Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas SEASON

I know it has been a while since I last posted, and for that I apologize. As you can imagine, the days leading up to the celebration of Christmas are rather busy for a priest. Now that the craziness has died down some, I want to reflect on the failure of our world to remember that Christmas is a season, not just a day.
So often the radio stations stop playing Christmas music at midnight, the stores move on to Valentine's decorations on the 26th, and even families just want to get everything down and put away as soon as possible. I even saw two Christmas trees at the dumpster on December 26th, with a few strands of tinsel hanging that was so sad! It used to be that we tried to drag out the celebration of Christmas. I remember as a child that the week between Christmas and New Year's was spent visiting relatives and friends. We had to get to my parent's aunts and uncles, making sure we looked and acted our best. There was always something to eat - depending on which side of the family it was either Pizzelles, struffoli and wine or butter cookies, Poor Man's Cake and tea. In any case, food was always involved! In this way, Christmas was not just a one day celebration, but was celebrated every day when we visited loved ones. The visits also reaffirmed our unity as a family, and there were usually stories told of the previous generations. It was at these times I learned more of the history of my family and was grounded in my identity as the descendant of people who sacrificed a lot to make a better life for their children.
I see the celebration of the Christmas Season in this way as more important than ever today, since so many children do not have the advantage of seeing their extended family other times during the year as I did. By celebrating the season every day, we also are able to reflect more on the importance of the coming of Christ into the world. And this is a key point, since it is not just an event in the past. You see, Christ comes into our lives each day, but often we fail to recognize Him. Reflecting on the stories of shepherds, magi, Simeon, angels, Anna and even the horror of the slaughter of the Innocents, we can become more aware of Christ as He comes to us each day.
My prayer for each of you is that you will continue to celebrate and remember the birth of Christ, so that His coming will not be something we remember, but rather experience. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rest in Peace, Your Eminence

Cardinal John P. Foley died in his sleep early this morning. Many will remember him as the "Voice of Christmas", serving as English commentator for the pope's Christmas Midnight Mass for 25 years.
Since he encouraged me to begin writing this blog in November of 20110, before this day ended I wanted to post my thoughts on this man who was first, last and always a priest. I first met then Father Foley in 1972 when I entered St. Charles Seminary. He was one of the priests who lived at the seminary and, in addition to serving as editor of the archdiocesan newspaper, was a professor there. Father Foley taught various courses in the philosophy department, the most memorable for me (and due to one infamous exchange between he and I which I will not repeat here, I daresay memorable to him also) was a course in Logic.
Father Foley was a very precise teacher, and this precision was seen in other aspects of his life as well. To say that he was a little tight would not be too much of an exaggeration. As I progressed through the seminary, he would become Monsignor Foley and after ordination he was a brother priest - John. When God's will took him to Rome and service to the Holy See, many years would go by before we reconnected again. But when I finally managed to get to Rome, then Archbishop Foley welcomed me, gave me a tour of his Vatican office and, like the good adopted Italian he had become, too me to dinner.
As tends to happen, Rome and the Italian culture had a definite effect on him. I could see that, while more committed than ever to his priesthood and the Church, he had begun to adjust to the slower, more deliberative pace of life there, and came to appreciate the shades of grey that are part of life. Whenever I was in Rome, admittedly not that often, we would try and connect for dinner. One memorable time we were not able to get together for diner, but did bump into one another in St. Peter's of all places. I was just leaving from having celebrated Mass and now Cardinal Foley had just left the area where confessors are available for those seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He informed me and a priest friend that he had just taken care of his spiritual health and was going to see his doctor to take care of his physical health. Unfortunately the news on the physical side was not good and he was diagnosed with Leukemia, which would end his career as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and, this morning, his life.
Even though I did not get to see him too often in Rome, one place I was sure to see him each year was the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. As Archbishop and later as Cardinal, he knew and appreciated the tremendous work done by the K of C for the Church, and was particularly touched by their unfailing support of and respect for priests bishops. And he didn't just "pop in" for a Mass and dinner - he came to the meeting and always shared his thanks and appreciation for the support of the Knights. But then, that was always a part of this gentle man and priest.
I could go on for much longer, but will never be as eloquent as Father, Monsignor, Archbishop, Cardinal Foley. I can only hope that someday I will be half the dedicated servant of the Church that John Foley was. Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Rest in peace, Your Eminence. You will be missed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Encountering God

Today's Gospel (Luke 5:17-26) contains the beautiful story of some friends of a paralyzed man who lower him down from the roof in order to allow him to be in the presence of Jesus. Because of such faith, Jesus forgives his sins. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law accuse Him of blaspheming (since "God alone can forgive sins"), He grants a physical healing to the man, who picks up his mat and goes home. Sounds fairly straightforward, but there is a lot that bears reflection.
First of all, the length to which the friends go is amazing. They do whatever is necessary to remove an obstacle from the encounter, in this case, the crowd. Rather than giving up, they devise an ingenious plan to carry their friend up on the roof and lower him down so that he can see Jesus. This is really a way of "preparing the way of the Lord" and "making straight His path". Jesus then performs the wonderful miracle - He forgives the man's sins. Now, even the Pharisees and teachers acknowledge the immensity of this miracle, declaring "Who but God alone can forgive sins?" In order to help them realize that this was the reality, Jesus performs the secondary miracle of physical healing. Because this is visible, we then have a truly amazing thing happen. Luke tells us that they all glorified God! This is probably one of the few times that the Pharisees and teachers get it right. And they come off very well indeed, recognizing that they are in the presence of God. Unfortunately, they must have had short memories, because by the time Jesus is hauled before the Chief Priests and Sanhedrin, none of them come forward to give testimony.
Several lessons are given here for us. First, the necessity of others in our search for an encounter with God. Without the man's friends, he would not have been able to have this meeting with Jesus. And without his faith, he would not have been forgiven and then healed. And without witnessing these miracles, the others would not have realized that God was present. We, too, need others to help us realize that God is present. And others need us for the same reason. Ours in not a solitary religion, but rather a community of believers. Anyone who thinks they can connect with God all by themselves is ignoring what Jesus said (Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst).
Another lesson is the importance of the unseen. We sometimes rely too heavily on the things we can see, feel, hear. But often the things that have the most impact are hidden. Take, for example, a place where miracles routinely take place - a hospital. Now we can easily see the physical miracles taking place through the use of gifts that have been given to doctors and other medical personnel. but what about the unseen miracles that take place all the time in hospitals? I am speaking about the healing of relationships that come about when people realize that life is too short to hold grudges. Consider how many times in a hospital people finally appreciate what another has done for them. Consider the many who discover that, in their hour of greatest need, the only one they can turn to is God. How often do we think about these hidden miracles.
We are given an opportunity today to change direction - to take a new look at life around us. Even the Pharisees and teachers of the law had a change of heart, once they realized that God was present. My friends, God is present to us each and every day, but we often do not realize it. Look for the hidden miracles happening to the people that surround us, and find in them a reminder that God is with you. And try to help someone else, by removing obstacles to their encounter with Christ. Don't just pray "Come, Lord Jesus", but expect Him to do just that - today!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lord, Lord

Today's Gospel (Matthew 7: 21, 24-27) contains an interesting statement. Jesus says "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." Notice it does not say that no one who says "Lord, Lord", but rather "not everyone". And the example he gives is also an interesting twist on doing the will of the Father. We are presented with two men, each of whom has built a house. One built it on rock, the other on sand. Now presumably both had been told the proper way to build, or at least had watched others build houses. Certainly the man should have known that a house built on sand would not last. But, in the context of this teaching, he believed that his prayer ("Lord, Lord") would be enough to insure the stability of his house, despite what common sense and experts would have said. How wrong!
You see, when we cry out "Lord, Lord" we are asking for God's help. And God always provides help, though not always in the way we expect. For instance, both men should have asked others what was the best way to build, the sturdiest construction techniques, etc. But only one man actually accepted God help by listening to that advice. It is the same if we pray to be healed from an illness but don't go to the doctor. Or pray for financial help and refuse to look for a job.
We build our house on good, solid rock when we see God answering our prayers through the gifts He has given others. And we become the way God answers the prayers of others when we use our gifts for their benefit. Your willingness to serve at a local soup kitchen is how God responds to the "Lord, Lord" of the hungry. Your volunteer time at a nursing home is the way God answers the "Lord, Lord" of the lonely. Your listening ear is God's answering the "Lord, Lord" of one who grieves. In so many ways, God is constantly answering prayers. If only we could be more aware of these answers, perhaps we would more readily cooperate with the will of the Father when we daily cry out "Lord, Lord."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Confess that Jesus is Lord

