Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017/12/17 - Rejoice Always - even when we feel like we're losing

There’s an episode of the Twilight Zone from 1960 where this guy named  Rocky is shot by the police while robbing a pawn shop.  He wakes up seemingly unharmed and wondering where he is.  There’s another guy there named Pip who welcomes him.   Rocky gives him a threatening look and says – ‘hand over your wallet’.  Pip’s like – ‘is that all you want?  Here – it’s yours’.  Rocky’s taken aback by how easy that was and he opens up the wallet and it is loaded with cash and credit cards.  He tells Pip – ‘take me to your house’ – so Pip takes him to this huge mansion.  Rocky starts casing the joint as soon as he walks in, looking around at all of the expensive stuff – this place is amazing – Rocky asked – ‘is this YOUR house’?  Pip says – ‘no silly – this is YOUR house’.  Rocky can’t believe it.  Pip says – ‘look in that drawer right there and you’ll find the title to the property with your name on it – AND – there’s $2 million dollars in the next drawer down.  Anything you want, you’ve got it.’

Rocky can’t believe his luck… he takes some of the money and heads to the casino where he starts gambling – and to his great surprise, he wins!  In fact, he wins EVERY time.  Rocky is so excited – raking in the money. 

Flash forward 6 months and Rocky is going crazy – he’s bored.  Pip visits him to see how he’s doing and Rocky says – ‘it’s just not right – I shouldn’t win EVERY game’.  Pip says – ‘well what percentage would you like to lose?  We can adjust it to whatever you want!’  Rocky says – ‘that’s not the way it’s supposed to be!!  Look – there must be some mistake – I shouldn’t even be in heaven anyway…I want to go to the other place’.

Pip looks at him and say, ‘what gave you the idea this was heaven?  This IS the other place!’.

The point of the story is that if we got everything we wanted, life would lose its joy.  If we won every time we played a game, we’d quickly be bored.  It’s the losing that makes the idea of winning so attractive.  Likewise if we could buy everything we wanted, we’d still get bored – look at the celebrities who go and steal insignificant things just to add some excitement to their lives.  If our loved ones never died, we would take them for granted and never appreciate them or the loved ones we still have.  As hard as it is to imagine…Somehow, the ‘losing’ is part of Joy.  It’s in losing that we recognize there MUST be more to life.

As much as you and I think it would be awesome to have everything we want – God knows better.  God knows that it is the longing for something that actually is the source of joy.  There’s a quote from C. S. Lewis which seems to confirm this idea…  “All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still 'about to be'.”    
― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

He says Joy is when we long for something…not possessing something.  Doesn’t that seem backwards?  Surely joy is getting that perfect gift we wanted for Christmas!  Yet we all know that the perfect gift loses its glamour within a short amount of time.  We placed all our joy into one thing, and we end up feeling Melancholy as we realize what we wanted is NOT fulfilling us like we thought it would.

Christmas time is nostalgic – especially in our culture.  We’re always dreaming of the white Christmas – just like the ones we used to know…  Christmas as a child was magical, other-worldly, almost heaven.  Yet as we get older, we constantly look back to that memory, and Christmas just doesn’t measure up anymore.  Maybe because our parents or siblings or our children are no longer around.  This time of year just makes us miss them even more. 

How, with all of these depressing thoughts, can we possibly follow Paul’s words to “rejoice at all times” and “give thanks always”.  At a glance, that’s unrealistic.
Depression and melancholy are almost constantly taking swings at us…punching us in the gut.  But – if we look again at what C.S.Lewis said about Joy: – All Joy reminds…. It is a desire for something long ago, far away, or still about to be…  Joy is what gives us those memories – Joy is what fills us with that sense of longing. See – even in our depression, God is reaching out to us with Joy.  These stabs of pain are a tug from God.  He’s reminding us that our joy is not to be complete this side of heaven.  God is the hound of heaven – constantly pursuing us….but we often ignore him.  Instead, We keep pursuing that one thing we long for – graduation, a perfect  job, the perfect spouse, the dream house, that 22 point buck, that next beer, or another bowl of ice cream – whatever it is that we THINK will bring us joy… and we devote all of our energy into pursuing that – ignoring God who is constantly breathing down our back as He pursues us.

Fortunately, God will not be ignored…We suddenly see a beautiful sunset, and there’s a feeling in our heart… like we recognize that there is a source to this great beauty and this brief moment is just a taste of something bigger and better.  It’s a passing feeling… this temporary joy doesn’t last and we’re left with an ache in our heart.  But if we can change our thinking about these moments and recognize that they are just peep-holes into the grandeur of God – These pangs of longing are the breath of God breathing down our neck - designed to create that desire in our hearts to come closer to God.  Yes – what I’m saying is that our LONGING FOR JOY is actually a gift from God to pull us closer to him.

Not easy to believe, not at all! – but think about my story – Rocky had everything he could dream of.  He HAD nothing to long for… there was no sense of longing, because in Hell, God is not present.  That sense of longing is a sign of God’s presence!!!  That’s my punch-line:  the sense of longing in our hearts is actually a sign of God’s presence!!  Joy is reaching out to us.

Not easy to believe… but recognizing God’s presence is the first step to being able to do what Paul told us to do: “rejoice at all times” 
          ...even when it feels like we’re losing.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

2017/11/26 - Thy Kingdom Come

Before Mass:

There’s a connection between the first reading and the Gospel which might not be evident to us, so I want to point it out ahead of time:  Notice in the first reading how many times God says “I will” do this and “I will” do that.  God makes all of these promises, saying he personally will make a bunch of things happen.  Then in the Gospel, Jesus says we will be judged based on whether WE did those things that God promised to do.  If God said he’ll do it, why should WE have to do anything?


We ask for it every time we pray the Our Father…. ‘thy kingdom come’.  Do we mean it?  Do we really want Jesus as our King?  Are we helping to bring about that kingdom?

We’re stuck in the middle of “already but not yet”, where the kingdom of God IS present – and yet not fully present.  How do we know the kingdom is not yet fully established?  Just look at the headlines.  The powerful use and abuse the weak.  Homelessness and drug use and crime keep escalating.  Mass shootings seem to be an almost daily occurrence – even in church.  The world is divided in so many ways:  Men vs women;  Black vs White;  Liberal vs Conservative;  Catholic vs Protestant;  Christian vs Muslim;  Pro-Life vs Pro-Death.  No – the kingdom of God will not be fully present until we are all ONE.  One body of Christ.  Obviously, we ain’t there yet.  Thy Kingdom come.

But – there are signs of hope.  How do we know the kingdom IS already partially present?  We can see Christians doing all of those things Jesus mentioned in the Gospel:  feeding the hungry, water for the thirsty, ministering to the sick and imprisoned.  Let’s just look at one example of each of those:

Feed the Hungry:  our Grace Co-Op has delivered thousands of meals to folks in need over the last several years – many thanks to Sander Catering and the many volunteers who do the deliveries – and also to Denise Hohler for coordinating that for such a long time. 

Water for the Thirsty:  one of the things Gary and Cathy Boice have done in Jeremie, Haiti is to build water purification systems at 5 schools in the area.  The children then have clean water while at school and they’re allowed to take home 2 gallons per day so their family can also have clean water.  And just this week we got pictures from Dupity – a group came in and trained thirty ladies how to use a bucket filter to filter water for 90 families.

Ministering to the sick:  you don’t have to look far to see people visiting, taking food to the sick, taking communion to our parishioners at home, sending cards, visiting in the hospital and nursing homes.  It’s such an easy way to bring the Love of Christ into their lives.

Visiting those in prison:  Honestly, I’ve never felt called to prison ministry – but there’s a ministry called Kairos which is amazing.  It is a retreat that is held in the state and federal prisons to let the offenders know they are not forgotten – and that somebody on the outside loves them – and that they are not beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness.  Many lives have been changed inside the walls of prison.  The men I know who go into the prison to put on these retreats inspire me.  They’re not priests – they’re just ordinary men from the pews – doing an extraordinary service. 
We could talk all day about how Christ’s Kingdom is already being established – but you get the idea.  Whenever we do any of these things, we do it for Christ.

Today, we are invited to be part of the story…. We are called to participate in the kingdom of King Jesus.  Remember in that first reading how God said ‘I will’ so many times…. I will tend my sheep.  I will rescue them; I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest; The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.  GOD himself is doing all of these things… so where do you and I come in?

WE don’t do anything.. . but Christ works THROUGH us.  When we’re open to the Spirit, God can use us to do these kinds of works.  Notice again, we don’t do these things to earn our right to enter the kingdom… we do these things to ESTABLISH the kingdom.

I think it’s interesting that in the Gospel, both the sheep and the goats seem surprised.  Lord, when did we see you and minister to you?  They hadn’t done those works as a way to earn Jesus’ Love – they did it BECAUSE they were loved.  Doing those corporal works of mercy were just part of who they were.

That’s how we know we’re in the kingdom – when we visit the lonely – when we comfort the mourning – when we reach out to the least of these – who ARE the least of these anyway?  Anyone who cannot pay us back.  Anyone who has no prestige.  Anyone who doesn’t bring honor to me… they are the least of these.  We don’t help others because of who THEY are or what we can earn… we do it because of who WE are.  We are the ones Blessed by the Father.

