Representatives of God

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is doing so much good, so many miracles and teachings that people take notice and Jesus becomes, if you may say, a popular guy. Because of his popularity Herod wanted to know who he was. Who was this person everyone was talking about? The crowds didn’t quite know exactly who Jesus was. Some thought he was John the Baptist. Others thought he was Elijah or another ancient prophet risen. They may not have gotten his name correct but, one thing sticks out, they associated Jesus with good things. In the parallel passage in Matthew, Herod says that “mighty powers are at work in him” because he resembled John the Baptist. But, it’s not Jesus who is like John.

It was John who was like Jesus.

It was Elijah who was like Jesus.

It was Moses who was like Jesus.

People knew these great prophets and knew of the good they did. The people associated the mighty works that Jesus was doing with the good works of the prophets before him because John the Baptist, Elijah and Moses all did good works that reflected God. Jesus as second person of the trinity is God.

As a young child I remember going on field trips and being told that we needed to be on our best behavior because we represented the school. As an adult I’m being told that my demeanor at meetings and conferences reflects back on my company. Recently at a Frassati meeting for our next mission trip (Jamaica 2020!) we had a conversation on how the laity set the example for the religious which we invite to mission with us. This made me stop and ponder. We are the ones to set the example. Have you thought about how your actions constitute how someone views the Church? We represent something so much greater than schools or businesses, we represent God. Jesus told us to behave in such a way that when people saw us and witnessed our good deeds they would glorify our Heavenly Father.

Look in the mirror. Do you see Jesus?

Live your life in such a righteous way that those who do not know God may come to know Him through you.

Image Credit: Stained glass window, at St.Andrew’s R.C. Church, of John the Baptist, Moses and, Elijah. [Public Domain]

The Art… or Heart of Christian Hospitality

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus which commandment is the greatest… and He more or less gives two answers. (Jesus is very clever like that.)  The first commandment is the greatest and “the second is like it.”

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

-Matthew 22:37-40


Jesus teaches us that loving God with our whole heart, mind, and soul is inherently connected to loving others. 


I recently listened to a Catholic podcast on hospitality (for link to the podcast episode, see below or click here – I highly recommend listening!).  This has had me thinking and praying…  What does hospitality mean for us as Christians and what does it look like lived out?  I know it can look different for each person, depending on stage of life, vocation, etc, so it calls us to pray about what it looks like for each of us.  But at its heart, hospitality is a universal Christian call.  One of the priests on the podcast makes a beautiful connection between hospitality and receptivity.  In fact, ‘warm reception’ is a synonym for hospitality.  This receptivity, or openness, is not only at the heart of a hospitable person who opens their door to warmly welcome a visitor, but also at the heart of the visitor who openly accepts (receives) this gesture.  Being hospitable doesn’t require a perfectly clean home, the ability to cook a fabulous meal, or having a guest room – it requires a heart open to a visitor, or any person you encounter.  At the heart of Christian hospitality is a quality of being present to the person and the moment.  Thusfar, I’ve spoken of hospitality in specific terms of welcoming a guest, which is what I initially think of when I hear the word.  While this is a very tangible and beautiful example of hospitality, it is a specific example and many of us can think hospitality doesn’t really apply to us unless we often welcome visitors into our home.  (Though I do hope we will think of these things the next time we do host a friend or family member in town). 

The Christian essence of hospitality is its sacrificial and serving nature.  It’s the sacrifice of your time, your energy, yourself to receive another person, even, and especially, when it’s unexpected or last minute.  This can happen with a visitor from out of town, or a stranger at church who strikes up a conversation maybe looking for someone to talk to for a moment, or something as simple as being present and receptive to the person working the register at the coffee shop or grocery store.  For many of us, welcoming visitors into our homes may not happen often, but we all encounter strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – others – everyday.  These are all our neighbors.  Our current cultural challenge is to be present or to be receptive to our neighbors…  to love our neighbors… to welcome each as though he or she is Christ.  This can be more simple than we think.  Making eye contact with the person ringing up my coffee order, instead of checking my phone.  Saying hello to her and asking “how’s your day?”  Taking a moment to ask an acquaintance at church or work how he is doing.  Being receptive to those around us, as Christ is to us in every moment.  The two commandments Christ speaks of today are so interwoven because loving God is to receive from Him… and this moves us to love to our neighbors.  “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  When we love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul, we are transformed to see every person for who they are – a soul loved by God, a soul whose very human nature reflects God.  We see Christ in them.  And we learn to welcome them as such. 