On this Feast of St. Andrew, we hear a portion of Paul's Letter to the Romans in which he states "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Now, this may sound like a rather simple formula, and some people take it to mean that the words are somehow "magical". Nothing could be further from the truth.
Paul is writing to those in Rome who have come to know Christ. Many of them were Jews, familiar with the Jewish Scriptures (much of our Old Testament) as well as the many other teachings of the famous rabbis that were used to determine how to live. In fact, there was a great controversy over whether or not one had to continue to hold to the various laws and traditions of Judaism in order to be a follower of Christ. As Paul was writing this letter (56-58 A.D., he was certainly mindful that not so long ago (49 A.D.), the Emperor Claudius had ordered the expulsion of Jews from Rome because of problems arising from this dispute. In fact, it could lead to financial, social and even physical ramifications if one were to state that faith in Jesus as Lord was the most important thing needed, and that His new covenant had superseded that Moses.
Paul wanted to make it clear that there could be no compromise in "confessing" faith. Now the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "to confess" as meaning "to declare fain in or adherence to" in this context. By stating that a person had to confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in the resurrection, Paul was making them admit that merely following a set of laws, no matter how good, was not what save you. He clearly wants people to know that salvation is founded in and based on Jesus Christ, the Lord. So, even though it would be a rather dangerous thing for the Romans to confess this, it was necessary.
Now for us, the idea of confessing Jesus as Lord may not seem very important. After all, we freely are able to declare belief according to whatever religion we desire, with no fear of retribution. But just because we are free to say the words does not mean we are done. We also have to put them into practice. Just by saying the words, the Roman followers of Christ were forced to live their faith. Once they were identified as a Christian (although that term was used in Antioch, according to the Acts of the Apostles), the were ostracized by other Jews and certainly not favored by the Roman pagans. We, however, are in a different world. Our faith, our beliefs are considered "private", and in fact society does not want to confront anyone's faith. Therein lies the problem. The unspoken prejudice against having faith impact the public aspects of our lives is a tremendous pressure. And this can result in our saying the words privately or in the comfort of our churches, but not really "confessing" belief. This is the challenge for us. Do we allow society to silence us, to keep us from speaking of our faith? Or do we confess and proclaim that Jesus is Lord? If a law was passed that made it illegal to be a follower of Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict you? When was the last time you confessed - publicly and not in the context of church - that Jesus Christ is Lord?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Revealed to the Childlike

Jesus prays in today's Gospel (Luke 10: 21-24) and praises the Father because "although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike." It made me pause and consider what I see as "childlike". Most children confront things head-on, especially their own needs. They tend to say whatever is on their minds and have not yet developed the "filter" that usually prevents us from saying things that others may not deem polite. When children experience a new reality, they often are able to sum up what they see and feel pretty quickly. And children are fairly honest when asked what they think.
These also tend to be the qualities we find on adults who are labelled "childlike". This is usually used in a negative and disparaging way, as if they are somehow less than an adult. Jesus sees a value in this approach, however, especially when dealing with the Father. You see, our relationship with God should not have the hesitation, filter or avoidance that can be part of our relationships with other people. Since God already knows us completely, it is really rather ludicrous that we try to put on a good face for God. That is exactly what the Scribes and Pharisees tried to do ("O God, I thank you that I am not like these others...")
Whenever we try and come to God as if we were "wise and learned", we will invariably be disappointed. God loves us and wants us to love Him. God will take care of us and give us what we need (though not always what we want). God wants us to love others as we love ourselves. If we can approach God in this childlike way, we will come to know Him more and more, as He reveals Himself to us each day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Watch For It

Well, the big day has come and gone. We now have the Third Edition of the Roman Missal as the new translation for Mass, and I must say it was a very good experience today. After all the mailings, inserts, presentations and discussions, people seemed to be open to the "active listening" that we have encouraged. Judging by the comments after Masses, most did pay close attention to the prayers of the priest, and appreciated the new, more poetic language. Even some of the more unusual words ( consubstantial, incarnate, etc.) once explained, seemed to be embraced. It will be an ongoing process for all of us, as we continue to explore the new phrasing and sentence structure that forces us to pay attention. And that is exactly the point of today's Gospel - stay alert, watch! Of course it is primarily watching for the coming of the Lord, but I also think that we need to watch the words we use when praying, and be alert for unusual or confusing phrases that we may not understand. These present opportunities for us to reflect, pray, investigate and seek understanding, so that the prayers of the priest may reflect our needs, or praise, our gratitude to God.
As we begin this Advent Season, I pray that we all will be alert to the many ways that the Lord comes to us each day. And, as we continue to use and come to appreciate the new translation, we should anticipate an increase in our understanding of the many ways God impacts our lives. All we have to do is watch for it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Losing Your Life

As we prepare to finish up the liturgical year, the readings during these weeks all revolve around the theme of the "end days", both personal and global. Today is no exception, when He says that "one will be taken, the other left". This reflects what actually happens, since not all are dying at the same time. His primary concern is what we do with the time we have on earth - how we live is more important than how, when or where we die.
One of the most powerful lines in today's gospel (Luke 17: 26-37) for me is "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it." It seems to point out a plan for living, and rightly takes our attention and concern off of the eventuality of death. Every one of us will die, that is a given. But if we spend our time on earth trying to prevent our death, we will never really live. That is a real key for me, since I, like everyone else, sometimes worry too much about death. Every moment I spend thinking about my death is a moment I am not spending living well.
So, how can we lose our lives for His sake? I think it means that we have to pay more attention to letting go of our own desires and priorities and put others first. This is very difficult, since there is no guarantee that anyone will put our interests first. But that is, perhaps, why this is the key to saving our own lives. I imagine that all those who have sacrificed their lives for others throughout history, whether soldiers, first responders, or acts of bravery, completely understand that these acts were the means by which they gained eternal life. And even small acts of self-denial, when done so that another may be helped, are ways that we begin to accept the gift of eternal life that is offered to each of us.
"My way or the highway" may sound like a statement of power and control, but it really is the attitude of a loser. You may gain a small measure of satisfaction by having things your way now, but if you are not willing to lose that life, you just might not gain the eternal one that God is waiting to give you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Everyone Is Important

In today's Gospel (Luke 15: 1-10), Jesus speaks about the importance of every single person to God. By using the example of a shepherd who loses one sheep or a woman who loses one coin, He emphasizes that each individual has value. Now we might not think that losing a single sheep is a big deal, especially if there are ninety-nine others. But we need to remember something: most shepherds were not the owners of the sheep, but rather the caretakers of sheep that belonged to someone else. Do you think it would be a big deal if, say, your bank called you and said "Sorry, but we misplaced 1% of the money you had on deposit with us"? I know I would think it was a big deal! In the parable, the woman who had ten coins and lost one tore the house apart in order to find it. Again, what is the big deal - it was one coin! But what would you do if, instead of using a bank, you kept all of your money in the house and misplaced 10% of it? The perspective changes, doesn't it?
In this same way, Jesus wants us to know that every one of us is important to God. Now, unlike the sheep or the coins, we make a conscious decision to move away from God. We sin by making choices that separate us from God. And God does not force us to return. That is why He said that there is great joy over one repentant sinner, because he or she is then reunited with God. Every single person is valuable to God, and God does not want to be separated from any one of us. You are not only loved, but also valued by God. And God is always ready to welcome you back. Just as any parent, God wants to be close to all His children. And He is waiting for the day when all of His children will be together, back home with Him. That, my friends, is the heaven that awaits us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Using GPS

Today's Feast of All Saints gave us the Gospel of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12). It is presented to us in the context of reflecting on those who have "made it", the saints who are in heaven. For those who are old enough to remember, the Baltimore Catechism had a question that is particularly important in thinking about this feast. "Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, so as to be happy with Him forever in the next." Our reason for being is to get to heaven. We get there by following the Beatitudes. Jesus gave us these as a sort of road map - a set of directions.
I have a GPS that I use to help me navigate from one place to another. I simply put in the place I want to reach and "Jack" (sorry, but I just couldn't live with a woman's voice telling me where to go all the time - reminds me too much of my mother!)
Anyway, Jack tells me when to turn and how far to go, and if I follow his instructions I will get there. Sometimes I make a wrong turn, and Jack's voice tells me that he is "recalculating". He will come up with an alternate route and sometimes even tells me to make a u-turn.
If I am trying to get to heaven, I also have a GPS. Not a Global Positioning System, but God's Positioning System. These are the beatitudes. They will certainly not get me to the place where society will bestow power, prestige, wealth and other things that so many desire. Rather, they will help me get to the true goal of my life - heaven. sometimes I make a wrong move, forget to follow the directions or maybe intentionally take a detour. Just as Jack will recalculate, so too God helps get me back on the right road. But I have to listen. I must admit, sometimes I just turn Jack off and try it on my own. But I usually mess it up and turn it back on. I do that with God also.
Perhaps you are that way too. Maybe you have turned God off and have found yourself a little lost. The great thing is that God will help you and "recalculate" so that you can get back on thee right road. Just remember to think of the Beatitudes and follow your spiritual GPS - God's Positioning System!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

DailyWalk Heavenwards: Under the wings

DailyWalk Heavenwards: Under the wings: Today the words of Jesus are tough. He speaks openly, with words filled with many feelings: hurt, disappointment and tenderness. Jesus was ...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Narrow Gate

