Since I got my pilot’s license a little over a year ago I have been flying down to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS about once a month. On the third Thursday of every month they have a special morning program called Coffee at the Cosmo that includes a lecture and sometimes an exhibition of rarely seen artifacts. This past week the Hutchinson News came out to interview me and did a very nice story as well as a video. The Associated Press picked up the article and it ran in newspapers across the country. Now when I go out in Topeka people stop me and say “Hey, you’re that flying priest!” The original article is here and the video is embedded below or linked here. Thanks to Kristen for a great article and a chance to make a little “commercial” for God.
Discipline is the Key to the Narrow Gate
We tend not to like discipline. It brings up unhappy memories of being punished for breaking the rules. Yet, our 2nd reading today tells us not to begrudge the discipline of God. Rather we should be thankful that we have a loving father that corrects our mistakes. God knows that the only way we can grow in holiness is for him to discipline us when we do things that are harmful to ourselves and others.
However, in addition to this discipline that is imposed for doing wrong, there is another kind of discipline. There is the discipline that we might choose to impose on ourselves…self-discipline. Athletes do this all the time in order to get better and grow stronger. The same is true for the spiritual life. If we expect to become spiritually strong then we’ve got to do more than we’re doing.
Jesus tells us plainly in the gospel that we should strive to enter by the narrow gate. Many, he says, are not strong enough. I’m starting a weightlifting program right now in order to make my body stronger. I’ve learned that if all we ever do is lift our own bodies then our muscles get used to this. It’s no big deal. We have to try to lift something that is almost too heavy for us so that our muscles can wake up and realize that they need to get stronger. In the spiritual life we also have to stretch ourselves. Let’s resolve this weekend to add some new exercises for our souls, to stretch ourselves spiritually to lift more than we think we can. Only this way can we hope to have the strength to enter the narrow gate.
The Goodness of the Body
The dogma of the Assumption teaches that, at the end or her earthly life, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken body and soul to heaven. Just as no corruption of sin touched her body in life, so no corruption was allowed to touch her body in death. Christians have always believed this, but it is interesting to note that the dogma was not formally proclaimed by the Church until 1950. Why?
The Marian year of 1950 followed shortly after the end of World War II. Throughout the world we were being confronted with the tragic and shocking pictures coming from those who liberated Hitler’s concentration camps. The newspapers featured picture after picture of dead bodies piled on top of each other. Everywhere you looked there were images of human bodies treated as if they were just trash to be thrown out. The sight, as well as the knowledge of what caused this, left many demoralized and questioning, “Is this all we’re worth?”
In the face of this, Pope Pius XII inquired if perhaps it would be an opportune time to proclaim the dogma of the Assumption and the request was met with overwhelming approval. The fact that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven was set forth as a great affirmation of the goodness of the body. We’re not trash. We are body and soul and both are sacred. Our bodies are holy, temples of the Holy Spirit. The fact that Mary is in heaven, both body and soul, points to what awaits all of us. At the end of our earthly life, our bodies too are meant to be in heaven. Let us find strength and hope from this truth today. Let us treat our bodies as sacred knowing that that we too, body and soul, are meant for eternal glory in heaven.
An hour-long talk with 20 minutes of Q&A at Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Topeka, KS
This talk looks at the practical details of the various parts of the Mass as well as the theological background behind them and how to get the most out of Mass.
People who heard this talk might also enjoy my Theology on Tap presentation I gave last month along similar lines.
Trusting the Person of Jesus
The 2nd reading this weekend holds up our father Abraham as the great model of faith. Yet what is faith really? We tend to equate faith today with some irrational belief in things that otherwise just don’t make sense. This is not faith at all. The Church has always maintained that faith and reason go together. The things we believe can and should make sense to us. Yet, faith is much more than accepting a bunch of “things.” Fundamentally, faith is the belief in a person.
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Abraham had faith because he knew “the one who made the promise was trustworthy.” Ultimately, our faith is a trust in Jesus Christ, a belief in the person of Jesus Christ and his plan for our lives. This is not always easy, but we follow because we trust. In time, things may all make sense and we may come to believe a set of teachings, but at the core of the Christian life is a trust in Jesus. Let us strive to know him and to follow him with our whole hearts.
