Saturday, May 25, 2019

Come Holy Spirit

6thSunday of Easter Year C 2019:
As our Easter season winds to a close, you will notice that the readings are helping to move us toward the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  While this passage from the gospel today comes from the Last Supper, the message seems to be pretty clear for us.  Jesus will ascend to the Father.  But, we will not be without help.  The Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
We will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in 2 weeks.  But, it’s not too early to start praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is probably the most neglected of the three persons of the Trinity.  We are obviously focused on Christ.  He lived among us.  He died on the Cross.  He was raised from the dead.  Also, he always taught us to look to the Father.  We pray the Our Father.  But, what about the Holy Spirit?  Just recently, Bishop Rhoades was here for the Baccalaureate Masses for both Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers High Schools.  In both masses, he talked about how the power of the Holy Spirit should enable us to live the Christian life.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the power of God at work within us, that enables us to follow Christ.  Most of the time, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives without us even being aware. But, how much more powerful might his presence be in our lives if we called on him more frequently.
So, I’d like to reflect on 2 things from today’s gospel to help us in our prayer as we get closer to Pentecost.  First, the name advocate, second, the advocate’s job as described by Jesus.
Jesus says that the Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.  This is an interesting word.  Advocate is the Latin word (advocatus), the Greek word is similar (paraclete).  They both have the same meaning.  Clete comes from the Greek word Kaleo which means: to call. Same with Vocatus: the one called on. So, the word advocate and the word paraclete have the same meaning: one who is called upon.  Now, this word was used primarily in legal settings, and we still use the word advocate today in legal settings.  Advocates help us to make a defense.  But, they have to be called upon.  I find this really interesting.  The word Jesus uses in order to describe the Holy Spirit means: one who will defend you, but you have to call upon him.  God never tramples our freedom.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is our advocate.  He will come to our aid and assistance when we call upon him.  Yet, how often do we call upon him?  I think it might be good for us to memorize the Come Holy Spirit prayer again.  We should never let a day go by where we don’t call on our advocate.  Fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your spirit and they should be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Who among us can say that we don’t need to be filled with the fire of God’s love in the Holy Spirit?  Let’s call on him daily as a natural part of our spiritual lives.
Second, what was the job that Jesus said would be entrusted to the Holy Spirit: he will teach you everything and remind you of what I told you.  Knowledge and wisdom are gifts of the Holy Spirit.  By living in close contact with the Holy Spirit, by being filled with his gifts, we are enabled to see what is right.  The Holy Spirit will teach us everything.  In my pastoral work, many people find themselves in need of guidance. Maybe it’s a tough family situation, maybe it's a career choice, maybe it’s one of the million other important decisions we might face in a day.  I know I always have decisions that weigh in on my thoughts.  What about praying to the Holy Spirit?  Jesus literally tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything.  So, turning to the Holy Spirit in times of doubt, struggle, or indecision is a necessity. He will teach us everything.  We even saw this on display in the first reading. The early Christians were confused about the role of circumcision and the Mosaic law for Gentile Christians.  But, with the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they were led into the truth and made the wise decision.  In our own lives, when we face controversy or choice, we too should turn to the Spirit, who will teach us everything. 
So, we have 2 weeks till Pentecost.  Make these 2 weeks a time of prayer asking God to bestow upon us all the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He is our advocate.  We call on him and he will come to our assistance.  He will lead us into all truth.  So, let us pray these two weeks: come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

I give you a new commandment:

Message in a Minute for May 19:

You may notice that the gospel passages at mass are beginning to make a transition.  On Easter Sunday, and many Sundays after, we heard about resurrection appearances of Jesus.  We listened as the early Church encountered the Risen Lord and went on mission to proclaim the Good News.  Now, we are seeing a transition from the resurrection of Christ to the ascension.  In today’s gospel, Jesus is preparing us for the time of his departure.  What is his lasting advice?  His departing message?  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Jesus calls this a new commandment.  But, astute readers of the Old Testament will remember that God has already commanded us to love.  We can remember the greatest commandments, quoted by Christ himself: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  So, in some ways, the command to love is ancient.  And yet, Jesus calls it a new commandment.  What is new about it?

