Thursday, April 27, 2017

Union Strikes and flat tires.

Growing up my father was a non-union coal mining boss during all of the strikes in the mid-80s.   It got so bad at one point that he had to carry full sets of tires in the bed of his truck in order to be able to get home at night.   People would throw nails and glass into the roads to prevent those who did not strike from getting to and from work.   I remember at one point driving home from the hospital where my mother worked and the rear tire came off.   Turned out someone had taken off three of the lug nuts while we were in the hospital.  That left a bitter taste for dad I'm sure.  So much so that I was forbidden to play at one of my friend's houses because their dad was a union man.  

One day I was supposed to be going to another friends house and saw Travis outside playing basketball with his cousins.   There were three of them and they needed another.  I found out that the person I was going to see wasn't home so I just joined in the basketball game.   What would it hurt?  About halfway through I jumped up to shoot and landed in a pothole in the road.   My ankle bent sideways so far that I'm sure it tapped the ground.  I tried to play for a few minutes longer and even though they were poking fun at me, I limped away heading home.   When I got home I found out I had broken it.  A few hours later we were back from the hospital and I had a cast on.

My biggest fear wasn't the pain of the ankle.  It was my dad.  I had seen him angry.   I knew he had told me not to go to that house and here I had broken my foot there.  I was so scared that I wrote my will!  I was going to give my books to this friend, my toys to that one, my other stuff to my brother.  When dad got home he came up to my room to see me.   I'll never forget.   He wasn't angry.  He was sad.  He was disappointed.  He didn't have to say it.  It was written on his face in a way that was completely obvious.  My dad had asked me to do something simple, something that meant a lot to him.   He had literally risked his life to put food on the table for us while other men tried to hurt him.  I had betrayed that.

The Apostles did the opposite of that.  They who before the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost hid behind lock doors in fear now were willing to stand up in public and go to prison before denying Christ.  They didn't give in anymore to the whims of their own self.   What would have been easy was to run back home, to travel the road to Emmaus again and go back to being fishermen.  Instead, they stand up to the authorities of their time, the men with the power to eject them from the temple.   In our world of Church shopping, this doesn't seem like a big deal.  So what?  Kick me out here I'll find another community.  That wasn't how it worked for the Jews.  Being kicked out of the temple meant losing all of one's identity.  Family, friends, the ability to shop, to work.   It means no longer being able to have access to God.    The Temple was where God dwelt!

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"

The Apostles, though, had come to realize something that was so powerful, so beyond anything, anyone could threaten.  They realized that Jesus was God.  That no one could separate them from him, not even if they took away everything they had.  They were willing, like my dad, to put everything they had on the line... even their own lives.   "We must obey God, rather than men."   Nicodemus had asked a few questions that allowed Jesus to give us such a simple response, but one that echoes throughout time.  "Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life."   Our faith requires us simply to be obedient.   The revelation of the Incarnation teaches us how to live.   It's not that God is up there angry, stamping around, indignant that you dare to question his authority.   No, much like my father was with me as a child, He knows what is best for us and has revealed that through His Church that we might have life.   Not just after this life is over, but also now.

504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven." From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without measure." From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all received, grace upon grace."

That's what all these rules are about.   They aren't some arbitrary made-up system by men to control us.  They are the answer to the question that Nicodemus was so perplexed by.  "How can we be born again?"  They reveal to us what it means to be fully human, to be made in the image of God.   How to be in a relationship with God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  How to be in a relationship with each other, and to show dignity and respect to all living people.  They show us how to love.   That's what the Sacraments are all about.   Some call the Eucharist the Sacrament of Love, and how powerfully true that statement is.  Are we ready to stand up for that?  Are we willing to spread our faith no matter what the cost? Jesus is the fullness of God, He has the entirety of the Holy Spirit in Him.  He is our visible image of what mankind was supposed to be.   The New Adam, who gives a complete yes to God, and protects the Garden even if it means his death, death on a cross.   Are we ready to follow Him?  Even if it means taking up our own crosses?

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Second Week of Easter: April 27, 2017.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Be sober, be watchful.

Last year I went on a three-day silent retreat in Saint Louis, Missouri.   While I was there I happened upon a little booklet about chastity and addiction to pornography.   This is a serious problem in our country.  If we are honest, it is probably one that affects someone in our own lives.   After reading the book I began to look through the resources it mentioned online.   One of the things it talks about is a set of 'flash cards' that allow you to begin to memorize verses of the Bible.   Every time you memorize one you move to the next.   I decided to order a set of these cards and place them on the mirror in my bathroom.   That way when I shave, brush my teeth or check my hair to go out I repeat the scripture verse and slowly begin to learn them.  The idea is that by putting good things in my mind instead of bad, it will slowly begin to help me become more like Christ.

Today's first reading happened to contain one of those verses.  1 Peter 5:8-9.   "Be sober, be watchful.     Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.   Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world."   I've been working on that very verse for a few months.  It is chock full of things to remember but I think the most important is that we can resist!  Often we allow our sinful nature to become an excuse.   "I can't help it. I'm a sinner."   You're right, we are both sinners.   The thing is God doesn't allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able.  He always gives us the strength, some way to come out of temptation to the other side.   It doesn't mean we won't suffer!   It does mean if we choose to sin, it's not because grace wasn't present.

2848 "Lead us not into temptation" implies a decision of the heart: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. . . . No one can serve two masters." "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." In this assent to the Holy Spirit the Father gives us strength. "No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it."

My youngest daughter is fascinated with the book of Job.  The other day she literally quoted it from her memory to the kids in her Sunday school room.   When one of the kids said, "How do you know all this!?"  She replied, "I was raised Catholic."  Being firm in our faith means knowing our faith.  That's part of what scripture memorization is about.  It's about knowing what God calls us to do and knowing right from wrong.   Yes, we should follow our conscience... but it must be a well-formed one.  We form that conscience by studying.  We form it through the Sacraments.  We form it through prayer.   We must be ready to give a reason for our faith when asked.

