Possession of Love

In a few short days, here in my diocese, we will be celebrating the ordination to the priesthood of young men who have spent years in prayer and discernment of God’s will for their lives. The readings for this ancient liturgy have been chosen by the bishop and, while the first two readings (Isaiah 61:1-3 and 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-7) clearly point to the anointing of each of these men and God’s specific call of each of these men by name, the Gospel reading from John 15: 9-17 seems to shift focuses slightly. It says, “you are my friends if you keep my commands. I no longer call you slaves… I have called you friends.”

While, of course, this reading continues the theme of being chosen, it seems to shift away from the idea of this outward anointing and this outward calling to an inward movement of the spirit toward God. Jesus says, “if you keep my commands, you are my friends.” This requires an action on the part of the individual; he must make a choice to follow the commands of the Lord! Of course the interesting dichotomy comes next when the Lord points out that in following his commands we are not his slaves. How can this be? One

who is commanded to do something and who follows those commands is often seen as nothing more than a slave, but Jesus says these very people have been called his friends! I think the reason can be found in Pope Francis’s message on the 2014 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. He states:

“Many times we have prayed with the words of the Psalmist: ‘It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture’ (Ps 100:3); or: ‘The Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession’ (Ps 135:4). And yet we are God’s “possession” not in the sense of a possession that renders us slaves, but rather of a strong bond that unites us to God and one another, in accord with a covenant that is eternal, ‘for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (Ps 136).”


That word, “covenant”, is essential to the entire message. Jesus is not asking us, who are followers of his, to be friends in the sense of hanging out together on the weekend around a pizza or getting on the phone everyone once in awhile to check in. When he uses the word “friend” here, he very clearly expects more: he expects a covenantal relationship. When do we, as humans, enter into a covenant? On our wedding day and, for those who have been chosen, on the day of our ordination! And when we think about these human relationships, that of a husband and wife or of a priest for his flock, we completely understand the close comparison between friend and slave. We honor the one we love and we do what she “commands” us to do because we put ourselves in the position of a slave out of the great love we have for the other! We humble ourselves, we sacrifice ourselves and we given entirely of ourselves because our love makes us bound to that person! It is one of the most beautiful paradoxes that can be found in this world and Jesus wants that of each one of us.

Our vocation, our call to holiness, is rooted in the great love Jesus has for us and in his invitation for us to be possessed by that love. He wants us to freely make of ourselves slaves to his divine will, and in so doing, to become his closest friends. He doesn’t coerce us as a slave is forced by his master, rather he invites us to love him with the same amount of love with which he loves us. And let us not forget what St. Paul said of that great love, “rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). Let us pray, then, that those who will be ordained priests on May 19th and those who will be entering into sacramental marriages throughout this upcoming wedding season will truly allow themselves to be possessed by God’s great love, that through that possession, they may draw us and one another closer to their best friend, Jesus Christ.

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Posted by on May 14, 2018 in scripture, Virtue


The Humble Origins of the Most Powerful Name in the World

My wife and I are the proud, if not sometimes overwhelmed, parents of 6 young children. The youngest of which is just about 18 months old. In our young marriage (of just over 13 years now), the name discussion has been a very big part of our lives. I don’t know about any other couples out there, but this discussion generally lasts the entire length of the pregnancy in our house. Typically the conversation goes something like this:

“So, we like this name for a girl and this name for a boy, right?”

“Well, I’m not so sure I like that name anymore, how about this name?”

“That’s okay, but what about this name?”

“Oh, I like that one, but what about this one for a girl?”

“Yeah, I like that, but I still kinda like our first names, too.”

Generally, it goes a few more rounds before we both agree on two names only to have one of us come back a week later saying, “I don’t know if I am sold on those names anymore.”

Naming a child is a huge responsibility! It’s the one thing your child is going to live with their whole lives (assuming they don’t hate it and decide they need to change it as soon as they turn 18). And for our family, we like to be traditional and choose names of saints for both the first and middle names and that adds another dimension of difficulty to the mix.

