Saturday, August 22, 2020

Homily 2020/08/23 - Why Caesarea Philippi??

BEFORE MASS:

Ever try to read the Bible and think … this makes no sense… it doesn’t apply to me.  Well, part of the issue is that we don’t have the same context as the people at the time of Jesus.  So Much can be loaded into one phrase that you and I would never understand.  For example, if I say 9-11 – we can immediately think of a book-full of history… but somebody 10 years old may not think of anything at all.  So how can we understand something from 2000 years ago?

First, in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom… that in itself is super-loaded with meaning, pointing back to the kingdom of David where the prime minister was given ultimate authority over the whole kingdom – 2nd in command to the King himself.  We’ll hear an example of the prime minister in the first reading.  We could talk all day on that, But that’s not what I want to focus on today…  I want to concentrate on Gospel.  

Often, we kind of ignore the first line of the Gospel because we don’t understand the context.  Today’s starts with  “Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi”.  So?  Is that an important sentence??  Yeah… This is a HUGE deal… so, Fasten your seatbelts for a very-quick history lesson, because there are at least four reasons I’ve come up with why Jesus chose this spot to say what He said… and I won’t even get to them all!  Pay close attention to what he asks and what He says to Peter and ask yourself, why Caesarea Philippi?

 HOMILY:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”

Blah, blah, blah, right?…. We hear that kind of talk all the time so it sounds normal – or even boring.  But those words coming from Peter’s mouth are revolutionary… they could have gotten him killed on the spot.  Aside from the fact that he was a Jew and they would stone anybody they thought was blaspheming, the Romans would DEFINITELY have taken that statement as a sign of revolt.  What’s the big deal?  To understand that, I gotta give you some back-story and explain why Jesus came to THIS spot, Caesarea Philippi, today. 

When we went to the Holy Land in February, I was hoping we’d go to Caesarea Philippi –I had wanted to see for myself a couple of geological peculiarities about this place… but our guide said we ‘could’ do that, but we would have to give up an entire day of other things we had planned, because CP is way north – in the middle of nowhere…so we didn’t go.  

It’s in the middle of nowhere today, just as it was in Jesus’ day … so why did Jesus go there of all places?  I mean, it had to take several days just to walk up there and back, and He supposedly was on his way to Jerusalem, which is in the opposite direction.  

Way before the Israelites came to this region, this was a site of pagan worship.  When the Greeks conquered the area, CP was called Panias – it was the sight of a pagan temple to the god Pan.  It was built into the side of this huge rock or cliff face, and even to this day, there are places where grottos were carved into the rock face.  The other geological significance of this place is that it is the headwaters of the Jordan… several springs come from the mountain and converge in this one spot – at the time of Jesus, they emerged from a cave - which carved a deep pit.  This pit was immeasurable to the ancient people, so they thought it was bottomless, and it became known as the gate to Hades.  Literally, the gate to the netherworld.  The priests would throw sacrifices…animals – or children – to satisfy their pagan gods by throwing them into this pit.. and if they sank, the sacrifice was accepted.

Then the Romans came in and the story really gets interesting.  If I have my history right, Julius Caesar was the ruler who solidified the Roman Empire.  He was a powerful, smart leader and quickly moved to establish Pax Romano – the peace of Rome over a wide area of the known world – including Israel.  

Well, when Julius Caesar died, his adopted son Octavian went before the Roman Senate and asked that they declare Julius Caesar to be a god…. As you know, Rome had many gods, so adding one more to the list seemed like a non-issue… besides the fact that Octavian would have taken their heads off if they refused… so they granted his wish and named Julius Caesar a god.  Catch that?  PEOPLE – flesh and blood – decided who was a god.

Immediately, Octavian went back before the Senate and the people and said  - bow down before ME now, because I am the son of god!!  Really!  Ring any bells in your mind yet?   Well, then Octavian edicted that every Roman province must build a temple to the god Julius Caesar and the son of god, Octavian.  Herod, the king of Israel knew that if he built that temple in Jerusalem, there would be an uprising, so he looked around Israel and thought – where can I build this that I won’t be lynched?  So he chose the most out-of-the-way spot available… Philippi  - and renamed the town Caesarea Philippi....

OK take a breath – with all of that background, now let’s take another look at this conversation between Jesus and Peter.  

Jesus asks who do people say I AM? – but He quickly drills down to the most important question: who do YOU say that I AM?  And Peter boldly confesses that ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’.  Does that still sound like a boring statement? They are standing in front of the temple to honor the son of a dead god, and THIS is where Peter steals the name that Ceasar gave to himself and declares Jesus to be the real son of God… if the Roman’s heard him he would be killed.

This is the moment Peter got his name… before this, he was known as Simon, but Jesus brought him to this dead rock with the temple to a dead god in order to give him a new name: Peter, which means ‘rock’.  Jesus says on this rock, I’ll build my church.  He’s standing in front of this 1000 foot rock cliff face where many temples have come and gone – and instead saying he’s going to build his church on a different rock – a living rock:  Peter.  

Jesus had gone way out of his way to take them to CP in order to create the perfect teachable moment… and Peter got the message.  Here’s where I want to make my point today… Jesus said – “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. “

How did Peter know Jesus?  He spent every day with him for 3 years.  He listened to his wisdom.  He talked to him about his own thoughts, fears, and desires.  He studied Jesus.  But with all that Peter did, that was still not enough to reveal to him that Jesus was the Son of God.  He couldn’t believe that unless God the Father revealed it to him.  You and I cannot believe that Jesus is the Son of God unless the Father reveals that to us.

