Feast of the Holy Family
In today's readings we get some very practical advice about how to live as Christians: put the wants and needs of others before your own...as Christ did. Paul gives us a very concrete example of how this looks in one of the most fundamental sets of relationships we find ourselves in: the family. Before getting up-in-arms about how Paul could write, "Wives, be subordinate to your husbands," let's look at the reading in context and see how Paul is challenging everyone to stretch their hearts and love others the way Christ loved us.
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
4th Sunday of Advent
God made a promise to King David, that He would establish a house and kingdom for him that would last forever, and that an heir of his would rule in this kingdom. 1,000 years later, that promise came true in a little baby born on Christmas - Jesus. God gave us, in Jesus, the greatest present of all: a savior to be present with us always, so that we would never be separated from God. This Christmas our Father wants a special present from us (in fact, the only thing He ever wants from us) - our presence with Him!
3rd Sunday of Advent
Christ is Coming! Amidst all the preparations for Christmas - food, shopping, cleaning, gifts, cards, travel plans - it's all because Christ is coming! The most important preparations we make, then, aren't the externals of the beautifully cleaned and decorated house or the delicious food we've prepared, but the internals of how we've cleaned and made room in our heart for Jesus, how we've prepared a meal for Him in our souls - through prayers and actions - when He comes at Christmas. All the preparations are necessary, but the most necessary ones are the preparations that no one else can see but God.
Feast of Christ the King
God's judgment is totally different than ours. Our judgment of people and situations is narrow and subjective - concluded based on our limited perception. God's judgment, on the other hand, takes into account every thought, every inclination, every factor, every pressure, every influence - God's judgment is absolutely fair. After our own particular judgment at the end of our life, and after the final judgment at the end of time when everyone's life will be completely laid open for all to see and we will understand how our life fit into God's great story, we will know ourselves (and others) as God knows us (which is fully and entirely, nothing hidden)...and we will end up in exactly the place we belong in God's love: no shame, no pride, just an honest acknowledgment of the decisions we freely chose to make in this life, whether for God, others, or ourselves. God is absolutely fair, and we will end up exactly where we've chosen to be.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Master in this weekend's gospel puts a serious amount of cash into the hands of his servants, gives them absolute freedom, and then leaves on a trip. When he comes back, we realize that his end game is NOT about the money: it's about having his servants share in his work so that they can also share in his JOY. Do you lack joy in your life? God has given us everything we have - our faith, education, personality, interests, money, business skills, life experiences, talents - along with absolute freedom, and then "stepped back"...so that we can decide (like the first two servants) to use what He's given us to build up His kingdom - then we'll experience His JOY! Or not...like the third servant. How will you use what you've been given this week?
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The image most often used in the Bible to describe God's relationship with us is that of a marriage. In the Gospel parable today, 10 virgins are waiting for the groom to arrive and lead them all (with the bride) to the wedding celebration. The groom was running late. Five of the virgins brought extra oil for their lamps while five of them did not. When the five who did not had to leave to get more oil, they missed the groom leading everyone to the wedding. Arriving to the door late, they found themselves locked out. The oil is our relationship with God. We are called to stock up on it throughout a lifetime of shared experiences as we come to know the Lord more and more deeply. Jesus wants to lead all to eternal life, to the wedding party, but He warns us to be ready. If our relationship with God is not a top priority for us and we think we can wait to stock up on this oil, or that we can just borrow from others in a pinch, we may find ourselves missing the party, too.
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Every person in this world is called to have a deep, rich, personal relationship with God - that is the first and primary vocation (call) from God to each and every one of us. After that universal vocation comes our particular vocations - how we can best share our love for God with others - whether that's through marriage, priesthood, religious life or single life. As we focus on vocations to the priesthood and religious life during this National Vocations Awareness Week, what are some practical steps that can be taken to support our young people in these particular vocations? You'd be surprised, but the answer starts with YOU!
