God's got this

A Moment before the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

We’re almost at the end of the Church year. And the readings are all about the last things. Death and resurrection, hell and heaven. 

Packed with allegory and symbols that are seen by some as the schedule of events for the Apocalypse. 

Which misses the point. We don’t need to plan the end of all things. Or prep for 4,387 different possible scenarios about how it’s going to happen.

Or even worry about it. 

God’s got this. 

Not that we shouldn’t be thinking about where we’re going.

But our focus needs to be on ourselves and the people in our lives. On the small moments of daily life that add up to eternity. Which is the point of the first reading. 

And we have the freedom, and the grace, to do just that. Because - as Jesus shows us in the Gospel - He is exactly who He says He is.

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One and done

The best way to solve a problem? One and done. 

Deal with it the right way, and you’ll never have to deal with it again. Sounds great, right?

But often there is no “one and done” fix. Many problems in real life just can’t be solved that neatly. And we’ve all seen too many “brilliant” plans fall apart. 

I’m so used to grand solutions being a waste of time that I don’t even have to think about tuning them out. I just do. 

Which makes it easy to miss the point of Sunday’s epistle. 

That there is one grand solution that actually works. 

The “one and done” that paid my debts in full. 

More on this tomorrow.

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So I went

I was on the way to church for a morning meeting. Trying to get there early so I had time to set things up.

And something told me to go. To McDonald’s.

I wasn’t really hungry.

But something told me to go.

I was planning to eat after the meeting.

Something told me to go.

So I went.

Almost against my will, I found myself in the drive-through. Getting a coffee.

I started to drive away, when I saw him.

Sheltering from the wind. Half-hidden by the dumpster.

I’d talked to him before. He’s one of the guys who stays out. Because he doesn’t feel safe in the shelters.  

Then I knew why I had to go.

Because he told me. That God had told him that His deacon would take care of him.

So I did.

 

I’m telling you this not because I want you to think well of me.

But because God wants to work through each one of us.

If you’re willing, He’ll send you where you need to go.

And for somebody, things will be better.

Because you did.

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Ordinary people

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.” 

This is classic C.S. Lewis. His thoughts on our true nature and our ultimate destiny as human beings. It’s exactly what Sunday’s first reading is all about.

And the reason why he said “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

If I’m honest about how I treat other people, it’s a thought that should stop me cold. 

More on this Thursday.

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The Apocalypse™ Calendar

Next Sunday is the last regular Sunday before the Solemnity of Christ the King. And Christ the King? It’s the end of Ordinary Time. 

We’re almost done with the church year. Which means that the readings this week and next are all about the last things. Death and resurrection. Hell and heaven. 

The parts of the Bible that talk about the last things are full of allegory and symbolism. They are often misunderstood. Sometimes in amazing ways. As predictions of The Apocalypse.™ 

Growing up Protestant, it seemed like every few years somebody would come out with their own literal reading of these passages. With dates for different things to happen. But they never did actually happen. 

Which misses the whole point. The readings about the last things aren’t the calendar for The Apocalypse.™ 

The readings about the last things? They point to something much deeper. 

More on this tomorrow.

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All of us

A Moment before the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Before anyone ever told us stuff like “actions speak louder than words,” we understood the difference. Between what we say and what we do.

And which one of them really means something. 

In Biblical times, widows were some of the most poor and vulnerable people. They didn’t have what they needed to care for themselves. Let alone anything extra or leftover to give away.

Which is why their examples of lived faith are so powerful. 

And why they are the models that the first reading and the Gospel give for our relationship with God.

Not because God wants money. But because God wants us. 

All of us.

Not just our extras and leftovers.

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Paid for by…

Sunday’s Gospel opens with Jesus condemning the scribes, the religious leaders of His day. And for good reason. 

The scribes are taking donations from everybody. Including people who can’t afford to give. With the understanding that the money will be used to provide for the poor and needy. 

