The Party

I love free stuff. Free stuff is inherently better than stuff you pay for… for example, free food just tastes better! Right?! If someone invited me to a party, told me it was free, AND that there would be food and dancing, I would totally be there. This is why I like weddings. Free food and fun… plus the Sacrament of Matrimony (obviously).

In yesterday’s Gospel, many invited wedding guests didn’t share my enthusiasm. Back in Jesus’ time, weddings even lasted a week! Can you imagine a week-long party with free food? Who would say no that? Yet, plenty did. So the king in this parable sends his servants out to extend the invitation to anyone they could find.

We turn down really good stuff all the time without even knowing it. Every time we sin, we turn down God’s plan for our us. He has extended an invitation to us to join Him in the Kingdom of Heaven, yet many of us turn Him down by the way we live our lives. We have an opportunity to join God for the ultimate, free, life-long party. He literally gave His life so that we could join Him. We RSVP by how we live our lives. Will I see you there?

The Future

I am the guy with a vision. I have big plans. There are big things I want to make happen both in my ministry and in my life. As a result, I am also a worrier. That’s what happens when you are always looking to the future instead of the present. We get anxious.

My struggle is letting God be in control, but He tells us in our second reading this weekend, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Prayer is our relationship with God. Petition is what we ask of Him. Thanksgiving is for the gifts of the past and present. If we are focused on this, we cannot get caught up by the anxiety of looking ahead.

Our God has a plan for us. Trusting in His plan is the virtue of hope. It is so important to trust in this plan even when it doesn’t align with our own. Like I said, I look ahead a lot, but I can’t desire to have my own plans succeed more than God’s or impose my plans upon Him. His plans will lead me and those around me to Heaven. Who knows where mine lead…

The Relationship

Christianity isn’t about living the right way. It’s about a person. Jesus. It is not our actions that will get us to Heaven; it’s our relationship with Him that will. However, as Catholics, we believe that the way we live our lives must be a reflection of our relationship with Jesus. There is not a moment where we have been “saved” as our Protestant brothers and sisters might say; rather, we must continually say “yes” to Christ and that “yes” must be reflected in the way that we live.

There are plenty of so-called “Catholics” and “Christians” who follow all of the rules. They spend their hour in church every Sunday, give up something for Lent, send their kids to (or attend) religious education, etc., but they do not have a relationship with Jesus. Following the rules isn’t what brings us to Christ. We haven’t been commanded to follow a set of rules. We have been commanded to love God and love our neighbor. When we truly love God and our neighbor, it looks a lot like following the rules because we still show up to Mass, give things up for Lent, etc., but we do it out love for God… not because we “have” to.

The Burger

Have you ever gone to a restaurant (lets it’s In-N-Out, since they will be providing the food for XLT on October 22) and ordered food, but then you looked at the ingredients… and you’re like, “No onions. No tomato. Extra spread. Animal style”? Well, maybe not that exact order… but have you ever gone to restaurant and ordered something, but removed or subbed ingredients? I think we’ve all done it. In the case of In-N-Out, that burger was wonderfully and perfectly crafted. There is no reason to change it, but we also do this with our faith.

God has served up a deliciously balanced (theological term: ordered) way of living for us. We love Him, and we love our neighbor, and there are properly-ordered ways of expressing that love (i.e. attending Mass on Sundays, respecting our parents, saving sex for marriage, etc.). This list of beliefs on how we should live our lives to honor God is laid out in Scripture and the Catechism. Yet, people disagree with these teachings all the time.

When it comes to our relationship with God and our faith, we shouldn’t pick and choose the “ingredients” we want. We glorify God by enjoying the “faith burger” the way He intended it to be eaten.

The Apology

In our family, when someone does something wrong, they have to apologize. We are very careful about not responding with “It’s ok.” If someone does something wrong, it’s not ok, so we say, “I forgive you,” instead. Apologizing can be hard, and offering forgiveness can be even harder. I’ve apologized to people without meaning it, and likewise, I have “forgiven” people, when (in my heart) I really hadn’t.

We are broken. God doesn’t have to apologize because He never does anything wrong. However, He does have to offer forgiveness, but He ALWAYS means it. The problem is on our end. We often fail to be sincere in our apologies to Him. Sometimes, we don’t even seek His forgiveness.

Sin damages our relationship with God. It separates us. The only way to be reconciled is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). We have to approach Him in the Sacrament with a contrite (remorseful) heart. We need to be truly sorry for our sins, and we need to promise to try our hardest never to sin again and to avoid even putting ourselves in a place where we might be tempted to sin. Ask yourselves, are you truly sorry for sins? Have you apologized, and meant it? If so, you’ve been forgiven.

