Saturday, February 24, 2018

2/25/18 - 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

We focus on God. When we hear the reading from the Book of Genesis, we wonder why would God ask this of Abraham? What was God thinking? Maybe our understanding of the reading would change if we would focus on Abraham instead.

We focus on Jesus. When we hear the gospel reading we say I want to be transfigured like Jesus. We are not God. We are the children of God and we will have to await the resurrection of the dead to be transfigured.

Maybe we should focus on Peter. Why focus on Peter and Abraham? Because they are like us.

Somehow Abraham convinced himself that God wanted him to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

Somehow Peter convinced himself that he and Jesus, along with James and John, should just stay atop the mountain.

Both were well intentioned but both were wrong. What they thought God wanted was not what God wanted at all. Even though they were way off, God was still on their side.

God is on our side. Saint Paul reminds us that if God is for us, who can be against us?

That’s why I think Matthew Kelley’s theme this Lent is so profound. Kelly reminds us that God wants progress, not perfection.

If you’ve been watching the daily videos from Dynamic Catholic you know that’s what the reflections have been about this Lent.

If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Visit and sign up for the Best Lent Ever and you will receive a short video reflection in your inbox each day. These videos are a wonderful way of keeping our focus this Lent.

Abraham is continuing to learn about God and grow in his relationship with God. He is continuing to try to discern. What is God calling me to do? Who is God calling me to become? Progress not perfection.

Abraham really believed that God was calling him to sacrifice Isaac. But the angel brings a very different message. Do not lay a hand on the boy. Progress not perfection.

Peter is continuing to learn more and more about Jesus. Peter is continuing to grow in his relationship with Jesus. Peter really believed that they should all stay on the top of the mountain forever.

But Jesus says come down the mountain with me and I will show you how to be my disciple. Progress not perfection.

We are not going to get everything right in our relationship with God during these forty days of Lent. That’s ok. We are seeking progress not perfection.

Each day is an opportunity to make progress. Each day is an opportunity to become a better version of myself.

God is trying to help us know ourselves. Jesus is trying to help us discover God’s will for us. This takes time. It also takes drawing closer to God.

We might have convinced ourselves that we have to be perfect before God will love us. But God loves us just the way we are and calls us to grow. So let us focus on progress not perfection. That’s the way to God’s heart this Lent.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

02-18-18 -- 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

What does temptation from the devil look like? It’s that strong desire to do something I want to do, but I know is not in my best interest; something I might want, but I know is ultimately not good for me; something that might be fun right now, but I know there’s going to be consequences later.

Jesus was tempted to do things that might have seemed attractive in the moment, but there would have been disastrous consequences.

If Jesus had given in to the devil’s temptations what would have happened? Jesus would have been turned to the dark side. Jesus would have been beholden to the devil.

If the devil is trying to tempt Jesus after 40 days of fasting and prayer, the devil will certainly try to tempt us.

We find ourselves tempted to do all kinds of things that seem appealing at the time: drink too much, eat too much, self-medicate with prescription drugs or alcohol, for young people, it’s partying and doing drugs all night and calling that “chillin'.”

We might be tempted to take a little bit more than our share when we think no one is looking, or in some cases to simply steal because we think we deserve it, or to visit sites on the Internet that are sexual or explicit or violent.

We might be tempted to bully someone in order to feel good about ourselves or look good in front of our friends, or we might be tempted to manipulate or lie or cheat to become powerful.

We are tempted everyday by the devil to make bad choices that seem good at the time. But we are also tempted by God everyday to do good deeds, or maybe we should say we are tempted everyday by God to do God's deeds.

What makes a teacher jump in front of a gunman to protect his students? The temptation or invitation from God to do good.

What makes a mother fiercely protective of her child who is being bullied at school? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a priest willing to continue to work in the vineyard of Jesus Christ in today’s world? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a person donate a kidney to a complete stranger? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a soldier stay by the side of an injured comrade even at the risk of being shot and killed? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes three young men on a train to Paris dramatically and successfully confront and take down a terrorist who was intent on killing everyone on that train? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes an ordinary person reach out and do a good deed, reach out and help a total stranger? The invitation from God to do good. 

