Happy Birthday to Carol!

January 24, 2022

Today is my wife’s birthday (and officially kicks off her ‘birthday week’). I’ve been blessed to have Carol in my life since high school, and have been happily married to her for nearly 39 years.

I wrote the following poem for Carol when I was ‘courting’ her, and the final line still rings true: God put me here to love you, just as you are here for me

 What God Had In Mind

There are times I wonder

What God had in mind

When He put me on this earth

I have no prominent talents

No heavenly visions

I do not spread His word

I go through each day

Asking myself why I am here

And what my purpose might be

******

Then there came a time

I saw your smile disappear

The twinkle in your eyes go dim

The torture my mind gave me

Had turned its wrath on you

You wondered what your purpose was

Why God had put you here

You too searched for answers

To ease the sadness from your mind

******

Then suddenly I realized

In your sorrow I saw my purpose

And my goal became quite clear

God put me here to replace your smile

To renew the twinkle in your eyes

And remind you of your inner beauty

As you had done so many times for me

******

God put me here to love you

Just as you are here for me

Homily: Next Man Up

January 23, 2022

The following homily, based on the same readings we have today, was originally delivered in January 2013:

In professional sports, there is an expression – “Next man up.”

When you play in the NFL, everyone on the team practices every day. However, only the best 11 are on the field at any one time, so the others wait for their opportunity, never knowing if or when that time will come.

You hear the success stories all the time. A star player gets hurt and some guy no one has ever heard of steps onto the field, plays a great game, and leads the team to victory. He was the next man up, he was ready, and he responded.

Fear and doubt were there, but his joy, exhilaration, and preparedness allowed him to do the job he was called to do.

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Life

January 22, 2022

Our relationships on this earth are meant to help us grow in God’s perfect love. Everyone we encounter is a gift, not because of what they can do or accomplish, but because of who they are—a beloved child of God. May each of us experience the power of God’s transforming love, that our eyes may be opened to the incredible beauty of the people the Lord places in our lives. (Reflection from the USCCB pro-life novena)

To be pro-life as defined by our faith means that we respect and give dignity to every human life. We embrace the truth that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Each and every life is a gift. Each and every life has value.

Given that perspective, we understand that pro-life issues are all around us. We face not only legislative battles surrounding abortion, the death penalty, immigration, and euthanasia; but also societal battles such as homelessness, poverty, crime, care for the elderly, and much more. Again, each and every life is a gift; each and every life has value.

We are not pro-life if we assign more value to some lives than others, or if we offer varying degrees of dignity to our fellow man.

Often in the Prayers of the Faithful we present at Mass, we pray for the courage to be the voice for the voiceless and to answer the call to care for others – and love others – in need. That is our responsibility as Christians.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for the precious gift of life. Help us to cherish and protect this gift, even in the midst of fear, pain, and suffering. Give us love for all people, especially the most vulnerable, and help us bear witness to the truth that every life is worth living. Grant us the humility to accept help when we are in need, and teach us to be merciful to all. Through our words and actions, may others encounter the outstretched hands of Your mercy. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Spiritual Resolutions for 2022

January 21, 2022

Today I will be leading a Day of Reflection at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. Please pray for me and the retreat participants!

We will be focused on these five questions:

Q1: Am I intentional in my faith life?

Q2: Do I act with a servant’s heart?

Q3: Do I share my faith with others?

Q4: What does it mean to be called / chosen?

Q5: What does it mean to have an “active” faith life?

With those questions in mind, I will recommend these three “spiritual resolutions” for 2022:

Spiritual Resolution #1: Prior to speaking or acting, I will ask myself, “How does what I am about to say or do serve God or others?”

Spiritual Resolution #2: I will make a mental (or actual) note of God’s presence in my life and be intentional about sharing the “story” with others.

Spiritual Resolution #3: I will actively seek new and different ways to grow my faith, even if they initially make me uncomfortable.

Memorial of Saint Sebastian

January 20, 2022 – Memorial of Saint Sebastian

Sebastian was the son of a wealthy Roman family. He was educated in Milan and became an officer of the imperial Roman army, and Captain of the Guard. He was a favorite of Emperor Diocletian. During Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians, Sebastian visited them in prison, bringing both supplies and comfort. He is reported to have healed the wife of a fellow soldier by making the sign of the cross over her. During his time in the army he converted many soldiers and a governor.

Charged as a Christian in 288 in Rome, Sebastian was tied to a tree, shot with arrows, and left for dead. However, he survived, recovered, and returned to preach to Diocletian, where the emperor then had him beaten to death.

Patron Saint of soldiers, athletes, plague-stricken, archers, holy Christian death, and those who desire a saintly death

Source: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/st-sebastian-122

Hardness of Heart

January 19, 2022

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.

Looking around at them (the Pharisees) with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart… (Mark 3:1-6)

HARDNESS OF HEART: Before we dismiss the Pharisees as unintelligent, radical, or simply anti-Jesus, I think it is important to understand their perspective.

