Pursue and Compete

September 25, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

Pursue and compete are not passive words. They are words that call us to action. When we wake up each day, we must focus on living a life of love and service. We make a deliberate decision to be a man or woman of God.

We pursue such a life. Pursue implies that we cannot stand still. Such a life will not come to us. Rather, we must “get after it.” There is a sense of urgency, a call to action.

“Compete well for the faith.” Compete implies that there is an opponent. Our opponent is the very world we live in. We may wake up intending to pursue “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” just as St. Paul suggests.

However, we walk out into a world that preaches an entirely different message – a world that lacks faith, even rejects God; a world promoting love of self; a world not of patience and gentleness, but of intolerance and violence.

So if our plan is to be a man or woman of God, and to pursue a life that glorifies Him, we will have a fight on our hands. This is a countercultural pursuit, so we will need to compete if we are to be successful. If we put off the fight to another day, if we are complacent, we lose. 

Ward Off Grief and Put Away Trouble

September 24, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence… (Ecclesiastes 11:10)

WARD OFF GRIEF and PUT AWAY TROUBLE: Often when we or someone we love is going through a difficult time, we are told, “Don’t dwell on it” – i.e.”put away trouble.” That advice is based on the premise that if we allow these difficulties to occupy our every waking thought, we will lose precious time and miss out on the here-and-now. If we “dwell” on it, it will become our dwelling – where we live.

While sound advice, practically it is not easy to accomplish. Most of us are unable to simply turn on or off our pain and anxiety. That is why today’s reading from Ecclesiastes includes additional advice, telling us to “ward off” grief. To “ward off” means to do something to prevent or lessen the pain and anxiety. This is similar to advice elsewhere in scripture that encourages us to “put on Christ.”

The bottom line is, we don’t have to struggle alone. Let’s use this analogy. When the two heavy suitcases we carry become too much to handle, what do we do? Do we stop and take a break and possibly miss our flight (put away trouble)? Or do we give one of the heavy bags to Jesus and with our free hand, take his hand in ours (ward off grief) and continue the journey?

We can miss out on the beauty of our world if we dwell in our pain and anxiety. We must invite Jesus to walk with us and share the load. It will not take away all of our pain, but it will make it manageable. It will buy us time until we can ultimately “put it away.”

“Who Do Crowds Say That I Am?”

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18-22)

WHO DO CROWDS SAY THAT I AM?: The gospel for today caused me to reflect on the age-old question, “How well do you really know someone?”

When we consider how incredibly difficult it is to truly know and understand another human being, it is not surprising that it is nearly impossible to truly know and understand God. Truly knowing God doesn’t seem promising. If you’re anything like me, each time you feel like you may be close, something happens to turn your understanding on its ear.

You know and understand a loving and compassionate God, and then a loved one dies suddenly and unexpectedly. You know and understand a fair and protective God, and then an earthquake rocks an underdeveloped country like Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving another million or more homeless. You know and understand a generous God, yet your continued prayers for relief from debt or freedom from addiction seemingly go unheard.

Trust. Faith. Belief in something we cannot fully understand. All of this makes the question Jesus asked His disciples in today’s gospel come to life: Who do the crowds say that I am?

Who do we say Jesus is? We have no idea. Yet we seek to understand, and the seeking becomes the foundation for our faith. It is when we stop seeking to understand that the flame of our faith can potentially die out.

Seeking to understand God is no different than seeking to understand our spouse, our children, or our friends.

It requires self-reflection. How am I interacting with God?

It requires dialogue, prayer – open and honest conversations with God.

It requires an open heart and an open mind, accepting that I don’t have all of the answers.

It requires loving through my lack of understanding.

We are obligated to seek understanding. We are invited to surrender in faith.

Vanity

September 22, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

 “Vanity of vanities!  All things are vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

VANITY: In many religions, vanity is considered a form of self-idolatry.  

The reading calls us to reflect upon our desire for earthly things, but also on our desire to impress others – to be seen as smart or wealthy or powerful. We like titles and rank, terms of superiority and status. We feel better about ourselves when others think highly of us.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being smart, wealthy, or powerful. There is nothing wrong with having a title of distinction. The question is, what do we hope to achieve by attaining these attributes or titles? Are we trying to stand out as better than others, seeking adulation from those around us? Or are our efforts centered on being the best version of ourselves, seeking to fulfill God’s will for us?

I came across a quote recently that said: “God can’t fill us if we are full of ourselves.”

Today’s readings point us toward the virtue of humility.

The cornerstone of humility is self-awareness — an honest, in-depth understanding of both our gifts and our limitations. We humbly use our gifts to glorify God while working to improve upon our limitations.

When our days on earth come to an end, I don’t believe we will be judged by the amount of acclaim we have received during our lifetime. However, we may be judged on whether or not we took advantage of opportunities to grow as good Christian men and women. We may be judged on our level of humility.

Worthy of the Call

September 21, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“I, a prisoner for the Lord, 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…” (Ephesians 4:1-7)

WORTHY OF THE CALL: Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is full of advice. He recognized that the people of Ephesus were hesitant. They were, in effect, doing what the apostles at the ascension had done – standing there looking at the sky. Jesus was no longer there to teach them and walk with them on their journey of faith.

So, Paul offered his advice on how they should conduct themselves – be humble and gentle, be patient, love one another.

