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Easter is NOT a Finish Line!

If you’re like me, you are usually relieved to make it to Easter Sunday. Finally, all of that Lent stuff is over and you can eat sweets and go back to life as “normal.” For my entire life until this year, that has been my approach to Easter. However, thanks to the coronavirus, this Easter felt totally different and much less like that joyous finish line I had looked forward to. After all, what did we do to celebrate? 

We stayed in, just like everyone else living under the stay-at-home order. 

But then, I was reading in the Acts of the Apostles (1:4-5), and realized that Jesus gave his disciples a kind of stay-at-home order following that first Easter Sunday: 

“And while staying with them he [Jesus] charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

You see, Jesus told his disciples to stay at home in Jerusalem and to wait for the promise of the Father – the baptism of the Holy Spirit! In other words, Jesus tells his disciples to stay put because the best is yet to come! 

So often, and rightly so, we place such a heavy emphasis on the resurrection. It is the trademark belief of Christianity. St. Paul tells us that we are absolute fools to be Christians and not believe in the resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15). But because of the unfathomable goodness of God, we cannot stop there. There is more!

There is still the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus calls the promise of the Father. The resurrection by itself is not enough – the Lord wants to give us even more. 

If we stop and think of the Israelites, God was not finished with them after the Exodus event. Sure, they defeated Pharaoh and were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, but that was not the end of the story. They eventually were brought to Sinai where the entered into a covenant with God and were given the Law. 

In the same way, Jesus defeats death and delivers us from the bondage of sin by the power of his resurrection, but the promise of the Father and the Law of the Holy Spirit is yet to come. This is what we celebrate at Pentecost – entering into a covenant with the Father written on our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

So, let’s listen to Jesus’ stay-at-home order like those first disciples in the Upper Room. We need to pray and wait with the Blessed Virgin for the promise of the Father to come upon us once more. Certainly, by baptism and confirmation the Holy Spirit was sacramentally poured out upon us – but we can never exhaust the unfathomable and unending riches of God. We MUST ask for more of the Spirit’s creating power – especially at a time like this. 

Here are three suggestions: 

  1. A daily renewal of your baptismal promises – stir up the Spirit already dwelling in your heart. You can use something like this.
  2. Pray the Rosary everyday. Mary was there with the disciples in the Upper Room and is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Where she is, there is the Spirit. 
  3. Pray the Veni Creator Spiritus. It’s one of the Church’s most ancient prayers to the Spirit, and is a very popular prayer in preparation for Pentecost. 

Like I said above, this is not the finish line, so let’s start now!

The DYNAMITE of the Gospel!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God!” (Rm 1:16)

 The Gospel is the very power of God. In the original language, the word used here by St. Paul for “power” is dynamis, the similar word we use for dynamite. So, it’s not too far of a stretch to call the Gospel the dynamite of God!

This is precisely what we see in the account of Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of Mark (1:21-28). At the synagogue in Capernaum (Jesus’ hometown for public ministry), Jesus encounters the kingdom of darkness head on and teaches as one with authority and the ability even to cast out demons. What Mark doesn’t recount for us is the actual content of Jesus’ teaching, but instead he emphasizes the dramatic details of Jesus commanding the unclean spirit (or demon) to leave. Mark’s whole purpose here is to show the dynamite of Christ’s teaching. His teaching is not something inactive or ineffective. No – instead the words of Christ are explosive and reveal the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. 

Notice the demon does not refer to itself in the singular, but rather says: “Have you come to destroy us? You see, the demon realizes that the kingdom of God has come in the very words of Jesus, and his teaching is an all-out assault on the kingdom of darkness. Because Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of the Father who took on human flesh, his words have the same effect as the Word which created the entire universe – from the billions of stars throughout the galaxy to the incomprehensible mystery of the human person; that is, you and me. The demons tremble at this reality, because they recognize that even a single command from our Lord is capable of bringing their destruction. 

Is this our own experience with the Word of God and the teaching of Jesus? Do we find the Gospel to be the very dynamite of God which is capable of setting the entire world ablaze? Do we truly believe that the Word of God in itself has the power to do what it says?

