Wipe Away The Dirt

5th Sunday of Lent – April 7, 2019

Isaish 43:16-21

Psalm 126:1-6

Philippians 3:8-14

John 8:1-11

What in the world did Jesus write on the ground? That is a question people have been asking for centuries. Whatever it was, it must have been pretty powerful!

Consider how the scene begins. A woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. According to the law, Moses commanded that such a person be sentenced to death by stoning. Not a single person present, including the accused woman, suggested that she was innocent. Not even Jesus denied her guilt. A mob of people, experts on Mosaic Law, presented an ironclad case against a guilty woman who was minutes away from her imminent death.

They then ask Jesus to simply acknowledge that this guilty person should be put to death according to their law. They just want Him to say, “Yup, you got her. Guilty as charged… go get the stones.” But instead, Jesus bends down to write something on the ground, not once, but twice.

Now consider how the scene ends after this mysterious inscription is written on the ground. No more mob. No one pointing fingers. No more questions. No stones in sight. Just Jesus and the accused woman all alone.

One could argue that this passage from John gives us a tremendous amount of hope. When one understands what really happened here, it is a powerful example of God’s grace and mercy. The same grace and mercy that He extends to all of us even to this very day.

To understand this better, one must recall the last time God wrote something down for His people. Anyone want to take a guess? On Mount Sinai God engraved the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets. These were His laws for the people to obey. God’s people were very lost and needed some parental guidance. So God gave Moses strict rules to implement among His people.

Contrast that with today’s Gospel from John. Rather than writing on stone tablets, Jesus writes in the dirt. Stone tablets are hard and obviously hard to change once engraved. Writing on the dirt can easily be erased with the swipe of a hand to give a clean slate… a fresh start.

So again, recall the scene from the Gospel. A group of people, probably with stones in hand, brought a guilty person to the temple area for a quick “judge, jury and executioner” chat with Jesus.  His response… was to write something down in the dirt and say, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus then bends down for a second time to write in the dirt again. Everyone present read what Jesus wrote in the dirt… and slowly walked away… one by one.

WHAT DID HE WRITE???? Come on!!! That’s the juiciest piece of information and it’s nowhere to be found anywhere in the bible!!!

Did he write down a list of everyone’s sins? Did he perhaps write down the name of other adulterers present who were better at hiding their sin and haven’t been caught yet? Did he write, “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “Do not judge and you will not be judged”… It’s nowhere to be found!

And you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Are you are ready for the punch-in-the-gut moment of today’s Gospel? Here it is… the woman caught in adultery… is US. Yes, Jesus sees a guilty woman standing before Him. But at the same time He sees all of God’s people of the past, present and future that are not always faithful to Him. And His heart is moved with compassion. These are precisely the people that Jesus came to save. These are the people that He will sacrifice Himself on the cross for on Good Friday… to release us from our sins.

Jesus doesn’t look at her, or us, and condemn us for our actions. Instead, He is offering us His grace and much needed mercy. He is reminding us that only He can forgive our sins… only He can wipe away the dirt on the ground. Only He can give us a fresh start.

Now… I wouldn’t be doing my job up here if I skipped over the last sentence from this passage. Yes, God’s love and mercy can surpass all things. Yes, God is full of compassion. But pay close attention to what he tells the woman after he pardons her.

Jesus says, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” Did you catch that? Do not sin any more.

Jesus is asking us to do our part. To put in some effort. There is no doubt that God’s grace and mercy gives us new life. However, it should also stir something inside of us that desires change. Positive change. Change toward living a good and holy life. A desire to avoid sin if at all possible. But in those moments when we fail, we need to repent and rely on God’s grace and mercy to start over. To wipe away the dirt.

So no matter what we have done in the past, God is cheering for us. He’s not condemning us. He actually sees more potential in us than we see in ourselves.

We need to allow His love and mercy to fully engulf us. Allowing His grace to give us the strength to overcome sin and to go and sin no more.

Our future is not set in stone. And the sins of our past do not dictate our future.

With God’s help, we can be the positive change for a brighter future. A future that eventually ends with us face to face with God in heaven.

