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Category Archives: scripture

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

 

Why I Love Being Catholic

Today, while going through my email and checking Facebook for the first time in a few days, I noticed something very exciting. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is giving away an iPad Mini full of Catholic content! The sweepstakes is easy to enter and there are multiple ways to enter. Go here to find out more about it and all that the Archdiocese is doing to celebrate the Year of Faith!

One of the ways you can enter to win is by commenting on this post and telling the world why you love being Catholic. Well, for those like me who read blogs regularly, leaving extra long comments are not generally good form, even on a post like this. (They generally get skipped over if they are more than about 100 words long.) So, I’ve decided, since there really is so much to say about why I love being Catholic, I should just write my own blog post, like Lindsey Simmons did, and leave my link over there.

So, why do I love being Catholic?

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  1. The Eucharist. The key teaching of the faith and the source and summit of all the Catholic Church does. We believe that Jesus, in instituting this sacrament at the Last Supper, truly gave us his body and blood and we continue to re-present his sacrifice at every Mass, every day, every hour throughout the world. In the miracle of the transubstantiation, the changing in substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, Jesus shows us at every Mass that he loves us so much and wants to be so close to us as to become nourishment to our very bones.
  2. Mary. No other religion in the world understands Mary’s role in our salvation and her role in the life of the Church today so much as the Catholic Church. Our devotion to her and the honor we bestow on her as our Queen and mother are just a beautiful expression of the depth of the teachings of this Church. Without her great “Yes,” Jesus’ mission would never have come to fruition. Does she not deserve the respect the Church gives her? I say, that’s the very least she deserves.
  3. Its Biblical Roots. Not only was the Church formed in the time of Christ and its inception dictated in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and its first Papal encyclicals recorded in the letters to the early Church, but the teachings of the Catholic Church can all be found and supported by the Truth found in the Bible. While most teachings also depend heavily on the constant teaching Tradition of the Church, all of them find their inception in the Bible. (Of course, those matters which are new to our specific place in history have teachings whose conclusions were drawn by way of reason from those whose foundations are in the Bible.) It’s spectacular to see when we study the Bible all the connections one can easily make to what the Church teaches today.
  4. Its history. The Catholic Church has been around for over 2000 years and is the only Church instituted by Christ with a direct line of succession to the apostles, whom Jesus picked to form and lead His Church. Throughout those 2000 years it has studied and discussed and taught on nearly every subject that effects our daily lives, and not just once, but studied and re-studied and always it arrives at the truth in love. The position is not always popular, but it is right and true and when we accept those teachings and try to live in accord with those teachings, our lives are all the better for it.
  5. Its Community. Not only is the Church full of wonderful people who love and want to do what is best for all people, especially those who have no one else to care for them and cannot care for themselves, but you can find those people throughout every country in the entire world and we all believe and teach and practice the same faith!! In addition, this community of people doesn’t stop at this world but extends into the next in the communion of saints who are the greatest source of inspiration for us and can show us, by their supreme examples, the way to live today with God’s grace so that we can live in God’s presence eternally in heaven. In addition, the prayerful support we can attain from these saints is nothing short of overwhelming.
  6. Its Sacraments. In addition to the sacrament of the Eucharist, the other six sacraments are like the guideposts and aids for us as we try to live our lives and “become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” The sacrament of reconciliation especially is not there to punish us for doing bad things and it certainly isn’t there to make us fools in front of another human person. It is such a wonderful gift that allows us to be free of those past mistakes and to receive the grace of God to help us to not make those mistakes again. The experience of receiving that absolution from the person of Jesus Christ, whose spirit was given to the priest on his ordination (another great sacrament of the Church) is one of the greatest treasures of our faith.
  7. Its Social Teaching. The Catholic Church is the greatest source of charity in this entire world! It beats the great work of national governments in the amount of aid and support they give to all those in need. They stand on the front lines to protect the unborn and the dignity of every human person. To be part of such an amazing institution is just awesome!
  8. Its Cultural Richness. The number of different people and cultures that make up the Catholic Church is almost innumerable. The number of different traditions and prayers and devotions available to help me to get to know, love and serve my Creator are likewise nearly countless. You can never come to the bottom of the barrel as you draw from the well of the richness of this Catholic faith.
  9. Its expectations. The Church, like Christ, expects us to be holy. To live holy and to enter into heaven at the end of our earthly lives is the goal the Church has set for us, because Jesus set that goal for us. They give us the tools to do it, too! With access to God’s grace in the regular reception of the sacraments, the community of believers with which the Church wants to surround us, the many examples of holy men and women throughout the ages and the volumes upon volumes of spiritual readings and reflections from the saints and those who are still studying these things today, the Church not only expects great things but they give us what we need to reach those expectations with God’s grace.
  10. Its Willingness to Stand Alone. The teachings of the Catholic Church are often unpopular and do not change with the times like so many things in society. However, that has not stopped the Church from standing firm in its teaching and doing so by constantly proclaiming the Truth as has been handed to it by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is reassuring to know that even though so many things are uncertain in this world, I always have a steady foundation in the Church upon which I can rely.

That is just some of why I choose to be Catholic and why I love being Catholic and yet, as I said, there are so many other reasons not mentioned above. The smells and bells of the liturgy, the beautiful way in which the Church’s calendar works, the celebrations, the beauty of its buildings and art…I could go on and on with the little things I love about this Church, but none of that matters if I can’t inspire you with my life. So, why do you love being Catholic? Or, for those who left, what made you stop being Catholic? Or for those who aren’t and have never been, what’s keeping you from being Catholic? I love this Church, I want you to love it, too!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in All In, Discipline, Mass, Prayer, scripture, St. Joseph, Virtue

 

Patience is a Virtue (that I wish I had)

Below is a post I began writing a couple months ago but until now didn’t get a chance to finish. Reading over the beginning I found that it is as true now (if now more so) as it was then, so I decided to finish it because I need to hear it and it needs to be said.

