I’m your huckleberry.

Quarreling is our current national pastime. Whether it is politics, covid/stay-at-home orders, race, religion, the environment, sex, parenting, sports, money or whatever – we quarrel about nearly everything. Not only do we like to quarrel, we enjoy watching other people quarrel. A significant portion of cable networks is just video of people quarreling about some topic. We have build vast online frontiers where we can pick a fight at a moments notice.

Somedays I wonder if people want to change the US motto from “In God we trust.” to “Well, actually…” It seems it would be more accurate. In the Gospel this week we read about Jesus teaching a truth that caused the Jews to “quarrel amongst themselves.” What caused them to quarrel? Jesus said that his flesh was bread and if they ate his flesh, they would live forever. Later Jesus preaches this:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever. 
John 6: 52-59

Jesus wasn’t speaking in metaphor. Jesus wasn’t talking symbolically. Even those of us who enjoy quarreling won’t argue with a metaphor (though we might argue how accurate it is). Jesus teaches this truth over and over again in John 6. Jesus was so committed to this teaching that he was willing to loose every single follower if necessary. 

What would make this teaching necessary? It is true. Jesus gives us himself, his own body, both on the cross on Calvary and in every single Mass in the Eucharist. The truth is is that if we eat of his flesh, we can have eternal life with him forever.

If we have the true intimacy that comes with full communion through the Eucharist, we will draw ever closer to Jesus. Just as Jesus will enter into us through our consuming of his flesh and blood, we will enter into the inner life of the Trinity in Heaven. There is no more intimate relationship than this. 

People have and will quarrel about this truth. That doesn’t make it any less true.

The decision each of us has to make is whether we will walk away because that teaching is hard, not modern, and weird, or whether we respond like St. Peter and say, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Do we believe what Jesus says is true or will we quarrel?

LIVE IT: 2 steps to this micro challenge: 1) Read the entire chapter of John 6. 2) Go for a walk and think about what happens and what Jesus teaches. 

No Rules. No Right.

GWSteakImage.jpg

I have eaten my fair share of bloomin’ onions. I’ve sat and wondered if they actually have steak houses down under. I’ve sipped a frothy beverage and annoyingly repeated lines from Crocodile Dundee while waiting for my food. What I mean to say is, I’ve eaten at Outback Steakhouse. 

A while ago their tagline was “No Rules. Just Right.” This has always struck me as odd. Sure it captures what I can only presume is a rebellious Australian spirit. No rules. Yet, just as we are fully bought into the no rules aspect of dining, they get you with the just right. I think this was to give the impression that your steak would be cooked just right. It could also mean everything about one’s experience at Outback would be – just right. 

Both halves of this tagline are lies. The varied ways that Outback Steakhouses aren’t “just right” are probably self revelatory. But the real hypocrisy is first half of the line “No rules.”  The moment you get up from the table and try to leave without paying, you will quickly find that there are indeed rules. If you were to throw your cutlery on the floor or mistreat the staff or bother other patrons, they will show you the door for breaking the, well, rules. 

Further, If you order a steak Medium Rare (as one should), the only reason it would come out cooked to the state of Medium Rare is because the chef followed the rules of how long or hot to cook the steak. If your steak was black and charcoaly and you sent it back to the kitchen, you could do so only because there are, in fact, rules about steaks and steakhouses. 

Some people think Jesus threw out all the rules. Some believe Jesus tells us we don’t need and shouldn’t follow rules. They might even come to the opinion that rules are for pharisees and reactionaries (they would be partially right here). It is as if they believe the tagline of Christianity is “No Rules. Just Christ.”

As attractive as that line might be (especially to us Americans), it isn’t very Biblical and doesn’t follow our Tradition. This Sunday’s gospel shows us that Jesus didn’t come to destroy the rules, but to fulfill them. He preaches clearly and decisively that not only are the rules not too harsh and shouldn’t be abandoned, but in fact the rules don’t go far enough. If the old rule was that violence against your neighbor was bad, Jesus ups the ante to anger with your fellow man is wrong. He goes on to increase the demand in several other areas. 

