Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Logic of Life

G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy, relates the hypothetical situation of a patient in an insane asylum. The patient is convinced that the staff is out to get him. Given the small list of reasons the patient provides his logic is perfect. The catch, of course, is that the patient’s reasons don’t consider the whole story. When all of the facts are considered, his argument falls apart.

When someone is facing a slow painful death of a terminal illness, with their “quality of life” compromised, “dying with dignity” just makes sense.

When a couple is facing a pregnancy in which the baby has a severe birth defect and “is likely not viable,” abortion just makes sense.

Here’s the catch: Their reasoning doesn’t consider the whole story.

We have a big God that challenges us to think big. When we think big, our logic changes.

There is a logic to life that is much bigger than most of the world realizes.

How many beautiful moments of love, patience, sacrifice, redemption have been lost to narrow-mindedness?

The logic of life takes into account that every human being is wanted and loved by someOne .

The logic of life takes into account that trials and tribulations result in peace and joy when we let them.

The logic of life takes into account that even in suffering and pain there can be a deeper gift.

The logic of life takes into account that without the Crucifixion there is no Resurrection.

The logic of life takes into account that, just maybe, there is more to this than we realize.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cotton Candy Spirituality

Photo Credit: Indi and Rani Soemardjan via Compfight (cc)
Who doesn't love cotton candy? It’s sweet, it’s light, it’s fun. At the same time, you wouldn't want a steady diet of it. Our bodies need more than light, sweet, and fun. We need our meat, vegetables and whole grains. Not as much fun, but enjoyable in their own way and vital to our physical health.

Our spiritual lives are no different. We love the fun, upbeat events. We like the witty homilies. We need a little of the light and sweet once in a while. But when that makes up the bulk of our spiritual diet, we find ourselves spiritually malnourished.

Mass can as dry as an overcooked roast. But a dry roast still gives us protein and iron, just as the Mass always gives us the spiritual food of Christ’s body and blood. Our experience may be less than what we hoped for, but the result is just the same. The Mass is still a foreshadowing of the heavenly banquet regardless of the human limitations that
keep our experience of worship from being what it could and should be. A cute story in a homily might entertain us or even teach us a lesson, but is it enough to move us to conversion?

On the same token, our personal prayer time can seem like a chore—just one more obligation we have to meet. That time we set aside with God becomes time spacing off about work, unfinished projects, or the laundry. I find myself wanting the “warm fuzzy” presence of God in my personal prayer. I recently viewed a video by Fr. Robert Barron in which he quotes a homily by one of his professors, “The love of God is not a warm fuzzy!” One only has to look at a crucifix as evidence of this truth. Occasionally I am blessed with a profound sense of peace and intimacy in my prayer, but if I don’t drag myself through the desert I’ll never get to the oasis.

We can’t always have the treats nor always have things prepared just right.  In a fallen world things don’t always seem like the “juicy rich foods” God promises us.  The question is, are we mature enough to take in what is good for us instead of what we like?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

God vs. Meatloaf

Photo credit Brett Davies via Compfight (cc)
Have you ever heard the song “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meatloaf? (I’m not really that old, just a student of history).  The chorus goes, “I want you, I need you, But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna  love you...”

I thought of this song while watching a video of Fr. Robert Barron explaining various proofs of God’s existence. God is sort of the opposite of Meatloaf. He wants us, he loves us, but he doesn’t need us.
God does not need us, yet we exist. Why? Because God is love.

God wants us. He wants you. He wants to see you become the amazing, talented, spirited man or woman he created you to be. He wants you to have babies, build houses, fix cars, care for the sick, run your business. He wants you laugh. Yes, he wants you to cry. He wants you to be a saint. He wants you to love.

God loves and wants us so much he not only created us, he became one of us and died for us. As speaker and author Mark Hart put’s it, “God would rather die than spend eternity without you.”

