Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why I Have an Intense Distaste for Halloween

Original Photo WallPaper from

Halloween.  All Hallow's Eve.  The Night before a beautiful feast in the Catholic Church.  As I sit here reading the readings for All Saint's Day I am struck by how much I just do not enjoy this day at all.  I could go on and on about all the problems with Halloween.  From the commercialism, to the consumerism, to the gluttony; to the problems with how it has been taken over by the secular world to become a 'gore' and 'blood' fest where the major event is to be scary and gross.  There are so many reasons to dislike Halloween.  Yet none of those are the reason.  I have even been known to enjoy putting on a scary mask and scaring people, or to watch a horror movie (though I find a good horror movie is hard to find without some sort of pornographic content or simply a gore fest these days.)

No the reason I dislike Halloween so much is today is the day my father was electrocuted.   My father died.  Through some intense CPR they managed to get his heart beating.  He survived.  For a time longer than most can recover without brain damage, my father was clinically dead.  I was very, very young at the time.  I do remember Dad didn't want to go to work that night.  He had an off feeling.  Like the man that I have always known, though, his work ethic would not allow him to stay home.  Not over a mere feeling.  So he went into work.  A transformer had mal-functioned causing main line voltage to cross into the low voltage disconnect on a mineshaft fan.  So when my father went to work on it, not a simple 120, or 240, or even 480 went through his hand.  No, several thousands of volts went into his hand.  Then they went out his arm.  Then out the back of his neck, into the roof of the mine shaft.

My father by all means should be dead.  Praise God he is not.  We kids didn't understand what was going on to be sure.  My brother and I were shielded from the brunt of the horror.  All we knew was that dad wasn't around for a while.  I remember brief glimpses of the hospital.  Then I remember times when we went to Rita's house instead of moms.   I am sure so she could visit him.  Eventually dad came home.  I can remember glimpses of playing chess with him.  Of helping change his bandages.  Of smelling the flesh and stuff.  I am sure most of that is in my head.  What I remember the most though was the intense joy of having my father home. 

Today in the gospel Jesus says in his great beatitudes, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  I understand that on it's literal level.  When we mourn, it seems like life has ended.  Our hearts feel as if they will never be healed.  Things come back though.  Laughter.   A smile.  A father.  They restore us to the joy we sometimes think we'll never see again.  Our darkness eventually gives way to light.  I think though, as with all of Jesus' words we must go deeper. In fact, Pope emeritus Benedict the XVI used too very solid examples of mourning to express a simple truth about this.  There were two people who mourned in the New Testament writings, but both of them responded in completely different ways.

Judas Iscariot, the traitor, mourned.  When he saw that Jesus had been turned over to be crucified he repented of what he had done.  He ran back to the temple and threw the silver at the feet of the chief priests and elders, crying out that he had betrayed innocent blood.  They did not care.  Judas gave up hope.  His response was to end his life.   How many over the centuries have done just this?   We've seen it more and more often with our children, our veterans, our loved ones.   They lose hope.  They give up.  They take their own life.  It hurts all of us.  We mourn for them. 

Peter on the other hand, too betrayed Jesus.  For all his bravado when push came to shove, Peter denied him three times.   He ran form the courtyard mourning, crying, broken.... Peter too repented of his deed.  Peter though, allowed God's hope to permeate him.  He allowed grace to draw him through his mourning.  Until one day, still in sorrow, he heard the voice of the Shepherd calling from the shore.  Peter dove out of the boat and swam with all his might to the shore, to be told three times (once for each denial) Feed my sheep.

You see mourning can destroy us.  It can take us down a road where there is no hope.  We can allow it to eat at us bringing a turning of our back to God, to the world, even to ourselves.  As Benedict said, there is a mourning that "no longer dares to hope."  Then there is the other response we can have to mourning.  A mourning that "bursts into healing tears" through which ourselves can be renewed. We can allow those events to ruin our lives all together.  We can forget to allow God's mercy to flow through us.  Sometimes we even do that with his forgiveness.  We let the devil convince us that he won't forgive us, that we have done something too bad.. or too often... or too willingly.  We avoid confession and avoid running back to God.  We hear him calling from the shore.. waiting to forgive us and challenge us to love Him and His body.  Are you going to jump out of the boat?  Or are you going to huddle and wallow, no longer daring to hope? 

In Christ,
His servant and yours,

Thursday, October 29, 2015

True Sickness in the House

Tomorrow's Gospel brings to light another event that happened in the life of Jesus Christ.  This amazing healing of the man with dropsy, in and of itself, is so miraculous it should bring us to faith.  What, though, is Saint Luke trying to tell us about the Pharisee and the people sitting around bearing witness to this phenomenon?  For me the clue lies in the talk that occurs after the healing.

There isn't much there about the man with dropsy for instance.  We don't know if he was a believer, standing in quiet faith waiting for Christ to heal him.   We also don't know if he was planted there by the Pharisee to try and trick Jesus into breaking the Sabbath.  Those details aren't there.  We do know this man did not ask for healing, he just stood in Jesus presence. Jesus heals him after questioning those gathered around if it were lawful.  I think by now they were wise enough not to answer at this point, knowing how Jesus had always showed them their hypocrisy.  I imagine they were scared to answer.. both in fear that they would have to face their own hypocrisy and that they might lose face in front of those gathered around.

After Jesus heals him, he sends him away.  It doesn't say if he praised God.  It doesn't say if the healed man even had faith.   Just that Jesus sent him away.  Then he addresses the real sickness in the room.  “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”   This was common practice, that if an animal fell into a well they would be free to help it out.  They were fine with this.  They understood it.  Because both their son and oxen were important to them.  It benefited them.  It was personal.  When it came to another one of God's children though, one that was not directly tied to them.. they were unwilling to reach out and give a helping hand.