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10 Minutes A Day

2nd Sunday of Lent – March 17, 2019

Genesis 15:5-12,17-18

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Psalm 27:1,7-9,13-14

Luke 9:28b-36

When was the last time you went away from the business of the world and spent at least 10 minutes in quiet prayer? As Catholics, I know we are good with reciting the memorized prayers such as the Rosary, the Our Father and the Apostles’ Creed. These are good prayers, but what I’m really asking is… when was the last time you’ve had a deep, heartfelt conversation with God. After all, isn’t that what prayer is… a conversation with God? And the key thing to consider here is that this form of prayer involves both a speaking AND, more importantly, a quiet listening. It is a dialogue that was not meant to be one sided.

One of the problems we encounter in life is… we tend to go to God mainly when we are in desperate need… almost as a last resort.

“Dear God, help me pass this test that I forgot to study for.”

“Dear God, if I win the lottery I’ll give 10%, no 15%, back to the church.”

But we also have those desperate, but more serious situations as well.

“Dear God, heal my friend from their serious illness.”

“Dear God, help me forgive the person who hurt me so I can trust again.”

We, as humans, expect instant results. Things should happen now, not later. So we say our prayer and expect an immediate answer, right?. But guess what… the majority of us typically don’t get a loud voice from above with an instant response. That often leads us to then ask, “Where are you God? See, I tried. I prayed and told you what I needed and I got nothing in return. Why do I even bother?” Then our prayer life gets pushed farther and farther away from our daily routine.

If this resonates with you in any way, I’m here to encourage you to change your daily routine. I want to encourage you to pray, not just in those times of need, but EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. regardless of your needs. Regardless of whether or not you “feel” like praying. After all, we are in the Lenten Season. This is a time we are supposed to try and step away from the world… to disconnect from some of our earthly distractions… and prepare ourselves to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. As Fr. Al reminded us last week, Lent is a time to focus on fasting, almsgiving and… guess what… PRAYER. So let’s talk about prayer.

Today’s Gospel from Luke is commonly referred to as the “Transfiguration.” I want us to look at this passage and see what it could be telling us regarding prayer.

The first major thing we should notice is in the opening verse, “Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray.” Have you ever wondered why Jesus went up a mountain to pray? To get away. To find some peace and quiet. It’s awfully hard to hear God’s voice when you can’t even hear yourself think. If you are a parent with kids at home, you know exactly what I mean. I think kids deliberately get LOUDER the quieter you try and become. It’s like they can sense it! So it’s important to find a place that you can spend some uninterrupted time in prayer. I suggest starting with 10 minutes. It’s not a magical number but it’s a doable number for most people.

Unfortunately, when I began trying to make deliberate time to pray, I’d often fall asleep. I began to realize I was always on the go and finally getting a chance to sit down for 10 minutes was all it took to doze off. This leads me to the second suggestion from today’s Gospel regarding prayer. “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory.” Let me say that again. Becoming fully awake, they saw his glory.

This has two meanings to me. One, don’t pray when you are super tired because you’ll miss something due to the fact you will end up asleep! But more importantly, if you want to see God’s glory and possibly hear His voice, you need to be “awake” to His presence around you. Praying daily keeps you focused on God… every day. It puts Him in front of your eyes rather than on the back burner. When you pray frequently, you will actually start to see that God is more active in your life than you originally thought. But you have to be fully awake to Him because, from my experience, God can be very, very subtle… so much so that you may miss it if you’re not paying attention or you’ll blow it off as a coincidence when He does answer a prayer.

Have you ever heard the story of the guy driving around the parking lot at the mall on a busy, rainy Saturday morning? He’s driving around looking for a parking spot up close to the front door so he can get inside without getting too wet. But there is not a single parking spot available anywhere near the front. So out of frustration the man looks up to heaven and says, “God, could you please find me a parking spot up close to the front?” Just then, someone starts backing out of a space right up near the front door. The man slams on his brakes… then quickly looks up and says, “Never mind God, I found a spot.”

Unfortunately, God doesn’t typically give us a bright, flashing neon sign with an answer. He often speaks to us in the quiet of our hearts.

The last point I want to emphasize from today’s Gospel is in the last verse. After Peter, James and John heard the voice of God in a cloud, it says that, “They fell silent.” I can’t emphasize enough the importance of silence when it comes to prayer. Silence allows time to reflect on what we are praying about. It allows that voice in our brains to go to work. It also allows us to reflect on the fact that maybe God isn’t answering a prayer the way we want for a reason. You’ll be surprised at what you can hear when you combine silence with the Holy Spirit.

