Wednesday, May 31, 2017

t's easy to get in a rut. Our lives go on with the same patterns and we find ourselves doing the same things over and over. For some of us, that's a Godsend (click the link to read more)

It's easy to get in a rut.   Our lives go on with the same patterns and we find ourselves doing the same things over and over.  For some of us, that's a Godsend.  I thrive on patterns.   Having a schedule of what is coming up next is of great comfort to me.   Even going through a drive through the restaurant is only bearable to me if I already know what everyone wants in the car before I get to the order stage.   The danger though, to having a set pattern, is that sometimes we lose meaning in our actions.   We forget to put our hearts into it and we just end up going through the motions.  Our prayers become rote and our prayer life becomes a simple checklist of the things we need to do today, rather than being the encounter with a God who loves us that it is intended to be.   God reminds us in the first reading today not to grow slack in zeal, but be fervent in spirit.  Rejoice and be filled with joy!

On the feast of the Visitation, we are reminded that we see Mary as one of the best examples of living a life of Christ that we have.   Here we have this young woman who is having an experience that is earth shattering.   She has just found out that not only is she pregnant, but that she is going to be the one who will bear the Messiah into the world.   An unwed Virgin, she knows that in the near future not only could she face rejection by her spouse and family, but that she could face a trial and even an execution.  It would be easy for her to draw in on herself.   To forget everyone else and to lose her joy, replaced with the fear of the unknown.   Instead, she instantly goes off to see her family in the country.   In her time of need, she instead goes to help her cousin Elisabeth during her pregnancy and serves her for three months.  

The most telling part though is the exchange we have recorded in Sacred Scripture.   How does Mary respond to her situation?  Her soul exalts the Lord inside of her.  Her voice proclaims her joy and excitement at God's plan and blessing for allowing life to grow inside of her.   She declares that the Almighty has done great things for her, and from her outpouring of spirit we have the beautiful Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat.   Do we respond that way to God's plan in our lives?  Often, instead of joy and feeling blessed, we complain.   We worry about what God is doing.  Pointing fingers at others, we forget that God is involved, too.   Mary reminds us constantly to trust in God and to serve others.   To always, as she pointed out at the wedding of Cana, "Do whatever He tells you."   That's why we Catholics take that simple statement from the Sacred Scriptures to heart, the one so many miss when they say Mary wasn't special or was just "another person":  "From this day all generations will call me blessed."  Today I think our lesson is not only to be more like Mary in our walk but to also realize that we are blessed.  That God has great plans for us, plans to prosper us and bring hope.  Are we trusting?

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reading for the Feast of the Visitation: May 31st, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Times of transition do not come easily to we humans. We like our traditions. Often when we have someone new (click the link to read more)

Times of transition do not come easily to we humans.  We like our traditions.   Often when we have someone new in our midst we teach them to do things the way they’ve always been done.  Tradition can be good.   As a man who was once a Protestant and now a Catholic, I understand full well why we have Sacred Tradition and the importance of holding on to it. I also understand the need of going back to make sure we are doing things the way the Apostles did and the early Church.  There is value though in the new, in innovation, in change.  Sometimes the things that come into our lives are what we least expect them to be.

My back gave out on me about a decade ago.   That became a time of transition for me.   I went from being a breadwinner to a bread eater.  A man who often worked overtime for extra cash was now counting on someone else to bring in the food.  A Baptist who loved Scripture was now a closet Catholic, stay at home dad, who still loved Scripture.  Things were changing.  I was now taking care of children, changing diapers, doing dishes and laundry.  I also had to relearn how to do all things and what my limitations now were due to my back surgery.   I am still learning those.  To this day I am finding ways that my back can no longer work the way it once did.

It would be pretty easy to be bitter about that.  I grew up in the South where a man was only worth his salt if he earned money to support his family.   A man worked.   It wasn’t that a woman couldn’t work.   No, my mother was a hard worker too.   She mowed the yard, fed the horses, and also held down her own career.   I had heard all my life about lazy people who didn’t work and never in a positive way.  Yes, I know disability is a support net for those who can’t work.  Here I was though 30 years old, disabled, with a family to raise… bills piling up, and no income on my part.  I would eventually get disability but it was off in the future.  I didn’t find myself bitter though.   I was disappointed, depressed, sad… but not bitter.

I eventually found myself attending daily Mass after my children were at school.  Engaging in conversation with Father Tim Siegel became an enjoyable thing on a weekly basis.   I would at some future date join RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), then walk away.  Then join it again a few years later, converting to the faith in 2012.    What I came to realize is that God had freed me up to spend time studying Sacred Scripture, time learning about the faith, and to grow closer to Him.  What at first depressed me, brought me to a place in my life where I could discern a call for Holy Orders and the Diaconate.   That’s something I could not have done with the job I had.  I didn’t have the time left over to be both a father, a husband and a student.   There just weren’t enough hours in the day.

Today’s readings remind me of how difficult times of change are for us.  Imagine the disciples who were standing with the Lord hearing Him speak of His imminent torture and death at the hands of the Romans.   They asked the question most of us probably would have wondered, “When will you reveal you are the chosen one?  The Messiah?  The one to conquer the Romans and restore Israel to its glory?”   They wanted the kind of change that comes easily to us.  The kind of change that makes us feel good.  The transition from one state of life that we don’t enjoy, to the one we want.   Those are easy, aren’t they?  Getting a raise at work, a free vacation, a new car as a gift, finding out your wife is pregnant and a child is going to be born into your life?  All of those are easy to accept.  It’s the other changes, the ones that bring sadness or pain, those are much harder to desire.

Jesus was given all authority and power in Heaven and would ascend to the throne of God.  If that was all that had to happen all the disciples would have rejoiced and marched into the trials with Him willingly.   It was the other part that had to happen, the satisfaction for sin, the curse that must be born as a result of all the bad things we have done, the death of our Savior;  that was the part that would be hard to accept.  It’s bad enough that He had to suffer for us, but He also had to die.  Later would come the resurrection but they couldn’t see the future.  Just as when I was laying the hospital bed after the surgery reeling in pain, pushing that button to release pain killers into my body, all I could see of my future was suffering.  I couldn’t see the beauty of God’s plan to come out of this.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying God wanted me to suffer.   No, I don’t believe God wants anyone to suffer.   In fact, I believe that’s why He sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die for us.  No, I think God doesn’t want us to suffer, but He uses the suffering that we do undergo to help us grow closer to Him.  By suffering Himself on the cross He turned something of no value, into something of immense worth.  Suffering for the sake of suffering, suffering in bitterness and hate, that doesn’t do any good.   Suffering for another, with joy and peace, even in your anguish… that’s different. Looking for a gift to come out of suffering… looking for God’s hand in the world during your suffering…  That changes a man.

My surgery allowed me to journey with my daughter as she took her first steps, learned to ride a bike, spoke her first words, and broke so many milestones of growth.   It allowed me to spend earnest and heartfelt time in prayer with Christ.   To delve into Sacred Scripture and Tradition in a way I’d never been able to do before.  It allowed me to have time to study in Ministry Formation and Aspirancy classes.   I was able to see the truth of the Catholic Church and where Martin Luther and Calvin had gotten it wrong so many hundreds of years before.  Instead of despair and depression, I now found light and joy.  I found that on the other side of suffering was a beauty, a transition, a journey that kept going.   I am still in pain.  Every day.  I still take a few painkillers, especially in order to sleep.  Yet, I am not bitter.   I realize that I can offer that pain up for you.   For my Parish family.  For my wife and my children.   My friends and relatives.  For those I know, and those I don’t.   I can turn my suffering into something beautiful, something different.

That’s what the Ascension is about today.  Jesus went to be with God that He might send the Holy Spirit to be with us.  A comforter, a teacher, and a guide to help us turn our own lives into the worship of the Father through the Son.  To teach us true discipleship.   It doesn’t mean our lives are going to be easy or pain-free.   Jesus tells us time and again that the opposite will be true.  They will be difficult, messy, and filled with events that we wouldn’t choose if we could avoid them.  People will not like us when we speak the truth, and some will persecute and kill us for our faith.   In America, we don’t worry about that too much.  However, recent events in the U.K., the Boston Marathon, even back to 9/11 have shown us that even here we are not safe from extremists.  Are we ready to risk it all for the reward of Heaven?

In our Parish, we are in the middle of a transition.   Starting June 1st, Father Francis will be our new Pastor.  Father Don will still be around a few days while Father Francis takes a trip to his native country to refresh before his new assignment.  I keep hearing people who are so sad that Father Don is leaving, and I am too.   I’m also excited to be on the journey we are on.   We have a new priest who we have to learn to do things with.  A new pastor who will lead us on in our faith in a slightly different way but with the same Gospel.   It’s a journey that will be filled with challenges and blessings… but it’s not an end.   It’s never an end, but a beginning.   Just as Jesus ascending to Heaven did not end His existence, but rather made Him more alive and present than ever; so too does retirement for a priest not mean an end to his ministry, but a start of a new phase of it in his life.

Let’s celebrate then both.  Celebrate the new journey for Father Don as he travels into retirement and all that entails, and Father Francis as he comes to be a part of our family and to journey with us towards heaven.   Let us make the transition easy and loving.   Let us look for the gifts of God that pour out on us during this time and watch as His hand guides our little Parish into the next phase of our existence.  Above all, let us keep Christ at the center of our lives and all our activities that His Holy Spirit might continue to guide us toward Life itself.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reading for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord: May 28th, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

I had seen childbirth on television growing up. My mother was training to be a nurse and dinner was (Click the link to read more)

I had seen childbirth on television growing up.  My mother was training to be a nurse and dinner was often interspersed with videos of surgeries, deliveries, and many other things that didn’t go well with spaghetti sauce or hot dogs.  It was an interesting time for me to see things that I had no desire to see again, nor any inclination to have seen in the first place!   Seeing those things though didn’t even prepare me for the actuality of surgery and child-birthing.  I remember my wife laying on the table straining to push a camel through the eye of a needle.   She had been in labor for a what seemed an eternity when the nurse told her to push, two pushes later my daughter was on the table getting her first shot.  It was messy.   It was painful.   It was gross.   It was one of the most beautiful things I had seen.

The book of the Revelation of John describes a woman in the twelfth chapter who is straining to give birth.   Catholics have long viewed that woman as a two-fold image.   One, being the image of the Blessed Virgin who we take to be our own spiritual mother.   The other, the image of the Church as she struggles in the world to push forth and deliver children in the image of their God.  The Church has definitely struggled in forming its stock.   From the abuses of Indulgences to the child abuse scandals, we have seen what happens to all organizations when bad people pretend to be good.   There are men and women who have infiltrated all aspects of all organizations, especially those dealing with the lives of children, who betray our trust and harm the psychological and spiritual health of those whom they are supposed to be helping.   Not just religious people mind you, but coaches, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and blue collar workers.  The rich and the poor alike.

What do we do then?   We struggle.   We go through the pain of growth, of birth.  We start with changing ourselves.  Challenging our own prejudices, sins and vices.   Through prayer, we begin to grow closer to God and the Church.   Studying Sacred Scripture teaches us God’s will for humanity and His plan to redeem all of us.   We make a mess.   We experience pain.   We see the grossness of our fallen humanity, riddled with its concupiscence and inordinate desires.  Then we allow God to bring us into the light of the World, into the body of Christ.  Not just once.  Daily.   In each moment.  In each second.  Donald Trump actually said something I agree with on many levels.   He said that “No child in America should go to bed scared or in fear.”  Yes, but don’t stop there.  No child, born or unborn, should ever have to be scared for their lives.  That includes those of our ‘enemies’ politically, culturally, and even socially.  All life is sacred.  It’s time we work to give birth to that into the world, regardless of the cost to our own desires, wants, and needs.   Jesus reminds us today that being a Christian isn’t going to be easy, it’s gonna require sacrifice.  Just like childbirth though… our grief, our pain, our struggle… will be turned into joy.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for the Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest: May 26th, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Time seems to move at a much faster rate these days than in my youth.

Time seems to move at a much faster rate these days than in my youth.  I can remember as a young man wishing the school year would go by faster so that we could get to summer.   Or ticking off the days till Christmas, vacation, or some other event that I just couldn’t wait for.  Now here I am almost a dozen years after moving to Illinois wondering where the time has gone.  Between driving the kids around, working on a summer project, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, exercising, attempting to clean the house, and doing what little ministry I can; I find the day is already spent before I even realize it.   What used to seem an eternity now tends to go by as if someone has attached the second hand of time to the ceiling fan and placed it on high.

I often wonder what that will be like in eternity?  When we step beyond the veil of time and space itself into a place with no time.   What will a second be however to the infinite majesty of God’s existence?  What is this little while he speaks of?  Did the disciples even realize how profound that question was in light of who Jesus is?  The incarnate Word of God that had existed before time began?   How amazingly different life must have seemed to God experiencing it from the confines of time and limits of the human intellect and will.  Would we make the same choice to not only descend to the confines of what must have seemed a most confining prison, not for the sake of ourselves, but for the other?

I understand more fully these days what Christ meant when he indicated we would suffer grief, weeping and mourning but would again see joy.   He has sent His Spirit to us that we might taste the bliss of eternity through the Sacraments and the Church in the here and now.   Those little glimpses where we are so overwhelmed with God’s presence that our senses are knocked for a loop.  Sometimes in my prayer, I find myself losing the words and only being present.  Those are the moments that keep me going.   I know they are a consolation, something that I shouldn’t need… and I have realized I don’t need them.   I want them.  I want that intimacy with God that brings life in such abundance that the joy overflows from my cup into those around me.  For three weeks now I’ve been fasting.  One meal a day.  One hour a day I spend eating, to remind my body it doesn’t need food as much as it needs God.   I’ve been avoiding things that waste my time and trying to do those things which draw me closer to God and to my family.  Will I go back to Facebook full time?  Instagram?  Twitter?  Snapchat?  I don’t know.  What I do know is there isn’t enough time in the day as it is and I want to spend as much time now preparing for eternity as I can.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter: May 25th, 2017

Acts 18:1-8
Psalm 98
John 16:16-20

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

We have to meet them where they are.

Today at Mass we heard one of my favorite stories.   Saint Paul and Silas who have been traveling around witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ have now arrived in Athens.   As they journeyed around the city they have seen so many amazing sites.  I can only imagine what it looked like during its heyday.  Just seeing the ruins in pictures is powerful enough.   The city filled with freshly carved statues, teeming with people from various other cultures, and the Areopagus filled with images of gods and goddesses.   This area was the central hub where all the important figures in law, politics and philosophical discussion would be gathered.   Is it any wonder that Paul, a Roman citizen who understood the significance of the area, would choose this as the place to begin his discourse on the Christ?

He sets an example for us that many fail to remember in today’s times.   Too often we read the Bible as if it were written to us in today’s society.  Instead, to truly understand it we must look back and understand the communities these Gospel were written to and the sociopolitical climate that they employed.   Then when we go to share the Gospel with someone else we must meet there where they are.   It’s no good going to rural Virginia to a coal miner who didn’t graduate high school and try to use metaphors and similes about the intricacies of city life.   Nor would you go to the inner city youth who have never seen the inside of a coal mine and begin to speak about the traps that are used to shield each section or the fans that bring in the fresh air.   We have to use language that the people we are trying to witness to that they will understand, while also staying true the Gospel and continuing our own personal testimony.

Then we have to be open to not only sharing our own life experiences but learning from those of the people we are meeting.  Jesus informed us that there were many more lessons to be learned the Apostles weren’t ready to here.   I believe the same to be true today.   While the public deposit of faith was complete in Christ, understanding that deposit and how to apply it in our own situations, our own societies, and our own faith journeys is an ongoing process.  That’s why we Catholics have learned through much trial and yes, much error… of the necessity of pluralism inside the Church.   Unlike the past where the Church tried to turn people into mini versions of the evangelist themselves, we now seek to draw them in while keeping their cultural heritage and bringing them to Christ simultaneously.  Then we see the beauty of one singular Mass expressed in the language and culture of every person in the world, and the Altar of the Unknown God is revealed in every people from one end of the Earth to the other in the person of Jesus Christ through His Holy Church.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter: May 24th, 2017

Acts 17:15, 22-18:1
Psalm 148
John 16:12-15

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Trial of a Lifetime

I used to love watching shows like Matlock and Law and Order.   There was something so fascinating about the legal process in our country.   The most beautiful part of our system is everyone is entitled to representation, even if they cannot afford it.   In many other countries around the world not only is the system less fair for the poor and minority groups, but it also doesn’t necessarily give them a voice when they have none.   Sure, there are many problems still and many innocent men and women end up going to prison.   That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t recognize the greatness of a system that realizes the law is so complex not knowing it intimately could lead to a wrongful imprisonment.

Paul and Silas just can’t seem to catch a break in their early ministry.  One day they are being beaten.  The next they are mistaken for gods.  Another day was beaten.  Then they find rest with Lydia in Philippi.    Then again today we find them beaten with rods and thrown into prison.   I imagine if that happened to me I’d be in the corner crying in fear, asking God why.   Instead, we find them in the darkness of a first-century prison singing hymns and songs of praise.  A great earthquake comes, shaking the prison open.   The result of this was not Paul and Silas running out into the night to freedom, rather the conversion of the jailer and his family (all of them, even the young ones.)   Their counselor spoke for them.   Spoke words so amazingly profound it shook the foundations of the world and changed people on a spiritual level.

Jesus reminds us of that Counselor again in today’s Gospel.  He reminds his apostles who before had questioned where He was going, and today are either too amazed, dumbfounded or maybe even scare to pose that question again; that if He doesn’t go, the Advocate will not come.  Notice the juridical language being used to show the Spirit as not just one who speaks for us, but also one who prosecutes those who fail to follow Christ’s command.  Often we try to take that role upon ourselves.   We spend entirely too much time repeating ourselves ad nauseam about what we think someone else should be doing, so much so that we forget to love them as well.   As my confessor once told me, speak the truth, but once they have heard it don’t harp on it and push them away.    The Spirit, the Paraclete, will not only strengthen us but will also convict the world of their own sins in a way well beyond our own capabilities.   He’s our lawyer in a courtroom that we only have a vague understanding of.  Our defense eternity.   God’s holy prosecutor.  The one alone who can judge who is a member of the family of God and our greatest defense against the one who hates us even more for that gift we have been given: the accuser of our brethren, the ruler of this world.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter: May 23nd, 2017

Acts 16:22-34
Psalm 138
John 16:5-11

Monday, May 22, 2017

Come stay with me a while.

The past few weeks we have followed the early Church as it grew from a community in Jerusalem into one which extended to the limits of the known world.  We have watched as Paul and Barnabas were successful in some places, and yet in others, they were beaten and left for dead.   All of us have had similar experiences in our spiritual lives throughout the years.  I am lucky enough to get to go again to a silent retreat this year in St. Louis.   I think it is important for us to find something like that to get away to at least once a year, preferably two or three times.  Saint Paul had found this in the city of Philippi.   Here we find a woman named Lydia who offers them her home to recuperate in.  A place of safety, a place of rest.   Paul would speak fondly of this city many times in the future.

Jesus in the Gospel reminds us that our life is going to be much the same pattern.   There will be those who will persecute us for our faith.  If we look at the world news, especially in the Middle East with the radical Islamic State, we see that people are still to this day being killed for their faith.   Just as revealed to us in first century Palestine, Jesus prophetic statement that we would be killed by those who think they are doing God a favor is sadly still coming true today.   Even in the countries that claim to be the most modern and progressive we find a hatred for the message of Christianity and the Sacred Scriptures.   Where we can we find our haven?  Where can we find a place to recharge?  

In our homes for sure, we can find rest from the world.  That’s a good start.   However, as the book of Hebrew reminds us, “do not forsake to gather, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another all the more as you see the day drawing near.”   That’s important to remember.  The Church is our first and foremost retreat.   It is there that we find the body of Christ, both in the people and the Sacraments.  It’s there that Jesus invites us to receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.   To be recharged, refilled, and energized.  Like Lydia, Jesus constantly invites us to come to stay at His home.  It’s in those words and actions that we continually petition Christ to be with us throughout our day, our week, and our lives.  While Mass is about the worship of God first and foremost, it’s not because He needs it, it’s because He knows we do.   We don’t go to get something out of it, but we always will… because God is the only person who can fill that God-shaped hole in our hearts and make us complete.

Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter: May 22nd, 2017

Acts 16:11-15
Psalm 149
John 15:26-16:4A

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The love of a Father

A few years ago my daughters were having some trouble with one of the other children at the bus stop.   I don’t remember the details.   What I do remember is at one point I made them write an apology out and take it to her in front of her parents.  I had hoped that would end the argument and they’d go back to getting along.  A few days later a little, angry man stomped across my driveway and stood over me in a threatening manner.   He demanded that they stop bothering her or I’d be the one to answer for it.   Amazingly I remained calm and informed him that I’d just instruct my girls not to go near his daughter.  I don’t think he and I have spoken since.   I have prayed for him but also for myself.

What I did not realize at that time, as I was just a new father and had not been doing this long, we dads often go to the defense of our kids.   We are ready to stand up for them.   When someone causes them pain we want to end it, but when someone is good to them we like that person even more.   Jesus mentions something to this effect, if you love Jesus, the Father will love you.  I’ve been a dad for eleven years now.  I understand exactly what He meant.  When someone behaves in an admirable way toward my children, my thoughts about that person instantly are better.  Simultaneously, when someone is mean to them, even if they were someone I liked, I’m not going to be as generous in my feelings towards them.

What do we do then?  We are supposed to love every person.  How can I get upset with someone for hurting my kids?  That’s the funny thing about love, isn’t it?  It’s a choice.  It doesn’t mean that we like the person.   It also doesn’t mean that we just simply let them do whatever they want.   It rather means we want what is best for them.  That when we pray for them, we pray for their best interest, not our own.   That when we speak to them, it is the truth.   We don’t hide that from them.   Instead, we speak the truth gently and humbly.  As St. Paul declares eloquently in the second reading,  do it with gentleness and reverence.   That’s a tall order sometimes, especially when we are feeling defensive for our children, our spouses, or even ourselves.

The hard part is we are called to evangelize.   There is a Gospel message that should bring joy and hope to all who hear it.  St. Paul informs us that we should always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.   What should we say?  How should we say it?  That depends on the person, the situation, and even where you are at the time.  It also depends on our prayer life, maybe even more than our own knowledge.   It’s good to learn scripture.   It’s admirable to memorize verses and to practice apologetics.  One's time could be spent doing much worse than reading holy books by good, solid Catholic authors.  The more we learn the better equipped we will be when the time comes for us to speak about God.   That real key though lies not in our own abilities, but in our acceptance of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to work through us.

When Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven at the end of his earthly ministry, He told His disciples that He would send an Advocate to be with us.   This Holy Spirit, He tells us, will give us the words to speak when the time comes, and will remind us of what Jesus Himself said in our hour of need.  This is not only a powerful promise but one that should fill us with hope and joy.  I am not the smartest man.  I did go to college for four years studying computer science and electrical engineering.   After that, though I spent fifteen years as a commercial electrical foreman before I hurt my back.   During those fifteen years, I didn’t do a significant amount of reading.  I played video games and worked.   The finer philosophical and theological discussions were boring to me.   When it came to faith, it was something I did on the weekend.   I read the bible from time to time and even memorized some verses.   In a way though, I trusted God to give me the words to say when I needed it.  

I still trust the Holy Spirit to do just that.   However, I want to study.   I want to know more.  I want to know the philosophy behind what we believe and the theology about who Christ is.   Not because I need it to show off.  Not because I need it to get into Heaven either.   Rather, because I am so enamored with my God and Lord that I want to know everything about Him that I can.   I know that when the time comes the Holy Spirit will inspire me to speak, but I also know that God gives us faculties that allow us to remember, to think, and to make our own choices.   I know that when the time comes for Him to inspire me, He is going to use my own experiences, my own words, and my own love for Him to give me the words that will do such a meager job of describing something so beyond our understanding.

The other day we were watching a reboot of a series they made us read in elementary school, Anne of Green Gables.   I remember when I had to read this book I had no interest in it.  It was about a girl.   What I didn’t get was the powerful imagery in the story of an orphan.   A child who believed no one wanted her.  As we watched this poor girl disembark from the wagon at what she believed to be her new home, I was already feeling the emotional tugging that the director had so perfectly weaved into the story.   Then the Lady of the House began to speak of how they must send her back.   The moment when Anne fell to her knees and lost herself in her thoughts I began to realize the power of this story.   She was an orphan.  She was alone in the world.   She feared that she always would be.  Who would be there to help her?   Who would care for her?  Love her?  

That’s often the image we get in our minds of this world.   That we are some strange being that isn’t supposed to be here.   I often hear said, “This world is not my home.” In a way that’s true.   However, we aren’t orphans.   No, we have a Father in Heaven.   We have a spiritual Mother in Mary, who was given to us at the foot of the cross.   We have an Advocate and Guide in the Holy Spirit, who leads mother Church to bring us as close to Heaven as we can be here in the Sacraments.   We never need fear being lost in this world.  As long as we exist we know God has not forgotten us!  He is with us, loving us at all times.  Even when we are at our worst He loves and cares for us.  That’s the promise of our hope, that’s the joy of our hearts.

The thing is:  God loves us exactly as we are, but too much for us to stay there.   I’ve said it a million times but it never stops to be important.   Jesus says it this way in the Gospel, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."   That’s our first step.  Keeping His commandments.   How do we know them?  We learn them.  The Church teaches them through the Sacred Scripture, through the Catechism, and through the Magisterium.   So we study them.  Through them, we draw closer to Him.   Through them, we learn who Jesus is, and through Jesus, we draw closer to the Father.  It doesn’t take intelligence, just an open heart to be guided by the Holy Spirit, a thirst for the Sacraments to open the stores of grace and pour them into our hearts, and a love for one another that goes beyond simple emotion and pours out in the actions known as the Corporeal and Spiritual works of mercy.  

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter: May 21st, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

To Compromise? or not to Compromise?

I was reading a recent article in which Val Kilmer talks about his faith.   He is a Christian Scientist.  In that article, he does an interesting and somewhat disturbing comparison.   He compares picketing and shouting at a planned parenthood entrance to an extremist blowing up someone in the name of God.  While I think some people who protest are often violent in their language, for the most part, these men and women are there silent with rosaries, praying and offering literature and support for mothers who have no one.   The comparison is an unfair one at best.  At worst it demonizes the people who go out trying to save the lives of the unborn and labels them as extremists that should be ignored.

In the first reading, we see what love looks like.  The gentiles are being disturbed by someone.   Likely it was a group of Judaizers who were telling them that they had to start following the six hundred and thirteen rules of the Law to be saved.  That meant these men would have to be circumcised and change every part of their lives immediately.  We often balk when God asks us to give up one thing.  Imagine if someone told you that to be Christian meant completely changing each thing about your life, home, everything.  The Apostles felt this was too much, too soon.  They instead engaged the culture while also being sure to create an environment where the Jews who would eventually be sitting down to eat with the gentiles were welcome and not offended.  It was a compromise for that time, that place.  

Jesus in the Gospel commanded us to love one another.  Not suggested, not hinted at, but commanded.  That's a reminder it is not an option.   Love is an action, a choice.   That means that on some things we have to compromise.  We have to know the culture we are witnessing to.  We have to meet people exactly where they are, and that means understanding them.  It's a fine line though.   We have to compromise on the non-essentials.   We cannot compromise on the Gospel.   Living a brand of Christianity that does not engage the other, that doesn't spread the Good News, that doesn't stand firm in the face of sin...  that's not the Christianity that gives its life for the other.   Christ tells us that we have to lay down our life for our brothers and sisters, and that means standing on the front lines with picket signs if need be.   Val is right that screaming and yelling needs to stop.   It doesn't convince others to stop what they are doing, it simply makes you seem irrational and angry.  What doesn't need to stop is the encounter of the person and defense of the unborn.  We cannot stop speaking for them. We always must be a voice for the one who has none.

His servant and yours,

Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter: May 19th, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Digging Ditches

Years ago a man named Daryl asked me to dig a ditch for him.   He was going to pay me five dollars or something like that.   It was a simple task.   There was a water line to be buried and he wanted it to cross the road from his well to the natural spring on the other side.   I set out digging that ditch with my brother.  A few minutes later I had dug what I thought was a ditch and went back home to relax.   My dad came later and made me get up and go with him.   He explained to me that I needed to clean that ditch up, go deeper with it, and make right.   So I dug again.  Three times this happened before that ditch was both deep enough and clear of gravel enough to be proper for a water pipe.   My problem was that I was trying to earn that five dollars by doing the bare minimum.   The man asked for a ditch?   I gave him a ditch.   My father taught me that the bare minimum was never good enough.  If I was going to do something, I needed to do it right.

Sometimes we want to do that with Christianity.   We want to do just what we have to do to satisfy the 'rules'.   Our ditch is dug but it's still full of debris.   Full of rocks, and twigs, and things that when a dry season comes or a cold one are going to push and pull the spirit inside us in the wrong ways.   Jesus reminds us that we have to keep His commands.  If we go back and read all of the New Testament we find that His commands aren't just a set of rules to be followed, rather they are a way of life.   A life that involves love.   Love for God, neighbor, and self.   When we are showing love that doesn't mean we do the least we can.  If I try that with my wife and kids they'll know I am a fake.  Love means going out of the way to show it at all times.   That doesn't mean it's easy, or that we succeed all the time, but that we never give up trying.

For some, that sounds like a boring proposition.  A life that is constantly serving God and others? How droll.  Jesus in today's Gospel tells us something that we learn from the experience of that self-sacrificial life.    He says, "I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and our joy might be complete."   A life lived for God and others is a life filled with joy.   It's a union with Christ that is not possible without allowing Him to work through us.  When we follow those simple commands of "Love the Lord God will all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself" we find a freedom, a joy, and a desire for life.   We also find that there isn't a bar for us to hit.   We then do everything to the fullest of our ability.  We don't halfway dig a ditch, we put our heart and soul into it.  We turn digging with a shovel in the earth into a prayer of offering, thanksgiving, and praise.   That's what it means to be praying at all times without ceasing.  God is love.  When we do things in love, we experience Him in our lives, in our hearts, and in our souls.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter: May 18th, 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Broken Hearts

A few days ago I noticed that my bleeding heart bushes were beginning to get crowded out by the weeds.  I was feeling a bit of energy and my back wasn't hurting too badly yet so I set about the task of chopping down the weeds and mulching my favorite flowers.   The problem was that the shaft of the plant was so weak from being buried under the other plants that it was delicate and tender.  I ended up breaking a few of them.  I got some stakes and tied them up, hoping that they weren't so broken that they could not heal themselves.   After finishing they looked pretty good.  For a day or so anyway.   Then the beautiful pink flowers begin to fade into a sickly gray.  They were cut off from the nutrients, cut off from the ground, the source of life.

Paul and Barnabas were involved in one of the first great debates in the Church.   Some people thought that we were just another holy sector of Judaism.   The Pharisees who had converted declared that the Gentiles too had to begin to follow the law!  Peter eventually stands up and declares no, that's not how this will work and the council follows his lead.   There was something that the Apostles knew that the rest of us often forget.  We aren't grafted into the old covenant.  We are grafted into Christ.  That's what the Gospel is all about.   Our source of life, our faith, is directly from Christ.  We aren't under the law, but under the Gospel of Peace, the Gospel of Jesus.

Our Church has since then fought against heresy after heresy.   Each time having to defend who Christ is.  It has formed into what it is today.  Though it looks substantially different in form and function, you can still read the writings of the early Church and see that the Mass is still essentially the same as it was almost 2000 years ago.  For some, that means they are bored.  The music isn't cool enough.  Where is the concert?  The liturgy is old, it needs to be updated!   I would challenge that for most who drift away from the Church over these trivial things the problem is more that they have forgotten who they are grafted into.  When our love is centered on Christ, the Mass comes alive.  The Church makes sense.   It's through the Sacraments that we restore those bonds that are weekend and choked out by the weeds of this world.  It's through the Eucharist that the bed of our gardens is prepared for the Word that we are receiving.   It's through confession that those stalks that have been so bruised that they no longer can deliver nourishment, are healed completely that we can continue to grow in grace.   The Church isn't repressive, it's freedom to be the person God created you to be.  Why not take advantage of that?

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter: May 17th, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"When I grow up, I'm gonna be black."

Race.  It's a hot-button topic.  As a white male, I am more than aware that it's a delicate topic and one that I am not supposed to speak about.   There is an entire list of politically-correct, charged words that I am not supposed to use.   I'm not supposed to notice the amount of melanin in someone else' skin or even speak of it in private, let alone in public.  Race doesn't exist.   Science has shown us that for a very long time.  We are all human.   There are strong men of every skin tone and weak ones.  Smart ones, and dumb ones.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  I just finished watching a TED talk about this very concept.   One line stands out to me in particular:  Race doesn't exist, but race matters.

What does that have to do with today's readings?   Nothing.  Everything.  St. Paul was in the process of spreading the Gospel in the early Church.   Each time he set out there was a group of Jews going before him to stir up trouble.   Paul was rejected, stoned, even had to flee from a window at one point in a basket.  All because someone did not want the message that Paul had to offer.   What was that message?  That God loved all humans, regardless of ethnicity.  The message that used to be only available to the people of the Jews, was now available to all people.   No matter where you grew up.  No matter what color your skin was.  Free or slave.  Male or female.  White, brown, tan, yellow, green, purple.  God loves us all and wants us all to come to the place He has prepared for us. 

Why did Paul keep going?   How did he have the courage to continue to receive beatings, whippings, stonings, and even the verbal abuse of those who despised him?  Peace.   The peace of God.   That primal peace that rests in the soul when you know His presence.  It doesn't mean that the world will become peaceful.  It doesn't mean that your day will be free from trials and tribulations.  It does not mean that you will be rich and live in comfort.   What it means is no matter what happens, you will be filled with the comfort of knowing what happens in the end.   God has already revealed what awaits for those who are faithful, for those who are overcomers.   It's not that we should become robots who are programmed not to see color.  Rather, we should be humans who feel a warm feeling of love for everyone in their colors.  Love for all regardless of their social standing, their workplace environments, their habits, words, or histories.  Peace in our core, with our lives centered on the promise of hope that Christ offers us in His Gospel, allows us to endure all things. 

His servant and yours, 
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter: May 16th, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

As I posted a few days ago, I have taken a sort of sabbatical from Facebook and social media in general.  At first, I had deactivated my account.   Then I started getting phone calls, texts, and emails asking if I was OK.   So I turned it back on but deleted it from my phone.  Instead of computer time this summer I am taking the time to pray, fast, and discern.   I am reading many of the spiritual books that have been recommended to me over the past few years in formation.   Right now I am reading The Cloud of Unknowing, Dark Night of the Soul, and The Interior Castle.   These are moving me greatly to experience God in a much more powerful way.  In a way that is beyond words.  An encounter with God that is pure and on His terms.   Contemplative prayer works that way.   It's not by our efforts that we experience those encounters but by God's grace alone. 

I want to know Jesus.   I want to know Him on a level that changes who I am, and how I respond to others.  With Thomas though I am often asking, "Lord we do not know where you are going?  How can we know the way?"  He has given us a guide in the Church, in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors.   In the Sacraments.   In the Mass.   In each other.  As I was walking home earlier I was meditating on the mysteries of the rosary.   I gazed upon the tree leaves, the flowers, and the birds as I thought of the annunciation.  The announcement of the angels to Mary that God was coming into the world in a way that would allow others to come face to face with Him.    Nature itself calls out to that glory!  It reminds us that God is calling us in the infinite structures of quantum mechanics, the beauty, and grandeur of the flowers and creatures.  Announcing the love God has for us in pleasing things, and even in not so pleasing ones. 

Then I began to meditate on the birth of Christ.  The way in which God came into the world.   Ah to have been there to see Him take His first breaths.   To be nourished in that intimate and beautiful way that we have been designed to nurse.   To watch as His eyes began to take in the world around Him and the people who had only begun to glimpse the mercy of God in action.  An all powerful, omnipotent being willing to become like me... human, in all ways except sin.   How can I be worthy to touch such?  How can I even desire to draw so close to Him when I am so imperfect?  So broken? 

The Presentation at the Temple.   Mary brought Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Priests and to offer a sacrifice that was unnecessary, but part of their faith.   Mary represents the perfect disciple and in many ways the Church.   I was struck by how that image reflected what had just occurred at Mass.     The Church, like our Blessed Mother, had carried Jesus to me.  St. Paul says that our bodies are temples of the living God.  At Mass, the Annunciation occurs in the Gospel and in the words of Consecration.   The Birth of Christ occurs in the transubstantiation.   Christ is born into the world in an even more vulnerable state than before.   Then He is presented to me, a temple to receive Him.   Just like the temple of old, the place where God resides is transformed, made Holy. 

Do we think of ourselves as Holy?  St. Peter tells us in the second reading that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.   Called from darkness into His wonderful light!  Think on that for a moment.   That's what I want to experience.  Not in just an intellectual way.   Not just in good feelings and emotions.   Not just in consolations and desolations.   In a way that is beyond words, in a communion that we call the beatific vision.  I don't want to wait till Heaven to experience my Savior.  I want to love Him here and now.   I want to shout from the rooftops how wonderful He is and how He has changed my life.  

There is a meme that goes around the internet from time to time.   In it, a young woman tells her man to shout from the rooftops his love for her to the entire world!   He leans in and whispers in her ear, "I love you."   She pouts and demands to know why he was whispering it to her, and not to everyone else.  He responds gently because you ARE my world.   How much would we be changed if we felt that way about Jesus?  There is an image that is used in the book fo revelation of the bride of Christ, that is the Church.   It says that this most beautiful bride in Heaven is clothed in the "good works and deeds" of the Church, of you and I.   My wife has made dresses.  Communion gowns and wedding dresses, blankets and quilts, hats and stuffed animals for many people for many occasions.   Everyone she does she works diligently and passionately, with love and prayer.  I have seen her be days into sewing, literally hundreds of hours, and realize that it wasn't as pretty as she wanted it... At which point I might have thrown up my hands and said, "This is good enough!"   Instead, she patiently tears out the threads, the knits, the pearls... and starts again.  It has to be perfect. 

Are we that way with God?  Jesus says that whoever believes in me will do greater works than these because He is going to the Father and will send us the Holy Spirit.   That's not just a promise from the past.  It is for all eternity.  Those of us baptized into Christ and into His Church are filled with that Spirit.  Too often when called to do something good, to do something for God, we simply do it haphazardly.   "It's good enough."   Study the bible?   Some days.   Pray?  When I need something.  I forgot morning prayer, oh well I'll just start again tomorrow.  Confession?  Eh, what I did wasn't so bad.  Sunday Mass?  Ah, I'm tired, and besides, I went Wednesday.  My wife has taught me a faith that I am often envious of.  A faith that radiates from her.  A faith that makes her compassionate, and giving.  A faith that lets me know that in some ways, I already get to experience God in the way I desire, through her.  

On Mother's day, let us draw close to the mothers in our lives.  It is through them that life has been delivered into this world.   In the marital act, we humans have been given the ability to join with God in that creative act by which life is made.  Then those beautiful creatures we call women, when doing the vocation the way God intends, make life more bearable.   They bear the load.  Carrying more than any human should while their toddlers toddle along empty handed.  Finding things for husbands who are clearly old enough to find them for themselves.  Cooking meals while sick, driving people to concerts and parties while suffering from migraines or heartaches.   Do we thank them for that?   Do we see Jesus living through them in their magnificent sacrifices?  Even if we do, I don't think we do it enough.   To all of you Mothers out there, especially my wife Julie, may God bless you this Mother's day.   May He bring you health, happy memories, and peace.  May we be liked John at the foot of the cross, and accept Mother Mary into our own homes; and may we grow to be as close to Christ as she was, giving a resounding yes in our hearts to Him until He works through us to show you the love you deserve. 

His servant and yours, 
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Sunday of the Fifth Week of Easter: May 14th, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

Preparing a place.

I am struck by the nature of preaching in many of the churches I grew up in.  For the most part, the preachers had a standard message that they gave to all audiences.   Sometimes they scripture they chose to deliver that message was different, sometimes it was the same old scripture.   The message was always the same though.  We are sinners, repent, come to the altar, say a sinners prayer.   It didn't matter if they were preaching to their own congregation or visiting a different church.   At school lock-ins, in a hospital, or on a street corner, the message never changed. It never attempted to meet the person they were witnessing to, but only to deliver that same traditional speech.

Paul in today's reading gives us a different kind of witness.   Yes, he is reaching out with the message of Christ and the Gospel cannot be altered.  But Paul is speaking to a specific kind of crowd.   He meets them in the context they will understand.   The context of Israel, the Jewish people.   We find later that when he is in a roman area he meets them as a roman, and when he is in an area of polytheistic worship he uses an example they are familiar with to try and bring the message across.  The same message, delivered in a different way.   He wanted to meet people where they are, with what they know, and bring them to the knowledge of Christ in a way that makes sense to them.

There was a movie, and forgive me because I don't remember the name, but in the movie, some white settlers are traveling and meet up with a tribe of Indians and get snowed in with them for the entire winter.   They begin to tell the story of the nativity on Christmas and in doing so, they use the images the Native Americans were familiar with.   They didn't change the story.   They just met the people where they were, in terms they understood, with images and thoughts that would let them understand Jesus.  Jesus will always be the way, the truth, and the life.   He will always be the ultimate example of what it means to follow God, to give our lives over to Him, to do God's will.   Our goal with evangelization is to meet people in their experience.  It's to talk to them in a way they understand, with terms they can employ.  

Thomas speaks for all of us, in that sometimes we get confused.   "We don't know where you are going, how can we know the way?"  Sometimes we make it complicated.   We want the story to require all these extra things, these exact terms, be said with this exact phrase.   Jesus response is a simple one... one that should guide us in evangelization.  "I am the way the truth and the life.   No one comes to the Father except through me."    It's not head knowledge that will save us, though having a good strong understanding of our faith can be very beneficial.   It's not doctorates, Ph.D.s  or accolades.   It's simply Jesus Christ.   His work.  His merits.  His sacrifice.   Yes, I want to learn as much as I can about the bible.  I read as many books as I can get my hands on about Church history, the early Church fathers, sermons from antiquity.  Why?  Because I want to know Him!  I'm in love with Him and His Sacred Scriptures.  That's what we share.   That's how we evangelize.   Love.   It should show in every action.   In our homes.  In our marriages.   In our reading of the Sacred Word.

When we get lost and need a sign, we often ignore the greatest signs of all.   Life.   Each other.   Creation.  That beautiful library of books we call the Bible.  Mass.   Oh yes, maybe that is the greatest of all.  For it contains all of those.   We encounter Christ in the people, in the Priest, in the spoken and written proclamation of the Scriptures, and in the Eucharist itself.  A created gift that has been turned into the uncreated by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Oh if we only knew what that meant.   To receive God in all His glory.   Body, soul, and divinity.   Would we even survive that encounter if it were not for His grace and mercy itself?  The God who warned Moses that we could not even look upon His countenance and survive became a man that they might encounter Him face to face.   That same God becomes bread that we may not only encounter Him but receive Him directly into our bodies... Not only is He preparing a place for us at the end of time... but in the Sacraments, He prepares a place for Him in and with us in the here and now.   How much more glorious a gift can one receive?

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter: May 12th, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Years ago I thought I was in love.   On some level I was.   It wasn't the kind of love that I have experienced with my wife, Julie.   It wasn't sacrificial.   It definitely wasn't Sacramental.  If I am honest though, it was love.  Maybe the kind of selfish love in which I loved in her what I saw that reminded me of me, the things I liked that she liked, the things that made me happy.   We both made mistakes in that relationship.   At one point I found out though that she was sleeping with another man behind my back.  Not just any man, but a man that I thought was a friend.  A man I had stood and taught a catechism for months over a pool table.   It was the worst kind of betrayal.  Not only had the woman I loved gone to another man for the things she wanted, but it was a man who was supposed to be close to me.   A man who I trusted and thought highly of.

