Just Tell Us the Answer!

April 24, 2018

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:22-30)

As a classroom teacher, I often heard this same type of pleading. “Just tell us the answer!”

Jesus’ role on earth was first and foremost that of a teacher. As every good teacher knows, we do a disservice to our students when we simply hand them the answers. We want to form them as learners; we want them to be seekers of knowledge.

In order for the disciples of Jesus to grow and develop as followers, they needed to be prodded and challenged to seek the truth.

The easy path would have been to declare Himself the Christ, become King, and order everyone to do His will. The more difficult route, which Jesus the Teacher chose, was to lead His students to the truth.

The knowledge we gain through self-discovery is more permanent and life-changing than the knowledge of others that is handed to us.

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No Shortcuts

April 23, 2018

Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved…” (John 10:1-10)

Fenced-in areas generally only have one gate. It is possible to get in the fenced area by other means. You could climb over the fence. You could dig your way in, burrowing under the fence. With proper wire cutters, you could cut a hole in the fence and climb through.

But none of those alternatives would be the right way, the appropriate way. They would be shortcuts. There is only one correct way and that is the gate.

We recognize that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, but sometimes Jesus’ way is challenging. We just want to take the easy way, and we look for shortcuts. Ultimately, it gets us nowhere.

Jesus, the gate, is the only source of salvation.

Stay on the Bandwagon

April 21, 2018

Jesus had just told his disciples that He was the bread of life, and only those who eat of the bread can gain eternal life. Their response: Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” and later, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-69)

Sound like your faith life? Are you a part-time disciple?

Being a follower of Jesus Christ when things are going well is pretty easy. Just like it is easier to cheer for the hometown team when the team is winning. When the losses start mounting, our support for the team begins to wane.

If we jump on and off our faith bandwagon, our faith will never gain the momentum needed for growth. It will be stagnant and empty, with no depth. If we want our faith life to grow and develop, we need to be all in – in good times and bad.

If Jesus’ teachings are difficult for us to understand, we need to seek greater understanding, not reject the teachings. If we are struggling with something in our lives, we need to turn toward Jesus, not away from Him. If our prayer lives are unsatisfying, we need to look for ways to bring new life to our prayer, not stop praying.

Being all in means staying committed to Jesus and to our faith. It is the more difficult path at times, but has the greater pay off in the end.

The Opportunity to Evangelize

April 19, 2018

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, ‘Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route’ So he got up and set out” (Acts 8:26-27)

Philip did as he was told and ended up spreading the Gospel message to an Ethiopian eunuch, and eventually baptized him. Do you ever find yourself somewhere, or in some odd situation, and you’re unsure how you got there?

I am normally a quiet, reserved person – a definite introvert. Yet I find myself dropped into situations that challenge me and seem to be calling me to evangelize. I once found myself in a deep spiritual conversation with a stranger I met on a plane. The very first time I went out with a group to feed the homeless, I spent time holding hands and praying with a cocaine addict. A parishioner sat down for a cup of coffee with me and ended up pouring out his heart about his struggling marriage and lackluster faith life.

My guess is that these types of things happen to you, too. It is not always the work of angels coming to us in our sleep, but God does put us in some unusual situations. In so doing, He hopes we will be open to the people we meet and stretch our comfort zones. He hopes we will take the opportunity to evangelize. We are an apostolic people. Apostle means one who is sent. Sometimes we go willingly like Philip; other times we may need a little push.

I pray that we might embrace the situations in which we find ourselves, are open to others, and are willing to use the gift of the Holy Spirit in building God’s kingdom on earth.

Dying for the Faith

April 17, 2018

The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his execution. (Acts 7:51-8:1)

We have a reading with a number of “firsts” today. Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church, was the first Christian to die a martyr’s death. He continued to preach the word of God, despite seeing how his words infuriated the crowd. He willingly accepted the suffering and the death it would ultimately cause. And finally, he showed compassion and forgiveness for his persecutors in his plea, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Faith under fire graphically on display.

Another first: We get our first glimpse of the relentless persecutor of Christians, “a young man named Saul.” Saul, of course, would later undergo a conversion experience and become one of the most influential Christians in history – St. Paul. He would eventually dies a martyr’s death himself.

All things are possible through Him.

Not Only When I am in Need

April 16, 2018

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. (John 6:22-29)

This Gospel passage follows the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus is calling out his disciples. He says, “You’re following me because I provide for you, not because you believe.”

We are guilty of this, aren’t we? We tend to turn to Jesus only in times of need, and unfortunately fail to give him much of our time when things are going smoothly.

I know I struggle with this. I am making an effort to work on this shortcoming. I am being more deliberate in my prayer life. My daily prayer always contains three parts, in this order: First, prayers of gratitude for another day and for all with which I have been blessed. Next, I pray for the needs of others. Finally, I pray for my own needs. By adding this structure to my prayer, I attempt to take the focus off of me.

I need Jesus in my life, and I will always turn to him when I am struggling. But I want to be sure He knows I want Him in my life everyday, and give Him the time and attention He deserves.

I want Him to know that I follow Him not only because He provides for me, but because I believe.

Select From Among You…

April 14, 2018

I always like to point out this scripture reading when it rolls around in the liturgical cycle. A bit self-serving, but from today’s first reading I highlight the calling of the first deacons of the Church:

So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-7)

Not sure about the “reputable” and “filled with…wisdom” but I am doing the best I can 🙂