Today is the Feast day of St. Mark.   This is the John Mark we find talked about in the Bible.   He is also believed to be the one who fled from the garden of Gethsemane after ditching his clothing.  He was so scared that when they grabbed his tunic, he shrugged out of it and run off naked into the night.  Later we see him wearing just a sheet as he follows behind the crowd to see where Jesus will go.   This same man who once fled, later in his life was martyred for his faith in Christ.  He spent his time traveling with Paul and Barnabas and sitting at the feet of St. Peter to learn more about his faith.  That's what being firm in our faith means.  It means listening to the teaching of the Apostles, encountering Christ in the Sacraments, and leaving as a different person, a better person.  

2863 When we say "lead us not into temptation" we are asking God not to allow us to take the path that leads to sin. This petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength; it requests the grace of vigilance and final perseverance. 

"Be sober, be watchful."    The Catechism calls it the grace of vigilance.   We don't know when Jesus is coming back.   We do know that He gave us a Church, which the writer of 1 Timothy calls "the pillar and foundation of truth."   That Church has formed and then compiled the Sacred Scriptures that we now hold dear.   It is through those Scriptures, through those Sacraments, through that Church that we find the way of discernment and strength.  It is also where we find, as in the Gospel today, the call to evangelize.  We can't just stop with ourselves.   Like John Mark we must go forward into the world as missionaries, as people changed by our encounter with Christ, to share with them the Good News.   That they too might find the beauty of this gift we've been given... this gift none of us deserves... Holy Mother Church and all that she offers.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for the Feast of St. Mark: April 25, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Divine Mercy Sunday

It's Divine Mercy Sunday.   A day on which Catholics genuinely express their belief in the immense and astounding mercy of God.  Many believe today that the graces of Heaven pour out on the earth in a way that reminds us how great our God is.  The readings for today often promote people to talk about 'Doubting Thomas' and his experience of God's mercy.   I want to talk though about something different.   To talk instead about one of the aspects that many don't want to speak about, what it means for us to have received God's mercy.   What?   Why would anyone not want to talk about that?  Because receiving God's mercy should make us painfully aware that as Christians we are called to show that same mercy to others.... especially those we have hurt ourselves.

I saw a writing someone wrote about me a few years ago.   It was on the floor and I am sure not meant for my eyes.   It was hard to read.   I put it back and walked away angry.   Not at them for writing it.   At me for it being mostly true.  I was not, and still, today am often not, a good example of mercy and love.  There are those who will say the Church is full of hypocrites so don't go.   I would rather say if the Church were not full of hypocrites we would have no need of a savior.   A measure of someone's faith is not how perfectly they follow it, but how well they respond when they fail.  Yes, I should be getting better.   I will always make mistakes.  I am a sinner just like everyone else.   I can't use that as an excuse though.  My mistakes are my own, and I should own up to them.   My response is Confession.   I go often, not because I am better than others, but precisely because I am not.

I lose my temper.   I misunderstand others when they talk.  I am quick to begin speaking before others have spoken their full.  I correct when I should listen.   I reprimand often without hearing the fullness of what I am reprimanding for.   I know that.   I hopefully am getting better at it.   If God, though, can forgive each and every person fully, and me for all my sins... how then can I who claim to be trying to be like God not do the same?  An important point though is that just going to Confession doesn't fix those you've hurt.  A broken plate on the floor doesn't jump back to the table fixed when you say you are sorry, nor does God's forgiveness mean that man will forgive you as well.

It's still up to us to change.  To apologize when appropriate.  To go further than that though and address the behavior that created the need to apologize.   A Christian may not look so much like Christ now... and maybe even near his/her death bed.. but they should resemble Him more and more as their life goes on.  It is not instant for most of us.   It's a lifelong process of conversion.  It requires us though to take a step, and another.. and another... as St. Paul said, run the race.   Sometimes I feel like I'm on that last mile of a marathon and my legs are super heavy.. and I just have to struggle to get through the sludge of my own weakness.  That's when it's most important.

So here it comes... The part I dread but I think is so important on this day of all days:

I am sorry.

For all the times I have not listened when you tried to speak to me.  I am sorry.

For all the times I yelled instead of showing you understanding and hope.  I am sorry.

For those nights when I set an example that was contrary to what is holy.  I am sorry.

For the days when you needed a hug or to hear the words I love you, and instead, you got grilled the moment you came in the door.   I am sorry.

For every time I have let you down.  I am sorry.

For every time I have gone to Mass and didn't invite you, or to Confession without extending the opportunity to you.  I am sorry.

For every time you've spoken and I have interrupted you, instead of practicing the redemptive listening skill I am trained to use.  I am sorry.

For every other thing, I've done, especially those things I am completely unaware of having hurt you by and should know that it has hurt you, I am sorry.

For every time I myself doubted, though I had seen with my own soul the truth of the Church and its teachings, I am sorry.

Julie, Haley, Hannah, Sarah and Moira most of all, who see me at my worst.  The ones who live with me and know me better than anyone else.  For not being the husband, step dad, father and friend that I should be, for that I am sorry.

I am not going to get better overnight unless God grants me some supernatural graces... ones which I pray for often... but I am trying.

His servant and yours,

Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Divine Mercy Sunday: April 23, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Learning to walk..

As I was meditating on the first reading this morning something jumped out at me.  In the reading, you see Peter and John doing something that reminds us of Jesus.  They approach a man crippled from birth who is sitting begging at the temple.   Peter and John aren't rich.   They don't have money to give him.   They don't have food or clothing.  All they have to offer is the power of Christ.  So they do, and the man is healed.  Now think about it for a minute though... This man has been crippled his entire life.  He's never walked. Does he even know how?  Then we see him leap up, walk around, and even proceed to leap with joy inside the temple proclaiming the power of God.   That's because he wasn't just changed on the outside.   God doesn't just heal our bodies, though He can do just that, He heals our minds.   He equips us with all the knowledge we need through His Holy Spirit to do what we need to do.  This man who used to sit at the gates has been transformed into the man who leaps with joy proclaiming the mercy of God.