The true sickness in the room was not the dropsy, though dropsy indeed is a horrible physical ailment.  The healing was to bring about an awakening.  A moment in which each person in the room would come face to face with both God, in Christ, and with their own hypocrisy.  The real sickness was their own inability to show love.  We don't know if they came to conversion.  In fact, Scripture records that they were dumbfounded, unable to answer his question.   He then continues to share some very beautiful parables about the need for both humility and reaching out that helping hand to those who cannot pay you back.

Saint Paul reminds us in the first reading that our conscience should be joined with the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the truth.  That is why it is so important for us to form our conscience properly, with God's help, and by studying the scriptures.  So what should this event above teach us?  That when avarice guides our actions, we can justify many things that we know to be wrong.   The men listening to Jesus would have justified not helping a stranger be well, because it did not help them materially or personally.  We ourselves often do the same.  How often have we seen a beggar and not helped them, because we were worried where the money was going to go?  We saw someone on the side of the road who needed help... but we were in a hurry, so we didn't stop.... Or something as simple as, we know someone needs something done... we could have done it.. but you know, there was a game on and we didn't want to miss part of it?  

That is what Jesus means for us to learn... to work on our conscience, to form it in light of the Church and it's teachings, to prayerfully seek Wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit... so that we never allow our own wants, our own needs to guide us to do or not do something that we know we should be doing, or know we should not be doing.   I know I fail at this.  Lord help me to grow.  Help me to get my own ego out of the way, and allow your Spirit to guide me in all things. 

In Christ,
His Servant and yours,

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why were the Pharisees being so good?

A short reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary time:

It is an interesting event, to see the Pharisees running to Jesus and warning Him.  Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.”  Doesn't it seem almost as if they were being his friend, his ally?  Rather, the early Church Fathers taught us that the Pharisees were not looking to help Jesus, but rather to get Him to flee that area.   So they threatened Him, whether ordered by Herod to do so, or creating a fictional threat to scare him is unimportant.  What is important is the context in which this seems to have occurred. 

We see in the previous verses that Jesus is teaching.   He is warning that many who think they will be at the Lord's Supper will not, and many you won't expect will.  "The last shall be first and the first shall be last."  His warning seems to implicate that there are those who are claiming to be Holy, but are not going to make it.  The Pharisees, who were fond of their power and wealth, likely perceived this preaching as a threat to their status.  The Scriptures then go on to say "At that time some Pharisees came to him[....]"  At that time is an important clue.  Jesus has just humiliated the leader of the synagogue.  He has just challenged the people to think deeply about their status before God, and in a way, to follow Him and His example.  He has just threatened the hold the Pharisees had on them. At the very moment this happened, they came to him to try to scare him off.. to try to get him to leave before he could cause any more trouble.

Jesus doesn't fall for it.  He sends a message back to Herod and in it let's them know with no uncertain terms that he is not leaving.. but intends to continue performing miracles and preaching all the way to Jerusalem.  What does that have to do with me and you?  I think in this day and age a lot.  We are in a time where Catholics are being persecuted in the world.  People are being martyred.  Faith is being relegated to behind closed doors.  Abortion is being touted as a 'basic human right'.  Everything that we stand for is being condemned, and we are being ridiculed back into our sanctuaries and informed that is the only place for the Gospel.  But they are wrong.  They are trying to scare us like the Pharisees.  Our response should be the same as Jesus'.  We should be heading towards our own Jersualem and our own Easter.  We pick up our cross and we stand tall, we continue to preach at all times, when necessary (and yes, it is often necessary) using words. 

When we fall, when we stumble.. when we are scared; we turn to the First Reading that the Church in her infinite wisdom has paired with this one.  A reading in which we are shown the truth of the communion of Saints.  The truth of the mercy and love that God has shown to us through the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Nothing.. NOTHING... no one, no thing, not angels, not demons, not people, can separate us from the Love of Christ.   Not even death itself.  We will always be a part of the body, even if we were to die for our faith.  Are you ready?  Lord I believe.  Help my unbelief. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Feast of Saint's Simon and Jude

What does it mean to be chosen by God?  Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of two people who not only where chosen by Christ but also suffered martyrdom for their faith.  What can we learn from these readings?  How do they apply to us as Catholics today, 2000 years after they were recorded?

While looking at the first reading I wanted to ask myself, how does that apply to me?  The reading talks about the Apostles being the foundation of our faith.  That the church Jesus left us with was built on them as the base.  That's an important thing to us as Catholics.  We are an apostolic faith.  That is we believe in the teachings of the Apostles, as handed down through their successors, and recorded in the Scriptures.  So we hold to those teachings, we trust in them and we try to live as the Apostles did.  We listen to their testimony about who Jesus is and what that revelation means to us as humans.   We learn from them more about our relationship in this covenant of love that unites us with God as his people.

There is an important thing though to notice in that reading.  The Apostles are indeed the base, the foundation of our faith.. but Jesus is the Capstone.  It is Jesus himself that holds us together in our faith.  Without a capstone an arch, a building, a pyramid.. they all fall.    The capstone holds all the weight. It is the 'key' to the entire structure.  That shows us a very important thing.  We are not a people of the book, we are a people of God.  The book is part of the foundation, it was given to us by the Church, by the apostles.. but the key, the key to the Church, to understanding the book, to our faith in it's entirety is a person.   The person of Christ.  It is through him, through his support, through his guidance and his spirit that we are lead to not only understand our faith (and our book) but also to be able to follow it.  When we try to do things on our own, our flesh gets in the way.  That is why we keep falling into the same sin over and over.  We don't turn it over to God and let him take it away, we try to fight it on our own.  "I got this" we say.  It's only when we humble ourselves, humble our own egos, that we begin to say "I don't have this Lord. I am struggling.  I need you to help me."  We have to make him the Capstone of our lives, so that he holds us together.  Without him, we ourselves fall apart.