In our culture of inwardness, where it is easier to stay inside of ourselves, in our bubble, and not extend ourselves out into the reality around us, we can easily begin to lose touch with our call and ability to be present.  This not only challenges our ability to extend hospitality, but also to receive the hospitality of others.  We feel bad if someone offers to help us…we don’t want to inconvenience them…it will be easier to just take care of this on our own…  We are uncomfortable receiving. (Listen to the podcast for more on this).  This doesn’t mean we must forgo all sense of personal boundaries and, for instance, lose the ability to end a conversation when necessary or decline a visitor at a truly inconvenient time for your family.  Though, if we fail to practice and become aware of how to live hospitality and receptivity in our day-to-day lives, we may miss opportunities to share Christ’s warm reception and hospitality with others when He is calling us to.  It can be a great challenge to stay present to our reality.  But it is in this very reality that we meet God and others.  This is the receptive heart of hospitality – being present to opportunities, big or small, to serve another. 

It may just be my perception… reading through my modern lenses and bias… but in the first reading today, I perceived Naomi being uncomfortable with Ruth joining her.  As though it would be easier if Ruth stayed with her native people and Naomi was able to go on her journey alone.  But Ruth has a heart full of love for God and wants to be with her mother-in-law Naomi out of her total love – heart, mind, and soul – for the Lord.  His love takes us outside of ourselves and our inner worlds and connects us to each other in the tangible world.  It leads us to our neighbors.  But the source of this kind of service must be the love of God.  We must first allow ourselves to receive His love so we can emulate this authentic love to our neighbors. 

As the Lord leads each of us into our vocation, our mission, or as He guides those of us already in our vocation, I pray we are each given opportunities to extend Christian hospitality in many ways.  Some days it may be sacrificing time you ‘need’ to get something done to be present to a friend, a parent, your spouse or child, or a fellow friar or sister in your community. And sometimes it may be hosting visitors you know through a friend of a friend and welcoming them into your imperfect (maybe even slightly disorganized) home with the respect and attentiveness you’d give to Christ. The Christian host is not defined by the perfection of her home, but by the warmth and openness of her heart.  But a Christian does not have to own a home to be hospitable or to be a host in the Spirit of Christ.  He can be a young person, living anywhere, who extends a warm, open heart to those he encounters. 

Let’s pray together for an awareness of what Christian hospitality can look like for each of us – in our individual stages of life, in our vocations, or wherever we are on our path of discerning our vocations and the mission God is calling us to. 

Lord, how are you calling me to be more hospitable in my life?  How can I be more receptive of others?  Help me to receive your love more deeply into the crevices of my heart, mind, and soul.  Transform me and conform me to your heart, so I may understand what it means to be truly hospitable, to truly love my neighbor.  Thank you, Lord.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we pray all of these things.  Amen.         


Catholic Stuff You Should Know Podcast – “Chateau de la Rode”

Created for Communion

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
—Matthew 19:3–9

As human beings, we are made for communion with one another. God created us in a way that makes it impossible for us to go it alone, for He made us in His own image. Just as He exists as a loving community of three Persons, we also are designed to live in relationship with Him and with one another. We see this in the complementarity between men and women: each is a reflection of the love of God, but they express this in different ways. Their complementary strengths bring them closer together.

Whether our need for communion is fulfilled through the vocation of marriage—a relationship that echoes the love of the Trinity—or through consecrated life—a sacred relationship with God Himself—it points to a deep desire written upon our hearts: to love and be loved, to make of ourselves a gift to others. Even while we are still waiting upon our vocation, God still calls us, here and now, to be part of His family. Each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, it is an opportunity for intimate connection with our Beloved.

Jesus is the Bridegroom, and we, the Church, are His bride. He lays down His life as a gift for us, and He assures us that His promises to us are eternal, never to be broken. When Jesus speaks against divorce, it is not to shame His disciples or to place burdens and restrictions upon us. He even acknowledges that in some cases, the marriage was unlawful and fundamentally lacking in what is needed to establish a true, healthy marriage as He intends for us. Rather, He wants us to understand that marriage is a great gift, not to be carelessly tossed aside. It is not merely a well of contentment that eventually dries up; rather, it is an opportunity for us to fulfill our deepest purpose through serving one another. To be truly fulfilled, we must each offer a gift of our whole selves—not just the parts we like about ourselves, not just one stage of our lives, and not just a surface-level desire for comfort.