Use this Lenten season to strengthen your prayer life. Take 10 minutes every single day to have a dialogue with God. Remember to find a place to get away, be fully awake and allow for some silence. And in those 10 minutes, ask God for help… tell Him what is in your heart. At the very least, tell Him that you love Him and thank Him for the blessings in your life. I promise that if you do this, you will become a more humble, appreciative and loving human being.

So make prayer a daily priority in your life. 10 minutes a day. It’s not much, but it’s so extremely important. God is waiting to hear from you. But it’s up to you… to start the conversation.

Heaven and Fairy Tales

5th Sunday of Lent (March 18, 2018) Year A

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45

Death can be a very scary thing to talk about. But first, let me clarify. As Christians, there are two types of death we often refer to. The first is dying to sin and being reborn in Christ. This is what happens in the sacrament of Baptism. It’s exciting to know that there are several among us at St. Andrew’s that will be born again in the waters of Baptism at the Easter Vigil this year. They will be further strengthened in their new Christian life that same night when they also receive the sacrament of Confirmation AND receive our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time ever. This is the fun type of death that we can talk about all day long and get those warm and fuzzy feelings because the people who “die to sin” are still with us afterwards.

The second type of death… well…let’s just say… there are not so many warm and fuzzy feelings. I’m obviously referring to the type of death where we lose a loved one, have a funeral and then mourn for days, weeks, even years after their passing.

But the question I’m posing today for your consideration is… WHY? Why do we get so excited to see someone die to sin and be born again into God’s family through Baptism… but so sad when a faithful Christian dies to this world and is granted eternal life with God?

In a way, I believe this is the question Jesus is asking us through today’s Gospel from John. It’s a long passage so I won’t read it again to you. But basically, Lazarus has died and everyone is in mourning. Many of the people blame Jesus for not being around to save him from death. You see… they believe Jesus is the Son of God, but they still don’t yet understand the resurrection since Jesus hasn’t been crucified yet. But Jesus knows. He fully knows what’s to come and has been preaching to His followers that they will have new life in God in this life AND the next.

But still, the people blame Him while they mourn the death of Lazarus. One of my favorite parts of this passage is where Jesus shows us His human side. We read two times that Jesus is “perturbed.” Yes, even Jesus got upset and irritated at people! He is perturbed because people’s faith in His teaching on heaven and the afterlife is very weak. Rather than celebrating Lazarus’ new life with God, they mourned his death and blamed Jesus for not saving him. I can see Jesus’ eyes roll, hand on his forehead, as he gets perturbed and says, “Fine, I’ll give you one more sign but then that’s it! You really need to start believing in what I’m telling you!” Then he turns to the tomb and cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” And he did.

Now, I acknowledge that we mourn over someone’s death because we won’t see them anymore. I get that. It stings greatly. Trust me, I know. But I think we struggle with death and mourn so intensely after losing a loved one because, deep down, our faith might be a little weak when it comes to heaven.

I can see someone get baptized. I can see someone receive the Lord’s Supper. I can see someone get confirmed. But I can’t “see” what happens to someone’s soul after they die.

Death is that one moment where our faith is put to the ultimate test. We are told that we will stand before God right after our bodily death. So death is the moment that we as Christians realize if this whole “Jesus, Church, Bible” thing is true or just a nice sounding fairy tale. And I think that scares us. I know I’ve struggled with this concept for a long time. I would like to think I’m a faithful Christian who tries my best to follow Christian teachings. But I still wonder if at the moment of my death, I’ll be confident in my faith or “hold my breath” (so to speak) as I wait to see what REALLY happens after I die.

I had a very real, very concrete experience that happened to me recently that has strengthened my faith regarding heaven that I wanted to share. We Catholics pray for the “repose of the soul” of someone after his or her death. It’s a very common practice that dates back to the early Church. It’s based on the teaching that people sometimes need to go to purgatory after death, before entering heaven. Purgatory being a final purification stop on the way to heaven. Think of it as a car wash. When we pray for the repose of the soul of someone, we’re asking God to speed up the process, if possible, so they can enjoy life in heaven sooner. After my mom’s death in October 2017, I’ve been praying for the repose of her soul often.

