Live it every day

All of the special days are done. Everything is back to the simple green of ordinary time. We’re focused on what it means to take the faith out of the Easter box. To live it every day.

Except for this Sunday. This Sunday is the Nativity of John the Baptist.

Which at first feels out of place. A random saint, on a random Sunday. For no clear reason.

As opposed to what we would expect, given the practical wisdom of Ordinary Time.

Except that this no random saint. And the Nativity of John the Baptist has a lot to tell us about what it means to live the faith every day.

Starting with his parents.

More on this Thursday.

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Let us begin

Do you ever pray for something you don’t want?

Think back to when we were growing up. When we went through that stage, when our prayers were, well, basically treating God like a vending machine.

Back then, I prayed for all kinds of stuff I wanted.

One thing I never prayed for? Broccoli.

I have never asked God for broccoli. And I never will. I’m just not a fan.

I mean, why would you pray for something you don’t want?

And yet, all of us do. All of us pray for things we don’t want. Pretty much every day.   

What am I talking about? You’ve never said “Heavenly Father, today I would like to be in a traffic accident. And if it’s not too much to ask, the next time I drop something, it would be great if it could break. Amen.”

Nobody prays like that.

And yet all of us do something very much like that. Pretty much every day.

We do it when we worry about things. When we constantly bring to mind the things that are laying heaviest on our hearts.

Everything that could go wrong. Everything we’re afraid might happen. Everything we’re afraid might never happen. Everything we’re afraid of losing.

Turning it over in our thoughts, time and again. Replaying “what-ifs,” over and over. In a corrosive parody of praying without ceasing.

One that will eventually poison our relationship with God. And our relationships with each other.

Why do we do that?

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A Moment before the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

All of the decorations are gone. Everything’s green. It must be Ordinary Time. 

Not because we’re out of ideas. But because Easter is too good to leave boxed up in a special season.

Ordinary Time is all about keeping Easter from being just a once a year thing and making it a part of everyday life.

The readings are about the impact of Easter. Making it clear Whose we are. Where our home really is. 

And where we are headed.

The Gospel reminds us that things may not happen as quickly as we would like. At times, it may look like nothing is happening at all. Even so, He is at work in us and for us.

Ever reaching out to us in the recurrence of Easter that is the Eucharist.

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Not home yet

You're someplace you've never been before. And you're trying to find your way around. There's a big map on the wall showing where things are. It’s got an arrow on it that says "you are here."

Which really helps when you're trying to figure out where you are. And where you need to go.

This Sunday's second reading is kind of like that. It lets us know where we are. And that we're not home yet. 

But it’s better than a map. Because it doesn't just tell us where we are. It also lets us know where we're headed. 

And the Eucharist? It's there to remind us where we're headed. 

And to show us Who's waiting for us when we get there.

More on this tomorrow.

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Out of ideas

The whole Easter Season (Easter, Ascension, Pentecost) thing is over. Explanationtide is done. Everything's back to green. It's Ordinary Time.

Because we're out of ideas and we're running on empty. 

Not at all. Ordinary Time is no afterthought. Easter changes everything.

And Ordinary Time is all about what that change means in everyday life. 

Sunday's second reading makes it clear Whose we are. And that (after Easter) this world is no longer our home.

If it ever really was. 

So what does that have to do with the Eucharist? 

More on this tomorrow.

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Who we really trust

“How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow Him; if not…”

I dunno. How long can I straddle the issue? How long can I avoid really committing myself?

Because if I really commit myself, I might have to back up my decision. With actions. And that could cost me something. I might fail. It could embarrass me. Or worse.

If we’re avoiding the issue, what does that say about us?

It says that no matter how we like to talk about it - “I’m spiritual, but not religious” or “I just can’t believe in a God that…” (finish that sentence however you like).

It says who we really trust. And it’s not God.

It says that we’re more willing to trust ourselves, someone with a track record of letting us down, time and again, than the One who loves us perfectly. Who has always been there for us, and who always will be.

No matter what happens. Or how bad it hurts. Because He’s been there.

Which leaves each of us with a choice. To decide whether we will keep setting ourselves up to fail. Over and over.

Or run into the open arms of a Love that has been waiting for each of us since before we were born.

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Do it again

The Mass is a big part of what drew me to the Catholic Church. It's got so many moving moments that it's hard for it not to speak to you. On a lot of different levels.

What's the best part?

When I started to understand the whole Real Presence thing, I had my answer. It's the consecration. 

Given that, the elevation right after the consecration makes sense.

Literally, stopping the Mass. Just for a moment. To reflect on what/Who you're looking at. 

If you stop. And really think about it in that moment? 

Let's just say, you'll want to do it again. For more than just a moment during Mass. Which is the whole point of Eucharistic Adoration. 

More on this tomorrow.

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Again and again

It didn’t work.