Only they’re spending it on themselves. 

It’s like giving your half of the rent to your roommate. With the understanding that she’s going to pay the rent for both of you. 

You always wondered how she paid for her amazing walk-in shoe closet. 

Turns out, that’s where your rent money went.  And now you’re getting thrown out of your place.  Since nobody paid the rent.

It’s kind of like that.

No wonder Jesus is livid.

More on this tomorrow.

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We want

What’s the First Commandment? That’s easy. Even if we don’t remember the ones about the Sabbath and coveting, pretty much everyone knows the first one.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Why? Why is that one First?

Because it’s the most important one. The one that everything else rises and falls on.

Because if we let something else, or someone else, get between us and God, well the rest of it really won’t matter.

It’s first, because it’s the one that you and I – and every other human being in the history of ever – struggle with.

Because we want. So many things.

We want relationships. We want possessions. We want success. We want power. We want health. We want wealth. We want.

And anything, or anyone, we really want is in danger of getting between us and God.

Does that mean that all of the things that I want are wrong? And that I just have to suck it up, and pretend that I don’t really want the stuff that feels like my heart’s desire?

At least for today, because, you know, tomorrow something might feel like my heart’s desire.

No. Here’s what it means.

None of that stuff is God.

Because none of that stuff is God, no matter how badly I think I need it, no matter how much I label myself to try to convince myself that whatever it is the essence of my true identity, in the end it will disappoint me.

And then I will be off desperately seeking the next thing that feels like my heart’s desire.

So if you’re tired of the frantic cycle of desperately seeking the next thing, then the next thing, then the next thing. Only to find that none of it is really what you’re looking for.

Stop chasing whatever it is. And turn to God.

Because the only One who can satisfy the human heart is the One who made it.

And He’s waiting for you with open arms.

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Common sense

You see somebody who’s hungry and you want to help. But first, you check. You make certain you’ve got enough to buy your lunch. Before you buy them lunch.

It’s just common sense. 

In Sunday’s first reading, the widow has just enough to feed herself and her son. But Elijah, God’s prophet, tells her to fix him something first. Which looks like anything but common sense. 

But it actually turns out better than she could have imagined. All because she trusted God to put things in their right order. Because she understood that everything comes from God, and it’s all a gift.

That’s common sense that changes everything. 

More on this tomorrow.

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Pushing

Where do we go when we die?

Ultimately, it’s one place or the other.

Each of us will either go to the place prepared for us from eternity. To become exactly what God always meant for us to be.

Or someplace that was never meant for us. To become something that God never meant for us to be.

Everything we do. All of our choices. All of our decisions. Taken together, they’re moving us towards one place. Or the other.

Nothing you and I do is indifferent.

The thing is, we’re not doing it alone.

You and I, like it or not, are helping each other towards one place. Or the other.

Everything you and I do. All of your choices. All of my decisions. You and I are pushing someone towards one place. Or the other.

Nothing you and I do is indifferent.

This is what St. Paul is talking about when he says:

“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests, 
but also everyone for those of others.”

Because you and I are pushing someone towards one place. Or the other.

This is why you and I must always ask. In all of our choices. In all of our decisions.

Where are we pushing each other?

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What really pleases God?

There’s kindness, and then there’s kindness.

Not that there’s anything wrong with doing something nice for someone who can do something nice for you. But if you’ve ever wondered how God looks at our acts of kindness towards each other, Jesus lets us know where our priorities need to be.

“When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

What really pleases God?

Helping someone who needs it, who cannot pay you back. When you know there’s nothing in it for you. And you help them anyway.

We cannot be reminded enough of the people who desperately need our help, who can offer us nothing in return.

Which is why the Church makes a big deal out of All Souls’ Day. All Souls’ Day is a reminder of the most helpless people of all. The Holy Souls in Purgatory.

We might bump into a homeless person. Or someone else in need. Just seeing them could move us to help.

