Are You Producing Fruit?

October 22, 2016

“The gardener said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.” (Luke 13:1-9)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree. The tree had produced no fruit for three years, so the landowner ordered the gardener to cut it down. The gardener asked that the tree be given another year, and he promised to fertilize it, nurture it, and do all he could to make the fig tree produce fruit.

I have heard this parable interpreted a couple of different ways:

  • Jesus is the landowner, we are the gardeners, and the fig tree represents our lives. We are being judged on what we have done with our lives. We ask for more time to prove that we can be productive.
  • Jesus is the gardener and we are the fig tree. The gardener looks at us with love, seeking ways to save us.

Each interpretation speaks to the mercy of a loving God. Despite our failed efforts to live faith-filled lives, we are shown mercy, compassion, and understanding. A new start awaits us at every turn.

Food for thought: While God’s mercy is boundless, our time on earth is not. The fig tree will come down at some point. Will it have produced any fruit?

Some Things Never Change

October 21, 2016

I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace…   (Ephesians 4:1-6)

St. Paul included the following in his letter to the Ephesians in approximately 60 AD: “I urge you to live…with all humility and gentleness…”

Pope Francis included the following in a homily in June of 2014: “Jesus did not come to conquer men like the kings and the powerful of this world, but He came to offer love with gentleness and humility. He allows us to witness this love to our brothers and sisters in humble and gentle service.”

Over 1900 years later, God’s message remains the same.

Primary Educators Defined

October 20, 2016

Weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:

There is a common myth that claims that young people lose touch with their faith when they go off to college. I would argue that the middle school and high school years are the battleground. When it comes to faith, we often win or lose during this critical time. College simply amplifies where students are in their faith upon arrival.

Where does the breakdown occur? When our children are young, we walk them through everything. We explain and teach and model. Once they reach middle school, we want them to learn independence, so we tend to set them off on their own. When we send them to Catholic schools, we often leave the “God piece” to the school. That’s why we send them to Catholic schools, right?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear: Parents are the primary educators of their children. This is especially true when it comes to faith and values.

In high school, our kids are busy. Family time is diminished. There is very little focus on faith and family, with most of our attention directed toward getting our kids to college. We must be careful not to lose sight of our primary goal – getting them to heaven.

With all of this in mind, how do we proceed? Continue reading

“May I Die Only for You”

October 19, 2016 – Memorial of Saints John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs

On this day of memorial, a few words attributed to Saints Jean de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues that capture their full commitment to God:

“On receiving the blow of death, I shall accept it from your hands with the fullest delight and joy of spirit. For this reason, my beloved Jesus, and because of the surging joy which moves me, here and now I offer my blood and body and life. May I die only for you, if you will grant me this grace, since you willingly died for me. Let me so live that you may grant me the gift of such a happy death. In this way, my God and Saviour, I will take from your hand the cup of your sufferings and call on your name: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” – St. John de Brebeuf

“My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings” – St. Isaac Jogues

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

October 18, 2016 – Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

Luke’s inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with Paul and his companions as he explains in his introduction to the Gospel: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:1-3).

Luke’s unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke’s is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses “Blessed are the poor” instead of “Blessed are the poor in spirit” in the beatitudes. Only in Luke’s gospel do we hear Mary’s Magnificat where she proclaims that God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus’ life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke’s gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus’ disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: “Hail Mary full of grace” spoken at the Annunciation and “Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus” spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgiveness and God’s mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy.

Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.


A Church that Finds New Roads

October 17, 2016

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

I will allow the words of Pope Francis to speak to this passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself…But that takes audacity and courage.”

He Will Examine Your Heart

October 16, 2016 – Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)

This final line from today’s Gospel just hangs in the air. Food for thought, don’t you think?

I’m not sure I can answer on behalf of the entire earth, but then again, I don’t think that’s really what Jesus was asking.

I believe the question is intended for each of us as individuals – when the Son of Man comes, how will he find your faith? Will He find a faith that is grounded in love of God and others? Will He find a faith expressed in words only, but lacking action? Will He find a faith nourished by prayer and Scripture?

When the Son of Man comes, He will examine your heart. What will He find?