Not long ago, however, I was given the opportunity to go on a retreat during which I had time to pray through the story of the angel appearing to Joseph in a dream (Mt. 1: 18-23). This brief account is filled with so much powerful fodder for reflection, but ultimately, what is stuck with me more than any other piece of that story is this line: “she will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”

First of all, how nice was it to be Joseph? He never had to deal with the 10-month-long conversation of what to name the child! He knew without a doubt at least three months in advance the name the Lord wanted for this child. But more seriously, think of just how important a role Joseph had in the history of salvation. Not only does he make it possible for Mary to bear the Son of God without outward ridicule and possibly being stoned to death, he incarnates the name of Jesus! He brings the most powerful name in all the world into the world! This was not a name before Joseph and because of Joseph, the name which is above every other name came into being and has been causing change in people from that day forward.

Just think about what happens in your heart or in your mind when you hear the name, Jesus. Say the name out loud yourself and you cannot help but me affected by its presence on your tongue and in your ears. Some people may hate the sound of it, others may feel at peace, some may feel fear or shame, some may feel absolute joy, but almost everybody responds to that name! And it was brought into the world by a humble carpenter who simply did what he was asked to do.

May we all have the courage to live our lives in complete obedience to the will of God and to continue to bring into our homes and our world the name of Jesus.

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Posted by on January 3, 2018 in Children, fatherhood


My Encounter with God at the Local Pool

Summertime is pool time and for those of us with young children it is a time of mixed emotions. We are excited to see our babies and toddlers get their first experiences of the cool, crystal clear water and yet there is some level of trepidation as we know the myriad of ways that their first pool experience could go horribly wrong. Many of those ways are real, physical dangers to the child (e.g., swallowing too much pool water), and some of them are emotionally traumatic dangers (e.g, the seemingly near death experience of being splashed in the face with cold water). These experiences can make it nearly impossible for us to get our children to trust the great body of blissful relief from the sun that a swimming pool can be once we have conquered our fears.

At my most recent experience at the pool, my wife and I diligently lathered up our 2 year old with sunscreen, strapped on his Coast-Guard-approved floatation device and got into the pool before beckoning for him to come in with us. Since this is already near the end of June, our son has gotten used to this routine by now and willingly lets me gently set him in the water. However, this time, I was beckoning from a few feet back and challenging him to jump into the water. I assured him that I would catch him and that he could do it. I assured him that his life vest would help him to float to the top, too, if he did land in the water and I told him, that no matter what, I was going to be there.

12019505252010042226In that moment, while my son was still standing on the ledge unsure of whether or not to jump, I encountered God. I knew that in many ways in my life, I was that little boy, standing on the edge of the pool not sure if I trusted my Father to catch me if I jumped. I pray often for the Lord to reveal to me his will for my life and I ask him to grant me the courage to follow it, but when it comes down to the moment of decision, when I see before me the path he has planned for me, I get a little apprehensive. I start thinking things like, “That looks hard. I can’t do THAT! Even with the stuff you have given me, I know I’m going to fail; I know I’m not going to like this.” And all the while, God stands there encouraging us, telling us “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine (Isaiah 43:1),” and “It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit (John 15:16).”

In the next moment, my son jumped into my arms and with a great big smile he swam off, happy to have learned a new skill. As I reflect on that accomplishment I realize a few things that were in place that made it possible for my son to jump:

  • He was equipped for the jump
  • He knew that I loved him
  • He trusted me

God has given us all that we need to fulfill the mission he asks each of us to accept and he will continue to provide the grace necessary for us to persevere in that mission. It is up to us to come to know Him well enough to really know His explicit love for each of us. We must also trust that He knows what is best for us and He will not lead us from that. In order to do that we (myself included) must spend time with Him on a daily basis, reading His Word, and allowing it to permeate our lives. In the end, we still need to make the decision: we can either trust our loving Lord and jump or stay standing on the ledge where our fears leave us baking in the hot sun.

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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Uncategorized


It’s Not Hard to Obey

It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey. - Ignatius of Loyola

I just saw the amazing quote above from St. Ignatius of Loyola while I was doing my morning scroll through the office twitter feed and I just had to share it here. I believe that when St. Ignatius had this thought he most likely was thinking about obeying our Lord and doing the will of God. No truer words could be said about that. When we love the Lord, we trust the Lord and we believe that what he asks of us is only for our own good. Therefore, obeying that will is easy. Of course, there are going to be times that DOING the will of God is not easy because he will often ask us to do things that are not possible on our own. In fact, everything the Lord expects of us is not possible to accomplish without his grace. But I digress.

