On the Inside; On the Outside


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.

Here Comes the Judg(ing)

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For some reason, I woke up this morning not praising God, but judging others. You may think that this is difficult because I haven’t even “seen” anyone yet. But for some reason, I was judging these people in my mind. I’m not really sure where this comes from, but this happens far more than I care to admit.

I often get this thought in my head that people don’t fit into the mold that I am trying to put them into. As I sit here writing this, I realize how terrible this action is. I am trying to make these people something they’re not. I am forcing my rules of living onto others, and they don’t even know that I am doing it. I am judging people according to my thoughts and beliefs. I am finally starting to realize when I am doing this, and I try to realign my thoughts as soon as possible. I was not placed on this earth to judge. That is not my job. God will judge – not me! My role is to love and serve the Lord and others each and everyday. I shall not judge because I have many obstacles of my own to overcome. I need to constantly pray for the strength to overcome my weaknesses and become more loving and caring.

It all comes down to realizing that I am not the one who is in charge. It is not about me and it’s certainly not how others should conform to my thoughts, actions and preconceived notions. I will continue to pray for the knowledge and understanding to accept this reality of God being the one who has control of every situation. By placing my life in God’s hands, I will be totally free of thoughts of judgement toward others. I will be able to love others for who they really are, and not what I expect them to be. I will be fully accepting of their gifts and talents and strive to live better because of them.

Help me, Lord, not to judge others – but to serve you with my whole heart. Amen.

What is God Like?

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Once upon a time there was a little boy named Johnny. Johnny was always coming home late from playing outside.

One day his mom and dad had enough of it. They said, “Listen, Johnny! You never come home in time for supper. Your supper is always getting cold. We always have to warm it up for you, and this has got to stop. The next time you come home late, we’ll give you bread and water. That’s all. No butter, no peanut butter, no jelly; just plain bread and water.”

Well, the very next day Johnny came home late for supper again. He walked into the house and sat down at the supper table. His mom and dad, who had plates with meat and potatoes and vegetables in front of them, didn’t say a thing. They quietly gave Johnny a plate with some bread and a glass of water.

Johnny was crushed. He never thought his mom and dad would do such a thing. How could they? But he was wrong.

Johnny’s father waited for the lesson to sink in. Then, silently, he took his own plate full of meat and potatoes and vegetables, and put it in front of Johnny. Then he took Johnny’s plate and put it in front of himself.

Johnny is now a man. And not long ago someone asked him, “Do you know what God is like?” Johnny said, “I’ve known it all my life. I’ve known it ever since that night when my father switched plates.”

Each of us is called to love and serve God with all of our being and direct our whole lives to God, which includes our actions and choices. As a result, we should view the rest of Jesus’ teachings as helping us to love and come closer to God.  We are to show God’s unceasing love for all people, which then enables us to see more fully God’s presence in the world.

If we can love God with our whole being – heart, soul, mind, and strength – everything else in our lives will flow forth from there.

Standing Here Naked

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naked manWhen praying the Liturgy of the Hours recently, I came across a line from the Book of Job that reminded me of something I once heard from my instructor in a communications class that I took during deacon formation. The line read:

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall go back again.”

I remember the teacher telling us that when we die, we will stand naked before the Lord – bearing everything about ourselves. We come into this world with nothing, and we leave this world with nothing. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we possessed while on this earth. It is all about what we’ve done with our time here. Everything we do remains a part of us. So when that day comes and we stand before the Lord naked, are we to be ashamed? Will we try to hide those things about ourselves that we find embarrassing?

We need to live our lives in a way that God desires, not to walk around thinking that we’re better than others, or more deserving or entitled to certain circumstances or behaviors. We need to always be aware of how our words and actions could make or break someone’s day. We need to be on constant watch for the temptations of the evil one who longs to point us in the wrong direction. We need to open ourselves up, to become fully exposed before our Lord and not be ashamed of who we are or what we’ve done. Let us strive to live a life of worthiness: loving everyone as God loves us and making a difference in our world.

Are You Living Upside-Down?

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two-toed-slothA sloth is a strange looking animal, isn’t it? Whenever I look at a sloth, I say to myself, “I am sure glad that I am not a sloth!”

Who am I to say that a sloth isn’t thinking the same thing about me? A sloth might be glad that it’s not a human being. I guess what you think of others depends on who or what you are. But since I am a human and not a sloth, I think sloths are kind of weird looking.

