Courage to Take Root

July 16, 2017

Jesus said to his disciples: “Hear the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

The sower sows seeds on several different types of ground — a path, rocky ground, among thorns, and finally in rich soil. Each of these surfaces represent us as believers, with the rich soil being “the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit…”

Perhaps there is another way to look at this parable. Maybe we are the seed in this story. Our job is take root and bear fruit:

  • When we land on the path, do we become distracted and allow the Evil One to come and steal us away?
  • When we land on the rocky soil, are we not persistent enough? Do we “last only for a time” because we give up?
  • Among the thorns, are we not strong enough? Courageous enough? Are we unwilling to fight against “worldly anxiety” and the “lure of riches”?
  • Our only success is in the rich soil? Are we teachers who can only teach the brightest students?

We are the seed, the Word of God, and our purpose is to take root and bear fruit. There are many more paths, rocks, and thorns out there than there is rich soil. We better roll up or sleeves and find the courage to fight if we are to have any chance of taking root in those tough terrains.

We need to grow wherever we land.

On Loan from God

July 13, 2017

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:7-15)

I once heard someone say, “Everything we have is on loan from God.”

We tend to be our own biggest fans. We take credit for all of the talent we possess and all of the success we enjoy. We deserve everything we have because we earned it, and we are entitled to everything else that will come our way in the future.

How did we get his way? When did we lose sight of the role God has played in the design of our lives?

Every breath we take, everything we own, even who we are, is a gift from God. They are products of His grace.

When we pass these gifts on to others, it becomes a prayer of gratitude.

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Jesus Calls Us His Own

July 12, 2017

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. (Matthew 10:1)

I think it is important for us to remember that the apostles of Jesus were ordinary men. They were not chosen because they were special or had unique talents. They were ordinary men who were willing to answer the call of Jesus Christ. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” they dropped their fishing nets, left their fields, or stepped away from their lucrative tax collecting jobs and followed Him.

We know the rest of the story. The apostles doubted, they questioned, they denied, and they lacked faith. All the while, Jesus loved them and called them His own.

Jesus calls us, ordinary people, to follow Him as well. He understands that we are sinners, broken people who doubt and lack faith at times. In spite of that, Jesus offers us extraordinary love and calls us His own.

May we, and all ordinary people, have the courage to accept the authority He offers us. In so doing, we serve as witnesses to others who may be doubting their own ability to respond to the love of Jesus Christ.

I Hope to Hear: “Your Faith Has Saved You”

July 10, 2017

“My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Your faith has saved you.” (Matthew 9:18-26)

Two examples of great faith are offered in today’s Gospel. First, a synagogue official asks Jesus to bring his daughter back to life. He has faith that Jesus can do this by simply placing His hand on her. Second, a long-suffering woman has faith she can be cured by simply touching the tassel on Jesus’ cloak. Both had total trust in the power of Jesus Christ.

Hearing of such faith makes me ashamed of my own tenuous faith. My inability to give up control sends the message to Jesus that I am not sure He can provide all that I need. Each time I ignore His help and instead rely on myself, my lack of trust is revealed.

I pray for the courage to place all my trust in Jesus, and perhaps someday hear His words: “Your faith has saved you.”

 

Focus on What’s Important

July 8, 2017

“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” (Matthew 9:14-17)

In today’s reading from Matthew, we once again see the actions of Jesus and His disciples called into question. The Jews were keeping a close eye on Jesus and His followers. This group did not seem concerned about abiding by the Jewish laws and traditions. Why did they choose to ignore these laws?

When Jesus responded to this question, He did not dismiss Jewish law, but simply explained that His disciples were staying focused on what was most important – in this case, time with Him.

We are a Church of many customs, traditions, and rites, all of which are important and enhance our faith. Jesus would tell us that if we were to get so caught up in all of these “rules” that we lost sight of loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves, then our priorities are misplaced.

The laws of the Church are put in place to help us focus on what is most important, not cause us to lose sight of it.

Carry the Stretcher

July 6, 2017

And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. (Matthew 9:1-8)

Since being ordained, it seems that more and more people are asking me to pray for them or for someone they know who is suffering. I understand why we ask saints to intercede on our behalf. Saints are closer to God, right? They live in the same neighborhood and can walk over, knock on His door, and speak with Him directly. So while I have dutifully prayed for anyone who has asked, I have been a bit unsure of how my prayers would be of any great benefit.

Today’s gospel reading offers some insight into this shared responsibility to pray. Jesus was traveling from town to town, preaching to all and healing the afflicted. A paralyzed man wanted desperately to be in the presence of Jesus. He was confident that simply being in the presence of Jesus would cure him and allow him to walk again. However, the crowd was too big and the paralyzed man could not get close enough. Others interceded on his behalf. They carried his stretcher, made their way through the crowd, and brought him to where Jesus stood.

The words of the gospel that appeared just before Jesus healed the paralyzed man resonated with me: “When Jesus saw their faith…”

The paralyzed man had great faith. He believed Jesus could heal him. He also believed that there was strength in numbers. He knew he couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon others to help. A pivotal part of the story – the others responded. They, too, believed. They made it possible for the paralyzed man to reach Jesus.

It was their faith Jesus saw – that of the paralyzed man and those who carried the stretcher.

Next time someone asks you to pray for him or for someone close to him who is suffering, set aside the thought that your intercession is not good enough. Picture yourself carrying the stretcher. Think of yourself as one of the people making it possible for that person to be in the presence of Jesus.

Make a Bold Statement

July 1, 2017

The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. (Matthew 8:5-11)

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 proclaim 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.