Does God Tempt Us?

February 18, 2020

No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire. (James 1:12-18)

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2846), explaining the line from the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”: We therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation. God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.

Nothing to Prove

February 17, 2020

“Jesus sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign?'” (Mark 8:11-13)

Sounds like people had asked Jesus to “prove it” once too often.

They were seeking a sign, so that they might believe in Him. People wanted to know, “What can you do? What powers do you have?”

Our initial reaction might be, “Who do you think you are? Don’t you know who you’re talking to? That’s Jesus!” In reality, we need to cut these sign-seekers some slack, because they did not know who they were talking to!

At that point, Jesus was just another prophet – another guy who could talk a good game. They were waiting for the Messiah. They had been promised a Savior. Jesus seemed different from the others, but they wanted to know for sure. Impatience took over – so are you the One or not? Show us! Prove it!

It is understandable that Jesus needed to prove Himself to His contemporaries. More concerning is how even today we seem to be asking Jesus to prove Himself. Jesus has spent the last 2,000 years proving Himself to us – what more do we need?

Every time we lack faith, we are saying to Jesus, “Prove it!” Following Thomas’ demonstration of doubt, Jesus told him, “Happy are those who have not seen and have believed.” That is the essence of our faith.

Jesus has nothing to prove to us.

Homily: Some People Need a Personal Invitation

February 12, 2020 – Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

The following is a homily I delivered at St. Pius X Parish, Indianapolis in 2017, based on the same reading from Sirach we have today

I have a sad story to share.

When our son was in high school, the school staff conspired against him. They intentionally went out of their way to keep our son in the dark. For instance, the school hosted major events for the kids, such as dances and bonfires and movie nights, and told everyone in the school…except Robby.

Here is one specific example: Robby was a sophomore in high school. It was a Saturday night. Carol had read in the last few school newsletters that there was to be a dance that night, so she asked Robby why he wasn’t going. He knew nothing about it. The fact that there was a dance that night was completely foreign to him.

Thinking she had misread the information, Carol double-checked herself. Yes, the newsletter confirmed there was a dance that night. Robby’s response, “Well, they didn’t tell us about it.”

We were fascinated by this, so we asked, “You’re saying there is a dance at your school tonight and the students weren’t told about it?”

“Nope.” Continue reading

Welcoming Our Brothers and Sisters

February 15, 2020

The following is an excerpt from We Are One in Christ: A Pastoral Letter on Fundamentals of Christian Anthropology by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Archbishop of Indianapolis, written in 2018

Pope Francis said, “Christ urges us to welcome our brothers and sisters with our arms truly open, ready for a sincere embrace, a loving and enveloping embrace.”

This is characteristic of Pope Francis—to use vivid physical imagery to underscore his teaching. The Holy Father tells us, in effect, that Christ is not content with half-hearted gestures. Writing a check and dropping it in the mail to one of the relief agencies is a very good thing to do. But it is not enough. Along with our financial support, the pope says, Christ wants us to have warm, enthusiastic contact with our sisters and brothers who are poor and vulnerable.

That’s not easy for most of us who lead busy lives filled with work and family obligations. Still, opportunities for hands-on engagement with those in need are not hard to find if we look for them. Catholic Charities of Indianapolis has welcomed and cared for migrants and refugees for more than 42 years. And parishes throughout central and southern Indiana work hard to provide food, shelter, clothing and access to quality health care to all who are in need, including people who have left their home countries in search of a better life. Ask your pastor, or any Catholic Charities agency, how you can help. They will gladly direct you to the nearest place that will welcome your participation!

Our Church extends to all the unconditional love of Jesus. We welcome strangers, and we work to make everyone feel at home. We support our nations’ efforts to secure our borders, and to regulate the processes that govern immigration and refugee resettlement.

However, we insist that in all instances the rights of individuals and families be protected, and we place concern for human dignity above political or practical expediency. We take this responsibility so seriously that Church teaching points out that as citizens we may be obliged in conscience not to follow laws or regulations that are contrary to the fundamental rights of persons or the teaching of the Gospel (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2242).

Peace and prosperity should be available to all peoples regardless of their race, ethnic origin, and religious preferences. We should be open to all, welcoming of all and respectful of both the differences that divide us and the fundamental humanity that unites us.

Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were once refugees who fled the political tyranny and vicious brutality of King Herod. They were immigrants who spent years living in a foreign land, a situation now shared by millions of people who have left their homes desperately seeking safety and a better life.

Whatever we do to the least of these brothers and sisters, we do to Christ. Let’s share their journeys. Let’s welcome them with “a loving and enveloping embrace” in Jesus’ name.

Be Opened!

February 14, 2020

Jesus put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:31-37)

In Mark’s gospel today, we heard the Aramaic word, Ephphetha, which we are told means, “be opened.” Jesus said this word as He touched the ears and tongue of a man, enabling him to hear and speak for the first time.

During a baptism, there is an optional part of the ceremony called the Ephphetha rite. In this rite, the celebrant touches the ears and lips of the child with his thumb, saying: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May God touch your ears to receive His word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”

“May God touch your ears to receive His word.” He wants us to hear Him.

“May God touch your mouth to proclaim his faith.” He wants us to proclaim the gospel.

Are we deaf and mute when it comes to our faith?

Jesus hears the prayers of a faith-filled heart

February 13, 2020

She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” (Mark 7:29)

I have never been much of a fan of the “squeaky wheel” mentality. Being a squeaky wheel does seem to be effective, but I have been on the receiving end of some of that squeaking and it can be very annoying! There were a number of times I caved in to the squeaking just to make it to stop.

In today’s Gospel, the Greek woman begged Jesus to help her daughter. Jesus seemed to be dismissing her, but that did not deter her; she was persistent. She believed her daughter could be cured, and she believed Jesus was the One to do it.

Jesus was able to filter out the squeaking. He knew that she would not have continued to fight through the rejection unless she truly believed He could grant her request. Ultimately, this belief, this faith, was rewarded and her daughter was cured.

Jesus hears the prayers of a faith-filled heart.

Accountability

February 12, 2020

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” (Mark 7:14-23)

In today’s Gospel, we are called to be accountable.

It is not the outside world that creates who we are, but rather how we respond to the outside world. Too often we allow the outside world or circumstances to direct our behavior. It is easier. Why bother swimming upstream? Why not go with the flow?

But when we respond with love and positive energy to the negativity of the world, even when we are in the minority, we make a difference. We can be the pebble that causes the ripple.

We are our own worst enemy. We allow ourselves to be controlled rather than to seize control.

We look at our troubled lives and say, “Look at what the world has done to me.” Wouldn’t we rather look back on our lives and say, “Look at what I’ve done for the world” ?