There’s a quote Glenda has on her emails which speaks volumes…
We don't serve people because they are Catholic or we expect them to be Catholic. We serve them because we are Catholic.

Long Live Christ the King!  Thy Kingdom Come!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017/11/19 - It's not about the Money

Before Mass
We’ve got another one of those parables from Jesus to stretch our brains today.  This is the one about the Talents.  Remember – the Master gave 5 talents to one guy, 2 to another, and 1 to another.  I’m sure you all know that a ‘talent’ was a measure of weight – for example pounds.  It was somewhere between 75 and 125 pounds – so for argument sake we’ll say 100 pounds… so assuming the Talent they’re talking about was in gold, it would be worth over $2 million at today’s price for gold.  The thing is – this parable is not really about money.  I give you the value of a talent just to help us all realize that even the guy who only gets one Talent STILL is given a fortune…don’t think of him as mistreated.  The question for all of us to ponder as we listen is:  if it’s not about money, what’s Jesus trying to tell US with this story?  You might also focus on “what did the last servant do wrong”?

Homily –
Everybody understand what Jesus was trying to say?  It’s not about money – so what IS it about?

We know the Talent was a way to measure wealth – so if the parable ain’t about money, It must be a metaphor for something… but What does the Talent represent?  What is it that we can invest and immediately double – but if we fail to invest it, it is taken from us?

How about Love… Love only grows if it is given away.  Here’s an over-simplified example:   if I GIVE a hug, I RECEIVE a hug… so one hug becomes two.  If instead, I bury my hugs in the ground… I actually have no hug at all.  If I don’t give my love away, then none comes back to me.  If I smile, it increases the smiles around me… but if I bury my smile in the ground, then not only have I missed a chance to bring joy to the world, but I have lost my own joy.  Love only grows when it is given away.  It also applies to our Faith – if we never actually USE our faith – if we never actually put our trust in God – then it’s like a muscle that never gets exercised… it withers.  Faith only grows in the measure in which it is exercised.  So my suggestion is that the Talent represents everything God gave us – our life, faith, abilities, charisms – and the parable implies that God wants us to invest it into something – but what are we investing in? 

What is this “Master’s Joy” we're invited to share in?
Think about that – what gave Joy to the master in the parable?  To see his kingdom growing…  Same for God – his Joy comes from seeing His kingdom of Love growing.  That is the joy of the Master which we are invited to share in… so when we HELP to spread the kingdom, we feel good about it…seriously… that is how we “share the master’s joy”.  Notice, it’s not a reward … it’s not something we EARN… it’s simply an invitation to join the Mission that Jesus gave us to ‘share the good news with the whole world’.  When we invest ourselves in that Mission, it gives purpose to our lives… it gives meaning to suffering… it energizes us and makes life worth living. 
What did the final servant do to deserve being thrown into the darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth?

Nothing – he did nothing wrong… but that’s the trouble:  he did nothing.  The master in the parable calls the servant lazy – and that’s why he lost his Talent and ended up in darkness.  Laziness…another word is Slothfulness, which is one of the seven deadly sins.  You’ll recall, there are two kinds of sin:  sins of COMMISSION, where we do something wrong and sins of OMMISSION where we fail to do what is required.

What is this place of darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth?
I think at the end of our lives, we’ll look back and see all the opportunities we missed to share the love of Christ with others – we’ll recognize the joy we passed up and the harm we caused to the kingdom of God – and our regret will be so intense that we will wail and gnash our teeth, because we regret that when given the opportunity to spread love… we did nothing….we failed to invest ourselves… we failed to give it away.  Now it’s very important to notice that this is NOT a punishment!  God doesn’t THROW us into that darkness… we choose to go there by burying what He gave us.

Here’s how I would summarize this parable – we have a choice:  we can share everything God gave us to spread his kingdom of Love – and thereby share in our Master’s Joy… or we can bury our Love and continue to live in darkness.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

2017/10/15 - Free Food

I can’t resist free food.  I can blame my Dad, because I’m a chip off the old block.  Anytime we go to a dinner of any sort where there is “all you can eat”… I do… eat all I can.

I’m guessing it’s because my Dad grew up in a fairly poor home who had a mentality born of the Great Depression…I’m sure many of you are familiar with this mentality.  Hunger was a way of life.  Food was hard earned… you didn’t waste what you had – and you by-golly NEVER turned down free food.  And if there are left-overs, always be first in line to take some home…
                              …and be last in line to take whatever is left!!

That’s probably not TOO far off of how people would have felt in Jesus’ time.  Food would have been their main preoccupation of every day… tilling soil, taking care of livestock, picking food, preparing food, and still you would go to bed with a growl in your belly. 
That’s why that first reading uses the imagery of a great banquet as the promise that God was making to bless His people.  When you’re starving, nothing sounds better than “The Lord…will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines,”.  Nothing could BE better than that – and if you were invited to that feast, there ain’t NO WAY you would turn it down.

Which is one of the reasons the Gospel is perplexing… OK, there are a lot of reasons the Gospel is perplexing….but let’s start here.  Jesus uses a lot of exaggerations to drive home a point.  First – the people standing in front of him would have been shocked that the people in the parable had rejected a feast.  That’s just plain silly.  In fact, remember when Jesus fed the 5000 and the next day the crowds came back… maybe even bigger crowds – because they were HOPING he would do it again!  They weren’t necessarily wanting more of what Jesus SAID – but they were looking for the free food – just like my Dad… and me.

Jesus’ exaggeration is pointing out that the King had offered the people the greatest blessing possible… this wasn’t just free food – it was the best food – and it wasn’t just ANY feast – this was a banquet for his Son!  This would have been the social event of the Decade… everybody would have been stumbling over each other to be invited to such a prestigious event…and they had rejected it.  Do you see how silly that is?!

Yet, God has prepared the great banquet for all of us – but many who were invited didn’t come.  He has prepared the BEST of food for us on this altar here – the body and blood of His only son – the Bread of Life.  The invitation has gone out to the world – but where is everybody?  As it says in the Gospel:
- “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.”
- I just felt like sleeping in this morning
- I’ve got plenty of food in my refrigerator at home, I don’t need communion
- My kid has a soccer game today, so I just can’t make it to church
The parable foretold that this would happen.

But the GOOD news is that God keeps inviting…that’s good news for us because when the Jews rejected the invitation, WE got invited.  God will stop at nothing to fill His great banquet honoring His Son.

He has continued to invite throughout the centuries.  100 years ago, He sent Mary to three young kids in Fatima, Portugal to invite everyone to the feast.  Interestingly, the name Fatima was an Arabic name meaning “the shining one” and was the name of the prophet Mohammed’s daughter.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that Mary chose this spot to appear?  In the book of Revelation, Mary is the woman “clothed with the sun”... She IS Fatima: the shining lady.  One of the things that made this vision unique was the miracle of the sun, which was seen by tens of thousands, including non-Christians.  God was pulling out all the stops to get the attention of the whole world:  the Catholic world, the secular world, and even the Muslim world.  He WILL fill His banquet hall –and He invites the whole world to come to his altar for the great feast of His Son.

Now – if I were writing the Gospel, I would have stopped after verse 10:
“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall                       was filled with guests. “  Matt 22:10

We LIKE that kind of God… he invites both the good AND the bad to his banquet.  It means nothing is expected of us… we can be Bad and still get invited.  It makes sense… God is Love… God doesn’t want anyone to suffer, right?  That’s a great message – one we’d all like to hear – and one I’d like to deliver to you today…
Unfortunately, the reading continues – and we get to the part of the reading that NONE of us like…the King finds a guy who’s not wearing the right clothes and throws him into the night where “there is wailing and grinding of teeth”!  What gives, God? 
Well, true-enough, God DOES invite the good and the bad to His banquet, but I think this last part is to remind us that this banquet is not just free food…there are still expectations for everyone approaching God’s table.  At first glance, it might seem like a reminder for us to dress up when we come to church.  This is NOT the central message of the Gospel, but still we need to ask: does God really care what we wear to church?  I think each of us has to decide that on our own… on one hand, I remember the people in Haiti who have nothing – but they still show up to Mass in the best clothes they have.  I can’t help but think of Ruth, who used to sit right there, God rest her soul… even with her body failing, she would be dressed for Mass as if she was headed to a great wedding banquet.  I wonder: did she dress up so people would respect her?  Or was this an outward sign of her respect for Jesus?  In the end, we don’t dress up for God – He doesn’t need that… we dress up for ourselves!  How we dress impacts our attitude and the attitude of the people around us.

We can all take that to prayer –– but like I said, that’s not the central message here…I think the deeper message  is that when we come to eat at this banquet, there ARE requirements.  We aren’t just “showing up”.  We aren’t just standing in line for free food.  Maybe this is Jesus’ way of reminding us that we must be clothed with the Grace of our baptism.  You’ve probably heard of the phrase to be “in the state of Grace” – which means we have no mortal sin upon our soul.  We are SUPPOSED to approach the altar in that state of grace every time – and as Paul says in his letter to the church in Corinth, when we are not clothed in that Grace, we eat and drink condemnation upon ourselves. 

