Thursday, December 29, 2011


“God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son, so that all who believe in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” John 3: 16

Perhaps you have seen the unmistakable banner held aloft in the crowd behind the end zone as the kicker tacks on the extra point after a touchdown. Or maybe you saw a bumper sticker on the back of the car in front of you while you were stuck in traffic. Then again, maybe you were handed a Bible tract on the streets of your downtown by a well-meaning Christian trying to spread the basic Gospel message on a warm Spring afternoon. John 3: 16. One of the most famous and often-advertised verses of the entire Scriptures and one that many people know by heart. The basic message of God’s rescue plan in a succinct sentence; the Gospel in a nutshell. It’s no wonder that this verse is used during the Christmas season because it was for this, for love of US, that God became an infant and was born of the Virgin Mary. It was for love of US that He humbled Himself and became one of US in order to save us. It was for love of US that He healed the sick and cast out demons from the afflicted. It was for love of US that He subjected Himself to obedience to the Father’s will and suffered and died at the hands of His own creation so that we might be with Him forever in heaven.

If we believe.

If we believe. And this is the crucial point. We live in a cynical and sarcastic world. We are surrounded by hypocrisy, arrogance, confusion and doubt. But what will convince someone, in the end and to the heart, of the reality of God and His love for them? Will it take a miracle? How about good preaching? If we win an argument or a debate with an atheist? No. What will convince the majority of unbelieving people to believe in God is when they see those of us who do believe living that way. So a guy holds up a John 3:16 banner at a football game, while at the same time gets drunk at the game. So the person driving the car in front of you has a John 3:16 bumper sticker, but then flips someone the bird when they cut in front of her. So the sidewalk evangelist hands out tracts all day while condemning and judging anyone that does not take a tract. Is it harder to hold up a banner, or glue on a bumper sticker or hand out a tract, or is it harder to truly LOVE others as God loves them?

Once upon a time a Hindu government official from Indian remarked that if all Christians were like Mother Teresa, then there would be no more Hindus. Presumably he meant that if all Christians lived out their beliefs with such love as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta that every Hindu would convert to Christianity. All of us sin and fall and thanks be to God for His limitless mercy. But we must realize that WE are the only Gospel someone might read today. WE might be the only Jesus someone encounters today. WE might be the only love that someone experiences today. And this is what will ultimately bring belief to the heart of an unbeliever. We will never be perfect in our actions, but we can seek perfection in the way we love; so that we may believe more sincerely and be the means of belief for others through the grace of Jesus.

Dear Jesus, help my unbelief this day and help me to live in Your love in such a way that it draws others into true belief in You. Despite my failings, may I each day be an instrument of Your grace. Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Breaking Dawn

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1: 78-79

The word “passion” comes from the Latin root meaning “to suffer”. This is why the crucifixion of Christ is often referred to as “The Passion”. Christ was so passionately in love with you and me that He was willing to endure the ultimate sacrifice and suffering in order to open the doors to heaven for us so we could be with Him forever. When we look at the Latin root of the word “compassion” it means to “suffer with”. This is huge! Many times perhaps, we think of compassion as sympathy—merely feeling sorry for someone hurt or in need. But compassion is so much more than feeling bad for someone else; it moves from sympathy to empathy in action. And this action is to join with the person in their suffering: we go to the homeless, we hug and cry with the sorrowful, we visit those in prison, we get cut and dirty and sweaty working on projects for a workcamp or service mission with our church. We live with and eat with the people in Africa or Asia or Central America when on a mission trip. We sacrifice our own time for a friend that needs to talk. In other words, we don’t just go around feeling sorry for people while still continuing to live our own isolated lives.

And this is what God did (and still does) for us. He did not stay in heaven feeling pity and mercy for His people who had turned from Him while at the same time content in the love of the Trinity. No, His perfect love compelled Him to come down to this Earth He had created from nothing, to become one of the creatures He had made in His own image from clay, to humble Himself and come as an infant, helpless and in need of His own creation to care for Him, feed Him, change His diapers. He grew-up like each of us grows-up. He went through acne and puberty and school (at home). He learned obedience and sacrifice from Mary and Joseph and He got cut when he fell down, He got blisters from working carpentry, He experienced hunger and thirst, He was too hot and too cold at times and He knew fear and anger as well as joy and gladness. And in the end He knew what it felt like to be abandoned, betrayed, falsely accused, humiliated and hated.

Jesus came into our darkness like dawn breaking over the horizon and His light will penetrate deep into the darkness of our hearts if we allow Him to join with us in our suffering. This Christmas let us meditate on the tender compassion of a God who loves us so much!

Dear Jesus, thank You for Your tender compassion. Thank You for joining me in all of my sufferings so that I can trust You at every moment. With Your grace, may I open my heart fully to the dawn of Your presence in the very depths of my heart. Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tim Tebow’s Secret

“Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession, Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13-14

There is so much fascination right now with Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow—from that fact that he is a good football player, an outstanding role model and an outspoken follower of Christ. And people can’t wrap their minds around what makes him so fascinating. Media pundits, football analysts and other “talking heads” keep trying to figure out why this young man is so positive, so energetic and so contagious. They say he is not a good quarterback, and yet he keeps winning. They keep trying to catch him doing or saying something “unchristian” and yet he doesn’t. He gets baited in almost every interview and some opposing players mock him outright on the playing field. And all the while he keeps winning and smiling and blessing people.

But you know what? Tim Tebow’s secret is never going to be figured out by people without Faith because it isn’t about football, or being a good quarterback, or even being a nice guy. Tim Tebow’s secret is that he is more passionate about Jesus Christ than anything else in the world. And with this intimate relationship with the Savior as the foundation of his life and the center of his heart, everything else falls into place and nothing else matters. So he loses a football game, no biggie. So he loses the starting job, no biggie. So people don’t like his outspoken beliefs, no biggie. So people say he can’t play in the NFL as a quarterback, no biggie. Everything can roll off of him and he can smile because the God of the universe is his BEST FRIEND! If you’ve got that, you’re good. And on the flip side, when you don’t have to worry about pleasing people and making a name for yourself, you can just do what needs to be done and do it well because there is no pressure. So because of his relationship with Christ, because of this security, he IS a good football player, and he is winning and he can be a nice guy and smile even in the face of scorn or defeat. Tim Tebow knows what so many in the world do not: that his happiness is not dependent upon anything or anyone on this earth, but only in Christ.

The reason people are drawn to Tim Tebow is because he does everything to give God glory, not himself. He is kind, generous, humble, self-sacrificing, hard-working and dedicated; all traits that people are naturally drawn to, because our hearts are seeking Greatness whether we know it or not. If we could realize that we were created to find Greatness in Christ alone, then the world would be a different place. And Tim Tebow’s secret wouldn't be a secret any longer.

Dear Jesus, please grant me the grace today to keep my eyes on You and not be distracted from looking at things that can never satisfy my heart. May I come to love You more and more each day. Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Heaven

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.’” Revelation 21: 1, 3-4

People have been trying to create heaven on earth for as long as history has been recorded. Perhaps this desire for a paradise on earth is simply a logical result from being kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Maybe there is something within us that wishes we could go back to a place that never will be again. Or maybe we desire it because we know this earth is broken and temporary and that God created us to yearn for wholeness and permanence. But will we EVER find that and be satisfied in this life?