God has blessed us with many great gifts, but do we truly understand their purpose? Or do we see them only for our own benefit? Our own personal gifts are meaningless if we cannot understand ourselves in relation to others—how we are called to serve them, what we have yet to learn from them, and how we need to rely upon them. We can form a true sense of self only when we look outward.

Arriving to Heaven Together

When I was in grade-school I remember having scheduled fire drills. The alarm would go off and everyone would stop what they were doing, we would put on our coats and file in two lines. The teacher would give the class directions as simple as “stay calm, follow me”. We would walk out of our classroom together and merge in the hallway with the other classes exiting their own classrooms. We would all make our way to the stairwell to exit the floor. One day while orderly walking down the stairs, I distinctly remember noticing all the children in front of me, all the children behind me, all the children in the stairwell from the floors above and, all the children in the stairwell from the floor below. We were all moving towards the same exit door to leave the building. Every single person was going to leave the building through the same tiny door. Suddenly my grade-school mind began to wander, what if there truly was a fire? What if we truly were in danger? How could everyone possibly fit through that tiny door out to safety? I became worried and scared for myself and all these people.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling his disciples that they should “enter through the narrow gate”. Jesus had given the disciples the simple direction of how to get to heaven by walking on the road that leads to the narrow gate; through him, by following him, by being in communion with him. Jesus had told us that this road was not easy. By picking up the cross we would be judged as he was judged and we would be persecuted as he was persecuted. When life becomes difficult it seems beyond tempting to drop our heavy cross. It seems tempting to cross over to the road that is wide because it seems to be less stressful, it seems like more fun, it seems like less work. But these are deceptions that take us no where. Jesus warns us that this broad road will be the destruction of many. We are not meant to walk the road of deceit and evil. We are meant to walk the road of love and forgiveness. We may get lost at times and end up on the wrong path but, God always gives us many opportunities to get on the right path, on the path to holiness.

How easy it could have been to cause distress in the middle of a fire drill. It could be easy to lose focus of the goal (exiting through the door) and be stuck inside the building in a dangerous situation. If people started to push and shove it would get us no where. But, “pushing and shoving” were not the instructions the teachers gave us. They told us to remain calm, to stay in line, to follow. They gave us directions and we worked together. My class worked with the other classes on our floor, which we may see from time to time, and my class even worked with classes a few floors above, which we never even interacted with before. Remain calm, stay in line, follow. We all became one moving body as we made our way through a tiny exit door to safety.

God didn’t make us to be alone. He made us to be in communion with Him and in turn to be in communion to one another. Right before Jesus told his disciples about entering through the narrow gate, he told them exactly how they would enter through the narrow gate; “do to others whatever you would have them do to you”. We have a responsibility to love each other, to help each other and work together in the name of Jesus Christ. Being in communion with one another means to be in fellowship and have a mutual participation or sharing. If we see someone on the broader road, suffering, take them by the hand and walk with them and Jesus on the narrow road. Share with them the word and love of the Lord. On the narrow road, no matter how pact or how difficult, when we remain calm and follow Christ everyone gets through the narrow gate and we arrive to heaven together.

We Belong to Each Other

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
—Mark 2:3–5

Imagine how it felt for the paralyzed man to be so close to Jesus, and yet so far: within sight of the Healer, yet held back by the very impairments that needed healing, utterly helpless to bridge the gap.

In moments when we feel paralyzed and helpless, unable to fix things for ourselves, God does not want us to go it alone. He wants to heal us, and He seeks to work through the hearts of others in the process. He uses our frailties to bear greater fruit: not only in ourselves, but in others, too. We can only be healed if we are willing to admit our weakness and ask for help. We must allow ourselves to be lifted up, carried, and lowered into the arms of Jesus.