But the Holy Souls in Purgatory? We’ve got to go out of our way to even think about them. Much less help them.

So how can you and I do?

For starters, here’s a little something on visiting a cemetery. And just how easy it is to help the most helpless of all. Especially during the octave of All Souls’ Day.

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Unseen and unsung

All Saints Day is about the obvious.

That the saints that stuff gets named for – St. John’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Home, St. Aloysius’ Church – that they aren’t the only saints. It’s a reminder that we are surrounded by many, many more saints.

Men and women who are living lives of holiness. Unseen and unsung.

Not because their struggles to live the Faith aren’t important. But because that’s not how they see it. To them, it’s just another Thursday.

Another day with all of the crosses of their lives. One that they’re getting through with God’s help.

And, truth be told, they are unseen and unsung because we aren’t paying attention. We’re either so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss what they’re doing.

Or we’re stuck with the unspoken assumption that if it’s really something from God, then it’s going to be so big, so dramatic, that even we can’t ignore it. Or it doesn’t count.

The reality of the saints around us is that this is their normal. Living in God’s grace. Seeing the need and meeting it. Not solving the world’s problems. Just helping with today’s.

With all of the same needs, problems, and distractions that you and I face. Everyday.

So how come they’re instruments of God’s grace and we’re not?    

Because they aren’t relying on themselves. They are relying on God.

They understand the wisdom of today’s Gospel, the Beatitudes.

Jesus giving us all the “Blessed are the...” sayings (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven,” etc.). We’ve heard it so many times that we don’t think about what it really is.

The roadmap to being a saint.

It begins with the reality of our spiritual poverty. Recognizing that you and I can’t handle things on our own. That we can’t rely on ourselves.

And then turning to the One we can rely on. The One waiting to give us – not everything we want, but everything we need.

If we will but only ask.

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Everybody’s a...

In tomorrow’s first reading, John has a vision of the saints in heaven. After trying to count and describe the saints, John basically gives up. 

There’s just too many of them.

Churches usually get named after one saint, maybe two. When a church gets named “All Saints,” I always wonder if there was a big fight over naming the church, and to settle it someone said “Fine. If you can’ agree, we’ll just call it ‘All Saints.’”

As if being a saint is some kind of trophy or contest give away. 

That’s not really what All Saints’ Day is about.  

All Saints’ Day is about the obvious. That the saints that stuff gets named for aren’t the only saints. All Saints’ Day is for the many, many more saints we’ll never know about. 

That’s as it should be. Because being a saint isn’t a prize. Or a “notice me!” thing. 

Being a saint is what happens when you say “yes” to God. And actually try to live it. 

More on this tomorrow.

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The reason for the…

This Wednesday is different. It’s Halloween. 

Costumes, trick or treat with the kids, parties, pumpkins, decorations, haunted houses, etc. But the name points to something beyond the pumpkins. 

Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows’ Eve, the day before All Hallows (the old-fashioned name for All Saints’).

Halloween starts a brief season in the Church. On Thursday and Friday everything in Church will be white for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. 

In the middle of all of the busy-ness of day-to-day life, it’s important to take a break every now and then. To put things in perspective. To have a little fun.  

And that’s the point of the All Saints Triduum (it even has a name). It’s a little break. 

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are there for perspective. To remind us that we a part of something greater than ourselves. That each of us was made for eternity. 

And Halloween? That’s the fun part. 

More on this tomorrow.

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What do you tell yourself?

What do you tell yourself?

What’s going through your mind?

I’m not talking about figuring out how something’s going to work. Or what you think about when you’re focused on something.

I’m talking about what’s going through your mind when you’re not focused. The thoughts you have - when you’re not really thinking about anything.

The background noise for your life.

The things you’re telling yourself, whether you mean to or not.

Because those things have an impact. Especially when they’re negative. And that’s true whether you’re worrying about something, or someone. Or you.