The new part of this commandment is not the command to love.  But, it’s the command to love one another as Christ loved us.  This commandment is new because Jesus gives us a new example.  When Jesus offered his life for us, when he was crucified, he showed us exactly what love looks like.  Love looks like self-giving, self-sacrificing.  Love gives and holds nothing back.  This has always been what love is all about.  But, Jesus’ command to love is a new commandment because he gives us a new example of how to love.  

As we gather at Mass this week, let’s call to mind the love of Christ.  He continues to pour himself out for us in the Holy Eucharist.  He offers up his body and blood for our salvation.  This is what love looks like.  We hear his command today: love one another.  We see what that love looks like in the Eucharist.  

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Good Shepherd

4thSunday of Easter year C 2019:
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.  Know of our prayers for you today.  We will do a prayer of blessing at the end of the mass today.
Jesus says in the gospel today: my sheep hear my voice. Christ is the Good Shepherd.  He lays down his life for the sheep.  We are his sheep.  He is there to defend us and protect us.  Did you know that the oldest artistic depiction of Christ that we have been able to find was the image of Christ as a shepherd?  One of the oldest pictures we can find of Jesus was in a cemetery.  The image was not of Jesus being Crucified or being born.  It was Jesus the good shepherd, carrying one of the sheep on his back.  
This image of Christ the Good Shepherd has been an inspirational message for thousands of years now.  I hope each of us has some time to reflect on this image and to turn to Christ as our Good Shepherd.  The shepherd leads the sheep to green pastures.  We can ask Jesus to lead us to peace and happiness in our lives, especially when we are facing tough times.  The shepherd defends the flock from predators.  When we are facing trials and tribulations, we can invite the shepherd to defend us.  Jesus is caring, kind, and tender: my sheep hear my voice.  The Lord is speaking to us.
I want to focus in on the voice of the shepherd for a moment. How do we hear it?  I can stand up here and tell everyone: we need to listen to Christ’s voice.  But, how? 
First, our life of personal prayer.  We hear the voice of the Lord in our prayer.  Consistent, daily prayer is the absolute foundation of the spiritual life.  If we aren’t praying, we simply won’t make it in this life.  It’s too hard out there.  We have too many problems, too much anxiety, depression, grief, mourning, you name it.  I’m sure each and every one of us could describe some difficulty that weighs us down sometimes.  Well, we need that shepherd.  We need to bring him our problems and our pain.  We also need to thank and praise him for all the blessings.  We need to pray every day.  Not every other day.  Not once a week.  Every day. So, how do you do on that?  I remember a line from Archbishop Sheen that always stuck with me.  He said, everyone in the world needs 30 minutes of prayer every single day… unless you are busy.  If you are busy, then you need an hour of prayer.  How true!  I can tell you that in my own life, the more I’m praying the more smoothly things go. My life is better, I get more done. The more time I spend with God the better I use the rest of the time that I have.  My sheep hear my voice.  So, we need to listen in our daily prayer.
But, I would also like to recommend getting more knowledgeable about the faith as well.  There is so much beauty to our Catholic faith that many people simply miss out on.  We hear the voice of Christ in the Bible and in the teachings of the Church.  I hope everyone out there has a Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This amazing book summarizes just about everything we believe as Catholics.  It’s a tremendous resource.  We hear Christ’s voice when we read it and study it.  Same goes for the Bible.  This book literally has the voice of Christ within it.  Spending time meditating on God’s word will help us to follow Christ. To hear his voice.
Jesus is the good shepherd.  He wants to lead us to eternal life.  But, it only happens if we listen to his voice.  So, let’s make that commitment to daily prayer, to studying the Bible, and Church teaching.  These are wonderful ways for us to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd.  

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Yes Lord, you know that I love you

Next Saturday, Bishop Rhoades will be here to celebrate confirmation for our young men and women from the Cathedral.  These young people have been preparing over the course of the year.  They have been learning about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I hope they are all ready when the bishop starts to ask them questions next week.  But, one thing they had to do this year is to pick a confirmation saint.  We have a few St. Francis’s, a St. Norbert, etc.  I really hope that these young people will look up to these saints and rely on them during the course of their lives.
For me, I chose St. Peter when I was confirmed.  So, I have always felt a certain kind of closeness to him.  Now, I would like to say that I chose St. Peter because I liked how he preached the gospel, or the way that he gave his life in service to Christ.  But, I was a teenager after all.  I chose St. Peter because I thought he must be the most awesome Saint around.  I mean: he was the first pope, he has the biggest Church in the world named after him.  I wasn’t interested in any ole saint.  I wanted the best of the best.  So, that’s why I picked St. Peter.  I have to admit that I didn’t really take into consideration all the things that St. Peter did in the gospel.  I didn’t think about the time that St. Peter denied Jesus 3 times. I didn’t think about the time he told Jesus that he shouldn’t offer up his life and Jesus called him satan.  I didn’t think about the time that he was taking the side of the people who said that Gentiles had to be circumcised and St. Paul argued with him.  In other words, I never really grappled with the fact that St. Peter is a person who has his own flaws and imperfections.  I was just thinking about the glorious vision of the great first pope holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Ok, so I didn’t pick St. Peter for a very good reason.  But, I’m so very glad that I have St. Peter for my confirmation patron saint.  The longer I reflect on the gospel, the more I see St. Peter is a truly inspirational person for all of us who are followers of Jesus.  Sure, he is inspirational because of his great job of preaching the faith.  Look at the first reading.  He boldly stood up to the high priest: we must obey God and not you.  He was courageous.  I certainly hope and pray that I can keep growing in my Christian courage to become more like Peter.  But, he is also inspirational precisely because he has a past that is not so great.
On the night before Jesus died, he gathered with his apostles for the Last Supper.  He told them that he would be betrayed.  They all said that they would never do that to him.  Peter even said: if I should have to die with you, I will never deny you. Then what happens, not even a few hours later, Peter denies Jesus 3 times.  But, you know what?  Peter repents, returns, renews his commitment.  I think this is what today’s gospel is all about.  Jesus gives Peter this amazing opportunity.  He knows that Peter denied him three times, so he asks him three times: do you love me?  Peter responds: yes Lord, you know that I love you.  Sure, Peter sinned and denied Jesus.  But Jesus offers him mercy and an opportunity for a new beginning. 
This is one of the reasons that I find the story of St. Peter so inspirational.  It is a great reminder that Jesus will give us the same opportunity.  You and I are sinners.  No denying that.  But, if we turn back to the Lord like St. Peter, Jesus will give us the same opportunity to begin again.  Peter has been my patron since confirmation, but he is a model for all disciples precisely because he is so real.  I would encourage each of you to spend some time praying with this gospel this week. Put yourself in St. Peter’s shoes. Acknowledge that you have betrayed the Lord by your sins.  But, then, listen as Jesus gives you a chance at a new beginning: do you love me?  Yes Lord, you know that I love you.  

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy 2019:
Today we bring out week-long celebration of the Octave of Easter to a close.  This used to be called “Low Sunday” because the church is coming down from this high celebration of Easter.  But, in recent years, this Sunday has been renamed “Divine Mercy Sunday.”  Divine Mercy is a devotion to Our Lord and his great mercy.  Jesus appeared to St. Faustina Kowalska and told her to spread the message of his mercy. Her diary contains these messages from Jesus.  I have always found the message of Divine Mercy to be a beautiful and inspiration message. It is a powerful reminder that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world.  Jesus does not want to condemn sinner, but to forgive them. If this sounds at all interesting and inspirational, look into the divine mercy devotion.  You will find it wonderful as I have.
It seems to me that today’s gospel passage is a perfect one for the message of divine mercy.  What are the first words of Jesus: Peace be with you.  The message of mercy is that we find that peace in the mercy and forgiveness of Christ.  But, the context for this message is so important.  Jesus utters these words in the midst of his disciples when they were hiding out of fear.  Why were they afraid?  Jesus had been taken and killed.  Also, the apostles didn’t do so well when Jesus was arrested.  Even Peter denied him three times.  Seems like fear is a good response.  They were afraid of being persecuted by the leaders.  Maybe they feared Jesus’ disappointment.  In the context of all this guilt, shame, and fear, Jesus breaks into the room and utters these simple words: Peace be with you. These words symbolize the forgiveness of sins that Christ won for them.  Peace be with you.  Then he takes it one step further.  Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive are forgiven.  The other reason why this gospel is the perfect gospel for Divine Mercy is that this gospel is the very beginning of the sacrament of confession.  Jesus forgives the sins of the apostles with his words: Peace be with you.  Then he gives them the power of the Holy Spirit so that they can forgive sins by the power of the sacrament of confession.  Divine Mercy Sunday always has a connection to the power of the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of confession.  
But, I want to make the connection to another sacrament as well.  Thomas wasn’t there the first time.  His doubts remained.  How was Jesus able to overcome those doubts?  He shows Thomas his body.  On this Divine Mercy Sunday we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus continues to show us his body, on this altar.  The Eucharist is the sacrament of God’s mercy because it is the body of Christ continually poured out for us.  His mercy endures forever.  
This is an exciting weekend for us here at the Cathedral. At the 11:30 mass, our young people will receive their First Holy Communion.  They are really excited about receiving communion for the first time.  Just like Thomas, Jesus will reveal himself to them in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.  This great gift is given to all of us as a way for us to grow in our faith.
When I was a kid, someone taught me that there is no better prayer to say after receiving communion than the prayer of St. Thomas that we heard today in the gospel: My Lord and my God.  So, may our First communion kids and all of us who receive our Lord on this Divine Mercy Sunday grow in our faith.  When we receive Holy Communion let us recognized Christ and say: My Lord and My God.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Christ is Alive! Alleluia

Easter Sunday 2019:
Alleluia.  Christ is alive.  Alleluia is a Hebrew word that means “praise God.”  Praise God indeed.  Jesus Christ died on the Cross.  He was buried.  Yet, that tomb is empty.  We proclaim: he is alive.  Today we celebrate that day where Christ completed his mission here on earth.  He came as our savior.  We needed rescuing.  We were slaves to sin and death.  But, Jesus set us free.  Like Moses, he led us across the waters of baptism.  Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt.  Christ leads us out of the slavery of death.  He is our Savior.  Today we proclaim his victory.
But, I found this gospel passage really interesting.  I find it interesting because of what it doesn’t say.  It doesn’t say that Mary met Jesus.  It doesn’t say that the apostles met Jesus.  In fact, we don’t see Jesus anywhere in this gospel passage.  Now, if you have your bible and you keep reading, you will find that Jesus appears to both Mary Magdalene and the rest of the Apostles.  But, not in this passage.  In this passage, the only proof of the resurrection is the empty tomb.  
It got me thinking about how we can prove the resurrection of Christ.  It seems to me that the most powerful proofs of the resurrection of Christ are all the various appearances of Jesus.  I’m sure all of us have our favorite ones.  There is the road to Emmaus where Jesus speaks with the disciples and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread.  There is the time where Jesus was on the shore and asked Peter 3 times: do you love me?  There was the time when the doors were locked and Jesus appeared saying: peace be with you. These appearances were amazing and miraculous and certainly helped the disciples believe in Jesus.  But, how many of us can say what we have had the same experiences?  Of course, nothing rules it out.  So, if Jesus comes to your family Easter party today, let me know all about it.  We certainly do believe that Jesus is alive. But, for most of us, face-to-face appearances will not be the evidence we use to believe in the resurrection. So, what else?
First, we have the same evidence as listed in the gospel for today’s reading.  The empty tomb.  You know what?  That tomb is still empty.  There is a huge church built over top of the tomb.  But, the tomb is still empty.  There has never been any evidence that they found the body of Jesus.  There has never been any kind of concrete proof of there being a great hoax or whatever.  No, the tomb is empty.  Think about that.  If you visited the tomb of a deceased loved-one and found the tomb empty, you’d be pretty shocked right.  Mary was shocked too.  That tomb is empty.  What could be going on?  So, we have that evidence.
What else do we have?  I think the best evidence for the miracle of the resurrection is the lives of the apostles.  These were lowly and simple guys.  During the passion narratives they don’t seem to great right?  One betrays Jesus, Peter denies him 3 times, many of them flee when Jesus needed them the most.  Yet, after the resurrection, what do we find?  They boldly proclaim the truth of the resurrection.  Today in the first reading Peter stands before everyone who would listen and proclaims his faith in the risen Christ.  Peter denied Jesus three times before maids and servants, and now he willing to tell anyone who would listen that Christ is alive.  What explains this radical transformation? The resurrection.  Peter experienced Christ face-to-face.  He knows he’s alive.  That changes everything.  
So, that gives us two powerful pieces of evidence for the resurrection of Christ.  We have the empty tomb and we have the witness of everyone who believes in Christ. Sure, we start with St. Peter, but really all the saints down through the ages are great witnesses to the power of Christ, who is alive.  
Is that enough evidence for you?  Maybe not.  You might say, it’s not fair.  I need to see him face-to-face.  Well, we are fortunate.  We have the sacraments.  All seven sacraments are encounters with Christ.  These encounters are more veiled than the encounters of Christ in the gospels. But, they are still encounters with the Risen Christ.  Let me just highlight 2 sacraments. 
First, confession.  When we go to confession we humbly acknowledge our sins and Jesus says: peace be with you.  Remember when Jesus first appears to the Apostles in John’s gospel.  The same thing happens.  In fact, he says: peace be with you.  Then he says: who’s sins you forgive are forgiven.  During these last few weeks, we have been having lots of confessions here at the cathedral.  Each and every time a person goes to confession, this is an appearance of the risen Christ that strengthens our faith.
Second, the mass.  One of my favorite appearances of Jesus is the Road to Emmaus.  But, what happens in that story.  Jesus explains the scriptures.  Then he breaks the bread.  The recognized him in the breaking of the bread.  They were face to face with Jesus the whole time, but they only recognized him at mass.  This is why the Mass is the very foundation of our life of faith.  This is the bedrock of Christianity because it is the lasting appearance of Christ which he gave to us as a way to strengthen our faith for the rest of time.  The Mass is the risen Christ appearing to us his disciples.  
So, today we proclaim the resurrection.  The evidence is compelling: the tomb is empty, the disciples changed their lives, Christ continues to appear to us in the Sacraments.  My friends, Christ is truly alive.  Let this foundational truth of our lives fill us with Joy as we celebrate the feast of our redemption.  

Saturday, April 6, 2019

5th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the 3rdScrutiny:
Today we celebrate the 3rdscrutiny for the members of our RCIA.  If you remember back, the first scrutiny focused on thirst and how Christ gives the living water.  The second scrutiny focused on the man born blind, and how we have been given the spiritual sight of faith.  Today focuses on life.  Lazarus was dead.  But, now he lives.  Each of us has experienced the death of sin.  But, through the power of Christ, he has opened up the way to eternal life. Lazarus’ raising was only temporary. But, we believe that Christ will raise us up to eternal life.  
Have you ever wondered why death feels so bad?  Why does it bring us pain to see people we love go through suffering and death?  In some ways, dying is just a part of life.  Each of us was born and each of us will die.  Nothing is certain in this life except death and taxes right (and right now most of us are pretty aware of our taxes being due next week).  And yet, if death is certain, why should it be painful?  
The Christian answer to this problem of the pain associated with death is that death is not natural.  God did not create us to die.  Rather, he made us to live.  Death only enters the story of the human race after the fall of Adam and Eve.  Death is a byproduct of human sinfulness. Therefore, when we experience death, deep down, we know that something is wrong.  
Jesus came to right that wrong.  God loved us so much that he did not simply leave us to our own punishment. Rather, he sent Christ to raise up the fallen.  Death is the worst enemy of the human race, but Christ has conquered that enemy for us. 
Yet, each of us lives in this weird “in-between” time.  We profess that Christ is the victor over sin and death and that all those who believe in him will live forever.  And yet, we still suffer, we still mourn when someone dies.  But, Christ is even close to us in this pain as well.  My favorite line in the gospel of John: and Jesus wept.  He came to bring us life.  He did that on the cross.  But, even now, he is with us in the midst of our pain and suffering.  
Today’s gospel teaches us two important lessons.  First, Christ has the power to raise the dead.  This gives us hope for ourselves and our loved ones who have died.  This gospel also teaches us that Christ is close to us, especially when we are suffering. So, we turn to him in our toughest times, for the Lord is never far from us.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Message of Mercy

4thSunday of Lent Year C Prodigal Son:
One of the best parts of my job is the ministry of reading the gospel at Mass.  I get the true privilege and honor of reading and proclaiming the very words of Christ. It’s truly remarkable.  Today, is one of those days where I don’t feel worthy to proclaim such amazing words.  This parable is great.  We could read it the rest of our lives and find something new, something exciting about it.  I’ve read this parable so many times in my life, but each time I hear something new. So, reading or hearing this parable is sort of like a check-up on our life of faith.  
Sometimes we feel like the prodigal son.  We feel lost and sinful, in need of God’s mercy.  Well there is good news for us in this parable. Sometimes we think that we have been working hard in our lives and we can become frustrated at the foibles of others. Well, then today’s gospel is a challenge.  Don’t be like the older son.  Or, sometimes we are being called to emulate the Father’s compassion.  Is there someone you have been hesitant to forgive? Why not rush out there and forgive like the Father?  
This parable shows us the message of mercy.  But, it shows the message from so many different angles. Need mercy, got that covered.  Jealous and frustrated, covered.  Need to be merciful, got it.  Let the parable speak to you this week.
But, I wanted to share with you what I heard when I prayed with this parable this week.  I heard all the amazing details about the rich banquet.  Now maybe that’s because I’m always fixated on food.  Ok, one of my struggles.  But, listen again to the details of the celebration.  The son is dressed in the finest robes, sandals, a ring on his finger, they slaughter the fattened calf, then there is music and dancing. Sounds like a great party.  What was the impetus for that party?  The son returning and the Father granting mercy. Amazing.
Jesus says in another place that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance.  Rejoicing in heaven over the repentant.  Have you ever thought about repentance in that way?  When we repent, when we seek forgiveness, there is rejoicing in heaven. 
So, I’m going to make a request: don’t forget to cause some rejoicing in heaven during this season of Lent.  What do I mean?  Go to confession.  Go to confession because you need God’s mercy.  Go to confession because you need to learn how to be more merciful.  Go to confession and cause great rejoicing in heaven. Let this parable become a part of your life.  Let the message of mercy become your story.  God is excited about mercy.  We should share that excitement by going to confession and receiving God’s mercy.

Friday, March 22, 2019

3rd Sunday of Lent Scrutiny:

3rdSunday of Lent Year C (Scrutiny reading) 2019: 
As we journey closer to Easter, it is becoming a more intense time of prayer and discernment for our Elect and Candidates.  These men and women are preparing to enter the Catholic Church.  4 of them will receive the gift of baptism.  We understand that the waters of baptism are foreshadowed in the water about which Jesus speaks in the gospel.  I will give you the living water: you will never thirst again.  We truly believe that God is the origin and destiny of every human being.  This means that we were made by God and we were made for God.  In our hearts, we all have a longing for the divine.  We have a thirst that cannot be quenched.  We have a God-sized hole, only God can fill it. Sure, many people try to fill this hole with many things: wealth, honor, privilege, pleasure.  None of these things satisfy.  We will remain thirsty.  Jesus says: this water will satisfy, you will never be thirsty again. My dear Elect, this is the water the Church offers you.  This is the water that Christ offers you.  The waters of Baptism create union with God.  The sacrament of Baptism will give you the gift of faith.
My dear friends here at the Cathedral, keep these men and women in your prayers.  They are on the doorstep of a beautiful adventure, the adventure of faith.  
But, as they are preparing for these sacraments, each of us should also take a moment to renew our own amazement for these gifts.  Most of us here have received the gift of God in baptism.  We have been washed clean of sin and given a new relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters.  What an amazing gift.  We have received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation. Every week, some of us every day, receive the amazing gift of the Body and Blood of Christ right here in the Holy Eucharist.
These brothers and sisters of ours are preparing to receive these sacraments for the first time.  They are excited and filled with joy.  My prayer is that they never lose this joy, the joy of coming into contact with God.  But, what about all of us?  Sometimes we can lose that awe and wonder.  Sometimes we can take God’s gifts for granted.  But, what a shame that would be.
One line from the Gospel really stood out to me today. Jesus says to the woman: if you knew the gift of God, then you would ask me for the living water.  “If you knew the gift of God.”  Hear Jesus saying that line to each of us, right now.  If you knew the gift of God, how would that change your life?  How would that make you look at the mass?  How would that help you to change your lives?  How might you treat people differently if you knew the gift of God each and every day of your lives?
I think it would make a huge difference.  That is why I want to recommend the practice of Gratitude.  I would recommend that every day you begin by simply remembering the gift of God.  Doesn’t take long.  Spend 3 minutes specifically and consciously remembering the amazing gifts that God has given you. These could be the gifts of life, faith, family, water, air, food, shelter, jobs, kids, etc.  One thing I’m noticing more and more is that all of our news these days is bad news. People just report what’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with the competing political party, etc.  But, if we don’t take some time to give God thanks for all the good things, we might be tempted to think that our lives are all bad.
If you knew the gift of God every day, it would have a tremendous impact in your life.  Get into the practice of gratitude and you will see big changes.  

Saturday, March 9, 2019

First Sunday of Lent

1stSunday of Lent Year C 2019:
This is the first Sunday of the season of Lent.  These 40 days are meant to be a spring time in our faith.  Hopefully the weather outside will keep getting warm.  Hopefully, the grass and trees will become green, the flowers will come back again.  The same is true of our annual season of Lent.  It’s a chance for new life to grow and flourish within our hearts and lives. I pray that this season of self-denial will be a wonderful season of growth for our whole parish community.
Every year on the first Sunday of Lent, we hear of Jesus’s temptation in the desert.  The story begins in an interesting way.  It says that Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Jesus is able to make it through all the temptations in the desert because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Let’s all make a resolution to pray to the Holy Spirit this week as we begin our journey of Lent.  Holy Spirit, come to us.  Fill us with your power.  We are journeying into the desert of Lent.  Keep us safe from the poison of Sin.  Fill us with power to overcome temptations.  May these 40 days of Lent help us to grow in our faith.
I also think this reading helps us to think about how to overcome temptations in our own lives.  Now, if you never have a problem with temptations of any kind, if you have perfect will power, then no need to pay attention to the rest of the homily. But, for me, willpower has always been a challenge.  So, I’ve been reading up on willpower.  Studies have shown that willpower works quite a bit like a muscle.  It can help us to be strong.  But, it can also wear out.  Willpower can be weak, but by exercising it, willpower can get stronger. 
This is really good news.  Willpower is not a set commodity.  You might think: I just don’t have willpower.  Well, the good news is that your willpower can grow and change. 
This is one of the reasons that I really like Lent.  It’s like a chance to boost our willpower. That’s why I would recommend that you take up some kind of practice that might help you where you think you have a challenge in your willpower.  Can’t say no to food?  Give up your favorite food for Lent.  Trouble with responsibility with drinking?  Give up alcohol for Lent.  Internet causes you problems: give up Twitter.  Our Lenten fasts can help us to charge up our willpower reserves.  So, where do you need to grow?
Now, what do we do when we are tempted?  Usually, I just sort of grin and bear it.  I might just try to avoid the thing.  I might just say “no” in my mind a million times.  But, Jesus shows us a different path.  For each of the temptations from the devil he has a response which unwraps the lie of the devil.  Notice, each temptation has a sliver of truth.  If you are the Son of God, command this stone.  Of course, Jesus could command the stone, but Jesus replies that there are more important things than food.  Second, the devil says he can give power and glory, which certainly seems true if you pay attention to the world around us.  But, Jesus says that glory and power belong to God. Throw yourself down, the angels will catch you.  Again, that is likely true.  But, Jesus responds, you shall not tempt the Lord.
This is a really important point when thinking about temptations and willpower.  All too often, we are quickly tempted, and we react without thinking things through. But, if we are able to respond in a healthy way to each temptation, we will see our willpower muscles getting stronger.  
This is another great reason for Lent.  It helps us to work on our reasons for overcoming temptations. Ice cream is yummy.  Yes that’s true, but I’m saying no to sweets so that I can grow closer to God.  I need to fight this person on Twitter who is saying dumb things.  True, these might be dumb things, why not offer up a prayer for that person instead.  This person has a great house and car, I’m jealous.  True it might be a nice house, but I’m going to give up jealous thoughts and just remember how amazing God has been to me.  

So here are the three things from this week’s mass. Number 1, pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that this season of Lent will be a great one.  Number 2, willpower can grow and get stronger, so focus in on where you need to grow this year.  Number 3, Jesus answered all the temptations with a good response.  So, be sure to think through the responses to your temptations.  Let’s pray that God will fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we can always be strong in the face of temptations, not only during this season of Lent, but through the rest of our lives as well.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Fill up your storeroom with good

7thSunday of Ordinary Time year C 2019:
More sage wisdom from Christ this week.  These last several Sundays we have been learning from Christ how to put into action his own brand of love and mercy.  Today, especially, he is showing us the way to growing in patience and kindness.  Why notice the splinter in your brother’s eye when you have a beam in your own?  I can readily admit that I’m a card-carrying member of the “beam in the eye club.”  I’m an expert at recognizing other people’s problems, when I have enough of my own problems.  So, this is practical advice to grow in patience.
But, I wanted to reflect on another part of the gospel today. I really like this comment from Jesus: A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good; an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil.  This is a good reminder that our actions really begin with our hearts. If our hearts are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and mercy, then our actions are good and loving and holy.  But, if our hearts are filled with envy, jealousy, lust, greed, etc, our actions turn out to be evil.  What kind of person do you want to be?  If you want to be a good person, and most people generally do say that they want to be good people, then the key is to fill up your heart with goodness.
How do you do that?  I really like this image of a store room.  Jesus says that from the store of good comes good, from the store of evil comes evil.  So, what kind of inventory are you putting into your hearts?  Our daily lives, our little actions, our habits, our thoughts, our motives, these are the ways that we fill out the storeroom of our hearts. So, what does you inventory look like? 
These words from Jesus reminded me of a Native American parable I heard one time that has really stuck with me.  A young man asked his grandfather this question: “Grandfather, how can I be good?  Often, I want to do good and to be good, but it feels like there is a force within me that moves me to choose things that are evil and wrong.”  The grandfather looked at his grandson with love and said: “in the heart of every man and woman there are two wolves who are fighting to win for control of your life.  One wolf is good, the other is evil.”  The grandson replied, “Grandfather, which wolf ends up winning?”  “The wolf that you feed,” he answered.
I really loved this image: the one that you feed.  We often think about good and evil in terms of big and dramatic actions or habits.  But, our hearts are really formed by the small things.  The daily actions.  Which wolf are we feeding?  What are we putting into our storeroom?  
I’ve been reading a lot recently about habits.  I have more than one bad habit that I would like to get rid of.  And I would like to have the habit of better diet and exercise.  From everything I’ve read, the best advice I’ve gotten so far is that the only way to get rid of a bad habit or to start a good habit is to focus on the small things, the microsteps.  These little actions every day feed the good wolf.  These little actions stock up our store room with good.

Jesus calls us to be like him: every disciple will be like his teacher.  Jesus shows us an amazing example of goodness, kindness, love, and mercy.  If we are going to be like our teacher, we are going to need a storeroom that is packed full of goodness.

Come Holy Spirit

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