The Battle

When we know someone REALLY well (like our parents, best friends, significant others, etc.), we have to be careful. We know their strengths, but we also know their weaknesses, which means we can exploit them. With great power comes great responsibility.

The devil knows Jesus very well. In yesterday’s Gospel, we witnessed the devil’s attempt to get Jesus to give into temptation. He knows Jesus so well, that he knew exactly which buttons to push. Jesus left this exchange and had to be ministered to by angels because it took so much out of Him. What’s scary is that we are nowhere near as strong as Jesus, but the devil knows us just as well.

The devil knows our fears, our hurts, and our sin. He uses them to keep us separated from Jesus. He fans the flames of fear by saying God won’t be there for us. He fans the flames of hurt by saying God wasn’t there for us. And he fans the flames of sin by saying God isn’t there right now (and doesn’t need to be). There is only one thing we can do (and it’s guaranteed to work): run to Jesus in prayer and the Sacraments. He always wins.

The Car Wash

When you own a car, there a few things nicer than the moment you leave the car wash. In that moment as you pull away, everything seems right with the world, and you’re willing to do anything to keep it that way.

When my car is clean, I have stayed home just because it was raining. I have even taken a different route home, when I know there are sprinklers along the way that could possibly ruin the pristine cleanness of my car. However, as soon as that first storm takes me by surprise, or the car gets splashed with something, it’s all over. I don’t care as much about going out of my way to keep it clean because it’s already dirty.

Sin dirties our soul. The car wash for our soul is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and as soon as we walk out, we’re willing to go out of our way to keep our soul clean and free from sin. As soon as we start sinning though, we fall into deeper sin—our soul gets progressively dirtier. If we wait too long, we can get so “dirty” that we feel gross. Don’t let it get to that point, it’s so important to return to Jesus clean us up.

The Miracles

We believe in a God of miracles! The Bible is full of them, and Jesus (and subsequently, His disciples) did some incredible things. Miracles aren’t just something that happened back then though. Miracles happen every day. Some are big. Some are small. And we miss most of them.

I’m lucky to have witnessed some incredibly big miracles (i.e. a baby not having a heartbeat, then having one moments later), but more frequently, I witness “everyday” miracles. These are the ones we miss. We notice when someone is healed from cancer through prayer, but we typically miss the fact that we are alive, we barely missed getting into an accident, or the fact that the sun rose over this beautiful planet created by God. We miss these miracles because a) we take them for granted and b) we are too distracted.

First, we need to stop and recognize the miracles in our lives (big and small). Then, when God blesses us with a miracle, the response should be to get up and serve Him and His Church. Not just go back to the way things were. When someone gives you an amazing gift, you don’t just say, “thank you” and abandon them until your next birthday or Christmas. You give back.

The Broken Heart

To have a hardened heart impacts the way we respond to the world around us. It desensitizes us. We begin to miss the important things. We miss the beauty of a sunset. We miss the sacrifice our parents make for us. We miss opportunities to share in the sufferings of others. Simply put, we miss opportunities to encounter Christ, in His perfection, in the world around us.

Beauty, love, and suffering break our hearts wide open. When we experience them, we allow the light of Christ to shine in. That sunset becomes an experience with Jesus. Our parents’ sacrifices become love stories. Suffering becomes an opportunity to share in the experience of Christ. As we continue to recognize the Lord’s movements in these experiences, our hearts break open as we fall deeper in love with Him. These experiences till the soil of our hearts—breaking them wide open for the Lord to enter in.

It’s important to not allow our hearts to harden. We miss the best parts of life and how God is working. Take time to appreciate beauty, love, and suffering. When we’re too busy, they are hard to see, so pause and look around you. You’ll be surprised at everything that you’ve missed.

The Decision

We’re faced with countless decisions every day ranging from what we will eat for lunch to whether or not we should check that text while we’re driving. Some decisions obviously hold more weight than others. Like should you sleep in? Or should you wake up early to pray? Should you stay home to watch that football game on Sunday? Or should you get to Mass?

Every day, in decisions big and small, we have opportunities to choose the Light or choose the darkness. Our decisions can lead us closer to Christ or further away from Him. Choosing Him means refocusing our lives. There are many bad things that lead us away from Him, but there are also many good things (when disordered) that can do the same thing.

In yesterday’s Gospel reading, four of Jesus’ apostles leave work (a good thing), their friends (good things), and even their dad (a good thing) to follow Him. They recognized that God was more important than work, friends, and even family. We are all called to make God number one. This doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning other good things, but it means we have to put them in their proper place. There can only one number one; who or what is yours?

The Followers

Followers are a big deal. Everyone’s concerned with how many followers they have on Insta, Twitter, and Snapchat (you know you are… don’t pretend you’re not). People who have followers are called leaders. Had I asked, I bet many of you would have said you weren’t leaders, but you are!