What struck me about this quote is the way it is reflected in my life as a father trying to raise children and help them to their ultimate home in Heaven. What is the one thing anybody with children complains about the most?

“My children just don’t do what I ask them to do? They don’t listen.”

I remember as a little guy myself, I had my own problems listening and obeying my parents. However, what I’m hearing from St. Ignatius today is that, perhaps, my children struggle to obey me because I don’t show them as clearly as I can that I love them. They don’t see day in and day out, in the good times and in the rough times, when they have done everything perfectly and when they have made mistakes, that I love them. How do I respond when things aren’t done perfectly in my house? How do I handle having to pick up their toys and clothes and shoes every single day? Am I showing them love and patience and mercy as the Father has shown me? Am I making it easy for them to love me or am I simply seeking respect?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that by showing my kids more patience and love and mercy they will automatically obey my every word. I don’t do that in my relationship with God! I do believe that if they know how much I love them and want what is best for them and that I am trying every day to help them to get to heaven, then, perhaps they will be more likely to trust that, even when I’m asking them to do things that are difficult, they can obey me and there will be a good result for them and for our family. If I can be the type of person that is easy to love, and not the type of person that is easy to fear, then, perhaps,  my children will find it easier to obey.

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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized


The Question About Fasting

wineskinsLent has officially started, and perhaps on your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram feed you have already been inundated with articles and infographs like “40 things to give up this Lent” or “15 Ways to Make the Most out of Lent” or even “10 Things You Shouldn’t Give Up this Lent.” But so many of those articles seem to assume something that I’m not certain it is safe to assume: What is the purpose of fasting?

I am a member of a small prayer group here at the Archdiocese’s central offices and yesterday, on Ash Wednesday we prayed together through Luke 5:33-39 where Jesus is questioned about why his disciples did not fast. Jesus, I think, gives a very interesting response to the question. In typical Jesus fashion, he answers their question with a question, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” He then goes on to give a parable about old wineskins and new wineskins, old cloth and new cloth and old wine and new wine. What does this really tell us about fasting?

At the surface it seems that the initial comment about the bridegroom and the parable about the incompatibility of the new and the old are virtually unrelated, but as we dig a little deeper we start to see what Jesus is trying to tell us. Let’s take first his comments about the bridegroom and his guests. It is apparent here, that Jesus is making a very simple point about the purpose of fasting: it is a means to an end. Fasting is meant to prepare our hearts and condition our wills to enter into a closer relationship with Christ. Of course, the ultimate closeness we all seek is to be with Jesus in heaven. Thus, while he was present among his disciples, there was no need for them to fast, because they were already with him who is the bridegroom and source of all grace. We have not reached that beatific vision, thus, we must fast.

Following that, then, we dive into the parable about the new and the old. In verse 38, Jesus says, “Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” As we make our way toward Easter, the Lord, as he always does, desires to fill us with something new, but before he can do that, we must present him with fresh wineskins to fill. Jesus says that “No one (who has gotten comfortable in the old ways) desires new, for he says ‘The old is good,’” and it is so tempting to become like that. For so many of us, our relationship with Christ has gotten really nice. It’s comfortable and safe, but Jesus desires more; he desires something fresh! Therefore, we must try to detach ourselves from all that stands in the way of his desires, even the good comfortable relationship we currently have with him, and prepare for a new relationship with Christ that would make our old wineskins burst. Through fasting, let us spend the rest of this lent preparing those new wineskins so that, on the day of his Resurrection, we can receive that overwhelming flow of new wine and end our fasting for the bridegroom has returned.

