Monday, April 3, 2017

What We Can Learn from our Spring Break Desitinations!

This past week the Elmhurst School district along with all the Catholic schools in Elmhurst had their spring break.  Many of the kids went off with their parents to warmer weather, which was perfect timing because it was cold and rainy all last week.  As the families returned, they shared their wonderful stories of the beach, warmer weather, and great times.  Two vacation destinations that were shared with me was Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada.  And how can you not look forward to visiting the Magical Kingdom and or lights of Las Vegas?

Yet, what were these places before it was Disney World and Las Vegas as we know today?  Orlando was a swamp.  There was a reason Walt Disney was able to buy so much land.  Nobody wanted it!  It was filled with Alligators and pestilence.  What was Las Vegas, but a desert with no life!  Yet both of these places were transformed from a swamp and desert to some of the most coveted vacation spots!  What a transformation a dream can do!

Yet that is what the Lord desires to do with our hearts.  He wants to take the swamps and deserts of our life and transform it into something beautiful.  This past weekend the Gospel proclaimed talked about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Death was a result and consequence of sin.  Lazarus, who had been dead for 4 days, laid in a tomb covered by a rock.  The Lord calls them to remove the stone, only to receive the following response from Martha, "By now there would be a stench!"  Yet the Lord, the light of the world, wanted to bring light into the darkness of that tomb.  He wanted to release Lazarus from the bonds of sin.

Lazarus' story is our story.  The Lord wants to do that in our lives.  Because of our sin, we have become bound up in sin.  We try to cover that sin with the stone.  Not wanting to reveal our sinful nature - our pride, lust, anger, greed, envy, sloth, or gluttony (the seven deadly sins), and yet that where the Lord wants His light to shine.  Our response to the Lord is similar, "you don't want to go there, there's a stench." 

Just imagine, if man is able to transform something like a swamp and desert into a major vacation destination, what the Lord could do if we only removed the stone wall blocking His entrance into our hearts!  The Lord would literally take that which was dead, and bring it new life!  Something everyone would want to see!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Coming off the Transfiguration!

Shortly after being elected to the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the youth stating, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness!”  Yet, how many of us our willing to settle for comfort?  It’s the story of all our lives, but also the story of St. Peter at the Transfiguration!

The Transfiguration is a comforting moment for the Apostles.  Jesus was giving them comfort and assurance in that moment, so that they can endure what was to come; his passion and death.  St. Peter however didn’t want to leave, “can we just stay here?!”  The only problem is; if Jesus and the Apostles stayed on the mountain top in comfort, there would be cross and therefore no resurrection and redemption of all of humanity.

We constantly find our lives in a state of comfort.  My couch is so much nicer than the gym, or better yet, than kneeling before the blessed Sacrament in the chapel.  But my life was not meant to be spent on the couch, but to achieve greatness with the Lord.  This, however, is only possible if leave the mountain of comfort and face the cross lies ahead.  Yes, it involves facing the cross and sacrifices, but our faith does not end with the cross.  It ends with the Resurrection.   In this Lenten season, let us not settle for the various comforts of life, but let us strive for the greatness that lies past the cross; the resurrection!      

Monday, February 13, 2017

If God is All Loving, Then Why is There a Hell?

How can you believe in a loving God who sends people to hell?  This is just one of the many questions asked by people who struggle with their relationship with God and their faith.  Their hope of an inadequate answer allows them to keep God at distance and the ability to dismiss our very challenging faith; a faith that asks us to a live a life of trust in God and for others. 

The answer to the above question is found in the Scriptures we heard this weekend.  The answer lies in our free will and choice.  There also must be a correction to their original question.  It is not God who sends us to hell, it is we who send ourselves there by our choices!  The souls in hell are not there because of God, but because of the individual choices that put them there.     

In our reading from Sirach (also a choice Moses gives to the Israelites in the book of Deuteronomy) the option is clearly given: We can choose to trust in God and live for Him, or turn to the world and dismiss the teachings of God.  Jesus confirms it in the Gospel, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law…but to fulfill [it].”  And once again, we are given a choice, to follow Jesus Christ or not.  So, let us be challenged by these readings.  Let us look at the choices we are given, and let us choose to trust in God and serve those around us. 

"Our free will is the only thing that is really our own. Our health, our wealth, our power - all these God can take from us. But our freedom he leaves to us, even in hell. Because freedom is our own, it is the only perfect gift that we can make to God" ~ Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Greatest Childhood Sin - Ketchup with Steak

My dad is an Irishman, through and through (minus the French side of the family).  He loves his meat and potatoes.  He really enjoys cooking and eating a good steak.  It is a meal I continue to enjoy on various occasions and holidays when I head back home.  But growing up, I loved putting ketchup on everything!  Hotdogs, brats, and yes even my steak.  And to my dad, that was my greatest sin!  "For a good steak only needs a little bit salt."  It was only later I came realize the truth of that statement.  Salt has the ability to bring about the great flavor of the steak!

