Monday, August 21, 2017

Why is God so Harsh?

Sometimes we come across a Gospel reading, when initially we hear it, we don’t know how to react!  This Sunday’s reading of Jesus initially rejecting the Canaanite woman is hopefully one of them.  We see Jesus’s treatment and response harsh and difficult to comprehend.  Isn’t our faith in Jesus Christ based on Jesus willing to die for EVERYONE?  Why does Jesus ignore and then compare the Canaanite people to dogs?

I’m sure there are various ways to approach this Gospel.  One approach is to ask the question, “could Jesus be testing the woman’s perseverance even in the midst of persecution, something the Apostles would eventually have to learn?”  I, however, would like to approach the Gospel with this principle preposition and our own brokeness:  When God’s action doesn’t match up with our will, we always perceive God’s actions as harsh and questionable. 

Have you ever desired God to act or respond to a problem in your life?  And what happened when your prayers were not answered in the ways you wanted them too?  Did you throw a fit? (As I have done many times). Did you feel like God didn’t have a plan for you, let alone love you?

Yet, what is clear in the Scriptures is that God loves all of us and desires to bring salvation, not only to the Israelites, but to all people (cf. 1 Tim 2:4).   Where we fail in our perception of God's plan, however, is God doesn’t always act the way we want Him too.  We don’t see God’s greater picture of salvation.  Jesus Christ came to fulfill the covenants (promises) given to the Israelites first, and then to the whole world.  Hence Christ said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) Only to say after his death and resurrection, “Go, therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:16-20).  God’s plan from the very beginning was to bring all nations, including the Canaanite woman into His Body, into His Church.  Yet, in its proper time and way!

Sometimes when God doesn’t act or respond the way we want Him too, we feel that God is harsh and unresponsive.  But what we need to realize is that the Lord’s love and plan is greater than our own.  He desires the good and salvation of all people, including you and me!  Let’s, yes, learn from the Canaanite woman in perseverance, but more importantly trust in the Lord when He doesn’t respond in the way we want Him too! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

I Don't Want to Go Back to School!

Now that we are in August and school is about to start back up, if you walk by the rectory you may hear me crying, “I don’t want the summer to end!”  Why?  Because ministry at Visitation is about to jump up to full speed again!  From the school classroom visits, to attending the school sporting events, to RE starting back up is just to name a few! 

I find comfort, however, that my response to the summer ending is much like St. Peter’s in the Gospel.  After experiencing the Transfiguration of the Lord, St. Peter wanted didn’t want to leave the mountain with the Lord.  Yet, the Lord leads St. Peter off the mountain.  He was teaching St. Peter, that the experience of the Transfiguration was meant to give him strength to endure the difficulty of the Cross, which would lead to the greater joys of the Resurrection!

For if St. Peter had his way, Jesus would have never left the mountain, he would have never died on the cross, and the gates of heaven would have never been opened to us.  If I had my way about the summer, school would never start, I would not have the encounters with students and their families, and I would miss out in the great joys of my priesthood! 

And so, even though I may have been crying in the rectory with the thought of summer ending, I’m also very excited to see what the Lord has planned for me this coming fall at Visitation.  For it is in our acceptance of the Cross, that we shall experience the joys of the Resurrection!

Monday, July 31, 2017

What did I say Yes too?

When I joined FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) as a missionary, I thought I had an idea of what my ministry on college campuses would entail.  I thought I would be in investing in Catholic leaders, teaching them how to share their faith as I was taught.  However, my first night of training, I was told of a more radical call to my job.  I was going to be leading the charge as a missionary talking to strangers about the faith on college campuses!  My job would ask me consistently to leave the comfort of my ego and pride, and put myself in a place of constant rejection and ridicule.   After hearing this on my first night of training, I could only ask the question, “What did I get myself into?”

In our Gospel today, the Lord not only explains the cost of discipleships, which is everything, but then asks his disciples, “Do you understand all these things?”  Their response is quite na├»ve, “Yes!”  It is clear in the Scriptures, the Apostles did not know what they signed up for, especially when it came to Christ dying on the cross.  Yet, in the end, all but one would be killed for their faith in Jesus Christ!

The Lord is asking us to follow him!  Deep in our hearts we want to say yes!  And we don’t know what that yes will entail, but the great news revealed in the Scripture: God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called!  The Lord gave the Apostles the grace to follow Him even to their martyrdom!  The Lord gave me the grace to be His missionary and now His priest.  The Lord will give you His grace to follow him, you just need to say yes, and see the Lord do amazing things! 

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!