The Truth

We live in a culture that doesn’t understand the word “truth.” For example, as Catholics, we believe that abortion is wrong. However, if you believe it is wrong and you “personally wouldn’t have one, but it’s not my place to tell someone else that they can’t,” then you are confused. If it is wrong, it is wrong for everyone, whether or not they subscribe to the same faith or worldview is irrelevant. If it is true, then it is ALWAYS true for EVERYONE.

We’re all sinners. That doesn’t make it ok, but it is a fact. We all have to be diligently working to eradicate sin from our lives. Not only that, but we have a responsibility to help others do so as well. Moral relativism means that morality (the truth of what is right and wrong) is relative to each culture. That means, what is true for me may not be for you… which doesn’t make sense. To use the issue of abortion again, it is always wrong. Just because YOU might disagree doesn’t change the truth. You simply disagree with the truth.

We have a responsibility to correct sinfulness—our own and that of others. We have a responsibility to share the truth… and to live by it.

The Helpers

At my elementary school, when you reached fifth grade, you were allowed to become a traffic control officer. You got a nifty neon orange vest, a whistle, and the power to direct traffic during drop-off, pickup, and special events. You were kind of a big deal. I really wanted to be a part of the team. I even had my parents buy me a whistle in second grade, and I would take it to school every day in the hoping I got to use it.

One day, the parish was having a funeral, and all of the cars were flooding the parking lot. There just happened to be no one directing traffic, and I just happened to have my whistle. So, I went out there and got to work. I am sure I was sending all of the cars to the wrong places, but I felt like I was helping.

Sometimes, like me (and Peter from Sunday’s gospel), we try to help, but create more problems. We think we’re helping, but we’re doing more harm then good. The only way to know the difference is to pray and to frequently encounter Christ in the Sacraments. My regular prayer is “Jesus, use me.” Are you willing to let Him use you?

The Spoilers

“They” always say that you should see the movie before you read the book because the movie will always be a let down compared to the image you created in your own head. When we read, the words on the page shape the vision in our heads. When we go see the movie, there is no way it can match the vision we created. If we see the movie first, we already have an idea of what characters, scenes, etc. look like for when we read.

When we read the Bible, our minds do the same thing. We create these characters in our heads. These people really existed though, and we can’t create the exact image in our mind. We often do this with Jesus. We shape Him into the character we want Him to be based on what we read.

The problem with creating a character for Jesus is that the character in our mind ISN’T Jesus. We think all He wants is for us to be happy all of the time. Or we think He didn’t really teach THAT (whatever THAT is that you disagree with). When we create our own “Jesus,” we limit Him. The real Jesus is far more awesome than our flawed image.

The Incredibles

With God, we are able to do some incredible things. We know this… but I’m not entirely sure we BELIEVE it. Our saints, those who have lived in union with God, are basically like a holy version of the X-Men. They’ve defeated demons. They’ve healed the sick. They’ve bi-located. They’ve even brought the dead back to life. When I say that we can do some pretty incredible things with God, I mean it!

This Sunday, we heard about Peter walking on the water. That’s pretty incredible (if you don’t think so, go try it). He was able to do this as long as he trusted God. The second he doubted, he began to sink. More importantly than him sinking though, is the fact that he actually walked on water. He did something incredible because he trusted Jesus (even if only for a moment).

To trust is to have the theological virtue of hope. Faith is belief in God, but hope is to trust in His plan. Jesus has called each of us out onto the water. He has called us to trust Him. If we do, we can do incredible things. If we don’t, we’ll sink. Luckily for us, if we sink, He’s there to catch us.

The Mountaintop

We all love retreats. Why? Because we feel closer to God. He reveals Himself to us in grand ways, but He never reveals more of Himself to us than He does in the Mass. The Mass is the true mountaintop experience for Catholics—it’s the Source and the Summit of our faith. It’s the peak.

Yesterday, we read that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain and was revealed to them in all of His heavenly glory. He does the same for us at every Mass. A seemingly ordinary piece of bread is totally changed, through the process of transubstantiation, into Jesus right in front of us. Then, we get to receive Him into our own bodies. On earth, we will never be closer to Heaven than in the moments where we are at Mass.

After Mass though, we come down from the mountain, but we leave empowered. What we do after Mass matters. We received an incredible gift, and we witnessed our incredible God right before our eyes. This should change us. If it doesn’t, it means we don’t understand Who we receive in the Eucharist. It should empower us to go out and share that mountaintop experience… and bring others to the peak with us.