Today's Gospel (Luke 13: 22-30) is a teaching from Jesus that we should "Strive to enter through the narrow gate". This may seem to be at odds with our image of a loving Jesus who is ready to welcome everyone to the kingdom. When I read this passage, it brings to mind the idea that we all will have to stand before God as individuals. No one else can get me into heaven. Jesus died to save us all, but each one of us has the freedom to accept or reject this salvation. And it is by our actions that we make this choice.
As much as we might like to think that membership in a particular religion or denomination; regular attendance at a church, synagogue, or mosque; or association with a particular charitable organization will be our "ticket" to heaven, it is instead our daily actions that count. God will be judging us by how we treat others - the least among us - and that is not a corporate but rather an individual judgement we will face.
We cannot expect to be swept up in the crowd as we approach the heavenly gate. God's love and mercy are wide, but every one of us will need to answer for what we did with our time on earth and how we served Him.
As He said, being first or last in the line is not what's important. Rather, we need to be concerned with how we are treating all the others in line with us as we approach the narrow gate!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It Only Takes a Little

When speaking about the Kingdom, Jesus uses two comparisons in today's gospel (Luke 13: 18-21) - a mustard seed and yeast. Both of these are ways that we can think about the importance of even the smallest action and how the tiniest things can impact the larger reality. Many people often feel that they cannot make any difference in the world. "After all", they reason, "I am only one person. What can I do?"
The Lord tried to explain that one person may not seem to have much power to change things, but that even our small efforts can make a difference.
Have you ever been having a really bad day and encountered someone who, with a brief word or perhaps just a smile, changed your mood entirely? This is an affirmation that one person can make a difference. It may not have seemed like much to anyone else, but for you, it was a lot. You and I have that power - the power to make a difference, even if it is only in the life of one person. And, when we give someone hope, joy, encouragement, affirmation, laughter, or any other positive experience, they are much more likely to pass it on to others.
That tiny mustard seed may have started our small, but without it the birds would not have been able to live in the branches. The small grains of yeast are what make the loaf of bread rise - each one impacting the dough around it in its own small way. One person may not seem very powerful, but when you team up with God you are amazingly powerful. You see, God needs our voice and our hands to change this world. Partnered with Him, we can and will do amazing things. The only thing necessary is to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us each day. So, who will you affirm this day with an encouraging word? Who will benefit from your smile? Who will know God loves them because you take a moment to listen to them? For whom will you be the yeast that help them rise?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Ready

Today's Gospel (Luke 12: 39-48) is the parable in which the Lord cautions his followers that they must be careful not to allow themselves to become lax and forget that the Master will return and they will have to answer for their stewardship. Indeed, He assures them that at "an unexpected day and at an unknown hour" the Master will return.
This struck me particularly today, as I have just finished celebrating the Mass of Christian Burial for a 48 year old parishioner. Chris was a loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend, who was very active in the parish. His battle with brain cancer, while not successful in defeating the disease, was a powerful testimony to his faith. He truly lived the Gospel in a way that showed everyone he was ready for the Master's return. I was humbled and privileged to be a part of his journey home to the Father, and have learned a great deal from him about being prepared myself to answer the Lord's call.
How can we make ourselves ready for the Master's return? What is expected of us? Well, when you look at the parable, Jesus indicates that we have to live in such a way that shows we realize that we are merely stewards and not the ones who have the ultimate right to decide things. Our treatment of others is also key to being ready, since we will have to answer to the Master for the way we interacted with the people who are part of our lives.
Being ready is not something we have to do once and then we are set. No, it is a constant state of readiness that is expected. Since we do not know "the day nor the hour", we have to make sure we are not caught off guard. Our lives, like that of our brother Chris, should be consistently lived in the way that God expects. If we try to do this, should the Lord suddenly (or even not so suddenly) return for us, we will not be surprised and not upset by His reaction.
So don't delay - get ready. Who knows, it just may be today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Watering Down Prayer

Well, I really got on a "soapbox" this morning. The Gospel for today is Luke's account of the Lord teaching His disciples to pray (Luke 11: 1-4). This "Lord's Prayer" has been handed down from generation to generation of Christians for two thousand years. As I was drinking my coffee, I read an article in the local paper regarding a county council's fight to keep saying "The Lord's Prayer" at the start of each meeting. Now I know that many people with good intentions think that anyone objecting to such a practice is being too sensitive, but this article proves why I am not in favor of having our prayers become part of government business.
You see, the brilliant minds who are trying to keep reciting this prayer are arguing that it is not an "exclusively Christian prayer". Excuse me??? They have even come up with various quotes from the sacred books of other religions to show that it contains "non-denominational textual statements of supplication and belief, and as all-inclusive as a prayer may reasonably be."
Hogwash!  These are not merely meaningless words that can be spoken by anyone. It is a prayer, taught by Jesus Christ and a sacred part of our religion. Our Christian religion! Whether Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or any other  Christian denomination, we do not merely recite these words, we pray them. And they are not words that just anyone can or should say without faith - faith in the Author, Jesus Christ. How dare they try to take our prayer away from us!
Now I see nothing wrong with a moment of silence to open a public / government / school meeting. I can and do pray at these times. But I refuse to allow people to take my Lord's prayer and turn it into a meaningless stream of words that anyone can recite without thought, intention or faith. Rather than preserving faith and Christian values, this is one of the reasons they are being eroded. I blame those who try and force expressions of faith on others for the weakening of faith in our country. They are not fighting for the right to pray, they are fighting for the right to say words which they obviously consider to be meaningless, inoffensive and generic. Sorry, but I object. I object to using this prayer given to us by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as a weapon. I object to removing it's meaning and importance to Christians everywhere. And I object to having so-called Christians give the impression that they speak for all followers of Christ, when most of us would rather pray the words our Savior gave us in a context where they retain their power and meaning.
If you would like to read the article, you can find it here:|newswell|text|Home|s.
For now, I hope you will take some time today and reflect on what this prayer means and how we should use it:
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What's Yours Is His

Today in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt.21: 33-43) we hear the parable of the tenants. When the owner of the vineyard sent his servants to collect his share of the harvest, the tenants killed two different groups of them and finally his own son. You see, they had forgotten that they were only tenants. They had deluded themselves into thinking that they were the owners.Jesus wanted to make sure that everyone, especially the chief priests and elders, remembered that they were not the "owners of the vineyard" - that they were not God.
We also need to remind ourselves that we are merely stewards of the things God has entrusted to us. When we act as if the earth and its resources belong to us, we have lakes that are so polluted that fish cannot survive in them. When we think that we can control others, relationships break down. Even the money we earn is not really ours. How much belongs to the government, mortgage company, credit card issuer, grocery store, etc. It simply passes through our hands.
This week I hope to reflect on how I am treating what belongs to God. Whether it is the natural world, the people who are part of my life, or even the material things that are in my possession, I have to be careful that I ask what God wants me to do, how God wants me to treat them that will best reflect His wishes. My own desires and wishes have to take a back seat, since I will have to answer to God one day. I do not know when that day will be, but I need to be ready to give that accounting.
How about you? I would like to invite you to join me in evaluating what kind of tenant/ steward you are. After all, what''s yours is really His!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Angel Triple-Header

Today our Church celebrates the feast of three Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The interesting thing about them is that they have names and are well-known. Now, names are used today to help distinguish between individuals. In Biblical times, however, names were used to indicate something about the individual. (The use of last names in modern times is reminiscent of this, as in the first person to use Taylor or Carpenter (signifying their occupation), Johnson (John's son), or Ireland (guess where he was from) as a last name.
In the cases of these three archangels, their names are very important indicators. Michael means "Who is like God?"; Gabriel "God's strength" and Raphael "God's remedy". Each one gives us an important insight. For Michael, his name indicates the uniqueness of God, and the impossibility of us to be God. Even though we are sometimes tempted to think we could do a better job of things ("if only I was God for just 5 minutes, I would straighten things out"), even popular culture seems to recognize how impossible this is (watch Bruce Almighty for a humorous example of this). Gabriel's name reminds us that our strength comes from God, since on our own we can really accomplish nothing. And Raphael's name helps us realize that we should turn to God when it seems as if there is no solution to our problems and no way to turn a bad situation around.
One of the really important points to think about with each of these three names is that they do not tell us anything at all about the messenger - the angel, but rather about the one who sends them - God. Their names reveal something about God, and humans benefit from this.
In reflecting on this, I think it is good for us to ponder what we reveal about God, not by our name but by our actions and words. Since the use of nicknames is common, and sometimes relate to some characteristic about the person (think "Reds", "Smokey", "Slim"), maybe we should think about what nickname people might use for us if we challenged them. If you were to ask a friend to come up with a nickname for you that reflects what they learn about God from you, would they be able to do it? And what would it be? Would you be Mrs. Affirming? Mr. Loving? Ms. Constant? Master Forgiving? Or would it be more likely that your nickname would reflect another reality? Old Man Cynical. Mrs. Complainer. The User.
Today we have three examples of beings that reflect God's presence in their very names. what do you reflect by your words and actions? Let's try and make sure we show others the presence of God, just as this Angel Triple-Header does!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Walk On By

