Let’s Go To The Movies

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 18, 2018)

Daniel 12:1-3

Psalm 16:5,8,9-10,11

Hebrews 10:11-14,18

Mark 13:24-32

One of my absolute favorite things to do is go to the movies. Not watching a movie at home, but seeing it on the big screen with a tub of popcorn in my lap. For me, watching a movie allows me to forget about all of my daily stresses and, for at least two hours, feel like I’m actually living in the story that I’m watching. I can get so caught up in a movie that I’m completely emotionally engaged in it, if you know what I mean.

After watching “Jaws”, I couldn’t swim in my parent’s pool in the evening for fear of a great white shark coming up out of the deep end and grabbing my foot. The “Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa taught me to never count out the underdog after he knocked out the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. Thanks to Stephen King, I can no longer walk near a storm drain by the side of the road because there just may be a clown waiting to pull me in. Mel Gibson painted a very realistic depiction of what a Roman scourging and crucifixion actually looks like in his movie, “The Passion.” Now, every Palm Sunday and Good Friday, when we read the passion narrative at church, I can’t help but play those scenes in my mind.

My absolute favorite movie genre has to be military and war movies that are based on real life events. Movies like, “Black Hawk Down,” “For Greater Glory,” and “We Were Soldiers.” I think the reason I like them so much is because it shows just how far some people are willing to go to help and defend others. Putting their lives on the line for someone they’ve probably never met. To be willing to die for a greater cause.

But the trouble with the movies are… they don’t last forever… usually 2-3 hours after leaving the theater… my emotional “high” from allowing my imagination to be engulfed by the big screen is gone… and it’s back to reality and my day to day stresses and worries.

So why in the world am I going on and on about my love of movies?? Do me a favor and close your eyes as I read something to you. I’m going to use my best “movie narrator” voice so allow your imagination to form a mental picture. Here goes:

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people… Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken… And then they will see the ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

Open your eyes. Did anyone else hear James Earl Jones’ voice reading that or is it just me? Don’t you think this could be the most awesome opening to a major motion picture about the apocalypse? I mean come on? These lines from the Book of Daniel and Mark’s Gospel are begging to be made into a movie about the end of the world! What do you think? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could play St. Michael!! I’m telling you it would be a multi-million dollar blockbuster.

All kidding aside, the second coming of Jesus Christ is something we need to consider. Our faith teaches us that one day, Jesus will return to Earth in all of His glory. He will come to conquer evil once and for all, to judge the world and to save the chosen. As we hear in the parable of the fig tree today, there will be signs suggesting Jesus’ return. But ultimately, it could happen any day at any hour.

Why is this so important? Because we must always be prepared. What happens after our death or after the return of Christ is forever. Our lives will be judged and we will spend eternity with Him in heaven or eternity in Hell without Him.

We need to actually live like we believe this and stop waiting for “tomorrow” to clean up our lives. Stop waiting for “someday” to fix that broken relationship or to mend a past hurt. Let’s stop pretending that the Apocalypse is just some movie that we can watch but then go back to our daily lives as if nothing has changed. Jesus Christ gave us the ultimate gift. He, like so many in those military movies I alluded to, laid down His life for you. To defend your soul from evil. To give you hope at eternity in heaven with His Father. He died for a greater cause.

The problem is, we often treat the parables and teachings of Jesus from Scripture as a movie. It sounds good and it’s fun to hear, but the “warm and fuzzies” wear off soon after… and we return to our daily grind.

But if you can fully embrace and live out the teachings of Jesus Christ, I guarantee you’ll live a life with purpose and meaning. It won’t necessarily take away all of your stresses and worries, but those will only be temporary compared to the joy that awaits us one day in heaven.

But until then… go to the movies… allow yourself to laugh, cry and let your senses be engulfed with the big screen. But after you leave the theater and return to reality, remember that you have a God in heaven waiting to fulfill your hopes and desires more so than any movie can ever do.

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Gianna

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 21, 2018)

Isaiah 53:10-11

Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

Hebrews 4:14-16

Mark 10:35-45

 

Gianna Beretta was born on October 4, 1922 in Italy. She was the 10th of 13 children. Gianna was a typical kid but had a turning point at age 15 after taking a course in Spiritual Exercises. In the course, she wrote the following resolution, “I make note of doing all for Jesus. I offer him all my work, all my disappointments and sufferings.” Gianna then wrote the following prayer, “I promise You, Jesus, to submit myself to all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your will.”