Just as the Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus personally called each and every one of his 12 Apostles, even Judas who would betray Him, he also calls each of us into a relationship.  He wants us to step out of our world, out of our comfort, and to build a temple for Him.  A temple of living stones,  all support and held together by Jesus Christ himself.  He has been calling us since the moment of our birth, are we ready to listen?  Are we ready to turn it all over to him? Or will we just sit where we are, afraid to respond?  It's ok.  You don't even have to move.  All you have to do is make Him the Capstone, and he will lead you out. 

The LORD will fight for you; you have only to keep still. - Exodus 14:14 NAB

"Be still and know that I am God," the Psalmist reminds us.    Elijah stayed still in the cave.  He listened for God and found him in the silence.  God has been reminding me over and over to be still, to listen for Him, and then do what He guides me to do.  So my challenge to you today, is to get in some quite time.. some 'still' time with God.  Find a quiet place, away from the sounds and influences of the world, and spend some time just listening for God's voice.   Find an adoration chapel, a Sanctuary to sit in with the reposed Christ, or even just a quiet corner in your home and say "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."  Then be Still.   Listen for His call.  Realize he has already called out to you, he has already chosen you, he is just waiting for you to realize how much you mean to him.

In Christ, His Servant and Yours,

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stooped Shoulders

Today in the Gospel Reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke we see this beautiful healing take place.  This elderly woman with some condition that made it to where she could not even stand up straight, who had been crippled for eighteen long years, was chosen by God to be healed not just spiritually but physically as well.   What happens though when Jesus releases this poor woman from her suffering?   You would think every person would be cheering and shouting praises to God... but there are even then naysayers (thank God we don't have those anymore right? ;) ) 

Jesus, you know you're not supposed to be working on the Sabbath.. and here you have healed this woman.  They weren't just upset.. they were indignant!  The dictionary says that indignant means anger or annoyance at what was perceived as unfair treatment, offensive, or insulting. They were upset, not that he cured her, but that he cured her on the Lord's Day!  Think about that for a minute!  The rules say not to work.. but he just went ahead and did it.  He rebukes them and 'humiliates' them, because he calls out their hard hearts.  Here this woman is for almost two decades unable to even stand up, and they are upset not because she is cured, but because he went outside their 'box' of what they felt he should do.

What does that mean to me?  As a man who spent a few years unable to stand up straight, unable to walk for days at a time, and still lives in constant pain;  it speaks very much to my heart.   It reminds me though that there is a truth to something here that cannot be overlooked.   We as Christians do not just take a fundamentalist approach to the scripture, we look deeper.   We look for a spiritual truth inside there.  The thing I find when I address it spiritually is that it is often not the person who needs the physical healing, that is the one stooped over in bondage to the devil. 

I think the message here from Jesus is that the people who were really "crippled" were the ones who were indignant at the healing.  She was physically bound, sure.  Jesus never just addressed the physical though.  All of his healings were to call out to the spiritual needs of those who witnessed them.  What was her response to being healed?  She immediately glorified God!  Her spirit was standing upright and erect long before her body ever did!   The leader of the synagogue though?  He began to grumble, you didn't follow the discipline, you didn't stick to the law.. he never praised God, he never talked about how good it was she was healed, he just got angry!  He was still stooped over in bondage.  Bondage to the law, bondage to sin. 

I think that speaks to us in many ways.   How often are we in bondage to sin?  How often do we let our own ego, our own pride, get in the way of God's plan?  In what ways am I stooped down, letting my own 'plans' get in the way of me seeing what God wants for me?  Am I standing up and glorifying God when someone else gets a blessing or am I grumbling and indignant in the background? As I watch my friend Paul Ortman confined to bed, with one leg broken, and his body already in worse condition than I have ever been from Polio, I see a man who is standing up straight before God.  His joy and his gratefulness has not diminished.  His good attitude shows that he still trusts, even if he's not happy with his current situation.  Are we there?  Would we be standing up spiritual praising God from a hospital bed or wheelchair?  Or would we be stooped over, grumbling?

As from the first reading, we are reminded.. our natural state is not to be stooped, but to be standing tall glorifying God.  As Saint Paul said, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption,
through which we cry,
“Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him."

Call out to Abba today, call out to your spiritual Dad and say God, my dad, my father... lift me up.. Help me to remove whatever is keeping me stooped over, so that I might stand with joy and glorify you with my words and actions today!

In Christ,
His Servant, and yours,


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wlil we ever learn?

The more I study scripture, the more I realize how we humans seem to repeat the same patterns over and over.  The Israelites of the old testament consistently came back to God.. but then as soon as they got comfortable... fell off again to do other things. An endless cycle of falling away, hearing God's call, coming back.. then falling away again.

It's easy to judge them harshly isn't it?  Looking back we see how stupid it is to do that.. but then when we look at our own lives, we find that same pattern.  After a disaster like 911, the pews are full.   People come looking for answers.  Looking for comfort.  Looking for hope.   They stay for a while, but eventually it begins to dwindle again.  They go back to their lives, their comforts, their 'joys.'   The same with all of us really.   Even those of us who continue go to church find ourselves in ruts.  We find ourselves in the pew becoming mechanical for a while.   Then we go on a retreat weekend, have some of those nice mountain top experiences, and then we are charged for a while.  Then that 'buzz' begins to fade and we go back to our old ways.