Loved, but not needed has other perks. I think we have a tendency as followers of Jesus to worry about whether or not we are doing our part. In a way this is good. We have a role to play in the Church and the world, we need to play it. At the same time, knowing that I am not needed for God to accomplish his saving plan takes a lot of pressure off. I want to play my part because I want to participate in the same love that willed us into existence.

This is what God wants for us--to participate in His love.

How are you a participant in God’s love?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Linchpin

Photo Credit: Bill Barber via Compfight (cc)
Paraclete, Advocate, Comforter, Sustainer, Fire, Dove, Wind, Breath—all different words used to describe the Holy Spirit. I would like to propose another: the Linchpin.

There’s no coincidence that in the Creed we profess our faith in the Church right after we profess our faith in the Holy Spirit.

The Church is the body of Christ. Christ continues to act and minister through the Church.  When the Pope, the vicar of Christ speaks on matters of faith and morals, Christ is speaking through him.  How?

When we profess our faith in the Holy Spirit in the Creed, just after we profess our faith in Christ and before we profess our faith in the Church we are actually professing another important reality.  The Spirit is the linchpin—the piece that keeps the two distinct parts united as a single whole.

Another analogy for the mission of the Holy Spirit I heard in a homily on the Vine and Branches discourse in John’s Gospel: “I am the donut; you are the sprinkles. But sprinkles need something to make them stick to the donut. We’ll call that the icing of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is literally the divine “glue” that keeps us grafted to the vine of Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear that wherever the Son is so is the Spirit and vice versa:
When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him… this joint mission will be manifested in the children adopted by the Father in the Body of his Son: the mission of the Spirit of adoption is to unite them to Christ and make them live in him. (CCC 689, 690)

The Sacraments are one example of this truth. In every Sacrament the priest acts in persona Christi or in the “person of Christ.” How? By the work of the Holy Spirit. Every sacrament includes an epiclesis, a calling on the Holy Spirit (e.g. “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your spirit upon them like the dewfall.” Eucharistic Prayer II).

We need to let the Spirit work.  If we don’t trust the work of the Spirit in the Church then it all falls apart.  Either the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit or it is not.  If we deny the Spirit working in Church we deny our connection to Christ.

What are some other ways you understand and know the Holy Spirit?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Happy (Belated) Birthday to the Church!

Photo credit Marina del Castell via Compfight (cc)
We just celebrated Pentecost. It is sometimes referred to as the “birthday of the Church.” In all my years of studying and teaching the Catholic faith, I just never quite understood why. Didn't Jesus establish the Church? Did the Church not already exist?

I don’t remember when or how, but it finally hit me. Yes, the Church existed prior to Pentecost, just as a child exists in his mother’s womb. However, only when a child leaves the safety of his mother’s womb, enters the world, and takes his first breath do we say he is born.  Just so the Church, while it existed, was not yet born. When God sent the Spirit, the Church took her first breath. In Greek, "spirit" and "breath" are both denoted with the word pneuma (it is also where we get the words "pneumonia" and pneumatic). When the Church received the life-giving breath of the Spirit the infant Church left the safety of the upper room, entered the world, and began preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. At this point the Church was born.

We are called and invited to breathe deeply the life that comes to us from the Spirit. Like the infant Church we are called to leave the safety of our comfort zone and proclaim the Good News. The first steps of the Church took her out to a hostile crowd that upon hearing the Good News was begging to know more. Where will your first steps take you?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Keeping our Kids Catholic

Photo Credit: Dmitry Ryzhkov via Compfight (cc)
We are right in the middle of First Communion and Confirmation season. If as parents we care enough about our Catholic faith to bring our children to the Sacraments then hopefully we care enough to keep them Catholic.

If there was one thing parents could do to make sure their children remain Catholic it would be to never miss Mass—ever. Celebrating Mass is the single most important thing we do as Catholics. If it’s true that we vote with our feet, then Mass attendance would be a good measure of just how important our Catholic faith really is.

When we let sporting events, work, or vacation keep us from going to Mass we are basically saying, “Nothing is more important than our faith except _______________.” If going to that tournament or work are allowed to be more important, a whole list of other priorities creep in until our children arrive at the conclusion that our faith must not be that important at all.