So often we tend to lash out when our feelings are hurt. That is exactly what was going on in today's Gospel (Luke 9: 51-56). The disciples were upset because the people of a Samaritan town did not want to welcome the m and the Lord, since they were going to Jerusalem. They wanted to hurt the people, asking if they should call down fire from heaven to consume them" (as if they could!).  The reply of the Lord was basically "Forget about it". He simply continued and went to another village where He was welcomed.
This is a great lesson for all of us. People can do things that upset and hurt us, either intentionally or unintentionally. We may be tempted to fire back, usually in anger. But the Lord gives us a different example. Especially when our feelings are hurt, we need to remove ourselves from the situation if possible and move on. We know that there are always people who may not like us, our ideas or plans. But we can forget that there are usually even more people who do like us, who are excited by our ideas and who want to see us succeed with our plans. These are the people we need to encourage us. Now, we have to be careful that we do not ignore proper criticism and think that we are always right. There is certainly a place to listen to the advice of trusted family m,embers, friends and co-workers. But if we find ourselves trying to do God's will and running into fierce opposition or maybe indifference, it may be the Lord trying to tell us to move on.
There are plenty of people who want to see us reach our goal - heaven. When we encounter those who do not, take the advice of Jesus. Don't get upset, angry or seek retribution. Just walk on by!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life-Changing Moments

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, and the Gospel (Matthew 9:9-13) tells the story of the Lord calling him to "follow me". Now, Matthew was not exactly a popular fellow. In fact, he (and all tax collectors) would have been considered traitors to their people, since they worked for the Roman occupiers. Their daily work not only helped fuel the Roman economy, but also involved the use of Roman money, which were emblazoned with the image of a false god - the emperor. As one of the few in his community who could read, write and do math, Matthew had made a choice. Other in his situation chose to use their talents for the good of the people, such as the scribes and rabbis. Matthew had chosen to work against the well-being of his own people, and so was rejected by them. (And with good reason.)
But the amazing thing to understand is that, once the Lord called him, Matthew immediately left what he was doing. He changed his life around and became one of the apostles for whom a gospel would be named. Talk about a turn-around! How many times had others urged him to change his life, to give up what he was doing and he had ignored them? How many times had he thought about it but never made a move to change? How often had family members prayed that he would be "converted" and see the light? But it was at that moment, when Jesus happened to be going by, that Matthew was ready and open to saying "yes" to God's will.
It made me reflect on not only my own need to change when I have sinned, but also the restrictions I sometimes place on others by refusing to consider that they might be able to change. A perfect example of this is seen in the teaching of the Church regarding the death penalty. While legal, the circumstances where it should be used is now, as Pope John Paul II said, "very rare, if not nonexistent" (Para. 56 of Evangelium Vitae - The Gospel of Life). Many people think that individuals on death row are beyond hope, that they will never change. Even though God never forces anyone to do His will, He is constantly giving them opportunities to do so. By ending someone's life, even the most hardened criminal, we are really saying that we have decided they had enough time and God is not powerful enough to give them the grace they need to repent. 
And we do this with so many people in our lives. Holding a grudge is really saying that "they will never change". Certainly there are consequences to behavior, and those who have gone against God's will (whether a murderer, rapist, terrorist or simply a friend who betrayed a confidence) are not excused or released from those consequences. But we have no right to deny them as many opportunities as God deems fit to change their lives and repent. 
For this reason, I see Matthew as sort of a patron saint for sinners. How was given that opportunity to change his life, and he took it. We have to be sure we are not denying others the opportunity to experience a life-changing moment. After all, are any of us so sure that we will never need one?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Be the Sower

Today's Gospel (Luke 8: 4-15) is the parable of the sower, whose seed fell in different places. Some of it fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil. If, as the Lord explains, the seed is the word of God and the soil represents various responses of people who hear the word, we normally try and find our place as one of the types of soil. But I was reflecting on the idea that we, all of us who are believers, are really called to be the sowers.
This parable then, in addition to being a road map on how to receive the word, is also a primer on what to expect as we spread the Good News. So often we wonder whether or not our example has an effect, whether or not the things we share about faith make a difference. We can sometimes get discouraged and think "why bother?" saying anything. But the important thing to remember is that we are never sure what type of "soil" we are  encountering. When dealing with human beings, what was once "rocky" and incapable of supporting life can suddenly become the perfect environment where the Word of God can flourish. This is the result of God's grace, who says that "I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26)
What is necessary is that we simply go and sow the seed, speak God's word to others and encourage them to see the presence of God in their lives. While we cannot control what happens next, we are assured that some of it will fall on "good soil" and produce the hundredfold. But this can happen only if we go out and sow. Don't be discouraged, then. Get up and become a sower. After all, this is what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Joy of Sorrow

It may sound like a contradiction, but I was reflecting today on what is behind sorrow and mourning. Today is the feast of "Our Lady of Sorrows", which remembers various times during the life of Jesus' mother Mary when she was filled with sorrow. From the time she was warned by Simeon when she presented Him in the Temple to having to witness His death and burial, like all of us Mary had moments where she must have felt a little overwhelmed with sadness. Why, then, would our Church call upon us to celebrate these moments?
I believe that they are a reflection of the depth of love that was present. You cannot mourn someone you did not love. You cannot be filled with sorrow over someone who does not hold a place in your heart. Grief is not only a natural and healthy human reaction to loss, but also an indication of the importance of a relationship. I simply do not agree with those who try to tell you that, if you have faith in heaven, eternal life, the resurrection, etc. you should not be sad when someone dies. But that is a misunderstanding of why we mourn and the reason for our sorrow. We are sad not because of what happens to the other person, but because of what has happened to us. And this is not in a selfish way, but in a truly connected way. We feel the loss, we experience the pain of separation, we are filled with fear even at the thought of losing someone we love. And that is the key phrase - "someone we love".
The pain that comes from sorrow is a reminder that we have loved. Grief counselors tell us that it is good and healthy to grieve, and that people grieve in many different ways. One thing all grief has in common is that it indicates an important loss. And when we identify with others who grieve, we show that they are important to us, that they matter and make a difference.
So it is OK to celebrate today the "sorrows" of Mary, and indeed our own sorrows. In fact, there is a kind of joy in that sorrow, because it assures us that we have loved. And when it is our turn to depart from this life, there will not only be joy that we are returning to the Lord, but joy that those we leave behind mourn and grieve, because we have been loved.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Past, Present and Future

In our Gospel today (Matthew: 1-16, 18-23), the Church gives us the list of the ancestors of Joseph, the foster-father of the Lord and the story of the Annunciation to Mary. I love looking at those names, reflecting on the people who passed on the faith that eventually was part and parcel of the home in which Jesus was raised. It is also fascinating to look into the history of some of these ancestors, and appreciate the way in which God took flawed human beings and still was able to use them to bring about our salvation.
At the same time it is good for each one of us to reflect on the many generations who helped form us in the faith. If it were possible for each one of us to trace the passing of faith back through the generations, we would eventually get to someone who actually saw and heard the Lord! Now, not all of those people would be related to us by blood, and they certainly would not be perfect. We would find friends, catechists, religious, priests, neighbors, strangers - all sorts of people who helped pass on the faith that we proclaim today.
The implications of this are important for us to consider also. If we want to make sure future generations understand and profess the faith we received, we have an obligation to pass it on as well. This may be through formal teaching (such as serving as a Catechist), or through more informal ways, like parents and grandparents teaching children their prayers. But for every one of us, the most important way we pass on faith is by living it. Let's face it - most people consider "religion" to be a private matter, which is "nobody's business". But that is not possible for those of us who profess to follow Christ. He gave us a faith that must be a part of our daily life - easily seen in our words and actions. And that is how we are able to form others in the faith as well. Our words should reflect the teaching of Jesus, even when we are not talking about "religion". As people watch us and listen to us going about our daily lives, they should see and hear a person of faith. When we strive to do God's will in our lives each day, we are helping to pass on our faith. And we thus become the ancestors of future generations. If they reflect on how the faith was passed on to them by those who went before them, we should be a part of that litany, and, we pray, we will be waiting for them to join us as our ancestors in the faith are now waiting for us to enter the heavenly kingdom.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Are You Ready?