Saint Paul in the first reading for tomorrow talks about this.  He talks about how hard it is to not sin.  That though our will is so very ready to do the right thing, we find ourselves falling away to do the other.   How that our mind and desires are at war with each other.   We know the right thing to do, but our flesh wants us to do the thing that feels good.  We want to listen to those things that entice our ears, eat those things that entice our pallets, touch those things that tickle our senses.   Then we fight with that desire trying to do the 'good' thing, and avoid the bad.  Then he cries out at the end of this dissertation "Who will deliver me from this mortal body?" Thanks be the God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

That's really where I find myself having the most trouble.  It's not that I don't know the right thing to do, my conscience is well informed.   It's not even that I am not making a commitment to do the right thing either.   I do truly and firmly mean it when I say in confession that I intend to change.  The real problem is when my ego gets in the way.   When I say "You know, I think I've finally beat this habit."  When I start feeling like my own personal discipline and effort has somehow made me a better person.  Rather, I agree with Saint Paul the Apostle, when he says: "I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh."

What I suggest though is a different way to overcome those sins.  (We all have them btw, that personal sin that we just can't seem to shake.  That thorn in our flesh that God does not take away.)  That sin that we constantly need to confess and repent of, and we keep trying to do better but failing... How do we overcome it?  We do resist it.  We do try to mentally and physically prepare ourselves to avoid it.  We avoid whatever occasion of sin that draws us to temptation.  Then we give it over to God, and ask him instead to 'get this.'   It's no longer me saying "I got this,"  but rather me saying "you got this." It's when I allow God's grace to flow through me via the sacraments, when I prayerfully look to God to cleanse me of my sin, and then work with him, not on my own.. but aligning my free will with His will that things begin to change. 

That to me is the meaning of Holiness.   To align our will with God.  To conform ourselves to Christ.  As the Psalm declares:

R. (68b) Lord, teach me your statutes.
Teach me wisdom and knowledge,
for in your commands I trust.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
You are good and bountiful;
teach me your statutes.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Never will I forget your precepts,
for through them you give me life.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that we have been given reason, logic, and the faculties to understand and make use of both.  He reminds us that we know what is right, why do we keep doing wrong and having to go the magistrates to solve our issues?  Rather shouldn't we just give it over to God and lower our ego, settle our petty differences and avoid any sort of prison?  What does this mean spiritually?  Are you looking for the signs?  Do you look to see if you are ready?  Do you examine your conscience daily?  And when you find that you've done something wrong?  Instead of waiting for the day of Judgement do you throw yourself at the feet of God, asking for his mercy now while on the journey, before you get to the 'court'?   Do you receive the sacraments regularly?  Confession?  These are our ways of settling now, by casting our sins down at the foot of the cross and allowing God to forgive our debt now.. because if we wait till the last day... well, it'll be too late to settle.  Get ready, be ready, stay ready. 

In Christ, His servant, and yours;

Monday, October 19, 2015

Get ready? Be ready? Stay Ready?

Tomorrow's first reading is one of the more beautiful expressions of how important it is to realize who Christ was to the Jewish faith, the second Adam.  That's a powerful typology that we must not miss when exploring what it means to us as Children of the most high God.  To really understand this verse, we have to look at what happened in the Garden of Eden. 

If we look at Genesis starting with Chapter 2, we see that Adam was created to work and till the land.  Many scholars indicate that the wording used place Adam as it's guardian, it's protector.  He was supposed to keep bad things from happening, and to make sure good reigned supreme. Then comes the scene all of us are so familiar with.  The serpent appears. He tempts Eve.  Where was Adam during all this?  Right there by her side. He didn't stop her.  He didn't protect her.  He simply stood silently while mankind fell from the grace he had already experienced.

Think about the story here.  God was right there with him.  When the wind would blow He walked with Adam, face to face.  Adam had everything he needed.  He had all these beautiful animals, plenty of plants and seeds for food, this luscious garden filled with beautiful sights, and this gorgeous woman who he lived with and was supposed to protect.   All God asked was that they follow a simple rule.  Adam failed as the protector.  He didn't step up and say, wait.. God doesn't want that.. Eve don't listen to the serpent.  No, he simply watched her do it.. then partook of the forbidden fruit himself... then turned around and blamed God for the whole mess.  "It was the woman YOU gave me."

For just as through the disobedience of one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one
the many will be made righteous.

You see, Adam's greatest sin, mankinds greatest sin, was really disobedience.  Jesus came into this world to restore us, through obedience.  Through that obedience we receive the righteousness we don't deserve.   That sets the stage for this interesting gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.”

What does Jesus mean?  For me he is talking about obedience.  He is talking about stewardship.  He is talking about living our lives in a way that says we believe what we profess to believe.  Stewardship is not just about tithing or giving a donation in the basket.  It's about every aspect of your life.  What you eat.  What you drink.  What you wear.   Where you go.  What you watch.  What you say.   In every action, we should show through what we do what we believe.  If we believe that this world belongs to God.. our actions should show that.   Do we?   Would all of us be environmentalists if we did?   Would we leave the lights on at night if we truly believed it all belonged to God?  Would we buy food based on taste alone? Or on both taste and sustainability?   Would we take our kids to see a movie that doesn't help them spiritually just because everyone else had seen it? 

What about you?  Are you prepared for him at any moment? Too many are out there looking for signs in the heavens, trying to predict the day he comes back... they want us to believe in a rapture that we need to be watching for.  They live in a panic, watching the news for this or that, stocking up to provide for those days they'll have to hide from governments etc... all of this belies what we should believe.  Rather we should get ready.  That is try to live a holy life, with frequent reception of the sacraments.  We should be ready.  Study to show ourselves approved.  Pray constantly, without ceasing.   Again, frequent reception of the sacraments!  Stay ready.  When we fall, and we will.. all of us fail at some point or another.. when we fail, we go back to Christ and start over.. we go to confession... did I mention frequent reception of the Sacraments? 