Of course as followers of Christ we should be at every moment seeking ways to bring justice and peace to our earth right now. Just because our hearts and souls long for our eternal home does not mean we should abandon the cries of the oppressed and poor during this earthly journey. We should use our time, talent and treasures to further the kingdom of God on earth. We should seek to serve others and show others the love and hope of the Lord. And yes, we should use our freedom and democracy in America to vote for leaders who will also seek to use the weight and power of the government to join the Church in seeking justice and peace, not only in our land, but around the world as we are able to do.

However, if we think that the government is going to save us, we are sadly mistaken. If we think that some form of economic socialism will bring utopia to the world, we are missing the boat. If we think that we can simply throw enough money, goods and military might around the world and people will be at peace, we are not recognizing the fundamental Truth that every human being is broken, sinful, wounded and capable of giving into the temptations of power, greed, and corruption. There is no human institution, government, military or economic model that will bring paradise to this earth.

Only the grace of Jesus can motivate us and give us the strength to bring any semblance of peace or justice to our world. And occupying the inner cities of the world demanding money and resources and jobs is not going to work either. We need to stop demanding things! We need to humbly SACRIFICE in our own lives and love until it hurts, like Jesus. Then, and only then, will we begin to see true peace and justice in the world. And even then, there will still be brokenness, selfishness and temptations for us to act contrary to love. So does this leave us with no hope? On the contrary, as we continue to cooperate with God’s grace, make sacrifices for others and try to love others by meeting their needs, we also offer hope in a life to come—in a home that is eternal, where no one will go hungry, homeless, naked or in fear; a place where every occupant is completely filled with love, peace, joy and ecstasy forever and ever. Amen?

Dear Jesus, please help me to look at my own life and find ways that I can sacrifice more to help others in need. Help me to fight the temptations of greed and power in my own heart and through my actions to bring others the hope that can be found only in You—the hope of everlasting life in heaven. Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Can Do All Things...But Should I?

“I have the strength for everything, through him who empowers me.” Philippians 4: 13

There is nothing that we cannot accomplish because the grace and power of the Lord Jesus Christ lives in us and if we are open to allowing this power to flow through us and animate us then nothing can stand in our way. It is this power and grace of Jesus in and through the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to love, to be compassionate, to lead others closer to Christ, to be patient, to be humble, to follow in His footsteps along the Narrow Road. With Christ we can do all things, but apart from Him we can do nothing. Without God’s grace and power, martyrs wouldn’t give their lives, people wouldn’t repent and conform their lives to the Gospel, no one would answer God’s call as missionaries, no one would preach or teach the Truth and no one would be healed in body or soul.

But just because we can do all things through the power of God, does not mean that we are called to do ALL things. God is not giving you the power to do EVERYTHING, just the power to do His will for YOUR life. This many seem like an obvious distinction, but some people seem to miss it by the way they live their lives. The world is so busy and fast-paced today and we forget that our lives as Christians should be impacting our culture, not merely reflecting it. The reality is that even as Christians, doing Christian things, we can get too busy. We can begin to convince ourselves that because the things we do are for God or the Church, then we are supposed to be doing them.

All things we do for Christ MUST be because Christ asked us or led us to do them, not simply because we think we ought to because they are good in and of themselves. I am not speaking about moral good and evil here. Obviously we need to always do the good when compared to evil. I am talking about all the things we volunteer for, or help out with outside of our families. There will always be people in need. The question is not whether we should help or not, we should. The question is where and how much? And the answer to this not only depends on our state in life and other obligations, but most importantly, where is GOD leading me?

The only way we can be sure that we are doing the things Christ wants us to do, and no more or less, is to be in prayer and contemplation every day. If we are not always seeking deeper union with Him, if we are not listening to His voice, if we are not slowing down to contemplate and meditate on what is really important, then we risk missing the big picture and doing things for the sake of doing things. And at that point we don’t offer anything of value or hope to a world that so desperately craves it. We only look like a Christian version of everyone else and we end up burned out. Is that what God really wants of us?

Dear Jesus, I desire to serve you with my whole heart and with all my being and I know that with Your power I can do all things. Help me to spend time with You each day so I can authentically discern what exactly it is You are actually calling me to do and what You aren’t. Amen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ties That Bind

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Ephesians 5: 31

There is a LOT of talk about marriage these days isn’t there?

Who should be allowed to marry? Why are people getting married later in life? Why are so many people getting divorced? What’s wrong with homosexual marriage? What’s the difference between divorce and an annulment? But are we really asking the right questions? Are we asking the foundational questions upon which the answers to all other questions can be based?

For instance, the best first question about marriage is: who created marriage? If it is nothing more than a contract between two people recognized by the state, then that leads to a host of one set of answers to the other questions we mentioned above. As Christians we do NOT believe that marriage is a human institution. We believe that marriage was created by God. In fact, we read in the book of Genesis (repeated in the passage from Ephesians above), that marriage was the first sacrament, the first sign of God’s covenant with us. Bl. Pope John Paul II called marriage the “primordial” sacrament. Marriage is a covenant between man and woman that binds them together. This covenant is the sign of God’s love for the Church and it is the first thing done after creation is complete. And nothing else in creation marries but the man and woman. No animals, no birds; only Adam and Eve who are our first parents and also represent all of humanity.

The next foundational question we must ask is: what is the purpose of God creating marriage? The rest of the world might say again, that it is a legal contract between two people, any two people, who are in love (and some might argue more than two people). As Christians we believe that the purpose of marriage is unitive and procreative. In other words, marriage is for bonding and babies. Why? In this sacrament, the one man and one woman give themselves to one another in self-donating love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful. They are bonded to one another in the sacramental grace given to them and this selfless, sacrificial love, then bears fruit in the form of another human person.

If we understand and accept the Truth of these two primary and foundational questions, then all of the other questions about marriage can be answered from a place of hope and honesty. Without the knowledge of where marriage came from and what it is for, we are left to the whims and waves of this present culture to determine for each person their own definition of marriage and how to live that out. By understanding that marriage was created by God, not man, we realize that it is sublime and mysterious and that we cannot tinker with it without dire consequences. By understanding that the purpose is to bond man and woman with God and each other in such a deep, covenantal, sacrificial, self-donating love that the marriage becomes a family and communion of intimately connected persons we realize it is more than just a fulfillment of one’s own needs or desires. Let us pray for a greater understanding of marriage and a greater desire to embrace self-donating love.

Dear Jesus, may I always seek to love others as You loved. And with Your help and grace, may the dignity and sacredness of marriage be protected and encouraged in our culture. Amen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

May the Force Be With You

“Therefore, remember that at one time you…were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community…and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2: 11-13

There are a lot of people in the world, in the United States, maybe in your community or school, who are atheists or agnostics. They do not believe in any kind of God or “higher power”. Most of them subscribe to one form of communism or secular humanism—the belief that this world is all there is, science tells us what is real and truth is really whatever you want it to be. The belief that this life is all that there is, there are no angels, or demons, or any kind of “unseen” powers in the universe and that ultimately when we die, that is the end. So this life is about making utopia for real for now, or else to simply try to live life obtaining as much pleasure as possible.