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists of all time, loved sculpting most of all. He could look at a block of marble, see the potential, a vision for what that block of marble was hiding, and then carve away everything that was not that potential. Each one of us is standing in front of a block of marble called, "The rest of your life." Do you have a vision for what you want that block of marble to look like at the end of your life? God has a vision for each one of us, He sees so much potential, He tells us in the Gospel today that within each of us is a heart that can love God with everything we've got and love our neighbor as ourself. What do you want to look like at the end of your life: a roughly carved block of untapped potential tromping around heaven, or a true masterpiece of God's creation? It's already inside of you! So what are you carving?
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the Gospel today, Jesus' opponents want Him SILENCED! They set a trap for Him in the form of both a political and religious kenundrum of the time: the census tax of Caesar. Jesus skillfully beats them at their own game, refusing to be silenced. Present day opponents of Christ and His Good News are seeking to silence the voice of Christ in this world by silencing us. Whether it's the pressure to keep Jesus and religion out of politics, a false understanding of "separation of church and state", the temptation to understand faith as simply a personal matter, or the lie that it's harmful to impose our beliefs on others, opponents of Jesus are trying to silence the voice of Christ. Jesus wouldn't be silenced by His opponents and we as His Body won't be silenced either! Proclaim your faith, O Christian, because the world needs your voice!
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parable which Jesus gives about a king inviting guests to the wedding reception of his son is ultimately a parable about eternal life and heaven (which our 1st reading from Isaiah speaks of as "God's holy mountain"). The king in the parable is God, his son is Jesus, and the wedding banquet is eternal salvation. Some have ignored the invitation (God's original Chosen People, the Israelites), so the king has sent out his servants (the Apostles) to invite anyone and everyone, the bad and the good alike (the Church), to this wedding reception. One man, however, is thrown out for not wearing his wedding garment. While it may seem harsh, the wedding garment symbolizes the garment we were given at baptism when we were asked to put on Christ. We may say "yes" to God's original invitation, but Jesus makes it clear that one "yes" is not enough. After that, we also have to say "yes" to putting on Christ each and every day, to wearing the wedding garment we've been given. And as we learn at the end of the parable, busy-ness, laziness, forgetfulness, whatever made that man not wear his garment, is not a good enough excuse when the final day comes. What are you wearing today?
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A vineyard is meant to produce grapes, which turn into wine, which lightens and cheers the hearts of all those willing to drink of it. Isaiah says that God's Chosen People, the Jews, were the vine, hand-selected by God, to produce amazing wine for this world - but they didn't produce good fruit. So God took the vineyard from them and gave it to other tenants: now we, as the Church of Christ, have been given this vineyard to tend, so that we can produce good fruit for the world. It means first being intoxicated by our own relationship with God, and then intentionally sharing these "spirits" with others so that they can find deep meaning, purpose and happiness of heart in relationship with God. Then they will also begin producing good fruit for others. Our potential is amazing! So how are you bearing fruit?
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this Sunday's Gospel we have a story of change: one son says "no" to his dad's request, then changes his mind and does it; the other says "yes" to his dad's request, then changes his mind and doesn't do it. We all have the possibility to change, for better or for worse, every single day. Every day is an opportunity to follow God's voice again...or to choose to let that voice fade into the background. A disciple is one who follows the voice of God each and every day; one who has an obedient and faithful heart - not just in word, but also in action; not just on Sunday, but on Monday through Friday as well. Which son are you now? Which son will you decide to be tomorrow? Change is always possible!
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
This weekend's readings center on unity. God desires complete unity for us: in our families, in our communities, and in our Church. Today's readings show how God uses confrontation and correction (always in love) to bring about true unity...as opposed to cheap unity, which avoids differences and assumes that since there's no arguing, everyone must be united. God's dream is for one Church, truly united, walking together on the road to heaven, picking each other up when we fall and encouraging (and even correcting each other) on the way. Are we willing to speak up and try to win someone over for Christ this week?
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Life gives us many crosses and we have 2 choices: avoid them or embrace them. Jesus embraced His cross and He asks us, His followers, to do the same. When we try to avoid our crosses they begin to slow us down and sap the life out of us. But when we invite Jesus in and embrace our crosses, He gives us the strength to live a strong and rich life even in the midst of our struggles and difficulties. "Jesus, I give you my crosses today, come and give me Your strength to carry them with my head held high and to live a rich life. Amen."