On the other hand, when we get up extra early to go to an early Mass before the tournament starts, or take the time to check Masstimes.org for a Catholic church while on vacation, our children catch on. If we make the effort to get to church when it is inconvenient or even difficult, it sends the message to our children that our commitment to Christ is in fact our number one priority.

As we make that extra effort it is important to remember that we are not just going to Mass out of obligation or to follow some rule. We go out of love for Jesus. It is Jesus that offers himself (through the priest) at every Mass so we can directly receive the fruits of his sacrifice. It’s those graces that fuel our lives and our families.

Never missing Mass is no guarantee that our children will remain Catholic. If we allow other priorities to overtake our commitment to Christ and his Church then it’s almost a guarantee that they won’t.

See you Sunday.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pay Attention to Peter

As we proceed through the Easter season as Church I urge you to pay attention to Peter. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles you will see a different Peter than we encounter in the Gospels. Even better, pick up a Bible and read the first two chapters of Acts and compare it to chapter 18 of John’s Gospel. The Peter of the gospels, while fiercely loyal to Jesus is rash, impulsive, weak, and to be quite frank a little thick. The Rock seems a little unstable.

In Acts, we see a Peter that truly is the Rock. He leads the meeting to select Matthias to replace Judas. He preaches to the bewildered and skeptical crowd immediately following the descent of the Holy Spirit. He cures crippled man and stands up to the authorities when told not to preach in Jesus’ name.

Why? Why is Peter so different? What changed?


Peter has seen and knows the Risen Jesus. (He has also received the gift of the Holy Spirit, but that is for a different discussion.) Peter is as changed as a man can get this side of eternity. Everything that wasn’t quite clear before is now crystal. Every doubt is shattered. The one who was a little shaky is now rock solid. This is what an encounter with the Risen Jesus does.

We can be changed too. We can encounter the Risen Jesus.  We encounter Him first and foremost in the Eucharist, but also in prayer, in reading Scripture, in service to others especially the poor. When we learn to see the presence of Jesus in everyone we meet (something I have to constantly work on) our knowledge of the Risen Jesus becomes even stronger. They more we know him, the more we love and imitate him. We find ourselves less shaky.

How will you encounter the Risen Jesus this Easter season?
Will you spend more time with the Word?
Will you spend some time with the Blessed Sacrament?
Will you make more of an effort at Mass?
Will you look at your neighbors and co-workers differently?
Will you serve the poor?

Pay attention to Peter this Easter and watch him change. Experience the Risen Jesus for yourself and see yourself change.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lord, You Will Never Wash my Feet

It’s an attitude too many of us have too often.  We just don’t want anyone’s help—even God’s.

Normally, when I think about John’s account of the washing of the feet (13:1-15) I usually think of it as a reminder that we need to serve others. I especially think of my vocation of husband and father and how I need to put the wants and needs of my wife and children ahead of my own. As a teacher, I need to put the wants and need of my students ahead of my own. In either situation, I’m just not that good at it.

This story has another lesson. We need to allow God to help us. I’m not that good at that either. I don’t like asking for help. When I don’t ask for help I think I am doing the person I am not asking a favor by not asking them. I’m trying to assume a state of “betterness” by not asking. Like Peter, “Lord, you will never wash my feet,” I’m trying to be the good and obedient one by not inconveniencing anyone else. I sense in Peter and in myself a sense of egotism or stubbornness.

Jesus tells us we need to be the least. We tend to think of that on the giving end. Sometimes we need to remember that being the least can mean being on the receiving end of help.

Having and living our faith is not about being better than anyone else. It’s not about following bunch of rules. It’s about allowing ourselves to be loved by the One who is Love and sharing that love with others. This begins with the humility to let Him love us and help us. If the number one way we love God is by loving others then the number one way we let God love us must be to let others love and help us.

What’s keeping you from letting God love you?