Why is the Genealogy of Christ Important?

September 8, 2021

Today’s Gospel from Matthew details the genealogy of Jesus, which might lead to the question: Why are the genealogies of Christ important?

I came across this perspective on the Answers in Genesis website:

In our modern culture—especially in America—many families have little sense of heritage. We may have some family traditions, but most Americans don’t even know the names of their great, great grandparents or care where they lived, what they did, etc. Modern genealogy is primarily reserved for hobbyists. In contrast, genealogies were a deeply integral part of Jewish society at the time of Jesus. Land was inherited based on family lines, and those who could not prove their ancestry in Israel were considered outsiders.

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Called

September 7, 2021

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

When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-19)

CALLED: To what is God calling us?

Let’s start that conversation by discussing the men Jesus called as Apostles. Make no mistake, the twelve Jesus called were not the best and the brightest. The Rabbis leading the religious communities were surrounded by scholarly disciples. These disciples studied for years and trained under Rabbis before being sent out as learned leaders. Only the best were called. Only the best survived.

Jesus called fisherman and farmers, even a tax collector. He taught them through parables, which they often had difficulty understanding. Even after they were called, they were misfits. Their faith surged and faded. Doubt was always looming. Yet that is who Jesus called; that is who Jesus sent.

The apostles were not special because they were called. None of them were extraordinary by birth. They were special because they responded; they were extraordinary because they answered the call to serve.

You are no different. Each of you has God-given gifts. Each of you has been called. I did not say “will be called.” You can’t sit around waiting for a bolt of lightning or to have the hand of Jesus tap you on the shoulder.

You are here now. The time to act, the time to respond is now.

God calls you everyday to use the gifts you’ve been given to serve others: to volunteer at your church, to be there for a friend who is struggling, to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, and to grow your faith and take that faith out into the world.

You won’t enjoy eternal life because you were called. You will enjoy it because you responded to the call.

Prayer for Labor Day

September 6, 2021 – Labor Day

A Labor Day prayer:

On this weekend, when we rest from our usual labors, loving Father, we pray for all who shoulder the tasks of human labor—in the marketplace, in factories and offices, in the professions, and in family living. 

We thank you, Lord, for the gift and opportunity of work; may our efforts always be pure of heart, for the good of others and the glory of your name. 

We lift up to you all who long for just employment and those who work to defend the rights and needs of workers everywhere. 

May those of us who are now retired always remember that we still make a valuable contribution to our Church and our world by our prayers and deeds of charity. 

May our working and our resting all give praise to you until the day we share together in eternal rest with all our departed in your Kingdom as you live and reign Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Source: https://www.aod.org/Being-Catholic/Prayer-and-Worship/Prayers/Prayer-for-Labor-Day/

Homily: Dial in to God’s Frequency

September 5, 2021 – Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37

The following homily was originally delivered at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, IN in 2015:

One of my prior jobs was that of high school athletic director. There were many details to the job, most of which revolved around the logistics of game night: contracting the opponent, hiring officials, overseeing ticket sales, providing for fan safety, supervising the behavior of fans, and so on.

An interesting, and somewhat sad, result of being an athletic director was that I found it very difficult to enjoy sports in my free time.

I would go to a college game, or even a Colts or Pacers game, and experience anxiety. If I saw someone slip and fall, I would worry about a potential lawsuit. If I saw long lines at the concession stand, I would have concerns about customer satisfaction. I would have the urge to correct the behavior of unruly fans. If I didn’t see enough game officials, I would think, “Oh no! What if one of them didn’t show up?”

I could not turn off the noise of my job long enough to enjoy time away from the job.

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The other day at school, the administration watched a newly completed promotional video that highlighted the everyday life of the school. It showed students at various times throughout their day – walking the halls and sharing a laugh with a friend, discussing something with a teacher, working out a problem at the whiteboard, or giving a presentation in front of the class. Music accompanied the video, adding an even more positive and uplifting vibe to it. No one could possibly watch that video and not feel good about our school.

I turned to one of the assistant principals, who is in charge of school safety and discipline, and asked, “What did you think about the video?”

He replied, “All I saw were uniform violations.”

