Entering Into His Rest

January 15, 2021

…the promise of entering into his rest remains… (Hebrews 4:1)

This promise referred to in the Letter to the Hebrews is ours for the taking; we have a choice.

We have been asked to love God and love others, to keep our focus on God’s will for our lives. However, nowhere in scripture does it say this request is easy. To keep our focus on God’s will requires dying to self. Our need to control often stands in the way. Choosing what we want is so much easier and meets our immediate needs.

That said, meeting our immediate needs or satisfying a temporary desire of the flesh pales in comparison to the promise referred to in Hebrews: the promise of entering into his rest.

We have been promised the possibility of eternal life, of entering into his rest. Will we choose to accept this gift?

Relinquish control to God.

What Type of Heart Beats in You?

January 14, 2021

Oh, that today you would hear his voice, “Harden not your hearts… (Hebrews 3:7)

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” (Psalm 95:8)

In today’s first reading, and again in our Responsorial Psalm, we hear the familiar words: If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.

What does it mean to “harden your heart?” Perhaps the easiest way come to an understanding of a hardened heart  is to describe the opposite type of heart – a “soft” heart if you will.

A soft heart is warm and welcoming, flexible and forgiving, open and tolerant. So a hard heart must be cold and inhospitable, inflexible and unforgiving, closed and intolerant. If we are Christians truly focused on living out the two greatest commandments, to love God and love others, it seems a soft heart would be a necessity.

Surely if we were to hear God’s voice, our heart would not harden…would it?

We need to remember that God speaks to us through the people we encounter in our daily lives: the co-worker we ignore each day because he is a little odd, our sister that we have yet to forgive after she said something hurtful to us, the homeless man we pass on the street and pretend not to see, the man on the bus we fear because of the way he looks or the color of his skin, and the spouse we argued with simply out of a need to be “right.”

Today you will hear God’s voice. He will speak through the people He puts in your life. What type of a heart will He find beating in you?

A Deserted Place

January 13, 2021

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place… (Mark 1:29-39)

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, 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, honest, one-on-one conversations with God.    

The peace and quiet that comes with solitude will also allow us to hear God’s response.

Speaking with Authority

January 12, 2021

The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority…
(Mark 1:22)

Of course Jesus spoke with authority. He spoke with authority because He knew the truth. He knew the Word…He lived the Word…He was the Word.

What is preventing us from speaking with authority? Why are we dismissing our obligation to speak with authority?

We know the Word. We have heard the Gospel message and have full access to scripture. We live the Word. We know right from wrong. We know that all of our actions need to reflect our love of God and others. We know we are called to serve.

Finally, we are the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). Jesus was the Word made flesh. He called us to be the Body of Christ. When we come together as a faith community, we are the Word.

Like Jesus, we know the truth. Like Jesus, we must speak with authority.

Homily: View Life Through the Eyes of Your Heart

January 10, 2021 – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

The following homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord was originally delivered in 2014 at St. Pius X Church, Indianapolis:

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. After Jesus was baptized, the sky opened up and a dove came to rest on Him. A voice from the heavens said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” As with yesterday’s celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord, God was once again revealing Himself to His people.

The epiphany is not just a series of Bible stories. It is an ongoing phenomenon. If we are paying attention, God is continually revealing Himself to us.

To those who are open, there are “God moments” all around us.

***************************

Several years ago, my father-in-law was in hospice care in the hospital, and the family was being prepared for the fact that Joe was going to die. Carol, her mom, and her sisters were spending most of their time at the hospital. They were all exhausted. I took some time off work to go and sit with Joe, hoping to give the girls a break and let them get away for a short time.

Continue reading

Abandon Selfishness

January 9, 2021

He must increase; I must decrease. (John 3:30)

When John the Baptist said, “I must decrease,” he meant that his own will, desires, ambitions, and hopes, must dissolve as Jesus takes over.  It meant that all selfishness must be abandoned and selfless living must be the founding principle of his life. 

To “decrease” before God means we become humble.  Humility is a way of giving up everything not of God and allowing only God to shine through.

We should reflect upon John the Baptist’s beautiful statement regularly, perhaps making it a prayer or mantra and saying it over and over.  It should become the guiding principle of our life.

Check Your Selfishness at the Door

January 8, 2021

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5:12)

The leper “fell prostrate.” Prostrate defined: lying stretched out on the ground with one’s face downward, especially in reverence or submission.

Can you imagine the sense of awe and wonder of the leper? He had heard of this man, Jesus, who healed the sick and forgave sinners. This same Jesus was in his town; he might have the opportunity to meet him and ask for help.

When he did, in fact, have that opportunity, he was overwhelmed. He threw himself on the ground at Jesus’ feet, an act of abject humility, a complete “death to self.” His actions said to Jesus, “I am completely unworthy of what I am about to ask. I leave my life in your hands.”

When I was ordained to the diaconate, a part of the Rite called for us, the candidates for ordination, to prostrate ourselves on the floor of the cathedral prior to our ordination. It was a profound experience and served to offer the same message to anyone witnessing it: “I am completely unworthy of what I am about to ask. I leave my life in your hands.”

Perhaps this gives us pause. How do we approach God with our needs? What is the state of our heart? Do we “check our selfishness” at the door, or are we thinking to ourselves, “I deserve this.”

May God grant us the humility we need.

It’s Here. It’s Now.

January 7, 2021

Jesus stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. 
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

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 4:14-22)

There are times when I read a Gospel passage that I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the synagogue in Nazareth the day Jesus was handed that scroll. He opened the scroll and read a Scripture passage from Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. 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.