Here’s the biggest challenge of all:  We each have to consider where WE are in this parable.  Are we the ones who rejected God’s invitation?  Are we the ones who got invited because the first group didn’t show up?  Or…are we the guy who just showed up for the free food and ends up thrown into the darkness? 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

2017/10/01 - Destination of Our Choice

Before Mass:
If you remember from last Sunday, the Gospel was about how the workers hired last got paid the same as the workers hired first.  Every fiber of our being screams – it’s not fair!  Well today’s readings pick up where that left off.  God’s ways aren’t fair!  We’ll hear some explanation in the readings about how WE actually decide what God gives us.  So listen for that.

Also, in the Gospel today there are two sons – one says yes and one says no, and they both did the opposite of what they SAID.  Think about why they might have answered like they did – and why they changed their minds.  There’s a lesson for us to learn.

If someone gave you and me the directions for the quickest, surest route to Holiness, would we take the advice?  If God told us how to be happier…  if God told us how to experience the joy of His kingdom in this life and the next… would you do what He told us?

There’s a Harvard psychologist, M. Scott Peck who wrote a book familiar in the psychology circles called The Road Less Traveled.  He tells the story of a particular female client who had been stuck in a deep depression for a long time.

One morning on the way to her appointment, as if to compound her misery, her car broke down.  When she called to reschedule, Dr. Peck suggested that he might drive by and pick her up.  On the way to work that day he was planning to stop and make a hospital visit.  Would she mind sitting in the waiting area during that time?

When they actually drove up to the hospital, however, he had a better idea…

He gave her the names of two of his other patients who were hospitalized.  He knew they both would enjoy a visit.  Would she be willing to drop in and say hello to these two complete strangers?  “Sure,” she answered.

Ninety minutes later they met in the hospital lobby. 

The woman was animated – even joyful!  Her depression had lifted dramatically. 

Spending time with those two patients, and focusing on THEIR needs, had filled her heart with joy.

Peck was excited.  “Well, now we know one way to help you through your depression.”

The woman was startled.  “You don’t mean I have to do that every day, do you?”
The doctor’s answer was ‘yes’ – you should do this every day.  We have finally found something that makes you feel better, why WOULDN’T you want to do it every day?

The reason this book was called The Road Less Traveled, was from an observation he had made over the years.  One hundred percent of his clients wanted to feel better.  But when they eventually discovered some specific pathway that might lead not just to feeling better for a while but to personal transformation, only about 10% were willing to pursue it.

Only 10% were willing to do what they KNEW would help them.  Doesn’t that sound like our spiritual life?  It’s pretty safe to say that 100% of us WANT to get the most joy possible out of life.  100% of us would like to experience heaven in this life and the next.  But will we do what God has told us to do?
Matthew Kelly tells us in “Four signs of a Dynamic Catholic” that four actions seem to separate serious Christians from others:  Prayer, Study, Action, and Generosity. 
You might say, these are the directions God gave us to get to His kingdom – to experience the joy of heaven in this life and the next.   We hear these things so often: Prayer, Study, Action, and Generosity – and we might even agree that we need to do them… but if we don’t make them a priority, it never gets done…never becomes a habit…. Which means we never get the benefits….we never reach our desired destination.

For example, we have Eucharistic adoration Wednesdays at SR and Fridays at SC.  The people who spend an hour per week praying in the silence in front of Jesus actually look forward to that time.  In some ways, many of them feel selfish for taking that time for themselves to be with Jesus.  But that silence breeds peace in their lives, and the rest of us may SEE that peace, and maybe even WANT that peace… but we don’t turn that desire into action… we never commit ourselves to that 1 hour or even ½ hour per week. 

We know that a daily routine of prayer builds character and forms us into disciples of Jesus – but few make it a daily habit.

Study – each of us should constantly be reading a good Catholic book – or listening to the CDs at the door.  We even GAVE away many CD’s and books over the past few years – but how many actually got used?  In fact, many people wouldn’t even TAKE one when we gave the away!

Action – this is where we turn prayer into action – reaching out to others to share the love of Christ.  This can be service, evangelization, or simply conversation – or even just a smile.  Without action, we are a tree without fruit.

Finally – did you figure out what made the two guys in the Gospel change their minds?  Both did the opposite of what they SAID.  I’m going on a limb here, but I’d say the first one – the one who SAID ‘no’ – was a man of prayer.  I think he reflected on his response and allowed the Holy Spirit to convict him of his need to follow the will of his father.  You might say the Holy Spirit is his GPS unit – when he turned the wrong way, the Spirit said ‘recalculating’ and told him to turn around.

The other guy who SAID ‘yes’ but didn’t follow through:  I’m guessing he was very superficial – always saying the things he knew others wanted to hear.  He probably didn’t have many friends, because it was normal for him to lie to your face.  Without prayer to change his mind, he was stuck in a rut of just making himself look good to the world.  He was given the directions of how to live, but chose to live his own way.

God gives each of us the directions to happiness… you could say, The Bible is our roadmap to heaven.  Prayer, study, action and generosity are the highways to a joy-filled life.  We can to take those roads, or go another way.  If we get to the end of our road and find we’re not in heaven, don’t say God’s not fair! 

He gave us the directions – but we choose our destination.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

2017/09/03 God Wants us to be Happy

 Jeremiah 20:7–9
  Psalm 63:2, 3–4, 5–6, 8–9 (2b)
 Romans 12:1–2
 Matthew 16:21–27

Mark and Sara got the bad news one Tuesday morning in February 1973.  The ultrasound had shown some abnormalities in the baby in Sara’s womb and subsequent testing confirmed… their daughter would be born with Down’s syndrome.  They were devastated.  It seemed all their hopes and dreams had evaporated in that one doctor’s visit.  The nurse asked them to come back the next day to meet with some of the hospital staff to “discuss options”.  Numbed by the news, they stumbled home and came back the next day… hoping that “options” meant there was some hope that the test was wrong or some new treatment was available for their baby.  They were shocked when the doctor and nurse started the conversation by bringing up the Roe vs Wade decision which just a year prior had made it a legal option to end this pregnancy. 

They were very convincing in their arguments… this child would suffer horribly… never leading a normal life – always being a social outcast…and she would place an ENORMOUS UNNECESSARY BURDEN on Mark and Sara, since their daughter would require constant care for her entire life.  As distraught as they were by the news about their daughter, the thought of ending her life was abhorrent to them.  When they objected, the nurse explained that termination was really the only humane option to avoid suffering – and to avoid “placing this burden on society”.

What!?  Mark and Sara walked out of that doctor’s office never to return.  What had the world come to that anyone would seriously consider ending the life of their child?  And what’s worse, it made it sound like THEY were being irresponsible and selfish NOT to have the abortion.  What’s the world coming to??

Abby was born 4 months later…and is now 44 years old – still living at home with Mark and Sara – and she is the JOY of their lives.  In talking with Mark one night over dinner, he was explaining some of the difficulties they’ve had to deal with to take care of Abby – but he also talked about the unconditional love that Abby gave every day.  When asked whether they considered Abby to be a blessing or a curse, Mark didn’t hesitate… with a tear in his eye and a lump in his throat, he immediately said, ‘blessing’.

That tear in his eye was because he remembered sitting there listening to the logical reasons for abortion, and feeling the temptation to accept what the world was telling him to do… how for just a moment he actually had even considered killing what had become the best source of joy in his life.

The world will tell us to get rid of anything that makes our lives difficult.  If your wife no longer thrills you, discard her and get a new one.  If your religion asks too much of you, find a different church that doesn’t’ require so much.  If life gets hard, kill the pain with drugs or alcohol.  We shouldn’t have to suffer!  God would not WANT us to suffer!  Pain is unnecessary.  Suffering is just stupid… God WANTS us to be Happy!  Right?  What’s Jesus say to that?

“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Peter had bought into the world’s view that suffering was un-necessary.  And you can’t blame him really… from the Jewish perspective, God BLESSED those who lived holy lives… and you don’t get more holy than Jesus, so He SHOULDN’T have to suffer.  All this talk of the cross is nonsense, Jesus…

But Jesus says “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.  Notice that he said to take up our cross… there’s no if/and/or but in that… he doesn’t say, take up your cross if you have one… it’s a given.  We ALL have a cross.

There’s a classic, well-known book called “The Imitation of Christ” – written by Thomas a’ Kempis.
I couldn’t find the exact quote, but he basically says, Structure your life however you want…and sooner or later you’ll be face to face with the cross.  In other words, fill your life with whatever you THINK will make you happy:  job, family, house, power, whatever… no matter how you fill your life, you WILL run into the cross.  We ALL have a cross.  Kempis writes that if we carry the cross willingly, it will lead us to our desired goal, but on the other hand if we carry our cross grudgingly, then we  turn it into a heavy burden and if we should throw off one cross, we will surely find another, which is perhaps heavier. By ourselves we cannot bear the cross, but if we put our trust in the Lord, He will send us strength from heaven.(Chap. 12)

Think about your cross.  You have one – maybe more than one.  Would you get rid of it if you could?  Think hard about that… because like Kempis says, if you drop one, you WILL find another.  Is there another cross you would LIKE to have?  Look around at the people around you… think about the crosses THEY have.  Is it possible their cross is lighter than yours? 