His single-minded focus prevented him from really experiencing the video.

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Along these same lines, I want to spend some time reflecting on our ability to focus, looking specifically at the phenomenon of selective hearing.

In analyzing selective hearing, we learn that it can defined in two different ways.

As a specialized skill, selective hearing can be used to filter out the white noise of the world and focus in on one particular sound.

One example would be the mother at a noisy dinner party who is able to hear her infant cry out from a room in another part of the house. I once heard that described as a mother and child being “on the same frequency.”

She was dialed in; she selected what was most important to hear, and chose not to be distracted by anything that would prevent her from hearing it.

Selective hearing may also be used as a tool of convenience. Those adept at this particular form of selective hearing are able to filter out anything that is inconsistent with what they want to hear.

My wife would claim that husbands are quite proficient at this, but I will offer children as my example.

You tell your son he can go outside as soon as he cleans his room. Later, you see him outside and, upon inspection, discover he has not yet cleaned his room. When you confront him about this, he will swear that you never said anything about cleaning his room.

He heard “play outside” but did not hear “clean your room.”

We select what we want to hear, and filter out words that challenge us or do not meet our needs.

I remember seeing a comic strip once that showed a man putting in his new hearing aid. He said: “It’s called a selective hearing aid. It filters out criticism and amplifies compliments.”

Both types of selective hearing I mentioned rely on the ability to filter out unwanted noise or information.

What keeps us from hearing God’s word? Are we unable to filter properly, and thus distracted by the noise of the world?

Or are we simply filtering out what God has to say because we find it too challenging?

In Mark’s Gospel, we heard the Aramaic word, Ephphetha, which we are told means, “be opened.” Jesus said this word as He touched the ears and tongue of a man, enabling him to hear and speak for the first time.

During a baptism, there is an optional part of the ceremony called the Ephphetha rite. In this rite, the celebrant touches the ears and lips of the child with his thumb, saying: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May God touch your ears to receive His word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”

“May God touch your ears to receive His word.” He wants us to hear Him.

Today’s first reading had the same message. The prophet Isaiah told us: “Your God comes to save you…the ears of the deaf be cleared.”

God desires to be heard, to be the infant in the other room at the dinner party. He wants us to filter out the noise of the world and focus on Him. He wants us to be on the same frequency.

Why? Because each time God speaks, there is an opportunity to grow. That’s why Jesus often ended His parables by saying, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

How do we master the specialized skill of selective hearing, the type that allows us to filter out the noise of the world and focus on what’s most important?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make yourself available to God. The reason the world has our attention is because we make ourselves available to the world. We spend our days interacting with, thinking about, and reflecting on the things of this world. We must notch out a piece of our day to give to God. The world gets enough of our time.
  • Make morning prayer non-negotiable. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and morning prayer is the most important prayer of the day. It tells God, “You come first. This day is for You.”
  • Spend time with Scripture. It is the divinely inspired word of God. He talks to us through scripture, and the message is personalized – each person hears what God intends him or her to hear.

How will you use selective hearing?

Will you filter out what God has to say because you find it too challenging, allowing the distractions of the world to garner all of your attention? Or will you filter out the noise of the world and focus in on what God has to say to you?

We love when we listen.

“May God soon touch your ears to receive His word.”

He may touch your ears, but the transmitter is in your heart. Tune out the noise of the world and dial in to God’s frequency.

Post #3,000!

September 4, 2021

If you woke up this morning thinking it was a special day, you were correct. I began blogging in 2013, and today you are reading post number 3,000 for this blogsite, fromthedeaconsdesk.com

In addition to the 600+ subscribers that have requested posts be emailed to them daily, the 3,000 posts have received a total of nearly 232,000 “hits” (views) in 147 countries.

Reflecting on my blogging efforts and the cumulative numbers mentioned above, I looked back to why I started this over eight years ago. The response to that question has evolved over time.

When I began, I was newly ordained and I used the blogsite as a way to discipline myself to regularly reflect on scripture. It was me-centered: “I’ll do this for my own personal spiritual growth, and if others want to read it, that’s fine too.”

