January 17, 2022
Filed In: Faith
I love to drive. Each year, our family takes two or three major road trips. These are highlights of my year, even if occasionally the kids don’t travel as easily as I wish they would. Although our destinations are often places we’ve been before, it takes weeks of preparations to be ready to go.
For each trip, we typically need to add a few more items to our travel supplies. Winter clothes, a cargo box, or even just a few nicknacks find their way to our house in cardboard boxes on the backs of delivery vans. It’s always my assumption that each subsequent trip will require fewer new supplies, but I’m still waiting for that theory to prove itself out.
It doesn’t take us long to pack. In fact, we’re pretty good now at bringing the right mix of clothing, packed to perfection in our travel bags. What takes the most time is thinking through the trip and ensuring that we have the right supplies. Of course, there’s always the need to add appropriately sized kids clothing to the mix, and that can be a cycle of orders and returns, ensuring a good fit.
Weeks of preparation give way to a smooth trip on which we have everything that we need. I anticipate each passenger’s needs and do my best to meet them. It makes even long road trips enjoyable experiences.
Each of us are on a journey that requires equal, if not more, preparation. The path to sainthood is both a path and the work of a lifetime. But in January, I’m not spending much time planning our vacation in November. The allure of putting off our spiritual preparations is strong.
Our desire to procrastinate is itself a paradox. If we put off our spiritual preparations, we may be too late. At the same time, if we do the small work today of cultivating a rich spiritual life, our journey to sainthood would be much more enjoyable. A life well lived in accordance with God’s Law is much sweeter than a life mired in sin and darkness.
Advent is four weeks behind us and Lent is still six weeks ahead of us. These two seasons remind us to prepare, but the work happens every day. We have to overcome the resistance that tells us that we have time. If we’ve learned anything in our world of uncertainty, time is anything but assured.
January 10, 2022
Filed In: Church and Culture
2021 was supposed to be the year of civility and normalcy. Well, we didn’t get it. Instead, we got more acrimony and animosity. Last year I wrote about walking under the stars and listening to the Bible. I had started the Bible in a Year podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz. I didn’t make it past day 25 or so, but I’m starting over.
One of the interesting points that Fr. Mike makes is the reason why we should read the Bible. It’s not only to discover God’s wisdom for us. It’s to help us craft a worldview. There are many points of view on offer, most of which are served up through advertising and social media feeds. But what does it mean to have a Catholic worldview?
The Catholic worldview rests on a simple premise: all people are created in the image and likeness of God.
We’ve heard that phrase many times, but have we considered its weight? It asserts that every single human person is known by, loved by, and belongs to God. Adopting it as our worldview has the potential to radically change how we live our lives.
How would our driving habits change if we saw not a driver with annoying habits, but God’s daughter at the wheel? How would we read the news differently if each news story was seen involving God’s children? How would our political temperature change if we saw ideas being put forward by a child of God?
Our families, our communities, and our society does best when we stand together. But we can only stand together if we’re willing to reach out our hand and grab on to someone else’s. That becomes much simpler when we see one another as we truly are, a person that belongs to God.
January 03, 2022
Filed In: Church and Culture
What a lousy two years we’ve had. Disruption, distortion, and distrust maligned what was supposed to be a grand opening of a new decade. Peace, prosperity, and stability reigned, and we collectively looked forward to more of the same. How quickly that all faded.
We spent the first few months of disruption trying to figure things out, usually on the fly. We expected it to be past us like a summer storm: violent, scary, but over quickly. Now, at the start of 2022, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. The messaging and posturing around us represents that we are nearing the fifth stage of grief, acceptance. It’s like a breath of fresh, spring air.
As we stand on this peak, it’s important to take stock of these past two years. We now have a better understanding of the disruption, and tools with which to deal with it. The new year is a milepost for reflection, but I think that we need to look more deeply at ourselves and our lives. Two years passed, and in many ways, they were wasted. We treaded water and let precious time tick away, time that we’ll never get back.