Not rich enough. Not thin enough. Not good enough.

One-offs are bad enough. But when those thoughts repeat? That’s when they hit the hardest. 

(continued)

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List?

A Moment before the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We’ve all got stuff we need to do.

For most of us, we need a list – make that a couple of lists – to keep track of it all. And somehow, we still don’t get it all done. 

It’s like that with stopping my own negative thoughts. It’s easy to say, but it’s a lot harder to actually do it. I don’t mean that it doesn’t work when I do it, I just forget to do it. 

So it’s a struggle. Some days it feels like I’m starting over from scratch. Like I’ve never done it before. 

But I don’t have to do it alone. Like Sunday’s Gospel shows me, help is waiting for me.

And when I ask, He’ll do a lot more than just meet me halfway.

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Hijacking my own thoughts

Buffering is the worst part of YouTube.

Something’s just getting good and then it stops cold. For however long it wants to.  When it does, no matter how much you beg, whine, or yell, it’s still going to do what it does. 

Kind of like negative thoughts when they’re repeating.

They can’t be argued or reasoned away. Even if they’re not true. It’s almost like no matter how much I beg, whine, or yell, they’re still going to do what they do. 

So am I just stuck, like I am with YouTube? No. 

But it does take a little hijacking, of my own thoughts.

The moment I realize I’m doing it, I need to turn to God. 

I won’t even try to ignore my thoughts. Instead, I’ll hijack them. And make them my call to prayer. To bring whatever they’re focused on to God. 

Not to stop it. Or fix it. Just to be with me in it.

Which happens to be the backstory for Sunday’s first reading.

More on this tomorrow.

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To whom much is given

A lot of sayings sound like Bible verses. Stuff like “God helps those who help themselves,” “to thine ownself be true,” “charity begins at home.” None of that’s in the Bible.

Then there’s “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

It’s been quoted by presidents and politicians. And it actually is a Bible verse (in today’s Gospel). One of the scarier ones, if you think about what it really means.

Think about all of the gifts you’ve been given. Your skills and abilities. The things come easily for you. Things you do well. Even material wealth.

They’re not just yours.

Don’t get me wrong, you have them. You’re the one in control of what you do with them.

But those gifts are no accident. You don’t have them for no reason. Or just for your own enjoyment.

God gave them to you for a purpose. To give them away. To help others.

The point of “to whom much is given, much is expected” is that – just like the servants in the parable of the talents – we will give an account to God of what we did with the gifts God gave us.

Which means that you and I need to be asking ourselves if we’re really ready to tell God about what we did with what we were given.

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Repeating and repeating

There’s no question that worrying thoughts have an impact. A one-timer is bad enough. But when they repeat? They hit their hardest. 

]At their worst, it can feel constant. Becoming background noise for life. Like a gif or a 10-second audio clip that repeats. And repeats. And repeats. 

Only instead of being something harmless or fun, it’s negative. It hits a weak spot. And gains power with constant repetition. 

Even if it’s not true. 

The problem isn’t with the repetition. It’s with the focus of what’s repeating. Which is the point of Sunday’s first reading. 

More on this Thursday. 

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What you don’t want

Pray without ceasing. 

In the Gospels, we see Jesus praying all the time. Whenever we get a glimpse of what Jesus is thinking, it’s prayer. But “pray without ceasing” isn’t just a Jesus thing. 

No matter how wildly different they are from each other, you see it in the lives of all the saints.  And St. Paul tells all of us to do it, to pray without ceasing.  

That’s nice, but who has time for that? 

I’ve got stuff to do.  No one’s going to pay me to just sit there all day saying the Rosary. 

“I was praying without ceasing” won’t work when I don’t show up for work. Or don’t turn in my assignment.

So how do I “pray without ceasing?” 

As it turns out, I already know how to do it. In fact, I’ve been doing it for years. Just with the wrong focus. 

More on this tomorrow. 

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