Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent is...Wait for it....Wait for it...

We do a lot of waiting.

Some waiting we don’t mind so much. Some waiting irritates us. Some waiting brings eager excitement.

Hopefully, Advent is the third kind.

Waiting is anticipating. Whatever is at the end of that wait means something to us, even if it is simple as the end of the checkout line or as thrilling as a new baby.

Real waiting occupies us. If I am in the checkout line, I stay there. The end of the line and the need to pay for my items has my time and attention. I may be looking at tabloid headlines or forty varieties of chewing gum, but my real concern is the end of the line.

Advent is waiting—waiting for Jesus. The word “Advent” comes from a Latin word that literally means “arrival”. Think of children waiting for grandma and grandpa to come, “When are they going to get here?”  As they wait, they prepare. They might clean their room, make cards, figure what games they want to play.

Expectant parents do not proceed with life as if nothing has changed or is going to change. They prepare by getting baby’s room ready, stocking up on diapers, finding a childcare provider.

How anxious are we for Jesus’ return? How anxious are we to have him come into our lives right now? To what extent are we waiting? Does Jesus’ arrival occupy our thoughts and our time? Are we preparing?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Predicting Pope Francis

With Pope Francis now in the United States there is plenty of talk about the comments he has made so far, and plenty of speculation about what he will say throughout his visit and beyond.

If you want a pretty good predictor of what Pope Francis might say and do, pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

People think that everything Pope Francis does is so new and fresh, when in reality, he is simply saying what the Church has always taught.

Take for example his comments on the flight back from Rio in 2013 regarding homosexuals. When asked what he would do if he found out one of his priests was gay he simply replied, “Who am I to judge?” Everyone treated it as if he had said something revolutionary. He said himself in the interview published in Jesuit journals across the world including America in the U.S., “I really just said what was in the Catechism.”

Here is the paragraph he was hinting at:

“[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”  (CCC #2358)

Another more recent example is the letter he issued September 1 giving priests the authority to grant absolution to women confessing the sin of abortion. Is this a change? Not really. Priests are required to have permission from the bishop to grant absolution to anyone confessing the sin of procuring or helping some to procure and abortion. What the pope has done, as part of the Year of Mercy that will begin December 8, is extend that permission to all priests.

 In doing so he is not downplaying the seriousness of abortion, he merely making further effort to extend the healing and forgiveness of the Sacrament of Reconciliation that has always been there.
Pope Francis has made changes in papal protocols and has begun changing the way the Church is governed most especially in the Vatican itself. He also intends to explore ways women can have more of a role in Church governance. There is one thing he will not do. He will not change what the Church actually teaches in matters of faith and morals. These are not the possession of any pope, but rather the entire Church—past, present, and future.

The pope is a big deal because the gospel is a big deal. The attention Pope Francis is getting is proof of how desperate people are to hear it and see it in action, even if it confuses them a little.

The days to come will have no shortage of “new” things the Pope Francis will say that the Church has already said—that people will finally hear.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reflection for Saturday, February 14: More than Enough

Mass Readings: Genesis 3:9-24/Mark 8:1-10

Sometimes, when following the Lord, we get to that point where we feel like we have nothing left. If we were to continue on, we would collapse. Today’s gospel tells us Jesus will never leave us empty or send us away hungry. He will always take what we or others have and make it enough.

This is one reason Jesus gave us the Mass. He knew that without it we would collapse under the weight of our sins, anxieties, and efforts. The feeding of the four thousand foreshadows Eucharist in that it reminds us of three important truths: 1) Jesus will never send us away hungry; 2) Jesus will take what we have and make it more. 3) Jesus is super-sufficient. Jesus will give us everything we need and enough to share.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, let me never forget that you are more than enough.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflection for Friday, February 13: Deliverer

Mass Readings: Genesis 3:1-8/Mark 7:31-37

When the crowd exclaims, “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak,” they are referencing a passage from Isaiah describing Israel’s deliverance. Deliverance had different meanings to different people back then, as it does today.  In Jesus’ time, deliverance from Rome was one of the deepest desires of the Jewish people. As Messiah, Jesus is certainly the deliverer, but ending Roman rule was not Jesus’ mission. Besides being freed from foreign, rule one could be delivered from deafness, blindness, disability, or disease. One can also be delivered from sin and death.

All that holds us “captive”—addiction, ill treatment, sickness, unhealthy relationships and more—flows from Original Sin. Only in Jesus, the promised Redeemer, and in his Church can we find the deliverance we all seek.

Prayer: Deliver us, Lord, from all that holds us captive.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, February 12: Speak Up

Mass Readings: Genesis 2:18-25/Mark 7:24-30

Jesus was beyond his home territory and reaching beyond his mission to his Jewish brethren. Why limit his efforts to the Jews? Were the Gentiles just not ready? The Chosen People, after all, had been waiting for the Messiah for 2000 years.

