On the Inside; On the Outside


 

Take Up Our Cross

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What did Jesus mean when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  (Luke 9:22-25) What does this look like in our lives?

I don’t think Jesus was referring to our daily toils and trials. To take up our cross and to follow Jesus starts with literally taking up our cross. We can’t take it up for someone else nor can anyone take it up for us. The point is, it is “your cross” to pick up and not mine, and neither is mine for you to take up, so first we must take up our cross, and only then can we follow Jesus. Our cross is not dealing with chronic health problems, dealing with disobedient children, experiencing a relationship issue, or having one of the worst jobs on the planet. I don’t believe we can say, “That’s the cross I have to carry,” if we’re referring to things that cause us problems in life. Jesus wasn’t carrying His cross of being mistreated and beaten by the Roman guards or falsely accused and arrested. His cross meant only one thing for Him; death, but His death would bring eternal life for us, so His cross wasn’t about Himself, but about others.

The only way to God is through the cross … and to follow Him means to take it up. The words, to take it up, are a challenge to us. We often think of the perks of faith and not of the costs. But following Christ is not a passive endeavor. We have to be active in our faith, and being active in our faith will, quite frankly, cost us. This means that if we want to follow Christ, then we must be prepared to nail ourselves up there.

But in order to do that, we need to strip away all those things we cloak ourselves with. We need to strip away selfish desires, rip off arrogance and pride, and scrape off stubbornness. It means making God’s will our will, not creating our own path, but following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Our Lord chose the cross as the means of our salvation precisely because of the great cost it meant for Him and for us, so that in recognizing that cost, we can appreciate the immense joy and peace we find in His victory. So be not afraid. Let’s take up our cross and follow Jesus. It is definitely worth it!

Don’t Trust Your Baggage

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In today’s Gospel (Mark 6:7-13) we read how Jesus sent out his closest friends with special instructions and powers. Like Jesus, they were to go out preaching and teaching the Good News. They too, will face rejection. Jesus also gave them detailed instructions as to what to carry and how long to stay in any given place.

Jesus warned the twelve against carrying anything they did not need. They were to be counter-witnesses to possessiveness and the consumerism to which advertisements propel us. The more we have, the less we are. The greatest treasure which the twelve carried with them was the good news of Jesus.

The notion to “take nothing for the journey” makes traveling easier. Wealth, desire for recognition and personal pride can stunt our desire for God and our freedom to love and to do good. Jesus wanted his disciples to realize that they could not depend on human possessions but to trust in God alone. Trusting in God is more than enough!

Today, we need to reflect on these two questions: are there things that we hang onto in our lives that we might be better off letting go? Are we putting all our trust in the “baggage” that we have collected throughout our lives instead of traveling light and trusting in the Lord?

Each one of us is being sent out each day to bring the good news to those we meet. May we all live as disciples, available to do the work that God calls us to do – always aware that Jesus is with us wherever we go.

Let the Healing Begin!

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On a cold January day, a man wearing a t-shirt and a ball cap walked into a busy train station in Washington D.C., opened his violin case and began playing. Four minutes went by and finally one man realized there was a musician playing, so he slowed down for a moment to listen but then carried on. After about eight minutes, the violinist received his first dollar bill, tossed into his hat on the floor by a woman who never even looked in his direction. Children would stop to listen, only to be quickly pulled away by their rushing parents. Read More

We Need More, Not Less

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Welcome to 2018! We are now four days into the New Year and we begin the annual tradition or ritual of the New Year’s Resolution. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that list of things that we’re going to do (or not do) in the New Year; and from what I hear, there’s an outcry that people want less, not more: less weight, less stress, less financial worry, less time away from friends, less arguing with family, less health concerns, etc.

I think that we need to demand more in our lives, not less. More time serving those in need, more patience with others, more peace in our hearts, more thankfulness for what we have, more concern for human life, more honesty and integrity, more kindness, more love of neighbor, more compassion and warmth, more reverence for the earth, and more prayer in our lives.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, a woman who was born in the upper class and married into a wealthy family. But when her husband’s business failed and he later died of tuberculosis, Elizabeth realized that she needed more out of life, and was awakened to the things of God – dedicating her life to the service of others.

As we head full-steam into 2018, let us demand more out of life and ourselves. May we be awakened to the things of God instead of the things of the world so that we, like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, can serve more, care more, and love more each and every day of the coming year.

