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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Called to Freedom.. but at what cost?

Are you holding anything back?
A Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, June 26, 2016.

1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21
Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1, 13-18
The Holy Gospel According to Luke 9:51-62

Elijah is sent in the first reading to conscript Elisha into service.  Elisha is apparently not just a poor farmer, but rather from a very wealthy family.   The scriptures record that he had twelve oxen in the field working and he walked behind the last one.  A wealthy family could have one or two oxen, but twelve?  That requires some resources.  Here Elijah  is walking up and asking Elisha to leave the wealth and comfort of his family behind, and follow him in serving God.  Elisha asks for a moment of reprieve to go back to his family and then proceeds to destroy everything he has.   In destroying his equipment and oxen he has secured his commitment to Elijah, he has no reason to turn back now.  

The gospel reading reminds us of this incident as Jesus goes on to talk about the cost of discipleship.   He doesn't paint a picture of ease or comfort.   Many today will tell you that the blessings of God = wealth and comfort.  Jesus often paints a grimmer picture.  He paints the cost of Christianity as taking up a cross, following him, having no place to rest your head, and no time left to make a commitment.   Whereas when Elisha asks for time to go back to his family, Elijah says sure, go ahead.  When one follower asks this of Jesus, Jesus tells him anyone who looks back is not worthy of the kingdom of Heaven.

What's going on here?   Jesus is reminding us that one greater is here, and that the Kingdom is already at hand.   It's not something we have time to wait for anymore.   There is no more urgent time than the present.  While Elijah and Elisha had important things to do, the work of Christ is far more important.   There are souls at stake!  We are called to duty, not in the future, not tomorrow, but right now!  The present.  We must look to the past to keep from making mistakes, we must keep our mind examining the future to see possibilities, but we must live in the present.

The reading from St. Paul reminds us of another truth, that we are called to a freedom, a freedom from sin.  That freedom does not release us from our urgent duty but rather makes it even more important!  This freedom is not a freedom that allows you to choose to do bad things, to simply go on with your life and do whatever feels good and right.   Some will tell you that the freedom of a Christian makes it ok to live your life however you want, as long as you keep saying you belief and trust in Christ.  Trust in Christ is paramount for sure!  But even Saint Paul reminds us that our freedom means being called to love.. called to serve one another, to love another, and to avoid the unclean desires of our flesh.

Pope Francis reminds us today that we, the Church, have a lot of work to do.  We've made a lot of mistakes in the past.  We have persecuted minorities, pushed people the margins, and avoided even entering the homes of those who we felt were 'too sinful.'   This was not the way of Jesus.   He reminds us that Jesus calls us to act now, to go into the field as it were and begin to plow.   We don't have time to look back and desire those things we've left behind.. we like Elisha must burn the oxen and give away the pleasure of it, the thing we desire.   To destroy those instruments that are behind us that want to pull us back in to those habits and sinful desires we once were a part of.  To cut off even those relationships that draw us in, and then?  To serve.  To serve in love.  To serve the marginalized, those on the outskirts of the church, to reach out to those we have pushed away and remind them that we love them.   We still don't condone sin.. but all of us are sinners.    What we are offering is truth... we are offering a relationship with Christ, one in which every person is welcome.. but one which will transform them as well.. one which will call them to leave behind that which is sinful, and to draw closer to the true light of the world, Jesus Christ.

So what about it Christian?  Are you all in?  Or are you holding back anything that will keep you from serving God right here and right now?   The Kingdom of God is not just at the end of time, though it's fulfillment is indeed there.  It is also here and now.. it stood right before men in the incarnation of Christ and offers himself, right here and now in the Sacraments.   Are you ready to receive Him? Or are you looking back?

His servant and yours,
Brian

"He must increase, I must decrease."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Kings Bishop to Knight 3....

A reflection on the daily Mass readings for Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time (June 23, 2016)

2nd Kings 24:8-17
Psalm 79
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 7:21-29

When I was four years old my dad was electrocuted in the coal mines.   His heart stopped for a while, longer than should have been possible.  Another man kept him going this entire time by doing CPR until they could get an ambulance there.  The road to recovery was long and hard.  I remember though, that it meant he got to spend time with us.  I also remember playing chess.  I was never very good at chess, but what I do remember is that in order to win you need to get rid of their key players.   Going after the pawns doesn't do much.  Getting rid of the queen, a bishop or a rook... now that gets you closer to check mate.