Do we know that in our hearts?  Do we really believe?  Would we stand up and boldly say those words if they might get us killed?  We all likely have doubts – that’s normal – but we can learn from Peter how to overcome those doubts.  

Spend time with Jesus – in prayer – daily – maybe hourly!  That sounds impossible, but imagine that Jesus is walking with you every moment of the day and talk to him as if you’re talking to your best friend… because you are.  Share with him your thoughts, fears, and desires.  Listen in silence for His gentle reply.  Spend time with him – in the adoration chapel – study him by reading His words and studying the way He walked in the world.  When we come across something in the scripture which doesn’t make sense or seems like it doesn’t really apply to you, it likely means we need to study.  Just like learning about Julius Caesar made this reading come alive for me, there is SO much that can be learned if we spend time with the word of God and ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us with understanding and wisdom.

When we spend time with Jesus, we not only learn who Jesus is, but we learn who we are.  Like Peter, we receive a new name…. a new identity… a new purpose… and God will use us as a building block in His Church.  Only when we know who Jesus is will we know who WE are.

When it’s our time to pass to the netherworld, our lives will stand as a monument to whatever god we serve.  I don’t know about y’all, but I wouldn’t really want to be 'just another brick in the wall' of a temple built to a dead god.  Instead, Let’s become living stones and rest ourselves on the foundation of Peter… glorifying the LIVING God.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

2020/07/26 Pearl of Great Price

Before Mass:
Quiz time:  Who was the wisest person ever to live?  According to our first reading, Solomon was – it says, “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Seems pretty clear he was the wisest person.  But here’s a trick question:  what was it that made him wise?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the first part of the first reading.  Pay attention to what Solomon says and see if you can see what makes him wise.

The second reading has a great, comforting line:  “all things work for good for those who love God”.  There’s so much we could say about that,  – but do we believe it?  Do we live like we believe it?  For example, when we look at all the craziness in the world right now, do we really believe God will bring good out of it?

Finally the Gospel has three more very short parables from Jesus – and the one we’re going to focus on is about the Pearl of Great Price where a guy sells everything to buy a pearl which is more valuable than anything else.  The main question we’ll ponder is this:  What is the pearl? 

HOMILY
One very brief, but important comment about Solomon… what was it that made him wise?  Yeah - I know - God made him wise, but I think his greatest wisdom was reflected in how he replied to God, basically saying – look God, You made me king, but I’m a nobody and I’m in way over my head… if you don’t help me there’s no way I can serve this kingdom you gave me.  Regardless of what happened after this moment, Solomon showed us ultimate wisdom:  to recognize that the task before us would be impossible without God’s help.

Keep that in mind... but let’s turn to the Gospel.  When the guy in the Gospel finds that one thing which he values above everything else, notice how his life comes into focus:  he sells everything to buy that one pearl.  He has found something worth living for – and everything else in his life pales in comparison.  Everything else just becomes a means to allow him to reach this new goal he has found.

You gotta wonder:  What is that pearl?  What is that Pearl in YOUR life?  Maybe it’s "wisdom"… like we heard Solomon ask for….that would make a lot of sense – God certainly seemed pleased when Solomon asked for wisdom.    But Maybe it’s "time" – God gives us only 2-3 billion seconds in our life, so maybe recognizing our mortality is a great treasure?  That recognition may increase our sense of urgency about making every moment count.  Maybe it’s relationships, because at the end of our lives, we’re not really going to care whether we won a championship, saved a million dollars, became famous, or caught the biggest fish.  In the end, it’s our relationships that matter… love.  That's a good one… but Perhaps the pearl is our "faith"??  Like Paul said in another letter:  your faith is worth more than fire-tried gold.  Or from a totally different perspective, maybe "YOU" are the pearl…and Jesus is the one who gave everything He had to redeem you.  All of these could be right.
We choose.  What is YOUR pearl of great price?  What is your goal in life?  How are you and I going to spend our 2-3 billion seconds of life?   It may sound like a lot, but it’s a finite number.  If you’re 40, you’ve already got less than a billion remaining… on average. 

Each second is a gift from God.  The way I see it, we each have two choices:  we can SPEND our seconds…letting them slip by… or we can INVEST our seconds to reach a goal:  to purchase a pearl.
See – if we set a goal – then we have something to strive for.  If we set a goal, then we have a guiding principle which can help us decide how to invest our time.  With every decision, we can ask whether this will take us closer to or further from our goal.  Trouble is, most of us don’t even KNOW the goal of our life.  Without a goal, we tend to frivolously spend our time.  We’re all busy – but busy doing what?

How many hours do we waste scrolling through our social media?  How many hours do we waste surfing the web or surfing TV channels? Again – downtime and rest are wise – but surely we can all recognize that there are times when we suddenly realize we’ve wasted an hour or two or three just mindlessly scrolling – with no direction or purpose.  3600 seconds gone.  We aimed at nothing – and we’re left with nothing.  Time Spent or Time Invested? 