The Syrophoenician woman seems to have understood the difference. She seemed to grasp better than most her place in God’s plan of salvation and was better prepared to receive the Messiah. Perhaps Jesus’ challenge was to get her to confess her faith out loud. Spoken out loud and received by Jesus and others, her faith was made real to all.

How often are we challenged to express out loud our faith in Jesus? As a sacramental people, if it is not said out loud or otherwise made tangible, then how real is it?

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust you enough to make you known in the world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reflection for Wednesday, February 11: External vs. Internal

Mass Readings: Genesis 2:4b-9/Mark 7:14-23

The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were obsessed with the external. Strict observance of every ritual and law was paramount. As we see over and over, this preoccupation with the external was at the expense of the internal. Worse, they seemed most obedient to the obligations that most sheltered them from serving their neighbor.

It’s easy to do the external. Following rules or rituals doesn’t require much difficult change. The external does not necessarily require us to be open to the needs of our neighbor. Real change, real conversion, real love--that’s a different story. If God breathes his own breath into us to make us living beings, then “evil thoughts, unchastity…greed, malice” and other impurities of our hearts are all the more profane. Our need for cleansing is all the more profound.

Prayer:  Lord, cleanse my heart of all impurity; of all that is not you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reflection for Tuesday, February 10: Be Intentional

Mass Readings: Genesis 1:20-2:4a/Mark 7:1-13

We love our traditions. Traditions mark important events in our individual and communal lives. But what happens when rituals or traditions become the focal point and not the meaning or intention behind them?

Hand washing and dedicating one’s assets to God may have had legitimate meaningful origins, but they became the focal point, an end in themselves. If some of our religious practices have become lifeless it is probably because we have forgotten the intention behind them. Imagine Mass with all its ritual but no Jesus. If we abstain from meat on Friday during Lent by eating lobster we have missed the point. Love of God and neighbor, gratitude for God’s mercy, solidarity with the poor—these are the intentions that animate our rituals and traditions. Without the proper intention they are truly lifeless.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be intentional in following you. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Reflection for Monday, February 9: Healing Touch

Mass Readings:  Genesis 1:1-19/Mark 6:53-56

Illness is sometimes referred to as a “disorder.” Disorder takes on many forms. Sometimes that disorder is in our bodies. Other times it is in our hearts, our relationships, and our lives. In a way, healing is bringing order back to what is disordered. God is the One who brings order out of chaos. When we experience disorder in our lives we are invited to seek Jesus’ healing touch in the Sacraments, in prayer and Scripture, and in those who love us.

The people of Gennesaret and the surrounding countryside may not have understood who Jesus was, but they definitely understood what he could do. They also understood their own need for healing. How well do we understand our own need for Jesus’ healing? How intentional are we in seeking Jesus’ healing touch?

Prayer: Jesus, bring your healing touch to all experiencing disorder and chaos in their lives.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, February 8: Keep Moving

I don't normally post Scripture reflections, but I had written some for this week and submitted them to a magazine last summer as a sample in hopes of landing a larger assignment. They weren't the right fit for the magazine, but I thought they were still worth sharing. I will post one each day this week.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mass Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7, 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23, Mark 1:29-39

Keep Moving

Jesus’ ministry is just beginning and already he is drawing a crowd. Preaching with authority is one thing; demonstrating authority over sickness and evil is quite another. He could have stayed put and let people come to him. With his reputation spreading, surely people would have made the trek to seek him, but that is not why he came. He came to seek the lost, not let the lost seek him.

Everyone is looking for Jesus whether they realize it or not. Our task is to help them find him. We may draw crowds with programs and events, but Jesus shows us that we need to keep moving. We must be the seekers if we are to carry the message of Jesus Christ to the world.

Prayer: Lord, grant me the courage to seek the lost with you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Challenged by The Joy of the Gospel

I have been reading Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel.  I wish I had read it a year ago. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. You can find it at the Vatican website. If you are the type that prefers to read an actual book, you can order it from Amazon or other retailers. For a papal document it is fairly easy to read.

The pope has been pretty good at making us feel good, but if we are really listening he is challenging us too. He should be making us a little uncomfortable. I am only about a third of the way into the text and the pope has already motivated me to change a few things.

First, I have started journaling again. The reason I journal is to hold myself accountable for how I pray and how my prayer affects the way I live out my vocation as a husband, father, and teacher.

Secondly, he challenges the way I and everyone looks at our free time. Am I so worried about “free time” that I use it as an excuse to be stingy or selfish with my time? Do I use it as an excuse not to do more at my parish or even play with my kids?

Finally, I am challenged once again to be patient with the plan God has for me, my family, his Church, and the world. I need to do my part, but that doesn't mean I get to decide what my part is.

I don’t doubt I will have more to say as I read further. If you happen to read it let me know what your “take aways” have been.