Let’s begin with the recognition that the Pharisees were anything but unintelligent; they were the most learned of Jewish scholars. For hundreds of years, the Jewish people awaited the Messiah, a great Savior that would wipe evil from the face of the earth and take his rightful place as king.

And then along came Jesus. He attracted many followers and those followers believed Jesus may be the long-awaited Messiah. The Pharisees immediately wanted to shut that down – not because of the good things Jesus was doing, but because he didn’t fit the image of what they had in mind.

They believed the Messiah would come into Jerusalem on a white horse and an army of soldiers. They wanted him to defeat their enemies and put sinners to death. They pictured him as a mighty and powerful king that would reward the Pharisees for their faithful adherence to Jewish laws and customs.

However, Jesus did not fit the mold. He was not a warrior king. He was gentle and loving and compassionate. He did not put sinners to death; he ate with them and allowed them to be his followers. He didn’t even follow Jewish customs himself! How could he be the Messiah?

What angered Jesus was not the intelligence of the Pharisees or their strict adherence to Jewish law. He was angered by their hardened hearts. He was angered that they would not allow their hearts to be open to the possibility that their image of the Messiah was faulty.

He was angered that the Pharisees were more concerned with being right than they were in appreciating all that Jesus had to offer.

That’s our takeaway. Do we accept Jesus for what he is and what he offers to us? Do we appreciate the sacrifice he made for us and the many gifts he bestows on us?

Or do we accept only parts of Jesus? We like the kind and loving Jesus, but not the one that challenges us to live a life of holiness. We like the Jesus that forgives our sins, but not the one that challenges us to sin no more. We want to be loved unconditionally, but are not willing to love others in that same way.

Are we like the Pharisees? Do we only accept a Messiah that fits our image of what he should be? Do we just want to be right?

Unlawful

January 18, 2022

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.

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” (Mark 2:23-28)

UNLAWFUL: In the Gospel, the Pharisee sees only as a human. He sees only the disciples’ actions and attempts to condemn them on that ground alone, without looking into their hearts. This earns him Jesus’ famous rebuke that “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

With this sentence, Jesus answers the warning from the Old Testament that I find so unsettling. He knows that we are flawed, that we make mistakes, that we sometimes have unholy intentions – but Jesus waits there to save us nonetheless. Salvation lies there as a gift for us to accept. None of us is truly worthy (even the great king David was a deeply flawed human being, and many of the Psalms are surely anthems to his regrets for his sins), but Jesus waits for us patiently with his hand extended, waiting for us to take it.

Source of today’s reflection: https://dspace2.creighton.edu/xmlui/handle/10504/51222

New Cloak

January 17, 2022

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.

No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. (Mark 2:18-22)

NEW CLOAK: The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the time. They were scholars; they were teachers; they set the example. And here comes Jesus and turns everything upside down. He doesn’t fast enough, doesn’t always wash his hands, eats with sinners, and works on the Sabbath.

Jesus makes it clear to the Pharisees: “Your way is not my way.”

Jesus is the new cloak. His message is the same today: “Society’s way is not My way.”

Challenge: Don’t take pieces of Jesus and try to fit him into your plans. Instead, put on Jesus and make your life fit His plan.

Homily: Empty Vessels

January 16, 2022 – Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

I am not preaching this weekend, but if interested, here is the text of a homily I delivered back in 2016 on this same gospel reading:

While studying scripture during my deacon formation, three important things were emphasized. First, scripture is the divinely inspired word of God. The scribes and evangelists were inspired to write down the message that God wanted us to hear.

Second, the messages found in scripture are timeless. Despite the fact that the words were written 1500 to 2000 years ago, the message still resonates today. That message may be buried in stories that are foreign to us – the sacrificing of animals, wandering in the desert, or fighting against the Philistines – but it is there nonetheless, and pertinent to our lives.

Finally, scripture is personal. When I read a scripture passage, I might get one message. Someone else may read the same scripture passage and get a completely different message. That does not mean one of us is right and one of us is wrong. We simply received the message we needed to hear on that day.

How many times have you listened to the readings at Mass and said, “That is just what I needed to hear today.” That’s the Holy Spirit at work.

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Follow Me

January 15, 2022

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.

As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed Jesus. (Mark 2:13-17)

FOLLOW ME: The twelve men ultimately called to be the Apostles of Jesus were not the best and the brightest. The Rabbis leading the religious communities were surrounded by scholarly disciples. These disciples studied and trained for years before being sent out as learned leaders. Only the best were called. Only the best survived.

Jesus, on the other hand, called fisherman and farmers…and today, Matthew (Levi), a tax collector. He taught them through parables, which they often had difficulty understanding. Even after they were called, their faith surged and faded. Doubt was always looming.

Yet that is who Jesus called. That is who Jesus would later send.

The apostles were not special because they were called. They were special because they responded. They didn’t ask for some time to think about it, or tell Jesus they’d get back with Him. They immediately responded. They were special because they dropped what they were doing and followed Him.