Like those early Jews in the synagogue at Capernaum, perhaps we should open our eyes to see the radical newness of the words spoken by Jesus. They are words that have the very effect they speak. After all, this is precisely what we believe about the sacraments.

You see, those words alone, the words of Jesus, are the very power of God. They are capable of truly absolving sins and healing the sick. The same is true of the Word of God found in Sacred Scripture – they truly have the power to transform the world.

And so it is – the Word of God, Jesus, is dynamite in us. The author to the Letter to the Hebrews (12:29) even says that “our God is a consuming fire.”  His fame is meant to explode in our homes, cities, and nation. After all, that is precisely what those first Jews did after seeing Jesus in the synagogue. And we don’t simply see Jesus like those in the synagogue – in His Word and sacraments we truly become one with Him. 

Even in this time when many of us may not be able to physically receive Jesus in the Eucharist, His Word is still living and active – the same Word which makes the Eucharist present is the same Word living in the Bible. It has the real power to transform human hearts.

So, why not present our dry and desolate hearts as a wick to be set aflame with the power of the Gospel?

The first step is simply opening up your Bible.

The Hunger of Christ

When was the last time you felt real hunger? Those deep pangs which affect you not only physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. Hunger is one of our most visceral passions, and as Snickers is quick to point out, you are not you when you’re hungry. 

            This is precisely why Jesus approaches the crowd in the story of the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39). It says he has “compassion” on the crowd and that he is unwilling to let them leave hungry. A more apt translation of that word is something like “cut to the heart” or “moved from his inner depths.” You see, we all hunger deeply in this life. Some of us may hunger for food, but all of us hunger for the presence and love of God. In other words, “our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord,” to quote Augustine. 

            But if we look at the Gospel, we are not left alone in our deepest hunger. Even if we find ourselves without access to the sacraments because of sickness or being in a state of quarantine, we must remember that there is nothing, absolutely nothing which can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38). The same compassion, or gut-wrenching desire of Jesus to feed the 4,000 is the same desire he has to nourish us, even right now. 

            And we must believe this with unshakeable faith and the certainty of hope. The disciples, too, were without the necessary bread to meet the demands of the crowd of four thousand. Yet, Jesus, even in their weakness, came to them and asked them for whatever they had: 7 loaves and a few fish. And with these little gifts of faith and trust, Jesus took them, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. And not only were the 4,000 men (perhaps closer to fifteen or 20,000 people total) satisfied, there were seven baskets left over! 

            Now, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal about those seven baskets? Those seven baskets were symbolic of the 7 original Gentile nations. In the mindset of the day, there was enough bread left over to feed people to the ends of the earth. The compassion of Jesus was not only for those 4,000, it is for all of humanity. This is why Jesus Himself thirsts from the Cross – He desires the covenantal love of the Eucharist for each and everyone one of us (John 19:28) – and there is nothing, absolutely no distance or situation which can keep us apart from this love. 

            Whether you are a daily recipient of Holy Communion or happen to be homebound and shut-in, we can still take whatever little bit we have, and give it to the Lord – and we know with certainty, that he will take our small offerings, bless them, break them, and give them not only for our own salvation, but for that of the whole world. It is His hunger for us that transforms ordinary bread into His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Imagine what His Hunger could do for our heart if we freely handed it over to Him to be taken, blessed, broken, and given. 

Living in the Gaze of Christ

One of the dangers of familiarity with certain stories is that since they are so familiar, our ears can grow deaf to the small details within the narrative. I think that today’s Gospel is one of those familiar stories. And it is precisely one of the easy-to-miss details from today’s Gospel that gives us key insight into the Season of Lent, the process of conversion, and the Joy which the Church invites us into on this 4th Sunday of Lent. 

Read again the first two sentences of the Gospel:

“As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. 
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

In between those two sentences is something important for us to pray with, especially during this season of penance and conversion.