And So We Wait

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There is no shortage of waiting in life. Waiting for the weekend. Waiting to find out if you got that new job. Waiting to find out if you made the team. Waiting to hear the test results from the doctor. Waiting to get a driver’s license. Waiting to hear from colleges. Let’s face it: our days are packed with family obligations, work, school, sports and Netflix. But there is also a great deal of waiting in the midst of all the activity. Read More

There is None Greater

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What does it take to be great? According to the Lord, it takes humility. “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.”(Ps 145:8) Let’s dive into these four attributes.

The Lord is gracious. The Christmas story is powerful because it is gracious. The Creator of the Universe, the One who is not like us, became one of us so that He could be one with us. This story is retold in many different ways. I think back to the movie, “Avatar.” A man traveled to another world. He became one of them. He fell in love with them. He was willing to die for them. He saved them from the evil ones. He was betrayed and nearly killed by his own. Sound familiar? There is no more gracious God then the Lord who became one of us.

The Lord is merciful. What does mercy mean? It means getting filthy, downright dirty, for another. It means sticking your hand into something slimy and gooey to help someone. For example: a bus driver who stopped to rescue two families from a burning house – and went on to finish his route; a grad student who lost her leg in an earthquake in Haiti, then returned to the country to build a school; a woman who donated her kidney to a Facebook friend. The Lord defined what mercy truly means: to do something beautiful, unexpectedly. The Lord is merciful because he gets right into it!

The Lord is slow to anger. We know what this means. We have all experienced it. We are all recipients of it. We live, breath, smile and give a big sigh of relief because the Lord turned the other cheek. Who would tell us the truth without fear of being rejected, rebuked or ridiculed? Only the Lord does not fear being hurt by our feelings. The Lord is slow to anger because He is rich in kindness.

The Lord is great in kindness. He gives what we need. He takes what we give. The difference between the two is immense. He gives us His Son. What do we give Him? For this reason, the Lord is great in kindness.

Let us imitate the Lord by living these four great attributes. Our God is amazing, full of humility and love. There is none greater!

Called to Do Great Things

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A little more than a week ago, Stephanie and I took a group of high school teens from our parish to NCYC, or the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Together, we were part of the 25,000 teens in attendance for this three day conference.

Our teens heard some of the top Catholic speakers and musicians as they played and prayed throughout the weekend. And they were all in agreement that the Friday night adoration was extremely powerful and moving. (Try to imagine 25,000 + in complete and total silence before the Blessed Sacrament. It was a true spiritual experience.)

The theme of the conference was “Called.” And the message was simple: each of us is being called by God for greater things. This is also the message of our Gospel today (MT 4:18-22).

Andrew, Simon, James and John were fishing – just doing what they always do – when they received the call from Jesus. They were asked to follow Jesus and be fishers of men.

We too, are fishers of people. Each of us is also being called to do great things in God’s name. We are called to follow Christ and to then lead by example through loving and serving others. We are called to be saints so that all may see, through us, the goodness of God.

As our teens learned, each of us receives God’s call every single day, right where we are. This can be a scary thing. But we need to remember that we never fish alone; for we are always accompanied by the One who constantly calls us to do great things in His name.

All Souls’ Day

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Today we remember those who have passed from this life with faith, hope and trust in the promise of eternal life. Life is a gift from God and nothing that God gives or does is ever wasted. And let us always remember that each of us is a beloved child of God.

Our lives are a reflection of God and his love. Those who have passed whom we remember today somehow reflected that love. Sadness, sorrow, and grief may fill us today, but that is a reminder of their presence and love in our lives.

While we still mourn, we are confident that our loved ones are enjoying the peace, comfort and joy of eternal life. All Souls’ Day is a great reminder for each of us that we are given the gift of life.

So we pray today for our deceased parents, spouses, children, relatives, and friends. We want them to be capable of receiving the full bounty of God’s love; so we pray for them in our daily prayers.

All Souls’ Day touches us personally. Yes, it is a day of mixed emotions. It is our day to remember, to miss, but also to be joyful. We also reflect on our own existence. Each of us is a soul…a soul on a journey. We are still walking on that journey to become all that we were meant to be – a child of God enjoying eternal life with him.

“I will not reject anyone who comes to me,” the Lord said in our gospel today (John 6:37-40). We trust in the God who loves us – to care for us and our loved ones in life and in death. And so we pray, “May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”

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