On the Inside; On the Outside


 

And Now, I Wait

Posted by | Emotions/Feelings | 2 Comments

I am one of the disciples of Jesus. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I am in hiding because of the events that have recently taken place. After what had happened to Jesus, I feared for the worst. All I could think about was could this possibly happen to me as well? I was terrified, and I fled for my life. Here I thought that my faith was strong enough to withstand anything; but man, was I wrong. I abandoned my Lord, and I feel awful. He told us to trust in him, but I didn’t. But can you blame me? I’ve never been so frightened in my entire life.

And now, I wait.

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Don’t Have a Cow!

Posted by | Everyday Life | No Comments

The expression, “Don’t have a com, man!” was made popular by Bart Simpson in the TV sitcom The Simpsons. But its history can be traced back to the 1950’s when first introduced in Great Britain as an expression of “having kittens” rather than a cow.

“Don’t have a cow” means to chill out, calm down, to not to be worried, upset or angry about something. I also think this expression has a significant meaning in our own Lenten journey. Read More

Prayer Changes Our Hearts

Posted by | Prayer | No Comments

Don’t hold back when praying to God – tell him exactly what’s wrong and insist on holding him to his promises. Prayer should be like speaking face-to-face with a friend: “without fear, freely and also with insistence.”

Pope Francis made these comments in a homily based on today’s reading from the Book of Exodus (32:7-14), when Moses begs God to spare his people, even though they have created a golden calf to worship as their god.

Pope Francis said that Moses shows what praying to God should really feel and sound like: not filled with empty words, but a heartfelt, “real fight with God.”

Moses is courageously insistent and argues his point, and prayer must also be “a negotiation with God, presenting arguments” supporting one’s position.

When God decides to not punish his people, it’s not God who has changed, but Moses, Pope Francis said.

“Prayer changes our hearts. It helps us better understand what our God is like. It helps us grow closer to him, recognize his love and rejuvenate our faith.”

The pope underlined what Jesus said: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.”

“No, say what’s what: ‘Look, Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that … What can you do? Now see here, you can’t leave me like this.’ This is prayer.”

Pray like Moses did, face-to-face with the Lord, like a friend, freely, with insistence and good arguments, the pope said. “And also scold the Lord a little: ‘Hey, you promised me this, and you haven’t done it …’ Like that, like you talk with a friend.”

Open one’s heart wide to God and get to know him better, and you’ll be amazed at how your relationship with the Lord will deepen and grow.

The Cocoon of Self-Absorption

Posted by | Emotions/Feelings | No Comments

One of the many wonders of nature is a cocoon. A caterpillar encloses itself in a type of tomb and then emerges transformed and flies through the air in the form of a beautiful butterfly. We view this as a type of death and resurrection.

An image for the Gospel today is that of a cocoon. Rather than a transformation into beauty, we witness a deformation into misery. The Gospel never says that this rich man committed any crime, but it seems that he is just so overly focused on himself that he cannot see beyond his clothes, his meals and his own doorstep. His wealth is something that he spends on himself and not something he shares with others. He is so tightly woven into his cocoon that he cannot seem to break out.

This disturbing parable tells us to not be absorbed with ourselves, to pay attention, and to wake up. We need to remember that our possessions are not owned by us, but loaned to us. They are entrusted to us; not only that we can meet our basic needs, but also so that we can help others. St. Augustine described sin as being caved in on oneself. Sin closes us in on ourselves and charity draws us out of ourselves and that is where we find joy.

We’re instructed to pay attention to Moses and the prophets; that is, to pay attention to God’s word given to us in the Scriptures and by Jesus.

And we need to wake up because most of us at times can be like the rich man. And the five brothers – they represent us too. We are not to expect some sort of personalized message, but should instinctively live out our faith by loving God and our neighbor. Actions have consequences, and so do our inactions. We can sin by what we do but we can also sin by what we fail to do.

This Lent, let us pray that we receive the grace to not be imprisoned in the cocoon of self-absorption. Rather, let us strive to live generous and joyful lives not selfishly but selflessly.

It’s All About the Connection

Posted by | Everyday Life | One Comment

I love social media! In fact, I’m all over social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, and LinkedIn. You can find me @DeaconAllenT. Make sure you check me out.

What’s great about social media is that you can make a connection with people across the globe in seconds flat. You can instantly communicate what is happening at any moment of your life. And it’s an excellent way to stay in touch with your family and friends wherever they may be. I just love social media!

However, there is a downside to social media. We often become so self-centered and making things all about us, getting consumed with how many likes we receive or how many people are following us. When we make things about us (which is a nasty form of vanity), we often neglect, we criticize, we say rude and crude things about others, and we spread lies and rumors in order to make us look better or more superior. Sometimes, we are just downright mean and not very Christian-like. And it doesn’t matter if we are not on social media. We all find ourselves doing these exact same things without being online.

We are living in a constantly-connected world but have somehow allowed ourselves to become disconnected from our God.

During Lent, we are asked to turn away from evil and return to the good. We are asked to repent sincerely, to openly recognize and admit that we are sinners and need to re-connect with God through fasting, prayer and sincere sacrifice. And this all needs to begin with internal conversion of our mind and heart.

I challenge all of us this Lent to stop the lies, negativity, anger, and hatred toward one another – whether on social media or in face-to-face reality. Let’s start this right now, by truly feeling the cross that will be traced on our foreheads. Conversion of our mind and of our heart must lead to loving God and others. It’s all about connecting with the One who leads us to conversion. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Identifying the Christ

Posted by | Discipleship | No Comments

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

Posted by | Everyday Life | No Comments

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

Posted by | Hodgepodge | No Comments

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!

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