Category Archives: Catholic Belief

Benedict XVI’s message to the Youth of Germany (and to us)

(emphasis mine)

Dear young friends,

Throughout today I have been looking forward to this evening, and to this opportunity to be together with you and to join you in prayer. No doubt some of you were present at World Youth Day, where we were able to experience the special atmosphere of peace, deep fellowship and inner joy that characterizes an evening prayer vigil. It is my wish that we may experience the same thing now: that the Lord may touch our hearts and make us joyful witnesses who pray together and support one another, not just this evening but throughout our lives. Continue reading

Expectation Changes Everything

Recently Kristin and I found out we were expecting our second child. That revelation brought with it a flurry of activity! Expectation changes behavior. Overnight her diet changed – more fruit, more protein, and pre-natal vitamins. We began to think about names. We began to make mental lists to make sure we were ready for the arrival of this new baby. Expectation changes perception. Suddenly she understood why she was over-tired. She understood why she was more emotional than normal. When she viewed those emotions and feelings through the lens of pregnancy it all made sense. Expectation changes priorities. Because we are expecting, we are intentional with what she eats, we are intentional with how late we stay out, and we are intentional with preparing for that which we expect.

In the midst of this I think of Mary. Betrothed to be married, she was expecting. She was already making her plans; she was already in the middle of rearranged priorities. She was expecting a wedding. Then the Angel Gabriel stands before her and tells her of a new expectation (Luke 1:26-38). Mary humbly accepted and her life forever changed in an instant! Her thoughts became preoccupied with this new baby. The scriptures say that “Mary pondered these things in her heart.” How frightening it must have been to be pregnant and unmarried in those days. The stigma surely followed her throughout her life. But God’s priorities superseded the approval or understanding of people.

Today, we are far removed from that ancient story. In this season of Advent, we remember that Christ became a human to save us from sin and reconcile us to God. We use Advent as a reminder, and are grateful for God’s mercy to us. It is easy to forget that we too are a people who live in expectation. At mass we proclaim the mystery of faith together, “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again!” Generations have passed, and it may not seem likely that Christ will return in our lifetime, but Christ will come again. We celebrate Advent not only to remind us that Christ has come, but also to stir up expectation. Expectation changes everything. How will our thoughts, actions, and priorities change as we expect the return of Christ? Will we, like Mary, spurn public perception in favor of living out God’s priorities? Let us be a people consumed by expectancy!

Homework this week: Examine your priorities, thoughts, and behaviors through the lens of Christ’s return. How will a sense of expectation change your life?

In All Things, Give Thanks!

I love holidays! There is something about the recurring nature of them that helps me. At least once a year, I am reminded to give thanks for the blessings I’ve received! If I watch my calendar, I can’t miss it! It is right there, staring me in the face! THANKSGIVING! And even if I don’t pay attention to calendars, the turkey and dressing grabs my attention and jump-starts my thankfulness.

Remembering can be a powerful act of Worship. It has the power to lift us out of the doldrums of our current circumstances into the very presence of God. The psalmist knew this in Psalm 66, when he recounted all of the mighty acts God had shown the Children of Israel. Peter knew it when he wrote, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder…the power and coming of our lord Jesus Christ [for] we were eye-witnesses to his majesty!” 2 Peter 1:13, 16 And Jesus knew it when he instructed us to remember him through the Eucharist.

Homework this week. Think of all the ways you have been blessed and give thanks to God for his activity in your life. Throughout the week, meditate on all the ways that God has acted on your behalf.

All Stirred Up!

“Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these [truths of the Gospel], even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right…to stir you up by way of reminder,” – 2 Peter 1:12-13

I find this time of year, that it is easy to quickly rehearse the Christmas story and, because I have heard it so many times, gloss over it, and not give it the attention it deserves. I know the story well. I could quote it to you without thinking.

2+2=4!
Virgin Mary + Baby Jesus = Christmas Story!
Shepherds x Wiseman = rocking party + (cool gifts)3
!

It’s formulaic. Here just days away from Christmas, I need my heart stirred up by way of reminder. I need to be reminded that the God of the ages, who is too awesome to be contained by the heavens, put on flesh and lived the human life for thirty-three years. I need to be reminded that God submitted not only to a human life, but submitted to nine months in the womb; submitted to being born.

Ours is not a God who takes the easy way. He could have revealed himself in the form of Man fully grown, appearing from nowhere. But God gave himself a past, a childhood full of an early exile and painful moves in the middle of the night. Our God choose to identify with us in our sufferings from the greatest to the smallest, from the latest to the earliest. The maker of the Universe was made in the womb of Mary. The Author of all life was born. Christmas is not a wonderful children’s bedtime story. It is the story of God invading enemy territory with a plan to release a captive people.

The Christmas story is inextricably linked with the Passion and Easter story. God came, God lived, God experienced, God loved, God died, God conquered, God lived, God saved. This Christmas, let us stir up one another by way of remembering the wonderful true story that was handed down to us from ages past. We, the captive people, have been freed.

Merry Christmas.

Chalice in Wonderland

Two weeks ago I talked to you about reclaiming a “healthy sense of wonder.” This week we have an excellent opportunity to practice as we gather together to take communion. If you grew up in the church, it is very likely that the act of communion has become commonplace. It is very easy to treat this as just another thing we “do” in church. But, friends, this is far more than just something we do! This is our opportunity to commune with God. As we physically consume the Body of Christ, we have the opportunity to spiritually be consumed by God’s presence.

We grew up in a culture that related the word “real” to mean physical or natural, but by doing so we have shortchanged the spiritual world. Jesus told the crowds in Capernaum, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” (John 6:55-57)

Just as it is true that if we stop eating food, in time our bodies will really die, so it is true that if we stop communing with God through Jesus Christ our spirits will really die. The death is no less real. Just as we cannot live full lives on one meal, but must eat regularly to remain healthy, so too we cannot remain vital disciples off of one experience with God.

So this week, as we come to meet with God through the act of communion, worship through remembrance. As you receive the host, remember the times throughout history that God gave Himself for His children. He delivered them out of Egypt, sustained them through the wilderness, and led them into the Promised Land. He provided a way for them to draw near through the law, through sacrifices. Then remember the times He has delivered, sustained, and led you. Remember that He provided a way for you to draw near, defeating the law, through His son. And this week, instead of taking the Body and Blood of our Lord, let them take you. . .into the very presence of our loving, sustaining God.