Follow Me

September 21, 2017 – Feast of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  (Matthew 9:9-13)

When you read any of the Gospels, it becomes quite clear that people were fascinated by Jesus – both men and women, Jews and Gentiles, Pharisees and fishermen, kings and servants.

The Pharisees, the most learned class of the Jews, had an odd fascination with Him. Jesus was an upstart preacher, the son of a carpenter. He did not have the pedigree to be of any interest to the Pharisees. Why did they care with whom He ate? Why were they watching Him so closely? Was it that He made them question how they themselves were living their lives? Was it because He made them feel uncomfortable?

Other men, who had a job or a trade, seemed willing to leave it all behind and follow Jesus. Just because He said, Follow me? What really made them drop their fishing nets and push away from their customs posts? What was so fascinating to them about Jesus? Was it the realization that there must be more to their lives than what they were experiencing?

Then there were the sinners. Jesus was always surrounded by sinners, who like the others, were fascinated by Him. He didn’t sugarcoat anything. He called them out on their sins. So why hang around someone like that? Why follow a guy you know is going to challenge you on the way you live your life? Perhaps it is because of the other messages that permeated those challenges – His messages of love, forgiveness, and hope.

Jesus is still fascinating after all of these years. The reasons have changed very little: He makes us feel uncomfortable, makes it known that our lives could be so much richer, and calls us on the carpet for our sins, while offering love, forgiveness, and hope.

Fascinating stuff, don’t you think?

He is saying, “Follow me” to you. Will you follow Him eagerly like Matthew and the other sinners did, or will you point at Him and criticize Him from a distance like the Pharisees?

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Are You Willing to Work for Your Faith?

September 20, 2017

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation?” (Luke 7:31-35)

After asking this rhetorical question of the crowd, Jesus goes on to give some of the harshest criticism we hear from Him in the gospels, an indictment of the “people of this generation.”

He paints his listeners as people who are never satisfied, people who want to sit back and have things come to them.

Are we willing to work for our faith? Do we sit in judgment of others and point fingers of indignation, rather than putting our efforts toward making a difference in the world?

We pick at our faith and poke holes in our beliefs because complete trust is challenging.

Pray today for the courage to leave yourself vulnerable. Ask God to deepen your faith and make you an instrument of His peace.

Homily: Mass is a Celebration!

September 19, 2017

The following homily was delivered at yesterday’s all-school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School, Indianapolis. Readings: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and Luke 7:1-10

Today’s readings point us to the Mass, what it is and how we should both approach and respond to the Mass.

In 1 Timothy we heard: I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone… That is what the Mass is – prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving.

And in the gospel, we heard the words of the centurion, words the Church adapted and uses as part of our prayerful preparation to receive the Eucharist at Mass: Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my servant (my soul) shall be healed.

So let’s spend some time talking about the Mass. Continue reading

Despite Our Unworthiness

September 18, 2017

“I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…but say the word and let my servant be healed.” (Luke 7:1-10)

These words, spoken by a Roman centurion and used as a part of the Communion Rite of our Catholic Mass, convey a powerful statement of faith. The centurion does not feel worthy of having Jesus come into his home, but trusts that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the words. He believes that it is possible.

These words are certainly memorable, and teach a great lesson on faith, but how do they fit into the Mass? Why include them as the words the faithful say prior to receiving Holy Communion?

If you think about it, we are expressing a faith similar to that of the centurion. We are not worthy of receiving so precious a gift as the real presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. By saying these words, we are admitting our unworthiness. We are also saying, “We believe!” We are expressing a firm belief that all things are possible with God. Jesus does not have to be with us in human form for us to recognize His presence.

It is a bold statement.

When we receive Holy Communion the Eucharistic Minister says, “The Body of Christ.” We respond by saying, “Amen.” This puts an exclamation point on our belief in His presence. By saying, “Amen” we are saying “I would stake my life on it.”

None of us are worthy. God’s gift is that He comes to us anyway.

God Knows Your Heart

September 17, 2017

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

The following is a common concern I hear expressed by young people and adults alike regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation: I feel I keep confessing the same sin over and over again. In my heart I wonder if God has a limit on His patience with me. He must be thinking, ‘I have already forgiven you for this sin multiple times – that’s it – no more!’

We hear God’s response to this concern in today’s gospel. He expects of us the same as He offers to us. That is, unlimited mercy.

What I share with those who express concern over being repeat sinners is this: If you are simply going through the motions, going to confession with the same script you used last time, in order to check “confession” off of your list, you will not reap the benefits of the sacrament.

However, God knows your heart. If you enter the confessional with a willingness to be open and honest in your failings, and a sincere desire to do better, mercy will be granted – regardless of the number of times you have confessed that same sin.

The words of the Act of Contrition capture the spirit of the “contrite heart”: I am sorry for my sins with all my heart…I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.

That is what God wants of me – He wants to know that I am sorry with all my heart and firmly intend to sin no more.

If He finds sincerity in my heart and in my words, He will forgive me “seventy-seven times.”

God’s mercy has no limits.

 

 

Life WITH Christ

September 16, 2017

“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.” (1 Timothy 1: 12-14)

Above are the words of Paul, in his first letter to Timothy. He writes of being “mercifully treated.” This is the same Paul who was knocked off his horse, left temporarily blinded, and was eventually imprisoned and killed for his work on behalf of Jesus Christ. Certainly an odd definition of “mercifully treated.”

Paul is comparing his two distinct lives. First there was his life without Christ, a life spent arresting and persecuting those who followed Him. It was a shallow and empty existence.

Then there was his life with Christ. Despite many hardships and much suffering, his life had meaning and purpose. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and made it his life’s work to bring the Gospel message to others.

His empty, meaningless life was mercifully replaced by one guided by a message of love and hope.

The Constants: Faith and Family

September 15, 2017

I shared the following piece with the Bishop Chatard parent community this week:

The following is a portion of an interview with Paul Posluszny, an NFL linebacker with the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Source: SportsLeader.org) It speaks so beautifully to family and faith:

The concept of servant-leader can be summed up in the question, “How can I help you?” Then we do good things for others, not with an expectation of getting something back, but because the good things are proper to do.

That’s usable in the home; it’s really one of the easiest places to use it since that’s where people you love the most are. I might even love my family too much, in that my 2 1/2-year-old daughter has me wrapped around her little finger, as the saying goes.

The best part of my day is when I came home and my daughter runs to the door and gives me a hug. She has a 4-month-old sister already competing for my time, too. They are so special to me that I can’t even believe it. Before getting married to my wife, Elizabeth, in 2013, I thought having kids would be fun, but I didn’t know how profoundly I would love them. If I, a very imperfect human father, can love my kids so much, how much more does God the Father love us?

There’s no way to fully understand that love, but we get a sense of what it’s like in the Mass. We’re given everything in the Mass, since we’re given nothing less than Jesus.

Football won’t last forever, but while I’m at it, I always want to seek constant growth and improvement. That’s what drives me professionally, and once my profession changes, I want to do whatever that is very well, too. The constant that won’t change — other than adding more kids — is my family, and the most constant thing is being with Jesus in the Catholic Church.