Fifteen. FIFTEEN years old. I wasn’t that mature at 15! Gianna had no idea that her resolution at the age of 15 would be put to the ultimate test 25 years later.

Gianna went on to medical school and became a surgeon, specializing in pediatrics. If patients couldn’t afford her care, she wouldn’t charge them a fee. Nobody was turned away. In 1954, Gianna met Pietro Molla and the two were married on September 24, 1955. They gave birth to three children and miscarried two others.

In 1961, Gianna was pregnant with their 6th child. She was only two months pregnant when doctors found a large tumor on her uterus. As a doctor, Gianna knew the only way to guarantee her own safety was to remove the uterus, which would cause the death of the child in her womb. Without hesitation, she decided to have the doctors only remove the tumor and leave the uterus. This greatly endangered Gianna’s life, but gave her unborn child hope for a healthy birth.

As they approached the due date, Gianna and Pietro knew the risks and trials that they were about to face. However, a few days before the child was due, Gianna told her husband, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child. I insist on it. Save the baby.”

They went into the hospital on Good Friday of 1962, and Gianna gave birth to a healthy, little girl the following day. A few hours later, Gianna started suffering from severe pain due to septic peritonitis. And despite all efforts to save her life, Gianna died a week later. It was reported that up until her final breath, Gianna kept repeating, “Jesus, I love you! Jesus, I love you!”

Fast forward to October 1997. Pope John Paul II was listening to various speakers at the second ”World Day of the Family” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A young woman stepped forward and gave a moving testimony that ended with this prayer, “Thank you, Mother. Thank you for having given me life twice: in conception and when you permitted me to be born, deciding for my life. Intercede so that all mothers and families may always come to you with confidence.” Pope John Paul II heard this and wept. These words were spoken by Gianna Emanuela… the daughter of Gianna Beretta Molla. Gianna Emanuela followed in her mother’s footsteps and also became a medical doctor specializing in working with Alzheimer’s patients.

On May 16, 2004, Pope John Paul II officially canonized and introduced the world to Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. In his homily, John Paul said, “Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.”

On a personal note, just a few days ago on October 16, 2018, my wife and I were able to officially adopt our little girl Laura and we legally changed her name to Gianna Wentz, named after this modern day Saint. And last night, our Gianna was baptized into God’s family.

I believe St. Gianna is an amazing modern role model who’s story of love and trust in God can teach us so much. She shows us that serving others and loving as God loves is what our faith is all about. It’s not about titles and prestige.

In Mark’s Gospel today, we hear of James and John asking Jesus that they be allowed to sit at His left and right side in Heaven. This irritates Jesus because they are seeking honor and authority rather than focusing on service. Jesus responds that He did not come to be served but to serve. “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” These are the commands Jesus tells his followers that they must be willing to do if they desire to enter heaven with Him. It’s about service.

St. Gianna didn’t seek fame and glory. She simply tried her best to commit her life to God. But she didn’t just talk about her faith… she lived out her faith. It is by both word and example that shows God just how much we really and truly love and desire Him. Anyone can say, “Hey look at me, I’m a Christian, God is great!” But to be blunt, that is a very shallow faith if it ends with just words. God is asking us for more. He’s asking us to live out our faith so that others can see our example and hopefully be moved to action in their own lives. This is the type of faith that will allow us to one day sit at God’s side in heaven like St. Gianna.

As baptized members of God’s family, God is calling each one of us to action. I pray that you use your time here on earth to use those actions to help build up and strengthen God’s family rather than tear it down.

And if you ever find yourself struggling, remember the prayer St. Gianna recited on her final days on earth, “Jesus, I love you! Jesus, I love you!”