So our challenge is to figure out our goal in life.  What would you sell everything to purchase?  Seriously take this to prayer:  what are we willing to live for?  What are we willing to die for? 
To figure out what your current goal in life is, there are three questions you can take to prayer:
Where do you spend your time?  Where do you spend your money?  What do you think about the most?

I may ‘think’ my goal is to be a great husband, but if I spend all my time and money on ‘my’ toys and ‘my’ hobbies, then that tells me that I’m fooling myself….but I’m probably not fooling my wife.  If I say my goal is to be a great dad, but never invest time with my kids, I’m fooling myself – but I’m not fooling my kids.  If I say I want to be a saint but I never invest time in prayer, I’m fooling myself- but not fooling God.  Maybe you want to go with a generic goal like ‘ I just want to be happy’… but we all know happiness is fleeting.  Happiness is not a pearl of great price.

Without a goal…without a pearl of great price… we have nothing to live for except selfish pleasure.  Once we find a goal worth living for – it gives meaning to every moment.  When we know our purpose in life, we stop SPENDING time and start INVESTING time.  When we know our goal, we have something to LIVE for…. We might even have something that we’d DIE for.
Maybe, just maybe, our pearl should be to be a saint.  Leon Bloy the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.  If that’s not our goal, then investing time in prayer and going to church would make no sense.

Pick your pearl.  If God was to grant you one wish, what would it be? 
Set your goal so high that it is impossible for you to reach without God’s help.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

20200628 First

Before Mass:
I have a little Holy Spirit moment to share…
Wed evening I was talking with two parishioners about what they thought the theme of today’s Gospel was… and we all agreed that the message is Keeping God first in our lives.  That’s a nice message, for sure – but what does it really look like to “put God first”?  We’ll talk about that in the homily.

Then Thursday, something cool happened… Emily randomly picked out the song “First”, by Lauren Daigle – and an hour into our practice it hit me – this song matches EXACTLY the theme of the Homily.  Coincidence?  No way… I believe the Holy Spirit worked through Emily to pick the perfect song….

If you know it-  feel free to sing along – or just sit quietly or maybe close your eyes and offer this song as your own personal prayer to enter into the theme of today’s Mass.

Homily
There’s so much we COULD talk about in the readings today, but that first line in the Gospel bugs me… “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,”  What’s he talkin’ about?  Is he saying we should love our parents ‘LESS’?  … I mean I can hear someone in the crowd saying ‘Jesus– last I checked, loving and honoring your parents is one of the 10 commandments.  Are you telling us that YOU are more important than the law that God gave us?

The simple answer is ‘Yes’… Jesus is even more important than our parents.  And that’s easy to understand when you remember that Jesus is God – and the  FIRST commandment is to put God First.  Loving your parents is like number four or five on the list – so you do the math…  That’s the simple answer, but it’s not quite like it sounds.. in fact, hopefully by the time we’re done, you’ll see a totally different perspective. 

In our human terms, we might think of it as a priority… God is top of our list.  Just like the song we sang before Mass – we want to keep God ‘First’.  What does that look like?  I mean- it sounds good and ‘churchy’ to say that God is first in my life – but ‘practically’ – what does that look like?

Jerry and Brenda have been married for several years – long enough that most couples would kind-of get stale and boring… when most husbands would be working extra hours – coming home late – and calling the wife the ‘ball and chain’…. but not Jerry and Brenda.  If you saw them at a gathering, you’d notice they just both seem to be on the same page – treating each other with respect, encouraging rather than discouraging.   I may not be explaining it well – but if you met them you’d be like – there’s something different about this couple…. I wish my marriage had something of what they have. 

If you had the nerve to ask them why they are different, at first they’d humbly reject the thought that they are any different than anyone else.  But if you press them, here are a few things they would probably tell you:  they each have a personal practice of praying daily… it’s different for each, for example,  Jerry gets up like before 4 am to pray… what a Jesus-freak.  Brenda can usually does her prayers with her morning coffee.  They attend Mass together every week – and often once during the week.  They have a Holy Hour of adoration one day each week where they normally go together and pray/read/or just sit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

They set aside one evening each week – well, almost every week – to have a date night – just the two of them.  Nothing special… sometimes it’s just pizza and a quick trip to IGA or if it’s a ‘real date’ they might go to Rural King.  It’s not WHAT they do together, it’s the fact that they DO IT TOGETHER…they set aside time just for themselves as a couple.

After all I’ve described so far, you might be surprised to know that Jerry and Brenda have three kids.  How in the world can they spend all of this time together or with God?  Aren’t they taking away from their kids this way?

Actually, no… first, they often take the kids to their holy hour of adoration.  This pays dividends as it also trains the kids to understand that silent prayer is necessary.  But – as anyone with kids knows – it’s hard for little ones to sit for that long – so Jerry or Brenda will take the kids outside to throw a Frisbee, allowing the other to have time in the chapel – then they switch so they each get their alone time with God.  They call it their Pray and Play night.

They pray meal prayers together as a family – they do some study groups together – yeah – they also watch a lot of normal TV together, but it’s balanced with time to watch some good Catholic videos like Fr. Mike Schmitz or Bishop Robert Barron.
On top of all of that, Jerry coaches a couple of sports teams; but they decided as a couple a few years ago that sports was taking too much of their time away from God – away from their date nights – and away from time as a family.  They absolutely agree that Sports are good for the kids – keeping them exercised, socialized, and they learn teamwork… but anything good can become bad when it trumps everything else on their priority list.  So they work hard to keep it in balance.