The thing is, the heavier your cross, the greater the blessings that flow from it.  It doesn’t feel like it when the cross is digging into your shoulder.  Life can be SO hard – and our cross can feel impossible to carry.  That’s when our Church family steps up to help each other carry the really heavy crosses.  God provides strength both through prayer and through the Church.

We all have a cross…If we try to discard it, we WILL find a heavier cross... we cannot avoid it, so embrace it and follow Jesus. What's that look like…to “embrace” your cross?

A good friend of mine is in federal prison because he was framed for a crime and the justice system failed him.  We are all still in shock that this could have happened – especially to this man.  But watching him has taught everyone who knows him a lot about life.  He could have become bitter... he has every RIGHT to lash out at the world... he'd be totally excused if he fell into a deep depression... instead he embraced his cross.  He's been given 8.5 years. At his age, he'll get out after age 70. Yet, this man knows God has him there for a reason. He has a spirituality about him which leaves the rest of us in awe.  He approached prison as a man entering a monastery... when someone enters a monastery, there is a set of rules they need to live by – so my friend adopted the rules of St. John of the Cross.  I don’t have time to discuss each one, but an example is to “Choose the more difficult task to ease the burden of co-workers.”
He lives this rule every day:  he avoided volunteering to work in the kitchen, because so much theft takes place and he wanted to avoid that culture.  Instead he volunteered to work in the vegetable garden and go to the place where the weeds are tallest where nobody wants to go.  On one hand, that’s great – he gets to be outside a lot.  On the other hand, it is often 100 degrees and very humid there, so he has lost a lot of weight from sweating…and from the nasty, unhealthy food they’re fed.  He doesn’t even eat the produce out of the garden… in case it could be considered stealing.  That food is intended for the inmates, so it’s not his.  My jaw dropped hearing that…. I mean, this is a matter of self-preservation… nobody would blame him for munching on a handful of lettuce as he picks it!  But he’s not willing to risk any action that might lengthen his stay in prison.  This gave me a new appreciation for what Jesus said - What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  He doesn’t want to do anything which could make him spend one more day in prison – away from his REAL life.  Likewise WE should do nothing that would risk our eternal life.

His integrity has caught the eye of others in prison.  His fellow inmates and even the guards recognize a peace in him that most people never attain.  He doesn't let the culture change him, but his very presence IS changing the culture in that prison – even if it is so slightly.

That's you and me everyday. Sometimes our job feels like a prison... our marriage feels like torture... our financial situation seems unfair... every day we have the choice to act like the rest of the world: We could become bitter or mad or mean.   We could lose our integrity.

But Paul exhorts us to renew our mind... don't think like rest of world. The world thinks like Peter... ‘there’s no need to suffer’... in fact if you just have enough faith you will always be happy!  That is garbage. It's called a prosperity gospel, where suffering is not only unnecessary but a sign of your lack of faith. GARBAGE.  Jesus says pick up your cross... not choose your cross, not push it off on someone else,... not drink your self into a stupor to numb yourself to the pain... but embrace that cross. Whatever prison you are in... know that once you pick up that cross you'll find you are free. Even with four walls and barbed wire surrounding you, you can live a joyful life and show the rest of the world how to live.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017/08/13 Comfort Zones

Before mass:
In order to really understand the connection between the first reading and the Gospel, we need to understand a little bit of the back story…like why is Elijah in this cave?  Well – he is being hunted down by Queen Jezebel’s men.  He had had a sort-of dual with like 400 of the prophets of Baal and God had destroyed them all… Note to self:  if you ever want to tick-off a queen, kill all of her prophets.  Elijah is running for his life and hides out in this cave.  As long as he stays in there, he’s safe… to step out of the cave, he risks being seen by Jezebel’s army.  So keep that in mind as you listen to the first reading.
I want you to imagine where you are most comfortable.  Maybe it’s a beach… maybe it’s on a boat on the lake… Maybe you’re picturing yourself in your Lazy-Boy or the couch with a TV remote in your hand and a bowl of ice cream sprinkled with chocolate chips.  Ahhhh…sounds like heaven.

For some people, staying at home is most comfortable – for others, they have to stay busy all the time, so they’re most comfortable when they are working.   We might work 40 years in the same job because it’s comfortable… because we know what’s expected of us.

Wherever you’re thinking of … That’s your comfort zone – where nothing out of the ordinary is required of us – we have all we need – and most importantly, there’s nothing to be afraid of… and nothing to be nervous about. 

Elijah would have preferred to stay in his cave – I mean – stepping out could have cost his life. 

Then there are the apostles in that boat.  Why in the world were they in the middle of the lake during a storm?  I mean, they were Fishermen… they would have recognized the signs that a storm was coming.  Jesus is God so surely He KNEW there was a storm coming.  Why not leave the boat on the shore where it’s safe?  Maybe Jesus sent them out BECAUSE of the storm coming.  If they had stayed at the shore, their boat could have been dashed against the rocks and broken apart.  Jesus purposely pushed them out of their comfort zone of the shore in order to save them.  But then he pushed one step further – as the apostles were being tossed about by the storm, the boat had become their new comfort zone – it was their safe place.  To fall out of the boat in those waves would have been instant drowning.  But Jesus wanted to move beyond even this new comfort zone, so He invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk to Him across the water.  That’s an important point…Jesus invited Peter to come closer to him. 

I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands  - but I wonder – how many of us really WANT to see God?  How many WANT to get closer to Jesus? 

The trouble is, no matter where you are, you CANNOT get closer to Jesus by remaining where you are.  Think about that a second – I might think I’m a pretty good Catholic – praying my rosary, going to Mass, and I’ve never killed anybody – at least on purpose…  That could easily become my comfort zone.  Even in our spiritual life, we get into a comfort zone and don’t push ourselves to grow any more.  I’m “good enough” – no sense doing anything crazy like taking a step out of that comfort zone and actually FOLLOWING Jesus as a disciple!

What do you think – are YOU ready to leave your comfort zone?  Let me make this real… what if I asked everybody to get up from the pew you’re in and move to a totally different spot?  Most of us kinda get into a groove – sitting in the same spot every time at church – it’s our comfort zone:  we know the people around us – and just to ask everyone to move to another seat would send a dozen people into cardiac arrest.  What if I told you to find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself?  Does that make you a little nervous?  What if I asked you to invite your non-Catholic neighbors to come to the parish Social or Shoot coming up in October?  What if I asked you to invite them to come to church with you?  Are you nervous yet?  What if I asked you to participate in a prayer vigil outside a Planned Parenthood?  What about speaking up when the conversation at work turns ugly.  Scary stuff!  That’s just a glimpse of how scared Peter would have been to step out onto the water in that storm.

Trouble is – if you and I stay in our comfort zones, nothing changes.  We cannot remain where we are and move closer to Christ.  If you and I do nothing, the Church will continue to be buffeted by the storms.  The world will not become more Christian if WE don’t live our faith… if we don’t speak out against injustice, if we don’t do something as simple as praying before meals even at a restaurant.  The secular world is like a storm raging around us – threaten to destroy the Church.  Jesus is in the middle of the storm, beckoning us to follow him… ready to make great things happen. 
But in order to get closer to Jesus, we gotta step out of the boat.

Once there was a king who received a gift of two magnificent falcons. They were peregrine falcons, the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. He gave the precious birds to his head falconer to be trained.

Months passed, and one day the head falconer informed the king that though one of the falcons was flying majestically, soaring high in the sky, the other bird had not moved from its branch since the day it had arrived.

The king summoned healers and sorcerers from all the land to tend to the falcon, but no one could make the bird fly.

He presented the task to the member of his court, but the next day, the king saw through the palace window that the bird had still not moved from its perch.
Having tried everything else, the king thought to himself, “May be I need someone more familiar with the countryside to understand the nature of this problem.” So he cried out to his court, “Go and get a farmer.”

In the morning, the king was thrilled to see the falcon soaring high above the palace gardens. He said to his court, “Bring me the doer of this miracle.”  The court quickly located the farmer, who came and stood before the king. The king asked him, “How did you make the falcon fly?”

With his head bowed, the farmer said to the king, “It was very easy, your highness. I simply cut the branch where the bird was sitting.”  (story author unknown)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

2017/07/16 How is it that you DON'T hear?

Before Mass:
Every month I get 10 copies of a new CD – and several of them in the last year have been great – so great that I think everybody should listen to them.  So, we have three hundred copies of each to give away.  Today I’ve got Religionless Spirituality –it’s timely because you hear people say – well, I’m spiritual but not religious – or – I can pray without going to church – I don’t need religion.   This CD is the best I’ve heard to help those people.  Pick one up on the way out.  I’m not taking donations for it today because I want everybody to listen to this CD – and if this goes well, I plan to continue to get three hundred copies whenever a particularly good one comes along.  If this sounds like a ministry you’d like to support, talk to me – or – make a donation in the CD rack.
I think it’s important what we listen to – and actually that is the theme for today.  It may not sound like it at first… Today’s Gospel is the familiar story of the Sower and the Seed.  We’ve heard it enough that we might think we know the story and not really listen to it.  I’d ask that we all simply try to focus all of our attention on listening this morning.  There are a couple of themes you might notice: The most obvious theme is that WE are the dirt in the story.  You might also pick up on the fact that God is a bad farmer.
But then, Jesus says something odd after that parable:  “whoever has ears ought to hear”.  Who is he talking about?  Anybody here NOT have their ears with them today?  Then He is speaking his word directly to you today…..  Listen.