Let’s Roll

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 16, 2018)

Isaiah 50:5-9a

Psalm 116:1-6,8-9

James 2:14-18

Mark 8:27-35

“Let’s roll!” 17 years ago on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer spoke these two final words just before Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. He was on a phone with a GTE operator, explaining to her that their plane had been hijacked. Those on board Flight 93 were already hearing reports that 2 other planes had hit the World Trade Center Towers in New York. They knew that if they just sat by quietly, they too would have a similar fate. So the passengers on board came up with an action plan. It was believed they were going to try and rush the terrorists, break into the cockpit and try to regain control of the plane. It was then that the GTE operator overheard Todd on the phone say, “Let’s roll” as they put their plan into action. Shortly later, Flight 93 crashed into an open field. There were no survivors. The theory was that the hijackers were headed to Washington, D.C. Probably with the intention of crashing the plane into the White House. However, the plane never reached that destination because the brave men and women on board took action.

I thought today’s reading from James was very fitting to be proclaimed in church just a few days after the 17th anniversary of 9/11. In it, we hear St. Paul say, “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” He very clearly illustrates this when he says you can’t tell someone, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well” if you know they are without food or clothes as you walk right past them without lending a helping hand. You see, saying one thing, but not backing it up with action is a complete contradiction. Instead, St. Paul logically tells us that people who have a strong faith should also have strong actions that support their faith. For it is in these good actions that we see a faith that is alive.

What does this mean to us and how does it relate to Flight 93? There is so much negativity in the world. Let me ask you this… If you sit around and do nothing at all, do we humans tend to get excited or depressed? We get depressed and lethargic. We tend to go inward instead of outward. We also start to listen to the negative chatter in our minds. I’m sure that the people on board of Flight 93 were frightened. After all, they were starring evil and death right in the face. They could have turned inward and sat there doing nothing. But instead, “Let’s roll” was the battle cry they chose. Unfortunately, in the end, they never made it off that plane. But their actions allowed them to die as heroes because the plane wasn’t able to reach it’s target which would have undoubtedly lead to more innocent casualties.

Now, I’m not asking you to go out looking for a way to die as a hero. I am asking you however, starting today, to take on the battle cry, “Let’s roll” regarding your Christian faith. The time for sitting around and being complacent is over. We as a Church need to rise up and start putting our faith into motion.

People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding teaching our children and grandchildren the faith. You want a better church a decade or two from now? Then we need to take seriously the task of teaching our faith to the younger generation. I know that Mary Jane has asked many, many people to teach Sunday School catechism because we always seem to be shorthanded each year. I also know the most common reason people turn her down is because they claim they don’t know their faith enough to teach it. That’s an honest and valid reason. But why then don’t we have more adults in the adult formation class Sunday morning? We adults need to take the lead here and learn, or in some cases re-learn, our faith so we can pass it on to the next generation.

People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding supporting this parish. Studies continue to show that 1/3 of the people attending church donate zero dollars, 1/3 give some and 1/3 donate most of the money used to pay the bills. But it’s not just about money! If you look at the committees, it’s usually the same small group of people that volunteer for everything. To them I say, “Thank you!” To everyone else, I ask you to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer for something.

People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding participating in the Mass. If you aren’t excited to be at Mass… If you don’t see the value of saying the prayers and singing the hymns as a community… If you don’t do everything in your power to make Mass attendance the #1 weekend priority… then you need to have a serious heart to heart conversation with God and figure out what you are missing. Because God provides so much grace when you are fully here and receive the Eucharist with an open, God-loving heart.

People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding loving our neighbor. Let me say this loud and clear. Forgive one another. Drop the grudges. Encourage each other to be a better person and always lead with a loving heart. If we learned anything from the tragedy of 9/11 it is that we have no idea how much time we have left on this earth. So why in the world would you want to waste any time at all on negativity and nonsense?

Remember, “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Don’t live a life with a dead faith. Instead, choose today to up the game and live out your faith fully with the heart of Jesus.

People of St. Andrew’s… I say to you, “let’s roll!”

Grab Your Walking Stick

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 15, 2018)

Amos 7:12-15

Psalm 85:9-10,11-12,13-14(8)

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 6:7-13

 

Jesus sent the Apostles out two by two to preach of repentance, anoint the sick and drive out demons. But did you notice the stipulations he attached to it?

Take nothing for the journey. No food. No money. No sack. No second tunic. Just a walking stick, sandals and the clothes on their backs.