Jesus teaches us that it isn’t that the rules should be dismissed, but the rules will never be enough to establish the Kingdom and save our souls. In fact, Jesus preaches the radical and difficult reality that we are not enough. He says that we can never do enough to earn salvation or approval. It is only God who is enough who can save us in the face of the high bar of following Jesus Christ. 

Should we follow the rules of following Jesus? Absolutely. Should we only follow the the bare minimum of the rules? Absolutely not. The rules are good and we must abide, but we must go on to love and love well. When asked what is the greatest rule, love for God and love for neighbor was Jesus’ answer. 

Live it: Make a rule for yourself to follow for one week. Try something like: Drink only water. or No TV. or Say “Hi!” to everyone you walk past. or Introduce yourself to strangers. See what works. Maybe you’ll fine something new for Lent this year. 

Sunday Readings for February 16th, 2020.

Born to do it.

November 25th Sunday Readings.

In the early 2000s before we had kids, my wife and I took a trip to visit relatives in New peter-lewicki-411606-unsplashYork City. While there, we saw the hit musical Wicked with most of the original cast. Yes, it was awesome. Idina Menzel wowed the crowed with her vocal range and huge voice. Kristin Chenoweth was a perfect compliment to Menzel and funny in a way that made the audience feel like they were in on the joke. When I watched those two perform, I couldn’t help but think that they were doing what they were born to do. 

When we see someone do something that they both really enjoy and are wildly good at doing, it is inspiring and beautiful. Whether it is watching a MLB infield field a ground ball or a James Beard award wining chef craft a meal or your neighbor cut his grass in a perfect diamond pattern, there is something rewarding about encountering someone doing what they were born to do. 

In the gospel for November 25th, Jesus outright states what he was born to do. Jesus was born to “testify to the truth”. Jesus came to tell us the truth. Jesus mission and purpose was to tell us (and to show us) that God loves us unconditionally and will do anything to get us to return to Him. Jesus exists to tell us that though we are sinners, we are loved and accepted by God. Jesus came to give us the Sacraments, establish the Church, and to create the path by which we all can be saved. 

Jesus was born to testify to the truth. Will we listen?

LIVE IT:
It’s a noisy time of year. Make 1 car trip this week without the radio on. Listen for God’s voice he might just tell you the truth.  

Doubt.

August 13th Sunday Readings.

baseball-umpire-out.jpgEarlier this summer, I pulled a prank on a retreat. What I did doesn’t matter. It was non destructive. It wasn’t mean. It was funny (I was told). However, in the time between when I performed the prank and the time the recipient discovered it, I was freaking out. I was worried I had gone too far. I was worried they would have hurt feelings. I was worried they weren’t going to find it funny, and it would harm our relationship. But mostly, I was worried I was going to be kicked off the retreat.

I don’t about you, but I haven’t been kicked out of many places. I haven’t been kicked off or fired from many teams or communities. I don’t know what it is like to feel that level of rejection. I can imagine it hurts.

I know some people who have felt like they have been kicked out of Church. These people felt on the outside of Church simply because they doubted. They felt like all the other people in the pews on Sunday have it all together and believe without question or hesitation. They felt like they were on the outside because they had questions.

In the gospel this week, we read the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter falling in. A one point after fishing him out of the waves, Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” This is Peter, Saint Peter, the first Pope, martyr for the faith – doubting. I’ve always thought that though he doubted he could walk on water, but the moment he started to sink, he had enough faith to cry out to Jesus for help.

Believe me when I say, doubt doesn’t put you on the outside of the Church. Questions don’t make you a bad Catholic or an irreligious person. What isn’t good is giving up on seeking the truth. Giving up and resting in the doubt versus doubting and actively searching for truth are two different things. It is the different between Peter drowning and Peter calling out for Christ to save him.

Do you doubt? So did the St. Peter. You have questions? So did the saints. You aren’t certain? Keep searching for answers. How? Start by turning to Jesus in prayer. Jesus just doesn’t have the answers – Jesus is the answer.