Jesus is looking so intently at the man that the disciples notice. The gaze that Christ is looking at the man with must be familiar to the disciples, because they can already tell what Jesus is going to do. They ask Jesus about the sin that brought blindness on the man, which indicates that they are expecting Jesus to heal him. Think of the healing of the Paralytic: Jesus forgives his sins and he is healed. 

The way Christ looks at the man is unique and telling. Surely the disciples recognize that same Gaze from the way Christ looked at each and every one of them as He called them to follow him.

I think that if St. Mark were recounting this story, he might have included the same description of Jesus’s gaze that he did when Jesus encountered the rich young man. St. Mark told us that Jesus “looked at him with Love.”

Jesus looks at this blind man before the blind man even knows he’s there. Jesus looks at him with love and the intention to heal him before the blind man even knows that healing, that sight, is possible.

The beginning of this man’s movement from blindness to sight has its beginning – not in the man crying out, not in the disciples bringing the man to Jesus or someone asking Jesus to prove Himself – no – the blind man’s movement from darkness to light begins with the tender gaze of Love which only the incarnate God can give. 

Our joy as Christians comes from living in that Gaze – from being looked at by the God who cries out to each and every one of us: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead…”

Every movement toward the Light starts with God – God loved us first! Do we remember that Gaze? Do we spend time trying to just be there, in the tender gaze of Love that God looks at us with? Or do we run from that Gaze? Do we hide out of feelings of unworthiness or guilt?

The story of the blind man is somewhat easy to relate to, because it is the story of each one of us. The Church reminds us what that Gaze was like and calls us back to it, here in the middle of Lent and in this strange time of COVID-19.

The basic movements of the story are: the blind man encounters Jesus, Jesus acts decisively to begin his healing and sends him to Siloam, the man is healed and begins to testify, to witness to the people around him about his healing and the one who brought that healing about.

Each and every Christian has had some sort of encounter with Jesus. In even small and subtle ways each of us has felt his tender loving gaze break into our darkness, our sin, and give us a hope we did not have before. It’s possible that we don’t remember what is was like, maybe we haven’t felt that gaze in years, or maybe we think that the Lord has never looked at us like that. This time of silence and isolation is a perfect time to return to the Lord, spending time with Him to remember and feel that tender gaze of Love again, perhaps for the first time in an intentional way.

After that initial encounter, Jesus worked to remove our blindness – our self-absorption, our isolation, the loneness of our sin. And He called us to wash in a pool – a pool named “sent.” This pool that Jesus sends the blind man to has often been interpreted in the Tradition of the Church as a foreshadowing of Baptism. Jesus is the one who is sent from the Father – the man washes in the pool of the “Sent One,” we have washed in the waters of Baptism. Our eyes were opened, we were given the light which is Life in Christ. 

After this encounter and healing, we went out to proclaim and witness to what Jesus did in our lives to a world which does not always accept and does not want to believe in Jesus.

And we are blessed even more to spiritually accompany the Catechumens of the Church on this very same journey during this time of Lent: they have encountered Christ, have felt his loving Gaze and have been sent by Him to the waters of Baptism – and even now, but more fully later – they give witness to what Jesus has done in their lives – and we thank God for that.

All of that being said, we all know too well how easy it can be to go back into the darkness – to become blinded again. And this is what we are invited to reflect on during Lent. Because in our lives we can often be the blind man again – and so Jesus continues to invite us back – to send us again to Baptismal purity through the Sacrament of Penance. And we begin again to proclaim Him. 

This is certainly a source of great joy! That God’s mercy is not just extended once, but extended to us every time we are willing to allow Jesus to work in our lives – over and over until we no longer want to return to the darkness and blindness of our sin, but simply desire to sit and live in that tender and loving Gaze with which He looks at each one of us (this is truly the joy of Heaven).

So today, we are invited to return to that first and crucial moment in our lives of faith. The tender gaze of Christ is the foundation of our entire lives as Christians. And it must be this gaze, the love of God, that motivates and purifies every aspect of our lives! All of our penance, all of our good works and prayer find their true source in that experience of Love, which enlightens and heals us, which brings us into Light.

This strange time that we live in is also a blessed opportunity to spend time praying with God about the way he looks at you. Pray about that moment you first felt His tender gaze calling you to Himself, and the ways in which you experience that gaze here and now. Rooted in that tender, powerful gaze, we will be able to see clearly what God asks of us, what in our lives gets in the way or tries to darken our vision of Him and we will learn the Joy which is properly Christian, the Joy of knowing and experiencing a God who loves us more than we could possibly know. 

God is NOT an Insurance Policy

You know the commercials. 

15 minutes could save you 15% or more. 

Like a good neighbor. 

You’re in good hands. 

In this land of plenty, we like to protect our stuff with insurance policies. The more we have, the more we have to insure. The thought of having something which could simply be destroyed or damaged without remuneration is absurd to the modern mind. And certainly, there is a natural sense of justice involved with this notion. If the deductibles are paid, the policy should cover whatever was damaged. Simple enough. On the other hand, if the coverage doesn’t cover what it should, then we move on to find a new policy. After all, it might only take 15 minutes…

When it comes to our relationship with God, however, it should not be a kind of eternal insurance policy. It is possible to slip into this mindset so frequently. For example, if I say my prayers, check off my obligation for Mass on Sundays and holy days, and maybe throw a few bucks in the collection plate, then God should cover me. He should make sure my life is fairly pain free, relatively happy, and ultimately make sure we all get to heaven. In other words, if I pay my deductible by doing what is required, then God should cover the rest. 

Unfortunately, this notion of God as the divine Insurer could not be further from the reality revealed by Jesus. After all, Jesus’ life was filled with the most horrific suffering and death after living in total fidelity to the will of His Father. So, if God is not the great Adjuster, then who is He?

God is Father. He is a divine Person who lives in relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit. And through His Son, He has fully revealed Himself to us. And more than that, through His Son taking on human flesh in Jesus, He has invited us into the same eternal communion of love which is the Trinity. In other words, instead of offering a coverage policy in return for meeting our religious duties, God offers His very Self – totally, completely, and unreservedly. 

In fact, this is precisely what the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus reveals – that there is not a single moment of human existence in which God does not accompany each and every member of His Church. Think about it. God became an embryo, developed into a man, died, and entered into the grave. The work of Jesus, more than simply being a ministry of justice to repair the damage of sin, inaugurated a covenant in which our weak, frail, and broken humanity is exchanged for the all-powerful, eternally strong, and perfect Son of God. 

In a most jarring way, this is precisely what takes place during Holy Communion at each and every Mass. Instead of Christ becoming part of our own bodies, it is our entire humanity which becomes united to Him. In the Eucharist, there is no change in Christ. We are the ones who become conformed to Him. In the most profound way, it is during this act of Holy Communion that we enter into the very life of heaven now. 

So, why do we go to Mass on Sunday and holy days? It’s not to insure our future or to win the divine comprehensive coverage package. After all, God is not into profits or in need of anything from us mere mortals. Instead, we go to Mass to exchange our very selves for His. We go to Mass because we are members of the very Bride of Christ – the Church. We go to Mass, because we’ve been invited to the eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb – heaven. 

In a word, our relationship with God is not like an insurance policy. It’s much more like a Marriage. A Marriage that is not built on keeping scores and counting points but rather on self-giving love and covenantal fidelity. At every Mass, God gives His very self. In every tabernacle, He waits for our company. 

Most simply, He wants our friendship, not our deductible. 

The Night I Saw Jesus Healing

A couple weeks ago, some of my seminarian brothers and I made an evangelization mission trip to one of our local universities. Our purpose was quite simple – to provide an encounter with the ever-living and supremely loveable God revealed in Jesus Christ. Sure, it sounds like a tall order, but when we realize that the Blessed Trinity is always laboring to love us, it’s not that complex of an endeavor. 

At any rate, the culminating event of our time at the university was a Night of Healing led by some of our diocesan priests, accompanied by several talented musicians to lead us in songs of praise and worship. There were also several religious sisters in addition to the seminarians who served as intercessors for those seeking prayers for healing. The format of the evening was fairly straightforward. We would begin with a song, followed by a Gospel reading and homily, and then folks would line-up to receive prayer from the priests. While this was taking place, the musicians would lead us in song. I thought it all sounded pretty simple.

Now, during the days leading up to this event the seminarians had chatted with and prayed with nearly 300 students on campus. We had even accompanied a man back from total unbelief in Jesus to a profound encounter with the risen Lord which reignited his faith and led him to a peace he hadn’t experienced in a very long time. So, I had thought we had seen some extraordinary healing already taking place, but when the Night of Healing came, I was totally blown away. 

In that chapel, there were over a hundred people seeking the Lord’s healing touch. I don’t know the specifics, but I’m sure there were folks suffering from everything from various aches and pains, to anxiety and depression, to more serious illnesses and disease – not to mention the incessant spiritual maladies we all bring with us. While each of them came forward, the priests would lay hands upon them and simply invite the Holy Spirit to come upon them. In that time of prayer, God alone knows what took place in the hearts of His children. 

It was immediately after these people received prayer that I saw the greatest healing take place. I presumed after the time of prayer, most folks would move on with their evening and head back home. Instead, what happened? Most people stuck around for nearly two hours singing their praises and giving glory to God. For many, they truly worshiped God with a real sacrifice of praise. There were even a handful of people who stuck around for nearly five hours giving praise and thanks to God. It was in this that I saw the greatest healing taking place – the healing of the wounded and broken human heart. 

In fact, in this act of praise and worship, the primordial wound of our humanity was being healed. From the Fall of our first parents until our own time, the greatest wound in the human heart is to doubt God’s goodness and love for His creation. We doubt God as loving Father. We doubt His faithfulness to His promises. It is precisely in this that humanity was tempted to sin in the first place. Nonetheless, in the very act of praise and worship (through the grace of God, of course) the human heart is able to firmly declare the goodness of God in Himself and His steadfast love for humanity. To put it simply, praise and worship says “God is God, I am not. He is faithful and true, even when I am not. He is loving and merciful, even when I cannot forgive.” In a word, praise and worship heals the human heart because it restores us to a proper relationship to the God who fully reveals Himself in Jesus Christ – transcendent and immanent, God and man, crucified and risen. 

All of this really came to a climax when I went to Mass on the following Sunday. In the Gospel (Luke 17:11-19), we heard Jesus healing the ten lepers, sending them to the priests, and then one returning to Jesus to give thanks to God. At first glance, it seems like a nice story of Jesus healing ten sick people – perhaps what I was first looking to see at the Night of Healing. 

But what happens next? Jesus sends them to the priests. Why? So that they could be once again declared clean so that they could resume public worship – to give glory to God; that is, so they could be restored to proper relationship to God. Then the lone foreigner, a Samaritan, returns to Jesus to give thanks to God. Jesus replies: “Your faith has saved you.” Another word for “saved” here could also be translated as “healed.” Thus, what was it that healed the Samaritan leper and regained for him the ability to worship? His faith in God’s goodness and the faithfulness displayed by Jesus. His only response, in turn, was praise and thanksgiving. 

While I may not have seen lepers healed before my eyes during the Night of Healing (though I’m sure some physical healing took place), I certainly witnessed faith being restored by Christ so that broken hearts could once again sing praise in order to worship the all good God.

For that, I give my own praise and thanksgiving.

Jesus, you are so good.  

God or the Vending Machine?

Here at the seminary, there are two vending machines right when I walk into the building. If it’s been a long day of pastoral assignments or classes, there is nothing better than reaching in my pocket for a couple quarters to get a soda and a candy bar. For whatever reason, there is a certain satisfaction in putting in the right change, pressing the right buttons, and receiving the sweet treats. Come to think of it, that also sounds a lot like my all-too-often experience of shopping on Amazon. 