Well… I was at Mass at the Christ the King Cathedral in Lexington this past February. Angie and I were there assisting with the next class of future Deacons. I had just received communion and returned to my pew to kneel in prayer. With eyes closed and hands folded, I prayer, “Lord, I offer up this Eucharist for the repose of the soul of my mother, Joan Wentz.” And then I froze for a few moments. After that feeling passed, I picked up the hymnal and started to sing the communion hymn… but only got 3 or 4 words out and then I froze up again. Still on my knees, I put the hymnal down and closed my eyes again. I couldn’t move… I couldn’t speak. It was at that moment that I felt my mother’s arms around me. It’s as if she was kneeling to my left, giving me a side hug with her head on my shoulder. It was very real and I just kneeled there… enjoying the hug… as I cried silently. A few minutes later, she was gone. I’m not sure if that’s the moment she left purgatory and entered heaven or if God just knew I needed a hug from my mom that day.

I’ve reflected back on that incident a lot since it happened. I have even kneeled down at Mass after communion and tried to “re-create” the incident to see if it was just in my mind. But I’ve had no luck. I truly feel that God allowed my mom to visit me that day for a brief moment. Since then, I’ve had a better sense of peace that my mom is with God in heaven. I decided to tell all of you about it today because, honestly, I think we all could use a little encouragement when it comes to death and the afterlife. Many of us have lost loved ones this past year.

So yes, don’t be afraid to mourn for those that have passed away. But as we approach Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday… really pay attention and allow all of your senses to be flooded with LOVE. Because it is with LOVE that Jesus offered His body to us on Holy Thursday. It is with LOVE that he died for us on Good Friday. It is with LOVE that He overcame death and opened the gates of heaven for all of us on Easter Sunday. And if you can see with open eyes what Jesus did for us on those Holy Days… then you will absolutely realize just how much He loves YOU. And that love WILL continue into the next life because it is NOT just a fairy tale.

Lent and Donuts

1st Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018) Year B

Genesis 9:8-15

Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:12-15

Well ladies and gentlemen, how’s your Lent going so far? We are only a few days into our 40-day journey through the desert. Are you going through chocolate or coffee withdrawals yet? Is your swear jar full yet? I hope whatever you picked to give up for Lent this year is both challenging and rewarding. I also hope you don’t look at Lent as “just another thing I have to do as a Catholic.” I pray that you actually get the full experience and all of the graces possible from this journey. In order to help you, I thought it might be good for a little pep talk today since we’re just beginning our desert journey. That way you can evaluate if you’re on the right path or if you may need to fine-tune something. In order to do this, I came up with two questions we need to make sure we understand.

The first question is simply, “Why do Catholics give something up for Lent?” It actually can be taken from today’s Gospel passage from Mark. It says, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days.” And what happens after Jesus’ time in the desert is up? He begins His public ministry. So he needed time away with fewer distractions to prepare for something bigger yet to come. What can we extrapolate from this? We humans, all too often, clutter up our lives with stuff that we don’t need or with stuff we use too often. And unfortunately, these things can divert us from the bigger picture… God. Food, money, technology, stuff. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but often we put too much emphasis on them, which leads us to lose focus on what’s really important.

So we all need to evaluate our lives and ask ourselves, “What do I unnecessarily do or use that could be taking me away from God?” Do I spend too much time on my phone when I could be reading a spiritual book? Do I eat too much of a certain unhealthy food that is leading me to have no energy for works of charity? Do I spend too much time using my speech for negativity rather than prayer? Whatever it is you choose to give up for Lent, it should be challenging. Remember, this is our desert journey. Although I’ve never hiked through a desert, I imagine it is not a pleasant activity.

The second question that needs to be asked and understood is, “Why don’t Catholics eat meat on Friday’s of Lent?” First, understand that when we say “meat” we are referring to non-fish meat like steak, pork and chicken. Back in Jesus’ day, the “common people” lived by the water and ate a lot of fish. It was the food of the poor, it was abundant and it was cheap. The other meat like beef, pork and chicken was for the upper class since it was more expensive. Occasionally, the less wealthy would eat these meats during a special feast like at a wedding.

