Don’t Be Distracted

September 5, 2020

Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” (Luke 6:1-5)

Because the Pharisees were continually in conflict with Jesus, one might get the impression that they were not a very intelligent group. Just the opposite is true. The Pharisees were the best and the brightest of the Jewish people. They were scholars of Mosaic Law, experts in their field.

The Pharisees were very intelligent, but lacked reflective insight. They were so caught up in the letter of the law that they lost track of the spirit of the law.

Jesus preached a simple message of love – love of God and love of neighbor. It was not His intent to thumb His nose at the law, but rather to provide a framework that would enhance and bring relevance to the law.

Don’t let the clutter of life distract you from what is most important.

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

September 1, 2020

Today, Pope Francis has asked that Catholics participate in a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. To that end, please see the prayer below, written by Pope Francis as part of his Laudato Si’ encyclical:

Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

Speak with Love and Sincerity

August 29, 2020

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful… Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong… (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

Part of our responsibility as disciples of Jesus is to spread the Gospel message. This is easier said than done. It can be a bit daunting. We may feel we are not qualified to do this important work. We may feel like our relationship with Jesus is personal and be uncomfortable sharing our faith openly.

To address those concerns: Look at who Jesus called to be His disciples – fishermen, tradesmen, and tax collectors. Were they more qualified than us to do His work?

As for being uncomfortable sharing our faith, we need to get over that. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul offers words that may  offer some comfort. We do not need to be the wisest or most powerful. The Gospel message can be delivered by normal, everyday people…just like us.

We simply need to speak with love and sincerity, and the right words will come out of our mouths.

Saving Power of the Cross

August 28, 2020

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-25)

The image of the cross is difficult for us. It represents the suffering and death of Jesus. However, with that suffering and death we were given a gift – a gift of new life, hope, and unconditional love.

There are two messages here:

First, we see clearly just how much God loves us.

Second, we understand the power of sacrifice. Sacrifice, while often painful, opens doors for us. We know this and understand this because we ourselves have been saved as a result of the sacrifice offered by Jesus – “to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Why Show Gratitude?

August 27, 2020

“I give thanks to my God always …” (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

When we hear “give thanks to God always,” it makes me wonder, “Does God need to be thanked?”

You may only think of giving thanks in terms of verbal gratitude or time spent in prayer. It is important to understand that we say “Thank you!” to God in many ways. We do so by living lives that glorify Him. We express gratitude when we show love and support for others, when we are selfless in our actions, when we carry a positive attitude into every situation, as well as when we spend time in prayer. We say “Thank you!” by both word and deed.

God isn’t sitting in Heaven counting how many times we say, “Thank you!” That would be a bit Self-serving. We don’t express our gratitude for His sake, we do so for our sake. Being grateful keeps us in tune with how blessed we are. It serves as a reminder that God has been good to us. It nurtures in us a generous spirit. And most importantly, it keeps us grounded in the fact that we are nothing without Him. Nothing we have accomplished has been done on our own and nothing we have has been earned by us alone.

No, God does not need to be thanked, but we need to thank God.

No Duplicity

August 24, 2020 – Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Jesus saw Nathanael (Bartholomew) coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” (John 1:45-51)

Duplicity means deceitfulness or hypocrisy. So when Jesus saw Bartholomew approaching, He saw a man with no duplicity – someone who was honest, unafraid to speak the truth.

What does Jesus see in us when He sees us coming? Do we speak the truth?

I think we all want to speak the truth. We want to do what is pleasing to God. But many of us also feel uncomfortable when it comes to rocking the boat. It’s easier to just go with the flow, so we don’t speak up or we wait for someone else to step in.

If someone is questioning our faith, we need to have the confidence to respond. If someone is making a poor moral choice, we need to do our best to educate him. If others are gossiping, we need to help them understand the damage they may cause.

We are a part of one holy, catholic and apostolic church. We are apostles just like Bartholomew. If we don’t speak up, who will?

Proper Focus Will Be Rewarded

August 19, 2020

“Thus the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)

The readings from Matthew’s Gospel have had a recurring theme this entire week: Keep your eye on the prize. As a matter of fact, Jesus uses the exact same words the last two days, “…the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Perseverance and proper focus will be rewarded.

The “last” Jesus refers to are those who keep their eye on the prize. They stay focused on what’s important. They do not allow themselves to be distracted from God’s work, unlike the rich young man who followed all of the Commandments, but was unable to let go of his possessions, or the workers in today’s Gospel who concerned themselves with how much each was paid.

We need to stay focused on the work of God rather than on the things of the world.

Where Does Our Commitment Lie?

August 18, 2020

“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-30)

The Gospel passage goes on to say that the disciples were “greatly astonished” when they heard Jesus speak these words. The astonishment came because Jesus’ words appeared to be in direct contradiction to the popular notion of the time that wealth equaled divine favor.

Even today, many read this Gospel passage and are confused. Is money bad? Are we supposed to feel guilty if we have wealth? Will I have more difficulty attaining eternal life because of my financial status while on this earth?

The Gospel is not telling us that possessions and money are evil. It is telling us that our commitment needs to be to our faith. We cannot allow money or material things to define who we are as human beings. It is telling us to stay focused on loving God, loving others, and making disciples of all men — that will give us all the riches we’ll ever need.

Loving “the other”

August 16, 2020 – Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel for today – Matthew 15:21-28

A gospel reflection from Bishop Robert Barron:

A long tradition stresses the perseverance of the Canaanite woman we meet in today’s Gospel. Augustine says that we pray in order to expand our will to accept what God is going to give us. Another reading shows how the woman exemplifies the proper attitude toward God, a combination of humility and boldness, of deference and defiance. We are creatures and God is God; nevertheless, God invites us into intimacy with him.

But I want to emphasize the reading conditioned by the “other.” The Old Testament speaks insistently of the “stranger, the widow, and the orphan.” The ethical life, in a Biblical framework, is about the press of these people upon us. They press upon us even when we would greatly prefer them just to go away.

We the Church are the body of Christ. And so people come to us demanding food, sustenance, friendship, love, shelter, liberation. Often we are tempted to do what Jesus does initially and what the disciples do: tell them to back off. We are overloaded, busy, preoccupied. We can’t be bothered.

But the whole of the Christian life consists in remembering the suffering and need of the annoying other.


God’s Mercy Has No Limits

August 13, 2020

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.