So – you probably noticed the first theme of the Gospel:  we are the dirt.  How much the word of God sinks into us depends on whether we are good soil. 

You might also have noticed that God is a horribly wasteful farmer.  He spreads the seeds of His Grace and Love all over creation… letting it drop wherever it will – so that most of it is simply wasted, never bearing any fruit.  Picture a tractor with a seed spreader driving down the highway with the feeder wide open…. That’s how extravagant God is with his word.

But the main theme is actually about Listening:   God is always speaking His word to us.  Always.  Every situation – every moment.  Do we hear Him?

I was standing outside last night talking to someone – and suddenly she mentioned the sound of the crickets – and it amazed me that until that moment, I hadn’t even noticed how loud they were.  That is like God talking to us – because He is speaking constantly, His voice becomes background noise and we don’t hear it.

God is speaking His word to us in every situation of our lives.  How is it that We often don’t recognize Him speaking –
- It’s part of the background noise
- It’s drowned out by the “important” things in life
- Or we just don’t WANT to hear Him
- Or maybe nobody ever taught us how to hear Him

Every week we come here and hear the Word proclaimed – and a homily to follow.  God is OBVIOUSLY speaking to us here at Mass… but how much of it falls on good soil?  If the parable is a good representation, then at best, 25% of the people in the pews are actually listening AND changing their lives.

Many people have lost the skill of listening.  Part of it is too many distractions:  for example:  I cannot have a serious conversation if the TV is on in front of me… my eyes and mind keep wandering back to it.  I know myself well enough that if I need to concentrate on what somebody is saying, I have to turn off the TV.

Likewise, most people with cellphones have a hard time listening to anyone if they’re holding their phone…  a text comes in and you glance at it and all you can think about is how you’re going to respond. 

Also – if somebody starts talking to us and we think we already know where they’re going with it, so we only half-listen.  Oh – and then there’s the fact that most people really just want to talk about themselves –so while they’re pretending to listen to you, they’re really just thinking of what they want to say next….waiting for you to shut up!

God is always speaking His word to us.  Anyone with ears ought to hear!  But listening doesn’t come easy – we have to train ourselves to become effective listeners. 

There was a TV show back in the 70’s called Kung Fu.  I know most of you never heard of it, so let me give you the back story:  it was about a Chinese man named Caine who moved to the US in the old wild west.  He was a shoulin priest – and a master of kung fu.  He was always having flashbacks about his training in the monastery as a boy.  The scene I remember more than any other was when Caine first met Master Po who was to be his teacher.  This old man was blind from cataracts, and he insisted that Caine fight him… Caine refused – I can’t fight a blind man, it wouldn’t be fair!  The Master insisted, so Caine took a swing at him and was quickly knocked to the ground three times.  This is the conversation that took place right after that: 

Master Po: never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Young Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

2017/07/02 - Disciples for Dinner

Before Mass:
We are continuing our walk thru Matt chapter 10 – picking up where we left off last week.  Jesus continues his instructions to the Disciples and he’s trying to get them to sign on the dotted line to be His disciple…and he has some strong words for them:
"Whoever loves father or mother … (or) …son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

What’s He talking about?  We’ll touch on that in the homily.
The common theme between the first reading and the Gospel today seems to be “how do we treat our prophets and disciples”.   The first reading shows Elisha the prophet being welcomed into the home of a couple in Shunem.  They didn’t have to be hospitable… the guy could have gone to an Inn to get food and lodging.  So why invite him to stay?

Then Jesus also talks about hospitality in the Gospel, and this time He seems to be encouraging US to treat his disciples with hospitality.  So listen for that theme – and you might ask yourself – what have I done for God’s prophets?

Picture this Gospel as a Disciple Boot Camp – where these potential disciples are trained hard, instructed about how to be disciples, and you might say, the men are separated from the boys.  Jesus sees several issues which they will face and here he addresses a couple of them:
"Whoever loves father or mother … (or) …son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

Is Jesus saying we should not Love our families?  No – I think he’s just overhearing the excuses being made in the crowd and he’s addressing it. Everybody had their excuses – some had families and jobs and some had to take care of aging parents.  I can just hear it – well – the 10 commandments tell us to honor our father and mother, so I need to stay here and take care of them.  If I don’t I’m breaking God’s law!

Do you see what’s wrong with that argument?  Yes – honor your parents is one of the 10 – BUT – it’s number 5.  What’s number 1?  There is one God and you shall love Him alone.  Is the order really important?  Jesus thinks so – he said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength.  That’s the GREATEST law – which means everything else takes at best second-place.  Our PRIORITY is to love God.  When we put anyTHING or anyONE in front of him, our priorities are messed up.

If Fr Eugene had used that excuse – “well , I need to stay at home and take care of Mom and the farm”, he wouldn’t be the disciple he is!  He would not be here today!  That’s a scary thought, because it seems to me he is right where God needs him to be.

Then Jesus said something perhaps even more perplexing:
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We could read that literally and say that we all have to become Martyrs to please God…. But I don’t think that’s the message for us today.  See – Jesus is still talking to these potential disciples, and trying to convince them to sign on the dotted line – trying to get them off of the fence.  Either you ARE my Disciple or you’re not.. which is it?
Again, using Fr. Eugene as the example, he didn’t give us his life physically – but in every other way, he did – he left his entire life, lifestyle, and livelihood – all his friends and family – everything he was comfortable with – when he left for the seminary to become a Priest.

This is a perfect example for every one of us.  We are ALL called to be disciples – Jesus wants US to sign on the bottom line.  But in order to REALLY be a disciple, we gotta be all in.  Either we ARE His disciple, or we are not..which is it?  We have to surrender everything in our life at the feet of Jesus and allow Him to use us as He sees fit.  Everything?  Yes – Everything.

Jesus, I give you my time, my abilities, my money, my family, my job, my sex life, my property, my relationships… everything…where do I sign? 

That’s our first challenge for today – but there’s a second challenge:  How do we treat the Disciples of Jesus?  Our media and movies like to make Christians look like bumbling, backwoods, stupid folk – or like inflexible, dogmatic, self-righteous, secretly-evil people.  Do we treat Disciples like that?  Do we support them, or call them Jesus Freaks and stay away from them?

I think that’s why Jesus raised the issue today – to encourage US-   Like the woman in the first reading, to seek out the Men and Women of God and take care of them. 

What’s in it for us when we do that:  God WANTS to reward those who take care of his prophets.  Notice –t he Shunemite lady didn’t ask for a baby – but she was blessed.
Jesus says “he who receives a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward”.  What is that reward?  Think about what would happen, for example, if you invited Fr. Eugene over for supper every month or two… what would happen to your home?  First, you might notice anything in your house which you’d be embarrassed to have lying around when Father comes over – and you might just realize you’re embarrassed about it at all – and get rid of it.  Second – the conversation around the dinner table will be different than you normally experience – and your kids will get to see and hear you talking to Father about Church matters, and they’ll realize this is important.  Third – your kids will get to know Father as a person – not just a Man of God – but a Man’s man… his love of sports, his humor,  - and he’ll get to talk to them one on one – which makes THEM feel important… and just maybe light the initial spark to consider a religious life.  (I remember as a kid we’d have priests out to the house all the time – and I wonder if that’s part of why I felt called to ministry)

Perhaps one of the reasons we have less men seeking the priesthood and women seeking to be nuns is because we’ve gotten away from inviting our local Prophet into our home?!   In short – a righteous man’s reward is simply the reward of having a righteous man in your midst!  Our parish is a better place because of his presence… just imagine bringing that home… it can change your life and make your whole family more righteous.  Also, notice what Jesus said – "Whoever receives you receives me” – so when we invite Father over, we are inviting Jesus himself into our home!

Finally – our hospitality is directed to more than just Father.  Every one of sitting here are called to be Disciples – and to reach out to everyone else.  Think about your own actions:  how can I reach out to fellow disciples better?  How can I help our Parish to be more welcoming?  How can I personally be more welcoming? 

We get a lot of visitors here – just like Elisha the prophet – passing through our town.  What is Jesus calling you and me to do to welcome them?

In summary, let me repeat our challenges today:  First – sign on the dotted line – either I’m all in as a disciple, or I’m not really a disciple.  Second – go out of our way to take care of God’s servants.

When we put discipleship ahead of everything else, the rewards will be out of this world.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017/06/25 - Modern day Prophets and Disciples

Before Mass:
In order to understand the first reading, let me tell you what happened right before this.  Jeremiah was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah.  He was constantly warning the country of Judah that they were going to be destroyed because they had turned away from God.  This made Jeremiah very unpopular.  He was constantly mistreated – and right before this reading he had actually been locked up for a day.  He struggled with God – not wanting to say anything to the people because of the treatment he received.  And that’s where this first reading starts.