Now we have to ask, WHY? Why the stipulations? The Apostles were sent on a journey. A specific mission. Jesus didn’t want Peter and James messing around on Facebook or to have John video chatting with his buddies back home. He wanted them instead to focus on the task at hand and, more importantly, to rely on others for help.

Now, I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but preaching on repentance isn’t exactly easy. It tends to get people on the defensive when you ask someone to walk away from sin and addiction. Even if it’s for the ultimate greater good… we tend to cling to those negative things in life because they give us false joy and temporary pleasure.

The Apostles, without anything fancy and totally relying on the generosity of others, went out to spread the Gospel. Did they meet with resistance? Yup. But Jesus told them what to do if that happened. Did you catch that in the Scripture passage? Jesus said… if they don’t listen to you or welcome you… you’re supposed to raise your voice, curse, punch, kick and insult them for not seeing things your way!!! Nooooooo!! What he really said was, “leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”

Jesus told the Apostles to do their best to teach others how to change their attitudes and to turn their lives around, but they needed to simply walk away if the person’s heart was too hard to hear the message. Just walk away. Such a simple concept.

And here’s the truly interesting part. These instructions that Jesus gave his Apostles… don’t take stuff, preach repentance, anoint the sick, drive out demons, walk away if people won’t listen… it worked. Why? Because people were open to changing their attitudes and willing to walk away from sin.

So here’s the take home message from today’s Gospel. If you are struggling with a sin or addiction, if you are angry, if you find yourself walking away from God instead of towards Him, if you are lacking joy in your life… get rid of some of the clutter and allows others to help you. Then focus on what needs to be changed, repent of it and get back on track. If you can consistently do this, you will have fewer negative things around you… I promise.

So grab your walking stick, repent of your sins, set your sights on God and enjoy the journey towards our Father in heaven who is the only source of true and everlasting joy.

Mosh Pits, Crowd Surfing and Mustard Seeds

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 17, 2018)

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:2-3,13-14,15-16

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Mark 4:26-34

This may be hard for you to picture, but back in high school, I had hair down to my chin. Not only was it long, I was that kid who wore a ponytail and had the underneath side of my head shaved. Yes… I was a product of the 90’s. And in case you were wondering, the 90’s produced some of the best music in my opinion. Metallic, Guns n Roses, Peal Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots. Pretty much anything that caused you to jump around or bang your head back and forth was worth listening to back then. I’ve been in mosh pits… I’ve gone crowd surfing… I even have some hearing loss from listening to music entirely too loud.

Along the way, I eventually cut my hair and my taste in music expanded. After moving to Kentucky, I found two Christian radio stations that played music that actually sounded good. Air1 and K-Love. One of the first Christian rock artists that I found and really liked was Jeremy Camp. I remember distinctly going through a rough patch in my faith journey when I heard his song called, “Walk By Faith.” Here are some of the lyrics:

Would I believe you when you say, your hand will guide my every way? Will I receive the words you say, every moment of every day? I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see. Because this broken road, prepares your will for me. Help me to win my endless fears. You’ve been so faithful for all my years. With one breath you make me new. Your grace covers all I do. Well I’m broken, but I still see your face. Well you’ve spoken, pouring your words of grace. I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see. Because this broken road, prepares your will for me.

This song came to mind when I read today’s second reading from 2 Corinthians, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

This scripture verse is a daily struggle to live out. It is very easy to believe in something that you can see and touch. It takes a “letting go” to be able to put your trust into something or someone who you can’t see standing right in front of you. This is where the utmost trust in God can really shine through.

This can be understood more by looking at the mustard seed parable in today’s Gospel. The mustard seed is a tiny seed. The size of a period at the end of a sentence. If left alone, it will do nothing but remain a tiny, insignificant seed. But add water, sunlight and rich soil and it will become a bush large enough for birds to nest in and animals to lay in its shade. With proper care, it will grow up to serve a purpose. And all of that potential was contained in a tiny seed. It just needed a few outside influences to allow it to flourish into something beautiful.

Well guess what? You all are the mustard seeds. God has ingrained into you every possibility imaginable. You contain, within you, a God given purpose. But, just like the mustard seed, you need the right outside influences to allow you to flourish into something beautiful.