I mean, it’s not like I didn’t try. Again and again. The 300+ pictures on my phone are proof that I did.

No matter how hard I tried, I never could capture the magic.

If I’m taking the pictures, fireworks never look as good as they do in real life.

But I keep going to fireworks displays. And I still keep trying.

There are some things in life that are so good that they’re worth repeating. Again and again.

Because there’s something about them that draws you back. Something so good that if you could pause it at just that moment, you would.  

In a heartbeat.

So what does that have to do with the Mass? More than you might think.

More on this tomorrow.

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The original sin

Sunday’s first reading is about sin. The original sin.

If asked what the original sin was, most of us would say something about Adam and Eve. Or apples. Maybe even disobeying God.

Okay, but what was the actual sin? That is, looking at the classic list of the seven deadlies (greed, envy, sloth, etc.), which one of those was the first sin?

Pride.

It’s the original sin. Not just because it happened first. But because it prepares the way for all of the other sins.

When it comes to separating us from God, it’s the oldest trick in the book.

The fact that it upsets people when you bring it up? It means that it still works.

More on this tomorrow.

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Never lose sight of God

“If God is all powerful, can He make a stone so large that He Himself cannot lift it?”

I remember asking Fr. Leahy that in high school religion. I was pretty proud of myself. Thinking that I had stumped a priest.

His response? I remember it starting with “You do greatly err…”

I didn’t realize until (years) later that he was quoting an older translation of today’s Gospel. Or that students had been asking him questions like that for decades before I showed up.

It was a blow to my 16-year old ego. Finding out that I was not nearly as profound as I imagined. But it taught me something.

That knowing about God and knowing God are often two completely different things.

About the vital importance of never losing sight of God.

Especially when you’re looking for God.

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TL;DR

Sunday’s first reading is the turning point in the story of Adam and Eve. The moment when God confronts them with their sin. Their actions, and their response, set a pattern.  

Not just for themselves. But for everyone who will come after them. So much so, that it’s pretty much the point of the entire Old Testament when you put it in TL;DR form.

Seeing it stripped down to the basics like this makes us laugh. But it’s a knowing laugh. Because it’s true.

Not just for people in Bible times. But for you and me, here and now.

Not just for the general sense of human history. But for our personal histories, yours and mine.

It’s a knowing laugh. Because it’s a picture of you and me. Trying to do it on our own. Without God.

More on this tomorrow.

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It will grow

When I was growing up, my grandparents grew their own vegetables, in something that was too big to be called a garden. Almost a truck patch. And it had a little bit of everything.

Whenever I asked my grandfather about some new thing I’d found in a seed catalog, and whether we could grow some of it this year, his answer was always the same. “If you plant it, it will grow.”

At the time, I thought it was kind of a boast. About how he could grow just about anything in his well-tended patch. I’ve come to understand that it’s actually a universal truth.

If you plant it, it will grow.

If you plant something in your life that you wall off from everything else. Something you demand to have. Something that you say “mine” about. Something you keep everyone else away from, especially God. It will grow.

And it won’t stay walled off. Not for long.

It will keep growing. Quietly pushing everything else in your life aside. Slowly separating you from everything and everyone dear to you, including God. Until it’s not just a thing in your life.

But the thing in your life.

All of us plant things. Usually without realizing we’ve done it. Or thinking about what we’re going to get from it.

Our only hope? Reconciliation. And the daily planting and replanting of the only thing that really matters in the end.

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A Moment before Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi is there to make sure that we don’t miss the point of Holy Thursday. The Last Supper, and that the Last Supper is the First Eucharist. 

The Gospel reading is the key to Corpus Christi. In plain language Jesus tells us what/Who it is.  Because the Eucharist is how we do it, suddenly it makes sense why the Catholic Church is so big on the Eucharist. Why we treat it with such respect. And why we push it so hard. 

Q: “How can you ‘adore’ a thing?”

A: “It’s not a thing.” 

The Church wants each of us to have an intimate, personal relationship with the One who loves each one of us enough to do what it takes to save us. And who would have done the same thing. Even if you or I were the only one who needed saving.

How does the Eucharist fit into that? 

The Church is just taking Jesus at His word. Following what He said is the way to make that connection as close and real as it can be on this side of eternity.

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Simple and direct

If the Last Supper is the First Eucharist, this explains why the Eucharist is such a big deal for Catholics.

Not just because it was something started by Jesus. After all, driving money changers out of the Temple with a whip was started by Jesus too, and we only do that once a year. But because of the connection between the Eucharist and the “this is my body, this is my blood” Gospel for Corpus Christi. 

Because we’ve heard the readings before, it’s easy to miss the tone – the warmth, the edge, or the wit (and sometimes even the snark) - of what Jesus says.

The tone of the Gospel for Corpus Christi? Subtle as a flying brick. Jesus is simple and direct. 