Also, there is one line in the Gospel I want to focus on:
“do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. “

What’s Jesus talking about?  Who ARE we supposed to be afraid of that can “destroy both soul and body”?  I always read that as talking about the Devil… he can seduce us into giving up our soul.  But – if God can forgive any sin – and He can – then the devil doesn’t really have the power to destroy our soul….  So are we supposed to be afraid of God?
Think about it.

Let me ask you – and you can answer quietly to yourself – ARE you a disciple of Jesus?  Are you a prophet? 

We hear about prophets and disciples constantly in scripture – but we might never have realized that WE are called to be prophets and disciples.

Do we even know what a disciple is?  It comes from the same root word as discipline – so a Disciple is someone who takes on the discipline of a master.  For example, if you wanted to become an electrician, you might be an apprentice to one for a few years until you learned the ropes.  So as a disciple of Jesus, we are trying to take on his disciplines… to do what he did, so we can be like Him.  Think about if you wanted to be a disciple of Peyton Manning, you’d eat what he eats, use the same exercise program he uses, wear the same clothes maybe even… a disciple wants to be like their master, so we take on the disciplines of the Master.  Do we want to be like Jesus?
To be a prophet simply means to speak the truth.  Anytime we encounter lies, we are called to be the witness to the truth.  And just like Jeremiah in the first reading, we are not going to be popular if we do that. 

For example, Abby Johnson (see footnote) used to run a large Planned Parenthood office in Texas.  Up to the point that she took the job, she considered herself to be pro-life – but she bought into the rhetoric and propaganda and lies that this was OK – in fact, it was a good service they provided for the “poor women”.  For years, she worked there – becoming fully indoctrinated into their business, she herself often shared that “wisdom” with everyone as she personally helped encourage thousands of young women to have abortions.

But slowly the blinders came off…as she moved up in the organization, she found out that abortion was indeed the way they made money, so she was directed to double her abortion quota.  She tried to brush that off until one day, a visiting Doctor broke protocol and actually used an ultrasound in order to do a “safer abortion”.  Apparently standard procedure is to just stick a tube in blindly and suction away.  Abby was asked to hold the ultrasound while this was done, and for the first time, she got to see that child recoil when the tube got close to her – struggling in fear and pain as –well – it’s too graphic to explain here.  It was at that moment she realized the truth.  The blinders came off, and she immediately quit her well-paid job and became one of the most active Pro-Life advocates in the world.  She explained that Planned Parenthood is very particular about what words are used to describe things.  Like instead of calling it a baby, it is “products of conception”….by hiding it in the dark behind less obvious words, you can pretend it’s not what it is.  Also, instead of  “pro-abortion”, they use the “pro-choice”….trying to redirect it to be a woman’s right issue rather than a right to life issue.  Pro-choice sounds so much nicer –But it’s the same thing – either way – the baby dies…. That truth convicted Abby.

Because she is so outspoken now, she has been constantly under attack.  Her exposing of the truth makes a lot of people angry.
That makes her like Jeremiah the prophet in the first reading… “Denounce, let us denounce him!” 

Same thing goes for the disciples in the Gospel – Jesus is warning them that they will be hated.  Actually, that warning carries forward to you and me.  WE will make enemies if we are disciples.

Does that ring true to you?  When your friend wants to go out and get drunk – if you remind him or her that’s not a good idea… you get harrassed.  If you take their keys away from them, you will likely be called names – and next time they’re going out to party, they’ll leave you behind.  People don’t like when the light is shone on their bad habits.  We prefer to remain in darkness, so we chase away the prophets.
Thing is, we don’t even have to Say anything necessarily to anger people… just our presence… doing the right thing… will shed the light on what they are doing. 
So – why would anybody WANT to be a prophet or disciple?  Doesn’t sound like much fun.  Because God calls us all to be one.  We may think we are already – you know – I live a pretty good life and go to church most of the time – surely I’m a disciple, right?

Not necessarily.  See – These readings make it clear that prophets are persecuted.  If there is nobody upset with me because of how I live our Faith, then maybe I have allowed myself to be blinded to the truth – I’ve put the blinders over my own eyes so that I don’t recognize the propaganda and lies of the enemy.  If we think about it, we’ll all recognize times in our own lives where we should have spoken up, but didn’t. 
See – there is the answer to the question:  who should we be afraid of?  Who is it that can kill both body and soul?  It’s actually ourselves.  Only we can make the decision to NOT shed the light on the lies and deceit of the enemy.  The enemy WANTS to remain in darkness.

God can forgive any sin – and He does – but if we’re not willing to shine the light of Christ into the world and expose the lies, then we have chosen to stay in the darkness.

Be a prophet – speak the truth.  Be a disciple – and shine the light of God into the world.  Be the ultrasound in the hand of God – I mean – just by our presence we can help people realize the pain they are causing to others around them. 

The good news is that as we shed the light on them, we also remind them that they are worth so much to God that he knows the number of hairs on their head.
* footnote:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

2017/06/18 - Corpus Christi - Every Word

“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”.

What’s it mean?  Well the obvious answer is “ice cream”… if we don’t have bread AND ice cream, we’re not really living, right? 

Here’s how I would seriously interpret it:  The most important thing we need to live is not bread.  The most important thing we need is every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.  What is this “word of God” that is so important, anyway?  I have a true story to tell to answer that.

Back in 1995, I was working on a retreat team with a bunch of non-Catholic men – all great Christian men whom I am glad to call my brothers.  But – when they heard I was Catholic, one of them decided to set me straight… to save me from the errors of my ways.  And he started my “lesson” with a line from today’s Gospel:
“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

Was Jesus really meaning for us to eat His flesh? , he asked.  Then he flipped to our first reading and read this line:  “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”

See right there… it says it is the word of God that we must eat… it’s the Bible.  And when Jesus says we have to eat his flesh, he’s really meaning we have to chew on his word… read the bible and really take it into ourselves.  Then to support his argument, he went just a little further down in John’s Gospel where Jesus said,

"It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. "

See right there?!, he said.  Jesus is saying the flesh isn’t important, so he’s not really saying we should eat his physical flesh, he’s really meaning it’s the Bible that is important!  It’s the scripture he wants us to devour!

Does that make sense to anybody here?  Well, yeah – it’s actually a pretty well-presented argument.  I remember sitting there thinking – that ‘sounds’ logical – but something’s not quite right with it.  It’s this kind of faulty logic that pulls many people out of the church.  So – let’s all understand right now the true understanding…first so we can explain to others, but mainly to keep ourselves from falling for this faulty logic.
Go back to the first reading…
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”.

What is this “word that comes forth from the mouth of God?”  My friend said the word is the Bible…but Let’s look at the first four verses of John’s Gospel – chapter 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.

What came to be 4through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race
What was the Word that was with God in the beginning?  Was it a Bible?  Not a chance… the Bible didn’t exist until around the 4th century after Jesus was born.  The Word was with God and the Word WAS God – seems pretty clear this is talking about Jesus.  Jesus IS the Word of God.  God spoke his Word and all creation sprang into being.  It was through His Word – Jesus – that the whole world was created.  He is the source of all life.

Now – if we understand Jesus is the Word – how does that change our interpretation of our quote:  “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”.

Suddenly this means we don’t just live by eating just bread, but by eating the living Word – Jesus, who comes from the mouth of God.  That matches up pretty clearly with what Jesus himself said – “unless you eat my flesh, you have no life in you”. 
Also look at it this way:  Man does not live on bread alone… another way to translate that his “Man does not live on JUST BREAD”.  When we come to the altar and receive what looks like a wafer of bread… It is NOT “bread alone”.  It’s not JUST bread – it IS the body of Jesus. 

Jesus really meant we must eat his flesh.  This is NOT symbolic speech.

And the best proof that this is true comes just a few verses later in John chapter 6… most of Jesus’ disciples actually walked away from him because of this teaching.  They said, “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?”   “this is a hard teaching” – they couldn’t handle it – so they left.  If Jesus HADN’T meant what He said, he could so easily have said – wait, I was just using a metaphor – you know, hyperbole…. It’s just a figure of speech – I really meant you have to study my words.

He didn’t say that. 

Instead he asked the apostles if they wanted to leave too.  Jesus was willing to lose EVERY person following him over this one crucial teaching.  He really DOES want us to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  In doing so, we are consuming the very source of life in the universe.  As we consume him, he consumes us from the inside out - changing us into little Christs… You and I are sent out into the world to continue to spread His love.  As a member of His Church, which is the Body of Christ on earth – He sends us out to continue to bring life to the world. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017/05/28 - Feast of Ascension: Marching Orders

Before Mass:
We celebrate the Feast of the Ascension today.  For a lot of people, myself included, it doesn’t feel like a reason to celebrate – I mean – Jesus is leaving us, right?  Sounds more like a reason to grieve rather than to celebrate.  This just seems unimportant.

All three readings today would tell us that this IS important – although I admit it’s not immediately obvious.  Listen for answers to these questions:  Where did Jesus go?  Why did he go there?  And can that possibly have anything to do with us?

Today as we also look forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit next week for Pentecost, let’s pray for the outpouring of the Spirit upon the world, and upon our parish in particular.  If you know this prayer, pray along with me – you may remember this is the prayer John Leonetti prayed before each night of the mission when he was here.
Come Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Did the readings clear it up at all what this feast of Ascension is about?  For many, it simply means Jesus was taken up into heaven.   Yeah, it means that, but I don’t think that’s the message we’re supposed to take away today.