On the other hand, a lot of other people are “spiritual”. Ancient Greeks were spiritual. American Indians are spiritual. Tribes and peoples in Africa and Central America are spiritual. Eastern mysticism from the Far East is spiritual. Yoga is spiritual. Heck, astrology is kind of spiritual too. At this point in the United States the majority of people would say that they believe in God or a “higher power”. In other words, they are spiritual.  But is just “spiritual” enough?

Perhaps atheists and spiritualists are really the opposite sides of the same coin. Despite their differences in beliefs about the existence of unseen powers, they both want to live lives according to themselves, without any interference from anything or anyone, be it seen or unseen. In other words, they do not want to be held accountable to any standards not set by their own minds or emotions. Atheists want to advance their lives through science and spiritualists want to manipulate the spiritual world for their own benefit. Both are disconnected from “religion” or a personal, intimate God. Neither recognizes Jesus Christ as our Savior and neither feels compelled to live according to an objective moral standard or worship anything outside of themselves.

Living by either of these philosophies can be dangerous. The secular humanists offer little hope and the spiritualists offer too much. What the worlds needs is Jesus. We need to become so intimate with Him that others cannot dismiss Him. Our words need to be His words, our thoughts His thoughts: our deeds, His deeds. Without an intimate relationship with Christ grounded in a joyful, obedient presence in the Church, we offer the world nothing different than secular humanists or spiritualists.

I think it is very easy to see that world is not devoid of spiritual powers and beings. I think it is easy to see that these spiritual powers and beings must be more than some impersonal “ying-yang” force. And yet, so many people miss this reality and settle for believing only that which can be understood or manipulated by either the mind or the heart. May we have the humble courage to show them another way, a way of authentic hope and true freedom.

Dear Jesus, help me to reflect You in all I think, say and do today. May my relationship with You expose the reality of the spiritual world to those who do not believe and may my presence in the Church expose those who believe in anything to be grounded in the Truth. Amen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It Takes All Kinds

“The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.’” Luke 10: 41-42

It appears from this passage about Martha and her sister Mary that Martha gets a bad rap, doesn’t it? Here she is serving Jesus and the apostles, feeding everyone, taking care of everyone’s needs, washing the dishes, etc. and all the while Mary just sits at the feet of Jesus listening to Him. At first when Martha complains we sympathize and expect Jesus to chastise Mary for her apparent laziness and inconsideration to her sister. And yet, somewhat surprisingly to some people, Jesus actually gentle challenges Martha to spend less time worrying and trying to control things and to let go and rest in His presence like Mary. Wow! Didn’t see that coming at first, did we? Especially in America, where hard work and productivity are highly praised and someone without work is labeled as lazy (many times unjustly).

But is Jesus really praising the fact that Mary is doing nothing? Of course not. It’s not so much that she is doing nothing, but she is doing something that has more value at that moment. There is a time for everything and when in the presence of Jesus, He is telling us to simply let go of our worries, put down our burdens, forget about what people think of us and allow Him to speak to our hearts and be refreshed in His presence.

However, if we look a little deeper into Scripture we find another story about Martha and Mary. In the Gospel of John we learn that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary has died. Jesus goes to the tomb and when Martha hears about His coming she runs to Him and talks to Him and shows her faith in Him as the Savior. She still has hope at this moment of grief. She is bold and she is trying to solve the problem. All the while this is going on, Mary, the one who basked at the feet of Jesus, is not even able to go to Him now. She stays at home wallowing in her grief until Jesus calls her.

What this tells us is that there are all kinds of people and personalities. Martha is more of a go-getter, a doer, perhaps a leader. But her weakness is that she tries to control everything and trusts herself too much. In addition, she judges others easily because she expects others to be as productive and attentive as she. Mary on the other hand appears to be more free-spirited. She loves deeply, feels deeply and has dramatic emotional highs and lows. When she is feeling “up”, nothing can stop her, but when she is feeling “low”, nothing seems to give her hope. Perhaps this is a weakness for her. One is not better than the other. The reality is that God has made all kinds of people and He calls each of us to Him and while we respond in different ways, there is much that we can learn from one another. Where our weaknesses lie, another might have strengths and vice versa. Instead of attacking, judging and condemning one another, let us learn from one another as we all seek to respond to the Lord’s call.

Dear Jesus, both Martha and Mary loved You. Both had to learn to trust You and let go of what they were holding onto. Please give me the grace to trust You, to let go of what I need to and to follow You every day. Amen.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

“Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6: 9

Do you want to be rich?

I know, being “rich” is a relative term isn’t it? I mean, most of us would not think we are desiring to be rich just because we wish we had enough money to cover all the bills, put food on the table, pay the mortgage, keep the kids in activities and sports they want to do, take a nice vacation every year, have a few nice cars, be able to put aside some money for retirement and pay for our kids’ college—and all without the uncertainty or fear of where the money was going to come from, whether we had enough each month or if we will still have our jobs next month. That’s not too much to ask is it?

Or perhaps as a young person all we want is enough money to buy a car, pay for the insurance and gas, have an iPod and nice cell phone and some money leftover each month to hang-out with friends at the movies or a restaurant. Again, not too much to ask for, right?

I think we have to understand that Jesus is never saying that money or possessions is sinful in and of itself. So having money for all the things mentioned above is not bad. But what Jesus does warn us about in the Gospels several times is the desire for money or wealth or things. And this is where we can easily get into trouble. Why is this desire for financial security sinful? Basically because it implies two things: 1. We need this stuff to be happy and satisfied and 2. We put more trust in money than in God.

Of course we know the reality is that we do NOT need money or things to make us happy. And in many cases having lots of money or possessions actually leads to unhappiness. Think about people who win the lottery. I’ve seen some statistics that within 5-10 years after winning many of them are bankrupt and/or divorced. And what about all the famous movie and rock stars that drug themselves constantly, sometimes to the point of death? Shouldn’t they be happy with all the money and wealth they’ve acquired?

What happens when we place our trust in creation instead of the Creator? We know too well that we were created for the eternal, not the temporary. If we place our hope and trust in money, there is no amount of money that will ever satisfy us. And our God is a jealous God. He created us for Him and Him alone and He will not stand by and watch us make gods out of things He has created. He loves us too much to allow us to live lives of comfortable mediocrity. And so He will call out to us, He will invite, He will knock, He will whisper to our hardened and jaded hearts. He will never give up pursuing us and drawing us to Himself. He knows that when we pursue things other than Him, that it will ultimately lead us to destruction. And so because of His great love for us He rocks our world. He allows us to suffer, to fall down, to get hurt, to fail. In the hope that we would recognize that nothing in this life is permanent and nothing we do or accomplish or acquire will protect us, fill us—save us! He wants us to live a life of greatness and He will not stop until either we say “yes” or go to hell saying “no” for all of eternity. Our heavenly Father wants us to be rich for all eternity, not temporarily in this life.

Dear Jesus, please help me to only desire You. If my heart ever begins to turn from You and is tempted by the gods of this world, do whatever is necessary to bring me back to You. I want to know the riches of Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Not Against Us

“Jesus said to him, ‘Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.’” Luke 9: 50

At the end of the American Civil War, many of the Union generals and politicians wanted Lincoln to punish the South very severely and have them pay, both financially and otherwise, for the war that ravaged the nation. But Lincoln was not of that mindset. He was concerned that if he proceeded with justice, that there would never be peace between the North and South. Perhaps to this day there would be hostilities of some kind in our land if not for the foresight of this noble man; so instead of continuing to exact a toll of consequence on the South and its people after the war was over, he instead reached out to the South and had the federal government begin a plan to assist the South in rebuilding. His agenda and goal was clear when he said, “Does not he who becomes my friend cease to be my enemy?”