Because they spend so much effort working on their PERSONAL relationship with God and each other, they are able to love their kids even better!  How can that be?  Well, they build habits in their life to always put God first… for example – whenever they are going to have a tough conversation with someone, they first pray to the Holy Spirit to guide their words and emotions.  They use that same prayer when they need to talk with one of the kids….often taking the situation to the chapel for their Holy Hour.

Imagine yourself in that situation – one of your kids needs to be corrected – the way I see it, you have three choices:  you can ignore it… not a good idea because they need to learn good behavior.  Second option:  you could fly off the handle and start shouting or ground them … or third, you could pray to the Spirit to guide you – and usually, you’ll be amazed at the tone of the discussion.  They may still get grounded, and there may still be yelling… but much, much less. 

Beyond the family, Jerry and Brenda are both highly respected and liked by most of their co-workers – often getting into the topic of faith at work… people approach them often to ask for prayer, and that opens up the door to conversations about Jesus…. Something Jerry never would have imagined 15 years ago.

They reach out to neighbors, parishioners, and get their kids involved in delivering meals to the old lady down the street – teaching them to make time for others. 

Finally – getting back to today’s reading…they take care of their parents.  One died a few years ago and the other three are still living on their own, although age is catching up with them fast.  Jerry and Brenda go out of their way to call daily and to stop by several times per week – or take them to church – or get groceries.  It’s a lot of responsibility, but they don’t see it as a cross at all – this is just how you love your parents.

Hopefully I’ve painted enough of the picture to make my point… I’m not trying to put Jerry and Brenda on a pedestal, because really their not that different than anyone else here – but because they are very intentional about their relationship with God, all of their other relationships BENEFIT. 

Jesus isn’t telling us to love our parents LESS – but he’s telling us that when we concentrate on our relationship with Him, we become more loving… and actually love our parents MORE.  It’s not so much about putting God First - … but God must be at the center of EVERY relationship. 

Since God IS Love, Any relationship NOT centered on God is not built on Love.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

2020/05/31 - Pentecost - "Something BIG"



Before Mass:
We’re gonna do something different right now – I had a vision that we’re supposed to sing this song today…. I’ll explain it more in my homily, but I need your help to make this happen.
Emily and Ayane and I are going to sing a beautiful song from Hillsong called ‘King of Kings’.  It tells of how God’s plan of salvation came to life -   These ladies will do a beautiful job of singing it – but there’s a spot where we sing ‘Then the Church of Christ was born’…. At that moment – I need everybody to stand up and sing along.

Now this is tough – because most of you don’t know the song.  I put the words in the bulletin, but we can’t pass those out until after Mass!!!!  So – if you CAN sing along, please do…. At least the chorus should sound familiar the third time we sing it, so let’s see how this goes…   If it goes well, the Spirit gets the credit.  If it flops – you can blame me :)

HOMILY

Something BIG happened today… know what it was?  We didn’t hear it but right AFTER today’s first reading,  The apostles preached about Jesus and 3000 people became Christian that day!!!  3000!  What did the apostles say that day that would convert 3000 people?

It wasn’t WHAT they said, but how they said it.  Their hearts were on fire… they had enthusiasm, conviction, there was a joy and hope about them that was beyond explanation.  They had given total control of their bodies over to the Holy Spirit so that the Spirit could speak THROUGH them.  People didn’t just HEAR the wonders of God – they could SEE and feel THE WONDERS OF God.

Again – it’s not what they said – but how they said it.

They were able to speak a message directly to the hearts of these people – I mean – it MUST have been touching if 3000 of them handed their lives over to Christ that day.  That doesn’t just HAPPEN.  No – God had prepared for this day…  Jesus had spent 40 days with the Apostles after the Resurrection – he HAD to be teaching them and preparing them for this very mission  - preparing them for THIS day.  But the people in the temple that day – they ALSO had to be prepared.  They came to the temple EXPECTING God to act – totally open to allowing God to change them. 
Think about yourself – how many of US come to church EXPECTING something amazing and life-changing to happen when we get here?  If we’re honest – we kind-of expect the same thing to happen each week… that doesn’t take away from the miracle of the Eucharist – but it does point to that fact that we – or I can at least speak for myself – I don’t really EXPECT God to perform any miracles when I come to Church.  Do you?

But if we really want to see miracles – if we really want to see the Lord at work and let it change our lives, we have to ANTICIPATE it.  We have to be OPEN to allowing the Spirit to take over.

St. Bonaventure said the Holy Spirit comes where He is Loved, where His is invited, and where He is EXPECTED.  That’s worth repeating…

What did Jesus say would happen when we receive the Holy Spirit?  He said, “you will receive power”!  YOU will receive power!  Did you get power yet?  Do you see anybody around you that HAS that power yet?  He also said, “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these”…  You and I are supposed to have power to do what Jesus did – and even greater.  So let me get a show of hands… how many people here have raised anybody from the dead?  How many have healed a blind man by smearing mud on his eyes?  Fed 5000 from just a couple of fish?  Anybody turned water into wine without grapes?