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus brings his disciples to a great pagan temple today with hundreds of niches housing the statues of all kinds of different gods. With all these other gods in the background, Jesus asks his disciples, point-blank, "Who do you say that I am?" Most of us have been taught since we were young to answer,"Jesus is God, the Christ." While we might know the right words, our daily actions and decisions also speak on our behalf about who Jesus is to us. In the busy-ness of our lives, does Jesus ever become for us just another concern among all the many others? Does Jesus fade into the background and fill another niche? (I know that's a tendency for me). Or do our thoughts, decisions, and actions invite Jesus to stand front and center in our lives by proclaiming, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!"?
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the Gospel today, a pagan woman approaches Jesus asking Him to heal her daughter. Jesus' actions should bother us: First, Jesus doesn't respond. Second, He rejects her. Third, He insults her. Then finally, when she refuses to stop, He works a miracle for her. What is Jesus doing? He's coaxing out of her an extreme act of faith and perseverance. Have you ever asked for a deeper faith? Does it ever seem like some of your prayers haven't been answered by God? Maybe He's trying to do the same thing with you that He was doing with this woman in the Gospel - maybe He's trying to call out of you an extreme act of faith; maybe He's trying to grow in you a heroic faith!
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus comes to the disciples today walking on the water - that's a Big Moment, a miraculous moment, one that's hard to miss, and it strengthens their faith. Elijah is told in our 1st reading that the Lord will be passing by: there is a great wind, a tremendous earthquake, a blazing fire, and yet, Scripture says, God was in none of those seemingly big moments. Rather, God was in a tiny, whispering voice - a Small Moment, so small it could be easily missed, but just as real as a Big Moment...and I would say even more important! God's ordinary language is in Small Moments, countless little whispers to us throughout the day. He gives us a few privileged Big Moments precisely so that we will continue looking and listening for Him in the hundreds of Small Moments every day.
Most Holy Trinity
Every time we say, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," we are proclaiming that our God is a Trinity - that from all time our God has been a relationship of love: 3 distinct Persons, fully united as 1 God. And this God made us - humanity - to share in His love! But to know God as Trinity is not something we can describe with words alone, it is something that has to be experienced to be believed!
In our baptism we received the same Holy Spirit that the disciples received 2,000 years ago. By our Confirmation we were sealed and strengthened in that Holy Spirit. So why don't we see the miracles and wonders that the presence of the Spirit brings, like those in our 1st reading? In order for the power of the Spirit (which is already within us) to be unlocked and unleashed through our lives, we have to be able to say, in all areas of our life, with our whole heart, "Jesus is Lord!" The more we can say that, the more the Holy Spirit can come out with power!
Jesus ascended into heaven not to distance Himself from us, but so that He could turn around, reach down, and raise us up to where He is!
5th Sunday of Easter
Every Christian, by their baptism, is anointed priest, prophet and king. Peter challenges us this weekend to that first anointing: "be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God." There is the ordained priesthood by which priests in the Church offer to God's people the sacraments, but there is also the priesthood of the baptized by which every Christian, in Jesus, is called to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. Every day we can offer these spiritual sacrifices, and at Mass we have the opportunity to collect them all from that past week - our thoughts, words, prayers, actions, and intentions...even our anxieties, worries, concerns, hopes, and dreams - and place them all on that altar, asking God to transform them just as He does the bread and wine.
4th Sunday of Easter
Dreams are hopeful and safe - they can't be failed. Goals, on the other hand, are not safe - they can be failed. It's easy to dream; it's not easy to make goals and follow through on them. In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus calls himself the good shepherd whose sheep hear his voice and follow him as he leads them to good pastures. Dreamers hear that voice but don't actually move anywhere. Disciples hear that voice and have the courage to take a step: to set concrete spiritual goals in their daily lives, to fail, to get up again, and to succeed. How are we disciples? How are we dreamers? Where is the Lord calling us to take another step?
3rd Sunday of Easter
In the Gospel today, Jesus joins two disciples on the way to Emmaus, but they do not recognize Him until "the breaking of the bread". In the Eucharist, at every Mass, Jesus not only draws close to walk with us on our journey through life, He also transforms bread and wine into His Body and Blood so that He can be physically united with us: thanks be to God for this great gift of the Eucharist!