I think we can learn a great deal about how to live as Christians in the post-modern world from the example of Abraham Lincoln and his response to the South at the end of the war. It is easy (or easier) to look at others not like “us” and consider them outsiders, imposters or cheats. Maybe we look down upon certain kinds of people as stupid, uncultured or backwards. Perhaps we are suspicious of others different in some way from us. But don’t you think there are enough enemies and threats in the world without us creating them?

Certainly Satan is the enemy, not another person. And any person who is doing Satan’s work is to be pitied, not scorned. For surely that person is being used with or without their permission. Did Jesus or the Apostles hate Judas for betraying Jesus? No. The point is that Satan is going to throw things at us our entire lives, both big and small and the best way to counteract his darts is with prayer, humility and love. We have to realize and recognize that God can use ANYONE and He has used anyone. Who WE think He should (or could) use is not relevant. In fact, more often than not, God chooses to use those that we might least expect for the greatest accomplishments.

How often have we prevented someone from becoming what God was calling them to be? How often have we prevented someone from living a life of greatness? How often have we prevented someone from achieving success? All because we held to a prejudice or judgment against that person. God never holds anyone back, but we sure do, don’t we? Perhaps this day we can seek to empower and encourage, to lift up and to advance others, thus created friends, brothers and sisters, where the potential for enemies once stood.

Dear Jesus, help me to see others as You see them and to always seek to win them over by love. Do not allow my prejudices to ever hinder someone from living the life of greatness You have called them to. Amen.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flip Flopping

“When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21: 32

When most of us hear that someone has changed their minds about something, especially a politician, we assume the worst about them and accuse them of “flip flopping”; which means we question their sincerity about their new position. And perhaps in some, maybe many cases, people do change their minds for expediency sake or for personal gain. But isn’t their plenty of times and situations where being stubborn is not a positive quality, but rather shows foolishness? Wouldn’t it be better at times to change our minds or our positions on an issue or an opinion rather than stubbornly stick to our guns? I could argue that in some cases we might be tempted by the sin of pride to “tow the party line”.

This is what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel today. And once again we see Him challenging the Pharisees who remain so stubborn to their prejudices. Can’t we be like them? We can be tempted as Christians to think that we are better than others, that we have sacrificed so much to follow Christ, that we do so much for Him. We can sometimes think that we deserve more or that others should be punished while we are rewarded. Perhaps, like the Pharisees, we are jealous of God’s mercy. Maybe we would get mad to think that a major public sinner might make it to heaven before we do. Maybe we think God should be harsher on people than He is.

But to think and act like Jesus is to REJOICE when others come to Him. It is to be filled with hope and happiness when others excel in the faith. It is to praise Him when others advance beyond us in spiritual maturity. So many people say “no” to the Lord, including us. How heaven must rejoice with one voice when someone says “yes”. And does it matter whether that “yes” was as a child, a teen, middle age or at the end of one’s life? It seems to matter less to God when we say “yes”, but that we do. And we don’t know when God is really calling someone. We don’t know when He sent the grace needed for someone to heed the call. We don’t know what was going in their lives before they said “yes”.  Often it is those who are broken that have less pretense. And this humility means that when they do say “yes”, it is true and real and comes from the heart, rather than from the lips. May we say “yes” with our hearts and actions and not only with our words.

Dear Jesus, give me the grace to respond to Your call today and to help others hear Your call by loving as You love. Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Skimming the Surface

“Here deep calls to deep in the roar of your torrents. All your waves and breakers sweep over me.” Psalm 42: 8

The other day I was on a retreat and there was a beautiful pond on the grounds. During some quiet time I went down to the dock and laid down looking over the edge into the water. I could see about two feet down before the vegetation and lack of sunlight blocked my view. Curious as to how deep the water might be at the end of the dock, I went back to where there was a tree o the shoreline with branches scattered on the ground. I picked up a long, flexible switch and went back down to the edge of the dock where I proceeded to poke the stick down, down into the inky blackness below. Right about the time the end of the stick began to near the surface of the water, the top of the stick hit the bottom of the pond. It ended up being about five to six feet deep at that point.

As I continued to lay there thinking, I began to swing the stick back and forth across the water in front of me in a giant sweeping motion, just skimming the surface, like making the stick skip across the water. I began to go faster and faster, using more strength as the stick jumped and skipped across the top of the water, causing really cool little waves and patterns in the water. All the while tiny droplets of water would spray into the air gleaming like diamonds as the sunlight hit them just so. It was all kind of child-like and magical until WHAM, I went a little too downward with my swing and instead of skimming across the surface of the pond, the stick plunged a good foot into the water below. Talk about almost ripping my arm out! But I was then curious to see what it would take to pull that stick through the water instead of just skipping across the surface. And so several times I would plunge the stick into the depths and try to swish it through. What I found is that I had to use both hands, more energy and that the results didn’t seem as spectacular as when I skimmed the top. No cool patterns or waves, no magical mists, no gleaming liquid diamonds arching through the air; just a tough struggle to pull that stick through the water and up and out the other side.

I think this is a lot like our relationships or our ministries. It seems easy and fun and cool to keep everything on the surface level, right? We can spend time with someone, do something fun together, work together, minister together, but not get too involved with who they really are on a deeper level. I’ve seen marriages like that, friendships like that, youth ministry like that, Mass done like that, kids treated that way by the parents. But when we have those types of relationships, when we experience that kind of prayer or ministry, don’t we yearn for more?

I know that we can’t—and shouldn’t be—truly deep with everyone we meet. But does that mean we have to be as shallow as possible all the time? I think people stay on the surface because things start getting messy when you break the surface. We start to let down our guard, we show our weakness, we share our pain and sorrows, we admit we aren’t perfect and that we need help. People stay shallow to protect themselves. But when we do ministry this way, or never attempt to go deeper with others, then we are missing something special in our lives. Yes, it is harder, no it isn’t as flashy. Yes, it requires more time and attention and gift of ourselves. No, it isn’t as fun. But in the end, the more we attempt to connect with people on a deeper level, the more enriched both lives will be.

Certainly God is looking to go beyond the surface of our hearts today. Have we let Him? Or are we keeping the Lord from reaching into the depths of our hearts. Maybe it’s time to open wide the doors to the deepest part of our hearts and let God call out to us and show us His love, so that in turn we can do the same for others.

Dear Jesus, I want don’t want to be shallow. Help me to go deeper with You today. I want to experience You below the surface so that I can relate to others at a deeper level. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This is the Message of the Cross

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3: 14

Our sin is greater than we can imagine.

After everything that God has done for us, all out of love, we still choose to follow ourselves and to reject His love. Even the weight of one venial sin would be enough to condemn us to hell, let alone the countless mortal sins committed every moment around the world.  Yet for all of this sin and all of the punishment that it deserves, our perfectly just God is also a God of infinite mercy. And so instead of allowing us to go to hell for all of eternity because of our sin and inability to atone for it, He loved us in the most profound, most perfect, most sacrificing way by allowing His Son to die on the cross in our place. Only the atoning sacrifice of CHRIST could cover the justice our sins demand. And freely, out of unconditional love for you and me, Jesus humbled Himself, took up His cross and allowed His own creation to kill Him.