Why do I share my greatest childhood sin, at least according to my dad?  In this weekend's Gospel, Christ tells us to be salt of the earth!  What can that mean?  In a certain sense, I believe the Lord is asking us to draw out the flavor of life!  To bring joy, love and happiness to others.  In particular to a world that continues to seem to spiral in to chaos and sadness. 

How do we do this?  Have you ever noticed how salt is never used by itself?  No one pulls out a spoon, fills it with salt, and eats it?  No!  Salt does not exists for itself, but to draw out flavor on other foods
like popcorn, nuts, and meats.  We too, don't exist for our self!  We exist to bring out life in others!

So I encourage you this day, as the Lord challenged his Apostles, let us be salt of the earth!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wandering in College and in Life

The average college student changes their degree 3 times.  And after graduation, only 27 % get jobs in their area of study!  I bring this up because without clear direction and destination, we usually find ourselves wandering through life. 

I clearly fell into both categories.  Even though I didn’t change my degree 3 times, I debated switching my major from general engineering to math, to education, or business.   The one thing that prevented me from changing degrees was a change in major would involve more schooling and more money, that which I, nor my parents had to spend.  So, I finished my major only to tell my parents that I was going to work for the Church.  You can imagine their excitement! 

What is clearly seen on college campuses and in life is that we seem to wander.  This happens when we don’t have a clear destination.  College students change their major because they don’t know what career they want to pursue.  This happens not only during this transitional time of life, but overall in every one of our lives including our spiritual life.

Many times, when we ignore are ultimate destination; to be in a relationship with our God; our heart begins to wander from one thing to the next.  We look for self-fulfillment in the pleasures of the world.  Or maybe, which has happened to many of my family and friends, we wander to seek other “spiritual” truths, ignoring the very fact Jesus Christ, who is God, has revealed everything about God through His life and His body, the Church. 

This is what the readings of this week are driving at!  They are giving us the direction and destination of how we are called to be with God.  To seek the Lord, to live out our lives in the Beatitudes found in the Gospel and that our lives will end up in Heaven with God!  So, let us put everything aside, stop our wandering, and seek to be union with our God who is love!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Truth Revealed in Skateboarding!

Growing up, I had a best friend who was into extreme sports: BMX bikes, rollerblading, and skate boarding.  And of course, because he was my best friend, I too had similar interests; EXCEPT for skate boarding.  I saw too many times my friend go one way, while the board went the other.  But alas, I cracked into peer pressure when he asked me to try it. The ground was level, nothing tricky.  But my fear became a reality, the board went one way while I went the other with the back of my head hitting the concrete ground.  It was the last time I stepped onto a skate board.  It was also when I discovered the simple fact: that separation can hurt; especially if you are being separated from something you should really remain connected too!

I bring this because painful separations our involved in our readings this weekend.  The first reading, which is quoted in our Gospel as well, is talking about two of the twelve tribes of Israel: Zebulun and Naphtali.  They were the two furthest northern tribes of Israel and they were also the first two tribes to fall away from Israel.  In total, 10 out of the 12 would eventually fall from their faith and covenant with God.  You can imagine terrible pain that occurred from the separation which involved war, but also the pain of a spiritual separation from God.

Division and separation wasn’t something that just happened in the Old Testament either, it continued even into the New Testament.  St. Paul warns the community of Corinth not to be divided by leadership, but to be united by the Cross of Christ!  Here is a community that just accepted the great news of Jesus Christ and it didn’t take long for them to seek division and separation.  The thing is, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we can see that the readings are speaking directly to us today! We our being challenged to seek unity and healing in a world, nation, city, family, and even within our own hearts filled with division and hate.  This healing can’t be done by us, but only by the Love and the Cross of Christ.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Considering the Holy Family, the Magi, and King Herod: I connect with King Herod!

Believe it or not, when I hear the story of Magi in the Gospel of Matthew, I feel closely connected too not the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary or Joseph), not with the Magi, but with King Herod.  Why King Herod?  Well when King Herod is asked the question “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?” He was deeply troubled!  Why?  Because he was supposedly King of the Jews!

Why am I like King Herod?  Well I too want to be the King/Ruler of my life!  Already in my short priesthood, I can point to plenty of times when I didn’t want to surrender my own desires to the King of Kings!  And yet, the Lord constantly calls us to not be like King Herod, but to be like the three magi, also known as three kings or three wise men.  It is in that story that the Magi were willing to follow the Lord wherever He called them.  They also brought gifts to the Lord of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Each gift revealed something about the newborn! The gold represented Christ’s kingship.  The frankincense, which was used in worship, represented Christ’s divinity.  While the myrrh, which was used as a burial perfume, represented Christ’s frail humanity. 

Each of these gifts that Christ received from the Magi was given back to His Father in heaven and to you and me.  And just as Jesus, the King of Kings, gave everything back, He likewise is asking us to give back everything we have received from the Lord. So, as we begin this new year it would be great for us to turn away from our desire to be the ruler of our lives, surrender to the true King of Kings, and bring our own gifts of gold (talents), frankincense (prayers), and myrrh (sacrifices)!