The One Thing Necessary
As a Boy Scout, I like to go camping and particularly I like backpacking. Backpacking provides an interesting challenge in that you simply can’t take all the “stuff” you might want to. You have to leave a lot of stuff behind that might be useful, but ultimately too heavy or just not necessary. Jesus is saying something similar in the Gospel today. Martha seems to get criticized for being “anxious and worried about many things.” It’s not that the things she’s doing aren’t good. It’s just that she’s doing all these “good” things while missing what Jesus calls “the one thing necessary.”
How often do we do this same thing in our lives. We are busy doing “many things” all the while loosing sight of the “one thing” we need most, namely God. Think of how much time we spend on sports, especially our kids. It’s always sad to hear that someone missed Mass because of sports. It’s not that sports are bad, but choosing sports over Mass is missing out on the “one thing” in favor of the “many.” The same is true of all the work that we adults do. Supposedly we work to provide for our families. Yet, how often today do we work so much that we don’t have time for our families. We’ve become busy with many things and lost sight of the one thing that was the point in the first place.
Let us look carefully at our lives and, like good Scouts, do what we like to call a “shakedown.” Let’s take a good look at all the stuff we’re carrying around in our pack and see if maybe we’ve got too much of a good thing in some areas. Doing as many activites as possible is like carrying everything we can in our pack. It just causes you to fall over and lie on the ground unable to move. What are some things in our life that, while good, are getting in the way of the greatest good?
St. Augustine reminds us that, “Our hearts are restless until the rest in you, O lord.” Let’s take some time to put things in balance in our life and find peace for our restless hearts. If we know that God is the “one thing necessary” then we can follow Augustine’s other great advice, “Love God and do what you will.”
Mary and the Problem of Evil
The first reading today describes several cases of injustice that would seem to cry out for God to “do something about it.” Yet, God’s ways are not our ways. He does indeed care about our problems and injustices, but his way of dealing with it may not be exactly what we would want. It can seem like he doesn’t hear our prayers. As we celebrate Mary today, we are reminded that it took God from the fall of Adam and Eve all the way to the time of Mary to send his promised Messiah. God won his great victory over evil not with an invading army, but with the quiet “yes” of a young girl living in a cave in Nazareth. Jesus himself won the ultimate victory not by “crying out in the street” as the gospel reminds, but by his silence at his trial and the silence of his death on the cross. God does indeed hear and answer our prayers. Let us be like Mary and say yes to God and allow him to work in his patient, sometimes silent, way.
Here is the Question and Answer session following my talk, “What is Worship” given at the St. Lawrence Center “Theology on Tap” night at Old Chicago.
Moses, the Mass, and the Meaning of Life
With so many different “churches” offering opportunities to “worship” one must ask the question, “What is worship?” “Where does it come from and how do you do it?” This talk explores the origin of Christian worship in the Old Testament, showing that it was God who first asked us for worship and the essence of this worship was expressed through offering sacrifice. But what place does offering sacrifice have in worship today? Are there any “rules” for worship, or do we just make it up and do whatever we like? Understanding how we are in fact called to offer sacrifice is the key to understanding the Mass and…the meaning of life.
This talk was given to a group of Catholic students and permanent community from the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence, KS. The talk was a part of their new “Theology on Tap” series and was given at Old Chicago in Lawrence.
Knowing is Only Half the Battle
We are all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan in today’s gospel. Yet, what do we do with the knowledge gleaned from this parable? Today’s homily gives the unfortunate results of several studies demonstrating that a lot of us are like the priest and Levite in the story…we ignore those in need. There are lots of reasons why this is and not all of them are because we are uncaring people. We’re often just in too big a hurry to stop and help. Perhaps more often, we tend to think that someone else will help.
There is an important principle of Catholic social teaching called “subsidiarity.” It says basically that problems and changes should be handled at the lowest level possible. If there are poor and needy people around us, it is not the job of the federal government, the state government, or anyone else to help them. The poor need to be helped at the lowest level possible and that lowest level is you and me. We cannot rely on some government program to help the poor. The fact that we may give money to a charity or pay our taxes that fund welfare doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to help those in need that we encounter each day.
Ultimately, there is no law that will force us to take care of those around us. However, Jesus doesn’t appeal to the law in today’s gospel. He appeals to our hearts. No policeman will arrrest you for passing by a homeless person or not helping someone change a tire. Only the love of Christ can compel you to act with compassion. St. John of the Cross reminds us that “in the evening of life, we will be judged on our love.” We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, but that’s only half the battle. The real question is…”what will we do?”