Treasure

June 18, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matthew 6:19-23)

TREASURE: As is the case with all scripture, there are multiple ways of interpreting this passage from the Gospel of Matthew. I will look at it from two perspectives.

First, from a “put your money where your mouth is” perspective. You can learn so much about people by looking at how they spend their money, their monetary treasure.

For instance, if you examined how Carol and I spend our money, you’d likely make certain assumptions about us: They must have grandchildren – there is a good amount of cash going toward toys and kid clothes. Someone must be a football fan – they are willing to pay (too much) for DirectTV NFL Sunday Ticket. These people like movies – based on monthly date nights to the movie theatre.

You would also be able to assume, based on the financial support we offer, that we value Catholic education, our parish, and the dignity of all human life.

Second, the gospel passage speaks to us from a “how do you spend your time?” perspective. I think this type of expenditure paints an even clearer picture of what we value. Writing a check is often the easy part; spending time shows a greater commitment. Time is our real treasure.

So the gospel asks, “How do you spend your time?” How much of our time is spent on satisfying our own needs? How much is spent on the needs of God? Of others?

We might declare, “We go to Mass every week!”

However, there are 168 hours in a week. What are we doing the other 167 hours?

Why Pray?

June 17, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray… (Matthew 6:8)

WHY PRAY?: In today’s Gospel, Jesus is responding to the disciples, who have requested that He teach them to pray. Before teaching them to pray the Our Father, He tells them, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” If I were a disciple, I might be thinking to myself, “Well, if He already knows what I need, why do I even need to pray?”

So…why do we need to pray? We need to pray because…

…prayer helps us to establish and maintain a relationship with God. It is an ongoing dialogue with Him. We wouldn’t think of going several days without talking to our best friend, why would we not talk to God every day?

…prayer allows us to feel the presence of God in our lives.

…prayer is communal. As we pray, we know that people all over the world are praying as well.

…regular prayer builds good habits. Prayer and our connection to God become a real part of who we are.

…prayer offers us a safe place to turn for help or support. We know when we are down, depressed, stressed, worried, or sad we will always have a loving ear to listen to us. When we are happy, excited, or just want to share some good news, we know we will always have someone who will be excited with us. When we have a tough decision to make, we know God will help us sort it out. We know we have someone who will listen to whatever it is we have to say and still love us unconditionally.

…prayer calms us and energizes us at the same time. It gives us inner strength and resolve.

How many times did Jesus go off by Himself to pray? There must be something to it.

Whatever is holding you back from regular prayer, get over it. The pay-off is worth it. Not sure how to start? Maybe you should pray about it…

Hypocrites

June 16, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others…when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners, so that others may see them.” (Matthew 6:1-6)

HYPOCRITES: Today’s Gospel addresses “half-hearted” believers. There were many who liked the idea of being members of the Jewish faith, and the privileges that came along with it, but so much of what they did was for show. Pope Francis once referred to this as “having one foot out the door.”

He said: “Those who insist others pray and believe exactly like they do, those who have alternatives to every Church teaching, and benefactors who use the Church as a cover for business connections may call themselves Catholics, but they have one foot out the door. For these people, the Church is not home.”

He finished by saying: “If one wants to belong to the Church, he must be motivated by love and enter with his whole heart.”

What is Unusual About That?

June 15, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? (Matthew 5:43-48)

WHAT IS UNUSUAL ABOUT THAT?: One of the guys on my college dorm floor would do the same thing each time he  started a new class. He would study the syllabus in order to determine the minimum he would need to do in order to pass the course.

If attendance requirements said he could miss up to six classes and still pass the course, he would definitely miss six classes. If a paper needed to be three to five pages in length, it would be three pages (barely). If he needed to log a minimum of two hours of lab time per week, his time in the lab would not be a minute over two hours.

You get the idea – he had doing the minimum down to a science. Actually, he took great pride in doing the minimum.

When God watches how we approach our faith life, what does He see?

Attend Mass on Sunday. Check.

Put your envelope in the collection basket. Check.

Pray before meals. Check.

You might want to look at God’s syllabus again…

Turn the Other Cheek

June 14, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. (Matthew 5:38-42)

TURN THE OTHER CHEEK: Jesus used a variety of teaching methods. Sometimes he taught using parables. Other times He was more direct in His approach. Still other times, like today, He said things that left listeners scratching their heads.

Was Jesus really telling us that we need to just stand there and take a beating? We should provide no resistance to an aggressor? By telling us to turn the other cheek is Jesus suggesting we invite further aggression?

If not, what is the purpose behind Jesus’ words?