We learned things about ourselves, perhaps things we preferred not to learn. They are just new opportunities for continuing on the Franciscan path of constant renewal. The biggest lesson of all that we should take away is that this was an absolute MasterClass in the reality that we are not in control.
In the Book of Revelation, Christ mounts His throne and declares that He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). A powerful statement from the Creator and sustainer of all that exists. Death, decay, disorder, and destruction vanishes at the command of Jesus. He turns death into life, disorder into order, and destruction into the New Jerusalem.
The suffering, pain, isolation, and spiraling that we all experienced, do we really believe that God is more powerful than it all? Do we really believe that He can set things right? It may not be in this place or this time, but we are travelers, journeying to an ordered, perfect reality wholly of His making.
We’ve spent too much of our time, seeking to be in control. We’ve spent too much effort on our pursuits, our days tinkering away at useless things. The hands and feet of Christ never stop moving, they’re always working with focus. You and I are workers building the Kingdom that is, at this very moment, on its way.
Two lousy years are over, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time to stand up and dust off. It’s time to prepare our hearts and homes for the advent of Christmas, the arrival of the Bridegroom.
December 27, 2021
Filed In: Faith
The bright Christmas lights that lit homes in my neighborhood since Thanksgiving have gone dark. For my neighbors, Christmas ended at bedtime on Saturday. Not so for my house. Our Christmas lights shine forth in the December darkness, and the Nativity in our yard continues to cast a massive shadow on our garage.
This Christmas season has just begun, a mystery so great that a single day cannot contain it. It’s not just that Christ became Emmanuel, God with us, but how and why He did it.
Our life is but a breath, we read in Scripture. 70, 80, or 90 years is a blink of an eye in the scope of history. Our impacts are small; reaching a few thousand people in our lifetime and perhaps building a family tree in the hundreds. Yet, despite our smallness, God gave up everything to come and save us. He descended from His throne, the place of total power and knowledge, to take on our humanity, our weakness. He chose this path and this time for a reason.
He chose to be born in ancient times. It was a time of great discomfort when compared to our modern comforts. It was a time when news travelled slowly, a far cry from our 24-hour news cycle. It was a time of harshness, of evil, and brutal governments.
But He chose. He chose it to come and to save you and me. He chose it out of a love so great and so deep that we have no reference for it. He chose it so that we could choose to accept it, and be together forever. His choice reached its fulfillment on Easter morning, but it was a process that started with Mary’s simple fiat.
The joy of the season is now here after weeks of preparation. Leave your lights on and your tree up. Don’t put away your Christmas dishes and decorations. Leave them up and relish the joy of a love that gave up everything just to be with you forever.
December 20, 2021
Filed In: Faith
In some ways, I think that we like the busyness of life. Sure, everyone complains and uses it as an excuse or justification. I deserve this break because I work so hard, I can’t come to the party because I’m too busy. There are plenty of things to fill our days, but I think we might be using these excuses to let the pitch pass us by.
Advent is quickly winding down. In just a few days, the Nativity of Our Lord will be here, a season of joy and celebration. How well did you use Advent? What new insights did you gain by reflecting on the true meaning of the season? What positive steps have you taken to make straight the paths of the Lord?
Answers to these questions can be an indictment against us. After all, each time we go to Confession, we’re likely able to confess not dedicating enough time each day to prayer. But here again is another trap. It’s a trap to not be reflective, to not pray. It’s also a trap to despair or let it be cause for our prayer life to continue on in neglect.
The point is that living a moral, holy, and saintly life is not easy. That’s why we have grace, the Church, and the Sacraments. Not only do we have access to them, but we desperately need them. The objective is not to live a perfect life, that’s an unattainable goal. The objective is to live a saintly life. Ordinary men and women of all backgrounds, overcoming their human nature and striving for holiness despite their failings. That is the life we’re meant to live.
The best time to live a saintly life was yesterday. The best time to reflect, amend, and convert your heart was yesterday. The second-best time is now.