Today's Gospel (Matthew 25: 1-13) is a very apt one for those of us living in the path of Hurricane Irene. In this parable, Jesus speaks of ten virgins (bridesmaids) who are waiting for the arrival of the groom. In those days of no means of instant communication there was no way of knowing exactly which day or hour someone would complete a trip. So part of the duties of bridesmaids was to wait for the groom and accompany him into the feast, announcing his arrival to the guests so that they could gather for the celebration. And since there were no "streetlights", these girls would also have oil lamps to light the way through the streets. As they awaited his arrival, the girls would have to keep trimming the wicks of the lamps to prevent burning excessive oil. By keeping the wicks small and using just a little oil, they would have enough to light the way for the groom when he arrived. The foolish girls, who fell asleep and did not tend their lamps, were running out of oil by the time the groom arrived and were not ready.
There has been a lot of talk about being prepared, what provisions people should have "just in case" there is a direct hit. Some are heading the warnings, others seem to take pride in defying both civil authorities and common sense. All the news reports seemed geared to dwell on a "worst case" scenario, warning people of the coming disaster, and it seems as if the entire east coast of the United States is focused on the potential paths and possible results of the storm. There are reports of shortages of batteries, generators, plywood and food, as people are now trying to make sure they are ready to make it through the next few days. And I am sure that there will still be those who will not have the necessary items and will be expressing anger and resentment at others who are better prepared.
The hurricane is definitely coming, even though some think it will be "much ado about nothing". They will refer to previous warnings of ,monster storms that turned out to fizzle before arriving. And when it hits and there is widespread damage, we will find some who, after neglecting the warnings, need to be rescued, putting others' lives in jeopardy. This is, indeed, the height of foolishness!
The bottom line is - get ready now -  and not just for Hurricane Irene. The reality is that many people will die even before Irene hits. Each day it is estimated that 153,400 people die. Some of them will be people from your hometown, people with whom you work, people in your own family. One day each one of us will be part of that daily statistic. The hurricane will hit within two days, and I hope you are getting ready for it. But what if today is the day you will be one of the 153,400? Are you ready?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Master's Goods

Today's Gospel (Matthew 24: 42-51) is a very timely lesson from the Lord. Given the recent earthquake in this part of the country, and the impending hurricane expected this weekend, a caution that "at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come" seems to be very apt.
I would like to reflect on the second part of the Gospel, in which the Lord reflects on the servant who is given responsibility for the household while the master is away. He tells us that if the servant acts properly, he will be blessed. But, if the servant acts improperly, there will be consequences. If we examine the actions of the one who does not act properly, we see that he treats the master's property as if it were his own. Without regard to the fact that he is a mere steward, the servant begins to act like a master, eating and drinking as he wishes, using the master's property as he wishes instead of as the master wishes.
When we think about our own "property", we have to ask ourselves "What is really mine?" Even our salary, that which we earn by our labor - how much of it is really mine? Even before I receive what I have earned, the government takes a chunk. More of it goes to the bank for my mortgage, credit cards and other loans. I have to pay utility companies, the grocery store and doctors. Even the money that is "left over" never really stays with me very long. So how can I say that it is mine? And what will I be able to take with me when I die? In reality, I am a mere custodian of material things, and even then for a relatively short time.
So the question becomes - to whom does it all really belong? I would suggest that the answer is God, since He alone will always be around and, after all, He created everything to begin with. So, how much concern do I give to what God wants me to do with things? It is a very powerful and disconcerting question. I thinkl it is probably one that I do not ask often enough, especially when I am making decisions about what to do with "my" things. I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of the servant who lives as if all the master's goods were his. God certainly has a plan for each of us, and He provides us with the means to live out His plan. It is probably a good idea to keep check on ourselves, so that we will be using these means - the Master's goods - as He wants. Failure to do so could end up with us wailing and grinding teeth, which is not a very attractive picture!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Spirit of the Law

In today's Gospel (Matthew 23: 23-26) the Lord warns the scribes and Pharisees (and by extension, all of us as well) that they need to be more concerned with what is integral to their lives, those values that should be guiding all actions. Evidently there was a lot of finger pointing being done, but none of it was being focused on their own actions. The Lord indicates that they had been very harsh in demanding that others adhere to the smallest and insignificant laws, but had failed to adopt what the law sought to instill in them. The paying of tithes (donations to the temple) and cleansing of utensils have overshadowed judgement, mercy and fidelity, and the Lord denounces them as hypocrites. Certainly the gospel does not portray the Lord as treating the scribes and Pharisees gently. Our impulse may be to denounce them as well and feel superior. We have to be very careful about this, however.
It is always easier to see the faults in other than in ourselves, but the Lord call us to look at ourselves and make sure we are being faithful to who we are called to be. We may be quick to point out how others are not being faithful, not following the commandments, not living as they should. But before we try to tell others how to live, we better take a look at our own lives. Most of us, you see, are rather selective in following the law. We don't steal, just "borrow" things from work. We only tell "little white lies". Simply going to Mass means that we have kept holy the Lord's day, and "God understands" when we decide not to if we are too tired or busy.
The Lord speaks to us as He speaks to the scribes and Pharisees. He expects that we will make sure that we are pure inside, not just outside. He demands that we not neglect the "weightier" things that are at the core of our faith, and follow His example. If we can try each day to live as Christ wants, doing the Father's will, we will not have to be worried about being lumped in with the scribes and Pharisees, but will be counted among the faithful who are part of God's Kingdom. This is what it means to live the spirit of the law - living like Christ.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Law of Love

It seems strange to think of love as something that is the subject of a command. But that is exactly what the Lord affirms in today's Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40), when He was asked to state the greatest commandment. "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind... You shall love your neighbor as yourself" are not given as suggestions, but rather commandments. How can you command someone to love?
One of the problems is that, in English, the word "love" means different things. I may say that I love my mother, I love that car, I love the color blue, I love the beach, etc. Even though I use the same word to describe my feelings about these things, each one means something different. Other languages use different words for each of these realities, but English is rather confusing. What they may all have in common, however, is that they are emotional responses. And emotional responses are influenced by a variety of factors. If these factors change, how can I be commanded to love?
The question betrays another problem with the modern concept of love when referring to a relationship, which sees it as an emotional response rather than a decision. "You can't help who you fall in love with" is frequently heard. But that very statement contains the answer to this dilemma. You see, there is a difference between being in love and loving. Two people may "fall in love" rather quickly, and this is a normal experience in today's world. But falling love is not the same as loving a person and is not even necessary. The love a parent has for a child is certainly not a result of being in love, but it is perhaps the strongest type of love. Being in love may lead to loving someone, but not necessarily. The difference is a choice that the people make. Choosing to love someone actually involves a series of choices made daily. I choose to overlook the little things that may drive me crazy. I choose to be faithful, even when they do something that disappoints me. I choose to emphasize the best and forgive the worst. I choose to put their needs ahead of my own. I choose to do for them without expecting anything in return.
All of these are ways that I make a decision to love. And if love is a decision (just like committing murder, lying, stealing, etc.), God's commandment makes sense. The real challenge is seeing these daily decisions as a means of expressing love. Every decision we make, in fact, is a decision that will either shoe love or not. Love God and love neighbor is a daily challenge, one that we are commanded to live. How will I follow this law of love today?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Put On Something Beautiful

Today's Gospel (Matthew 22: 1-14) is the parable of the king who threw a wedding feast. As the story goes, when the invited guests refuse to come, he ultimately ends up having people invited in from the highways and byways, so that there will still be a grand celebration for his son's wedding. One of the interesting things to remember is that the only thing people had to do was come to the feast. They didn't have to worry about bringing a gift, they didn't even have to be worried about what to wear, since, as was the custom,  the king supplied the clothes for them to wear. (No one could have been expected to own clothing suitable for such an occasion, and so the king would provide suitable clothes for the guests - sort of like renting a tuxedo to be in a wedding today!)
When those who had been invited refused to come and went so far as to kill the messengers of the king, they met a terrible end. This left those who happened to be in the neighborhood - the poor, unemployed, "peasants" who were invited to come in and celebrate. Maybe to show that rudeness and lack of manners are not the exclusive provenance of the wealthy, one man refuses to put on the wedding garment. This was a tremendous insult to the king, and as a result he was ejected from the banquet.
In reflecting on this parable, I see the Lord inviting us to the eternal Feast. There is nothing we can do to earn it, He has already done that for us. The only thing we are asked to do is put on the "wedding garment". What does this mean? Well, when we were baptized we were clothed in white, symbolizing our new life as a child of God. This becomes our "wedding garment", as we celebrate the union of Christ, the bridegroom, with the Church, His bride. As long as we live as a child of God, reflecting the example of Christ, we keep this new life alive and continue to wear the wedding garment. We are, however, free to cast it off. Just as the attendants did not force the man to wear his wedding garment, neither does God force us to live in the proper way. But there are also consequences for us, just as there were for the improperly dressed guest.
As we continue celebrating the union of Christ and His Church, we need to make sure we do not discard this new life we have been given. Every day we have to once again put on something beautiful: the grace-filled life of a child of God.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Full Day's Pay

The parable of the laborers who worked for different amounts of time all receiving a full day's pay (Matthew 20: 1-16), is really challenging. It seems to go against our sense of fairness. We all tend to think that the amount of pay should somehow correlate to the work performed. But the Lord seems to indicate that God will reward us in a different way. The ones who have been laboring for many years, trying to do what is right, should not expect any more than those who have come to know and follow the Lord very late in the game. Is this fair?
I believe that the Lord is trying to make us see that the question itself is flawed. We should not be asking "Is this fair?". Instead, we have to remember that, as any loving parent, God is not going to love us based on what we do, but rather who we are. A parent may have one child who always does what the parent wants, and another who is always getting in trouble. Even though disappointed in their actions and decisions, a parent does not love the wayward child any less. Even if there have to be consequences for their actions, the child who does not choose the right path is still loved by their parent. So it is with us and God.
You see, heaven is not a reward for doing the right thing. Heaven is our true home, and being there is the natural consequence of our relationship with God. The only thing that can prevent a person from being able to enter their own home is deciding that they do not want to go there. I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard parents say "No matter what, this will always be your home". Now, since parents realize that they will not live forever, they always want their children to be able to take care of themselves. And competent adult children should be able to take care of themselves. But Jesus was aware of a different reality, a heavenly home where we will live forever. And God, our Father, wants us all to be there for eternity. So it does not matter whether we come to this realization early in life or at the last minute. It is for this that we have been created. And this is not earned by any of our own good deeds. No, the Lord is the one who did the work, and we receive the recompense. His death on the cross earned us the full wage - eternal life in heaven. The only thing that can mess it up is our own refusal to accept what God wants for us.
So, I guess that the lesson for us is that we are all being offered a full day's pay for the work that was performed by the Lord on a Friday long ago. And there is no better pay that anyone can receive.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Being In Debt

