Burning: 3rd Sunday Lent

Pop quiz from last week: In the Transfiguration in Luke 9, when Jesus was seen talking with Moses and Elijah, do you remember what they were talking about?

They were talking about Jesus’ [[[something]]] that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. The Greek word for that something can be translated different ways. Some English Bibles say ‘departure,’ others translate it ‘death.’ But the lectionary we hear at Mass does something wise: it simply leaves the Greek word there, untranslated:
“And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:31)Exodus... that’s some seriously heavy context with Moses standing right there! It means a heck of a lot more than ‘departure’ or ‘death.’  Today we follow up with a story from that rich context, the Book of Exodus, chapter three. Moses — born a Hebrew, saved from infanticide, and raised in the royal family — is now in exile after defend…

The Reward of Trust: 2nd Sunday Lent

Here's one takeaway from the story of the Transfiguration: one time up on a mountain, the Apostles saw Jesus in His radiant glory. They saw how He fulfills the Law and the Prophets, bringing to completion all of God’s work of salvation from the very start. They saw everything snap into focus, and they got it, and their lives of following Jesus made total sense. At the time of the Transfiguration, they saw the clouds part and heard an actual literal voice from Heaven tell them they were on the right track, revealing the big picture with clarity… beautiful, complete, undoubtable clarity.

Another takeaway is that most of the time, they didn’t. The other side of this extraordinary event is that it was, well... extraordinary. As in not typical, not the norm.

The Transfiguration is beautiful but it’s so fleeting. Even in telling the story, Luke emphasizes the desire of Peter to hang on to that moment, to camp out in that moment, and it’s the same for us. We’d love to hold on to those mo…

Cheeky: 7th Sunday OT

The teaching of Jesus about loving enemies and turning the other cheek can be hard to get a grip on. It definitely sounds lofty and idealistic, but how many of us could say we put it into practice in some real and concrete way — say, during the last week?

The first reading is not a situation you probably encountered this week, but it’s still a good starting point. You never had an enemy like Saul was to David. He was trying to kill him, actively trying to murder him! And David knows that Saul is also at war with God. Saul seems to be standing as an obstacle to everything God is trying to accomplish in His plan of salvation. He’s corrupt and wicked and he’s proven himself untrustworthy time and again. Finally David gets a chance to set all this right and save his life.

The scene is this: it’s night. An expeditionary force of three thousand of Saul’s best troops are out to get David. There’s at least a high compliment being paid, if Saul thinks he needs his best three thousand guys just…

Poor, hungry, weeping, and happy: 6th Sunday OT

Jeremiah tells us how to be unhappy. Cursed is actually the word he uses. “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Cursed why? Because those things just aren’t going to work. They aren’t enough! God made creatures in His own image and likeness, He made them for Himself, and our hearts will never find rest in anything less. Your soul is made for God, and whatever you try to substitute is not going to make you happy. Even the very best things in life… if you try to substitute them for God, even the best things in life become a curse. One more dissatisfaction, one more frustration, never enough.

Or to use Jeremiah’s incredibly vivid imagery: “He is like a barren bush in the desert, that enjoys no
change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” Barren, because you’re spending your life doing nothing fruitful and lasting. Enjoying no change of seasons, why? Because the variety, the richnes…

Caught: 5th Sunday OT

Take just a moment to feel Peter’s frustration when he tells the Lord, “we’ve been working hard all night long and have caught nothing.” Imagine working all through the night and having nothing to show for it; I know my state of mind would not be great. Maybe you can remember something you worked so hard at, did everything you knew how to do, and it just didn’t happen. Maybe, like Peter and company trying to fish, you couldn’t even say what you were doing wrong.

I’ve been there with my fishing pole, for sure. Those days you throw literally everything in your tacklebox... nothing. You try different colors. You try different depths. You try different movements. Nothing! You’re doing all the stuff you’re supposedly supposed to do, and there’s no catch. For some people, maybe for some of us here, our life can feel like that in general. You couldn’t name some mistake you’re making. You’re pretty much doing the stuff you think you're supposed to do. So where’s your catch? Where’s the pay…

Offered: Feast of the Holy Family 2018

One day years ago in Lincoln, Nebraska, a man came into the university Newman Center, definitely not a student but had found his way there somehow. There wasn’t anyone else around and we began to talk. I thought I maybe smelled some alcohol but he seemed pretty with it and he urgently asked me if I would please pray with him.

Now this is the sort of thing a campus missionary lives for, right? So it was with a full and grateful heart that I followed him into the chapel, all the way up the aisle, right to the threshold of the altar and tabernacle, where he knelt on the stone steps. I knelt next to him as he began praying aloud. Immediately he was sobbing… “Jesus… Jesus… help me… help my family…” I don’t remember all his words but they were a real cry from the heart, from someone who seemed to have been lost and was being found right next to me kneeling on those steps.

I was just silently praying along, and also thanking God for the incredible grace, the privilege to share a moment like …

Distance. Christmas 2018

Born in 1979, I grew up with the image of Planet Earth from space. I was grown up before it was pointed out to me that that image is something pretty new. Of all the humans who’ve lived and died, no one ever saw an image of the planet Earth until fifty years ago — exactly fifty years ago, December 24th, 1968.

Of course everybody’s seen parts of it. You can climb a mountain to see more of it. You can follow the International Space Station on Instagram and see big expanses of it from orbit... but it’s still a piece you’re seeing. To really see the Earth, you have to go a whole lot farther away. There’s something a little funny about it, really. Apollo 8 went to get a closer look at the moon, but maybe its greatest contribution was to give us a farther look at the Earth.

And that’s what many people talk about when they talk about the image sent home from Apollo 8 fifty years ago tonight. It awakened a new sense of smallness, of oneness. Like: that’s us, that’s all of us. That’s the whole…