Just remember, not a single sparrow falls from the sky without God being aware of it... and you.. you are worth more than many sparrows.. you are worth dying for.  You are worth God coming down every single day to allow you to place him in your hands, receive him in your body, and be transformed through the Sacraments into the people he created us to be.   We have our chance to stand up to that tricky snake in the garden and say "hey back away from my spouse... I am a child of God and we won't let you trick us!"  Are you ready?

Get ready.  Be ready.  Stay ready.

In Christ, His servant, and yours,

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Take Care

Such a simple line from tomorrow's gospel.  It really triggers some thoughts from the books I am reading, the scriptures I am studying, and even some of the discussions I've been a part of.  It's funny how the Holy Spirit works that way, eh?  "Take care and guard against all greed."   Jesus then goes on to talk about a man who doesn't have enough to store all that he has, so he makes grand plans to provide for himself so he can have a long and happy life.  Yet, that very night he is doomed to die.  Then who will have all the stuff he has stored up?  To who will that belong?

I think this is truly a call to stewardship.  I have been studying that a lot the past few years, and more especially for an upcoming class in Aspirancy formation.  What is Stewardship indeed?  Many think of it as tithing, as giving a part of your money.  Or just giving some of your time.  Those are involved in it, sure.  Stewardship is so much more.  Stewardship is giving of self.   It is giving everything you have, everything you are, everything you are to become... giving all of that to God for his Kingdom, and to your neighbor as you would yourself.

That's a tall order isn't it?  Pouring yourself out like a libation?  Giving of yourself so much that it hurts?  Blood sweat and tears!  Are we ready to do that?  Wow, how hard it is sometimes just to give up a few minutes of our time in prayer.   We sometimes get grumpy or angry when our kids want this or that, or our spouse demands this time or that time, when we had plans to do our own thing.  In the long run, God calls us like this man in the Parable.  He says, you fool... tomorrow you could be called away.. what is most important?  God.  Family. Friends.   You see, I don't think the rich man in the parable had a problem because he was rich.  I think his problem became that he wanted more, and more.   Instead of giving away all this excess, instead of sharing it with his neighbors and friends... he wanted to build even bigger barns and storage bins.  Not so he'd have more to give away.. but so that he could party and relax. 

We are called to emulate our Lord Jesus Christ.  As the first reading says, Jesus was handed over for our transgressions, and raised for our justification. In what ways can we do this in our daily life? Hand ourselves over for others?  Becoming stewards.  Not just of our talents.   Not just of our monetary treasures.   Stewards of our entire lives... time, friendships, creation, economic, political, every sphere that we are involved in should be for God.   Every action, every thing we put in our bodies, every thing we say, every purchase, every television show, every song, every breath, every thought and dream... should be for God's glory.. and for the benefit of mankind.   That is, we should be bringing God's kingdom here and now.   That is what being a Steward is.  Knowing that God has given you everything you have, even the very life coursing through your body.  Our response?   Giving it back to him.. in every way possible.

In Christ, His servant and yours,


Saturday, October 17, 2015


Tonight I attended a Spanish Mass at our Parish.  Both to work on my Spanish listening skills and to
attempt to build some friendships and familiarity with a part of the Parish that I often do not get to see.  I have several friends who come to daily Mass or who are involved in other ministries whose native tongue is Spanish and it was good to see them and spend time with them in worship.  I did feel a little out of place though.

Why?  Probably ego?  Pride? Unfamiliarity?   It was good for me though, that is for sure.  I kept hearing this one word though, one I recognized from my studies and from preparing before hand.  "Misericordia."  Mercy.  Kindness.  I heard it in the antiphon of the Psalm.  I heard it in the singing.  I heard it in the readings.  I heard it Father Dorado's homily. (Most of which I was lost in, but I did understand parts of it!)

At the end a friend of mine, Ignatio, grabbed my hand and welcomed me.  Made sure to encourage me and talked about his experience of going to daily Mass in English.  He talked about how he at first did not understand much, but now after a few years, really has begun to understand it well enough to feel comfortable.  Here was a man willing to put his ego to the side.  A man willing to go where he was uncomfortable, where he didn't know many, but persisted through those feelings in order to learn enough of a language to help those of us who did not know his own to be able to experience one another in the body of Christ.

There are those out there who will tell you, "You are not an American if you don't speak English."  "I refuse to learn another language!"  "Why the hell should I have to press 1 to get English? This is America!"  To that I say rubbish.  Today's gospel calls out to us to put ourselves to the side and to instead humble ourselves to be servants.  Servants don't make those they are serving learn their language, rather they humble themselves and put forth the effort to learn the language themselves. "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all." 

Think about this for just a moment.  The God of the universe is so far beyond us that it would be like comparing a human to a worm.  This God of ours humbled himself so much that he condescended into one of us, becoming one of us in every way, except sin.  He learnt our language.   He took on our ways.  He didn't expect us to suddenly learn to speak God's tongue.  How much more so should we be willing to approach our brothers as if they were Christ himself?  Learning a language is the least we can do.   Learning who they are, where they are from, their name;  those are other steps we should take.  Their customs, their cultures, their families.  They are part of us.  We are one body.  There aren't 500,000 bodies of Christ.. only one. 

So go out into the world.  Serve your brothers and sisters.  Learn to speak to them.  More importantly learn to listen and understand them.  Try to learn their names.  Their families.  Their interests.   Let them know how important they are to you.  How much you love them.   Don't expect anything in return.  Just offer yourself for them, as Christ offered himself to us.  Then we can cry out together, with our brothers and sisters, in all tongues: "Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you."