Jesus’ shocking words inform us. They tell us: Don’t be so quick to react. Don’t always give a knee jerk reaction. Consider reflection and prayer rather than instinctive reaction. Attempt to understand. Have compassion.

That’s a pretty good list of rules to live by. When we hurt someone (as we invariably will), we certainly hope the person we’ve hurt will do all of those things.

Homily: Continue to Plant the Seeds

June 13, 2021 – Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for the day: Ezekiel 17:22-24 / 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 / Mark 4:26-34

The following is a homily I delivered in 2018 on these same readings: (Note: In 2018, these readings fell on Father’s Day…which is not the case this year):

I have the privilege this year of preaching on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!

If you were here on Mother’s Day, you might remember that I gave a brief tribute to my wife, and all mothers, by sharing some of the heartfelt and valuable advice Carol had given our children as they grew up. I asked the kids via e-mail to supply me with some of the wisdom she had offered them over the years. They responded with beautiful examples such as, “The best advice I ever got from mom was that everyone has a story to tell, and one of the best things we can do is listen to their story.”

I remember looking out at the congregation as I spoke. People were overwhelmed with emotion hearing the life-changing words of a mother to her children. I also remember your confused looks as you thought, “That Carol is amazing. How did she end up with him?”

Continue reading

Reconciliation

June 12, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

RECONCILIATION: The words forgiveness and reconciliation are often used interchangeably. Forgiveness frees the sinner of guilt and shame. Once freed from guilt and shame, then what? That is where reconciliation comes in. Reconciliation is an added step, essential to nurturing a relationship.

Perhaps we can think of it in this way. Think of the sinner as a car going in reverse. When forgiveness is given, the brakes are applied and the car slides into neutral. Forgiveness has neutralized the sin. It’s good that the sinner is not going backward anymore, but it’s not going forward either. Reconciliation puts the car in drive and allows it to begin moving forward.

As ambassadors for Christ, we speak and act on his behalf, offering both forgiveness and reconciliation.

We are ambassadors for Christ when we welcome home an estranged family member, no questions asked, or when we lovingly invite those that have left the church to return. We are ambassadors for Christ when we spend time with and offer reassurance to anyone on the fringe that is seeking forgiveness and needs to feel valued.

Forgiveness is a beautiful gift. However, it is the reconciliation allows us to move forward.

Dwell in Our Hearts

June 11, 2021 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“…to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

DWELL IN OUR HEARTS: The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus comes 19 days after Pentecost. Today’s reading shows us the connection between the love and sacrifice of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

God created us in His image. Jesus serves as our human role model of servitude. He teaches us, consoles us, forgives us, encourages us, and loves us unconditionally. He offered up the ultimate sacrifice, giving up His own human life for us on the cross. Paul writes that through his Spirit…Christ may dwell in your hearts –through this gift we are given our voice and called to action.

Our actions should signal to others that we willingly receive this gift and accept the challenge of taking the message of Jesus out into the world. The use of the word ‘challenge’ is intentional. Not everyone is open to the message of Jesus. Armed with the love of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we can go forward with confidence to meet this challenge.

You Shall Not Kill

June 10, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:20-26)

YOU SHALL NOT KILL: When Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, He was not just re-hashing Commandment #6. He was expanding on it. We can’t simply check off the box and say, “No problem, I would never kill anyone.”

“You shall not kill” is not limited to the taking of another human life.

We are in violation of the sixth commandment if…

…we are engaged in a dispute with a friend and refuse to offer forgiveness, killing the relationship.

…we are continually negative and non-supportive with others, killing their spirit.

…we engage in gossip and innuendo, killing someone’s reputation.

…we turn our backs on those greatest in need, killing their human dignity.

Take some time to reflect on the Ten Commandments today. Read deeper into each commandment. Be sure you are obeying not only the law, but the spirit of the law as well.

Taking Credit

June 9, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“We cannot for ourselves take credit for anything as coming from us” (2 Corinthians 3:4-11)

TAKING CREDIT: When I was a high school head football coach, I learned quickly that when the team won, credit usually went to the players. When the team lost, it was the fault of the coach. We didn’t win much, so I needed to develop a pretty thick skin over the years.

We often do the same with God. Good things that happen to us are the result of our skill, intelligence, or ability. When things are not going too well, we say, “Why, God, why?”

The simple fact is that it should be the exact opposite. When things are going well, there should be prayers of gratitude, “Thank you, God, for making this possible.” Then, we should pray for his continued presence and support when things are not going so well.

Notice in both situations, we are maintaining prayer. In good times and bad we need to keep in contact with God. Don’t let pride stand in the way. I encourage you to keep Paul’s words in mind, “We cannot for ourselves take credit for anything as coming from us.” This type of humility keeps us grounded.