However, I would occasionally receive an email with comments such as:

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New Cloak

September 3, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by 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 tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.” (Luke 5:33-39)

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, turning 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 to us 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: YOUR Gospel Story

September 2, 2021

I delivered this homily at a school Mass in 2013. Based on the same gospel reading we have today, Luke 5:1-11 – calling Peter to be a “fisher of men.”

I love reading the Gospels, but I don’t want the Gospels to just be words on a page. I want the Gospel readings to come alive for me. I need to climb inside of them, and be a part of them. To do this, I ask myself, “What must it have been like to be there when this happened? How would I have felt? How would I have responded?”

Think for a minute about the sequence of events in today’s Gospel. It begins with Jesus, a stranger, climbing into Simon’s boat. It ends two or three hours later with Simon leaving everything he has behind and following Jesus.

What was it that transpired in those few short hours that completely changed Simon’s life? It was not a temporary change either, as Simon, who would become Peter, would ultimately be the rock upon which the entire Church was built.

The story does not tell us what Simon was feeling or exactly what it was that made him completely change his life. There was something different about this guy Jesus. He was captivating. He was powerful, yet soft-spoken. He was challenging, yet spoke of love.

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Deserted Place

September 1, 2021

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

At daybreak Jesus left and went to a deserted place. (Luke 4:38-44)

DESERTED PLACE: This is not the only time we hear of Jesus going off by himself. With the public life He was living, He was always “on.” People demanded so much from Him and He recognized how important it was that He respond to their needs. They were, after all, “like sheep without a shepherd.”  

Jesus recognized His own needs as well. Sometimes He just needed to get away – to gather His thoughts, to reflect, to mourn, and to pray. He was expressing His humanity and setting an example for us. After all, if it’s good enough for Jesus…  

Solitude is underrated. It offers us time away from all of the distractions of life. We can focus on ourselves, calm ourselves, and clear our minds. We can reflect on things we have done or are considering doing.  

And, of course, we can pray. We can have open and honest, one-on-one conversations with God. The peace and quiet that comes with solitude will also allow us to hear God’s response.

Children of the Light

August 31, 2021

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

For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do. (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6)

CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT: We are not “the rest.” We are children of God. We are children of the light.

What a beautiful image in what has become such a dark world. God nudges us, nudges you. He asks you, “In this world of darkness, who is going to be the light? Will you do this for me?”

We are children of light. It is who we are. It is what we are capable of. It is our identity.

No, not me, we might argue. Jesus said to whom much has been given, much is expected. I’m average, I’m just me, no special gifts or talents. What have I been given?

How about life? How about love – unconditional love from an adoring Father who calls us His children?

No more excuses. You can’t get around this call to action. God expects more from ALL of us. He calls us to return to Him what has been given, and then some.

We must set aside our feelings of inadequacy. We must stop asking, “What can one average person like me possibly accomplish in a world of darkness?” We must stop saying, “God is not talking to me.”

Fulfilled in Our Hearing

August 30, 2021

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

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-30)

FULFILLED IN OUR HEARING: The Gospel tells us, “the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” There was electricity in the air. Something big was happening. Then Jesus said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

He basically told them, “What I just read is about me. It is happening right now. Christ is among you right now.”

Can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of the people in the synagogue that day?

This man grew up right here in Nazareth. He’s the man we’ve had our eye on because of all the odd things he has been doing – eating with sinners and tax collectors, healing on the Sabbath. This man is telling us He is the Christ

I’m sure there was a whole range of thoughts and emotions coursing through the synagogue.

Fear – What if what he is saying is true? I have been waiting and preparing, but am I ready to meet Christ today?

Doubt – How can this be? I was expecting God’s anointed one to ride in on a white horse, a king to save his people, not this simple preacher.

For some it may have been joy. Finally he has come! Praise God!

Jesus said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled.”

The word “today” is a powerful word. “Today” means there is no more time left, no more waiting: It’s here. It’s now.

In a very real sense, as we participate in the Mass, this Scripture passage is once again “fulfilled in our hearing.” The same Jesus who fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah comes to us and is truly present to us in the Eucharist and in the Word.

How do we respond to that kind of news?