On the Inside; On the Outside


 

Identifying the Christ

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Peter experiences a moment of clarity in today’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-33). Briefly the clouds part and he speaks from the heart: “You are the Christ.” It is the discovery of one who has followed, asked, watched, and questioned. But as our story unfolds we realize Peter knows almost nothing about the implications of his declaration. He speaks a seed of truth without knowing how, when, or where it will grow.

Jesus’ identity was widely debated. The disciples give a number of answers reflecting the speculations of the people: John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet of old. All they really know is this one is very different.

But no one has a clue just how different Jesus really is.

For the disciples the declaration implies political freedom, armies, war, riches, and power. God’s Messiah will set Israel free from the clenched fist of Rome. They are imagining a king, a court, and multiple thrones.

So Jesus begins the monumental task of redefining their expectations. He speaks plainly of suffering, rejection, death, resurrection. Peter offers his quiet word of correction. After all, no one will follow into battle if Jesus talks like this. They expect blood to be shed – but not the blood of Jesus.

Jesus’ words are clear but, with the exception of Peter’s rebuke, each time the disciples have nothing to say. Mark offers the only word of explanation later in the Gospel: “Though they failed to understand his words, they were afraid to question him.” (Mark 9:32).

After all, it is so unexpected. So Jesus must slowly open a space in which to reveal God’s suffering, death and resurrection which will lead the disciples to understand how they will be freed by the ultimate sacrifice of God’s love.

Let us pray that we may have that same revelation.

We Need to be Poked!

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I was looking through some old photos of our past family camping vacations not too long ago. It was fun looking back on all of those vacations that we took, many to some incredible places with some amazing campsites. As I was looking at the pictures of all of us sitting around the campfire at night, I fondly remember lighting all of those fires – and keeping them going well into the night.

If you’ve ever been around a campfire, you know that once the wood catches fire, there is a need to poke the wood every so often in order to keep it burning. Sometimes you even need to adjust the position of the logs so that the entire log has a chance to burn. And that is a great analogy for our spiritual life as well.

As St. Paul wrote, each of us must “stir into flame the gift of God.” (Timothy 1:1-8) Sometimes, we become stuck right where we are. We become comfortable in our faith, almost to the point of non-action. We go through the motions and do what we’ve always done, but we don’t go any farther. We become stagnant, complacent, and our fire doesn’t burn completely – and we need to be poked. We need to get re-energized, renewed and redirected so that we can continue to follow our baptismal calling and mission to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world.

Let’s not hide our lamp under a bushel basket, but spread our light for all to see. Let us use our gifts to serve our Lord and our neighbor. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.

Consider yourself poked!

Being an Evangelist is Not What You Think

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Who wants to be an evangelist? Typically when I ask this question when giving a talk somewhere, no one raises their hand. On very few occasions one or two people have.

It seems evangelism has become a scary word for us. In general, it is a word with which we do not want to be associated. For some, it comes from being on the receiving end of someone else’s evangelism, often coercive, even threatening. For others, it may be that religion isn’t something people talk about; or that one’s faith is private; or simply the desire not to be perceived as one of “those” people.

Whatever the reason, most people not only have little experience in evangelism but are downright frightened of it. And that, of course, cripples our ability to reach out to others with the good news. Today’s story of Jesus’ baptism (John 1:29-34) might be the perfect reading to invite us not only to admit our discomfort with evangelism but also begin to overcome it. Read More

The Book of Your Life: Fact or Fiction?

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What if someone were to write a book about your life? What would they say? We all like to think that it would be something like: he loved his family; she was so self-sacrificing; or he made such a difference in the world.

But what if the story they wrote about your life sounded more like this: he worked really hard all his life to make himself happy and to have good things and to retire in order to do whatever he wanted; she was so focused on having the perfect house that she didn’t spend much time serving other people – but the house was really beautiful! Or success consumed her so much that she would do whatever it took to become a success and to look good in the eyes of others. Is that the type of book that you would want written about yourself?

Our first reading today from St. John (1 John 3:11-21) gives us a definition about what the book of our lives should be about. Here are some key points worth noting:

  • “Love one another” is not only a prescription and description of our Christian life, but it’s also one of the tests of our Christian life. Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.
  • It’s impossible to say that you hate your brother or sister and remain in fellowship with God. We must love everyone!
  • As Catholic Christians, we constantly move from death to life, and even our desire to love is affected by that. Each of us angels only have one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.
  • Loving one another is not overlooking someone’s sins and letting them live however they want. Loving one another is acknowledging their brokenness and helping them find righteousness, like Jesus did for us.
  • God expects us to forgive and love others in the same way that He forgives and loves us.

In our book of life, the answers are never in the back. You will always find the answers within. Let us pray that our eyes be opened to see how God would have us humbly, practically and sacrificially love another person this week – especially those who have hurt us. Let our lives be an open book so that we can truly love one another; for where love is, there God is.