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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Discipline, Prayer, scripture


Online Ordering and our Heavenly Home

Just yesterday my wife and I decided that for lunch I would order a couple of sandwiches from Potbelly and pick them up on my way home. So, I got on the computer and made our order online, paid for everything and went to the sandwich shop at the time I told them I would arrive. When I got there I went straight to the register, gave them my name, and my name was passed down the line to the person who was to retrieve my food. This was not done silently. Instead, I was greeted with a hearty greeting from each and every one of the restaurant staff, who acted as if I was an old friend or at least a very regular customer (I am neither). Immediately a smile crossed my face as the famous “Norm!” scene from Cheers entered my mind. “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.” Indeed. I think I might be returning (with another online order). 🙂

As I was walking back to my car I was struck with another thought.That’s the kind of greeting all of us are hoping to receive as we enter our true home that has been prepared for us by our Heavenly Father. And yet, it is possible that, based on our actions and the way we respond to the gift of salvation that is being offered to each and every one of us, we will face the Lord on the last day and he will not recognize us. What a terrible and frightening thought that can be and yet, there is great hope, too. Jesus is merciful and in his mercy he has not only granted us the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven with him, he has also given us the tools to help us along the way to salvation. If we have strayed, if we have failed to show love to those we have met, if we have thought more of ourselves and our many needs but less of the needs of our brothers and sisters who have far less, Jesus has granted us the opportunity to do something about that.
Throughout this Jubilee of Mercy, let us seek to be forgiven for our selfishness and our anger. Let us go to him in the sacrament of reconciliation and go to our neighbors asking them to forgive us, too. Let’s explore with the Lord ways that we can truly be instruments of His mercy and generosity and thereby keep our wicks trimmed and our lanterns filled with oil. For me, for starters, that means starting each morning with more prayer and more gratitude and ending it with examination and gratitude. Where we go from here I want to leave to Lord, but it is by his grace that I will be able to do anything and it is through his mercy and love that I can, one day, receive that heavenly greeting where everyone knows my name.

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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in All In, Prayer, scripture


Tired of Boring Sex?

I was driving down the interstate yesterday with my wife and 5 children and as I often do, much to my wife’s chagrin, I was reading the billboards. One billboard in particular stuck out to me because it had only five words and a jarring question: “Are you tired of boring sex?” It was an advertisement for an “adult toys” store and I was blown away by the audacity of the company to put something so direct on a billboard that pretty much anybody over the age of 6 (and probably many 6 year olds) can read even at speeds of 60 mph or higher (let alone during rush hour traffic when the little ones might have time to sound out the words).

Thankfully, none of my children saw the billboard and I had to tell my wife what I had just seen while simultaneously silently exploring my own reaction to it. My first thought apart from the utter disbelief, was curiosity. “What is so boring about sex?” Maybe it’s just me, I thought, but “boring” has never been a word I would even think of to describe sex. So, I asked my wife, who confirmed my assumption that she wouldn’t either. So, why would this company choose that question as the only words on it’s advertising campaign? The answer the company is expecting to get from lots of consumers is, “YES!! I’m sick of boring sex! I need more spice in my sex life?” And that’s when the light bulb came on; sex isn’t about the beautiful union of flesh, the physical representation of the marital union promised on the day of the wedding. It isn’t even about a relationship anymore; sex is simply a form of entertainment. Sex is just another activity, like riding a bike or stamp collecting, that eventually, if you do it often enough, it just gets boring. And what a sad statement that is to make about our culture. How much our culture is missing out because we have diminished one of the most miraculous gifts God has given us, into something so benign as collecting spoons (no offense to those who still find great excitement in spoon collecting).

God has given us the ability to participate in creation! Can you believe that?! I mean seriously! Just stop and think about that for a minute. God, the creator of all the universe, the creator of you and me, he has given us the ability to participate in his creation. We for a few brief moments get to be the instruments of God’s creation! And what an awe inspiring gift that is and, when you think about it, what a terrifying responsibility. You know, it’s kind of a big deal to create something, especially when that something has a purpose and a plan given to him by God.

And that is why the Church is so concerned about sexual purity. The great gift of our sexuality is just that and should be treated as such. It is a great GIFT and not some cheap form of entertainment to be found online for low monthly payments or in some “adult toys” store. The word boring should never be used to describe sex because that is the consumer mentality. Gifts are meant to be enjoyed, certainly, but they are also meant to be used appropriately. Nobody receiving a GPS watch for Christmas would go start using it to hang pictures. Just like that watch has a purpose, so does sex. Sex is meant to be reserved to a man and woman, within the bonds of holy matrimony, pouring out the love of God to one’s spouse in an intimate union that allows God to work through that moment too and when that gift is put to use for its purpose, you find the word “boring” far from the lexicon of that experience.

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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized