Monday, December 21, 2015

There are fathers ...
waiting until other obligations are less demanding ...
to become acquainted with their sons.

There are mothers who ...
sincerely intend to be more attentive to their daughters.

There are husbands and wives who ...
are going to be more understanding.

But time does not draw people closer.

When in the world are we going to begin ...
to live as if we understood that this is life?  This is our time, our day ...
and it is passing.

What are we waiting for?

Richard L. Evans

Friday, December 11, 2015

Welcoming the Unwelcome.

The Catholic Church is engaged in a discussion on marriage and family.  The discussion appears to be rooted in a view of family based on the ideals of past generations rather than the culture as it exists today. The family unit is no longer simply the nuclear family – father, mother and children.  In the contemporary culture, the definition of “family” has changed; and if we are to engage the culture for Christ, we need to deal with this change.  We can’t hide from it. We can long for the days in society when the nuclear family was the norm, but those days are gone.

Today real families come in all sizes, shapes, and configurations. The concept of ‘one-size-fits-all’ family ministry is outdated and insufficient. Our families are old and young, married and single, parents and children.  Some marriages are together, others estranged or divorced. Our families include straight as well as the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender members. We do not have the luxury of addressing just the needs of the traditional nuclear family.  Our call as Church is to meet the needs of all the families of the world, and answer the question – What are their joys and hopes? What are their griefs and anguishes? How might we, as the followers of Christ, help them the most? How can we help the human family and individuals move forward – humanely, personally, interpersonally and spiritually?

Some in the Church want us to retreat from the real world and build programs exclusively for “traditional” families.  This strategy is doomed to backfire.  Those we think we are serving, the young traditional nuclear family, often embrace a much broader definition of family.  While the Church may have a problem with gay marriages, for example, they don’t.  Our narrow view of family rather than attract them often confuses and offends them.  They do not share the idea that homosexuality is an “intrinsic disorder.”  Catholics under the age of 40 see homosexuals as God’s beautiful creation, not God’s mistake. “Disordered” is a word that offends them.  So when we design programs only for the traditional nuclear families, in many ways, we are pushing away the Catholic under 40 who desires a more open minded Church view. If we do not dialogue and engage, we risk losing a whole generation.

Marriages and nonmarriages 
Pastoral care must be given to individuals in a variety of relationships, even those that may be more complicated or conflicted than the ideal norm: interfaith marriages, pregnancy issues, ethnic or family ostracism or tensions, divorced, remarried, with or without annulments, those living together and yes homosexual relationships. Our first instinct should not be to judge or condemn, but rather to view each individual and couple as our sisters and brothers.

A recently separated or divorced person or newly single parent is in pain, hurting, perhaps feeling guilty, and frequently feeling overwhelmed.  Our first action as Church should be to provide counseling, spiritual support, and pastoral care rather than pulling down the Code of Canon Law from one’s bookshelf. Our first responsibility is to accept people in their pain and aid their healing.

If we must choose between judgment and mercy, erring on the side of graced mercy and pastoral care in doubtful cases would be a great gift to the faithful who yearn for the Eucharist.  Pope John XXIII called the Eucharist, the “medicine of mercy.” Pope Francis points out that the Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. We should find ways to welcome more people to the Eucharist, not to exclude them. Once someone has been fed, they then have the sustenance to accept Christ’s way of life more fully in their lives.

On the issue of divorced Catholics, we need a more compassionate approach. “Till death do us part” may not only refer to the physical death of one or the other spouse, but it could also refer to the death of the marriage relationship itself. Spousal- or child-abuse, untreated addictions, abandonment or similar extreme hardship situations indicate that the bond, the human interpersonal commitment, has snapped, been torn asunder and, in effect, died.

This is a very personal topic for me.  I spent over five years outside the Church because of the Church’s view on marriage.  When my wife Linda’s first husband went berserk and began having extra-marital affairs all over town, what fault was that of Linda?  Her marriage truly died during that period of successive adulterous relationships.  The annulment process took six years to solve a brutally simple case of a dead marriage!  Linda was not only injured by a shameless spouse, she was also injured by her Church’s lack of compassion too.

The Church can and should serve as a balm for people’s wounds, as the tender touch of mercy rather than the instrument of judgment.  As to those who scream for orthodoxy, we are called to be like Jesus when he confronted the self-righteous crowd in the case of an adulterous woman and said: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” It is telling that Jesus himself, who is without sin, chose not to cast stones either. Before receiving the Eucharist, we all say, “Lord I am not worthy, say but the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Much like Jesus in this encounter with the woman caught in the very act of adultery, our first pastoral utterance should be “neither do I condemn you.”

In the 21st century, our Church is being called to open our hearts and our church doors to those of the LGBTQ communities. Lesbian women, gay men, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as those still questioning, face many challenges: to figure out and accept their sexual identities, to share their experience with family and loved ones, and to find their place in our society and the Church.  While it seems so easy for many to condemn others for their sexual orientation using traditional theology as their bully pulpit, we should fault on the side of compassion.  Medicine, genetic and gender studies, counseling, and the law are all shouting out to us that the question of the homosexual condition is very complex and in need of further study and theological discernment. We as a Church must endeavor to proclaim that every person has unique dignity in the eyes of God.

Once again forgive the personal note. Over the years, I have employed and befriended hundreds of members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.  My experience has been nearly universally positive.  These are people of good will and often deep faith.  We must consider the personal needs, sexual experience, and covenant commitment of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers with the utmost pastoral care and sensitivity.

In this the Year of Mercy, God is calling all Catholics to explore prayerfully what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

“I dream of a 'missionary option,' that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”  Pope Francis -Evangelii Gaudium

What does this mean?  How exactly does a parish engage this  "missionary impulse?"

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!  Email me or leave a comment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

One way to pray ...

1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
Remember that God is near you. Take a moment to invite him into your time of prayer. Meet him as if your are meeting a good friend.

2. Ask God for his assistance.
Ask that he would help in your mediation. Pray that God uses this time to draw you closer to him.

3. Read over a passage of Scripture or some other spiritual work.
This spiritual reading can be the words of the Pope, Scripture, or your favorite Christian author.

4. Take some time to reflect and think about what you have read.
Your goal is not to necessarily learn something, but to enter more into a relationship with Jesus, to understand yourself and God more intimately.  Listen to what God is trying to tell you.

5. Have a conversation with God about your reflections and thoughts.
In this stage, you want to ask yourself:  What stood out to you in your spiritual reading? What is God trying to tell you through what you just read? What feelings arise in your heart?  Talk to God about these things.

6. Conclude your time in prayer.
In your conclusion, thank God for your time in prayer, petition him for your needs and the needs of others.  Take the insights you have gained and put them into action.  For example, you may have felt the call to forgive someone.  Go and do it.  Maybe you heard the call to be more faithful to prayer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We have a choice – to believe or not.

We have a choice – to believe or not. 

If we do not believe, the divine power is impotent or remote, and then the waves of life engulf us, the winds blow, nourishment fails, sickness lays us low or kills us. 

If, on the other hand, we believe, our eyes are open, and the waters of baptism are welcoming and sweet, the bread of the Eucharist is multiplied, the dead rise again, the power of God is, as it were, drawn from him by force and spreads throughout all nature.

One must either subjectively minimize or explain away the Gospel, or one must admit the reality of its effects not as momentary and past, but as enduring and true at this moment.

It’s our choice.

Into our hands the world and life are placed, like the Host at Mass in the priest’s hands, ready to be charged with the divine.  This phenomenon of our lives being charged with the presence of God relies on one condition, which is that we believe. 

If we believe, then everything is illuminated and takes shape around us – chance is seen as order, success is measured in everlasting prosperity, suffering becomes a visit and a caress of God.

But if we hesitate, the rock remains dry, the sky dark, the waters treacherous and shifting. And we may hear the voice of God, faced with our messed up lives:

“O men of little faith, why have you doubted ...?”

The choice is ours - to believe or not.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Homily - 33 Sunday in OT - Are You Ready?

At the end of the church year, we begin to hear parts of the scripture that tell of the end times. 
The end times have become so easy to ignore.  In my lifetime, I’ve lived through at least ten end-of-the-world predictions.  The last big one was the year 2000. Remember how we had endless apocalyptic predictions of computer meltdowns, failed power plants, water and food shortages all symbolized by the ominous Y2K. 

Currently, it seems to be global warming that is going to end it all. And the terrorist attacks in Paris this weekend remind us dramatically how fragile life really is. The world seems very vulnerable today. There will always be something that makes us believe the end is coming soon. 

And the truth is we all will see an end to life sometime ... that’s certain.

Jesus sets before us in the Gospel two sobering themes. First, the end of our life could come suddenly - that certainly seem real as we watch what happened in Paris - and, then he asks us if we are prepared for that end. These are themes we never like to spend much time on, but we cannot afford to take them lightly. These are themes that we cannot afford to dismiss casually. And the truth is, how we respond to these two themes has the potential to change our lives. That’s why the Church sets these themes before us at the end of the liturgical year. It wants to remind us, as Jesus reminded his disciples, that life on earth is but a brief preparation for an eternal life to come.

Therefore ... we should always be prepared for that moment.

Some years ago, Dr. Kubler-Ross of the University of Chicago wrote a book called, “Death and Dying.”  It grew out of her work with terminally ill people. Commenting on their feelings about life as they looked back on it at the moment of death, she writes: “They saw in the final analysis that only two things matter: the service you render others and love. All those things we think are important like fame, money, prestige and power are insignificant.

This weekend’s events in Paris made me think about how fragile life really is.  I thought about what I’d want to do if I were suddenly confronted with the end.  I’d want to tell everyone of my family members I loved them. I’d hope that the last time we were together was a joyful, happy event. This holiday season when the family gathers, thinking how that might be the last time we are together, I want to make it is a truly joy-filled memorable meal; a meal where I affirm everyone there and tell them how much I love them.  Let’s all make a commitment to make our next family meal, or meal with friends, something truly special.

This is the point of Jesus’ remarks in today’s gospel.

None of us knows when the end of our life, or of all life on earth will come. Therefore, we must be prepared ... always. This is the message that Jesus speaks to us in today’s gospel. This is the message that Jesus wants us to ponder prayerfully this week.

We all want to be ready when the time comes. James Weldon Johnson in his book “God’s Trombones” describes the final moment in the life of a woman named Caroline. She was fully prepared for death when it came. Johnson writes of Caroline: “She saw what we couldn’t see; she saw Old Death. She saw Old Death coming like a falling star. But death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline; he looked to her like a welcome friend. And she whispered to us: “I’m going home.” And she smiled and closed her eyes.”

I think we all want to be that prepared when death approaches.  There is a special spiritual peace in knowing that you are ready; always prepared for the Coming of Our Lord. If you are ready, you will have Gods heart, as Dr. Kubler-Ross described it, a heart full of love and a yearning to serve others. Jesus told us: “if you want to be great in the Kingdom of God you need to be a servant to all.”

Perhaps today’s readings rather than frightening us can be a gift. They can be the cause of an attitude adjustment. They can remind us that today, as the saying goes, is the first day of the rest of our life; and tomorrow is yet another day of opportunity to serve and love.  They can remind us that we must always treat each other the way we would if we knew it was our last time together.

Several years ago, Tim McGraw had a hit on country radio titled “Live Like You Were Dying”.  The song was about a man in his forties who received the news that he had cancer. The song touched me because when I was in my 40s I was diagnosed with a very serious cancer too. This song tells how this young man decided to live out the remaining days of his life.

The lyric says:
He said

I went skydiving.
I went rocky mountain climbing
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have

And then he said ...
Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin'.

That’s exactly what Jesus is telling us!

We are not promised tomorrow. Today could be our last day.  If you knew for a fact that today was your last ...

What would you do?
Where would you go?

Today Jesus tells us:

Don’t wait ... live now ... live ... like you were dyin’.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Social media and the sin of pride.

       Many, if not most of us, use Facebook, Instagram or one of the other social media sites to keep up with friends.  Which is a truly beautiful thing; but there just might be a dark side to our communicating this way. All of us who use social media enjoy an endless array of photos of happy people. But I can't help but wonder if the effort to create the perfect shot doesn’t take priority over reality. It just may be we are missing out on life, on writing, exploring, playing, anything beautiful and real while we are seeking the perfect cell phone shot.  It can be very unfulfilling to live in pursuit of the image instead of the experience.
       Are we becoming a generation that is afraid to sit alone with ourselves and get real with our life? Does anyone do that anymore; or, are we always seeking the perfect Instagram moment? I saw an ad the other day that said: “Let’s be real, you only go apple picking for the Instagram.”  Maybe it’s time for a little thoughtful reflection about the potential for being artificial on social media, and the temptation to use it in a prideful way.  Are we living a lie telling our friends: “Look, folks, how perfect my life is.” 
       The fearful question for me is wether social media is radically reshaping who we are, or does it merely provide a new platform for man’s expression of his age-old vanity? And dear friends – vanity is the sin of pride. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

            The Hebrew/Christian experience with God is a story of a God whose love is so stubborn and relentless, so staunch and resolute, that despite human disobedience, defiance, and rebelliousness God continuously pursues us. 
            The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of an endless parade of ingrates that repeatedly ignore his loving advances.  Despite thisYahweh keeps coming back!  The innermost core of Judaism is the Passover; which is a dramatic story of liberation from slavery into new life. And in the face of the most stunning example of His love, the Jewish people time and again slipped into a selfishness that questioned God’s love.  Yahweh sent prophets after prophets to threaten, cajole, woo, and charm them back.  Still they required the lesson of exile, and again liberation and return.  Over and over, Yahweh intervenes in the life of Israel to rescue them.  Over and over they – we – seem to miss the message.
            The language of God is anything but distant and aloof.  His is the language of a lover.  The prophet Hosea describes a love-sick Yahweh pleading outside Israel’s chosen brothel among the pagan gods:  “And I will take you for my wife forever...and you shall know the Lord.”  When you read the “Song of Solomon” you hear a passionate, nearly sexual relationship between Yahweh and Israel.   
            Where is this passion, this pursuit, this hunger of God for our love in today’s teachings of the Church? 
            The Christian Scriptures are full with the same kind of love.  Look how Jesus dealt with people, with sinners – one-on-one – like the public sinner, the adulterous woman, the prodigal son, and the Samaritan woman.  Jesus never required itemized sins or exacted penance to offset the offense.  He simply forgave them, loved them, and invited them to follow Him.  Look how our Church began; our first Pope Peter renouncing within hours of the Last Supper his knowledge of Jesus.  He denied Christ not to toughs but a woman.  How did Jesus restore him?   Jesus asked him three times to “Simon, do you love me?”  No penance.  Instead, he became Pope. 

When will we figure out that our God’s love for us 
is completely irrational and relentless?

When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity
one has only one question left:  How can I be helpful?

Teresa of Avila

Monday, October 19, 2015

The best definition of original sin ever.

Original sin – the desire to be God and to live by the myth of self-sufficiency.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Homily - The Rich Young Man

Wisdom 7:7-9 - I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.

Hebrews 4:13 - No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

From the Gospel of Mark 10:17-30 – 
The Story of the Rich Young Man.
Please read this first.

The Homily ___________________________________________________________________

This morning I’d like us to try and imagine the rich young man as if the scene in the Gospel were today. His success is obvious. He dresses well, Italian shoes and a beautifully tailored suit. His money is invested.  His credit cards are golden. He flies first class. He drives a new car, probably a BMW. He’s energetic and He’s successful; and death seems a long way off.

This rich young man is admired by all, a powerful guy for his age. He is respected as a fair guy, a good guy who works hard and plays by the rules. But ... there is something missing.  There is a nagging question that all his success, prosperity and status do not seem to satisfy.

One of the interesting facets of this story is that for someone so esteemed, for a man of his pedigree, calling on a carpenter’s son for help must have been a little awkward. Jesus was kind of a country boy compared to the rich young man. But there was something true and genuine and powerfully attractive about Jesus, and the young man recognized it. Jesus had something he didn’t, the peace the rich young man lacked.

“Teacher,” the young man asks, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?

Even his question tells us a lot about his view of life. It almost seems he thinks he can get eternal life as he “gets” everything else, by his own strength and talents. What must I do? He asks. What are the requirements, Jesus?  What’s the break-even point?  No need for chitchat – go straight for to the bottom line. How much do I need to invest to be certain of my return - to achieve eternal life?

Jesus says simply: “You know the commandments.”  And it almost seems as Jesus was listing them off the rich young man had his pencil out and was checking them off one by one.  At the end of the list he seems to say – "Great!  Piece of cake, I’ve done all of these." You can almost hear a bit of pridefulness in his response.   Then Jesus drops a bomb shell. "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 

Not only did this answer send the young man reeling in confusion and disbelief, Jesus’ answer shell-shocks all the listener there that day. This young man represented what everyone thought was good with God, and Jesus says with man gaining eternal life by your own merit is impossible – impossible!

They were shocked by this statement because in that society, like in ours, you are told: You’ll be rewarded according to your performance. You get grades according to your study. You get money in response to your work. That’s why the rich young man thought heaven was just a payment away. It only made sense.  You work hard, you pay your dues, and ... zap ... your account is credited as paid in full.  

Jesus says ... 
That’s not how it works. What you want costs far more than what you can pay.             

You don’t need a system – you need a Savior.
You don’t need a resume – you need a Redeemer.

For what is impossible with men ... is possible with God!

In other words, you cannot save yourself. It is impossible for human beings to save themselves. Only God can do that. You see, it wasn’t the money that hindered the rich young man – it was the self-sufficiency. 

Jesus tells his disciples later: "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" But it’s not just the rich who have difficulty. Look how hard it is for the highly educated. The National Academy of Sciences asked their members if they believe in God, only 7% said “Yes.” It’s not money that hinders us from following Jesus it's self-sufficiency.  It’s thinking you have it all figured out and you can get there on your own. God doesn’t save us because of our accomplishments.  Only a heartless God would sell salvation to the highest earners.

Saint Paul tells us in the second reading how it is with God, he says:  
“No creature is concealed from him.”  We can’t fool God with our so call success.  Paul says, “Everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”  Paul said in his letter to the Romans everyone has sinned.  We all fall short of God's glorious standard.  And only a great God does for us what is impossible for us to do for ourselves.  God’s joy – God’s eternal life – is received upon surrender, not awarded upon conquest.

The first step to joy – to eternal life – is a plea for help, and admit our inward poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Jesus said. They ask God to do for them what they can’t do without him.

When we humble ourselves before God, when we acknowledge it is impossible for us to save ourselves, God does the impossible. He saves us – despite our shortcomings. God makes salvation possible. He makes eternal life possible.

It was a challenge for the young man to accept powerlessness, to let go of the treasures of this world, the things he felt he earned; the things he felt defined him and humbly follow Jesus.  Too bad, because it is when we consider everything we have as rubbish, as compared to a relationship with Jesus Christ, then we have eternal life.

The first reading (from the Book of Wisdom) said that when we receive the wisdom of God, after humbly praying for it, then all gold in view of this wisdom is a little sand; before this wisdom silver is to be accounted mire. Nothing is more valuable then a relationship with Jesus Christ. And when we live connected to Christ nothing is impossible for God.  None of us are beyond the saving power of God.

The real riches in life come when we surrender to the love of Jesus Christ and make that relationship with Him our true treasure. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Coming Soon!  

Friday November 20 - 7 PM 
Night Watch.
St. Brigid Parish - Pacific Beach  

Night Watch is an evening of prayer in candlelight with music and Eucharistic adoration. In the beauty of the darkened church illuminated by candles enter the mystery of our Lord's presence. Following our hour of prayer we will go to the hall to sing.

It should be amazing.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Prayer of Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
excerpted from Hearts on Fire

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Homily Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

John - Chapter 6:  "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

To be Catholic is to be a Eucharistic people …
To be Catholic is to be a Sacramental people ...

It’s what defines us.

We believe that Jesus left us sacraments, physical outward signs, to help us connect in our physical bodies with moments where we are literally saturated spiritually by God’s grace, by God’s love.

How awesome is that!

We pour water at baptism to help us connect with the infusion of God’s grace in that moment.  The bishop physically lays his hands on those being confirmed and on priests and deacons when they are being ordained. That physical touch is a sign for the outpouring of God’s grace through those sacraments – in that moment. When a woman and man speak their vows to each other on their wedding day, we believe God is pouring his grace on them in that moment. When the priest speaks the words of absolution in confession, we believe God is pouring out his forgiving grace on us – flooding us with his love. The words and touch are important to Catholics as outward and visible signs of an inner grace – of a spiritual energy – we receive in the sacraments

Because of the message we read in the Gospel of John chapter 6, which the church calls The Bread of Life Discourse; we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist – physically present! Because of his physical presence in this sacrament the church calls this belief – “the summit of our faith." Receiving the Eucharist is closest we can get to Jesus Christ in this life.

It is so important for us to embrace this truth of our faith.

A young priest who gives tours of St. Peter’s at the Vatican told an interesting story about this belief. He was leading a group of Japanese tourists one day who knew absolutely nothing of our faith. With particular care he explained the great masterpieces of art, sculpture and architecture.  He finally concluded at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel trying his best to explain quickly what it was.  As the group dispersed an elderly man who had been particularly attentive stayed behind and said, “Pardon me. Would you explain again this ‘Blessed Sacrament?’ The young priest did, after which the man exclaimed: “Ah, if this is so, what is in this chapel is a greater work of art than anything else in this basilica.”

How blessed we are to believe in Christ’s true presence among us.

All of our great symbols and actions are connected to ours being a sacramental church. Ours is a sensual faith experience.   This is why we use color and vestments.  We love holy water, candles and incenses.  We bless ourselves. We share a physical sign of peace at Mass.  So much of our faith experience is physical because of this sacramental character of our faith experience. And we believe the sacraments are powerful!  We don’t always see this in our world, but every once in a while you do.

I was reading a book a while back by a Catholic priest called ...The Gift of Miracles

In this book, Father Robert De Grandis recounts dozens of miracles from his many years of ministry.  He tells the story of Father Richard Woldum who was assigned as hospital chaplain for one year.  I want to share Fr. Woldum’s story in his own words.

One morning I received a call to come to the emergency room to see an 11-year old boy named Johnny who was dying. I found him on a breathing machine, his head swollen very large. Johnny’s parents told me that he had been riding his bike on a gravel road near his home when a truck came flying over the hill and hit him head-on.

The collision caused him to be thrown into the nearby field. When the ambulance arrived the medics found his head cut wide open with half his brains scattered in the field. They literally picked up the pieces of his brain, shoved them into his head, and took him to the hospital.

When I asked Johnny’s parents if he had been baptized, they said, ‘No.’ They informed me they attended no church but prayed at home as a family. I asked them if they would like me to baptize Johnny. They glanced at each other as if to say, ‘It couldn’t cause any harm,’ then said to me, ‘Go ahead.’  They also said if I wanted to I could baptize him into the Catholic faith.  That night, with the parents and two nurses as witnesses, I baptized Johnny.

The next morning I was doing communion rounds when my beeper went off. Johnny’s doctor wanted me in the intensive care unit. ‘What you do last night?’ he asked in broken English, as I met him outside Johnny’s room. I explained to the doctor, a Buddhist, that I had baptized Johnny (with the permission of his parents) so that he could go to heaven.

When I asked him why he was so concerned, he informed me that the boy’s swelling had disappeared. The doctor was still convinced that the boy would die, however; or if he lived, remain a vegetable, never moving, talking or even moving his eyes.

That night Johnny’s parents thanked me for baptizing him. I then explained about the anointing of the sick and asked if they would like Johnny to receive that sacrament. With their agreement and in their presence I anointed Johnny.

The next morning during communion rounds the doctor again paged me on my beeper. He met me at the door of intensive care and directed me to Johnny’s room explaining on the way that he had heard from the nurses that I had again prayed for Johnny. Then he pointed to Johnny’s eyes and asked, ‘What you do?’ I saw that Johnny’s eyes were moving. ‘It is just the power of Jesus through prayers for the sick,’ I responded. He gave a faintly sarcastic grin and said,‘It no matter. Boy no talk or move. He remain vegetable.’

It was now the third night, counting the night of the accident. I suggested to the parents that they permit me to give Johnny the sacrament of confirmation. They agreed.

The following morning his legs and arms were moving. The doctor said to me in front of the parents, ‘I no longer in control.’ He was simply unable to explain what was happening.

That evening when I explained to them about the Eucharist, they said they wanted this for Johnny too. I gave him some Precious Blood with an eye dropper. The next morning he was making sounds.

Fr Woldum was away for the weekend and when he returned he continues his account:
When I checked in on Johnny upon my return I learned he had been transferred to the third floor, which was the surgery unit. I went upstairs to see him, fearing that he had gone back to surgery. He was sitting on his bed, talking to his mother.

After his recovery they took another x-ray of his head and found that the part of his brain that had spilled out in to the field had grown back. When I eventually talked to Johnny’s parents about becoming Catholics, they informed me they would continue praying at home. The doctor in the case started looking into Christianity. Three nurses converted to Catholicism.

There is a power in our sacramental experience that we need to embrace.

When Jesus said ...

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

What he was telling us is we need to leave room for mystery in our lives. We need to be open to his power and work in ways unexpected.

Is his presence in the Eucharist a great mystery? – Of course it is!
But it is a mystery that brings LIFE.

We humans have come to think we have it all figured out, but the truth is God’s GRACE is flowing into us through our sacraments in ways we can’t even imagine.

When you come to communion – celebrate this great faith we have as Catholics, and encounter Jesus who is truly present in a powerful, life giving way to you ... today ... in the Eucharist.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Trust God to Provide - Homily 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.      Mark 6:7-8

If Jesus were giving his instructions today to his disciples, instructions like take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in your belts. Do you think he would include our smart phones on the list? How many of us could imagine setting out for even one day taking nothing with us: No food - no purse - or wallet - no change of clothes - no phone - no money – no check book or credit cards. Can you imagine it? Can you imagine the trust those disciples had that God would provide. It was incredible! They left Jesus that day taking nothing with them.

Could we set out for just one day taking nothing with us? Not me! 

What do you think the point was? 

You have to believe he was telling them, and he is telling us - "Don’t let possessions so clutter your life that they get in the way of doing what is really important to God - sharing your faith with others."

Every once in a while you see an example of someone who seems to have their priorities right. For some odd reason this message made me think of Manute Bol. Now you have to be a serious sports fan to remember Manute Bol. Manute was a Sudanese immigrant who just happened to be 7 feet 7 inches tall. Manute was recruited to play professional basketball in the United States in the 80s.

Manute weighed just a little over 200 pounds which made him both the tallest and thinnest player in the NBA. He was quite a sight. If you ever saw him play with the Washington Bullets you know he really wasn’t a great player. But as it turns out he was a great human being; and a missionary in the spirit of the disciples, in the spirit of today’s reading. The reason he came to mind today is because Manute was a Christian and he believed his life was a gift from God. And, like the apostles, he allowed Jesus to lead him, to send him out, in the service of others. He once told an interviewer: “God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.”

In many ways, Manute’s trust in God and sense he had a mission in the world embodies the message Jesus gave to the disciples that day. Manute gave away his entire NBA fortune to Sudanese charities and trusted that God would provide for his needs. While most pro athletes go broke on cars, jewelry and groupies; Manute Bol went broke building hospitals. I think that was Jesus’ point. I think Manute “got it.” He trusted God to provide, and then spent his life sharing what he had with others. He simply trusted that God would make it work. Like the apostles, and like Manute, we are all called to be missionaries in some way.

Some years ago, a number of young Christians were attending an international summer camp. They came from many nations around the world. One project assigned them was to come up with effective ways to preach the Gospel in our modern world. After the young people talked about using television, radio, the Internet and rock concerts an African girl said something that touched the heart of everyone. She said: When Christians in my country think a pagan village is ready for Christianity they don’t send books or missionaries. They send a good Christian family. And the example of the family converts the village.

I think that’s what the Gospel is saying today. Have such radical trust in God - in me - that it changes the people you come in contact with. Like this young African woman’s example God wants us in our homes, in our work places and in our communities to preach the Gospel by living a life that trusts God will provide what we need. The way we can be missionaries to our world is by our presence and by our example more than by our words.

The poet Edgar Guest had it right when he said years ago:
          It is all in vain to preach the truth, 
          To the eager ears of trusting youth.
          Fine words may grace the advice you give,
          But youth will learn from the way you live.

Saying we are called to evangelize and be a missionary scares us a bit. But it shouldn’t. We are all called to evangelize, to share our faith with others; we are all called to missionary work in our homes and families, our social groups, at work and in our neighborhoods. Not necessarily with words so much as with our actions, with our example, with the way we display our trust in God to provide.

St. Francis Assisi once said: "Preach the Gospel and sometimes use words."

Our call as disciples in our modern world is to be like the African family who by their example converts the village. Today’s Gospel message is all about trusting God and then showing our faith to others by the way we live. At the end of Mass we say: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” 

Let’s vow today to be that family, that person, that converts our village by our example.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Homily Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus visits his home town - Mark 6: 1-6

What a tragic loss for us!

One of the problems we have with reading the bible is it’s hard to get tone of voice and attitude. Today’s Gospel reading sounds like the people had some attitude:

  • “Where did this man get all this?" 
  • "What kind of wisdom has been given him?" 
  • "What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!" 
  • "Isn’t he a carpenter ... Mary’s kid?”

The people in Jesus’ home town just could not imagine Jesus was anything special. To them, Jesus was just another young man who grew up in Nazareth. He didn’t deserve their respect. They saw Him as a common man!  Their familiarity with him blinded them to who he really was. It’s very sad really. Jesus, the Christ, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, God himself was living in their village and they didn’t recognize him.

What a tragic loss for them!

But the truth is don’t you think the same tragically sad thing is happening again today.
We are living in Nazareth.                                                                                                                                            
We live in a Christian country where you can’t drive a few blocks in any city without seeing a church. Even the smallest towns in America have a church, or more likely several churches. Christianity is everywhere in America. Yet in America church attendance is dropping every year. We have become a lot like the people of Nazareth. We are so familiar with the things of God - the crucifixion of Jesus - the burial - the resurrection - that we are no longer moved by them. We are reminded of what Jesus did for us and we say: “So what?!” We talk about the cross and people say: “Oh Jesus, I know all about him. He’s no big deal." It’s very sad really. Jesus, the Christ, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, God himself is living in our cities and towns and we don’t recognize him.

What a tragic loss for us!

Even we can be blind because of our familiarity - blinded by our image of Jesus. The same blindness, that prevented the people of Jesus hometown from seeing who he really was, often exists in us. We too can be blinded by our routine from seeing the power and the love that Jesus has to offer us. So many of us come to church, and in truth, we have little or no faith in the ability of Jesus to create miracles in our lives, to heal us, to forgive us. Like the people of Nazareth, we often lack faith in the power of Jesus to transform our lives for the better.  Like them, we think we know everything there is to know ABOUT Jesus; and yet, we don’t really KNOW Jesus on a personal level.

This Gospel passage can be a true gift to us. It can shake us out of our routine and challenge us to take a fresh look at Him, and then get to know him. This passage is a gift because it helps us to let go of the impressions we have of Jesus and really look at the person. Jesus was born and grew up in very normal and humble circumstances. Not by accident but by design.  This passage helps us see how normal Jesus’ life was; how much his life is like our own.                              

Many of us protest that we are just too ordinary to be holy; to be part of the mission of the Church. We think the mission of spreading the faith was given only to the priests and deacons. Our lives feel far from the extraordinary life of Jesus.  And so we speak of our lives as ... “just” ... this or that. I’m just a student.  I’m just a businessperson.  I’m just a mom ... just a nurse ... just a teacher ... just a soldier.  We forget that for most of his life Jesus was ... just ... a carpenter in a little nowhere town.  

What makes this Gospel passage such a gift to us is that we see that Jesus’ life growing up in Nazareth was so much like ours. It helps us to know him, really know him. And in knowing him, it can give our lives such meaning and worth - our ordinary times - our ordinary lives. Jesus lived a simple life and because of that he understands from first-hand experience our everyday life.

  •  He understands family life.
•  He understands hard work.  Carpentry in his day was seriously hard work.
•  Jesus understands human life — all the messy physical realities of being human.

We see today that there was a time when Jesus was as ordinary as any one of us. And God used his time in Nazareth to fashion and mold and form him into the instrument God needed, and would use, to save the world.

This passage can help us see that God uses the ordinariness of our lives to fashion and mold and form us into the instruments God needs, and will use, to continue to save the world.

We learn today that Jesus is ... like us!  And we are called to be ... like Jesus! 

People all around us are looking for something to give them hope but they cannot quite put their fingers on what that might be. And maybe that’s because Jesus is just too familiar to them.  They don’t see his power and how he can give meaning and purpose to their lives. Unless we tell them!

The question this passage should make us all ask ourselves is:

How is God fashioning me in my ordinary life to serve, to save, to heal?

Friday, July 3, 2015

I have fallen, Lord,
Once more.
I can’t go on, I’ll never succeed.
I am ashamed, I don’t dare look at you.
And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me,
bending over me, watching.
But temptation blew like a hurricane,
And instead of looking at you I turned my head away,
I stepped aside
While you stood, silent and sorrowful,
Like the spurned fiancè who sees his loved one carried away by the enemy.
When the wind died down as suddenly as it had arisen,
When the lightning ceased after proudly streaking the darkness,
All of a sudden I found myself alone, ashamed, disgusted, with my sin in my hands.
This sin that I selected the way a customer makes his purchase,
This sin that I have paid for and cannot return, for the shopkeeper is no longer there,
This tasteless sin,
This odorless sin,
This sin that sickens me,
That I have wanted but want no more,
That I have imagined, sought, played with, fondled, for a long time;
That I have finally embraced while turning coldly away from you,
My arms outstretched, my eyes and heart irresistibly drawn;
This sin that I have grasped and consumed with gluttony,
It’s mine now, but it possesses me as the spiderweb holds captive the gnat.
It is mine,
It sticks to me,
It flows in my veins,
It fills my heart.
It has slipped in everywhere, as darkness slips into the forest at dusk
And fills all the patches of light.
I can’t get rid of it.
I run from it the way one tries to lose a stray dog,
but it catches up with me and bounds joyfully against my legs.
Everyone must notice it.
I’m so ashamed that I feel like crawling to avoid being seen,
I’m ashamed of being seen by my friends,
I’m ashamed of being seen by you, Lord,
For you loved me, and I forgot you.
I forgot you because I was thinking of myself
And one can’t think of several persons at once.
One must choose, and I chose.
And your voice,
And your look
And your love hurt me.
They weigh me down
They weigh me down more than my sin.
Lord, don’t look at me like that,
For I am naked,
I am dirty,
I am down,
With no strength left.
I dare make no more promises,
I can only lie bowed before you.

[The Father's Response]

Come, son, look up.
Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded?
If you loved me, you would grieve, but you would trust.
Do you think that there’s a limit to God’s love?
Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you?
But you still rely on yourself, son. You must rely only on me.
Ask my pardon
And get up quickly.
You see, it’s not falling that is the worst,
But staying on the ground..

Saturday, June 27, 2015

“Only in love can I find you, my God.
In love the gates of my soul spring open,
allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom
and forget my own petty self.

In love my whole being streams forth out of
the rigid confines of narrowness and anxious self-assertion,
which make me a prisoner of my own poverty emptiness.

In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward you,
wanting never more to return, but to lose themselves completely in you,
since by your love you are the inmost center of my heart,
closer to me than I am to myself.”

― Karl Rahner, Encounters With Silence

Thursday, June 18, 2015

We are all curious about the Kingdom of God. That’s why we come to church ... right?

In today’s gospel, Jesus deliberately equates the kingdom of God with small and unimpressive things. Today Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a small seed planted in the ground. Once planted you don’t see it, it grows slowly, invisibly; but despite its small beginning, it can become something very big.

Why do you suppose he uses these small things as metaphors for the mighty Kingdom of God?  What do you think he is trying to tell us?  He seems to be saying that God is building His Kingdom in ways nearly imperceptible to the world.                                                                    
St. Paul says it a bit differently.  He says those of us who are a part of God’s kingdom “walk by faith, not by sight.”  The work of God is invisible to a world that walks by sight and not by faith. Jesus’ parables tell us there is a mystery to life that is beyond our viewing.   And thus, to a world that celebrates showy success, and believes bigger-is-better; to a world that likes to think it can figure everything out, Jesus is saying:

God doesn’t work that way!
He is telling us that God works in small things, and patience in the unseen workings of God is essential. In God's kingdom things that appear to be small and unimpressive are treasured by the One who matters most ... our God.

The whole Christian story supports this idea, this teaching.  Like the tiny mustard seed the Kingdom of God entered the world in a nearly imperceptible, humble form; that at the time was virtually unnoticed.  A baby in a manger – an animal feeding trough of all things – is the way God chose to come into the world.  Jesus’ ministry lasted only three short years. He taught in a small, rural, out of the way community.  The men he chose as apostles came from the ranks of the common, ordinary people

One day he demonstrated graphically this message of how God works in small things. He took a few small barley loaves, the bread of common people, along with a couple of fish and fed thousands. Showing us what God can do with our tiny gifts. When teaching at the Temple one day he praised a humble poor widow, who gave a single coin as an offering, over the grand, attention getting, presentations of the rich.

So often we think the little bit that we have to offer will make little or no impact. But Jesus says - that’s not true! In the kingdom of God little things matter, the unimpressive are central, and the history of our Church tells us how true that is. Just look at the people in our church’s history who have made a big impact beginning with one small act.

When Francis of Assisi, as a young man, began to repair a small, old church by himself; he had no clue it would lead to the founding of a large religious order of men and women who would impact the world enormously.

Vincent de Paul, one day was preparing for Sunday Mass, and one of his parishioners told him that someone in the parish was ill and their family was destitute. He preached on their need at that Mass and that afternoon, and the people responded overwhelmingly. He never imagined that simple sermon would lead to one day his name being associated with the charitable works of virtually every parish in the world.

When Mother Therese hopped off a bus to help one dying man in the streets of Calcutta, she never imagined her Missionaries of Charity would one day number 5,000 sisters and be active in 133 countries. All of us are called to play our small part in building the Kingdom of God.

But this message isn’t just about the history of the Church. It’s also about each of our own experiences of God. Perhaps today your own faith feels small. Jesus says – that’s OK. That tiny seed of faith in our hearts, if we nourish it, can eventually grow into something beautiful.

I don’t know each of your stories but mine certainly reflects this teaching. When my wife Linda and I married, I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you, we were not married in the Church; and at the time our faith seemed small. But we came to Church on Sundays because something in our hearts simply told us to.  The seed of faith was in us, planted by our parents.  The story of that journey is too long for this homily but clearly from that small beginning God eventually brought me to this pulpit, and gave me the great gift of being part of this amazing parish community. The seed of faith that started so small grew in us over the years.

Jesus is also telling each one of us, we too can plant seeds and be surprised by how God uses our little seed. We must never underestimate God’s ability to take our small acts of loving service to others, our simple words of faith, and greatly impact the lives of others. The everyday kingdom of God is built on small moments of servant-hood, thoughtfulness and kindness.

God can take any small offering, any little seed we plant: a kind word, a brief visit to a sick friend, a quick apology, a short thank you note – and in the 21st century we have to say – a Facebook posting, text message, Instagram, email ... or ... even just a smile, and turn it into something big.  A simple conversation with someone at work might plant the seed of the Kingdom in them that one day blossoms forth.

Jesus says that’s how the Kingdom of God grows.

There may be people who come to St. Brigid parish on a Sunday, like Linda and I did in those early years of our marriage, not certain what drew them here. And your smile, a kind hello, can make them feel welcome.  That’s how we can help God’s Kingdom grow. Your small act of kindness, your welcoming smile, might change someone’s life forever.  Jesus asks us today to trust that God is at work even in the smallest of moments, occurrences and encounters.
This week let’s all commit to doing some ... small thing. 
You never know how God might use it to do ... something big.    

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

......................... The Holy Spirit - The Gift of Pentecost .........................

Pentecost is a word from Ancient Greek that means the 50th Day. Christians were not the first to use this word. They borrowed it from Greek-speaking Jews who used the phrase to refer to a Jewish holiday  This holiday was known as the Festival of Weeks, or more simply “Weeks” (Shavuot in Hebrew). The Jews were instructed to have a holiday seven weeks, or “fifty days,” from the end of Passover, set aside to celebrate the wheat harvest .and the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.  That is why so many people were in Jerusalem on Pentecost, people from all over the Jewish world Parthians, Medes, Elamites, et al where there for the Festival of Weeks.                                                            
For Christians, Pentecost is the holiday on which we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus as we hear in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Before Pentecost the followers of Jesus were hidden away unsure of what to do next.  There was no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Because of this Pentecost is often referred to as the church’s birthday.

The Holy Spirit, who came so profoundly that day, we call "The Third Person of the Trinity." This title can make it sound as if he is a lesser being than the Father and Son; but nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus revealed to us a God who is a Trinity, a communion of three divine persons in love:  Father, Son and Spirit. When we say that God is a Trinity we do not mean that we believe in three gods.  It does not mean that there are three "modes,” or ways, that God expresses himself.  To say that God is a Trinity is to say that there are three, real, distinct persons within the unity of the one God. It is a mystery best described by a single word, as the apostle John did: "God is ... love." Saint Augustine would later say: “In truth to see the Trinity is to see love."

So how does that work?  How is God three persons?

The Father, as John said, is love; and, he pours himself out in love fathering the Son.  The Son receives himself as a gift of the Father's love, and offers himself back completely to the Father in love. The Holy Spirit is that love, the love they share; a love that gives life, proceeding from the total gift of Father to Son and Son to Father. The love in the Trinity is like the love we experience on earth. Love is always about a lover, the beloved, and the bond of their love.

This Holy Spirit, this Spirit of love, is said to be the one that empowers our faith in Jesus; as Paul says in the second reading, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit, this love of God, inspires people to know the truth; the truth that Jesus came to die for each one of us as an act of love.  All of us who embrace this core belief of the Christian faith have been led to this faith through the help – the inspiration – of the Holy Spirit.  All Catholics receive the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of the Church.  This Spirit of God entered your life just as he did the Apostles that day, and he will never leave you!

Kind of an awesome thought ... isn’t it?

Today is a feast day where we are called to embrace this gift that each of us has been given – His presence in our life. Many of us struggle with feeling this presences, or rather, recognizing it. But it’s there. Paul said that each of us have some individual manifestation of the Spirit given to us for some benefit.  What an exciting thought!  In many ways being a Christian is like a treasure hunt, we should all spend our lives discovering our gifts that we can share them!

This idea, that we have undiscovered gifts, reminds me of something Charles Schulz the creator of the Peanuts cartoon once said. He said: “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.”  Many of us undoubtedly have gifts of the Spirit we’ve never tried to use, spiritual gifts ... lying dormant in our lives.  And the whole church is poorer because of it.

The Holy Spirit is simply God’s love in action. The love of God bringing each of us different kinds of spiritual gifts, different opportunities for service, different works given to us by God to benefit others. The Christian experience is all about the discovery of what our gifts to give are. But the truth is we will never find out, if we don’t explore our talents, if we don’t try.

In baptism every one of us received the gift of the Holy Spirit; a Spirit that is with us for life, dwelling within our hearts always.    
Do we really believe this?                                                                                          

Pentecost reminds us that this is an opportune moment to ask ourselves:

• What do I believe about the Holy Spirt?
• What is my image of the Spirit?
• Who is the Spirit for me?
• How do we experience the Holy Spirit at work in my life?                                              
• With what particular gifts of the Spirit have I been blessed?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter - cycle b

Luke’s Gospel tells us the story of that astonishing roller coaster week the apostles were experiencing. Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem like a king just a week ago.  Everything is great! They shared the Passover meal together (the Last Supper) on Thursday, and then everything falls apart on Friday.  Now, just a few days later, they hear the stories that Jesus is alive. Then suddenly he is there, with them, in the room.  Can you imagine the shock of that moment?

Jesus greets them saying: “Peace be with you.”  The disciples must have been stunned.  Luke says they were "startled and terrified."  Jesus shows them his hands and feet and offers them to touch him to see that he has flesh and bone, and is not just a spirit.  What a powerful story. 

Jesus said to them that night that they are called to be witnesses of these things.  They are witnesses of the fact that the Messiah had to suffer, and then on the third day, be raised. And, that his death bought us forgiveness for our sins. 

He told them, that night, to proclaim this to all nations.  Thankfully for us, they did as he asked.  We are here today because of their testimony;  and, the testimony of all the disciples that would come after them. We are called, like those who brought the faith to us, to carry this message in our time.

Is there a greater honor? Is there a higher calling, in the entire universe, than to be a witness to the living and risen Lord? To tell the story of how he suffered and was raised on the third day; and to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in his name to all we know.
How well are doing this? 

I can’t speak for you.  But it often feels like I’m just trying to survive from one day to the next.  And it seems that we hide this great message away, somewhere, and forget to share it. This reminds me of the story of Luigi Tarisio. Luigi was an Italian violin dealer and collector in the 19th century. When he died in Milan they found 24 Stradivarius violins in his attic.  A Stradivarius violin is among the most coveted items in the world, considered to be the best-stringed instrument ever created. When they finally played the best of these beautiful violins they found that day, it had been 147 years since anyone had heard it. Luigi had robbed the world of all that exquisite music. Sadly it seems that many of us are like Luigi Tarisio. We have a found the greatest treasure in the world, the love of Jesus Christ, and yet we keep it to ourselves, hide it away. 

When I was a young man in the 1960s, I remember the story of someone who didn’t hide his faith away; and his story affected me deeply.  His name was Brian Sternberg. In 1963 Brian was a sophomore at the University of Washington.  He was not only the world’s best pole vaulter, but also America’s trampoline champion.  But those who knew him said that Brian Sternberg was the most self-centered young athlete to come along in a long time. He was poise and confidence, but they say he rarely smiled. At a track meet that year Brian broke the world record for pole vault.  And on that same day, later that day, while working out alone in the gym. He did a triple somersault and came down on the trampoline off center. His neck hit the edge of the trampoline, snapping it,  leaving him totally paralyzed, able to move only his eyes and his mouth.  Brian was left a helpless, hopeless cripple; but that wasn’t the end of Brian’s story.  A few years later he attended a convention of coaches and athletes. At one point in their convention, the story goes, the auditorium was totally dark.  Suddenly a movie projector lit up the screen. There was Brian Sternberg racing down the runway and executing his record-breaking pole vault. Every coach and athlete oohed and aahed. Then the auditorium went totally dark again, except for a single spotlight falling on a single chair on the empty stage. Suddenly out of the shadows on the stage came a huge football player carrying in his arms was what looked like a big rag doll. Its long arms and legs hung limp at its sides and flopped this way and that way as he walked across the stage. The rag doll was six-foot, three-inch Brian Sternberg who now weighed 87 pounds.  The hulking football player placed Brian in the chair and propped him up with pillows to keep him from falling over. Then in a raspy voice Brian Sternberg began to talk. He said: 

“My friends Oh, I pray to God that what has happened to me will never happen to one of you. I pray that you’ll never know the humiliation, the shame, of not being able to perform one human act.  “Oh, I pray to God you will never know the pain that I live with daily. It is my hope and my prayer that what has happened to me would never happen to one of you.

Unless ... my friends ... that’s what it takes for you to put God in the center of your life.”

The impact of Brian’s words was electrifying.

The most powerful witness to Jesus often takes place without the people involved being aware of it. And that’s what happened in that auditorium in Estes Park, Colorado. Brian Sternberg’s was sharing the deepest part of himself and his convictions about life with a group of brother and sister athletes and coaches. Witnessing to Jesus is testifying by our lives that the power of the risen Jesus has touched us and transformed us. It’s doing what an 87-pound young man did on an empty stage in Estes Park, Colorado. It is letting Jesus speak through us to other people.

You never know, something you say, may change someone’s life for eternity.

Stop hiding your faith away.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"The greatest misfortune is to live and die without knowing God."

St. Claudine Thevenet 1774-1837

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Letter From Your Father

 My Child,

You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up. Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.  Matthew 10:29-30
For you were made in my image. Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being. Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring. Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.
Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me.
John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love.
I John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. I John 3:1
Simply because you are my child and I am your Father
. I John 3:7

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect Father.
Matthew 5:48
Every good gift you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore. Psalm 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me. Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.
Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4
And I will take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth. Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus. John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being.  Hebrews 1:3
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5;18-19
His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you. I John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me. I John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you from my love again. Romans 8:38-29
Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7
I have always been Father, and will always be Father. Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is....Will you be my child? John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you. Luke 15:11-32 

Love, your Father, Almighty God