We really cannot begin to grasp the immeasurable love it took to do this. We truly cannot fully comprehend the grace merited for us and for all people through this supreme act of selfishness on the part of our God. And there is no way we can ever repay it because it is so exulted above anything we can offer. There is nothing we can say or do, no holiness that we can achieve, no sacrifice we can offer—even our own lives—that can equal what Christ did for us.

All that we can do is to accept this love. The real difference between someone who chooses hell versus a person who chooses heaven is whether or not they were able to humbly and fully accept this love of God. That’s it. But God will not force us to accept His love. So, are we humble enough to accept the love offered us from the cross? Are we willing to admit that we cannot save ourselves? Are we honest enough to confess our sins?

To sin in any capacity is a rejection of this love, but to reject this love is to reject the gift of eternal life offered with it. And for those who reject this love to the end, there is no remedy.

Dear Jesus, thank You for saving me through Your sacrifice on the cross. Help me to accept Your amazing love and gift and to love You back as best as I can. Amen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


“The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear…” Isaiah 50: 4

Have you ever heard a sermon or a speech that woke you up, put a flame in your heart, or ignited some passion that was buried deep within you? Have you ever read something or heard a piece of music or a song that struck right to the center of your heart and moved you to tears or made you get up and dance?

I think the human soul has a great capacity for emotion and honor and ideals. I think we all aspire to something better, higher, greater. We are elevated by eloquence and beauty, by passion and determination, by Truth and loyalty. We recognize goodness and we want it. We yearn for peace and love. We hope for compassion and mercy.

But the culture of death seems to strike at these aspirations at every opportunity. People are mired in sin, people hate, they murder, they tear down and make fun of one another. People don’t forgive, they hold onto grudges, they want revenge. People are stressed, marriages are falling apart, we work too hard, we strive for things only to watch them crumble before our eyes through divorce, lay-offs, broken promises or natural disasters. And so as the ideals and aspirations of our souls collide with the realities of life thrown at us each day, we get weary. We get overwhelmed. We stop dreaming, stop hoping, stop trying and settle for mediocrity and “just getting by”.

This is not the life that Christ has called us to. Even in times of real sadness and strife, real pain and loss, the light of Christ should still burn deep in our hearts and bright enough for others to see. Recently Pope Benedict XVI said that Christians were not living faithful lives and that people are missing Christ because we fail to show Him to them. How do we do this?

Let’s start with the simple task of trying to daily rouse others. You know the person I am speaking about: the guy at work that is always down, the girl in your class at school that walks around with that painted smile on her face. The people you see in the grocery store, the mall, at the post office, driving around town. That kid on your soccer team, the elderly next door neighbor, the harried waitress serving you lunch. The words, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language we use has the power to rouse these people from their weariness. Can we solve all their problems? No, in fact we won’t even know what all of their problems are. But for the moments they encounter us, they will experience a kindness, a smile, an uplifting word. We might make their day or just give them a small moment to feel special, to feel noticed, to feel unique. To feel LOVED. And who knows, once they are roused from the burdens weighing them down, even for one brief second, the grace of God through that encounter might take root in their souls and remind them of the aspirations for beauty and Truth and greatness. And maybe, just maybe, they stop settling for second best, for mediocrity, for just getting by, and they wake up the next day and begin to change the world.

Dear Jesus, please help me to see beyond my own pain and suffering and become a word to others each day. A word that will rouse them from their weariness and instill a desire for greatness in all that I meet. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Famous Last Words

“Let the words of my mouth meet with your favor, keep the thoughts of my heart before you, Lord, my rock and redeemer.” Psalm 19: 15

Today we remember and we will never forget.

What is stressing you today? What is bothering you? Is there anything causing you to lose sleep or fell anxious with worry? Do you believe the lies others tell you about yourself or are you trying to live up to standards that others have set for you? Do you feel like a failure? What is the measure of “success” that you are striving for? Perhaps you wonder what life is all about or if what you work so hard for is worth it?

I have a feeling that these were the kinds of questions that daily crossed the minds of many of the people who perished on September 11, 2001 in the Twin Towers. That is, until they were faced with imminent death and the stark reality of their own fragility, their own helplessness, their own mortality. And in those moments, between when the planes hit and the buildings fell, many of them were able to make phones calls and talk to loved ones, 911 dispatchers or leave voice mail messages. And you know what? At THAT moment, under THOSE black and white, life and death instances, each of those people talked about family, about love, about God, about forgiveness. They told parents and spouses and friends to take care of those left behind, they said good-bye, they saw in fine detail the only real important things in life. And they spoke the Truth.

With their last words and last breaths, they reminded us to have perspective and to see the BIG picture, the eternal picture. The reality that life is precious and precarious. That we need to let things roll off us, that we need to stop sweating the small stuff. That we need to live for others, not for what others think of us. That we need to love and love big and love deeply and love unconditionally. That we need to forgive and stop holding grudges. That we need to be prepared to meet our Lord at anytime.

What started for so many that morning as a “normal” day ended with the dawn of eternity. And their greatest legacy is what they left behind for us: their courage, their hope against hope, their voices, their now famous last words. May we never have to endure something like this again, but may we also never lose sight of the Truths taught to us by strangers caught in the fleeting moments between life and certain death.

Dear Jesus, welcome into Your eternal Kingdom all the innocent victims of this horrible day. May we honor them by remembering their last words and living for You with the knowledge that each day could be our last. Amen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You’ve Been Warned

“If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” Ezekiel 3: 18

Anyone feel like being a prophet today?

If you do then you probably haven’t read much of the Old Testament and don’t know what normally happens to prophets: they aren’t popular, they don’t have many friends, they aren’t too liked, they are attacked from every direction, they are often in trouble with the government or leaders and more often than not were either sent into exile or executed because they wouldn’t shut-up. So again, anyone feel like being a prophet?

The world is in desperate need of prophets right now. And we’ve had some good ones recently like Blessed Mother Teresa, Blessed Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI and our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. But how many young people in your school, or on your sports team, are listening to the pope? How many of your friends search the Internet for the writings of JPII or Paul VI? How many teens are really going on retreats and conferences where Truth is being spoken and where they are being show charity in the form of warnings about sin and its consequences? How many teens are being respected enough by the adults in their lives to be challenged to live in the manner they were created for? Who are the prophets that the Lord is calling up in your school, your town, your parish? Could it be you?

I think all of us are called to be prophetic in one way or another. I doubt if many of us are called to jump up on the table in the cafeteria at school or work in the middle of lunch and start shouting out spiritual warnings to our peers. But perhaps being prophetic is to live our lives with such holiness and love that people want to be like us (which really means they want to be like Jesus, right?). Perhaps there is a friend in your life that is heading down a wrong path that really needs you to show them the way.

We all want to be liked, but is that the highest calling we have in our lives? Is that what will fulfill us the most? Is that what we want to be able to hang our hat on at the end of the day? Is that what we want our obituary to say about us: that people liked us? Because honestly, it is pretty easy to be liked. But most of the time it involves compromising who we really are and avoiding all conflicts. And in the end, we might be liked, but will we be able to respect ourselves?

