It’s fair to say that my driving is always an adventure full of surprises, disappointments, and apologies to my passengers.
Whether you’re directionally challenged like me or not, life is pretty tough to navigate. Everyone has moments where we are unsure of who we are, where we’re headed, and if there is a voice that we can trust to get us there. Even prayer can be frustrating as we go through different periods where God may seem close or distant, loud or silent.
If I want to live, there are things in me that need to die. My selfishness, my lust, my greed, my grudges, and my sin have got to go.
Each day we’re faced with this choice: will I live for myself or will I lay my life down? Is my life focused on success or sacrifice?
When we walk into a church, we are confronted with the radical call to die. When we see the baptismal font, we are reminded that it’s only through death that we can rise with Christ. And when we dip our fingers into the Holy Water, we trace the sign of the cross to say, “God, drown whatever needs to be drowned in my heart. I want to live with you, so I’m willing to die like you.”
Saint Peter died defending a faith that wouldn’t submit to any empire. The witness of millions of martyrs over the past 2,000 years gives testimony to faith that is unflinching and love that is stronger than death.
Today when you walk toward St. Peter’s Square, you can’t help but notice the obelisk that was once a sign of Rome’s power. In the past two millennia, empires and kingdoms, presidents and dictators have risen and fallen . . . but the Church remains standing.
When we hear the stories of the saints, the men and women who loved with all their hearts and responded to God’s call with everything they had, it’s like watching a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. The heroic examples of the saints are not some random occurrences that just kind of happen; they are the products of lives spent learning to say “yes” to God’s call in a thousand small ways. Before Saint Agnes or Saint Maximilian Kolbe ultimately gave their lives as martyrs, they had been practicing sacrifice and learning to trust God in the small things of daily life.
Women, you deserve so much better. You deserve to be honored and treasured as living, breathing miracles that reveal God to the world in a way that men never could. Scripture says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and your bodies reflect God’s glory and his life-giving power in such an amazing way (1 Corinthians 6:19).
The people of the Old Testament were waiting 400 years to hear something, anything, from God. In our Bibles, it takes less than a second to turn the page from the Old Testament to the Gospels when in reality, there was about a 400 year gap.
So what would He say? When God finally showed up, when the Messiah arrived, what would be the first thing He says? A message of condemnation? Reminding us of our sins? Telling us to be more patient? Giving us new rules to follow?
In case you haven’t seen a calendar, looked at people’s front yards, or watched enough of those ridiculous cars-with-huge-ribbons-on-them commercials (because most people we know regularly get a Lexus for Christmas) . . . Christmas is coming soon.
The Church celebrates Advent – a time of preparation – for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. I never really used to get into Advent; it seemed like an unnecessary reminder when we already have radio stations playing Christmas music, Christmas episodes of our favorite TV shows, and those red Starbucks cups to let us know that Jesus’ birth is just around the corner.
This isn’t just about dating; I think that a lot of us guys have become so afraid of awkwardness that we never take risks. We’re not sure how we might appear if we take a stand for our faith, so we keep silent when the Church is mocked. We know that we’re not perfect ourselves, so we feel too hypocritical to challenge someone else for something that they’re doing or saying that is wrong.
The show takes a look at Theresa’s life as she tries to balance family relationships with her daytime job as a medium, someone who can communicate with the spirit world. She believes that she can communicate with people who have died, so clients come to her looking for closure and answers as they hope to hear from those who have passed away.
It sounds harmless enough. After all, she’s just offering help and consolation to people who are still mourning the loss of loved ones, right? What does the Catholic Church say about channeling spirits or communicating with the dead?
Suffering will always be hard to understand; there’s no quick answer, bumper sticker, or 140-character tweet that can totally answer all of our “whys.” But even in our grief, we can look to the crucifix and know that we have not been forgotten or abandoned by God.
I’ll never forget what happened at about 2:05pm on April 14. In front of my family, friends, and God, I swore in church. And then the girl standing next to me swore. It wasn’t inappropriate. It wasn’t bad; it was actually a good thing.
We swore that we would love each other faithfully for the rest of our lives and we begged God to seal and strengthen our commitment. We were so excited to get married, but we knew that the sacrament wasn’t just about us.
At some point when I grew up, I stopped praying like a kid. Maybe I was embarrassed to ask God for what I really wanted, or maybe I just wasn’t so sure He was able or willing to take care of me. I think one of the reasons that Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to children (Matthew 19:14) is because children still believe in a God who cares about every little detail of their lives. They are still courageous enough to ask for miracles when everyone else tells them to not get their hopes up.
But then I thought about it more and I decided that the LAST thing I want to be is a firework. As exciting as they are, fireworks don’t really have a long life. There’s a high-pitched hum, a crackle, and then a really cool explosion of light that lasts for maybe five seconds.
And that’s all there is. Except for the smell of sulfur that lasts for another minute, and the charred out debris that lands somewhere. For all of their glory, fireworks burn out pretty fast. No matter how high they go, no matter how cool the colors are, they’re forgotten when the next one goes off.
The story we concocted was that Mel’s daughter was a high school student who had attended a Steubenville Youth Conference and that she was considering attending Franciscan University the following year. I’ll never forget the hope in his eyes when we told him or the profound look of disappointment and betrayal that followed when we admitted a few days later that it was just a joke. Luke’s reaction was nothing compared to what was coming . . .
How did she do it? How did she manage to remain focused on God while she had the most unique and challenging role in all of human history? And how could I possibly be anything like her, when I get stressed out by the everyday pressures of my comfortable life? Her Immaculate life was so unlike my own awkward existence that I had no idea where to even begin if I was going to try to imitate her.
Then it happened. In a moment of weakness and stress, I found a Coke and failed my annual challenge once again. I was really frustrated. This was supposed to be the year that I finally got it right, the one Lent that I could finally prove to God and to myself that I could do it. I spent a day or two so frustrated that I couldn’t bring myself to pray. I couldn’t face the God who suffered and died for me when I couldn’t give up a freaking soft drink.
Then I realized that I was not much better than those pagan voodoo worshipers.
In my head I know that God was the only one worth my worship, but I still found myself turning to so many other relationships, habits, and even sins to save me when I was overwhelmed and in need of help. I knew that Jesus was my Savior, but often I turned anywhere else but towards Him when I needed to be saved from loneliness, hurt, or boredom.
I have to admit I’m a bit late on this one. I realize that the whole “Jesus vs. Religion” showdown is sooooo last month, but I think it’s worth taking another look at.
Who hasn’t thought at one point or another about how great it would be to just have Jesus without all the rules and lists of things we’re supposed to do? Why do we need all the rules? Why can’t we just have Jesus without all the obligations? Sure, Jesus spoke often about the importance of following His commands (Luke 8:21) but why do we even need religion then? Why do we need labels and definitions? Why can’t we just be close to Him and not worry about all the details?