There’s another way to look at it – there is a purpose for why Jesus is ascending.  Paul gives us a good clue in the second reading…listen...  He says God seated Jesus at His right hand in heaven – and He put all things under his feet.  These words may not mean much to us, because they are “kingdom” words…and we don’t live in a kingdom. 

The person sitting at the right hand of the King was the Prime Minister… the person who directed the affairs of the kingdom….both internal and external.  In other words, Jesus has ascended or “moved-up” to the highest position in the Kingdom….kinda like a prince or princess ASCENDS to the throne when their parents die:  they take their rightful seat upon the throne.  Because Jesus ascended to his throne of power, He is in charge of EVERYTHING.  That’s great news for us, because we know He is fair and just.  He is in charge of the treasury – from where he dispenses Grace upon Grace.  He is in charge of the Justice system, where He dispenses Mercy.  He is in charge of all military endeavors – you might say, he is commander-in-chief.   Jesus gave the apostles their marching orders in the Gospel – “go out and make disciples of all nations”.  You could say that Jesus is sending out his armies to colonize the whole world… just like kings in Europe sent armies to the new world 5-600 years ago to start colonies…. Jesus wants to bring every land and person into the kingdom of God.

Has the mission been accomplished yet?  While much of the world does know ABOUT Jesus, but too much of the world doesn’t KNOW Jesus.  Even in our own area, probably everybody has heard about Jesus, but few are actual Disciples of Jesus… so the mission has not yet been accomplished.  What’s missing?  Why haven’t the armies of the Kingdom of God been successful?  I propose that it goes back to what Jesus told them in the first reading:
“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, …and to the ends of the earth."

Jesus was sending out the apostles to evangelize the whole world – and those marching orders belong to us as well.  “…YOU will be my witnesses...”  Pope Paul VI said:  “the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church.”  Lots of big words there so let’s pick it apart just a bit – what does it mean that evangelization is essential to the Church?  Think of a glass of chocolate milk – what are the Essential ingredients of chocolate milk?  Chocolate and Milk.  Can you make chocolate milk without chocolate?  Can you make it without milk?  No!  Both ingredients are essential – required.  So the Pope is saying that if we’re not Evangelizing, we are not being the Church.  The reason the Church EXISTS is to “make disciples of all nations”.  I’ve often speculated that the decline of the Church in recent years is due in large part to the fact that we have taken our focus off of our central mission… we’ve disengaged from the battle … we’ve concentrated on all sorts of other stuff and forgot that the reason we’re here is to introduce the world to Jesus.

At a parish level, we reworked our Mission statement a year ago… it’s probably not perfect, but it SHOULD show how WE as a parish are fulfilling this very mission that Jesus gave to the Church.  Let’s read it together – pick up your bulletins and read with me on the front page. This is the only time I want to see anybody looking at the bulletin during the homily!  

    We, the parish of St. Isidore,
    witness to the world the love of Christ

          we have received in  the Sacraments,
    and we invite others to personally experience

          the Grace of  God through Prayer,
          Acts of Service, and Spiritual Formation.

Does this connect with Jesus’ command?  Yeah!  Jesus said we would be His witnesses to the ends of the earth –and our Mission statement says we will witness to the world the love of Christ… wow… that’s amazingly similar.  We invite others – we show them the love of Christ, we pray, we do acts of service, and we form ourselves spiritually. 

All in all, I think our Mission statement is pretty solid – it is a roadmap for what we are all about – why St. Isidore exists.  If we do anything that does NOT fit into that Mission statement, we are going off course…we are disobeying orders from our commander-in-chief.   We have to continually re-visit our marching orders.

Now – here’s the thing.  It’s all fine and good as a Church and as a Parish to have this mission statement, but what does it mean to you and me?  I mean – is this mission just for Father and the Deacon and our religious ed teachers?  Hopefully we all recognize this mission is for each one of us. 

Pope Paul VI had some strong words to say about this:
“it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it”
In other words – if we really become a Christian and count ourselves among the brothers and sisters of Jesus, there is no way we could NOT tell the world about it.  I guess the reverse would also be true:  if I’m not witnessing to the world about my Faith, maybe I’m not really Christian.??

If you feel compelled to join the battle – to witness to the world about Jesus, and to fulfill our mission to make disciples, there is a boot-camp you can go to which TEACHES how to do that.  If that interests you, contact me and I’ll answer any questions and hook you up.

Also, I feel compelled to kick-start our Evangelization team – it sort-of faded a bit over the summer a couple of years ago – so I’m planning to re-start this September.  Let me know if you’re interested.

When you and I follow the marching orders that Jesus gave us – we WILL change the world… And since Jesus is directing the battle from his throne of power, we can be assured of victory.  Christ is counting on you and me.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

2017/05/14 - Revealing the Face of God

**Note: for youtube video go to

Three things I want to mention about today’s readings –the first reading from Acts describes the ordination of the first Deacons of the church… listen for that…and what is the purpose of the Deacons?  (I ask that all the time :)

The Gospel hits on two familiar themes which I personally think don’t explain themselves… Jesus say, I am the way, the truth, and the life…. That ‘sounds’ important – like it is a great revelation of some sort – but what does it really mean?  Finally, Jesus says WE will do the works that he did and even GREATER!  Great – what are those works – and how can we mere mortals possibly do something greater than Jesus did!?  Pay attention to the context of the reading…what are the works that Jesus was referring to?

The world will tell us that there are many paths to God – and none of them is better than any other… as long as we try to live a good life and be a good person, then God, who is good, will welcome us all into heaven.

Sounds good.  Sounds politically correct.  Sound fair even… but just one problem – it’s not the truth.
….Jesus says, “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life”. 
He had the nerve to say that nobody comes to the Father except through him.  Is He REALLY saying there is only one WAY to heaven?  In short – yes.  If we never become the brothers and sisters of Jesus, we are missing out – not just on heaven – but missing out on joy in THIS life as well.  Jesus is THE Way.  There are no shortcuts… we must all go through the cross.

Jesus also says we will do the works that he did and even greater.  How can that be?  I have a story to help us understand:

A young mother, I’ll call her Susan, moved to town a couple of years ago with her two young boys, because she found a job working for a local utility company.  She thought the job would be the answer to all of her prayers, but soon learned how hard it is to live in a strange place where you don’t have the support of friends and family.  They found a decent house to rent in an older part of town – not great, but not run-down.  It was all she could afford on her salary…but she couldn’t afford any furniture – so she had one matress on the floor of the master bedroom, and the boys shared a mattresss on the floor in their bedroom.  In the living room, they had a card table and four chairs they had picked up at St. Vincent De Paul – plus a small book shelf to hold the books she had brought from her home.  It was sparse, but she did what she could to make a life for the boys there…. That is, until the flu hit one of the kids – so she had to stay home to take care of him- then the other boy caught it – and just as she got them well enough to go back to school, she came down with it.  Her boss called every day asking when she was coming back to work – it had been 2 ½ weeks and she was hoping to be back to work the next Monday.  However, on that Friday, her boss called and explained they couldn’t hold the job any longer – they hired someone that day.  What!?!  She was going crazy – how will we live?

She tried to keep things normal at the house as she searched for another job.  The kids would go to school – and the family would go to Church every Sunday like normal.  A month later – and a couple dozen No’s later, she was going through the stack of overdue bills when she noticed the one from the electric company said the power would be cut 3 days from now if they didn’t receive payment.  Then the landlord called to ask for the rent money, which was now two months behind.  She had a choice – she could either empty her savings account completely and that still wouldn’t cover the bills – or she could move out and use that remaining money for food.

She had nobody to turn to.  Her parents were a 1000 miles away and living in a nursing home, so moving back with them wasn’t an option.  She went for a walk so the boys wouldn’t see her crying… and she ended up at the church, where she walked in and just sat there praying “God, show me the way!  Is this the life you want us to live?”  She heard some voices talking in the cry room – and could see some women in there talking.  She remembered hearing at Mass about some of the Cursillo small groups that met every week, so she assumed that’s why they were there.  She decided to slip out the side door so she wouldn’t bother them- but as she turned to leave, she noticed a lady had sat down next to her.  It startled her, because she never heard anybody else come in… It was obvious Susan had been crying, and the other lady asked what was going on…. That’s all it took for Susan to spill out the entire story to this stranger…  it was the first time since she had moved to town that anybody seemed to care at all!  The lady said she knew the landlord – who was actually somebody from our parish – and she would see about getting her an extension to give her more time to find a job.  They prayed together before hugging and Susan walked back home feeling uplifted, although the problems were still weighing heavy on her. 

The next morning, those four ladies she saw in the cry room showed up at her front door at 8 am with several bags of groceries.  At first, Susan tried to resist – she didn’t like the idea of taking charity – but then the weight of all those problems came back to mind and she let them in.  The ladies were all talking a mile a minute at the same time (I have seven sisters, so I fully understand how that could happen).  The house, which had been filled with despair just an hour ago was filled with joy and uplifting conversation – it was as if somebody had walked into a dark room and opened the shade letting the sunlight in.  They fixed pancakes and bacon for breakfast and kept filling the boys’ plates until they could eat no more.  It was such a joyous visit, something that Susan missed so much – to have friends – even though these ladies were still strangers, she felt attracted to them somehow.  Before leaving, they held hands and prayed, asking the Holy Spirit to bless this family and relieve their burdens. 

