing ever seemed “fair” to me. My sister got bigger pieces of pie and small punishments. She got more attention and a later curfew. I felt like that first laborer who worked all day in the sun and received the same wage as the guy who worked for only an hour – life isn’t fair.

Our gospel this week isn’t about fairness or about salary distribution, but about the inconceivable abundance of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is so “wealthy” with God’s infinite love that no matter when you or I come to receive God’s love and mercy, we always receive a full measure.

One could hear this story and say that the landowner was foolish and unwise with his pay scale, but in reality he is a landowner so wealthy that he never has to worry about how much he pays his employees. The same is true of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is overflowing with love and mercy for us to the point that God never has to worry about running out. God’s love is endless, infinite, and unconditional.

The workers in the story don’t get paid because they worked hard and long. No they get paid simply for saying “yes.” The workers all get a full day’s wage for saying yes to the landowner, for following him from the town square to his vineyard, and for choosing his land to work. If we want to receive God’s love and mercy, all we have to do is say yes to his invitation.
How is the way you live you life a “yes” to God?

Live it:
Before going to sleep tonight, ask God how you can yes with your life? Rest in silence for 2 minutes and listen.