In Christ,
His servant and yours,

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Killing The Prophet

In Tomorrow's Gospel we see Jesus again speaking gloom and doom to the Pharisees and Scribes. It's easy for us today to look back and almost cheer him on, 'get those bad Pharisees!'  We like to have an enemy, a they, to place all the blame on.  We want to be on the side of good.  It's easier to feel like we are when we place all the blame on 'them.'  When we really examine what Jesus said though, it might make us squirm a little ourselves.

"Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors"

Jesus reminded them by their very actions they supported the actions of their ancestors.  In building these tombs and monuments they are applauding the events that happened, as if they are proud of their ancestors for killing the prophets sent to them with God's word.  I'm not guilty of that, we say.  I never killed anyone and surely I've never applauded anyone for doing so? 

Yet, every time we are complacent in someone's sin.... every time we stand idly by not condemning bad actions or aiding in reformation of behavior... we have consented to their deeds.  When we buy that coffee from that organization we know does things we don't approve of, we have consented.   When we vote for that candidate that we know stands for something that is against our faith, we have consented.   When we stand in silent agreement, even nodding our hands, as someone gossips and tears down another individual... we have consented. 

How?  Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.   Every time we allow a sin to occur without speaking up, we have killed the prophet.  In a way we are worse than the Pharisees indeed.   They supported the actions of their fathers who killed the prophets before them, but we support the actions of those who are responsible for God himself having to go to the cross and die in our place... in fact, not only do we support those actions.. we often are the ones committing them.   "Woe to you who sin or stand silently while another sins, You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter."

Even more telling is the response of the Pharisees and Scribes, they began to interrogate him "for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say."    How many of us have at some point in our life tried to get around something God has told us?  "Ooh, I'm supposed to Fast on every Friday, but if I give up chocolate that's kind of fasting."   "Technically, even though Mass starts at 8, Communion doesn't occur till 8:30.. so I can eat at 7:30."  How often do we look for ways around doing what we should?  Plotting to get around what God said, or to twist it into something that is more convenient or easy for us. God forbid!

There is hope though!  A great light shining in the darkness!  "For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God."   The first reading reminds us that Jesus, though we didn't deserve it, through God's grace and grace alone, provided a way through our human weakness, through His sacrifice on the cross.   To both Jew and Gentile, all of mankind, is the offer of salvation and freedom from sin.  Faith!  We must grow in this grace and learn to have faith in God.   That even when we fail, even when we sin, we must place that sin at the foot of the Cross, trusting in his forgiveness.   We go to the Church, we go to the Sacraments, we ask Jesus for his Grace and we know that it will come.    We ask him to come and change us, to help us grow and to do better next time. As the responsorial Psalm reminds us, "With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption." 

Tomorrow as we celebrate the Memorial of Teresa of Jesus, let us remember to increase our time with the Lord.  Let us reach out to have a mystical experience with him.  Let us find him in the stillness of our heart and the silence of prayerful contemplation.  Tomorrow, find a moment to invite God into your life and simply sit with him, singing in prayerful confidence:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.

In Christ,

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Penitent Man Shall Pass

One of the most memorable scenes for me in the movie Indiana Jones The Last Crusade was the one where Indiana began to figure out the first trap.  The tension had built to a climax as his father lay dying on the ground from a gunshot wound, the Nazi antagonists were waiting in the wings to kill
him, several of the corpses of those who had attempted this quest laying on the ground around him.  As the air begins to swirl again, Indiana began to mutter to himself over and over, "The penitent man shall pass."  It was only when he realized that a penitent man was one who was on his knees before God, that he dropped into a humble position, quickly dodging the nearly invisible saw blade, performed a back flip, and then snagged the whole apparatus with a very conveniently placed rope. 

As I meditated upon the readings for tomorrow (Oct 14th, 2015), that word impenitent jumped out at me reminding me of this heroic scene.  In both the first reading and the gospel we see people being reminded of the need for not just justice, but also for mercy.   That the core of Jesus message is to bring about a metanoia experience in which the person turns from their former ways and experiences true conversion.   True conversion brings about not just a spiritual, internal change, but an outward change expressed in and through good works.

Then Jesus hears from another voice crying out, but Lord your word cuts me to the quick, surely you don't mean me as well?  To which Jesus quickly affirms "Woe also to you[..]! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them."  Jesus makes sure to call out to all of those in his audience who aren't living an authentic life, one tempered in covenantal love.  He calls out to us to express our relationship with God in good works, in loving one another, in being merciful because we remember the mercy with which God has already showered each and everyone of us.

As I watch the news and read my different social media, I see so much going on in the world that shows not only a lack of justice but also a great lack of mercy.  We see refugees being expelled from their country, Christians being martyred and crucified, fleeing refugees being refused entry and even basic necessities out of the inconvenience that might cause any nation that chooses to accept them.  We see people proclaiming each and every immigrant to be a thug, a vandal, a radical adherent to a religion... guilty of some subterfuge or plotting to destroy the nation from within.

Maybe some of them are indeed that sort of person.  What though of the women?  The children?  The
young?  The widow and the orphan?  The broken and down trodden?  How do we justify the refusal to feed and clothe the least of these while also proclaiming to be Catholic? Then again do we have to look so far from home and into such an extreme to find the lack of justice?  What of the man on the corner who asks for money?  Have we not become so jaded that often we don't give him money, money that is only ours by the grace of God, because we fear what he might do with it?  Do we fret over the neighbor who parked his car in front of our drive? Or the team mate who did not pass the basketball but scored his own basket?  