Hmmm… we’re not doing too good, are we?   Something’s missing… but what?  Why AREN’T you and I doing the same deeds and greater?  I propose to you it’s because we don’t EXPECT it – we don’t ANTICIPATE it.  Again, we get into kind of a comfort-zone in our religion and don’t really even TRY to harness that power that Jesus gave us… why?

I have an example – Let’s pretend that I’m giving you this as a gift… what do you say?  (thank you)  Your mother taught you well.  Let me ask you – are you excited about this gift?  Why aren’t you excited?  – because you don’t know what it is, right?  How can you be excited about a gift if you don’t know what it is or how to use it.  I’ll tell you what’s in there-   It’s a power-pack – it’s capable of jump-starting your vehicle a bunch of times … you could charge your phone many-many times…. there is a LOT of power in this little box – really!  So – now are you excited yet?  Maybe a little more – but you still haven’t SEEN the power.  You still don’t know how to plug it in. 

Kind of like when Jesus explained that the disciples would be given power to do great deeds, that might have mildly excited the apostles – but what difference did that make?  They didn’t know what it was – nor how to plug into it.  I mean – look - The Apostles received the Holy Spirit in the Gospel today – that was Easter evening.  When was Easter evening…do the calculation…?? – 50 days ago!  What happened in those 50 days since they received the HS?  Not much… I mean they huddled together in the upper room for much of that time – scared – praying.  It’s like they had a power pack, but didn’t know how to use it.

Until TODAY – It’s like Peter picked it up and thought – hmmm – I wonder what happens if I plug this thing in… and WOW!  A noise like a violent, rushing wind – fire came from heaven – their hearts were set ablaze and they were propelled out into the streets to proclaim the good news to the world.  Again, it’s not WHAT they said, but how they said it.  They were ON-FIRE!  Why – because they had plugged- in to the Holy Spirit.  Remember – they had the HS for 50 days already but until they plugged in, it made no difference.

Reminds me of our own Sacramental life… we all receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism – yet we don’t know what it is – or how to use it.  The Spirit DOES make a difference in our lives because He guides us in prayer and Sacraments.  It’s only by the Spirit that we can believe in Jesus at ALL – that’s what Paul reminded us in the 2nd reading.  So the Spirit has a way of helping/influencing us – but you and I are still NOT doing the greater deeds like Jesus.  What’s missing?

We need to plug in.  How do we do that practically?  I’ll give you an example:  about 6 weeks ago, I had a vision while praying – OK – don’t get excited – it wasn’t like a Biblical vision – just a thought that crossed my mind.  I saw our parish gathered for Pentecost Sunday, on one of the first weeks after the quarantine – and I saw us singing this song, King of Kings, and the whole congregation standing up to sing just like we did before Mass. 

Now – where did that vision come from?  Was it the Spirit?  Or just me having wishful dreams?  At the time, we didn’t KNOW when we would get to come back to Mass.  At the time, I didn’t KNOW I would be preaching this weekend – I hadn’t looked that far ahead!  When I saw the ‘coincidences’ stacking up, I figured this must be a vision from the Spirit… so I called Emily and Ayane and asked them to help me make it happen – to fulfill the vision.  Why, because I think the Spirit wanted  Instead of me just TALKING about the Spirit – He wants everyone to have an EXPERIENCE of the Spirit.  Hopefully as we all stood up, maybe you felt a chill go down your spine – that’s just a HINT of the presence of the Spirit.

It may not sound like a big deal – but that’s the point – you and I, I think, get these kind of visions and promptings from the HS all the time, but we usually just ignore them… brush them off.  To plug in, we need to start listening/watching/ANTICIPATING.

Another example, I was driving to town one day and a parishioner crossed my mind.  That happens all the time – but this time I thought – hmmm.. wonder why that person came to mind right now?  So I asked the Holy Spirit – do you have a message for this lady?  I felt compelled to stop by to talk to her – but she wasn’t there – so I sent her an email with what I felt God wanted to tell her.  She emailed back explaining she was in tears because she’d had a particularly stressful week, and THAT message was exactly what she needed to hear that day!  This led to a great 2-3 hour conversation.

Why do I tell you that?  Not to build me up – but just to show you that we all get these simple promptings – and if we open ourselves up to them, God can do amazing things for the people around us!  You can tell by my voice that this not only made her day, but it set my own heart on fire.
I think it’s time we all start LOOKING for God to act – ANTICIPATING the HS to work miracles – EXPECTING God to reveal His presence to the world THROUGH US.  God doesn’t NEED us to work miracles –but He chooses to use the Body of Christ – the Church – to touch His people.

All we gotta do… is plug in…. and then EXPECT something BIG to happen.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

2020/04/26 3rd Sunday of Easter - Heart to Heart


I’m going to ask you a question – and I want you to answer to yourself… but pay attention to HOW you answer it – because most of us will have a knee-jerk response to the question.


"How ya doin?"

We likely hear that question daily – and if you work with the public like maybe at a grocery store, you probably hear it a hundred times each day.  How ya doin?  Most of us have a standard answer:  fine, not bad, awesome.  These aren’t bad responses, but they don’t REALLY answer the question –because we can’t – and don’t really WANT to answer that question to everyone who asks – because that they don’t really WANT to know the answer!

But in December, a young lady who is quickly becoming a close friend asked a different question: 

"How is your heart?"