LIVE IT: Two steps – Step 1) Close your eyes and say this prayer, “Jesus, I do believe; help my unbelief!” Step 2) Address one of your doubts by asking your question of someone you trust. Weigh the answer. Pray about it again.

I cannot tell a lie.

The Good Word for Nov 22. For the complete Sunday readings click here.

When I was 10 years old a friend and I were kicking a soccer ball against a wall of the outside of my house. On accident he missed the wall, hit a storm door and shattered the glass out of the door. I went my parents and repeated the famous line from George Washington, “I cannot tell a lie.” And then quietly confessed, “Jason did it.”

It seems that honesty in leaders is important. The story of George Washington cutting down a cherry tree is known to nearly every school child (at least it was, when I was growing up.) We called Abraham Lincoln, “Honest Abe.” Nothing is more scandalous to a leader than being caught lying.

I think there is a difference between “not lying” and what the gospel says Jesus came to do, to “testify to the truth.” Avoiding stating falsehoods is avoiding evil. But Jesus just didn’t come to avoid evil; Jesus came to save the world. Jesus came to testify to the truth.

Jesus bears witness to the truth of God. In the gospel, Jesus says this is the very reason he was born. Jesus mission was to not only share the truth about God, but be the very way in which that truth is made manifest. In other words, Jesus shares the good news and is the good news.

This weekend we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. Every year we hold the truth that Jesus is king of heaven and earth and came to establish his kingdom on earth. If honesty is important to leadership, then Jesus’ kingship is built upon the foundation of the greatest truth – that God loves us and died for us so that we could be with him forever.

The last line of the gospel should challenge us to ask, “Do I listen to Jesus’ voice? Do I belong to the truth?”

Live it:
Listen to the song read the lyrics to Here is our King by David Crowder Band.

The Good Word for March 8th

Mark_TwainFor the complete 3rd Sunday of Lent readings click here.

One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished how much he had learned in seven years.” I love this quote because it is so true. I can’t tell you how many things my father, really my parents, said to me that I dismissed as a younger man and have only come to appreciate now many years later. Have you ever had this experience?

In the gospel today, we get a little insight into the developing faith of the disciples. We get to see them have one of these moments when they come to realize something Jesus said, which looks almost crazy, is actually true. This little glimpse into the interior life of the early Christians is often overshadowed by the big dramatic story of Jesus’ temple kerfuffle.

After turning over the moneychanger’s table and driving out the animals, Jesus declares that the very temple they are standing in will be destroyed and he will rebuild it in three days. Can you imagine how crazy this sounded to the 1st century person? It would be like saying you could build the Vikings stadium in three days. What?! We had to rent this super huge crane and construct custom built steel pieces. We couldn’t even get everything delivered in three months! Three days? You’re crazy. I am sure the disciples dismissed this saying too.

So it is amazing to read about how only later did they come to understand how this saying was true. It was true because Jesus was talking about the temple of his body and his ressurection. Jesus was replacing the temple and the sacrifice with his sacrifice on the cross and with his flesh of the Eucharist. The disciples were Jesus’ closest followers, but we get to see that they didn’t understand everything Jesus said instantly or perfectly. Only over the course of time did they come to understand and believe.

If there is something that the Church or Jesus teaches that is hard for you to believe or understand, know this: you are not alone. The disciples had the same experience. They heard things they didn’t get until later. The great saints of the Church all had growing faiths. From Augustine to Francis to Teresa, they all grew in their belief and understanding.

If there is something you don’t believe, you have to choose if you are going to actively pursue the truth or comfortably remain where you are. The difference between saints and sinners is that saints keep searching for what is true.

The only authentic reason to believe something is because it is true.

Keep searching for truth, Jesus is confident you will find him.

Live It: This week: Make a list of questions you have about Catholicism or Jesus. It can be 1 question or 100. Next week: do something to find the answer. Email Chris if you want help with your search.