Unfortunately, though, this system of transaction – as satisfying as it may be – is not conducive to our spiritual lives. Far too often in my experience, it is very easy to slip into this kind of mentality when relating to God. For instance, have you ever had these kind of thoughts: “If I say these certain prayers, in this certain way, then God will give me what I ask for.” And if it doesn’t work out the first time, then perhaps you may think: “Maybe I didn’t say the prayers right, or maybe God didn’t want to listen to me.”

As common as this problem may be, it could not be a further deviation from the reality of prayer. At its most fundamental level, prayer is the relationship between Persons. No, I’m not talking about some random person and some generic God. I’m talking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we enter into prayer, we are entering into the eternal love which already exists between the Trinity – a love to which we are always invited. In fact, all prayer begins with God’s own initiative. He makes the invitation to this eternal communion, and we make the response. 

With this in mind, entering into prayer can no longer be a transaction-based relationship, but rather must be more akin to entering into the most beautiful family imaginable. Are the answers always clear-cut in a family relationship? I don’t think so. However, in the ideal family, what is the one unchanging foundation? Unconditional love. That’s merely on a human level. We cannot even begin to imagine the depths of that love existing in the blessed Trinity, save for the tiny glimpse we can see by looking at the eternal Son of the Father hanging on the Cross – for each one of us personally.

For me, and I would venture to say for most 21st century Americans, the problem with prayer is it’s seeming lack of efficiency. I don’t typically judge the goodness of a family based on efficiency. The same should be true of the Blessed Trinity. We should consider prayer not in relation to efficiency or demonstrable results, but rather in regard to the love and intimacy of the relationships between the human person and the divine Persons. 

God does not merely want to give us candy bars or sodas like a vending machine, He wants to give us Himself. This is, of course, most profoundly made manifest in the gift of the Eucharist in which Christ gives Himself to us in His Body and Blood, through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can be reconciled to the Father. In a certain sense, through the Eucharist, we are invited into the greatest “Family Dinner” of the Blessed Trinity. 

If I ever get over my own selfishness and worldly tastes – perhaps I will begin to enjoy that eternal Feast more than this melted Snickers and outdated Sierra Mist…

HATE Your Mother and Father?!?!?

Jesus often says radical things in order to get our attention and to shake us out of our false understandings about life. Jesus says in Luke 14:25, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” That is a pretty radical statement!

Disclaimer – Jesus is not giving us permission to treat our families like garbage or to intentionally treat our mothers, fathers, and families with disdain or malice, but that we cannot allow these things to be the center of our lives. 

The first of the 10 commandments that God gave us is to Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and strength, and that we should have no strange god’s or idols. Now, hopefully we all are doing our best to Love the Lord our God as much as we can, certainly we are all a work in progress here. However do we really assess that second part? Do I have idols in my life or strange gods? Now likely we aren’t worshipping the gods of the Egyptians or have little statues of Zeus or Poseidon or Bahamut in our rooms that we light candles in front of and pray to. But I’m sure if we sat and thought about it, there are things in our life that we spend more time, effort, energy, and thoughts on than God. 

Maybe it is money that is our idol, looking for a way to get a little bit more out of our paycheck. Maybe our idol is popularity, wanting others to think a certain way about me. Maybe it is the hobby that I spend a lot of my free time thinking about. Maybe it is food, or TV, or exercise, our favorite sports team, sleep, or vacation. I think I can say that all of those things have manifested themselves as minor deities in my life. 

None of these things, in themselves are evil, many of them are good; but if we spend our lives pursuing these things INSTEAD of God, that is when it becomes idolatry. Perhaps our idol is our family. I would never say that Family is not important. I love my family, but do I love them more than God, who died for my sins, who offers me eternal life, who I have committed my life to serving as a disciple? So the lesson that Jesus is teaching us today, is detachment. We need to have detachment from things of this world, of things that are not God. Ultimately detachment is what God is calling us to, to not be tied to things that hold us to this world and be free to pursue God, who is the greatest goal. Only in God will I find my true fulfillment, happiness, and satisfaction; why should I settle for anything less than Him. 