There are too many missed opportunities out there to show God's mercy and justice to others.  We have a lot of work to do in this world.  We pray daily that His kingdom come and His will be done, but do we truly mean it?  After all, as Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.  We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”   I pray that we will open our hearts to God's mercy and justice, that we might hear "Well done my good and faithful servant," and not  “Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”

In Christ,

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Heavens Proclaim the Glory of God

My wife and I have made it a habit lately to jog in the late evenings after all of our obligations and such begin to wind down.  Tonight as I meditate on the readings for tomorrow's Mass, it reminds me of the jog/walk we just completed.   I was in just too much pain to run tonight, so I ended up walking most of the time we were out there. It helped me though to think quite a bit about many of the things I've been mulling over, and more especially to spend some time just walking along talking to my sacramental partner.

Tomorrow's readings are some of my favorites in scripture.  As we walked along tonight, a strong wind kept blowing through the trees.  The sky was cloudy and dark, almost ominous.  Occasionally we would hear the breaking of twig or rustling of a leaf as some woodland creature ran off in fright to our presence.   The river under the bridge reflected back the street lights in the distance, it's ripples creating a movement in time where there really was none.  The changing colors of the autumn in their many shades of monochrome night created a blanket of waving patterns, all shifting away anytime the eye tried to focus on them. The tall, uncut grass of the gentle sloping hill flowed back and forth like an ocean of it's own accord.

All of it called out to one simple truth, one fact that my mind has never been able to understand why others do not come to this conclusion as well, to the existence of God.  The first reading tells us that "Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made."  God created us in his image.  He gave us the gift of our senses, combined with our faculties, that give us such a powerful bond with all of creation.  We can see the beauty of all it's many faceted creatures.  Smell the scents and odors of our vastly complex universe.  Reason and grapple with concepts and words to try and express all of this in some way that is beyond a mere simple thought.

Just walking with my wife, though filled with pain and limping, I am still struck by just how fortunate I am to be gifted with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and caring as her.  Just looking at our lives, the circumstances that led us to become the people we are, the events that brought me to
move 600 miles away from the town where I had always been, and to have my life filled with these 5 ladies.... all of it tells me that there are no coincidences.  There is something more than us, something greater than us, a designer, a creator.

When I was in my teens I attended Magnet school at a local college to study some advanced mathematics and computer science skills.  While we were there we studied Chaos theory.  Many of you will remember Malcom from Jurassic Park, the slightly nerdy and awkward genius who talked about a 'butterfly' flapping it's wings in one part of the world, creates a monsoon in another.  That was the kind of math we were studying.   The one thing I learnt that summer was that even in things that seemed to be completely random, there were found mathematical patterns.  That everything in the universe was ordered, even 'random' chance itself.   The heavens themselves proclaim the glory of God! 

That brings us to the Gospel.   Here we see Jesus being condemned again by a Pharisee for not washing himself ritually before sitting down to a meal.  They felt there was an order that must be done before he could eat. Jesus reminded them that God made everything!  There was no need for ritual cleansing because he was already pure.  Then challenged them to clean themselves, spiritually.  Both inside and out.  We have many people out there today who teach a prosperity gospel, a gospel of health, a bed of roses so to speak.  They claim that if you 'speak it,' God must do it!  As if God were some ATM that you could control.  Then when suffering comes that way, they proclaim that you didn't do it right.  Your faith must be weak, or you must not really believe.  It can be shattering to those who believe this way to actually see someone they love suffering from some disease, or they themselves begin to go through a Dark Night of the Soul. 

Jesus reminded us that ritual is meaningless unless the inside of the soul is cleansed.  He challenges them to give alms to reverse the condition of their heart.  He told them already of their problem, they were filled with plunder and evil.   They were greedy, they wanted more.  He told them to give away to those who need, and it would fix them.   I think that's the message he has for us, all of us today.  Suffering is hard to see, especially if the inside of our heart is attached to things of this world.  It's only through detachment that we can begin to be free, to cling to the only attachment that matters, that is God himself.  Once we place him first and foremost things begin to fall into place.  It doesn't mean a bed of roses.  It doesn't mean that we'll be rich.  It doesn't mean that our relationships will not require a lot of work or effort.  It doesn't mean that some people aren't going to pass away from a disease or suffer a long time with one.  What it does mean is that we can look to God for our comfort during those times, and look out into creation itself when we struggle with doubt to find glimpses of Him shining back towards us.

In Christ,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

An Evil and Perverse generation

The Readings for Monday of the 28th Week of Ordinary time can be found here.

In Monday's Gospel reading we find Jesus proclaiming that "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah."  These words seem to  make a lot of sense to us as Christians 2000 years later looking back on these amazing and miraculous events in first century Palestine.   How though would these men have reacted to hearing this statement though?  First and foremost, who was Jonah and what does that have to do with them?

If we look back at the story of Jonah we see a man who was called by God.   He was called to go preach to the Ninevites.  Jesus just compared the men listening to Him, the ones demanding a sign to these Ninevites.  Who were they?  They were a despised race.  The war driven enemies of the Israelites.  The Assyrians. In 722 B.C. the Assyrians had completely conquered most of the Israelite people and took them captive.   This led eventually to the destruction of the temple during the Babylonian captivity.  Here Jesus is comparing the people standing around him to the Ninevites, the very people they would have blamed for the start of the worst time in Jewish history.  The temple was everything!  That was where God was, and here Solomon's temple had been completely destroyed as a result of the Ninevites. 

The story of Jonah itself took place before that event.   Jonah himself also didn't want to reach out to the Ninevites.  They were the "Las Vegas", the Sin City of their time. The darkest of the dark.  The cruelest of the cruel.  They were the enemy.   He would rather have seen God's justice rain down on them from on high, destroying them entirely.  In the Veggi Tales version, we see Jonah sitting up on a very high place watching for this very thing to occur.  They were Jonah's other, the enemy, "them." Time had not changed this and if anything, the Assyrian people were more hated by the contemporary Jew of Jesus time. 