In today's Gospel (Matthew 18:21 - 19:1) the Lord uses an example of two men who are in debt and how their creditor reacts to the situation. The first man owes money and, when the master demands payment, he pleads for more time. This is given to him. Leaving that meeting, this first man encounters someone who owes him money. Naturally he sees this as an opportunity to get some of the money he owes in order to pay back the master, and so he demands that the second man make good on the debt. The second man pleads for more time, just as the first man did. The first man, however, despite being given more time by his master, does not extend the debt for this second man. Instead, he has him jailed for failure to pay.
Now when we examine this example, we can understand that, given the terms of the agreement, both men were legally bound to pay the debt in the time that was specified in the agreement. The master, despite his legal right to take any and all measures to collect his money (including selling the servant, his family and all his possessions), takes the path of patience and mercy, realizing that it would be better for all if he gave the servant more time to repay the debt.
That first servant however, goes to the full extent of the law, having his fellow servant jailed for failure to pay. It is probable that he did this as a lesson to others who owed him money, hoping that it would motivate them to repay him quickly so that he could clear his debt with the master.He forgets the example shown by the master and fails to look beyond the letter of the agreement and live by the law of love.
In a very practical way, Jesus is trying to move people from the old "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" way of dealing with others, to a do unto others" way of living. With more and more of us concerned about finances, it also is a lesson in priorities. When money is tight and we find ourselves in over our heads, sometimes we can forget that the most important thing we possess is our integrity. If we call ourselves followers of Christ, we have to live that way, even when times are tough. Indeed, it is the very essence of a Christian to hold fast to our determination to live according to the example of Christ especially when times are tough. Anyone can be a good Christian when life is easy. But when life is difficult, that is where you discover the true disciples. We will not always do it perfectly (just look at how the apostles denied, ran away, cowered in the upper room) but we have to keep trying. Remember, our original debt was paid by Christ on the cross. Now we are called to reach out to those who are looking to us for forgiveness, understanding, patience, assistance. After all, it is no fun being in debt, especially when eternity is in the balance!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Father Knows Best

Today's Gospel (Matthew 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14) speaks of being humble and uses a child as an example. At first this sounds pretty off-base, since I doubt that many of us would use the word humble to describe many children. Children often seem to be the exact opposite, demanding attention and seeing the world as if it revolves around their needs and wishes. But when you think about it, a child is really powerless without adults to support and take care of them. As much as they may whine and plead for things, as many times as they may throw a "temper tantrum", it is still the parent who makes the decision. Now, some parents may just give in and acquiesce to the demands of the child, but that is also the decision of the parent. And in the end, most children are glad that they do not have to make big decisions, because they instinctively know that their parents will always want what is best for them.
In reflecting on this, it seems that the Lord correctly identified the way that our relationship with God is lived. We may beg and plead, but it is God who has the ultimate power and is the One who has the best understanding of what is good for us. Even when we decide not to do God's will in a particular situation, we know that He has the ultimate say and His will is what will ultimately prevail. In this sense, then, the sooner we realize this and act accordingly, the better.
Most of us are very glad to finally become adults, because we can do what we want. But that is really not true. Indeed, adults have just as many, if not more constraints on them as children, even if we fail to realize it. But the Lord is advising us to look at our relationship with God in a different way. Rather than being upset, sad or angry that we have to depend on God, He invites us to rejoice and be glad. If we take on the humility of a child and accept that our Father knows best, we can rely on the fact that He will not allow us to become lost. And even if we occasionally think that God is not around, not watching, not concerned, we can be sure that He is always aware of us and always watching over His beloved child.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What Are You Looking At??

Sorry for the gap in posting. I was at the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus this past week. But today's Gospel (Matthew 14: 22-33) helped me realize that I have to stay focused, even when there are other things that try to distract me.
You see, that is what happened to Peter. When the Lord called him to come and walk on the water, Peter was able to do it because he was focused on the Lord. The scripture tell us, however, that he "saw how strong the wind was", meaning that he moved his attention from the Lord to other things that were happening around him. And this is what caused Peter to begin sinking.
There are so many things in today;s world that try to distract us, to turn our attention away from God. Sadly, some people not only give in to this but also join in. In fact, most advertising today seems to try and make the most important things in life what YOU want, what YOU need, how YOU can have a better life, what YOU deserve. This continuous attention to the needs and wants of the individual run completely contrary to what God teaches us. And that is why it more important than ever to try and keep our eyes and attention focused on God.
But how can we do this? How do we make sure that it is God that we look to for guidance? One sure way is by having frequent conversations with God. This is what we call prayer. And we not only have to talk to God, but more importantly, listen. This requires time and space away from other distractions. Just by seeking to remove ourselves to a quiet, "alone" place, we can set ourselves up for success. The very act of entering into a conversation with God will help us discover what God's will is in our lives. If Peter had not been willing to look at the Lord and enter into a conversation with Him, he would have remained cowering and afraid in the boat. And even though he faltered and began to sink, the Lord stayed with him and helped him get back into the boat.
This is a great model for us, especially when we feel that life is tossing us around. Look to the Lord. Focus on Him and His word. And don't let the storms of life distract you from concentrating on God's will. This is how we will all be able to walk on the troubled waters of life. So, whenever you find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed by life, stop and think about Peter. What are you looking at?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Not Much, But Enough

The Gospel for this Sunday tells the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. While we often focus on the fact that Jesus was able to feed thousands, there is another important detail that bears reflections. Matthew's Gospel tells us that the disciples had merely five loaves and two fish. Matthew does not say where they came from, but one thing is clear: they were a crucial part of the miracle. You see, Jesus worked with what He had, and those who brought Him the few loaves and fish, even though not very much, cooperated in the miracle.
Notice that Jesus did not magically create food out of nothing. Creating out of nothing was accomplished by the Father in the beginning. From that point on, creation always was building on what already was. So the Lord took what already was (5 loaves, 2 fish) and multiplied them so that there was enough for everyone. And this miracle was not simply about food.
Jesus, by showing us how bread and fish could be multiplied, assured us that our own generosity, good works, etc. can also be multiplied. All that is necessary is that we present it to Jesus and cooperate with Him. By turning over what is "mine" and allowing God to work in our lives, the smallest thing can have a big impact. Whether a kind word, a helpful gesture, or even some of our own treasure, when given to God all of this can be multiplied and touch many people. Witness what happens when there is a natural disaster. People feel moved to donate, even though no one has enough to make an impact alone. But when enough people get involved (encouraged by the example of others), the impact is huge.
Just so a small act of kindness, freely given, can be multiplied by God. That is why we should never think that what we do is unimportant, that we cannot make a difference. After all, whoever brought the five loaves and two fish never imagined that thousands would be able to eat because of it. In the end, by cooperating with God, it was not much, but definitely enough.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Momma's Boys?

I always find it fascinating to think of James and John. They were two of the Apostles who were frequently called to accompany Jesus (along with Peter) when He wanted to pray. Whether on the mountain of the Transfiguration or in the Garden of Gethsemane, they were privileged to be present at several key moments. But even though they were usually referred to as the "sons of Zebedee" and "sons of thunder", they are probably remembered better for their mother than their father. Today's Gospel (Matthew 20: 20-28) tells the story of her approaching Jesus and asking “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” I can only imagine how embarrassed they must have been! And the other Apostles did not let them off easily, either.They certainly could have gone down in history as the ultimate momma's boys.
This encounter, however, was a very serious turning point. They were put on notice that, if they wanted to follow Jesus, they had to be prepared for hardship. And they expressed themselves ready to take the challenge. Despite some initial missteps (falling asleep in the Garden, running away from the crucifixion), James, whose feast we celebrate today, would ultimately be the very first of the Apostles to give his life for the faith. His martyrdom stands as a final proof that he was indeed ready to "drink from the chalice" like the Lord.
What depth of faith that shows!
It is left to each of us to ponder whether or not we are ready and willing to do the same. While we may not be called to make the ultimate sacrifice of dying for the Lord, we are called to die to our baser instincts and temptations each day. How willing are we to embrace these denials? When the time comes to make a decision, are we more concerned about doing God's will or pleasing others? The mother of James and John may have made the first move in asking Jesus, but they each had to agree to accept what was coming. And they did. The Lord is now inviting each of us to follow Him in doing the will of the Father. What will your answer be today?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Part of the Process