The question stopped me in my tracks…. I mean, That question takes on a whole ‘nother dimension.  It’s obviously not just your standard greeting which we can answer in the grocery line.  This question is more piercing – like the scalpel of a surgeon – it wants to cut below the surface relationship and dig into questions like ‘what makes you tick’ – or ‘what grief are you dealing with’. 

To really answer a question at that level changes you…. And it also changes your relationship…. Think about that…. Answering ‘how ya doin?’ doesn’t even scratch the surface – but “how’s your heart”…. That involves sharing – REAL sharing – being vulnerable - opening up your heart….not only to let OUT some of your pain – but to let IN the love that is offered through friendship.

Which brings me back to the Gospel…Did you notice the question that Jesus asked the two disciples on the road to Emmaus?  As we read it, we likely didn’t even hear it – because it doesn’t sound like part of the real action –but it is SO important.  The questions in our lives are powerful.

In this case, Jesus asked “What are you discussing as you walk along?”

Simple question – but it tells us a lot.  Jesus is giving us an example of how to evangelize – how to share the good news.  Notice, he doesn’t just run up and say, look, I’m alive!  Repent and Believe!  He doesn’t run up and point out their sins or ask them if they’ve been SAVED.  He doesn’t start spouting off to them about doctrine or morality or anything really – his first move is to ask the question:  'what are you discussing?’.

See, Jesus recognized they were downcast – grieving – and his question was intended to draw them out of their inner turmoil – to open their hearts – to reveal to Him where their pain was.  THEN, and only then, could He speak into that grief.  Questions can be powerful.  When Jesus asked the question, the disciples had to put a name to their grief.  They were obviously depressed and sinking further as they shared their disappointments with each other walking along – Maybe it's a coincidence, but Jerusalem is built on a hill... so leaving Jerusalem, the disciples were headed DOWN... figuratively heading into the downward spiral of despair.  

But Jesus' question pulls them out of their funk – makes them define it – name it.  For a lot of people – that act alone can be healing – just naming the monsters that scare us can help us realize they’re not so big.  Naming our problems is like going to the doctor… the hardest part is often identifying the problem – naming it - diagnosing.  Then, and only then can they take their scalpel and try to heal us.

Once Jesus knows their pain, or actually – once He gets THEM to NAME  their pain….to open their hearts… THEN He speaks hope directly into their hearts…into their grief.  He opened up the scripture to show that everything that happened HAD to happen.  It wasn’t the end of the world… this was part of God’s plan!  Notice the pattern here:  Jesus asked them to open their hearts BEFORE He opened scripture to them.  Can you imagine walking with Jesus and having him personally reveal the meaning of scripture to you?  Wow – I’m positive all of our hearts would be burning within us as well.  Notice too that immediately they returned to Jerusalem… figuratively, they head UP – back out of the depths of despair.

How can we apply this to our lives?

First – as disciples – our Mission is to share the good news with everyone.  How?   Follow Jesus’ example… start by asking questions.  See - If I jump immediately into hot-button morality issues or political statements, nobody will listen to me.  If I point out their personal sins and moral flaws, I’ll introduce nobody to Jesus.  If I complain about what the people in the church or government are doing or not doing – I’m just a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.  None of those topics get to the real point of evangelization:  we MUST build relationships.  In order to build relationships, we have to get to the point of opening our hearts to one another – and the example given to us by Jesus himself is to START by asking questions. 

Many people are grieving right now.  Uncertainty about health, job, worried about loved ones, grieving the loss of a parent and they didn’t get to say goodbye because no visitors allowed…. Frontline workers, worried about bringing something home to their kids… there’s lots of pain and grief out there right now.  People are hurting, and you and I are called to touch their hearts.

Consider for a moment the encounters you’ve had with people in the last week – both in person and on social media.  How many of them have been superficial – how many of them went deep?  We don’t have to go deep with everyone, but try this – next time you’re in the check-out and you ask how the clerk is doing – go just a little deeper.  Ask a question that touches their heart.  I tried it this week – last time I’d seen this cashier she was VERY stressed out because of the overwhelming crowds in the stores a month ago – so I mentioned that I’d noticed her stress and asked if it was better.  That got her talking…she opened up.   It did her good to be seen as a person and not just a cashier – and it does you and me good too by forcing us to open our eyes to the people around us.

Like my friend who asks, ‘how is your heart’… I know that when we ask that question of each other, this is going to be more than a superficial conversation.  Now – it doesn’t always have to be a conversation that requires Kleenex – but just knowing there is a person who cares about me and is willing to be vulnerable with their feelings – and take time to just sit and listen - that softens my heart….  I’ve noticed in the past month, many people are eager for that kind of relationship.  We all ache, in fact, for intimate relationships with one another and with our Lord.  We were made in the image and likeness of God – who IS a relationship of Father/Son/and Spirit.  That desire for relationship is built-in to our DNA. 

And it’s when we share that kind of heart to heart friendship – answering the deeper questions – THAT is when our eyes are finally opened to recognize Christ right in front of us. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

2020/03/29 - God is Only this Big

As humans, it's normal for us to put God into a box.... Because in our minds, God is only this big (make a visual box in my hands).  Obviously, God has limitations - I mean - he if He was a good God, surely he would have stopped the virus by now.  Heck, If he was a good God, the virus never would have happened - and all those people wouldn't have died!  Obviously, God has limitations, because God is only this big.