What makes us desire to show love and affection to the people closest to us? The invitation from God to do good.

Some of these examples are heroic acts. Some are not. But we are all invited by God to do good everyday. We are tempted by God to do God’s deeds.

I suspect that if we were to focus more on the temptation to do good and less on the temptation to do evil, we would all be happier, healthier, more loving, more forgiving and more fulfilled.

Yes we are tempted by the devil, but we must always remember that we are also tempted by God. And when we give in to the temptation or invitation from God, we do God’s deeds.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

02-11-18 -- 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Scripture Readings

The lepers were estranged. They had to live outside the community. They were isolated, apart from others. As long as they had the sores of leprosy, they were not able to live with their families. 

That must have been a terribly tragic and lonely existence, calling out “unclean, unclean” everywhere they went. They were avoided by all, except Jesus.

Jesus does not fear leprosy, nor does he fear the lepers. He is moved with pity. He stretched out his hand and touched the sores. In touching them, he healed them. Jesus made the leper clean.

After Jesus heals the leper in the gospel of today, what happens? He says, “Go show yourself to the priest.” Why? 

The priest has the power to declare the leper clean. Once the leper was declared clean, that person was then able to return to the community.

So Jesus brings those who are outside back into the community. Jesus desires for those who are excluded to be included again.

Sometimes we find ourselves on the outside, on the fringe, excluded for any number of reasons. 

Maybe we are excluded because of our race or skin color, or our religious beliefs, or our sexual orientation, or our political views, or even our physical appearance.

Jesus doesn’t want this. Jesus wants us all to be included. Jesus doesn’t want these divisions. 

Yet we continue to divide ourselves into camps of us and them. And this continues to cause strife and even social unrest.

That’s one of the reasons why we try so hard here at Saint Martin de Tours to make sure everyone feels welcomed, to make sure everyone feels wanted, to make sure everyone feels like they belong.

Jesus comes to heal sin and division. Jesus wants those who are estranged to be brought back. 

We all need to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We all need to feel like we belong. Otherwise, we are like the lepers who are forced to live apart from everyone.

The lepers were estranged but Jesus healed them so that they could return to the community. Jesus desires to heal whatever is keeping us from community. 

Jesus wants us all to belong. Jesus wants us all to feel like we are important members of his family.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

02-04-18 -- 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Job’s life unfolds in a way he doesn’t expect. We hear him lamenting.

I have troubled nights. I am filled with restlessness. My life is drudgery. Is this all there is? What has happened to me? What have I become? Why has my life turned out this way?

At some point, Job comes to the realization that all his whining and complaining does no good. He begins to understand that the question “why” has no answer.

Once he is no longer fixated on why his life has ended up as it has, he can begin to change. He can begin to see a new future. He accepts what is and begins to move toward what can be.

We ask plenty of “why” questions in our own lives. Why did this happen to me? Why did God do this to me? Why did you do this to me? Why did I do that? Why did I let this happen? 

Sometimes we get so caught up in our self-pity that we resign ourselves to what is.

Are we supposed to just resign ourselves to our struggles? Are we supposed to just accept our disappointments? 

Are we supposed to turn a blind eye when we see injustice in our world?

Are we supposed to just give in to our grief? Are we supposed to be resigned to the chronic pain we feel? Are we supposed to just live with our brokenness?

I don’t think so. And I think wallowing in our own self-pity is not very helpful.

Like Job, we eventually come to the realization that there are no answers to our “why” questions. And that if we just resign ourselves to what is, we could possibly end up living a pretty pitiful existence.

We are called to accept what is and work toward a different future. Jesus takes us by the hand, like he took Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus grasped her hand and healed her.

Jesus is reaching out to you and to me. Jesus wants us to take his hand so that he can lift us up and heal us.

Our lives may be unfolding in a way we didn’t expect, but with Jesus by our side, we can take comfort that he can see us through anything.