In today's Gospel (Matthew 13: 10-17) Jesus gives the formula or process for coming to a new life. In quoting the prophet Isaiah, he shows that if we see with our eyes, hear with our ears and understand with our hearts, we will be converted and healed. Sounds pretty simple. He also notes that one is blessed if they have eyes that see and ears that hear, because many people do not.
If you accept this process (and I would recommend you do, since it is the Lord himself who is proposing it), then there are two parts to it. The first is to make sure that you keep your eyes and ears open, so that you can see and hear the Lord. Every day, in countless situations, the Lord seeks to interact with us. Through other people, the Lord want us to see Him and hear Him. But if we are not looking for these encounters, we will likely miss them.
The second part is that we have to always look for opportunities to speak God's word to others and show them the example of Christ. You see, we may never know when someone is open to "seeing and hearing". But we just may be the one who speaks the right word to them and shows them the face of Christ. It is really not of our own choosing, but God's when that will occur. What God counts on is our cooperation, which means we have to always try and be the voice and hands of Christ.
Even if someone has had their eyes and ears closed hundreds of times in the past, it just may be the next time we speak with the love of Christ that they are listening, or act as Christ would that they are looking. And for them, we become the means by which they are blessed. But it cannot happen unless we are part of the process.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Keep on Sowing

The parable about the sower (Matthew 13: 1-9) in today's Gospel has many different aspects for meditation. Today I decided to reflect on the idea that, even if the "seed" of faith, God's Word, does not take root in good soil when we first sow it, the process does not end there. The sower in the parable does not decide that he will never sow seed again, even though some of the seed did not take root, was eaten by birds, was choked by thorns, sprouted and then quickly died, etc. No, the sower returns each year and sows more seed. It may be that some of the rocks were removed, the thorns cut down, the birds are frightened off, or other things changed that will allow the seed to take root.
It is the same for us, as we try to bring God's Word to others and show them how to live God's will each day. Even if they are not receptive to thinking about God, faith, scripture, etc., that does not end our obligation to continue to expose them to the beauty of this wonderful Presence in their lives. Perhaps it is the 3rd, 4th or 100th time that we expose them to the power of God's Word working in our lives that makes them realize that they want it too. So we should never get discouraged in trying to show others the results of living God's will in our own lives daily, which is really the point of all Scripture.
It is certainly easier said than done, since we can get tired of loving those who do not love us back. It can be disheartening when those "least of the brothers and sisters" do not seem to be impacted at all by our living the Gospel. And it is frustrating when our smiles and positive attitude are returned with hostility or indifference. But is we keep it up, even though it does not seem to make a difference time after time, there may eventually be the moment that our words and actions strike a cord. Or, because of our efforts, the words or actions of another may strike that chord in the person. And that, my friends, is when the seed will be planted in rich soil. Then that brother or sister will experience the "thirty, sixty or one hundred fold" promised in the Gospel.
And we will have fulfilled our destiny as one created in the image and likeness of God, who is THE Sower!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We Are Family

This past weekend I was able to gather with members of my family as we attended the wedding of one of my nephews. We met his new wife's family for the first time and had a great time just relaxing and being with one another. Families are usually messy, loud, diverse and great! In today's Gospel (Matthew 12: 46-50), Jesus speaks of His own family. Rather than speaking about Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachary, John or any of the others who were "related" to Him, He tells the crowds that "whoever does the will of my heavenly Father" is family. How cool is that?!
As often as we may brag about a child, sibling, grandchild, parent, etc. who has accomplished something amazing, we tend to forget that our Brother is the Savior of the world! The key here is that, in order to make this claim, we have to be doing the will of the Father. And this is where it gets a little tricky. Because Jesus does not say that we simply have to "accept" the will of the Father passively. No, He tells us that we have to DO the will of the Father. This is an active, thoughtful, deliberate thing on our part. It also implies that we have to be in communication with God in order to understand what His will is for us in the various circumstances and situations in our life. It is especially important when it comes to how we deal with people, since the way  we treat them reflect our relationship with God.
Doing the will of the Father is a huge challenge, since we tend to rely on instinct sometimes which can lean more toward selfishness rather than putting the other first. No, the will of the Father is to be the first to love, to love our enemies and, perhaps even more difficult, love those who are indifferent to us. The question, therefore, is not "what is your will for me today, God?". No, the real question, asked frequently throughout the day, is "What is your will for me now, God?". And the more I ask that question and try to follow where it leads, the more I will live the reality that, after all, Jesus you and I are family.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Share the Load

In the famous Gospel passage from today's Mass (Matthew 11: 28-30), Jesus speaks of His yoke being easy. The image of a yoke is a very good one for me to use in meditation. There are two uses of yokes, both of which are important to understand. A single yoke is used on an animal so that the weight of a heavy load is spread out over several points, not just where a rope or strap would be wrapped around the animal. In this way it would be much easier to carry. It is similar to the difference between carrying a heavy bag that has very small string or twine to hold or one that weighs the same but has a wider belt to use in carrying it.I think of this sometimes when I have to reevaluate how I am doing a particularly difficult task and try to find a way that is easier.
The second type of yoke is used on two animals. When they are yoked together, the total weight is distributed over them both, and so they are capable of carrying a much greater load than they could separately. You may have seen this sort of yoke used on a team of oxen plowing a field, for example. This is the sort of yoke I like to imagine when I meditate in this passage. I can just picture Jesus walking alongside of me, the two of us connected and working together to carry what are sometimes very heavy burdens. My problems always seem more manageable when I use this image.
The great consolation I receive is that I am not alone. The Lord told us to "learn from me". And there is no better thing to learn that the way He shared the load with His Father. So often we hear of Jesus going to the Father in prayer, and the wonderful consolation He received from this. Most powerfully in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord received the strength to literally carry the cross by making relying on the Father's strength. I need to do the same when I find the crosses of life heavy. Each day I hope we can keep as a "mantra" of sorts the popular phrase "Lord, help me to remember that there is nothing that will happen today that you and I together can't handle!"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Soil

The beautiful parable in today's Gospel (Matthew 13: 1-23) speaks about different types of soil The sower scatters the seed on the path, rocky ground, shallow soil, among thorns and also in rich soil. It seems rather crazy to waste the seed, but farming methods are quite different today. Farmers now realize that it is best to first prepare the soil, then plant the seeds. In the time of Jesus they would scatter seed then till the soil and turn it so that the seed would grow. Preparation is now just as important as the planting or "sowing" of the seed.
If the emphasis has changed in farming, so too we have to look at a different emphasis in the parable. My meditation has led me to consider our role in preparing the "soil" of hearts to receive the Word of God . I see our role as believers in helping to make sure that others are prepared to receive God's Word in their lives. Many of us were prepared for this by our parents, who spoke to us of God and showed us how to follow the example of Christ. By words and actions, we were prepared to receive the Word in a mature way, and allow it to yield the "thirty, sixty and one hundred fold" that the Lord mentioned.
Now it is our turn, not only for children but also for other adults who may not realize that God loves them and is with them. Very small but important steps we take can help them become more open to considering God in their lives. Every time we offer to pray for them when they have a difficult situation, we are preparing the soil. When we tell them of the blessings we have received from God, we are preparing the soil. When we point out how God has blessed them and offer to say a prayer in thanksgiving for something good that happened to them, we are preparing the soil. Each of these small things can help gradually open others up to seeing God's impact in their lives. They also help keep us aware of that Presence as well.
No farmer today simply scatters seed on ground that is not prepared. No one who want to help spread the Good News can simply begin preaching without preparing hearts to receive the Word. I hope that we can take some time and consider how our words and actions just might be the way that God want to prepare friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates or even strangers, so that they will be open to receiving His Word into their hearts at the right moment.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sparrows and Hair

In the Gospel today, Jesus tries to provide assurances to the apostles (and to us) that God knows everything that happens to us, and that He lovingly cares about what goes on in our lives. There is, however, a difference between knowing, caring and manipulating. just because the all-powerful God knows what happens to us and is concerned does not mean that He interferes or causes things to happen, like some grand puppeteer. No, God has created all things and keeps them in existence, but does not interfere with our decisions and the consequences of those decisions. For example, the conspicuous consumption by a minority of the world's population causes an imbalance in the distribution of the necessities of life. This means that there are people who starve to death every day. Now God certainly knows this and is concerned about each and every one of those people. But He does not make food magically appear in order to save their lives. Instead, He counts on the rest of us to act in ways that will correct this terrible injustice. He naturally is unhappy that these people die, and would much rather everyone share in the goods of the earth, but He does not force this on us.
It is part of the challenge we all are given. God has provided more than enough for all to live in peace and harmony, with each person having the necessities of life. But there are consequences when some refuse to share and accumulate more than is needed. The question is - what do we do about it? What actions can I take that acknowledge that I am aware of those who "fall to the ground"? If the hairs on my head are counted (and we know that is a constantly changing number), God also must know how much "stuff" I have accumulated as well. I need to take a closer look and see if I am doing enough to make sure that my extra "stuff" (money, food etc.) is not really supposed to be someone else's necessary stuff.
A tall order, but an important point is I want to live the Gospel.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Together Again