Attending a beautiful wedding this past Saturday, I was afforded a welcome retreat from the constant movement of taking three kids to Mass. I was actually able to listen to the readings, the psalm and the homily! Of course, it is in those times when we have a chance to listen that God comes in and speaks to our hearts and so it was this time.

The psalm chosen by the wedding couple was one I had heard a thousand times growing up: Psalm 103 “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, the Lord is kind and merciful.” While I know this particular version of the psalm is not drawn directly from Psalm 103 as it is meant to be, it struck me how directly this related to my life and the life of the soon to be married couple on their wedding day!

It is something I’ve been reflecting on a great deal, really and hearing it in Church made it all the more prominent. We are the children of God and as children are wont to do, we make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are huge, sometimes they are minor. Sometimes we don’t live up to our potential and yet, how does our God repay us for those failures? With love! With compassion! With Mercy! With overflowing, total self-giving, sacrificial LOVE! 

And here I am, the father of three children, the husband of one amazing wife, and how does my response to my childrens’ mistakes and bad choices compare to God’s? I’ll tell you right now, that it’s not a pretty comparison. Of course, you might say, we can’t expect to be like God, he is perfect, and that is true, but I remember a line in scripture that says, “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” A lofty goal to be certain, but one toward which we should all be striving. And so it is with fathers in a particular way because…well, we’re fathers. So, the image of God the father that my kids will first see is supposed to be me. If they don’t see me being slow to anger, rich in kindness, full of compassion, how can they be expected to understand that God, who is all knowing and all powerful, is also all merciful, all just and all loving.

I think I just realized my new year’s resolution.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, scripture, Virtue

 

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Passing on the Praise

This past week, I spent 5 days in Chicago, IL with the youth group from my parish doing mission work and attending a Catholic youth conference at Alive in You (fellow youth ministers, check it out!!). During that conference, whose focus this year, “Cornerstone,” was on using scripture to help build our foundation in Christ, one of the speakers gave us all a very simple formula: NO BIBLE, NO BREAKFAST; NO BIBLE, NO BED. The first thing you do in the morning is read the Bible, the last thing you do before going to bed is read the Bible. It’s a simple formula and one that I’m sure many of you already are following in your daily routines, but for me, this was earth-shattering – why didn’t I think of this before?!

I am not one to regularly read the Bible. In fact, I would say that my Bible knowledge is probably somewhere close to that of a 3rd grader (maybe worse). I love going to Mass on Sunday and hearing the word of God proclaimed and sometimes I even take the chance to read the readings ahead of time. However, I have never been good at opening Scripture when I pray. And like our speaker asked this past week, “How can we get to really know Jesus if we don’t take the time to listen to the words he spoke and see how he interacted with people?

So, I decided to try this new formula and it’s amazing all the connections that I have made already in my daily life. Today’s lesson is a must share.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is traveling through a town and people are bringing the deaf, the lame, the blind, etc. to Jesus and he is healing them left and right. The way the story reads it is almost as if by the end of the day, there wasn’t a soul left untouched by the miraculous healing of Jesus! Then it comes to the last verse in that story and it says “the crowds were amazed…and they glorified the God of Israel.” This struck me because, I think, it shows us a little bit about the person of Jesus.

So many times in our society when we see a great deed done or someone acts kind to a stranger, we immediately lay the praise on the individual doing the good deed (and rightly so), but here in this story, the thanks is not given to Jesus (even though he has just spent literally hours performing one miracle after the next), but to God! I have no doubt in my mind that almost every one of those people who had been healed were grateful to Jesus, but, even though he was the Son of God (and could even more rightly receive the praise), he humbly asked them to pass their praise to God who made possible the miracle. How often do we accept the praise that might otherwise be passed on to God? Again, I think it is right that we are thanked for the good work we do. However, do we just let it stop there? Do we take the opportunity to pass that praise on to God by whom we were able to perform that good deed or challenging task? By God’s grace I hope that one day I will.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in All In, Discipline, scripture, Virtue

 

Quenching the Thirst of God

I can’t go another week without pointing you toward the newly formed and fantastic blog, Speaking of Scriptures. Actually, I’m pretty sure I mentioned them once before, but this week’s reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel reading is tremendous and MUST BE READ!

Here is just an excpert:

Why this apparent digression? Now that her request has provided an opening, Jesus probes this woman’s heart, uncovering the place where she is wounded. Only the truly thirsty, who are willing to acknowledge what is parched and lifeless within them, are able to drink the living water. This woman’s brokenness, like that of so many others, is in the area of love. In fact, her life is a history of broken relationships.

Her reply, “I have no husband,” is somewhat evasive, but Jesus brings to light her true moral state.

“You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.”

Although this revelation is painful, the woman recognizes Jesus’ total lack of condemnation (cf. 4:39). He exposes sin not for the sake of condemnation but forgiveness and freedom.

At this point it is becoming clear that the dialogue is not merely personal. The woman’s life story, in fact, embodies the history of the people of Israel. According to 2 Kings, when the Assyrians invaded the Kingdom of Israel they planted precisely five foreign nations there, each with its god (2 Kg 17:24-31; cf. Josephus, Antiquities, 9.288).

You must read the rest of it here –>

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in scripture

 

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