Tag Archives: Christian

Lessons from Jesus

25 Jun

Sermon on the MountToday’s Gospel gives us three challenging lessons from Jesus taken from His famous “Sermon on the Mount”:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Mt. 7:6).

Living in a largely de-Christianized society that sorely needs a “new evangelization,” we might tend to brush aside this verse. After all, we must be about bringing the Gospel to the unchurched, who might be considered the “dogs” or “swine” in this analogy. This verse points to the ever-present need to balance what we call in Church-speak “inculturation,” or making the mysteries of the faith accessible to a given culture, and the “reverence” that is always due to God and holy things. If we’re too serious or other-worldly we will not be able to inculturate the Gospel, and if we’re too hip we can easily water down or trivialize the “pearls” of our faith.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 7:12).

This is the most straightforward of the three lessons . . . and probably the most difficult. The people of Jesus’ time, thanks to the Law and Prophets, already knew this lesson, yet they needed Jesus to remind them. And today, surely we have heard the “Golden Rule” many times and have tried to drill it into our quarreling children. Yet we still don’t treat others as we would like to be treated, because we haven’t fully tapped into the love of God that has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 5:5). Let’s hear these words anew and make practical resolutions to do good to others today.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:13-14).

We don’t know the relative population of heaven and hell, and we do trust in the super-abundant mercy of God. Yet, this startling message reminds us that we are responsible for how we respond to God’s mercy, and how we live our lives. We might ask ourselves whether we’re heading through the narrow gate. If not, there’s still time to change course and choose the path that leads to abundant life (cf. Jn. 10:10).

The Third Option

25 Apr

Ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? Mary Magdalene was on Easter morning.  Well, actually, it was Jesus’ body that was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and she seemingly had no way to get to him.  This consumes her thoughts on the way to the tomb.  How will I get that stone moved? Jesus needs to be anointed. If I ask the guards, what will they do to me? Can the disciples move it? They would be thrown in prison if they tried! And further, they don’t have a great track record of sticking around when things get tough…

What I think is most striking about this inner dialogue of Mary is that as she runs through the impossibilities in her head, she keeps moving toward the tomb.  It seems like she has two options: to incur ridicule or worse from the guards at the tomb, or to fail to give Jesus a decent burial.  Yet when she arrives, she finds something altogether different. Jesus has provided a spectacular third option she never could have dreamed of.

I have been reflecting lately how so many of our pressing social issues come down to a failure to see and embrace that third option.  Our society forces people in difficult circumstances into a false dichotomy of horrible solutions.  If you’re in a troubled marriage, you have two choices: the trauma of divorce or the long agony of staying together “for the sake of the kids”.  Young, pregnant and unmarried? Your choices are abortion or a doomed future of poverty and underachievement. This is a brilliant tool of the devil.  No one likes divorce or abortion, but if you juxtapose it with something equally devastating, it suddenly seems like a viable option.  The “lesser of two evils”.

Now enter Mother Church, who is increasingly a lone voice against some of these “lesser evils”.  Prohibit contraception? You want women to become helpless baby factories! Prohibit assisted suicide? You want Grandma to linger is meaningless pain! Prohibit IVF? You want to deprive people of the beauty of parenthood! What our culture fails to see in every one of these tough cases is the third option.  The Church never just slaps on a legislative cuff.  Instead she gently takes the struggling sinner by the hand and says, “this is extremely difficult, but you can do it”.  In short, the third option is grace.

Grace is a poorly understood concept today, but simply it means God’s supernatural power which we have access to by our Baptism and by the other sacraments.  What it means is that we never face our hardest times alone.  We face them with the same power that moved the stone for Mary Magdalene.  Grace opens doors where no doors should be able to open.

The third option is a transformed marriage where partners can learn to slowly rebuild trust and love again.  It is adoption, where an infertile couple becomes parents, the young person is able to continue with their education and the baby gets to live.  It is Natural Family Planning, through which couples learn to be generous in their love, open to God’s will for their families and through which they can either space their children or often conceive children despite low fertility.

I’m not naïve. I know that life is not a Hallmark movie.  That’s the beauty of grace! I know that sometimes the third option is an ability to survive one of the first two horrible options.  If Grandma is terminally ill, grace normally won’t provide a miraculous cure.  But God will illuminate the meaning of Grandma’s suffering.  Like all suffering endured with Christ, it can be a powerful avenue of grace for others.  This is true of any suffering we let God into.

Finally, the best part about the third option is that it is available even after one of the “lesser evils” is chosen.  There is hope for those who have divorced, whether that choice was made for safety, against one’s will or in the pursuit of a happier life.  There is forgiveness and healing for those who have chosen abortion, or IVF or contraception.  Here, too, the third option opens up floodgates of mercy and peace that never could have been imagined before.  No matter what the situation, choosing the third option of grace leads to a surprisingly rich joy.

So this Easter season, let’s approach the tomb with our deepest anxieties.  Let’s offer them up to the Lord and see what miracles await us.

Note: Grace is often channeled through practical avenues.  For help in understanding the issues raised in this post or in getting practical help, please contact your pastor or the Respect Life or Family Life Offices.

Prepare for a Merry Christmas

15 Dec

Ten days til Christmas. Are you ready? If you’re like me, you probably still have cookies to bake, presents to wrap (or buy), a menu to plan, a house to clean (or suitcases to pack)… and on and on. The parents I talk to these days are buried under their fa la la la lists. At the risk of adding one more thing to your list I am going to, well, suggest you add one more thing to your list. Don’t worry, this thing is free, and it just might be the most valuable thing you do to ensure a merry Christmas.

Often, after all the material and even spiritual preparations we do during Advent to make the season bright, we still end up having arguments, blow ups or melt downs when the big day comes. Since they tend to happen every year, we may be tempted to just accept them as “just how things are”, or we may become discouraged and upset by them every time, as if we didn’t see them coming. Instead of either of these responses, I’d like to suggest a third: foresight. Continue reading

Getting the House in Order

22 Nov

My husband Brad and I are new to the Office of Marriage and Family Life, and new to the area, as well. We moved here from Minnesota. We accepted the position right after the July 4th weekend and moved right after Labor Day. I am still tired thinking about it. Aside from purging 7 years of garage sale finds, free furniture and well-intentioned but outgrown gifts and then packing everything that was left, we also completed every project we had meant to do since we moved in. We put in a new tile floor, painted, insulated the attic, removed an old drop ceiling, changed out light fixtures, replaced gutters, remodeled a bathroom and refinished hard wood floors. We even removed ballerina wallpaper border from our daughter’s room that had bothered me since day one. By the time we left, the place looked good enough to live in!

When we told people about this flurry of home improvement activity, almost everyone nodded and mused, “Yep. Isn’t that how it always goes? You get it nice right before you go!” Usually they would then proceed to share a similar story from someone they knew, or from their own experience.

Needless to say, we wish we could have lived in our own beautifully remodeled, de-cluttered house all along, and I think it’s not an uncommon regret. In fact, several friends who helped us in this process remarked to us that we had “inspired” them. Oh, good, we thought. You are inspired to follow God’s call even if it involves doing something difficult like moving several states away? No, they would answer. We had inspired them to clean out their closets and get rid of junk so they would never end up like us! Continue reading