In today's reading,  there is a theme under the surface.   St. Paul and Barnabas are off in distant lands witnessing to the power and glory of the risen Christ when John Mark turns his back on them and heads home.   We don't know the reason for Mark leaving them.   All we know is that in other letters Paul indicates how hard it has been for him to forgive Mark for the betrayal.   Eventually, he rejoins Paul in his ministry and goes on to write one of the Gospels.   At some point, Paul had to forgive him, and at the same time, Mark had to forgive Paul for his hardness and bitterness.   They had to be reconciled.  

Then we see in the Gospel the scene of the Last Supper.   Jesus has just finished washing His disciple's feet and informs them that one of them will betray Him.  Judas is going to be reviled for history.   Jesus even at one point is shown as saying "It is better for him never to be born."   Yet, Jesus washed his feet.  The forgiveness was there on the part of God.  Jesus reveals that He is God in a very simple statement, that He will continue to tell them the future to reveal that He is "I AM."   People fall down in amazement and fright when He uses these words in the Garden of Gethsemane and they rend their cloaks when He again repeats them during one of the trials.  Jesus was reaching out to Judas, to all the disciples, to remind them of who He was.    

How often do we fail to do that?  Peter came to Jesus to be forgiven.   Judas ran away in despair.  Do we see confession as the encounter with Christ that it is?   The Sacramental Presence of the great "I AM" with all His mercy and love?  Do we forgive others as we want to be forgiven?  "[...]whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."  Often when we read that statement from the Gospel of John, we think of ourselves.   We use it as justification for being angry with those who we are witnessing to, to those we are charged with sharing the Gospel with.   I think today's strongest challenge is for us to realize that God is often sending them as well to us.   Sending them to us to see Christ in us.  To see God's mercy and forgiveness in action.  Are we receiving Christ in the poor?  The widow?  The orphan?  The intellectually challenged?  The refugee?  The man who betrayed us?  In the prisoner and the sinner?

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter: May 11th, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The power of listening...

It always strikes me just how diverse the early Church was in its composition.   In this morning's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Jewish men from various areas discussing the inclusion of the gentiles and trying to determine God's will in the matter.  Sometimes we seek to read it as if it simply happened overnight, but there is no indication that this decision was hasty or quick.    It says they were fasting and praying, and only when they had completed that did they lay hands on the two indicated by God and send them forth.  How long were they praying?  How long were they fasting?  We have no idea.    All we know is that they not only consulted God in the matter but likely had discussions and input from all involved.   They listened to one another.  They prayed with one another.  They experienced one another.  That's how important decisions are made in the Church.

I have been doing some fasting of my own lately.   I was sitting in my driveway yesterday watching some teenagers as they went around doing their thing.   Part of me realized I was judging their activity not based on what they were doing, but what I would have been doing at that age.  I think we are all bad about that, especially as parents.   "I know what it is like to be a teenager."   I do.   I don't know what it is like to be you, though.   To have your parents, your job, your teachers, your experiences.  Just like the group that decided to send Barnabas and Paul had to listen to one another and discern God's will based on a collective group, we too have to listen to one another to know what the fullness of the human experience is.   It may not be the same for you, as it is for me.  Your reasons for doing things might be completely different than mine.  I'll never know unless I listen.   I'll never understand if I do not attempt to stop seeing it from who I am and instead try to hear who you are.

Jesus tells us in the reading from the Gospel something similar.  Jesus speaks the words of the Father and our response to Christ is a measure of how we respond to the call of the Father.  It is how we listen to God, how we try to understand Christ, that determines our fate in the life after this one.   Our works and our deeds can either reflect the love of God, or they can be a refusal to accept his invitation to salvation and everlasting life.  We can't know what it was like to be Jesus unless we get to know Jesus himself.   That means getting to know the word written in the Bible, and not just stopping there, but continuing on to have a relationship with Him, the living Word of God.   Through His Church, through encounters with Him in the stories and experiences of those who are made in His image, and through our own prayer and fasting.   It may not happen overnight, in fact, I think we must continue to grow toward that ideal throughout our lives, but it is a journey that requires we take steps every day to step out of own singular, experiential existence and to share in some way the experiences of Christ and His Body.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in thy sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the 4th Week of Easter: May 10th, 2017

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rise, and eat.

We get caught up in the excitement of what God has given us that often times we forget that God is not bound to our own ways.   Many will claim that their Church is the only way and that anyone who isn't of XXXX denomination isn't 'saved.'   At the time that Peter had his vision that was their way as well.   The people who the disciples of Christ were reaching out to where Jewish in some way... semi-Jewish... quasi-Jewish... almost Jewish, but Jewish.  It's interesting that some try to make this vision about dietary laws, though I agree we are not under those, this vision is not about that... it's about the Gentiles.  We see that because a few seconds after the vision three gentiles show up (three times the sheet was lowered, and three times he was told not to call unclean what the Lord had made clean.)   Peter, a practicing Jew, got up and immediately went with them.  That's not something he normally would have done... it would have made him unclean.

60 The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church. They would be the root on to which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe.

Jesus reminds us of this calling of all people when He declares I am the gate.   My people know me, and I know them.  Then He says the most telling words, "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd."  There are two errors that we often make in regards to this.   One is we stop evangelizing, and declare that all people are saved.   We aren't freed from that.  Not all will be saved.  There will be many people at the banquet of our Father in Heaven for the wedding of His Son, not just from one church or people.  We must continue to spread the message, the Good News!   The other error is that we think that we have a monopoly on God.   God owns our Church, our Church does not own Him.   He can save whomever He wants, and we see that He is working on people all over the world.

2686 Ordained ministers are also responsible for the formation in prayer of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Servants of the Good Shepherd, they are ordained to lead the People of God to the living waters of prayer: the Word of God, the liturgy, the theological life (the life of faith, hope, and charity), and the Today of God in concrete situations.

So what does that mean for us?  As Catholics, we believe we have the fullness of faith.   That is, Jesus has revealed to us the best way to worship God and to show that we are in that relationship.   Yet, we must acknowledge when we see God working in others.   Through other religions, Natural Law, or even just their conscience.   We encourage the good that we see there... the common things that we have with them and reinforce that understanding of God.   We form friendships and bonds and encourage spiritual growth in all people.   We don't hide the truth.   We witness to who Jesus is, and how immense and wonderful the Love of the Father is.   We share our faith in its entirety as often as we can, and with actions as well as with words.  Then we let God do the conversion.   It is not our place to force someone to repent.   Not our place to be the one who decides their eternal destiny...  we aren't God... we are just a sign on the street pointing in the right direction.   It's our place to recognize the voice of Christ in whatever form it comes into the world and listen to it even if it comes in the most unexpected forms.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter:  May 7, 2017