Many people in our world today are caught in sin and don’t even know that they are spiritually dying. But they know they are unhappy and unfulfilled. They are desperate for someone, anyone, to show them a better way. Will it be you and me? If so, here I am Lord, ready to do Your will.

Dear Jesus, give me the grace to be prophetic today. Allow my life to reflect Your Truth and love and when I need to speak warnings, let me do it with courage and with love, so that I may help others. Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Curiosity Killed the Cat

“I, the Lord, the God of Israel, warn you not to let yourselves be deceived by the prophets who live among you or by any others who claim they can predict the future. Do not pay any attention to their dreams.” Jeremiah 29: 8

Have you noticed lately that it’s cool to have a Daily Horoscope app on Facebook? Even among professed Christians and Catholics I see this pop up every day on my newsfeed. Of course, horoscopes are still a popular piece in most newspapers and women’s magazines. Drive around almost any city in the United States and you can find people that claim to be fortune-tellers or psychics putting out shingles and setting up shop. And we see more and more Christians involved in New Age mysticism, crystals, healing magnets and even yoga. This stuff isn’t new. Astrology, palm reading, reading tea leaves—they’ve been around for thousands of years. Perhaps in different forms from culture to culture, but black magic, voo-doo, soothsayers, “spirit guides” and the like have always been around.

In today’s culture Christian people that dabble in these things often say that they are just forms of entertainment, exercise, stress-relievers—or they are just curious. They don’t really believe in it, so why not get out the Ouija board or Magic 8 Ball and ask some questions, or read the horoscope in the paper, or use the Daily Horoscope app on Facebook or go to the yoga class at the local community college? What’s the harm, right?

The problem is that whether one believes in the powers of these things or not, the powers are there. And they aren’t from God. So if there are really supernatural powers behind these types of activities, and they aren’t from God, then they are from Satan. And do we really want to be messing around with the powers of Satan—even for entertainment or exercise? This is why the Church so strongly condemns all of these kinds of things. And Scripture is pretty clear about all this as well. As people of faith, we are supposed to be putting all of our trust in the providence of God, not trying to figure out what the future may hold. Ultimately, trying to learn knowledge apart from God or to gain peace apart from God, will lead us to despair. We don’t need yoga to bring our minds and bodies into a place of peace, we need the Prince of Peace. We don’t need to know what the future holds, we need to know the One who holds the future. We don’t need to speak to or hear from relatives and friends that have died, we need to pray for their souls. We don’t need to ask a Ouija board for the answers to life, we need to ask the Author of life.  We don’t need charms to protect us, we need the Blood of Jesus!

Dabbling in these forms of evil and thinking they are innocent is like swimming in the ocean unaware that a tidal wave is on the way. As followers of Jesus we need to be very sober about the ways Satan uses to trick us and ensnare us, especially the ways that seem innocent. The Bible says that he will masquerade as an angel of light and a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but that he is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. May we always steer clear of these false and dangerous gods and instead throw ourselves more and more into the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the grace of the sacraments, Scripture reading, prayer and works of mercy.

Dear Jesus, help me to see clearly the ways of Satan and to always keep close to You. Through Your grace may I trust in You alone and allow You to hold me and my future in the safety of Your loving arms. Amen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Intruder Alert

“All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” John 10: 8

So last night after my youth ministry meeting one of my core members went to turn-off the lights in a closet of the gym that we forgot about and as they opened the door, someone jumped out of the closet, pushed them over onto the gym floor and went running out of the building into the night. Talk about scary! Naturally the police were called and burly guys with guns and flashlights and K-9 dogs came to search the building and the surrounding neighborhood. Fortunately no one else was in the building, but unfortunately they didn’t find anyone in the neighborhood matching the description of our intruder.

Of course, now the questions linger: how did he get in a locked building? Did he sneak in at the beginning of youth group as people were coming in? Did he nonchalantly walk through an open door as people were leaving? Did anyone see him but think he was just someone’s dad or older brother? What, if anything, could we do differently or better to keep everyone safe? What was this guy planning to do in the empty school building after we left?

So a lot of my time and energy has been spent reflecting on this incident and talking with the principal and pastor. And as I have been thinking of all that happened, it dawned on me that in our spiritual lives we have thieves and robbers constantly trying to get into our souls, minds and hearts. And I wondered if we always recognize this reality? And are we putting enough time and energy and thought into protecting ourselves from these dangers?

These thieves and robbers are of course Satan and his minions, all the rest of the demons who manipulate and pervert and corrupt our culture and attack us in a myriad of ways. The lies and deceit that he throws at us in our own minds: self-doubt, self-hatred, confusion, anger, despair. The false hope of happiness he offers us through our daily consumption of what the media has to offer us through music, TV, movies and the Internet. The heresy he spews through false preachers and prophets that leave us in confusion and fear. So how do we protect ourselves from these constant assaults?

We pray, we keep ourselves connected and rooted to Jesus through the sacraments, especially Eucharist and confession, we join with other believers in community, we fill our minds with Truth from Scripture, the Catechism and from other writings of people holier than us and we keep our minds and hearts from the perversions of the mainstream media.

If we can lock doors to buildings, keep lights burning all night, set alarms, stay with others, keep out of dangerous parts of town, carry weapons for self-defense, be aware of our surroundings, put up fences and pay taxes for a police force, why can’t we be more vigilant with our souls, minds and hearts? I guarantee the price we pay for losing or damaging them is far higher and more lasting than the things of this world which we are so good at protecting.

Dear Jesus, please help me to recognize the threats against my soul and cling to You more closely and trust in Your protection. Help me live in the light so that the smallest threat against me can be exposed quickly and dealt with. Amen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


“God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day.” Psalm 91: 4b-5

This past weekend a madman in Norway killed almost 90 people, many of them young people at a youth camp. He apparently entered the camp dressed as a police officer and not only shot people point blank, but would lure people over to him with his disguise and then shoot them while looking them right in the eyes or as they ran away or tried to swim to safety. Terrorism has many faces and it comes in many forms, but at its heart it is the same: take people from their safety and comfort and not only injure or kill them, but do it in the most terrifying way and fill their hearts and minds with terror at the same time. And the other point is to leave fear in the hearts and minds of each of us who see the images or hear about the attacks. Unfortunately this is not new and more unfortunately, it will not be the last such attack in the world. From the Middle East to Africa, from Europe to the United States, there are people bent on filling the world with fear, destruction and death until they get their way. In addition, there are also very unstable people who inflict this kind of mayhem on others without any kind of reason or ideology.

So what is our response as people of faith? Well, certainly prayer for the victims and for those who think killing and terrifying others is a morally acceptable course of action. Others may be called to heroically defend innocent people as members of the military or as police or other defense officials. Still others may be called to help find and mend the injured as rescue personnel or medical professionals. But most of us will simply try to live our lives and hope to not get caught in the middle of someone else’s hallucination or agenda. But as we do this, will we live in fear? Will we always be looking over our shoulder? Or will we just try to ignore the danger and try to acquire as much wealth as we can and have as much fun while we can?

I think that if Jesus is the center of our heart and the foundation we walk upon, then we have no reason to fear anyone or anything. Certainly there are times and situations where we will be afraid and there might be instances where our intuition saves us or protects us from being vulnerable. But I think as people of faith we go through this life realizing that this life is not the only life we were created for and that we need to pursue greater things than simply the goods and pleasures this life has to offer. We also realize that even if everything and everyone in this life were taken from us, that Jesus remains and that He is in control and that He will not abandon us or leave us. Ultimately we realize that while we do not have to let this world become hell, we also do not want to think it will become our heaven either.