I'm baaack! Sorry for the lapse in posting, folks. Life has a way of overwhelming you sometimes, and some family issues have kept me a little too busy. My mom completed her radiation treatment and finished her time in the rehab center. She is now back in her own home and doing pretty well, so you and I are able to be together again and take up our task of celebrating God's blessings in our lives.
For the past several weeks we have been reading from Genesis for the first reading at daily Masses. Today we reached the part that tells of the reunion of Jacob and his son Joseph. Genesis and Exodus are really fascinating to read, and they were definitely part of the consciousness of Jesus and His followers. It can help us examine our own lives and see how God can take even difficult or tragic situations (usually caused by the refusal of people to do God's will) and give us new ways to experience the holy. Just as Joseph, for example, experienced the jealousy of his brothers, was sold into slavery, imprisoned and thought to be dead by his father, we also have various hurtful, harmful and disastrous things happen on our lives. The way that Joseph came to be in a position of power, where he had the ability to save the lives of his father, brothers and the rest of the family was also a great test. He could have chosen to exact revenge on those who harmed him, refusing to help and condemning them to death by starvation. Instead, he chose to accept the opportunity God had presented him and took steps to reunite with his family, forgiving his brothers. Joseph realized that God had used the horrendous situation his brother caused and made it the means by which he could save their lives. Rather than hold a grudge and look for revenge, Joseph took the path that would bring him and his family together again.
It is a wonderful meditation for us when faced with people who harm us. Our reaction can either reflect love and forgiveness, which come from God, or anger and the desire for retribution, which come from the devil. It is certainly not easy, but we have to realize that the more we work to forgive others who have caused us pain, the more we are united with the Lord, who forgave those who crucified Him.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Treasure in Heaven

Today's Gospel (Matthew 6: 19-23) is a command to all of us to make sure we have our priorities straight. So many people have investment planners, accountants, "life coaches", and all sorts of others who are employed to help them make sure they are able to enjoy "the good life". But this good life is a fantasy. There are no guarantees that the money you invest today will be there tomorrow. Just ask any who had money invested in real estate in the past five years!
And yet we spend so much time and money trying to guarantee what can never be a sure thing. The only sure thing, according to the Lord, is storing up treasures in heaven. So, just how do we do that? What are the "treasures" we store up in heaven, and how can we be sure we are accomplishing this? I think the easiest way to try and think about these treasures is to compare them to the "good will" that we speak of in human terms. Whenever someone does something that is, shall we say, altruistic (meaning that they do something good even there is no perceived benefit to them) we say that they have generated "good will". Whether you speak in a formal way about "philanthropy" or in the everyday parlance of being a "good person", we all have the experience of how this sort of intangible treasure presents itself.
So we need to examine our lives and see how we treat people. The common idea of "looking out for number one" goes completely against the goal of storing up treasure in heaven. We need to be more concerned about others than ourselves. Let me give you an example. During this week, youth from my parish have been camping out at the parish complex and participating in a "Work Camp". They have been performing manual labor here and working on projects that they chose. They landscaped in front of the church, built a beautiful patio, installed new signs, painted and in general helped make our campuses look beautiful. These teens took an entire week out of their summer vacation to give back to their parish, working from morning to evening. And they were great! The only reward they received was the satisfaction of doing something good for the Church. Each and every one of them have been storing up treasure in heaven this week. And they have loved doing it!
I would hope that we could all take time and see how we can imitate these youth. Perhaps a food kitchen could use our help. Perhaps a home-bound neighbor could use a visit. Maybe we could donate some time to babysit so that harried parents could get an evening out. The possibilities are endless if we simply use our imagination and creativity. And by doing so we may not receive anything in return. At least not now. But, as the Lord assures us, we will be storing up treasure in heaven, where it really counts!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do Not Babble

It seems a little funny to hear the Lord tell His followers not to babble. It makes me have an image of a group of people who are all talking at once, with none of them able to make sense. Hew was very directive about the way they should pray. The formula He gave (what we refer to as "The Lord's Prayer" is pretty succinct and to the point. It gives us not only words but also a model for all prayer. Beginning with an acknowledgement of God as the one to whom we are speaking (Father in heaven) we offer praise (hallowed be thy name) and acknowledge the primacy of what God wants over what we want (Thy kingdom come, thy will be done). After that, we are able to place our own needs before God, but He specifies only the "short-term" needs (our daily bread). This shows a keen understanding of us as humans, since the Lord knows that what we think we may want tomorrow may not be what we want when tomorrow comes.
The second half is focused on forgiveness and sin. We can only ask for what we are willing to give (forgiveness as we forgive). Finally we ask for God's strength in the face of temptation, acknowledging that without His help we are powerless.
This wonderful way of praying was certainly different from what they expected. But then, God had now experienced first-hand what being human is like and Christ was able to speak from that personal experience. He knew that, without this sort of direction, we might be praying for things that were either unimportant, unnecessary or might actually be bad for us. The purpose of teaching the disciples and us how to pray was to help us do it better than we could on our own.
Sadly, we often think of the Lord's Prayer as just words to be said rather than a model for all prayer. Some of the most powerful prayers are those we make when speaking from our heart. But it is always good to try and keep the model in mind, using the same steps. To whom are we speaking, and for what should we praise Him? What do we think God wants? What exactly do we need right  now, not in the future? And what should we ask for strength to do ourselves, since we cannot expect God to do all the work?
Following this model, our personal prayer life can flourish. And we just might be better able to appreciate the answer that always comes to us when we pray, even if it is not what we expect. Just remember - don't babble!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One in the Word

When Jesus prayed to the Father "that they may be one just as we are one" (John 17:11), He realized that this unity would come about because He had given his disciples "your word". In reflecting on this passage, I see that the two - unity and the word- are intertwined. When some people think about the inspired word of God found in Sacred Scripture, they see it almost as a personal preserve. We have a Catholic Bible, Protestant Bible, Hebrew Scriptures and various pieces of each. We tend to forget that God's word is always and everywhere One Word. No one can claim to hold and understand the Word of God in its entirety, but we are all united in that One Word.
It is always interesting to listen to various people of faith who come from different traditions and denominations when they speak about their Sacred Scriptures. The most interesting thing is that, in these discussions, we find we have much more in common that we have differences. And that point is exactly what Jesus expressed in His prayer. Scripture is supposed to unite us. But that cannot happen if we do not become familiar with it. For this reason, it is important for each of us to not only read but also study scripture, diving into the meaning of the words and expressions. There are hundreds of commentaries that can help us, although we have to realize that all commentaries are flawed. After all, how can we ever fully grasp the meaning of God's Word when we are flawed human beings?
The important point is that Jesus gave us the direction to unity. A love for, and knowledge of Scripture can and should bring us together with others. After all, if we truly live according to what is contained in Sacred Scripture, we will naturally become more and more one in the Word.

Monday, June 6, 2011

We Are Not Alone

One of the promises made most often by the Lord to His disciples was "I will not leave you alone". At various times He promised that "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in your midst"; "I will not leave you orphans"; "I am with you, even to the end of the world". Today we hear of the importance of the presence of the Lord through his Holy Spirit, as Paul called down the Spirit upon the people of Ephesus. This passage from Acts 19: 1-8 is a reminder to us of how the Lord continues to be present to us through His Spirit. Unfortunately,m we often do not act as though the Lord is present.
One of the things I try to do each day is to remind myself that everything I say or do is observed by the Lord. Whether my actions are correct or not, whether my words are uplifting or hurtful, the Lord see and hears, because His Spirit is present. And I have multiple opportunities each day to let others see and hear what the Lord would want to say and do. Through me, Jesus is able to interact with people. My words can become His words. My work can become His work. But if i do not keep reminding myself of His presence, I can fall back into old patterns of behavior that testify to the presence of another.
Imagine a world where everyone was aware of God's presence at every moment. Imagine how differently we would treat one another. Imagine how differently our lives would be. This can only happen if each and every one of us remembers that we are not alone. Jesus is with us, and will remain with us. But it has to start with you and me. How about today?

Friday, June 3, 2011

From Pain to Joy

In today's Gospel (John 16: 20-23) the Lord tells his followers (and us) that sometimes you have to suffer in order to get to the reward. Every pro football player knows this, since no one, no matter how much natural talent they have, you cannot win the Super Bowl without long, hard hours of practice and intense commitment, despite wanting to do other things.
I think that the same applies to our faith. We all tend to think that, since I believe and try to do what God wants, it should somehow be easier than for those who do not even try. In fact, the opposite is true. Those who do not care about God seem to go through life carefree. Often life seems to smile on them, and we can even think that they are blessed. But this is deceiving. Look at professional athletes, scientists, doctors, master carpenters or other "experts". You may not have to put in the long hours and hard work they do, and think that you are blessed with and easier life. But you also will never know the joy that comes from winning the big game, discovering ways to help humanity, saving lives of the sick, taking unfinished wood and creating a beautiful piece of furniture. The grief of practice, failure, study and injury is the price they pay for the joy and satisfaction they get from a job well done.
For people of faith, putting that faith into practice requires even more work. It means we have to concentrate on seeing the best in people, not the worst. It means we have to get up and go to church instead of sleeping in on Sundays. It means we have to forgive instead of holding a grudge. It means we have to help those in need instead of ignoring them and wishing they would go away.
Living this way may indeed make us "grieve" a little, but the Lord assures us that our grief will be turned to joy. Not joy that we will necessarily experience in this life, but a joy that will never end. And if winning the Super Bowl is something a pro football player will never forget, imagine what heaven will be like!!