That then contrasts with the Gospel reading.  Probably one of the most famous readings out there in all Christian circles, the road to Emmaus.  Here we have two men who knew Jesus well.  So well that it says they eventually recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.   That means they were either at the last supper or that Jesus had at least dined with them in a special way many times in the past.   Yet, even though they had spent intimate time with the Savior, here they are walking away from everything that they had learned.  They have given up on Him and are heading back to their normal everyday lives.   They aren't leaping with joy.  they are going back to sit and beg at the entrance with a crippled body and mind as it were.

Saint Augustine put it this way:

They were so disturbed when they saw him hanging on the cross that they forgot his teaching, did not look for his resurrection, and failed to keep his promises in mind.  Sermon 235.1

Then Jesus proceeds to equip them again.   He opens the scriptures to them and tells them everything that points to Him out of them.  He then proceeds to dine with them and that's when their eyes are opened.  That's when they are healed.  Then just like the crippled man at the gate they immediately jump up and run throughout the night back to tell everyone the good news.   This wasn't like you or I walking down a dark alley in a big city.  This was dangerous!   Not only were their bandits, brigands, and thieves.. but there were lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  They risked everything to bring the message back to the Apostles.  They were changed by their encounter.

That's our challenge today, isn't it?  Jesus on the road to Emmaus showed us the Mass.   He broke open the Word as we do at the Liturgy of the Word.    He broke the bread as we do at the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  The question is... are we recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread?   Then when we do, are we running out into the dangers of the world to share that with others?   Are we leaping with joy?   Or still walking as if we are weak of ankle and foot?   He has given us everything we need to know Him.  He gave us the Church.   He sent the Holy Spirit to be her guide.   He gave us the 7 Sacraments to encounter Him and be overflowed with His grace.   The Church guided by the Spirit wrote and formed our Scriptures that we might be able to read and learn from them.  Are we walking blindly away from the center of the world?  Or are we running towards Him?  Easter is a constant reminder of that...   We must journey towards our own cross, our own self-giving, sacrificial love... because on the other side is our reward should we remain firm and run the race.  Resurrection.   But first, we gotta let God Himself teach us how to walk.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the Octave of Easter: April 19, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter! He has risen!

This morning's blog is going to be a bit different than what I usually do.  Normally I would write a homily to talk about the readings of today.  I purposely have avoided writing during Holy Friday and last night I went to the Vigil.   After the Vigil, I found myself so wired that I couldn't fall asleep immediately.  So I began to meditate on the mystery of our salvation.  As Catholics, we journey with Christ in the liturgy as He goes from the Last Supper, into the Garden, and through all of the events that lead to His death and Ressurection.   I endeavored last night to let God speak to me through one of the most interesting and maybe even most powerful ways, the imagination.  So I placed myself in those scenes.  I imagined what it might have been like to have been there, so long ago.

Here I am at the foot of the cross.   My mind still reeling from the events that have preceded.   As a young servant, I watched as the Master washed the feet of His disciples.  I marveled that He was doing my job for me.  His royal hands washing away the caked dirt from the journey.   Then when it came time for dinner, He asked me to sit with them and eat as well.  I've never gotten to eat with anyone, let alone a King.   My eyes were filled with tears as I realize the generosity my new Master had shown me.  He had made me one of them.  A brother.  A friend.   I would follow Him anywhere I realized.  Then I saw a man named Judas rise and run into the night after some words were exchanged.   I didn't know what would happen, but I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach. 

Then we had found ourselves in a beautiful grotto.   This garden had been off limits to me before.   I was only allowed in the back alleys, coming in through the hidden entrances and avoiding being seen by the wealthy.  He had asked that we stay awake with Him.   I kept falling asleep.   Then I would wake to His voice calling to us in the night.  Instead of anger, instead of rage at our failure, it was filled with sympathy at our weakness.   Sorrow lined His eyes and He seemed to care more about what was going to happen to us, than even what He was going through.   Then it happened.  The man named Judas came back and with a kiss on the cheek that seemed to last an eternity the world was shattered.  It all came crashing down.  I barely got away with my own life as they had taken hold of my clothes.  

All the rest of the events a blur.   Here I stood at His feet as the world shook, the sky darkened, and the last breath of God himself issued forth.  Filled with anger I turned around to glare at the crowd behind me.  All of those who yelled crucify him!   The soldiers who drove the nails into His most precious hands and feet.   The men who walked by spitting and jeering!  Oh, the hatred flowed through me and I wanted to berate them and beat them.   I scanned the faces in the crowd and the color drained from my face.   They were all images of me.   I found myself staring at reflections of the one who had betrayed Jesus.   The one who couldn't stay awake.  The one who fled when He was being seized.  The one who throughout his entire life couldn't simply follow Jesus but put other things in His place.    I covered my eyes and with stooped shoulders began to cry with heaving sobs.   

I felt a hand on my shoulder then.  I turned to face whoever it was that had touched me.  Hoping it was the Romans coming to treat me the way they had treated my Master.   My life wasn't worth living without Him.  How could I go back to just the normal everyday drudgery of a slave, knowing what life was like being with the King of the Universe?  My heart leaped with joy at the sight of my Master standing before me.   He has risen!  It was Easter morning!  Then I realized it was my fault He had died.   It was my sins that drove Him to that cross.  I fell to my knees.  I began to cry again in remorse and sorrow, knowing that I deserved Hell and every ill that befell me in this life.   I again felt the tug of a hand, pulling me to my feet.  