Then we have the very nature of the sign of Jonah itself.   Jonah of course, we all know is the story of the man who ran from God and was swallowed by a fish for 3 nights and 3 days.   Here we have Jesus telling the people around him that Jonah, who ran from God at first, when he came to do God's will was completely successful in God's endeavor.  The people of Nineveh immediately repented of their sin and hard hearts, putting on sack cloth and ashes.  Jesus, who came performing miracles, and from the very outset of his ministry was completely obedient to God... was watching those around him not turn their hearts. 

He was both predicting his own death and resurrection, but also warning them that they were accountable for their refusal to hear his message.  Here was the rub of what he said, he in effect said "Those sinners, the worst ones you can think of, the people you hate the most, your very enemies... listened to God before you will.  They were the ones who came to God, and you refuse to hear me.  So I will show you the same sign that God showed them, for three days and three nights I will be lost to the world.  Then I shall be found again, in your presence, and my message of repentance will call out to you." 

What does this all mean to us?   How do we actualize this to our lives?  When Jonah came to call the Ninevites to repentance, the message was "40 days more and this city will be destroyed."  We have a similar call to repentance, in which we hear the "wages of sin is death."   We, just like the Pharisees gathered around Jesus in the Gospel are called to repent.   Our city, our earthly body, is eventually going to be destroyed.  For it is appointed unto man, once to die.  We all have that in common, but we all have a choice.  We can continue on in our sin and not worry, refusing to hear and believe in the sign of Jesus Christ, in the resurrection that frees us from the impending death for eternity; or we can turn from our sin like the Ninevites and trust in God's promise.

Which brings us back to the First reading:

Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, 
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.

You are called to be Holy.   You are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Do you follow Him?  Or reject him? What do you choose?

In Christ,

Saturday, October 10, 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Wisdom From on High

Today was one of those amazing days where I got the honor of sitting in a group of men who are
offering their lives in hopes of eventually being configured to Christ to the servant in Holy Orders.  It struck me as I began to read the readings for tomorrow of how apropos they were after the experiences we shared today in that room.  The first reading from the book of Wisdom is just so powerful and reminds me of one of the very great philosophical reminders that Father Peck talked to us about today.

I prayed, and prudence was given me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne,
and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,
nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;
because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,
and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.
Yet all good things together came to me in her company,
and countless riches at her hands.

Wisdom 7:7-11 NAB

How truthful is that?  I think we often don't understand the power that God has given us in the gift of reason and logic.   We take it for granted.   Do we hold it up as something precious?  Something so wonderful that it makes gold seem like sand?  That something quite rare is really just as common as the sand by the sea?   Do we long for wisdom more than our own health or beauty?   Today's society would teach us otherwise.  To choose to have wisdom over even light?   Are you so enthralled by the beauty of God's gift to us of prudence that you would give up your sight itself to be perfected in it's execution?

There is an allegory from Plato that Father Peck mentioned in his lecture that really puts things in perspective.  The Cave, in which people are chained to the wall unable to see anything or anyone, except for that which is right in front of their face.  They cannot see behind them or around them, but only the shadows cast by a fire and by objects held by people unseen.  That these people are unaware of the world outside because all they know is the shadows on the cave wall. Here we have these people in bondage, but are they aware of it?  Do they realize how much they need?  How much they haven't seen?

In freedom they find themselves open to a world of sight and sound that is so much more full of depth than anything they had thus experienced.  They feel sorry for those still trapped in the cave, and do everything they can to bring them out of the bondage.. out of the flat, one experiential existence.  Isn't that what wisdom is indeed?  Philosophy? Theology?  Opening our minds to a reality so far beyond what we first perceived with our limited senses?  Bringing us to understand something so much deeper than just the visible, but helping us to grapple and wrestle with the invisible?  In Wisdom we find hope, we find a world beyond just the shadows cast on the wall in our self imposed caves, but rather we open our minds to contemplate and experience things beyond ourselves. 

How does that apply to the gospel?  The church in her infinite wisdom and effort has attempted to tie the gospel and the first reading together thematically.  What do I see there?  In this parable Jesus talks of a young, rich man who wants to know what he must do to get to heaven.  The rich man says he has followed the commandments, and wants to know what more he must do?  Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor, then come and follow him.  The Scriptures then tell us that the "young man went away sad, for he had many possessions."   Then Jesus speaks of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  We could really go deep into that imagery and what it might mean or what the words might mean, but suffice it to say that many times I have a hard time just threading a needle with regular thread... imagine doing it with anything larger? 

How does that mesh with the first reading?  Wisdom.   That is what Jesus was encouraging this young man to do, to increase his Wisdom.  You see the young man was trapped in his cave, in his own prison of viewing the world.  He was attached to the material wealth he had, enough that the thought of losing it made him sad.   Jesus was not condemning having possessions, nor even having wealth; but rather being attached to those things.   We was asking him to see the world of detachment, a world in which we are free of desire.   A world in which we are free of suffering, because we do not desire health, wealth, comfort, etc over God... but rather what consumes us most is God.  That is true Wisdom.  That is what Jesus offered to this young man.  He saw him shackled, looking at the wall of the cave, unable to see more than the shadows that Satan and the world offered him.   Jesus tried to free him and bring him outside the cave to see the real world, so full of color and sensation, something beyond what the rich mans mind was able to see.   Instead of coming outside, the young man simply sat in the cave looking at the wall. 

So what about us?   Are we ready to step outside the cave?   Are we ready to follow Christ with a growing detachment to worldly things and a thirst so enormous for God's presence in our lives that we would give up everything else for it?  That anything else, even the most precious gems and metals would seem like filth and refuge to us?  Thomas Aquinas said nearing the end of his life, ""The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me."   Are we there?   Are we at least working to be there?

Lord I believe,
Help my unbelief.

In Christ,