Announcing a Birth

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The Witness of the Candymaker

How can a candy treat be a birth announcement? Many years ago a candymaker had an idea. He wanted to show, through the candy he made, that Jesus Christ was born among us, lived and died to save us all. So, through the use of color and shape, he created a piece of candy that told the story of Jesus from Christmas to Easter. He created the candy cane!

Color
The white stripes on the candy cane stand for the fact that Jesus was sinless and pure. The three small red stripes stand for the scourging Jesus endured before he died. The large red stripe stands for Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross.

Shape
The candy cane is shaped like a shepherd’s staff, reminding us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Turn it upside down, and it is the letter “J,” the first letter of Jesus’ name.

We can learn a lot from the candy cane – both to look at it and see Jesus, and, like the candymaker, to share the story of Jesus in whatever we do.

May the peace and joy of Christmas fill you, complete you, and overflow into everything you do and everyone you meet.

Merry Christmas!

God is with Us

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We are Emmanuelites…God is with us!

We used this call and response in Youth Ministry many years ago. And it had two purposes: first, to gain the attention of the teens so they could focus on what was about to happen. And second, to remind them to trust in the fact that God is with us at all times.

We are Emmanuelites…God is with us! Read More

Worth the Wait

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Last Sunday, we experienced something that hasn’t happened in quite some time; something that may not happen again anytime soon. Our three young adult sons were all home at the same time! Due to work schedules, college schedules, and the fact that each resides in a different state, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have all three at home together. So we took this opportunity to plan an early family Christmas celebration.

As we were watching the weather reports for the impending snow storm, we were very hopeful that all would be able to travel home safely. So we patiently waited for their coming. Despite snowy roads, all arrived safe and sound and we had a very enjoyable day together as a family. It was certainly worth the wait!

Today’s readings instill within us a deep and passionate desire for God. Just as we were anxious for our boys to come home, so must we be anxious for Jesus’ coming with that same desire and passion. But often times we find our patience being challenged during our waiting.

We are challenged in so many ways, and we often find that Advent (that season of hoping and waiting) is not always an easy thing to live out. In our world, we face the threat of war, terrorism, and violence. In our society, there is a lack of respect for life and for the dignity of all people. In our own lives, we struggle with family issues, work stress, illness, and trying to do the right thing. Our patience often runs thin when we are forced to wait for an answer.

But there is some good news: regardless of our hardships, Advent cultivates hope for each of us to carry on. We know as a people of faith that Jesus is always with us; both in our joys and in our sufferings. We are never left alone.

In these remaining days of Advent, let us prepare the way of the Lord. No one is greater, and no one is more worthy of our praise. Jesus is coming, and he is certainly worth the wait!

Wake Up!!!

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wake-up

Most of us can remember being told to ‘wake up’ when we were growing up. Maybe the words came from one of our parents after we tried to catch a few extra minutes of sleep on a school day. Maybe it was in the classroom when we discovered that not only did we not know the answer to a teacher’s question but we didn’t even hear the question! For many of us, waking up is hard to do!

In the next four weeks, the Church invites us to enter into the longing of those who first waited for the coming of the Messiah. Scripture helps us to do this through the figures of Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary. Advent also directs our minds and hearts to await Christ’s second coming at the end of time, spoken of in Matthew’s Gospel (MT 24:37-44): stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Advent is a time to wake up to God’s love, and to realize more fully that God wants us to love one another as God loves us – unconditionally. It is a time, especially, to renew our hearts in and through love; for the best way for us to prepare to remember the celebration of God’s coming among us in Jesus is through a conversion of our hearts.

It’s time for us to wake up! Advent invites us to wake up to something wonderful, to some good news – and that news is this: Jesus is coming! Let us prepare ourselves to receive him.

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

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thanksgiving-brownscombeFather, all of Creation rightly owes you thanks and praise.
Your justice, love and mercy abound.
We thank you this day for all that you have given us:

For the Passion and Death of your Divine Son,
we thank you Father,
through the Cross, He redeemed the world.

For the Church,
we thank you Father,
it is our beacon for salvation.

For the martyrs and saints who give testimony to your Son,
we thank you Father,
their witness to your Son is our inheritance.

For our loved ones and friends who have died and gone before us,
we thank you Father,
their love abides with us forever.

For loving spouses,
we thank you Father,
together we seek you.

For the gift of children,
we thank you Father,
they are your precious gifts to us and to the world.

For the gift of our families,
loved ones and good friends,
we thank you Father,
Through them we see the reflection of your Son.

For jobs, our homes and all that we have,
we thank you Father,
give us only that which we need, as we seek Your Kingdom.

For the bounty we are about to eat,
we thank you through Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

You’ve Got a Saint-Maker!

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Have you ever encountered someone who was difficult to work with or was challenging to be around? For the most part, we always seem to get along or even become friends with most of our co-workers. But every one in a while, we stumble across one of two people who just seem to get under our skin. Read More

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