Being a Fearless Son

As a seminarian, it is natural to think of my life in relation to priesthood. And, as a matter of fact, that is what I spend most of my time thinking about. All of my classes, my spiritual life, and daily routine are heavily centered around preparation for priesthood – and rightly so. As I inch closer and closer to ordination, there can begin to be doubts and fears about the future and what is unknown to come.

Perhaps an antidote to this fear can be found in the most likely source – Jesus, the Son of God. Before all else, Jesus Christ was the eternal Son of God. Before He was our great High Priest, Savior, and resurrected Lord, Jesus was the eternally beloved Son of the Father. We see this most manifestly in the baptism scene in which the heavens are opened and we hear the voice of the Father ring out clearly: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” 

Through our own sacramental life, beginning with baptism and finding its perfection in the Eucharist, the Father speaks the very same words over us. In baptism, we become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and in the Blessed Sacrament we share in the very Body and Blood of God’s only Son. 

Take a moment to imagine a world in which we lived in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Romans 8:19 even goes so far to say that all of creation is yearning for this reality. How much different would the stresses of our daily life seem? No longer would there be that extra stress of pleasing my boss or making sure I compare positively to my peers. Likewise, all of that time wasted on relatively petty stressors can be reordered to our relationship with the Lord.  Further, actively living in that relationship as a son of God leads not only to this freedom, but also to a certain fearlessness. 

In 1 John 4:18, we read that “perfect love casts out fear.” What does this perfect love look like? Quintessentially, the only truly perfect love is that which exists between Father and Son. We call the love the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who constantly returns us to live in our divine filiation. Just the same, it is the Holy Spirit who roots us in our primary identity as the sons and daughters of God. 

To put it in more human terms, think about little children. They are the most fearless people on planet earth. They are constantly climbing on unstable structures, putting filthy things in their mouths, and regarding clothing as optional. Why are they so unashamed and free? It seems to me because they are most perfectly children; that is, they live in the full reception of the love of their mother and father. 

In the Holy Spirit, the very same is offered to us on the supernatural level. God readily gives us the grace of fearlessness. In view of future anxieties and uncertainties, there is one thing that doesn’t change – our identity as the very sons and daughters of God – an identity which lasts even past the grave.

So, let’s go forth in this freedom. Let’s fearlessly climb over any instability about the future, while we place spotless Body of Christ on our tongues, and forever live in our baptismal garments in which we were first called God’s beloved sons and daughters. 

The Dying Man in Your Path?

“For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky or over the sea, but very near to you.”

This is what is told to us by Moses in the first reading. But I will come back to that in a minute.

In the Gospel from this Sunday we hear a familiar story; the Good Samaritan. A man is attacked by robbers and left to die. Three men walk by. 1 man helps him after 2 ignore him including a priest, a man of God. This reading is always a challenge to me as a priest, as is any mention of priests by Jesus because they are usually the bad example in his stories and parables.

This past week I was working at a catholic summer camp and on the last day I said, “Raise your hand if you think Jesus did something in your heart this week. (All hands are raised) Raise your hand if you think Jesus is calling you to do something great with your life! (those hands stay up)” We can ask ourselves the same question. Truly, we are all called to do something great with our lives. Well the thing is, oftentimes we are looking up in the sky, or across the sea, or in a far distant land, or too far in the future to do something great.

I want you to put yourself in the shoes of the priest here on the journey. But instead of priest, replace the word that would describe you, a doctor, a banker, a mother, a teacher, a father, a student. Now imagine that you are walking on the path and you see the dying man on your side of the path. So often we are looking for somewhere else that the Lord is calling us to be great instead of right where we are.

There are people that are dying right in front of our path and we are walking on the other side of the road because we have something better to do. I want you to think and pray this week about the person who is suffering who is in your path; not in another country, not someone who we’ll see in a month, or someone who needs it more, but I’ll get to them later. Who is on the path with us who needs a companion and a help up? Who at work is struggling with a family problem but whom we’ve ignored because we don’t want to get involved? Who is the person we know who is just in need of a friendly face to ask them how their day was? Who is the person I need to bring Jesus to in my life? Who needs the Love of Christ from you?

In the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  That is a life that is worth living and a life that is filled with greatness.