So not eating meat on Friday’s of Lent, with the exception of fish, reminds us that we are the common people and we’re not celebrating a banquet just yet. We should be using this time to focus on what’s to come…. Good Friday. This act of abstaining from meat on Fridays is something that Catholics around the world do universally and in solidarity with one another. We offer this sacrifice up as a universal Church. The individual things we each give up on our own are a personal sacrifice. These two sacrifices, the universal and the personal, reminds us that we are united as God’s people and that we are not attached to the material things of this world.

Sounds easy right? Nope… not really! Anyone that is willing to change and become closer to God, needs to do it with open eyes. To put it another way, living in sin is easy. Our world allows us the freedom to mess up our lives daily through sin. And once you start going down the path of the “bigger sins,” the “little sins” just keep piling up without a second thought. However, it takes effort to turn away from sin and evil. It takes effort to live with faith, ethics and morals. Why? This also goes back to today’s Gospel from Mark. Remember, we read that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. Then there are 3 little words in the next sentence that we often skim right over… He was “tempted by Satan.” Yup, just like us, Jesus was tempted by Satan on His desert journey. When you are trying to do better and walk closer with God, it really makes Satan mad. I’m not saying you’ll by physically assaulted by evil or tempted daily, but isn’t it funny how when you decide to give up sweets for Lent, the very next day someone brings donuts to work… hot… fresh…heavenly… donuts.

So use this Lent as a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Detach yourself from the unnecessary material things that you really don’t need. Instead, focus on God. Focus on the Great Banquet that is waiting for each of us after our desert journey is over… Easter. The resurrection of Jesus Christ after Good Friday opened the gates of Heaven for all of us. It gave all of us an invitation to the Great Banquet in Heaven. Use this desert journey to clean up whatever it is that keeps staining your banquet garment. Now is the time to, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” of Jesus Christ!

I’m Thirsty

3rd Sunday of Lent (March 19, 2017)

Exodus 17:3-7

Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,8-9

Romans 5:1-2,5-8

John 4:5-42

Any guesses as to how long a human can live without water? Depending on the environment, 3 to 7 days. After that, you’ll die of dehydration.

Any guesses as to how long a human can live without food? Again, depending on the environment, roughly 3 weeks (but that’s assuming you are still hydrated).

So one could argue that drinking water is even more critical than eating food.

Why? Because 60% of the adult human body is water. Every living cell depends on it. Water lubricates our joints, it regulates body temperature through sweating and respiration and it helps to flush waste out of the body. Water is so important that if dehydration levels cause more then a loss of 10% of your body weight, it’s considered a medical emergency and can lead to death if not reversed.

Why do I bring this up on the 3rd Sunday of Lent? Well… on the 1st Sunday of Lent, we were lead out into the desert to be tempted. On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we climbed a mountain to be changed, transfigured actually. And now, on the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Jesus is telling us that after all that hiking in the desert and mountain climbing, we’re thirsty and in need of a drink of water.

But not just any water mind you! You see… regular water will quench your thirst, but only temporarily. As I said just a moment ago, at the bear minimum, you need to drink water at least every 3 days. But I know if I don’t drink a glass of water every few hours, my throat becomes dry and I even start to feel tired. Therefore we are always looking… always searching for the next glass of water to drink.

Now thankfully, most of us are fortunate enough to live in an area where finding clean drinking water is not a problem. Not so for the Hebrews in the reading we hear today from Exodus. Moses is leading a very thirsty group of people out of Egypt. The Hebrews complained and complained about being thirsty, so much, that eventually God provided water through Moses. God quenched their thirst.

Water is also not so abundant in the town of Sychar in Samaria that we hear about in today’s Gospel from John. The people of this town all get their water from a common well. As you can imagine, one would probably have to go to the well several times each day. They can’t simply turn on a faucet in their kitchen. Therefore, this well is vital to the survival of the people in the town. If something were to happen to it, the people would have to move away or die of dehydration.

It is at this well in Sychar where Jesus and a Samaritan woman have a brief, but very theologically deep conversation. Jesus says to the woman, “Everyone who drinks from this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Here Jesus is acknowledging what we have already discussed… we get thirsty, we drink, our thirst is quenched for a time, repeat. But Jesus then makes the bold statement that there is a new, living water that will forever quench our thirst permanently. No more going back to the well. No more searching for our next drink.

On hearing this, the Samaritan woman replies, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” This is a fair and honest statement that I think most of us would ask if we were in her shoes at that moment. Who wouldn’t want to be fully satisfied? To not have to search anymore? Sounds like a good deal to me!