And when we lend a hand to help someone else, it is a privilege: to share in the sacred struggle of their suffering, to draw close to the fountain of grace and healing. God uses these moments of weakness to teach us to rely upon other people and knit us closer together as a community.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
—Mother Teresa

Sacred Spaces

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
—John 2:19–21

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
—1 Corinthians 3:16–17

As human beings, we are designed to live in communion with one another. The Church is meant to be a shared space in which we find shelter for our souls, serving one another and seeing each other with the eyes of Christ. A physical church building serves as this sacred space in its connection with the ultimate Temple, Jesus Christ Himself; and we, too, become temples of the Holy Spirit when we open our hearts to receive Him. No sacrificial offering at any temple could be greater than what Christ offered for us: His very self, His own Body. And so we unite ourselves with this perfect offering, and thus also with one another—all part of the sacred Body of Jesus Christ, one living, breathing organism.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes the money-changers in the temple for entering into this shared, sacred space not with the intention of communing with God but for selfish, materialistic purposes. They were not seeing their fellow men as God does but rather as potential profits, and they showed no compunction about carrying out this individualistic mentality in a communal place of prayer. Just as Jesus did, we also may experience feelings of anger toward those who profane what is sacred within the Church—particularly after the abhorrent clerical scandals that have been uncovered during this past year. It is profoundly upsetting to everyone else within the Body of Christ to see corruption and rot existing in what is supposed to be a sacred shelter for us.

We are called to drive out the money-changers in the temple on every level—to root out corruption in the larger Church, to foster interconnectedness and reverent prayer within our parishes, and to cleanse our own hearts from the stains of self-centeredness and greed. Imagine the commotion that the money-changers caused in the temple, distracting everyone from the presence of God. What things are creating noise and distractions within our own souls? What pursuits keep us from seeing ourselves as sacred vessels, carrying Jesus into the world? Let us begin there.

God builds his house; that is, it does not take shape where people only want to plan, achieve, and produce by themselves. It does not appear where only success counts and where all the “strategies” are measured by success. It does not materialize where people are not prepared to make space and time in their lives for him; it does not get constructed where people only build by themselves and for themselves. But where people let themselves be claimed for God, there they have time for him and there space is available for him. There they can dare to represent in the present what is to come: the dwelling of God with us and our gathering together through him, which make us sisters and brothers of one house….

The beauty of the cathedral does not stand in opposition to the theology of the cross, but is its fruit: it was born from the willingness not to build one’s city by oneself and for oneself.

—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

A People of the Beatitudes

In listening to a reflection on the Beatitudes today, the speaker asked their audience to reflect upon what it means to live the Beatitudes. Not just to believe in them, but to live them.

To live the Beatitudes is to value the things that this world does not. To see with God’s eyes and hear with God’s ears.

We live in a world full of “takes”, of people and outlets vying for our attention by giving their spin or opinion on the world unfolding around us. I cannot begin to tell you how many different articles I saw posted on social media that were trying to vindicate or vilify Archbishop Viganó’s letter of accusation. The “liberal” Catholic figures were attempting to poke holes in the statement, the “conservative” Catholics were calling for the resignation of the Vicar of Christ, and most of the laity fell somewhere in the middle to be buffeted back and forth by one “take” after another. I began to despair, to be frustrating, to find myself alternately excited that the horror might not be as deep as it seemed and terribly, terribly angry that it very well could be.

Instead of attaching myself to either side of the “aisle” of this politicized version of Catholicism, I decided to cleave to the LORD. I prayed. I prayed my heart out, and I haven’t been that good with prayer lately, so you know I’m not saying it to brag. I say it because prayer is what brought me comfort. When the world around us takes every event and spins it into 2 alternate “realities” (call ’em facts and alternative facts, if that suits you), I took deep, deep comfort in the fact that their is ONE LORD and we shall have NO OTHER GODS above him.

Our LORD’s mind is not divided. His heart is pure, singly devoted to His children. Our LORD, given our participation, will sift the sheep from the goats, weave a braided cord and CLEANSE HIS HOUSE.

I’ve never been one for “fire and brimstone” preaching. Us cradle Catholics can be somewhat allergic to that. But in this last month where I have not known what is wheat and what is chaff, I have found myself praying for purifying fire. Elijah, calling down fire upon the prophets of Ba’al. I’m furious at many things, and most of all that the voice of Jesus Christ is being lost in this awful human noise. Drop your agendas, be respectfully skeptical of your favorite news source, and PRAY in a way that you have not yet. For those of you that have, bring the light of Christ to others; it shines in a way that blots out all the torches and pitchforks.

The voice of Jesus Christ is the voice that spoke the Beatitudes in today’s Gospel. Pray that we might all live these words, and see with God’s eyes what is valuable and true in the midst of the noise.

Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets
in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.