He once again began to turn me toward the crowd behind me.  I could still hear their jeers, their mockery, their anger.   I closed my eyes.  I couldn't bear to look at all of it again.  My Master bid me open my eyes.  I refused, my fear overwhelming me.  Then I found myself opening my eyes in obedience to God, even though my bodily fears bid me to do otherwise.   There wasn't a crowd before me but a jeweled and silvered mirror.  Its reflection was mine for but an instant.  Then it changed into His.   I felt Him squeeze my shoulder as He departed for a time.   He had reminded me of the simple truth that He did not go to the cross because I forced Him too.  He went to the cross for my sins, but by His own free will.  He chose to die for me.  Then the tears came again.  This time not in fear, not in sorrow, but in joy.   He loves me.   He has died and risen for us!  Help me, Lord, to keep my eyes open and always focused on you! 

I hope this meditation helps someone this Easter morning!   Happy Easter, may God bless you and keep you safe.   Enjoy your families, your celebrations and above all give thanks to God for giving us the gift of salvation!  

His servant and yours, 
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease." 

A meditation for Easter, April 16, 2017. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Get in that ditch and dig!

Many of you know that before my back surgery I was a commercial electrician.   I worked hard for many years and eventually became one of the lead foremen of a decent sized company.   During those years working my way through the ranks I noticed several different styles of foremen.  There were those who sat in the air conditioned trailer all day, only coming out once in a while to give more information to the crew and make sure they were still there.   Then there were those who got right into the ditch beside you and began to dig with their own hands.   That was the kind of foreman that my dad has raised me to be.   I didn't sit in the trailer.   I had my own tools.   I got out and did my own work.  Yes, I got interrupted... a lot.   I had to stop what I was doing and go help someone with this question, or to show them how to do this or that task.  My men knew, though, that if they wanted to find me I was somewhere close by working just as hard as they were.

Tonight is Holy Thursday.   We Catholics relive the scene where Jesus removes his vestments and kneels down to wash the feet of his disciples.  Our priest comes forward and kneels down before twelve people representative of the community and washes their feet.  It's a reminder of the humility that it takes to be a real leader.    One can be an effective leader, without being a good one.  The man who sees himself in the light of the Christian belief sees himself as a servant to his people.   He is there to help them achieve whatever task it is that he sent them out to do.   I remember one man in particular who would purposely cause people to fail.  He'd send them to do something without the right gear, or he'd tell them to hook up something that they had never seen.    The funny thing was he was one of the highest paid foremen for one of those companies.  The men working under him?  They worked less.   They didn't like him and their morale was as low as possible.

I found that people work harder when they feel good about themselves.  Not just in the construction trade, but in all facets of life.   Volunteers are more apt to do a good job if they are encouraged, and if the person teaching them how to do the job is right there with them.   They want someone to show them what to do that is filled with joy for being there, not someone who complains about all the work.  Jesus didn't complain about the foot washing.   He had every right to as a human didn't He?  Here the King of the universe, the very Logos of God, was being reduced to the role of a servant.  This was not something the homeowner did, ever!  This was the job of a slave!  Christ has given us a model of radical service that is demonstrated in His own actions.   He is our model of what it is like to be a real leader... and the important thing to remember is that each and every one of you is called to be just that.  A leader.  Someone who shows the world the way to Christ.

2235 Those who exercise authority should do so as a service. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant." The exercise of authority is measured morally in terms of its divine origin, its reasonable nature and its specific object. No one can command or establish what is contrary to the dignity of persons and the natural law.

The other day I was talking to someone about what it means to be Catholic.   They kept saying "Yeah but that's just how you do it, you're all 'super Catholic' and stuff. Most Catholics don't go to church all the time and don't pray like that.'   That's what we are called to though!  I don't pray the Liturgy of the Hours for myself... I pray it for the Church.. for each and every one of you.  I don't serve at the Church because it's always pleasant.  Some days I hurt!   Some days I am tired and I just don't want to do anything.  I do it because it's what Christ calls us to.  I am not on a different level than any of you.  I am not better than anyone, trust me on that one!  As St. Paul said, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.  Now we may have different vocations.. different ways of living in the world... different jobs.   But we are all called to the missionary and apostolate nature of the Church!

863 The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is "sent out" into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. "The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well." Indeed, we call an apostolate "every activity of the Mystical Body" that aims "to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth."

You are called to go out and serve.  To serve your families.  To serve your neighbors.  To serve your friends, family, and coworkers.  That service will look different for each person, but it's our calling!  It begins though with a simple task... receiving the Sacraments.   We don't need to be qualified.   We don't need to be eloquent of speech.  You don't need to be the most intelligent person on the planet.  All you need to do is open your heart to Jesus Christ and receive Him and He will change you into what He has designed you to be.  He designed us for love.   Love.   That's what it should look like.  So don't worry if you aren't comfortable standing up before the crowd lecturing or greeting at the door.   God has a plan for you.  He has a job for you.  He has designed you specifically with certain skills and talents.  Use them for His kingdom! As we journey towards Good Friday I think a very apropos question to ask ourselves is one I saw recently on Instagram: "Is what you're living for worth His dying for?"   Remember if you want to find Him, He is somewhere working close by working just as hard today as He did 2000 years ago in Palestine. 

864 "Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church's whole apostolate"; thus the fruitfulness of apostolate for ordained ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital union with Christ. In keeping with their vocations, the demands of the times and the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostolate assumes the most varied forms. But charity, drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always "as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate."

His servant and yours, 
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for The Mass of the Lord's Supper: April 13, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Morning has broken, like the first morning...

"Morning after morning, he opens my ear that I may hear."  Such a simple line.   It reminds us that every single day is an opportunity to grow.  Our goal as Christians should be to become as much like Christ as we can.   How can we do this if we don't use our senses to learn about Him?   As Catholics, we are encouraged to do many things to do just that.  A morning offering, Morning Prayer of the Divine office, and maybe least often used, making reading our Bible a daily habit.   The way we read the Bible is important.   It is not like reading a novel or simple textbook.  It's a moment for prayer.   It is a time for listening to God, for allowing the holy word to enter into our minds.   How can we claim to know God, to be in a relationship with Him, if we are always the one talking, and never the one listening?  

As we approach Good Friday we are reminded in the readings of an even stronger pain, something that all of us have experienced.  Here Jesus is in the room with His most trusted friends.   The people who have journeyed with Him, followed where He went and witnessed all of His miracles.  One of them though is going to betray Him.   We've all been betrayed.   It's a pain that is worse in many ways than any physical pain.  The closer the one who betrays you, the worse the sense of loss and mourning. Judas, for thirty pieces of silver, was to cause his friend's death.   In our modern times that would be like turning over your friend, your teacher, your confidant... for roughly $600.  It's not getting rich by any means.   Judas was the treasurer of the group so if he just wanted money he could simply have stolen more.    Maybe he wanted to force the hand of Jesus, to make the Messiah rise up and conquer the Romans!   Who really knows?

What I do know is that we give Judas a very hard time, when we to betray Jesus.  When we break His commandments; or ignore Him in the stranger, the widow, and the orphan.  When we hurt those who love us.  When we abuse those put into our care.  How often does Christ suffer at our hands even today?  Yes, He was crucified once for our sins and transgressions, but every day He who gave all to us, even his very life, is rejected and spurned.  The last acceptable prejudice is against Christ himself.  In my own life, I've justified so many things by labeling it something else.  "Not enough time."  "Too busy."  "I don't feel good."  All of them simply saying "I am more important."  There Christ suffers for me yet again while I allow my ego to be my guide instead of Him.  As we glimpse the Paschal mystery again, let us take this Easter as the opportunity to comfort Christ.   To be the one who stops and says "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."  The one who reaches up to Him on the cross at Calvary and reminds Him that we do love Him and realize what He is doing for us.   To reach out to the immigrant, the refugee, the sinner, and the saint; giving them an account of our Hope and in some way meeting their needs with both prayer and action.

Lent is a time that should transform us.  The habits we have formed, the mortifications and fastings, these are not meant to be temporary.   They should change us each and every year to be more like Christ.  Too often we leave Lent and simply go back to exactly the way life was before.   This should not be.  We should come out of Lent with a new appreciation of Christ and His suffering with a firm amendment to attempt to continue to grow even closer.  Aim for heaven.   Become a Saint.  It is what we are called to!  Someone said recently we have a vocations crisis... I think instead we should call it a discernment crisis...  It's not that God isn't calling men and women, it's that men and women are not responding.  Take time each day to listen for that call.  Read those bibles.  Pray the divine office.  Spend time in Sacred Silence.   Receive the sacraments as frequently as possible.  Love one another with mercy and forgiveness.  The Triduum begins tomorrow.  Let's enter it with Christ on our minds, our lips, and in our hearts.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of Holy Week: April 12, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Marching toward Calvary....

Life can be confusing at times.  We are on our own journey towards our own calvary.  At funerals, we are often reminded of that simple truth.  That this is all going to end at some point.  The events along the way can seem like they are worthless.  They can make us wonder if God is even watching, is He even out there?  The death of a loved one, pain and suffering, isolation and anger.   All of these can draw us away from or propel us toward God.   Isaiah speaks of the Suffering Servant today as we approach Good Friday.   He laments though that he had had his own doubts.   At times he thought he toiled in vain.  That all of his efforts were spent in the futile struggle of man versus environment.

We all have our role to play.  Sometimes it seems like God isn't in control anymore, but He is.  The Gospel story reminds us of that simple fact.   Everyone had a role to play.  Peter initiated the encounter with Christ.  He motioned to John to get him to ask Jesus what was going on.   John reclined on Jesus' breast and rested with Him, then proceeded to ask Him for clarification, for guidance.   Judas, poor Judas, had probably the most reviled role of all time.    Still, God used Judas to further good in the world.  Too many see God in control of every event as if He wills evil.   There is a difference in His perfect will and His permissive will.  His perfect will wanted us to live in Eden, walking face to face with God in a place of peace and sublimity.  His permissive will is what allows us to have free will.

713 The Messiah's characteristics are revealed above all in the "Servant songs." These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus' Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our "form as slave." Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

Just as God did not will us to eat of the fruit and fall from grace, He did not will Judas to do evil.  He saw what Judas was going to do though and brought salvation out of betrayal, life out of death, communion out of discord.  He doesn't will for evil to befall us either.   When I had my back surgery in 2007 I became quite depressed and despondent.  Here I was trying to be a better man.   I was reading my bible.   I went to Church with my family.  I witnessed to anyone who would listen.   Then I was disabled.   Unable to work, unable to feed my family, as far as many were concerned I was no longer a "man."   I hated what my life had become.  Dependent.  I didn't want that.  I had always seen independence as the mark of manhood.   Now I didn't even have that.   I had to be helped from bed.   I couldn't go to the bathroom on my own.  I often just sat looking out the window with no thoughts in my mind at all.

Looking back though it's so easy to see God's hand in all of this.   I got to be present to my wife when she came home from work every day, eventually being able to prepare meals for her and eat them with her, even if it was in a hurry.   My daughter took her first steps with me right there watching.  I listened to her say her first words and got to spend time with my step-daughters that I would never have had a chance to otherwise.  I began to attend daily Mass, to study and read with a thirst for all things about God.  Eventually, that lead to my conversion in 2012 and my discernment of a call to the diaconate.  All of this good came out of something unpleasant.  It's not that God wanted me to suffer in surgery, or to go through a long, painful recovery.   He knows my role though because He isn't limited to a vision of my life that is only in the now but can see all of it at once.

1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.

There are too many that spend their time looking for the end of time.  I used to be one of those.  Every time something happened in the news I'd try to align it with events in the book of Revelation.   I'd try to figure out who the characters were and when the bad things were coming.  That isn't the purpose of Apocalyptic literature.   It is to bring hope!  That even with all those strange and disturbing images we can trust that God is in control.  "I've seen the back of the book and we win!"  It's trusting that even when we make the wrong mistake, God's perfect will is still that we receive good.. but we have to be open to that.   He won't even force that on us!   That's why Holy Week is so important to us every year.  It's a reminder to look back on the last year and look for God's hand in our lives.   To take the steps with Jesus toward our own Calvary, to journey toward our own Easter, where we too will be raised again to eternal life... if we hold out till the end, if we run the race without stopping.   It doesn't mean we won't fall and scrape our knees.  It doesn't mean we won't find blisters from our shoes or splinters in our hands... It does mean that all of these are nothing compared to the beatific vision we will experience if we hold tight to Jesus Christ and the faith of our fathers.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of Holy Week: April 11, 2017.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

These are not the droids you're looking for....

It's Palm Sunday.  If you've ever said that "Catholics don't do the bible" this is one of the Masses that would leave you astounded.   The readings are beautiful and lengthy.  They highlight the reality of our human nature in a way that should make us really take a moment to ask ourselves if we are truly following Christ. The most interesting part of this Mass to me is that it has two Gospel readings.   It starts with a reading before the procession in which the people shout Hosanna and throw palm branches before Jesus.  Jesus is riding into town on a donkey.   The people see Him for the first time publicly as the Messiah, as the one who was to come.  They now have these hopes and dreams about who He is.   They want Him to be a King, a military commander, a warrior to fight off the Romans and restore Israel to its rightful place in the land.

That same crowd that was chanting the words of adoration and praise as Christ arrived into town would later scream in hatred.   They would spit at Him, pluck His beard, mock Him and eventually declare they had "no king but Caeser."    Why?  Why would they treat Jesus in such a manner?   Because He wasn't the Messiah they were looking for.   Instead of being a military conqueror, He came in the name of love.   Despite having the power to demand worship and adoration, He bowed down and washed the feet of His disciples.  Rather than declaring the temple the center of worship for all time and space, He had the audacity to infer that He could tear it down and rebuild it within three days.  No, this was not the Jesus they were looking for.. but it was the one that God sent.

I often hear people say that they don't go to Church anymore because of the hypocrites who do.  That the place is filled with men and women who don't live out the Gospel in the way that they should.  I agree.  That logic would put us avoiding gyms because of gravitationally gifted people and hospitals because someone dared to be ill. The difference to me though is it makes perfect sense for the people who are at the Church to be people who need the most Grace.   People who aren't there yet.   Sinners like me.   We are all imperfect.  We all make mistakes.   Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25 hat the Jesus we are looking for is not the perfect, all put together person.  He's the person in prison.   The invalid in the hospital.   The thirsty and hungry.  He's the mother of five who just can't get her kids to behave.   He's the man in the back pew who doesn't want to shake hands.  Sometimes He isn't in the best of moods.   He's trying though.

The problem for most of us is that the reason we don't see Jesus is that we are looking for the Jesus we want to find, not the one offered to us.  That is what is so powerful about the Eucharist.   When we approach a sacrament with the right disposition, with our hearts open to accepting Him and receiving His grace, it changes us.   It's a lifelong process.   Some of us need more time than others.   What we hope to find is that even though the Church is full of hypocrites, it's full of hypocrites on the mend.   People who aren't quite Holy yet, but are striving for it.   People who make mistakes and don't live up to the Gospel.  If we were capable of doing it on our own, Christ wouldn't have needed to die for us.   We need the Holy Spirit.  We need the Sacraments.  Maybe, just maybe, we also need each other.

This isn't an attempt to give anyone free reign to sin, God forbid.  Nor is it an attempt to tell people it's all in their heads.  There are some pretty horrible people out there who call themselves Christians. Despite that, conversion starts with me.   If I am spending all my time guessing which people are really Christian and which ones are fake, I'm missing an opportunity to encounter Christ in the moment.  If my eyes are always scanning the crowd waiting for someone to notice me, or wondering why so and so is sitting with so and so... or so and so isn't sitting with so and so... I've stopped looking for the person who is most important in Worship.  How can I pretend to worship God if my eyes are always on someone else?   The only time I should be looking around is in an attempt to find Jesus, not in a way that looks for the holy, but in a way that looks for opportunity.  As a popular meme says, "The only time I should be looking into someone else' bowl is to see if they need more food."

So this morning as I hold up my palm branches to watch the procession, and as I listen to the readings again, my hope is that I will look out and see Jesus in every face.  Regardless of what they can do for me, not searching for a kind glance or love coming back my way, but converting my own heart.  An attempt to see the image of God that is written into the soul of every person.   I don't want anything to get into my way about my own expectations of God, but rather to let God tell me who He is.   He did that through the incarnation.   He's doing that today through the Scriptures and the Church.   We can't pray "Thy will be done" and then go out and attempt to make God into another us.   That's standing there demanding Barabas when we are offered, Christ.   That's choosing Caesar over the King of the Universe.  It's making God into me.  No amount of ego will ever convince me that I am better at being God than He is.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection for the readings for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion: April 9th, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Land of the Free. Or is it?

Freedom.  It is one of the most treasured of ideals of the American peoples.  The right so ingrained in the United States that is enshrouded in the very documents that define our nation.  To many that word means the ability to be able to choose whatever we want to do, period.   That mindset has invaded some of the Protestant denominations too.  Faith alone.   St. John's Gospel in a way almost supports that belief, so much so that the author himself had to write epistles to remind his community that we have to follow the ways of Christ, not just profess our belief in Him.   I fell into one of those denominations in my early to mid-twenties. We were told that nothing we did matters anyway, all we had to do was say the sinners' prayer, and live our lives.  As a result, I did many things that I regret today.

That is the mistake that the Pharisees are making as well.  Jesus says to them that He came to free them.  They respond "We have never been in bondage."   How ironic that statement is.  The Jewish people had been slaves in Egypt, followed by many years of persecution and ensnarement, and were even now under occupation by the Roman empire...  That took their freedom to choose, their free will to do whatever it was they desired, to mean freedom.   Jesus was offering them freedom from sin itself.  Freedom not just to follow our desires and emotions, but to be so Christ minded that our actions flowed naturally toward the good.

549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage.

That is true freedom.   'Conforming our actions to the moral law and incorporating the Gospel message into our lives'.  Many see that law, which James calls the Law of Freedom, as binding.   As some obligation or weight to be born under duress.   They allow their faith to become something that makes them sour, loaded down, unhappy.   They don't realize how much of a gift it truly is.   Raymond Brown, in a lecture I listened to recently, defined Metanoia as 'change of mind.'   Not the kind of change of mind that says I used to like vanilla ice cream, but now I like chocolate.   Rather a physical change, a spiritual change, where our mind becomes like Christs.   Where we so internalize the Moral code that it no longer becomes an effort to do what is right, but we immediately act in a way that brings love to the world.  Baptism doesn't just wash some dirt off us... rather it changes who we are... it recreates us in the Body of Christ and offers us freedom to become little Christ's out in the world. 

613 Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world", and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the "blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins".
That's why it's so important to learn from the major mistake that the Pharisees made.   They claimed that because they were spiritual, and likely physical, descendants of Abraham, that they had nothing to worry about.  That is no guarantee.   Just being Catholic isn't enough.   Just being Christian, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever other labels you decide to call yourself, isn't enough.  We must be doing the will of God.   Having all that knowledge in your head without putting it into action is, as St. James puts it, a dead faith.  That's why seeing faith alone as the answer is a grave error, a fatal flaw.   The call of our faith is being in communion with God.   That requires sharing a like mind... Christ minded... which means we have to not only learn what God has revealed to us in Christ and through His Church but also put it into action.  To be love in a world that needs it now more than ever.  

1739 Freedom and sin. Man's freedom is limited and fallible. In fact, man failed. He freely sinned. By refusing God's plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation engendered a multitude of others. From its outset, human history attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart in consequence of the abuse of freedom.
It is the time in which we must stop abusing our freedom.   As St. Paul says, "All things are permissible, but not all things are profitable."  Even that which we can do is not always the best thing to do.   Our actions need to reflect the light of Christ into a world of darkness.   To lift the veil as it were of our own flesh to reveal that image of God that exists inside of us.   Jesus has revealed to us the very will and desire of God in His own incarnation, and the scriptures tell us consistently how that should look in the world.   Which means not just praying, but reading also, and then putting into action those words in our lives.  

'Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading.
If a man wants to be always in God's company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.
All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned.
Reading the holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man's attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.
The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study.
The more you devote yourself to study of the sacred utterances, the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled, the richer the harvest.
The man who is slow to grasp things but who really tries hard is rewarded, equally he who does not cultivate his God-given intellectual ability is condemned for despising his gifts and sinning by sloth.
Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. But when God's grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart.'
St. Isidore of Seville, 'Book of Maxims

His servant and yours, 
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."
A reflection on the readings for daily Mass for Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent: April 5th, 2017. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

A friend of mine just got back from visiting Haiti with Food for the Poor.   Last night at the Pastoral council he shared some of his testimony.   You could see from the look on his face and hear in the timbre of his voice that the trip had been an emotional journey as well as one that was physically arduous.  One of the most touching moments was when he spoke of a woman he had offered to pray for.  She, in turn, a woman who had nothing in the realm of physical things, offered to pray for him as well.   He knelt before her and she placed her hand on his head... and she prayed for him.. and for all his friends.. family.. and the Church.  She called us her hope... that's a label that puts a lot of faith in us... a lot of pressure on us to do more... and it definitely makes me want to do just that.

In the first reading today we see the people grumbling for what they don't have.. instead of being thankful for what they do have.   They have just been freed from slavery by a God so mighty and powerful that He Himself fought their battle against the Egyptian armies for them, swallowing them up before their very eyes with the waters of the Red Sea.   The God who can move mountains and had proven that He was with them was not one they trusted to provide the simplest of daily needs.  They trust Him to feed them.  They didn't look to Him to take care of them.   To teach them to trust He had them to look at an image of the affliction they were under, an image of the very poison that was running through their veins from the serpents.. a snake on a pole.

Over a thousand year later we find Jesus performing the same role.  He himself was to be hung on a cross.  An image of the very poison that runs through our veins... sin.   A man who had done no wrong suffering the death of a man who had done all wrongs.   The most heinous of deaths reserved for criminals and the dregs of society.   Just like that Bronze Serpent in the desert, Jesus was lifted up that those who looked to Him might be saved from the poison that crept towards their hearts.    The people refused to recognize Him in His life, but as Jesus said when they lifted him up on the pole like in the desert they would realize who He was... "I AM."

That cross alone is an image of death.   It's an image of crucifixion.  The Romans crucified untold numbers of humankind on that instrument of torture.   It's when we add Jesus to it that it becomes something else.. it transforms and instrument of death into a symbol of life.  A symbol of hope.  A symbol of love.  That's how God works.  He transforms us.   He takes the poison that is in us... anger, resentment, hatred, pain... and He transforms it into peace... gratitude... love.. and contentment.   Our circumstances don't always change... but we ourselves can.   Keep your eyes on Him.  Have faith, trust in the salvation promised by Christ.  Every time the Priest lifts up the Eucharist before your eyes look at Him again and know, that like the serpent in the desert, whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.   

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"illum oportet crescere me autem minui"

A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary time: April 4th, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

Crazy Bag Lady

Who do you believe?  There are times in our lives when we get put between a rock and a hard place.   One person says one thing, another something different.  They ask us to choose.  I read a story the other day about a young group of friends in high school.   One of the boys had some rumors spread about him.  Later that day he walked up to the person who was supposed to be his best friend.   He asked him, "you don't believe the rumors do you?"  His friend couldn't look up at him.  He said well, I don't know what to think.  The young man replied, "I thought you were my friend."   At that moment their friendship ended.  Again, who do we believe?