After they left, she was putting away the rest of the groceries, when she found an envelope sealed in one of the bags.  Inside were receipts – the first one was from the Electric company and said ‘paid in full’… WHAT!!!  She quickly pulled out the next paper – from the water company which said ‘paid in full’…WHAT!!!  The next one actually made her knees weak and she had to sit down…. It was from her landlord.  It was also marked ‘paid in full’ and said he would give her the next month free!  She could hardly catch her breath, she was so excited – She and the boys were jumping and dancing around the kitchen – WHAT A BLESSING!
That Sunday, she looked to the other side of church and saw the lady she talked to that past week.  After Mass, Susan walked up to her with a tear in her eye and gave her a hug and said, “I have a question for you…. Are you Jesus?”.

Jesus promised – “you will do the works I do and even greater”.  What are those works?  Yes, Jesus was going around healing and such – but look at the context of this reading.  He’s saying if you have met ME, you already KNOW God the Father.  THAT is the work of Jesus… He is revealing the face of God to the world.  That may not ‘sound’ like a big deal, but to the Jews, who believed that if they ever looked upon the face of God they would instantly die… they could never be worthy to look at the face of God.  In a way they are correct – for any of us to look at the face of God would be like trying to look directly into the sun after living in a dark cave… it would hurt our eyes so bad, we would go blind.  The Jews saw God as far off and unreachable…They wouldn’t even carve an image or paint a picture representing God – that would be idolatry and was liable to stoning.  For somebody to call themselves God like Jesus did – well - that was too far out to be believed.  So they kept their faces down – never looking up to see God.  But picture Jesus lifting our chins up – raising our eyes to look into His – saying “look at me”…and we resist because it’s painful.  But Until we look there, we won’t see the face of True Love….we won’t see the very face of God  … Jesus makes God approachable – he gives God a face and a name… In short, God was glorifying His name through the works of Jesus’ hands. 

Catch that?  Yes – Jesus was healing and turning water into wine and forgiving people… those are ‘how’ He performed the work He was sent to do – but the overarching WORK He was doing was to Glorify God – to make God accessible – to reveal the very face of God.

These are the works that Jesus promised that WE will do – and even greater works.  Because you and I are part of the Body of Christ – every time we reach out our hand to help someone – it is actually Jesus reaching out using our hands.  The WAY we live should make Jesus present; the TRUTH we share should make Jesus present; and the LIFE we share with others should make Jesus present. 

When people see US – they should see the face of God – so don’t be surprise when they ask, “Are you Jesus?”.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017/04/23 - Divine Mercy - He's going to kill me!

When he was about 8 years old, the thing Jerry wanted most for Christmas was a Chemistry set.  He’d seen it on one of those commercials during the Saturday morning cartoons and immediately fell in love with it.
Mom’s response was – “you’re too young for that!.”  So, Jerry moped around for a week then sorta forgot about it.  But on Christmas day, to his great surprise, the last package he opened was his chemistry set!  He was beyond excited.  Dad was quick to sit him down and explained that this was not a toy – it was potentially dangerous, so he should never work with it unless he or Mom was around. 
That night, in his bedroom after everyone went to bed, Jerry locked the bedroom door and pulled out his chemistry set – “just to look at it”.  The metal box was smooth and cool to the touch – it was awesome – it made him feel like an adult!  He opened it up and looked at some of the chemicals in there – most of which he couldn’t even read.  Then he saw the test-tubes – the little glass tubes in which he saw them mixing chemicals on the commercial.
He pulled out one chemical and carefully filled half the tube – then he randomly grabbed another chemical and filled the tube to the top.  To his surprise, the tube started getting hot – it was having a chemical reaction which created heat… so much heat that it started to burn his hand, and he dropped the tube into the waste basket.  He hurriedly put away the chemistry set and shoved it back under his bed and crawled into bed, pulling the covers over his eyes.  Then he smelled something… and glanced at the waste can, where smoke was billowing.  He tried to blow on it but that actually made a flame jump up – Jerry jumped back – scared to death – what was Dad going to do to him?!?  He ran and hid in the closet.  All he could think was, “Dad’s gonna kill me when he finds out!”
A couple minutes later, the smoke alarm in the hall went off and he heard the rest of the family shouting over the noise.  Somebody came to his bedroom door and he heard them pounding, telling him to unlock it – but he couldn’t let them in – what would Dad do to me?!  The flames were licking the ceiling now and the room was filled with smoke – then there was a loud slam and the sound of splintering wood.  His dad rushed into the room feeling in the bed for Jerry – under the bed – behind the bed – then he opened the closet door and grabbed Jerry – running out of the house… Jerry had stopped breathing, so as soon as they hit fresh air, Dad laid him on the sidewalk and stooped down to the ground to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation – forcing fresh air into Jerry’s lungs…bringing him back from the edge of death.  He coughed and sputtered and immediately started crying.  Jerry’s dad gave him to his mother and rushed back into the house with an extinguisher stopping the fire – but not before it had destroyed Jerry’s room and filled the whole house with smoke damage.
As Jerry sat in his Mom’s arms crying – he was praying that Dad would make it back out safely – and at the same time thinking, what’s Dad going to do to me?!
Dad came out coughing and rubbing his eyes – “Fire’s out” – was all he could say as he caught his breath.  Walking over to the family, he started crying himself to see all the damage that had been done…but mainly crying tears of joy that nobody got hurt.
He had a stern look on his face as he approached, and Jerry thought – this is it – the fire didn’t kill me, but Dad is about to!  But instead of spanking him or lecturing him, his Dad just motioned for him to come to him – and he picked him up and hugged him so hard – and said – don’t worry about it Jerry.  I forgive you.
But Dad – I did what you told me not to!  Don’t worry about it Jerry, I forgive you.
But Dad – I was bad – you should punish me!  Don’t worry about it Jerry, I forgive you.  Listen:  when I thought you were dead, I realized that none of this matters… I love you so much, that I cannot IMAGINE going through life without you.
I think this is what the apostles were experiencing in the Gospel.  They had blown it with Jesus – every one of them had run away when the going got tough.  There were embarrassed – and this morning they’d heard from Mary Magdalene that Jesus had risen, they were SURE he was going to hunt them down and make them pay for their mistakes.  While we might think they had the doors locked because they were hiding from the Jews, one could argue that they locked it because they were afraid of Jesus… especially Peter… He could just picture Jesus storming through the door and saying “I’m Baaack… and this time it’s personal!” – and heads would roll.  He could picture Jesus shouting – “I told you so – I told you that you’d deny me – you measly poor excuse of an apostle”.  He could hear Jesus yelling – WHERE WERE YOU GUYS?!  You abandoned me!  You failed as my apostles – so I’m getting new ones.  Jesus was indeed back…back for revenge – starting with the men who were supposed to be his friends.  Heads would roll.
Jesus suddenly appeared – and they all cringed – falling to the floor – scared to death – their hearts racing – this is it – heads will roll. 
Instead, Jesus says ‘Shalom’ – Peace.  Realizing who it was, they couldn’t help but feel joy that it was TRUE – He really HAD risen.  But they still had that lingering doubt – they were SO sure he was coming back to get revenge on them that the word didn’t even reach their brains…so He said again:  Shalom – Peace. 
Their fear had paralyzed them – at that moment, the Church Jesus was trying to start was dead – lifeless – locked in a closet of fear - but pay attention to the next verse: he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”
Like a firefighter breathing life back into a seemingly lifeless victim, Our Redeemer stoops down to the earth to breathe His life into the Apostles – into His Church – bringing the dead to life.  He didn’t seek revenge – He showed Mercy.  He didn’t even seek JUSTICE – instead he dispensed his Grace.  Jesus says – I’m Back – and this time it’s personal.  No more religion based on rules and regulations and trying to earn salvation, Jesus offers every one of us a personal relationship – and through that relationship, we come to know God personally.
This is Divine Mercy – which we celebrate today.  Every one of us has done something to deserve the Justice of God – if God treated us as we deserve, Heads would roll.  Instead God gives us what we DON’T deserve…
Now by definition, Mercy is to forgo punishment that is deserved.  So in the old law, you poke my eye out, I could lawfully poke your eye out.  If I DON’T poke your eye out, that is mercy.  However, Divine Mercy goes a step further… instead of giving us what we deserve, God gives us His Grace.  Grace is a free, unmerited gift of God  - we don’t earn it – in fact, we deserve the exact opposite.  When God could lawfully have wiped us from the face of the earth, instead He gave us His Spirit – he breathed His life into us to allow us to live a totally new life.
That is a big deal – and hard to comprehend this quickly – but let it sink in:  We deserved death – we have all gone against the will of God – but in His Divine Mercy, He has given us the opposite of what we deserve.  Instead of giving us death we deserved – he gives us eternal life.
Why?  Because our Father loves you so much, that He cannot IMAGINE spending eternity without you. 
He will seek you out behind locked doors – He will run through the fire for you – He would give up His own life to save yours… The God of the universe would stoop down to the earth to breath His very Life into you.