And so with this mindset, this faith, this grace filling our hearts, there is no room left for fear. God does not promise that we will never get sick or die. He does not promise that we will not suffer. But He promises to be with us at all times—even in the face of terror. And with this comforting thought we journey on ready to face whatever the Evil One throws in our path.

Dear Jesus, thank You for Your presence with me. Thank you for protecting me and being faithful to me. Help me to always keep my heart and mind filled with You and Your grace so that there is no more room left for fear. Amen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too Much Spice?

“Children too are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one’s youth.” Psalm 127: 3-4

Not sure if you heard the world-wide news yet, but David Beckham the soccer star and his Spice Girl wife just had their fourth child. Who cares you might ask? Apparently lots of people; especially in the UK, where the birth of this precious little one has been met with cries of criticism. The naysayers protest the births of this many children to one couple, claiming that it is irresponsible to the environment, global warming and overpopulation. People in the media and the government are now asking—demanding—a national debate on what the appropriate number of children a couple should have might be. Really?

Consider that most of Europe is in such population decline that most of the governments have to import immigrants from Africa and the Middle East to keep their economies afloat. Consider that many countries like Russian and Japan actually offer monetary incentives for couples to have children because their birthrates are so low. Consider that while the world’s population may top 8-9 billion by the year 2050, most population experts expect it to begin dramatically dropping after that. Consider that we do not have a food shortage in the world, rather we have a distribution problem and a problem of corrupt governments and tyranny in too many countries. Consider that we too, are often wasteful and not willing to sacrifice as much in wealthier countries so that others could enjoy more of what we take for granted.

Children are NOT the problem! Children are always a gift. Isn’t it interesting that in poorer countries, people keep trying to have more and more children. Prideful “Ivory Tower-types” from Western countries claim that this is because of the ignorance of these people, as if they are not much more than cattle or animals. But the truth is that children represent HOPE to people in poverty. Children are seen as treasures, not as burdens to avoid as is so often the case in First World countries.

Raising children is hard work. It takes money to feed them, clothe them, care for them   and educate them. But they are a BLESSING! Every one of them, no matter the circumstances of their conception, no matter what they look like or what they act like. Children cause us to try to improve ourselves, sacrifice ourselves and become more noble and less selfish. They give us hope and they help us to rediscover the beauty and joy of the world as we watch them explore and squeal and feel things so deeply. Their innocence cuts to the core of our hearts and challenges us to be better so we can preserve their innocence and so we can live a bit of their lives all over gain in our own hearts and minds.

Dear Jesus, thank You for new life and for the blessing of children. May the world come to understand the treasure of children. Amen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Matthew 13: 44-46

What is the kingdom of heaven? On first glance when reading these parables in Matthew’s Gospel we might think he is actually speaking about heaven, as in our eternal home. But a close read shows us that this cannot be: how can the Evil One come and sow weeds among the wheat in heaven? When will the end come that the weeds and wheat need to be separated? When we look closer at these parables we see that Jesus is referring to the Church when He speaks of the kingdom of heaven.

So yes, we can have weeds among the wheat in the Church. And yes, they will be separated at the end of time. But do we see the Church as a treasure? Do we view the Church as valuable as a pearl of great price? Have we come to understand the depths and greatness of value that we receive from the Church and from being members of Christ’s Body? If we did, then why are we so hesitant to sacrifice EVERYTHING for the Church? Why are we so willing to abandon the Church and Her teachings at the first feelings of peer pressure or when the media and culture bash Her? Why are we so ashamed to bring Christ and His Body into the public arena?

We have lots of businessmen and women who happen to be Catholic on Sunday, but what the world needs is more CATHOLIC businessmen and women. We have lots of physicians that happen to also be Catholic, but what the world needs are CATHOLIC doctors, willing to bring the moral and ethical teaching of the Church into the operating room and the exam room. We have lots of politicians that happen to be Catholic (and some that think they are Catholic), but what the world needs is CATHOLIC politicians, willing to bring their Catholic beliefs into the way they vote and try to help and lead society. We need men and women ready to sacrifice their lives for their spouses’ and their children. We need men and women ready to sacrifice everything and become priests, sisters and brothers.

But are we willing to do this? Or is it too hard? Many businessmen and women seem to choose riches and short cuts over ethics. Many doctors seem to choose science and cultural prejudices over Catholic moral teaching. Many politicians seem to choose a political career over following their personal convictions as Catholics. And perhaps you and I are too willing to succumb to peer pressure or cave into the culture when it comes to how we live and act as well.

We need to recognize the great treasure we have in the Church: the Eucharist and the other sacraments, the huge body of moral theology to guide us, the rational and historical reasons for Faith in Jesus, the Saints, Sacred Scripture—so much offered and yet we so often view the Church as archaic or out-of-touch or irrelevant. Shame on us! May we come to see the kingdom of heaven in our midst and be willing to sell and give up everything in order to gain it and help others to find it.

Dear Jesus, thank You for Your Body, the Church. Help me to recognize the beauty and worth of this gift to the world. May I always sacrifice everything to be one with You. Amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To the Last Drop

“But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” John 19: 33-34

I helped save a life today. Maybe even more than one. How? I gave blood. And the one pint of blood taken from my body can be used to help people in surgery, or NICU babies or people involved with traumas that have lost several pints of their own blood. And you know what? It feels good to donate blood. In fact, since I am not afraid of needles, am relatively healthy, am not anemic and have the time to do it, I feel like blood donation is a moral necessity for me. To be given the ability and the chance to help save a life doesn’t come every day and so I try to give as often as I am allowed.

But if I really think about it, it doesn’t take much for me to do this. There isn’t really much sacrifice and truth be told, I still get to keep more than 90% of my blood. So my gift, while generous, is not a total gift of self. Jesus, on the other hand, spared not even one DROP of His precious blood to save not one life, but all of humanity—all who have ever lived, all who live now and all who ever will live. From the first droplets that flowed from His burst capillaries through His sweat glands in the Garden of Gethsemane to the rivers that flowed from His scourged back and nail-pierced hands and feet to the very last remaining reserve in His heart before it was pierced with the lance—Jesus gave it ALL. He held nothing back.

Jesus’ gift to you and to me was complete and it was TOTAL. He gave everything so that we might be saved from the fires of eternal damnation. So that we could live with Him forever in heaven. So that we could become what we were truly created to be. So that we could know love in every fiber of our being without end. What a God we serve! A God who would sacrifice Himself on behalf of His creation. A God who would humble Himself to become one of us. A God who would love us first and who ALWAYS initiates relationship with us. A God who gave us every bit of Himself on the cross, even to His last drop of blood. May we seek to love as He loved, to give of ourselves TOTALLY to Him and to others in return.

Dear Jesus, thank you for saving me with Your Precious Blood. Thank You for Your endless mercy. Give me the grace to respond to Your love with a total gift of myself. Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Signs for the Times

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ He said to them in reply, ‘An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.’” Matthew 12: 38-39

Have you ever spoken with someone that didn’t believe in God, or miracles or the supernatural and the reason is because they have never seen a “sign” from God? Or you talk to people who are trying to discern God’s will and they won’t make a move until God gives them a clear “sign”? You know what? I think when it comes to faith, it is a gift and you either have it or you don’t. And I think that if you have it, then EVERYTHING is a sign that shows us the existence of God. And if you don’t have it then NOTHING will be seen as a sign of His presence or work in the world.

 In October of 1917, there was a miracle of the sun in Fatima, Portugal that was witnessed by over 100,000 people, including atheists and the secular press. The sun danced for 12 minutes in the sky and then came hurtling at the earth. People thought they were going to die. And then, just like that, the sun was in its normal place. The difference is that the ground which had been wet and muddy from three straight days of rain was instantly dry and the wet muddy clothes people had been wearing were instantly dry and clean.  And yet people still did not believe the story. And today you can go online and see web sites devoted to showing this miracle as a fraud.

In Italy, there is a church that holds the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ that was miraculously changed from bread and wine to actual human flesh and blood hundreds of years ago in the middle of a Mass when the priest doubted the Real Presence of Jesus. All of these centuries later the flesh and blood are still fresh and have not decayed and numerous independent scientific tests have been done on them, but yet people still do not believe in the Eucharist.

There are hundreds of stories of supernatural phenomenon happening to saints, from the stigmata (wounds of Christ in their own flesh), to levitation (people floating in the air while in prayer) to bi-location (one person being in two different places at the same time) to the incorruptible (saints whose bodies have not decayed even years and years after their deaths). And you can read about these events, that have been recorded and witnessed and tested and yet people still do not believe.

We even have modern-day Scripture “scholars” that spend their careers trying to explain away the miracles in the Bible. They say that things like the dividing of the Red Sea and Jesus walking on water have scientific or coincidental, not supernatural rationale behind them.

But who can argue with personal experience? Bl. Mother Teresa had a vision of Jesus that began her ministry to the poor. Bl. John Paul II was shot on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the bullet was miraculously guided through his abdomen without hitting any vital organs. I have seen several miracles like people being physically healed or brought back to fullness emotionally, mentally or spiritually. What miracles have you witnessed? A baby being born? Someone forgiving another? Watching a married couple love one another?  Teens worshipping God with their whole hearts, minds, bodies and spirit?

The signs are everywhere for those who have the faith, but we don’t need them. And they will not be given for those who claim they do, for they won’t see them anyway. May we all pray for the gift of Faith for ourselves and for others.

Dear Jesus, please help me to believe more wholeheartedly and unreservedly in You. May my faith in You and the way I live be the sign that brings others to seek the gift of faith You have instilled in me. Help me to always be grateful for this privilege of belief. Amen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

There But for the Grace of God Go I

“Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” 1 Corinthians 10: 12

It can appear at times that when it comes to the Church or our wonderful priests or lay leaders, that there is nothing but bad news. We often hear in the secular media AND in the Catholic press about the scandals and abusers and those who have “fallen from grace”. The secular media of course loves it when a priest or someone with recognition in the Church can be flaunted in front of the cameras as a hypocrite and even within the Church there can sometimes seem to be a willingness to condemn and sentence anyone accused of anything without regard to the facts or whether they are truly guilty or not.

But all of us are susceptible to temptation are we not? It seems that every time there is a horrific shooting spree, the people who knew the shooter get on the news and tell us that they can’t believe the person was capable of doing what they did. The point is that ALL of us are capable of any sin if given the right conditions. If left unchecked, our consciences begin to quiet in our hearts. If allowed to be exposed to enough violence or perversions, our hearts and souls become dull and capable of anger and abuse. If we were to refrain from repenting or acknowledging our weaknesses, we could be become so cold and hard that we would cease to recognize our own sinfulness. The deceptiveness of pride is a potential cancer to all of us.

So how do you and I protect ourselves from going down this road? With an acknowledgement of our own sinfulness and weakness and a realization that we cannot save ourselves. Only by the grace of God can we live for Him and avoid sin. If we are deceived into thinking we are good and holy because of our own hard work and efforts alone, then we are being deceived and we are certainly setting ourselves up for a fall. Do we need to cooperate with the grace given to us? Absolutely. And do we have to use our free will to make choices that are good and holy? Yes. But if we are to protect ourselves from falling and causing scandal to others, then we need to accept that it is the grace of Jesus working in and through us that deserves the credit.

And what if we do fall (in a big noticeable way or even in a more private situation)? We need only look to the mercy of God in the sacrament of Reconciliation, go to Him and repent with humility and honesty and trust that we will be forgiven. Trust that He is a big God: bigger than our sins, bigger than our weaknesses, bigger than our pride. And then use this grace to try harder and to keep ourselves from the near occasion of sin. The more “holy” we become the more Satan is going to attack us. He never ceases to look for ways to tempt us and we must always stand guard against his attacks. But where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds more so. May we always walk in the grace of our Lord.

Dear Jesus, please give me the grace and the humility to walk secure in You and not in the false security of myself. Amen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


“So, as you received Jesus Christ the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2: 6-7

Where are you rooted? What is the foundation that you are building your life upon? For many people it is a career, or a relationship or success in athletics or music or even money and fame. We all want to be known and we all want to be successful because we figure that will make us happy. But everything depends on our roots.

Our roots first begin in our families. Some of us come from good families and some do not. Some of us come from unified families and some of us come from broken families. Some of us are close to our families and some of us are estranged from our families. No family is perfect and no one, no matter how skewered their memories, had a perfect childhood. Most importantly, some of us came from a background of faith and some of us didn’t. The reality is that the family we grow up in, for good or for bad, has a huge impact on shaping the way we think, feel, act and react to the world around us. But you know what? Our family is not ultimately supposed to be what we are rooted in and even if our growing-up years were less than perfect, we can be “transplanted” and start to sink our roots into things that will last.

How do we do this? First of all we have to realize that where we sink our roots will determine how we grow and develop as a person and will dictate our level of happiness or lack thereof. If we sink our roots into things that are shallow and meaningless we will not have much growth and we will not be happy. But if we can find things that are rich and filled with lasting Truth and beauty to sink our roots into, we will find growth and happiness.

Of course the obvious reality is that we need to sink our roots into Jesus. But how is this done? First of all, we need to be in the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ. The Church brings us nourishment and grace through the power of Christ in the sacraments. Second, we need to read Scripture. We need to become familiar with the God of the Bible and let His Word dwell in us richly. Third, we need to talk to the Lord and listen to Him speak to us each day. This is called prayer. We need prayer to be in relationship with Jesus, to stay intimately connected with Him. Fourth, we need to spend our time and energy on things that bring us deeper into the mystery of Christ: music that edifies our souls, art and drama that cause us to seek Truth, being in nature and partaking of the wonders of the Lord’s creation, spending time doing the hard work of building good, loving relationships with our families and finally, seeking ways to serve others each day.

But so often we spend our time wasting our lives on entertainment, partying, fighting, trying to advance in some way or form in the riches and fame of this world. For what? I recently heard a famous actor say that “fame is obscurity biding its time”. And so many people are sinking their roots into things that will ultimately leave them lonely and obscure. Let’s instead sink our roots deep in Christ so that our lives can be fulfilled and brought to completion in eternity with the Lord.

Dear Jesus, help me be rooted in You so that my life can flourish and I can grow in holiness and become the person You are calling me to be. Amen.