In the Last Supper, there are no parables, no metaphors, no symbolism, no nuances. In plain language, we get Jesus telling us what it is. No interpretation needed. 

The connection with the Eucharist? This is exactly what happens at the Eucharist. 

More on this tomorrow.

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Throwback

Remember Holy Thursday? The Last Supper? It’s worth a second look on Corpus Christi.

What about the Last Supper is worth a second look? 

Something that doesn’t usually get more than a passing mention at the start of Triduum. If it gets mentioned at all. 

In the middle of everything that was happening on Holy Thursday, Corpus Christi is here to make sure we don’t miss the fact that the Last Supper is the First Eucharist. 

Which explains why Sunday’s Gospel is the “this is my body, this is my blood” part of the Last Supper.

Where Jesus is anything but subtle about exactly what/who the Eucharist is. 

More on this tomorrow.

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Whatever

“Whatever.”

You hear it a lot.

“Whatever.”

It signals that something doesn’t matter. That it’s unimportant.

“Whatever.”

It misses the mark.

Because what you and I do matters. Sometimes the smallest thing - a little help, a kind word - something that seems unimportant in the moment. Can make all the difference.

But it’s not just what we do. It’s how we do it.

The first time I helped with dinner at the homeless shelter, I worked the serving line with the guy who made the stew. As people came through the line, he told them about how he made what he was dishing up. And asked what they thought about it.

The way he went on about it, you would have thought it was an old family recipe. Their old family recipe.

A few of them smiled, one or two mumbled something. Mostly, their faces were blank.

About 10 minutes later, they started coming back. Some for seconds. But a lot of them, to tell him what they thought about the stew.

Or about something their grandma used to make. Or how bad the food was in Stateville. It was amazing to see those blank faces light up.

Because someone wanted to hear what they had to say. Someone treated them like people.

It’s not just what we do. It’s how we do it. And it’s what today’s Gospel is all about.

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Explanationtide

The Church’s calendar is full of special days and focused seasons. And we just finished the biggest one, Easter. And now? The calendar says we’re in Ordinary Time. 

But last Sunday (Trinity) and this Sunday (Corpus Christi) are definitely special days.

The color isn’t green. There are special readings, and (for Corpus Christi) a procession. It just doesn’t really feel like Ordinary Time.

Because there was so much going on during Easter, it’s easy to miss the deeper meaning of things.

The first two Sundays after Pentecost – Trinity and Corpus Christi - are devoted to some of those things. 

It’s a little almost-season that really should have a name. Maybe “Stuff You Missed During Triduum,” or “So That’s What That Means,” or maybe just “Explanationtide.”

More on the Second Sunday in Explanationtide tomorrow.

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A Moment before Trinity Sunday

The whole arc of the Easter Season leads to Pentecost. And at the center of Pentecost is the Holy Spirit. But with everything that led up to Pentecost, it can seem like the Holy Spirit came out of nowhere.

Except He didn't.

The Holy Spirit has always been there, starting with Genesis. 

Showing us the relationship between the persons of the Trinity, including the Holy Spirit? It’s one of the reasons for Trinity Sunday. 

The other big reason for Trinity Sunday?

To show us just how it is that something this old can be a living Faith. How something that is literally universal can at the same moment be entirely personal. How is that even possible? 

The Holy Spirit. 

This Sunday, get know the person of the Trinity that's closest to your heart.  

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Anything but random

So if Trinity Sunday isn't an interruption, what is it?

The Old Testament shows us God the Father. The New Testament shows us Jesus. And Jesus explains (repeatedly) his relationship with God the Father. So far so good. 

Then the Holy Spirit shows up. 

If we think of Pentecost as nothing but part of the whole Easter-Ascension-Pentecost thing, it can make the Holy Spirit seem kind of random.

But there's more to Pentecost than just its place as part of the Easter season. And the Holy Spirit is anything but random. 

Making this clear? It’s one of the reasons for Trinity Sunday.

More on this tomorrow.

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On or off

It’s easy to fall into “all-or-nothing” thinking. Of seeing things as either one thing. Or another.

Of treating everything like a light switch. Either it’s on. Or it’s off.

Most of us do it as a matter of habit. We treat that “either-or” thinking like it was a universal truth - if you like this thing, then you must automatically hate some other thing.

We even do it to people. Usually without really thinking about it, we act like “if you’re not for us, then you’re against us.”

Jesus turns that way of thinking upside down. Instead of over-simplifying things (and people), our Maker understands that not everything or everyone is quite so “black-and-white.”

Jesus comes at it this way - “whoever is not against us is for us.”

Asking us to look at things (and people) not in terms of what isn’t right, but in terms of what is right. Not to ignore what is truly wrong. But calling us to make common cause with what is right.

Seeking out the good. Even if it’s less than perfect.

Jesus is calling us to see each other the way that He sees each of us.

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