Many pieces of advice, none delivered as a directive. It was not presented as “do this or else.” Rather, something to think about and reflect upon, something to inspire, advice to be held in their hearts and used as needed.

Scripture whispers reminders in our ear. Its words of advice urge us to reach for holiness. The advice is not threatening, but rather encouraging, and meant to be held in our hearts.

Act on It

September 20, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21)

ACT ON IT: Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be a part of the inner circle of Jesus? To be among His chosen and to hang on His every word? To experience the intimacy enjoyed by His closest friends and family.

In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus extends that invitation to us when he says: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Jesus could just have easily said, “Actions speak louder than words” or “Put your money where your mouth is.” Instead, he said, “Hear the word and act on it.”

Those, then, are our marching orders: Believe and act.

What is in it for us? What is the pay-off? We become part of Jesus’ inner circle, his family. We are his “mother and brothers.”

Give at Once

September 19, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give,” when you can give at once. (Proverbs 3:27-28)

GIVE AT ONCE: Procrastinate lately? How much more “good” could we do if we did it right away, right when we thought of it? If we were judged on intent alone, we would be awesome “givers.” However, we often do not move beyond intent.

If someone needs prayers, be deliberate in praying for them.

If someone needs financial support and you are able to provide that support, do it.

If someone is in need of your time, do your best to make yourself available – even if it means putting off doing something for yourself. (Or as I tell myself, even if it is during a Colts game.)

Great things happen when your heart allows intent to lead to action.

Homily: Who Do We Serve?

September 18, 2022 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today:

I have always found it fascinating how Scripture speaks to us in the moment. Over the years, I have preached at a number of youth retreat Masses. When told what the theme of the retreat was for that given day, I turned to the readings of the day and sure enough – a passage jumped off the page that spoke to that topic.

Even if I had already prepared a homily and they came to me at the last minute and asked me to preach on a different topic (and that has happened), I could go back to those same scripture readings and a different passage presented itself – one that provided insight into the new topic.

I bring this up because we have two “themes” at St. Pius this weekend. First, we celebrate the installation of our new statues and the moving of our tabernacle into the sanctuary. Second, we take the opportunity to thank our ministry volunteers – particularly our catechists on this Catechetical Sunday – and invite parishioners to participate in the many ministries of our parish.

Knowing this was the case, I read the readings for this weekend through those lenses. Sure enough, Scripture didn’t disappoint.

Continue reading

The Seed

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Jesus answered, ‘Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables’…The seed is the word of God. (Luke 8:4-15)

THE SEED: If you have followed me at all the last couple of years, you know I have been writing and talking incessantly about the need for Christians to be effective storytellers – that it is critically important that we share our experience of God. In so doing, we plant seeds of hope for those who may not recognize God’s presence in their lives.

The gospel for today could not be more perfect!

First, Jesus explains to his disciples that the knowledge of the Kingdom of God is made known through parables – by telling stories. Stories are relatable. Sure, I can read scripture to you and I can talk Theology. However, the chances of me connecting with you and getting you to recognize God’s loving presence in your life are much better if I share stories of my personal experience of God.

Second, the parable Jesus told was about sowing seeds. Again, that’s what storytelling does! Each time we share our personal experience of God’s presence in our lives, we plant seeds of hope. The more stories we tell, the more seeds we sow. The more seeds we sow, the greater the growth potential. It’s a numbers game; no seeds are planted if we ignore our obligation to spread the gospel message – to share our stories.

Tell your stories; plant seeds of hope!

Taking the Eucharist for Granted

September 16, 2022

Aligning with the 2022-2025 National Eucharistic Revival, St. Pius X Parish has moved the tabernacle into the sanctuary – a visible reminder of what brought us to the church. The following is a brief reflection I wrote back in 2011, recognizing how I, at times, take the gift of the Eucharist for granted:

I have several pictures in my office. They capture my family at various stages of our lives together. There is one picture I received as a Christmas gift that sits on my desk. It is my all-time favorite. It is just a simple picture of my grandson, Joseph, sitting on my daughter’s lap. It was taken as Joseph gazed at his mom with a look that said, “You are so awesome!” I cherish the fact that I have evidence of this loving bond.

I was at a gathering at a local restaurant recently, talking with colleagues and waiting for my wife, Carol, to arrive. I finished a conversation, and as I turned I saw her enter the room. My heart raced and I actually had butterflies. I was struck by how beautiful she was (I married way out of my league) and reminded just how much I love her…still.

How Joseph and I respond to the women in our lives came to mind as I read through some materials on the Eucharist. One article I read asked: Why do we process detached and disinterested toward the altar to receive Holy Communion, yet would hardly be able to contain ourselves if we saw our favorite movie or TV star sitting in one of the pews?  Why does the anticipation of receiving the Eucharist pale in comparison to the anticipation we feel when we are handed a gift? Why do we consume Holy Communion and not feel nourished, but push our chairs away from the Thanksgiving table completely satisfied?

I had a twinge of guilt as I realized I take the gift of the Eucharist for granted. I should feel the genuine awe my grandson feels when he gazes at his mother. My heart should race and I should have butterflies in anticipation of receiving Christ in the Eucharist. I should not only feel nourished after Holy Communion, but transformed and prepared to take this living Presence out to the world.

I am going to try to do better. I will say “Amen” when taking Holy Communion, but what I will really be thinking is “You are so awesome!” I will fail at times, but the Eucharist is just too special of a gift to take for granted.