In Scripture, John 6 is often referred to as the “bread of life discourse.” So I guess John 4, today’s Gospel, can be referred to as the “water of life discourse.” Jesus is the living water that will quench all of our desires. We need to fully immerse ourselves in this water. If we fully and completely let Jesus Christ, the Living Water, into our lives, into every cell in our bodies, He’ll quench your thirst for all of eternity in Heaven.

And by the way, what’s the opposite of Heaven? Hell. Eternal fire. No water in sight. Eternal thirsting. NOT a pretty picture!

So you have a choice. You can drink from the Living Water and be satisfied… or risk eternal thirst by only drinking from “regular”, “worldly” water.

As we continue our journey through Lent, keep your eyes focused on Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can fully satisfy you. He is our Bread of Life, He is our Living Water, He is our eternal salvation.

So drink deeply from the Living Water and never thirst again!

Don’t Be A Zombie

Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 13, 2016)

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45

I’ve noticed a certain fascination that people have had over the past few years. It has developed a cult-like following and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. From “Night of the Living Dead” to “The Walking Dead,” from “Zombieland” to “World War Z,” our country has an infatuation with zombies. I’ve even seen sincere interviews with families regarding how they are getting ready for the eventual “zombie apocalypse.” In case you never heard of this phrase, the “zombie apocalypse” is when zombies are going to try to take over the world. And apparently if one bites you, you’ll turn into a zombie. So obviously you need to start stocking up on supplies now because one can only imagine the chaos that will result from such an event. Sadly, not a single presidential candidate has put forth a plan on how they are going to combat this impending doom!

Zombie-Apocalypse

I bring this up because people read the Scriptures through the lens of their own reality. And if your reality is “zombies,” I didn’t want you to get confused with today’s readings. The first reading from Ezekiel states, “Thus says the LORD God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” The Gospel of John recounts the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. So just to make this absolutely clear…we are NOT talking about zombies here!

I actually did some internet research on the ever so reliable Wikipedia to find a definition of zombie so we can distinguish them from what the Scriptures are describing. It turns out that, “zombie is a FICTIONAL undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. The term comes from Haitian folklore, where a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic. Modern depictions of zombies do not necessarily involve magic but often invoke science fictional methods such as radiation, mental diseases, viruses, scientific accidents, etc.” Thank you Wikipedia! Zombies are fictional, soul-less beings that used to be humans. And apparently, these humans-turned-zombies only have one purpose in their lives, only one basic urge to satisfy, to eat. To fulfill this hunger they eat any living flesh they can find. And if they can’t find any, they just keep wandering around aimlessly.

I’m sure this is all fascinating, but why is this Catholic Deacon going on and on about zombies? Because I’m here to warn you! Although I have said twice so far that zombies are FICTIONAL, I truly think the zombie apocalypse has already begun…but not in the way you may think! Think back 10-15 years ago. When people walked around, they made eye contact and said hello to people they passed on the street. Now, we have our heads buried in our smart phones and avoid eye contact. Instead of having an actual face-to-face conversation, we send a text. Instead of watching our kids play sports, we are updating our Facebook statuses on the sidelines. We don’t go outside, we go online. It seems the more we plug into technology, the more we unplug and disconnect from reality.

no-need-to-fear-a-zombie-apocalypse-300x232

Granted, technology can be a good thing, but I’m afraid it has turned us into mindless zombies, wondering around aimlessly through life. And if we keep feeding on what the world is offering, our hunger will never be satisfied and the “zombie apocalypse” will continue to get worse.

Now, I can’t leave you in a state of despair and without hope! I mean, I pretty much just labeled all of us zombies. However, you are in luck… I have found the antidote! It boils down to two words, a name really… Jesus Christ. From today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” This is also what the LORD God was speaking of in Ezekiel when He said, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” Our God was NOT talking about reanimating corpses but instilling LIFE into our lifeless bodies! It’s about dying to sin and our selfish ways and rising to a new life in Christ. Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus to be a zombie; He raised him from the dead to give him new life!

lazarus art

And unlike zombies who feed on any flesh they can find, we Catholics need to feed our souls and sustain our lives by eating the flesh of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. He is the food that sustains us, which is why it is so very important to receive Him in the Eucharist frequently.