Susanna was lied about.  She was completely innocent of any wrongdoing.   The two men who were supposed to be pillars of their community were instead filled with lust and greed.   They lied about her good nature and the people believed them.  Even her husband doesn't stand up for her but believes the testimony of others.  Only when the young man of God, Daniel, stands up for her does anyone even begin to believe that she might be innocent.  Daniel believed her and in doing so saved her from a horrible death.   Calumny.   It's a sin we all seem to fall into these days. Gossip. Slander.  A national past time. Yet, one that has plagued humanity from the beginning.  "I am not my brother's keeper."

In the Gospel we see Jesus having a woman thrown at his feet.   Unlike Susanna, this woman is evidently guilty.   The men want to trap Jesus.   If he says to stone her, the Romans who have outlawed this will kill Him.   If He says not to stone her, He will be speaking against the Law of Moses and people will turn on Him.   They don't expect His answer.   "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."  That opens a whole can of worms, doesn't it?  First off, how did these men happen to be in a place where this adultery was committed?   Where were they if they were in the dark recesses where such sins were going on?   What had they seen that they would have been able to testify against her?  Better yet, what things were on each of their consciences that they were guilty of that had not been brought to the light of day?

Jesus looked past the sin to the person.  He didn't see an adulteress before Him, even though there was no denying on her part that she was such.   He saw a person made in the image of God. One who had fallen.  Then He reminded all of us gathering around casting our own barbs of pride, do not throw a stone unless you are without sin.   The Scriptures reminded us that all have fallen short of the glory of God, that all of those men had sinned except Christ.  That means the only person there who was worthy of throwing a stone, was Jesus Himself.  Instead of stones, He offers a hand.  Instead of words of hate, He offers forgiveness.  Instead of death, He offers her life.  "Go forth and sin no more."

That's the key to this relationship we are in with Christ.  It's not enough to simply say we are sorry.  Not enough to simply go about our lives with faith and a confession, though all of that is necessary.   It requires conversion.   It requires changing who we are and how we do things.   It requires listening as God says "I will be your God and you will be my people."  Then again as He says to us, "This is how you are to act when we are in a relationship...."   Then above all to watch Jesus model that in His actions.  To see that to be in a relationship with God means to become like Christ.   To offer life.   To reach out our hands to the fallen and say I accept you, let me help you up.. but also to say 'Go forth and sin no more.'  To look at the person behind all the baggage and say, Let me help you unload those burdens.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"illum oportet crescere me autem minui"

A reflection on the readings for Monday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary time: April 3rd, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Do it again daddy!

When I was four or five my father was driving us down the driveway in the winter towards our small home.  The snow was compacted and had formed a thin sheet of us under the fluffy blanket on top.  As we started down the step frozen slide towards the house the truck began to slide like a polished car hood on the surface of a sledding hill.  Out of control and careening my father was panicked and we just missed the front of the house coming to a stop shortly past where the rest of the additions would be added years later.  As an adult my father was concerned, was I OK?  Did that scare me in some way?  I burst out in excitement "Do it again daddy! Do it again!"

One of the joys of being a Christian comes from the radical gratitude that we can enjoy when we see the world from the eyes of a child.   Do it again daddy should be our response to every sunrise, flower, and rainstorm that comes through.  We often want to control that world.   Choosing what days are good, and which ones are bad... when all are a gift... all good things come from God.   He doesn't will bad.  He doesn't will cancer or death.  He doesn't will rape or genocide... He wills what is good for us.. love.. hope... joy.  Permissive will versus perfect will.  

That in and of itself reminds me of a quote from Saint Francis, which I will paraphrase, though I hope to find his actual words and link them later.   Essentially Saint Francis said if all things good come from God... love, hope, joy, art, creativity... then the only thing that is truly our own... the only thing we can "own".... is that which is not good.  Those things we allow in our lives that aren't from God are truly our own choices... hatred, racism, hedonism, anger, lust... all these our own... We are only free when we can turn from those things and instead join ourselves to the perfect will of God... which is found in charity.  Charity.. that perfection of love that comes from being completely unselfish.. doing things not for what we get out of them.. not even for the reward of feeling good about ourselves.. but only because it is the right thing to do.

Today's readings are about dry bones coming to life.  Ezekiel sees God through the Holy Spirit taking the bones of the dead nation of Israel and rebuilding them... sinew by sinew.. muscle by muscle.. cell by cell.  That's the offer God has for us today as well.  Just like Lazarus in the tomb we are decaying.   Martha in her practicality fears the stench that will be present when they roll the stone away.   We should fear the stench of sin as well.  In fact, at the General Judgement all of our sin will be laid out to the entirety of the universe... all those things that were done in the dark... will be brought to light.  If all we have is dry bones... what hope do we have of salvation?   We have Christ.   Through Christ we are able to be remade.   By the day.. by the moment.. by the millisecond... He can rebuild us into something that isn't possible on our own.. but that He made possible on the cross.

God is speaking to us today in the same words He used when He called to Lazarus, "Come forth!"   Step out of that which you have created for yourself... for there is no life in the vices.. no life in the darkness of the world.   The only life we have.. the hope we have.. is in Christ... who is life itself.   Then each night as we go to bed and each moment when we rise.. each time we see the sunrise or the pain of sorrow and loss... to call out with the joyful youth of radical gratitude and say "Do it again daddy!  Make me new!"   That is our opportunity with this Lenten season.... a reminder to lift our hearts in prayer... to humble ourselves in Confession... to receive Christ in the Eucharist and say... "Make these dry bones come alive Lord."

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

""illum oportet crescere me autem minui"

A reflection on the readings for Sunday of the Fifth Week of Lent: April 2nd, 2017.