Leaders have a responsibility to their followers. Are you leading people toward the Light? Or into darkness? In the past, you had to call someone or meet up in person to have an influence. Now, we have a constant influence on others through social media. Look at your social media accounts and ask yourself, “Where am I leading my followers?” Are you leading them closer to Christ or to something like: yourself, your body, your possessions, your lifestyle (that doesn’t reflect that of a Christian—follower of Christ)? In simple terms, are you leading people to grace or sin?

John the Baptist was always directing his followers to Jesus. In the yesterday’s Gospel, we listen as two of John’s followers are redirected to Jesus and leave John immediately to follow Him. This is a testament to John’s leadership. This is how we should lead: by leading others to Jesus through our posts and how we live our lives.

The Burrito

I went to school in San Diego. There is a small chain of Mexican fast food restaurants called Santana’s that invented the California Burrito—one pound of carne asada, cheese, salsa fresca, and French fries on a fresh tortilla. Eating this burrito (often imitated but never duplicated) is a life changing experience. When I left San Diego after college, I would still regularly drive over an hour just to get this burrito. When I visit California, Santana’s is always a necessary stop. It’s THAT good.

What are you willing to go out of your way for? Maybe it’s a burrito, but maybe it’s not even food. Maybe it’s a sporting event, a concert, or a new iPhone. What we celebrated at Mass yesterday was three wise men going out of their way to encounter Christ the King. To them, He was worth it. After encountering Him, they again changed their course because of that encounter.

We need to be willing to seek Him above all else. Once we find Him, our lives should change. We need to be going out of our way to get to Mass and the Sacrament of Confession. After leaving those encounters with our Lord, our lives should look different. That’s way better than a burrito.

The Christmas Visitors

Most of us Catholics are lucky enough to have regular encounters with Christ. We know we can find Him (physically) in the Eucharist in the Mass, the tabernacle, or the monstrance. We know we can summon the Holy Spirit. We know we can speak to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) whenever we want through prayer, and hear His word anytime we open our Bibles. Many Catholics, however, do not know these awesome Truths. Many of them will be at Mass for Christmas. For many, this is their only planned trip to the Eucharistic feast until Ash Wednesday or Easter.

We know something they don’t: God is with us (Emmanuel!), and we know where to find Him. That’s the great story of Christmas. God didn’t enter the world with a mighty roar, but with the cry of a newborn baby—a whisper in the grand scheme of things. Even today, He enters the world with a whisper during the words of consecration. The shepherds and wise men needed to be told of the Baby Jesus, and they needed a star to guide them. We know where to find Him, so it’s our responsibility to guide others to Him.

How can we welcome EVERYONE to the Eucharist—to encounter Christ—this Christmas? Rather than judging those that show up infrequently, let’s be like the star on that silent night so long ago that guided people to the Lord and like Mary and Joseph, who welcomed every visitor.

The Joy

Christmas is exactly ONE WEEK AWAY!!! At this point, you better feel more like Buddy the Elf than the Grinch. This is exciting stuff, and that’s what this Gaudete Sunday—the third Sunday of Advent—is all about! It’s time to rejoice! Christmas is almost here! (All of those exclamation points are very necessary)

Advent, like Lent, is a season of penance. It’s a time for us to prepare for the coming of the Lord, which often means identifying the darker areas of our lives that are in need of the light of Christ. Then, we need to get ourselves to the Sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation). Just like we need to have the proper disposition (aka we need to be in a state of grace and not a state of sin) to receive the Eucharist, we need to use the season of Advent to prepare our lives for the coming of Jesus. Confession prepares our souls in the way that trees, lights, and garland prepare our homes.

Advent is a season of JOYFUL expectation. Joy is only found in Christ. As we draw near to Christmas, if you are apart from Him because of sin, it’s time to return to Him. Join us for Reconciliation on Wednesday (7pm-9pm).

The Preparations

When you get married, preparing for Christmas is a little different. You both bring your own traditions and preferences and have to find some middle ground. White lights or colored lights? Real tree or fake tree? Homemade ornaments or the store-bought kind? This doesn’t even address the typically bigger questions of “Whose family’s house will host Christmas?” “Do we celebrate on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?” “What time are we going to Mass?” It’s a lot to think about, but preparing is very important. In fact, during Advent, that is the MOST important.

It’s not actually those preparations that are important though. You should spend far more time analyzing your heart than your home. You should be focused on the light of Christ, not the ones on your tree. The way you do that is by praying and encountering Christ in the Sacraments. You won’t find Him in the mall or under the tree. In fact, you will find Him in some of the unlikeliest places—such as in a manger in that stable that first Christmas night.

The season of Advent precedes Christmas. It requires us to prepare ourselves, so if it’s been awhile, prepare yourself by going to Confession.
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December 20 from 7:00pm-9:00pm