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The Long Lent of COVID

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like the past year has been one long Lent. The coronavirus pandemic began shutting down society just a couple weeks after Ash Wednesday last year. Since then, we have experienced prolonged times of imposed fasting and abstinence. It has felt like a long spiritual desert where our religious practices and community gatherings have been disrupted. Like Jesus in the wilderness, as a church and a nation we have experienced a season of temptations which we haven’t always resisted. Our faith in institutions, religious and secular, have been put to the test.   I listened to an interview on the radio about the impact that quarantines and shut-downs may have in the future as people’s habits—like dining out, traveling, or going to movies—have changed and they may not go back to some of those things as restrictions are lifted. The same can be said for churches. Many who may have been attending Mass out of habit or obligation have had the better part o

Fear is a Liar

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I’ve been praying and reflecting on the state of our world over the last 6 months. It seems that we are in the grasp of a demonic darkness rooted in fear. This darkness is suffocating, intensifying, and seeks to blot out any light. We are fearful for our health, our finances, and our safety. Fear is driving division and unrest to isolate us against each other.  Fear is one of the primary results of sin, it’s right there with shame and death. Fear gripped Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:10), and we have been in its grasp ever since. At its most fundamental level fear is rooted in our separation from God, in our fallen nature. Cut off from God by sin we feel alone and abandoned, and we feel threatened and vulnerable---because we are. Fear causes us to act from a place of self-protection and self-preservation rather than how we were originally created to live through the gift of ourselves to other in free acts of love.  COVID-19 has robbed us of the false sense of security that we

Worthy of the Gospel

Let’s file this under “things I never thought I’d have to write about.” Several months ago I noticed a lump on my left triceps. I brought it up to my doctor and after looking at it and feeling it, he said it was a lipoma, a benign fatty tumor, and nothing to be concerned about. He said he’d seen this in other patients and when he sent them for referrals to the surgery office the surgeons just tried talking the patients our of having an elective procedure. A few months passed and this lump wasn’t going away, in fact it had grown. I saw my doctor again and again he said it was a lipoma, but he would agree to give me a surgical referral if I really wanted one. Due to a busy schedule I let a couple months pass and then finally asked for that referral at the end of March. After several tests, including a biopsy, I got the diagnosis last week that I had pleomorphic liposarcoma, a rare and usually aggressive form of soft tissue cancer. Talk about a lightning bolt out of the blue. I w

Keeping ALL His Commands

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Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Jn. 14:15) As Christians we look to these words of Jesus as a kind of mission statement and a guiding principle in what we do and how we even define what it means to be a disciple. While some of Christ’s commands may seem easier than others, they are all challenging and all call us to move out of our comfort zones.  We are commanded to repent (Mt. 4:17), to avoid anger (Mt. 5:21-22), to be forgiving towards others (Mt. 18:21-22), to pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:44), and to care for the disadvantaged and suffering (Mt. 25:31-48). These commands of Christ form the heart of Christian morality and social justice. Although difficult at times, no one doubts the seriousness of the call to obey these commands, just as no one doubts Christ’s intention that these apply to any and all who would call themselves disciples.  When we read how Jesus said that the world would know we are his by our love (Jn. 13:

That's Not How It Works

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I received a flyer in the mail from a local non-denominational church advertising their services for the holiday season. These mass mailings aren’t all that unique, many churches, Protestant and Catholic, send them out around Christmas and Easter as a way of reaching out to people who may be looking for a place to worship. But this flyer was a little different than others that I’ve seen and it got me thinking. Here’s part of the text from the flyer (I changed the name of the church): Go ahead. Sleep in on Sunday. Whether you like the idea of sleeping in, want to free up some extra weekend time for that family gathering at the in-laws, or are just heading out of town on the weekends. Whatever the reason, find some extra peace from the holiday hustle with us on Thursdays at our Early Weekend Service.   We’ll have the same great kids environments, same great coffee, same great music and teaching you’ve come to expect from Relevant Church…Now on Thursdays, too.  

The Slow, and Sometimes Frustrating, Path of Discipleship

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In the aftermath of the tragic events in Charlottesville there has been a wave of criticism towards some churches and pastoral leaders who did not promptly or explicitly express the “proper” public outrage and condemnation of the white supremacists. I know priests who received highly critical, if not outright nasty, emails from parishioners. Social media has been flooded with articles, blogs, and opinions from right and left about what should or shouldn’t be said or done. More often than not, the driving factor of this controversy has been substantially colored by one’s political leaning. It is great that the internet connects us and allows the spread of information to happen in near real time, but it also compels people to give an immediate response as well. Against the advice of St. James, we become quick to speak and slow to listen. Ultimately the challenge before us is how should a disciple of Jesus Christ respond in the face of injustice, violence, hatred, and racism? If we

A Matter of Perspective

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People often look at the four Gospels and wonder why there are slight differences between them. They all share the same essential message, that Jesus was the Son of God in the flesh who lived and died and rose from the dead. Yet each Gospel has it's own particular lens of looking at Jesus: to Matthew Jesus is the Messiah, to Mark he is the Lord, to Luke he is the Divine Healer, and for John the Son of God. Vatican II's document on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, tells us that  scripture is "the words of God, expressed in the words of men" (DV 13).  By way of analogy, this video does a great job of showing how different photographers, trying to emphasize a particular idea, produced different views of the same man. Again, like the Gospels, the essence of the man photographed is the same, the lighting, angle, and setting give different perspectives.