This time of year, the upcoming Easter season, gives us the best example of how Jesus can give new life by looking at the RCIA process. This Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process where non-Catholics convert to or come into full communion with the Catholic Church. At St. Andrew’s we have 6 people who, at the Easter Vigil, will die to their old selves and be given new life through the waters of baptism. We also have 4 candidates who have already been baptized in other faith traditions. These 4 will renew their baptismal promises along with all of us. And then these 10 “new” Catholics will receive the Bread of Life for the first time, the Holy Eucharist, to feed that hunger that is deep inside all of them.

John6

So my question for you is this… do you want to continue down the path of the “zombie apocalypse” or do you want to have new life in Christ?

One pathway leads to death and wandering aimlessly. The other pathway gives you life and satisfies your hunger.

So if you’re tired of being a zombie and you want to have new life in Christ, I suggest you frequent this altar as often as possible and receive the only food, the only flesh, that satisfies.

Jesus gives us new life and then feeds us through His Body in the Eucharist. It’s that simple. Now it’s up to us to choose the right path and be faithful!

It’s Game Time

First Sunday of Lent (February 14, 2016)

Deuteronomy 26:4-10

Psalm 91:1-2,10-15

Romans 10:8-13

Luke 4:1-13

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.” This was the opening line of what is considered one of the greatest speeches in sports history. Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, gave a speech in the locker room right before USA faced the Soviet Union in the medal round at Lake Placid.

Herb Brooks

Herb Brooks

Let me set the scene for you as to why this speech is relevant for us today and how this underdog story gives us hope. At that time in history, the Soviet Union was considered to have the best hockey team in the world. They won the Olympic gold medal in 1964, 68, 72 and 76. This happened at the height of the Cold War where the Soviets were spreading communion and invading satellite countries bordering the Soviet Union. Our country had a deep dislike for the Soviets and everything they stood for at that time. This meant that all hockey fans in this country HATED the Soviet hockey team with a passion. First, because they represented communism and second, because nobody could beat them. And now, the Soviets were playing hockey on American soil… Lake Placid, New York.

On the other hand, the US hockey team was a young group of players from various college teams whom never played together as a unit before training for that Olympics. They were the new guys, with a new coach heading into the lion’s den of Olympic hockey dominated by the Soviets. Somehow, this scrappy, young American hockey team fought their way to the medal round. All the while, the Soviets crushed every team they faced. This David and Goliath match up wasn’t even for the gold medal. It was a game to determine who would go on to play for gold..

1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team

1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team

So in the locker room just before the historic game, with a country united behind a bunch of college athletes, Herb Brooks gave this speech, “Great moments are born from great opportunity, and that’s what you have here tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game; if we played them ten times, they might win nine. But not this game, not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down because we can. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players – every one of you, and you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Forget them! (I cleaned it up here!) This is your time. Now go out there and take it!” Team USA won that game and won the gold medal that year. In that speech, Brooks gave his team the power for a victory, which inspired a nation.

So here we are, the First Sunday of Lent. Lent is our 40 day journey dedicated to prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for Easter. It’s a time we put an extra effort to make sacrifices and turn away from sin. It’s a time we should be focusing on helping others and spending less time pampering ourselves. If we take this journey seriously, it should be challenging. Today’s Gospel shows us just how challenging it can be.

This Gospel reading from Luke is our underdog story. Jesus Christ is our coach. The devil is our competition. This passage from Luke is our motivational speech for Lent, leading up to the victory of Easter Sunday. Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. He felt emotions that we feel. He journeyed through the desert and was tempted by the devil just like we are tempted.

Lent is a great opportunity for us to mirror Jesus’ journey through the desert. And that’s what you’ve got here today ladies and gentlemen. That’s what you’ve earned here today. This Lent. You could go through 10 Lents, and 9 of them may not change your life. But not this Lent. Not these 40 days. Today, we walk with Jesus through the desert. Today He is our strength and we shut the devil down because we can. Today, we are the greatest collection of Christians, ready to turn our lives around and change the world. You were born to be alive in Christ. Every one of you. You were meant to journey through this Lent. This is your time. The devil’s time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what the devil wants us to do through all of his temptations. Forget him! This is your time. Now go out into the desert and come out on the other side a champion! By His example, Jesus gave us the power for a victory, now it’s up to us to inspire the world! It’s game time…