Is that what we believe?  Our readings help us get a different perspective.

In the first reading, the Israelites had been exiled to Babylon - kicked out of their land - and for the Israelites - God was only this big - As with most ancient religions, they believed that God was tied to the LAND of Israel and specifically to the Temple in Jerusalem.  So, to be exiled from their land was to be hopelessly far away from God - because - God is in a box - God has limitations.  But Ezekiel has a vision - we don't hear about the first part of it in our text today, but it's an interesting hook to our topic - He had a vision of the Presence of God - or the Glory of God - with wheels on it - moving around from place to place.  The meaning of the vision is that God's glory is NOT tied to the land - He is present with His people WHEREVER they are - even in Babylon!  God had NOT left them.  God was NOT limited.

Then we come to the prophecy in our first reading - "I will open your graves!  I will bring you back to your homeland!"  What a great promise - sealed with an oath from God - "I have promised and I will do it, says the Lord".  I would imagine for the Israelites in exile this would seem unimaginable... far-fetched... they were SO FAR removed from their homeland that even God could not get them home...it was a hopeless situation... because to them God was only this big.    But God revealed His glory by fulfilling that promise!  Some of them were still alive when they were finally allowed to go home.  It blew the lid off their box - our God is even more powerful than we gave Him credit for!

Which brings us to the Gospel - this is Jesus' direct attack on this idea that God has limitations.  The key line, I think, is when He says that Lazarus' death was "so that the Glory of God may be revealed".    We hear it over and over in the reading how the disciples and then Martha and Mary don't even THINK that Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead.  I don't think it even crossed their minds!  They had faith that he could have SAVED Lazarus from dying, but hey - even Jesus has his limitations -death is beyond him.  Martha might have been wise enough to think that maybe Jesus could resurrect Lazarus right after he died... since in their custom, you weren't legally dead until the third day - you know, Once a body has been dead for more than 3 days, it starts to decay - there ain't no bringing him back now - it's hopeless.  It's THAT hopelessness that Jesus steps into - showing that God is God EVEN over death.  He wants to blow the lid off of the box

As we continue our quarantine, we are like the Israelites - kinda in our own Exile - taken away from the Sacraments at Church.  Could this be a way for God to remind us that - God's glory is on wheels!  YES - Jesus IS substantially present in our Tabernacles and in the Eucharist we receive and we all Long to come back to the Sacrament - but even though we can't come to Church, God is with us!  You know this - just look around - even amidst all the seeming craziness and hopelessness, God's glory is being revealed in each of our lives.  If we don't see it, we're missing out.

God is Love... so if we want to see God's glory, look for the Love in our lives.  If we find a place where there IS not love, then WE should take love into that situation- and THEN God's glory is revealed through us!  We can show love to our neighbors by checking in on them - share extra food or toilet paper with somebody we know is struggling, or pick up sticks in the yard for our elderly neighbor after the storms - spend our time praying for the World, which is in so desperate need of prayer - THAT is when WE reveal the Glory of God.

Jesus came to show us that God's love is not limited - God is not 'this' big (box) - but Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross to show us that God is bigger even than this:  (cruciform).

Friday, February 21, 2020

Ideas for Lent


MEN
“INTO THE BREACH”
Into the Breach is a call to battle for Catholic Men which urges them to embrace wholeheartedly masculine virtues in a world in crisis. This hard-hitting new video series illustrates the gravity of our duty as men of Christ and offers an inspiring invitation to renew authentic masculinity.
https://www.kofc.org/en/campaigns/into-the-breach.html

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

“ISIDORE 45"
Kind of like "Exodus 90" but not as intense.  Challenge yourself to take on some ascetic and prayer practices to ramp-up your relationship with our Faith.  Saturday mornings 6:30 at St. Celestine, those accepting this challenge will meet to discuss how we're doing, encourage each other, and discuss what we're learning in the little black books.
  • 30 minutes of prayer each day
  • 30 minutes of work-out each day
  • Limit screen time (phone/computer/tv) - maybe read a book instead?
  • no desserts / reduce sugar
  • no eating between meals (unless you're turning into a bear, eat some fruit!)
  • Go out of your way to do something for your wife or kids (or family)
  • Fast every Friday (you decide the level you can commit to:  no food, one meal, reduced portions, etc)
  • Read the Little Black Book devotional daily
             
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

WOMEN

The modern woman's guide to the Bible.

Have you ever considered that your day-to-day struggles are, at their core, timeless and universal? Though your challenges are deeply personal, they are also deeply human, and God has provided workable solutions for you through the teachings of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.
Walking with Purpose would like to help you enjoy a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ, nurtured through personal Bible study and small group discussions created just for women.
https://walkingwithpurpose.com/

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Little Children
Consider having children give up "screens": cell phones, video games, tablets, and television. Read a book each week instead.  Consider encouraging your little ones to abstain from meat on Friday and even to fast (under your supervision of course). Have them put 10% of their piggy bank into the collection basket. Bring them with you to the Way of the Cross or your Holy Hour each week.  Take them along to serve at a soup kitchen or visit the elderly.
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

EVERYONE

“Best Lent Ever”
Don’t Give Up Chocolate for Lent
SO… WHAT IS BEST LENT EVER?
It’s a totally free and totally awesome daily Lenten video program (sent straight to your email) that will help you unlock your God-given potential.
from Dynamic Catholic (Matthew Kelly’s organization)
https://dynamiccatholic.com/best-lent-ever

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Our Lady of Fatima Traveling Pilgrimage Statue
(Check the local parish bulletins for specific events.  Here is when it will be close to our parish:)
Huntingburg, Monday, March 16th – starting with Mass and procession at 6 pm.  Ending 6:30 a.m. Tues
Holy Trinity Catholic School (Precious Blood campus) – Tuesday, March 17, 8 am Mass/procession.
Holy Trinity Catholic School (Holy Family campus) – Tuesday, March 17, 1 pm procession and rosary
St. Joe, Jasper – Tuesday, March 17, 6:20 pm  Procession/Mass.  Ending 4:30 pm Wed.
Also at Daylight Mar 13-15, Vincennes March 15-16, Dale March 18-19 and Rockport March 19-20.. 
Also MOVIE : Fatima: A Message of Hope  Monday, MARCH 9 TH, TIME: 6-8PM CDT
WHERE: ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH (Lower Level)           LENGTH: 52 minutes
Everyone Invited & Snacks Provided!

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Personal Retreat on your computer
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Little Black Book 
The Knights of Columbus sponsor having these books for reflection at all the doors.  They're a simple way to add a daily reflection to your prayer life for Lent.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
THE ULTIMATE LENT LIST

1. Pray the Rosary every day.

2. Receive Communion at Mass every day.

3. Go to Confession every Friday or once a week.

4. Pray the Family Rosary every day or once a week.

5. Pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday.

6. Pray in silence 15 minutes a day.

7. Make a Eucharistic visit every day.

8. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day.

9. Fast on bread and water one to three times per week.

10. Read a spiritual book

11. Give a painfully large donation to charity. (Try adding an extra "zero" when you write the check.)

12. Donate to charity instead of buying something for yourself.

13. Pray "Jesus, I love you!" in the first waking seconds of the day.

14. Listen to Catholic CDs or stream Catholic talks during your commute.

15. Do something romantic or sacrificial to improve your marriage.

16. Volunteer anywhere: at your kid's school, homeless shelter, etc.

17. Visit a home for the elderly.

18. Read a Gospel or all four Gospels.

19. Memorize ten favorite Bible verses.

20. Did we mention fasting one to three times a week?

21. Look through the CD’s at the church door and give some away to those you think might need them.

22. Oh, why not Pray in silence for an hour every day.

23. Set more time aside to be with your children or grandchildren.

24. Give up something you absolutely love, crave, or spend time on, or that annoys others, including:

• lying
• your cellphone (or texting, shopping online, social media, etc.)
• television or your favorite television show
• television before a certain hour
• television after a certain hour
eating while watching television
• coffee or tea (yes, coffee)
coffee or tea you don't brew at home
• caffeine in any form
• diet soda (or soda)
• donuts
• hamburgers
• pizza (yes, pizza)
• chocolate
• anything with chocolate flavor
• all snacks or desserts
• going to movies or Netflix, Hulu, Redbox, etc.
• non-essential Internet
• March Madness
• following your favorite sports team
• video games
• slouching
• gambling (legal or otherwise)
• celebrity magazines
• golf (an objectively grave moral evil) (only kidding)
• booze (yes, booze)
• a destructive, irresistible "friendship"
• foul language
• picking your nose
• showing up late
• not grooming properly
not flossing every day (yuck!)
• sports, music, or talk radio
• fantasy sports
• restaurants
• eating lunch outside of work
• driving when you could walk
• sleeping in late
• hitting the Snooze Button in the morning
• fast food drive-throughs
• not cooking breakfast for your kids
• shopping for clothes or food
• not stopping by your neighbors to say hello
• failing to visit or call your relatives
• soap operas
• the beach (for those of you lucky enough to have one nearby)
• the woods, lakes, or mountains (ditto)
• working on cars
• working in your shop
• chess, checkers, cards, board games
• fishing, hunting, four-wheeling
• skateboarding
• some of your "me" time doing any hobby
• your absolute favorite hobby (aha, you just fainted!)
not reading
• reading (ha!)
• not exercising regularly
• exercising (too much)
• nagging your husband (you know who you are)
• criticizing your wife (she knows who you are)
• interrupting others
• not smiling whenever you meet someone
• crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, sudoku
• knitting? (you addicts understand)
• cigarettes
• half or a third of those cigarettes
vaping
• cigars, gum, and "phony candy" breath mints
• not taking real breath mints
• cookies
• chips or pretzels (I skipped pretzels when I was a kid)
• cellphone calls in your car (more difficult than you think)
podcasts (or listen only to religious podcasts)
• all non-necessary texting
• not eating your vegetables (even you adults)
• ice cream, donuts, cake
• your favorite dish
• fudging on your tax return
• gossiping at work—say something nice instead
• gossiping anywhere
• stealing "little stuff" from your employer, including time online
• relations with your spouse (on certain days or weeks)
• not having relations with your spouse (if it applies)
• thinking about yourself when you wake up or go to bed (pray instead)
• thinking about yourself when you drive (pray instead)
• talking when you could listen
• buying anything you don't really need
• not making your bed