Drop What You’re Doing

February 17, 2018

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. (Luke 5:27-32)

The twelve men ultimately called to be the Apostles of Jesus were not the best and the brightest. The Rabbis leading the religious communities were surrounded by scholarly disciples. These disciples studied and trained for years before being sent out as learned leaders. Only the best were called. Only the best survived.

Jesus, on the other hand, called fisherman and farmers…and today, Matthew (Levi), a tax collector. He taught them through parables, which they often had difficulty understanding. Even after they were called, their faith surged and faded. Doubt was always looming.

Yet that is who Jesus called. That is who Jesus would later send.

The apostles were not special because they were called. They were special because they responded. They didn’t ask for some time to think about it, or tell Jesus they’d get back with Him. They immediately responded. They were special because they dropped what they were doing and followed Him.

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Where Am I Going?

February 16, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:

The Lenten season has begun.  Lent does not conjure up the same excitement and joy as celebratory seasons such as Easter and Christmas. Instead it is viewed as a bit sobering, perhaps even gloomy – ashes, penance, sacrifice, etc.

I have had opportunities in the past to hear different priests share refreshing perspectives on Lent. Rather than doom and gloom, Lent was presented as an opportunity for introspection, considering ways to become a better version of yourself. This is of course challenging, but it should be seen as a positive experience, rather than as a preoccupation with your own unworthiness.

Fr. Jim Farrell, my pastor, referred to the six weeks of Lent as a time of conversion. As our Lenten sacrifice, he suggested an alternative to giving up material items such as food, television, or soft drinks. Instead, why not consider working on some of the things that keep us separated from others and from God? Perhaps you get angry easily. Maybe you are slow to offer forgiveness or compassion. Have you convinced yourself that you do not have time for prayer? Do you consider the poor and disenfranchised to be someone else’s problem?

Friend and former co-worker, Fr. Joshua Janko, echoed these thoughts, referring to Lent as a time to “smooth off our rough edges.”

Bishop Gettelfinger, retired Bishop of the Evansville Diocese, once shared his view of Lent as a time of self-reflection. He suggested that we ask ourselves three questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? and Where am I going?

Maybe you feel pretty good about yourself and you do not see this activity as challenging at all. But what if Jesus were standing in front of you and the two of you locked eyes? Now how difficult would those three questions be?

Consider the Gospel story of the rich young man. He asked Jesus what he could do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him he needed to follow the commandments. The encouraged young man assured Jesus that he had indeed done that. Then Jesus told him “to sell all of your belongings and give the money to the poor, and then return and follow me.” The man went away sad. What God asks of us can be challenging.

I pray that your Lenten season allows you an opportunity for conversion. May you lock eyes with Jesus, consider what separates you from others and from Him, smooth off your rough edges, and then return and follow Him.

 

Homily: 40-Day Time Out

February 15, 2018

Yesterday I delivered a homily at our Ash Wednesday all-school Mass. Here are the key points from that homily:

I once read an article that referred to the Lenten season as a 40-day “time out” – referring to the disciplinary strategy used by many parents. I never liked that image when it came to Lent, as I do not like to connect Lent with punishment.

However, while cleaning the basement recently, I came across some old Psychology textbooks from college. In a Child Psychology textbook, I happened to flip open to a unit on behavior modification, which included a description of the time out strategy. It was not presented as punishment at all, but focused purely on changing behavior. Continue reading

Homily: We Are Nothing Without God

February 14, 2018

The following is a homily I delivered on Ash Wednesday of 2016:

The first comes from the Book of the Prophet Jonah: …the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his nobles: “Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way… (Jonah 3:1-10)

Wow! That is an intense image. It is the response of a king trying to save his kingdom from the wrath of a vengeful God. Perhaps that is why we struggle to relate to this Lenten image; that is not who we know God to be.

We can never imagine ourselves having to respond with such intensity to the Lenten call to repent. Continue reading

We Are Never “Finished”

February 13, 2018

Today I will be speaking to a Catholic women’s group, the Procter Club, on the topic, Locking Eyes with Jesus.

Here is a summary of what I’ll be sharing with the group:

First, this is what I mean by locking eyes with Jesus: If you are open to the gentle nudging of Jesus, and willing to gaze upon His face, He will lock eyes with you. He will look into your soul with His piercing eyes. Those eyes will say to you, “I love you, but I have something to tell you that will be difficult to hear.”

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The image above (a painting done by my wife and hanging in my office – so He locks eyes with me daily!) comes to mind each time I hear the parable of the rich young man. The man approaches Jesus and asks what he can do to gain eternal life. He informs Jesus that he has been following the commandments since he was a child. It is clear he assumes he has met the requirements for eternal life.

The parable goes on to say that,  Jesus looked at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) The story ends with the man going away sad because he has so many worldly possessions.

The fact is that our work is never done. No matter how hard we may work to benefit others, no matter how much we give of ourselves, we are never finished. To make matters even more challenging, our work continues to evolve as well. As an educator, I have needed to evolve because the young people placed in my charge have evolved. The adults I minister to are different than the adults I ministered to ten years ago. Needs change, so my work changes.

However, we can take comfort in the knowledge that our work has a ripple effect. Those we help, those we care for, are handed the baton and challenged to pay it forward.

We may never personally experience the results of those ripples. However, our reward will be what the rich young man sought – eternal life.

 

 

 

We Cannot Give What We Have Not Received

February 12, 2018

I will be leading a faith formation session for school staff today, and will be sharing the following information taken from an article entitled, “The Secret of the Authentic Catholic School”:

A Catholic school will, sooner or later, be a reflection of the level of personal faith development of individual staff members.

If you have a school full of staff members who have individual lives of prayer and sacrament then that is going to flow into all that they do. It will impact their interactions with students as well as with colleagues. A Catholic school where people pray is simply a more joyful place to work. When Catholic schools try to survive upon purely human capacities then it eventually descends into various forms of burnout. And burnout soon enough leads to cynicism. Continue reading

Homily: It’s OK to Pick Up Tommy’s Tie

February 11, 2018 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I will be delivering he following homily at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Indianapolis today:

When I was in second grade, right here at St. Pius, the time came for my class to prepare for receiving our first Holy Communion. We practiced each day in the church, which is now Ross Hall. We were informed of all of the do’s and don’ts of our big day. The girls must wear white dresses and wear veils. The boys must wear dress shirts and sport coats and little clip-on ties. We were to walk in a straight line with our hands folded. There was to be no slouching.

A major emphasis, at least as far as Sr. Antoinette was concerned, was that we stay focused. That meant we were not to look around trying to find our parents or grandparents. We were not to look out the window. We were not to talk to anyone for any reason, except to say, “Amen” when Msgr. Ross offered us Holy Communion. Continue reading