The King of Babylon in the first reading knew exactly what he was doing.  He didn't take every one away into exile, some of them he left behind.   What he did do was take those who had influence.   The politicians who knew how to run the government, the skilled foremen and laborers who knew how to plant, build, design.   Anyone who would help to rebuild society was taken away, leaving only the uneducated, the poor, those who could not stand up on their own.   He left the nation of Israel reeling with no leaders to stand up and lead the people out of bondage.   He returned them to a worse state of slavery than Egypt could ever hope to impose.  A hopelessness, a fear that left them unable to act, unable to move.

The enemy seeks to do the same to you and I every day.   He seeks to use fear to instill in us doubt, hopelessness, depression and a sense that nothing can be done to make life better.  He wants to take all of our virtues, our gifts, and drag them off into bondage.  To repress them so that we can't see the light of day.  Faith, hope and charity are the rock foundations of the society of our soul.  When we begin to falter in these he sees an opening, all he needs to do is get us to instead follow despair, doubt, and hate.  That's when our spiritual life begins to falter.. that's when all that is left of our own faculties are left reeling, unable to act, unable to move towards Heaven, toward's Christ who never left.

You see, just like the remnant of people left in Israel, Jesus never moved.  He has always been there, waiting for us to turn to Him for help.  To realize that He is the key, the Rock on which we can build our faith.   A Rock that is not just passively sitting there, but which helps us to build up and turn into a rock of our own.  Just like Simon Peter, who at one point gave into despair and hopelessness, to the point of denying he ever knew Christ; we too can be transformed into a new person.  God offers us a new name, no longer will we be Simon, but Peter, the rock who guides others to Christ.

First though, we must become the poor.  In many cases the enemy has already taken away our leaders, our craftsmen, and our laborers.  He has replaced the King in our heart with one he has appointed in it's place.  It's only when we let go of all those things we hold on to, all of those things that stand in the way of Christ being the center of our lives... relationships, desires, hatreds... when we become completely detached from the world and it's enticements and instead only trust in God... when we become the true poor, that's when the beatitude is fulfilled:

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
So what is standing in your way?  What has taken the place of God in your life?  He's not something you just add into your schedule when you find time... but rather, He should be put in your schedule first, and all the rest should be put around Him.  Christian, are you taking time to listen to Him today as He tries to lead you out of captivity?  Out of bondage and into the freedom of salvation?  He is offering you a Rock to build your spiritual house on.... are you taking time to set the foundations?  To receive Him so that He can mold you into a solid structure? Don't be a fool and build on the sand of the enemy.

His servant and yours,
Brian

"He must increase, I must decrease."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Will we never learn?

A reflection on the daily Mass readings for Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3
Psalm 119
The Holy Gospel according to Matthew 7:15-20


It all started with potty training.  I was on a grand adventure in this amazing new world.  My hard headed streak and need to experience things on my own made me see all things as a new challenge that only I could overcome.   So there I was, with my mother trying to remind me that I needed to hang on to the toilet seat to keep it from falling.   Silly person, I know what I am doing!  Then my brother walked away and down came the lid.   The tortured screams of the broken boy, now bruised in places where no man aught be bruised,  who  was so confident and headstrong a second before echoed throughout the walls of the house like shouts in the grand canyon.   You would think that at some point I would have realized that my mother was right....

Then came the stove.  She kept telling me "hot burn baby."  She tried to explain me time and again that when the stove eye was red it was dangerous.   Like Gollum searching for his precious I began to scheme and plan a way to find out why she was hiding this treasure from me.  The eyes of Mordor must have gazed on with bemusement as I pulled a chair from the table to the stove, turned the front eye on HI, and waited in eager anticipation for the glowing relic that had been denied me for so long.   Then I placed my hand firmly on the surface to find that it was hot enough to burn my flesh, why had no one warned me?   After a trip to the doctor, where he informed my mother to first put salve on my burn, and then to spank my butt; one would think that I had now at this point come to understand that my mother was looking out for me...

A fish tank is such a wonderful device isn't it?   Having these carnival fish of ours swimming in our living room reminds me of my first experience with a tank.   My parents set up a tank in our room (my brother and I).   I loved to get as close as I could, pressing my face to the tank and peering in at my new fish friends.   My mother kept telling me I needed to quit pushing my bed over there or I was going to turn the tank over.  So I stopped pushing the bed, maybe I was learning, right?  Instead I would sit on the bed and scoot towards the fish... pulling the bed with me.  Nothing could go wrong now, I wasn't doing what she told me not to do!   A few slight miscalculations on the part of my four year old brain created yet another situation in which things just weren't what I expected.   I scooted, and scooted.. until the headboard pushed right through the glass of the fish tank.   Glass, water, and gasping fish were flooding everywhere!  Oh how wise my mother was, and how stubborn I was turning out to be.

A year or so later, I in my infinite thirst for adventure and knowledge had learned to open the screen door.  Other foolish mortals might pull the handle or push a button... but I had figured out that with my solid five year old body all I needed to do was extend my arms and push with all my weight at a full running speed.  That silly woman who was always nagging at me kept telling me not to do this.  That I needed to stop running into it, and open it 'right'.  Ah, how could she know?  I continued in my newfound bliss to open doors like the brute my father rightly had labelled me.  Then my cousin Michael Paul and my brother Danny locked me in the chicken coop.   I was scared of the chickens.   The rooster liked to jump you from behind when you weren't looking, and the hens would peck you while you gathered the eggs.  There I was locked in, or so they led me to believe.  So I opened the door.. the solid glass door.... with my hands.. and my head.. and my neck.... the neck didn't fare so well.  A trip to the ER and some stitches and I had learned my lesson.. right?

A hundred more stories like this expound my experiences as a youth.  I had a hard head, an adventurous thirst for knowledge, and a confidence that I was always right.   It's an attitude that our youth of today seem to have inherited as well.  Some where along the line we have erred and taught our youth that anything from a previous generation must have been thought up by people who weren't as intelligent, not as gifted at understanding as we are.  That all things that happened two thousand years ago must have been a bronze aged myth and that all of those philosophical musings from even further back are worthless.   We stopped teaching them how to think rationally, and instead began to teach them to regurgitate.

The first reading about King Josiah and the finding of the book of the law remind us that we need to look back sometimes to where we have been, and ask.. where did we go wrong?   After the Babylonians had taken them into captivity the nation of Israel realized that they had been unfaithful to the covenant.  In their zeal to return to God, to return to a time when things made sense, to a time when the nation prospered and the people were at peace.. they began to examine their relationship with God.  In the temple they discovered the book of the law, the rules and regulations about being in that relationship.  "I will be your God and you will be my people."  In order for us to be in a right relationship you need to act like this, God had said.  They realized that the path they were on was the wrong one and they adjusted their course.. to bring them back to God.

The Church in it's infinite wisdom has never stopped living in this way.  There are those who wish for it to remain in the past, to go back to the way things were, and to never talk about anything new.   Then there are those who declare that the Church must progress with the times and look to the future!  As with most things, it's not an either or scenario, but a both and.  We have to look to the past to see our successes and our mistakes.  Only by seeing the damage that has been wrought by this action or that can we hope to not repeat that mistake again.  Only by also seeing the successes that have come from fidelity to our relationship with God can we also see what we need to return to.  At the same time we must have a conversation about society and where it is heading.  That doesn't mean we conform to societies standards, but we need to understand where society is in order to engage with our brother's and sisters in the world.

There are those who want to silence any opposition.  They want only what they are familiar with and nothing to do with the past.  Then there are those who want to go back to the dark ages, with flagellation and oppression. The true Church emerges when we have a conversation about that which is not dogma and we then let God guide us to the truth.  Lately I've been seeing a lot of arguing over pre-marital kissing.  One camp argues that no one should ever kiss before marriage.   Another side argues that you should be free to kiss in anyway you wish, regardless of who or when.  The truth is in between, isn't it?  There are kisses which are pure and loving, that one could give freely without embarrassment to any person in the light of day.  There are other kisses which are clearly meant for lovers, and likely an occasion for sin in the wrong circumstances.   Not having the conversation though prevents us from growing.  We need to talk about these things, both the past and the present, with our eyes on the future.

Our goal as parents, spouses, lay people, and religious is the same.  Help others get to heaven.  As a husband my primary work is to help my family draw closer to God and hopefully lead them to a Sacramental Life.  Jesus reminds us to continually examine what we are hearing.  There are those who will come to you with a message that sounds great, one that hits every bias that you possess, and you hear it and say "This is it!  This is the message I've been wanting!"  Maybe it is.  But what are the fruits of that message?  Have we heard it before?  What were the fruits then?  Too many think that some of these new 'progressive' ideas are unique and original.   Yet, if we look back to previous times we find them to be the same principles and philosophies espoused by Stalin, Hitler, etc.   That's why we can't forget the past... that's why as a Church we look back to how the Church was in the first century and we say "Let's return to this."  Yet, we also look at the world as it exists today and say "This is the language we need to use today to reach out to those who do not yet know Christ."  The Church is rightly called our mother, for she watches out for us and warns us that this action or that can cause harm.

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” ― Edmund Burke

Are you ready to listen?  I for one am tired of being bruised, broken, bleeding on the floor.  I don't blindly follow my religion, that's not what I am saying... but what I do?  I listen.   I converse.  I think.  I study.  I learn.  I heed.   I hesitate when I see an action I've been told is bad for me.. and I look back to history and ask "In societies where this was commonplace what happened?"  "In families where the father behaved in this manner, how did the kids turn out?"  I still cringe every time I hear a toilet seat snap shut.  We should have the same response every time we are tempted to repeat a sin that has hurt us in the past... We can't live there.. and there alone.  If we only live in the past we will be rightly relegated to someone who is not able to exist in the current times... and we can't just live in the future, where apparently truth just dissolves and people are convinced that any action is OK... rather we must live in the present, with our eyes on both, our hearts and minds open to discussion and reason... and then to pray for God's guidance for our Church, our people, and our selves.  It's clear that what we are doing now as a society is not working... maybe it's time to look back, to ponder, and to readjust our course.  Sometimes we need to take two steps back before taking one step forward.. especially if we are one step from the edge of the cliff.

His servant and yours,
Brian

"He must increase, I must decrease."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How much is a pearl worth anyway?

Parable of the Pearl
A Reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time (June 21, 2016)

2Kings 19:9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36
Psalm 48
Holy Gospel According to Matthew 7:6, 12-14


When I was fourteen years old my grandfather gave me my first bible.  Not that we didn't already have bibles in our home, but this one was 'mine.'   I began to study it and go to bible studies on Wednesday nights.  A friend of mine invited me to a 'lock in' service at a Christian school in Wise, Virginia.   My mom and dad said I could go and I was excited.   Not just because I had a thirst for all things to do with God, but because here I was going to spend an entire night locked in a gym with kids my own age.  I did not realize that it was going to be a night that changed my life forever.

Halfway through the night they had an altar call.  I had no intention of going up but I found myself led to the steps.   I knelt down at the base of the platform and began to cry and gave my life to Christ to serve Him with all that I was.  I am still learning what that means, and I've made mistakes on the way, but I have never lost that passion that I felt that night, that yearning to be one with God.   I spent many years arguing, fighting, defending the faith in anyway I could.   I felt I had to make people believe, time was short and they just didn't see.   So I wanted to grab their heads, turn their eyes to Christ and demand that they open them and realize the beauty of what I had found.  It wasn't until many years of this struggle of trying to proselytize that I even began to realize there was a difference in what I was doing, and what I was called to do.   Evangelization.  An offer, not a threat.   An invitation given in peace and love, not forced in fear and hate.

The first reading reminds us of how the world behaves towards our God, our faith.  Hezekiah has just received a letter from an opposing King.  The letter mocks and taunts the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.   What does Hezekiah do?  He doesn't try to force Sennacherib to see the light, he doesn't even try to speak to him, but rather he goes to his knees in prayer and asks God to deal with it.  Why?  Because Sennacherib isn't going to listen.   He doesn't care what Hezekiah has to say.   All the fighting, arguing, and shouting in the world will never bring about conversion.   That's because it isn't our job to convert, it is not our job to convict either.   It's only our job to offer to those who are open to listening.

God reminds Hezekiah that He is the one in control.   He will protect His children and not a single one will be lost.   Then through a miracle in the night the army of Sennacherib suffers a massive loss and retreats to where they came from, without ever a blow from mortal hands.  He promises this in the name of David his servant, for He has promised that the Kingdom and throne of David will last for eternity.   That's the promise that we true, the Church, trust in.  Jesus is the fulfillment of that, the eternal and everlasting King from the line of David that will sit on the throne of judgement for all of eternity.

CCC 303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." And so it is with Christ, "who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens". As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established."

Jesus reminds us that He is the one in charge.   This is not our fight to win, not our argument to battle.  Rather, we are to be fruitful and loving.  We are to offer relationship with God to those who seek it, and to those who don't?  Peace and service. Oh how often we fail at this.   Arguing fruitlessly with those who were shut off to the message before we even began to speak it.   What we have been given is a glimpse of Heaven.  What we have is a relationship with Him who transcends time and space itself.  Something more treasured than anything else we could ever receive.   To offer that to someone who doesn't respect it, who has no interest in even attempting to understand it, well it's dangerous.   It hurts.   It saddens.  To watch someone take that which we hold dear and demean it, to make fun of it... Jesus compares that to casting your pearls before swine. A pig will taste a pearl, maybe even sniff it, but then realize it's not food and just mash it into the ground.

Why do we do this?  Are we afraid that Satan will win?  Jesus has promised that the gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church.  God is in charge of conversion.  It is He who speaks to the heart.   We just share in faith when someone is open to it, and tell them of the great love and peace we find in Christ.   Then we give an example of that life through our actions.   We love.   We serve.  We feed, clothe, and give drink to those in need.  We have the unique and blessed opportunity to live in the Kingdom of God now, not just at the end of time, but right now!  God has given us the ability to do that by showering us with His grace through the Sacraments of the Holy Church, the New Zion.  Are you living in the place now?   That's where Mass takes you.  The book of Revelation gives you a glimpse of that eternity, that's why we in the Church follow that rubric of worship here and now... joining with the Angels and Saints around the altar of God with the Son of Man offering himself in Sacrifice at Calvary for our sins.   We then offer ourselves on that altar, joined with Christ, because we alone are not enough to appease the debt of our sin.. but He is.   This is the narrow gate through which we must enter.. through Christ himself.  Do you wish to know more about this "road that leads to life?" I am there to talk when you wish to hear.

Remember as well that parable about the pearl of great price?

Matthew 13:45-46
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Jesus is the merchant who sold all that he had.  He gave his life entirely for you.  He sacrificed all hnor, power, pleasure, and wealth to purchase you.   You are the pearl of great price.  Christian, do not allow the world to convince you to drag yourself through the mud of sin.  Rather hold yourself away from the world as a living Saint, whose dignity is that of a member of the Royal Family.  That we too might stand a chance to walk through that narrow gate into the Kingdom that is prepared for us, eternal in the Heavens.



His servant and yours,
Brian

"He must increase, I must decrease." 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Teen Angst and Broken Glass.

A light touch is required to keep from breaking the broken even further.
A Reflection on the daily readings for Monday, June 20th, 2016.

2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18
Psalm 60
The Gospel According to Matthew 7:1-15

My mother and dad were good to me growing up.  Father's day reminded me of that.  To look back and see exactly what it was like growing up.  They were always there for me and gave me gifts other kids did not even have.  Most of my friends didn't have a car.  I had several that I was allowed to choose from to use.  I often took that for granted.  There was this one time that my mother asked me to take the garbage to the dump.   This was before curb side pickup for the whole county.  Back then they used to have a dumpster down by the bridge that crosses the lake.  I was so angry!  I wanted to do something else and she dared to ask me to do something before I went off to do my thing.  I stormed out, threw all the trash into the car they gave me, and sped all the way to the dumpster.   When there I threw the trash as hard as I could reveling in the sound of crunching glass, broken bags, and cracking debris.  Then I went to the hatch of the Bronco and slammed it as hard as I could. I had all the windows up.  I learned a very valuable lesson about air pressure in a closed environment.  The rear window shattered out in an explosion covering me with glass.

How could I explain this to my parents? I had destroyed the gift they had given me all because I was angry at being asked to do a small favor on my way to do something else.  The first reading from the Second Book of Kings reminds me of that.  God has given Israel everything.   He has saved them from slavery, delivered them to the promised land, sent messenger after messenger to tell them of His great love and mercy.  In return they continue to ignore his promise.  The Israelites at the time expressed it as God having "put them out of his sight."  We understand that more today as God was offering them an Amazing Grace and they were too stubborn to accept it.   My parents did not turn their back on me when I slammed the car trunk, they were rather offering me the use of the car and all that came with it, with a small request of just taking out the trash.  God never forgets us, He never stops offering forgiveness... but sometimes in our anger, in our frustration we refuse to take it.   We refuse to be faithful to the relationship and that grace is lost.. just like the glass of a window shattered in the antics of a frustrated teen.

Society reels from the impact of not receiving that grace.  We see it today in the actions of our government, youth, friends and families.  What was once considered taboo and personal is now lauded in the streets.  Religion is mocked and relegated to something you just do behind closed doors.  The things that were once considered perversions are now considered sacred and relegated to untouchable and one is labelled a bigot if they speak out against it.  Just like the Israelites they turn their back on the one true God and serve instead the God's of the enemy, the ones who encourage sexual impurities, incestual worship, and even child sacrifice.  The Psalm for today speaks of that reeling, that sense of lost.  That moment when we realize we are no longer being sheltered by God's grace and not because of His actions.  He is always faithful, but we, we often break the Covenant.

You have rocked the country and split it open;
repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering.
You have made your people feel hardships;
you have given us stupefying wine.

Doesn't that say it all? The thing about the Psalms is they often express that deep sense of loss, that deep regret of not having God on our side.. that longing in our hearts for a restoration of that relationship that makes us whole and complete.  Even those Psalms though always end with a declaration of hope, a trust and faith that if we return to the covenants, if we but plead with God with a contrite heart, then He will always be there to return to us.   Hope.

Christ is that fulfillment of hope. Even when all others are turning their back on Him, even when the northern tribes rejected His grace to the point that their enemies over threw them, God was there for Judah.  The remnant need not fear the enemy.   Christ is there for us always, but He requires something from us.  Relationship.  Faithfulness. Covenant fidelity.   He reminds us that first and foremost we are to be looking inward.   To examine our own steps to see if there are any 'specks' or splinters in our own eyes.  That means looking to see if we are right with God.   Are we in a proper relationship?   Or are we pushing God away and rejecting that grace?  Many of us are choosing to ignore the splinters.  Some small vice or some small addiction that we can't control.. and we excuse it.  "I'm not that bad."  "It's only this, at least it's not that."  "I can't help it, but God loves me."   He does indeed, but He challenges you to be better.  To be the person He created you to be.  That means being faithful to His commands, following the rules He established, in the way and through the authority He decreed.

That doesn't mean we never judge.   Too many quote the Gospel without the full message.   It means that we judge as God judges.  God is righteous and we deserve punishment.   He is also merciful and took the punishment Himself.   That's how we judge, with righteousness (truth) and with mercy (love.)   We cannot express a God who is only one or the other.  If God is only the righteous judge, then only the perfect will ever enter Heaven.. and how many of us are that?   If God is only merciful then the Gospel becomes pointless, everyone is going to Heaven so why bother evangelizing at all?  Rather we must judge with both, but only after looking inward and getting rid of even the smallest of splinters.

The thing about a splinter is that it festers.   It irritates and either you remove it?  Or it becomes more serious.  Infection can set in, gangrene, a lost toe or finger, a limb?   Where do we draw the line?  We don't allow it to grow.. we remove it as fast as possible.  That for us spiritually means frequent reception of the Sacraments, even the most under used and often despised Sacrament of Reconciliation.   That Sacrament is a beautiful encounter with Christ Himself in which He offers to restore you to the right relationship with the Father, that we may be one as They are one.   Not only does He remove the splinter of sin by forgiving all sin, but through the penance offered He encourages us to safeguard from getting another in it's place.  We have to grow though!  We have to go forth and try, not just give up and say "That's who I am."  Because it's not.  It's an action you've done, and it's less than you are capable of.

To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone. - Pope Francis


Then we are challenged to go into the world and share that mercy with others.  Not to overlook their sins, but to help them find peace, joy, and a Sacramental life of their own.  To help them encounter Christ first through you, then through the Church.  In Cursillo we call that "be a friend, make a friend, and bring that friend to Christ."   Don't try to take the log out of their eye while you're still not letting God's grace flow into your life.  Form a relationship with them, see Christ in them, love them.   Once a relationship is formed and they see you trying, they see you going to Confession and Mass.. then you can invite them to know Christ.  Then, Christ, the man with no splinters or specks in His eye, can help to remove the log that stands between a right relationship with Him.  Are you ready to do that?  Are you making frequent reception of the Sacraments a priority?  Not something to fit into your schedule but something your schedule fits around?  Are you making Christ, the remover of all splinters and logs, the focus of your day?  Are we ready to stop trying to break the glass of the other even further and instead bring them to the One who can restore them to wholeness?

His servant and yours,
Brian

"He must increase, I must decrease."