On one hand, you can allow the world to stimulate your growth. Television, news, Facebook, gossip… you get the idea. If these are the important things that are cultivating your growth, you will never flourish. You will never be truly happy. You will remain a tiny, insignificant seed.

On the other hand, if you allow God to cultivate you… watch out… Reading Scripture, living out God’s teachings through His Church, receiving the Sacraments from Baptism to Confirmation, helping others, respecting and honoring all of God’s creatures with the love He has shown you… these are the things that will allow us to grow into something magnificent!

Allowing God to have an active hand in our life journey, allows us to “walk by faith, not by sight” a heck of a lot easier. When we have a strong, Godly foundation and hit one of those rough patches, we know God is in control and our suffering is merely temporary. But when we are allowing negative influences to feed us, those rough patches we come across can seem almost unbearable.

So allow God to stimulate your growth. Allow God to nurture you so that you will grow and flourish into something truly magnificent.

What Is Love?

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48

Psalm 98:1-4

1 John 4:7-10

John 15:9-17

When preparing to preach at Mass, in my experience, it is very easy to just skim over the 1st and 2nd readings and even the Responsorial Psalm in order to see what the Gospel message is for the week. Very often the Gospel passages proclaimed at Mass have the “meat” of Jesus’ teachings that can really change our lives when we apply them and live them out. Today’s Gospel from John is no different. It’s message is clear and to the point. Jesus tells us, “Love one another as I love you.”

But in order to better understand this “love” that Jesus is talking about, we really need to go back to the 2nd reading today from the first Letter of Saint John. It would be a shame if we just skimmed over it because I believe it is one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament. It reads almost like a love poem. It is only 4 lines long, but profoundly powerful. So allow me to read it to you again:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10).

 So next time you tell someone that you “love” him or her… I want you to think of this passage. Because all you ever wanted to or needed to know about love, is explained in these 4 verses. Therefore, you really have to understand this passage so that you are sure that you actually mean what you say when using the word “love.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Love comes from one source… God. It’s not a man made emotion. It originates from God who is love. Therefore if you truly have love inside of you, then you have God inside of you as well. Even an atheist, one who doesn’t believe in God, in some way, knows God simply by loving others.

“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Therefore if God is love, it would make sense that someone who has absolutely no love for anyone can NOT possibly know God. I would take this even farther and say that love and hate can’t reside in the same person at the same time because of how opposite they are. You can’t on one hand tell your child, a friend or your soul mate that you “love” them but on the other hand hold a grudge or hate against someone else. One expresses the presence of God. The other expresses the absence of God. The two don’t mesh.

“In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” Here, God reveals to us what is love. God didn’t reveal love through His speech, but through His actions. God decided to show us what love looked like by sending us His Son. To live for us. To die for us. To save us. I personally couldn’t imagine standing by watching one of my children suffer a horrendous death. Even if it was for the greater good, I don’t think I would have it in me to keep going. But that’s exactly what God did. He allowed His Son to suffer out of love for us.

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Love is not in the receiving, it is in the giving. Love wasn’t “created” by us out of thanksgiving towards God… Love was “born” from God when He extended it to us through His Son. This sacrifice is the height… the pinnacle of true Love.

So now you are all experts on “love,” right?? Understanding love is the easy part. But it takes a lifetime to properly put it into motion and probably won’t be perfected until you reach heaven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try while we’re down here living in the world.

So here’s my challenge to all of you…your homework for the week. Be more aware of the level of love you are expressing towards others in your daily lives.

Meaning… if you have high levels of negativity, anger, gossip, holding tighter to those grudges, eye rolls, having to argue everything, cursing or sin in general… your love is out of balance. It means you are distancing yourself from God instead of walking towards Him.

When these things creep up, because it will happen from time to time, you need techniques to counteract them. Simply recognizing this when it’s happening is a great first step. Then try some deep breathing, meditation, prayer, read some Scripture or take a walk. Just putting a smile on your face will do wonders. And here’s the big one…go to confession. This sacrament can give you more grace and love then you’ll probably ever truly realize. It’s that important… so no more excuses! Go!!

The only way to return to love is to return to God. So when your love is low, turn to God. For He is the source of all Love. The source of all Joy.

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!