Monday, September 18, 2017

Being Good is Not Enough

Friends of Faith:

As I heard yesterday in the homily, “to be able to say I am a good or a kind person may not be enough because God is calling us to be great and to be holy.” God is calling us to love. Love is an action and greatness usually flows from an action.

It’s like saying “I’m trying” to diet, exercise or write a Monday morning reflection. Or I’ve thought of you. Until I actually do what I’m trying, or called you or said a prayer for you, simply thinking was probably not enough. Quite honestly I’ve done nothing until I take some action because until I do no one (myself or another) has become greater or better off by my action or known my thought.

Take my example about writing – until I put it on paper (and share it) I’ve done nothing for anyone else. And while my internal thoughts may be good, unless I share those thoughts with someone then I am not held accountable. I have not shared my faith or helped anyone grow closer to God. It’s like lighting a lamp and putting it under a bushel basket where no one can see it. (Mt 5:15)

This is the same for me as is that list of things in my head that I want or hope to get done today – they are probably not going to get finished unless they are written on a “sticky note” or a “to do” list of goals.

I may be a good or kind person that does nothing “evil.” But if I never do anything for another person, if I never serve another person and if I put my own wants and desires before the real needs of those around me, then I might just be a very selfish person with no regard for what Jesus did on the cross when He suffered and died for me.

It’s like saying I thought about sending a card to someone who lost a family member; it’s like saying I thought about making my husband’s favorite meal; it’s like saying I thought about going to church. If all I did was think about it, I really did nothing. It doesn’t necessarily make me bad, it just doesn’t make me great. And it doesn’t make a memory or anything that will last (no card to look at again, no meal to say thank you for and to tell someone else about, no shared relationship or conversation that makes me smile well after the action is gone.) “Do this in memory of me.”

God calls us to be great, to love and to find joy. So to say “we’re a good person or a kind person or a happy person” may simply not be enough. God deserves our very best, not just what is comfortable, easy or happens to happen. Greatness is about deliberately choosing our actions to be the best we can be.

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. Jn 13: 34

God didn’t send Jesus here JUST to teach us, to pray, to fast or even to perform miracles. God sent Jesus  here so that He could teach us to live through love AND to die unselfishly for that same great love. And without dying Jesus could not rise which in turn shows us the ultimate glory of God, the holiness which abounds with the Resurrection to eternal life.

Each of these choices were deliberate. Each of these choices helped us to see Jesus’ greatness. Just living a good and kind life wasn’t enough for him. He chose to do much more – he chose to give His entire self for us.

Jesus showed us what we are to become. Jesus showed us what was great and holy. And He showed us this by not taking the easy way out and taking himself down off the cross. Jesus did nothing wrong, so He was good. It was His choice to do more in his goodness – to let us see and know greatness.

And if we think about the lives of the saints (those who the Church has proclaimed holy and great) they too drastically changed their lives through their faith, they sacrificed their time and their opportunities for their faith. And many have died (become martyrs) rather than deny Jesus’ presence in their lives and on earth.

Can I become a better person? Am I willing to change to become great, to do something that has a greater purpose? Am I willing to sacrifice by giving to others when it would be easier to sit back and let someone else do it for me? Am I proclaiming the truth even when the truth is countercultural (or may even be opposite what a government says is “legal”)?

How did I help someone else and do what is right? What more could I be doing to show love to others who are in need—physically, emotionally or spiritually? Am I doing my best to become great and holy?  It’s probably not enough to just say I believe or that I’m a good and kind person – there may be more that I am being called to do with the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with.

BE GREAT, Love!! BE HOLY, sacrifice!! BE MEMORABLE, In truth!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Coming of the Spirit

Friends of Faith:
Appropriately for our family the next two weekends of celebrating the Ascension and Pentecost bring to fulfillment the Easter season and the gift Jesus left us here on earth – the Holy Spirit, His guidance and Our protector.

Jesus said to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. Jn 14: 15-21

While a greater majority may seek success, fame and fortune of this world, we forget or don’t yet know or understand, that it is not anything of THIS world that will give the greatest reward, but rather it is seeking to be Holy in God’s world that will give us the greatest reward, eternal life.

But the world does not willingly accept that it is not its own creator and boss. And reliance on God and resting in the Spirit are mostly foreign in our culture.

And yet, we are, more than ever, in this world, in need of the guidance of the Spirit and a renewed commitment to listen to and follow His commands.

Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. 1 Pt 3: 15-18

And while speaking the truth and striving to bring others closer to Him may mean that our character may be insulted by those who say we are “do gooders,” or “know it alls.” Or we may suffer the consequences, rudeness and chastisement of slander and character defamation despite our good intentions. It is still better to suffer for doing what is right, if it is the will of God, than to give in to worldly causes and/or political correctness.

If we look at what divides us as humans today: being called a Christian, seeking to protect human life and the dignity of marital love between one man and one woman, even the sanctity of keeping Holy the Sabbath – these are exactly the truth of God which are under the most attack and create much of the mental anguish and physical suffering we as His baptized faithful feel in our world today.

There is so much noise, there are so many lies, that it is extremely difficult to sort one from another, regardless of our human strength or perseverance.

So it becomes all that much more important to rely on the Spirit to guide us, console us, and protect us in EVERY decision we make. And It is these very graces that our family looks forward to on Andy’s ordination this week and as we lead up to Stan’s ordination in July.

Come Holy Spirit, Come. Fill us with Your grace and Your power. Anoint us with Your love. And may we be gifted with Your hope, joy and peace. Amen.

Let the Spirit guide you and may you be blessed with an ever more abundant Spirit. Thank you all for your prayers for those being ordained this Easter season.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Deacons and Mothers

Friends of Faith:

As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them
. Acts 6: 1-7

I am constantly amazed at the timeliness of Scripture as today I write to invite you to celebrate with us Andy & Stan’s upcoming ordinations.

Andy will be ordained for service in the Order of the Diaconate on Friday, May 26th at 7:00 p.m. in St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque. While for him this is yet another step (Transitional Deacon) on his path to the vocation of Priesthood (next year on May 26th, 2018) it is an extremely important step as he will make his promises of obedience and celibacy. He will be assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in Marshalltown for the summer and return to Mundelein Seminary for his final year of formal formation.

Stan will be ordained as a Permanent Deacon on July 15th (more details to follow). For us this has been a 4 ½ year journey taken together to be culminated with a new, more formal call, for Him to service and obedience to the Church. As he has been reminding me all weekend – “Do you realize we just went to our last formation class?” I don’t think I’ll fully realize that we won’t be sitting in a classroom at Covenant Hospital most Saturday’s until we don’t have to return to class in August.

So what does the call to diaconate have to do with mothers – and why was it so timely?

Yesterday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles was the first call and ordination to diaconate in the formation of the Church for the very reason of taking care of widows and children – serving mother’s in their role as mother’s.

Many people don’t want to acknowledge this today, but men and women ARE really very different. Not only did God create us different in the human (biological) form, but He also created us for very different social and spiritual roles in the world and the Church. Men were given the role to be protectors and providers; women the role of the womb from which all are formed and then nurtured (biologically and/or spiritually).

And yet neither, male or female, are we, will we, or can we, be truly complete without the other AND without God. Every person has a mother AND a father for this very reason – no child can biologically be born without both. And ALL (men & women) are called to help all others become Holy and to take care of and serve each other.

The servant role is the role the Deacon of the Church has been called to and it’s not a coincidence, but rather by design that it is connected to mothers; both serving with an unselfish desire and dedication to build the Kingdom of God – His children.

God promised that He would take care of our every need – and if we connect the dots, and observe how mothers and deacons serve we are being very well taken care of within the wisdom of His Church.

The similarities and unity of the mother and deacon don’t stop in this one Scriptural passage. Deacons and mothers both have: many years of intense formal training; ongoing, informal, on the job training; jobs never quite completed; duties never fully realized; jobs that are ever-changing, and neither can possibly be thanked or appreciated enough. Most importantly both survive when and because they are guided by prayer!

Heavenly Father: Your creation is most perfect. Thank you for creating Mothers and Deacons to serve each other and for their constant work in serving so that others may come to know holiness. Continue to guide the Church to protect their roles and to form us as willing servants in their reflection. And please bless Andy, Stan and their classmates who will be ordained in the coming weeks. Amen.

You are all invited to attend either or both of the Ordination Masses. Please contact us if you have any questions.

May we all serve each other as unconditionally as our mothers and the deacons serve us.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hidden Riches

Friends of Faith:

Yesterday’s Scripture spoke a message to me that is both difficult and yet an important reminder of why being at Mass, celebrating the Eucharist and being in Communion with our Christian family EVERY week is so important.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Lk 24: 13-25 (The Road to Emmaus, where Jesus was not recognized until the breaking of the bread)

How many times has something been taken away from us before we realized how we were loved or blessed by the richness or beauty of the person, place or thing taken away? How often is Christ in our presence and we don’t realize it is He who is giving us the blessings (the fulfillment) we receive?

God put Christ in our midst to bless us, to save us and to ransom us from sin, death, and the chains of this world. And He promises us that He will always be present and He will never be taken away. HE is the ultimate gift!

However, we who are of this world, regardless of our age, continue to seek pleasure, richness and fame in good food (things), good jobs (money) and trophies of winning (anything that pats us on the back).

Beloved: If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one's works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. 1 Pt 1: 17-21

So I was reminded, once again that I won’t ever be completely satisfied by anything I receive that is of this world – love, richness or fame unless it is a true gift of God – and one I am truly willing and ready to give back to God, as he wills it for me, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, even, and especially, when it means I have to suffer what it is I have lost by giving it back to him, whether it is health or personal satisfaction or gain.

So, before it is too late, I once again vowed to honor Christ by being truly present to Him in the Eucharist, in receiving His body and blood whenever possible; to seek to understand Christ through prayer and by constant study; and to be ready and willing to give away whatever worldly goods I have been given, even if it causes me to suffer, emotionally or physically.

I vowed to open my eyes to what I am deliberately hiding, or what may be hidden in the love and beauty God has placed in my life that I am too busy or unwilling to see.

I invite you to be present with me at the Eucharistic table. I invite you to study the Church teachings passed down through the ages. And I ask you to become more aware of Christ’s presence in the people that you love and those that are placed in your path each day – being ready and willing to lend a helping hand even if it causes you to have less of this world (time or money). And reminding you to hug those you love.

May you uncover what is hidden and be blessed by the riches of His gifts to you!

Monday, March 27, 2017

What Does God See?

Friends of Faith:

Bishop Robert Barron wrote an interesting article (March 26 Witness) about what the culture wants us to see – tolerance, diversity and inclusivity. And the difference between that and what God really WANTS us to be and see, which is Love. A Love which may mean we have to be intolerant of sin and more truthful with each other, in order to protect others, so as to move us closer to what GOD really wants us to BE, which is much different than what the culture wants us to be.

What Bishop Barron is reminding us is that we cannot be tolerant at the expense of God’s truth, because that would mean we are tolerating sin and not seeing the world in God’s eyes, but rather seeing the world in human eyes.

Our love cannot be a love so inclusive as to be at the expense of God’s righteousness, because that would mean we may not be helping a friend, neighbor, or brother to grow holier, which is our call as a people of God.

"Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." 1 Sm 16:7

But in order to judge what is sinful, and in order to spread God’s love we must be able to SEE as God SEE’s – and in today’s world this is extremely difficult, if not impossible, because we are in a spiritual war that says we can’t judge, not even sin, and that we must be tolerant of all choices because choice is our right and we have a right to be free.

So instead of judging what is sinful, we are being conditioned to love everyone unconditionally. This then means we are not telling someone that what they are doing is wrong for fear of hurting their feelings. So we allow everyone to think they are a winner and to determine what is right by themselves, without God’s guidance.

Yet our call in life is exactly opposite of this scenario. Our call in life is to help make others holy. That may mean we are placed in someone’s life to be their example, to be their parent or teacher, or even to be their conscience.

And, I for one know that I do things wrong, that the sins I commit, I cannot always see and that I must constantly learn, seek guidance and be taught God’s perspective. And in doing so, I am aware of God’s constant forgiveness and mercy—a different sort of tolerance and intolerance.

And while many, over the last 2000 years have tried to deny, change, challenge or even vilify God’s one, holy, universal and apostolic Church we cannot deny that God would have left us nothing less than what could be perfect, that God’s eyes are all seeing, and that God’s ways (tolerant and intolerant) are known only fully to Him.

That’s why, although people are imperfect, HIS Church and the Sacraments He has given us are so perfect, because they were designed by Got to lead us to perfection, to holiness.

We become one with Him through baptism.  He sent His son, Jesus, to offer us renewal through the eating of the flesh of His body and blood given in the sacrifice of the Eucharistic table (John 6: 35 -59). And we are guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit given to us in Confirmation. (Father, Son & Holy Spirit –the Trinity)

He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom (priesthood) And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 16: 18 And completed the call to priesthood with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Mt 16:19  

And He gave us the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage, so that we here on earth could continue His manifestation in His gift of life and love through sacrificial giving to another as a reflection of our eventual union in heaven with Him.

So as we journey through Lent, drawing closer to the Good Friday memorial of Jesus’ death on the cross, may we constantly strive to “see” not from our human eyes of tolerance and righteousness; but rather from God’s eyes the right intolerance of human sinfulness. And let us look ever forward to the mercy granted by His death, by His perfect love, which just as He granted the “good” thief on the cross, also grants us His promise and hope for eternal life.

May we constantly seek to see and understand as God sees and understands,


Monday, February 13, 2017

Do You Love Me?

Friends of Faith:
I don't often send something I haven't written but this post by Andy's seminarian group who are studying in the Holy Land for 10 weeks seemed too appropriate not to share. I left the pictures in for those of you who want to spy Andy (Clue: it looks like he shared his Cubs hat with a friend.) Please say an extra prayer for them as they head to their Canonical retreat this week in preparation of their Diaconate ordinations when they return.
The greatest gift of love is God's love for us -- May you share it this Valentine's Day!

2017 Holy Land Pilgrimage

Posted: 11 Feb 2017 12:16 PM PST
Yesterday, after having spent a few days by the Basilica of the Annunciation, we left Nazareth, and spent the night in Tabgha, located at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Welcoming us was a spectacular and peaceful sunset reflecting over the water of the sea. It was like an invitation to enter into a more contemplative stage of our pilgrimage.
In the morning, we departed to the Mensa Domini Church, also known as the Church of the Primacy of St Peter. There we meditated about the Gospel of John 21, 14-17. In this gospel passage, Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: Do you love me? To which Peter replied: “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” Then Jesus said to him: “Feed My lambs.” “Shepherd My sheep.” “Feed My sheep.”

Those same questions are asked to us by Jesus in our daily lives as Christians. These questions demand an active and affirmative response. “Do you love me?” is not a romantic question that looks for a sentimental answer, but the longing for a deep and authentic answer manifested through a way of living. It is a “Yes Lord, I love you” by extending our hands to our neighbor in need, and feed him, not only with bread, but with Christ Himself present in the Eucharist, in the Holy Scripture, and within ourselves. Our love for Christ should be reflected in our love for our neighbor.

Later, we moved from Mensa Domini Church to Tabgha Monastery, where the Church of the Multiplication is located. Here is where Jesus miraculously multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5 thousand men (John 6:1-14). Here, continuing with the lesson started on the previous place, Jesus gave us a concrete example of what to do; He is the one feeding his people. But there is something very interesting in this passage of the Gospel that resounded in my heart: “There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two small fish. But what are these among so many people?” (John 6: 9). Yes, it was Jesus who performed the miracle, but it was possible because a “little boy” shared all that he had and put them in Jesus’ hands. 
For some of the Apostles, what that “little boy” had was nothing in comparison with the present need, but for Jesus that “littleness” was sufficient to perform a great miracle. Just like that “little boy,” we are invited to bring to Jesus all that we have. It doesn’t matter if it is “too little” that it makes our name not to be found “worthy” to be remembered, just like the one of this “little boy”. The important thing is what Jesus can do with whatever we bring to him, and what others can receive through our “littleness.” Once again, here is Jesus asking: Do you love me? Then if you do, give me your “littleness” and let me perform great miracles.

After visiting the Church of the Multiplication, we had a very quiet and peaceful boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. There I understood why Jesus needed those moments of silence, contemplation, and prayer during His missions. That brief, but very refreshing ride through the Sea was like a fresh breeze on a sunny summer afternoon. Once our ride was over, we returned to the hotel. 
In the afternoon, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I found a school of fish jumping very close to the shore. I slowly walked through the water to the place where all those fish were. I noticed that water was coming out from between a pile of rocks, and mixed with the water was something that the fish were eating. It was dirt. I looked at the immensity of the sea, and I thought of the many other sources of food that these fish could have, but they rather chose the spot that provided easy “food”, even if it was not good for them. They were hungry and in need of food. This was the last part of today’s lesson. Those fish were the representation of the people who experience hunger for God, and who in that need are able to eat whatever spiritual consolation they receive from the world, even if it poisons their soul. Once again, it was a call to feed God’s people.
My classmates and I are about to be ordained as deacons. We are about to become fishers of men as Jesus called us, and it is our responsibility to feed God’s people with the Bread that gives life (John 10:10). It is our responsibility to bring God’s people to “streams of living water” (John 7:38). And what a blessed way we have to prepare ourselves for our future ministry by living this pilgrimage, where we are following in the steps of the One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. (John 14:6).

Today’s spiritual nourishment is not only for me, or only for my classmates. It is for all of us who have heard these words: Do you love me? Then, be “salt and light” for the world (Matthew 5:13-16).

May God bless you all.