A sloth has almost no tail and no ears, a short snout, and only has two or three toes, depending on the species. And sloths are slow moving animals that live in trees. But by far the strangest thing about the sloth is that it is an upside-down animal. If you want to look at a sloth straight in the eye, you have to turn your head upside down. Sloths live upside down. They eat upside down, and they spend their whole lives living upside down in trees.

I don’t know about you, but I would certainly not want to live that way. I would never want to walk upside down, eat upside down or even sleep upside down. It just sounds uncomfortable.

Yet, strangely enough, this is what many people do. They live upside down. Not really, of course. They don’t walk on their hands or eat hanging upside down from the kitchen ceiling. But they live upside down in another way. They don’t live the way that Jesus wants them to live.

Jesus says that we must seek God first. He says that we must make God number one in our life and ourselves number two. He says that when we do that, we’re living right side up. But many of us do the opposite. We make ourselves number one and God number two. That’s turning Jesus’ words on their head. That’s living like a sloth.

How can we make sure that we are living right side up? The best way is to live every day, with Christ’s help, in the way he has shown us: by loving our neighbor, helping one another, and spreading the Gospel by the way we live our lives. If we can do that on a day to day basis, the future will take care of itself and there will be no need to worry.

I Am Tired!

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2015070995114515Last week, I was with a group of teens from our parish on a mission trip in Detroit, Michigan. There we lived in community and helped the people of Detroit with various acts of service and charity. What a fulfilling way to put our faith into action and truly experience Christ in those we served. What a blessing it was for our teens to have such an awesome experience.

But during that one full week of hard labor – of long days and short nights, I have to admit that I was really tired. My body ached, my muscles were sore, and my head throbbed from the heat and exertion. And suddenly I recalled an old proverb that I came across long ago: One can go a long way after one is tired. And that became my mantra for the week. Read More

Thought of the Day

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This particular phrase from Psalm 90 keeps jumping out at me every time I read it:

Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart.

I believe that its significance has to do with knowing where one is headed. In other words, our lives here on earth are very short. We need to do the right things in life – the things that we know inside our hearts that SHOULD be done. And we hope that we may gain wisdom by being attentive to our hearts by truly listening to what’s going on inside. We need to be helping others, serving others, making their needs a priority over our own needs. We need to move away from our point of view and focus on the needs and desires of others. Our society’s “me first” attitude must be put aside so that we can love and serve our neighbor, just as Jesus asks us to do. This is our baptismal calling. Life is too short not to do the right thing.

Today, we pray that God will continue to teach us, and that we are able to hear what is being taught. And that each day, we may gain wisdom from our hearts and to do what God is asking us to do. Amen.

Love, Serve, Transform

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What would you like to own more than anything else in the entire world? Would it be a sports car, a yacht, a beautiful mansion? What are these things worth to you? Jesus is telling us that following him and seeking the kingdom is worth even more than the thing we want most. As we learn more about the kingdom, the desire to attain it grows in us. We want to be in a place of perfect love and perfect peace, where there is no war or disease, no hatred or violence, no discrimination because of the color of our skin or the origin of our family, where people are respected and treated with dignity, and where all of us can live as sisters and brothers in Christ. What we need is what Solomon asked for: an understanding heart, so that we don’t judge others, but we love and serve one another and do what is right. And that’s not always an easy thing to do! Read More

Giving Without Cost

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heritageDuring the last few days of June, I went on a private, silent retreat. A retreat is a requirement for deacons so that they take time each year to break away and spend some private time with the Lord. This year, I went to the Franciscan Spirituality Center outside of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I stayed in a hermitage located on a forested ridge. It was four spiritually-fulfilling days of silence, prayer, reading, contemplation, meditation, and peace. I also reflected on the many gifts that God has graciously given me. And I couldn’t help but to praise and thank God for all of these wonderful gifts. But the important thing for all of us to remember is that we must use these gifts that we have been given.

In today’s Gospel from Matthew (MT 10:7-15), Jesus tells us, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Sometimes, it’s easy to look at our gifts and the successes that come from them and brag and say that I was the one who was solely responsible for making that happen. After all, I was the one that did all of the work; therefore, I should take the credit. I’ve learned over the years that it takes a lot of time, effort, and spiritual awareness to know that everything is a gift freely given to us from God. Let me say that again: EVERYTHING is a gift freely given to us by God – every breath we take, our brains, our talents, our skills, our personalities, and on and on. All of it is a gift! Read More

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