Never Take Freedom for Granted

Posted on June 30, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.” (CCC, 1731-32)

Freedom in Christ

For those of us that are Americans, we must never take for granted the freedom we enjoy to worship and believe as we desire. God has given each human being the free will to shape one’s life.

There are many places in the world that seek to limit or destroy that free will. At times, even our own country risks curtailing those freedoms because of political agenda or blindness to the truth.

Good stewardship demands we not only give thanks for that freedom, but we use it to grow in faith and maturity. How can we not fully live out our faith in freedom when there are others in this world that have no way of expressing their beliefs?

Once we grow in our faith and become mature disciples, we need to recognize the need to fight for all of our human brothers and sisters that they may enjoy the same freedom that we do. We must not count the cost in this struggle, for the cost involved with doing nothing may be even greater.

For all those in the US, have a blessed and safe July 4th weekend!


Do You Know Jesus?

Posted on June 29, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Sacred Heart of JesusToday’s Gospel reading from Matthew includes perhaps the most important question of all time. Jesus asks Peter, and in turn you and me, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus wasn’t interested in hearing what everybody else was saying about him. He wanted to hear from Peter’s own mouth, “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Our understanding of Jesus can be molded by many influences: going to Mass, Bible studies, our own reading and study. The picture in our mind can be shaped by popular movies and books. Even what we believe Jesus asks of us can be informed by various preachers and teachers we trust.

But at the end of the day, Jesus asks us, “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Laborers for the Harvest

Posted on June 28, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, July 3, 2016, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Workers harvesting grapes from rows of vines in a vineyard.

In workshops, retreats, and classes I’ve offered over the years to parish and diocesan groups around the country, I’m consistently struck by the tension that many people feel between spirituality (which they often think of as something private) and action (which is, of course, more public). People can be hesitant to talk about how they pray. It’s much easier to talk about what we do—how we minister and the ways we serve.

But, as the Letter to the Galatians has been reminding us over the course of the past several weeks, we risk losing something essential if we focus too much of our energy on actions (i.e., observing “the law”) and neglect the deeper and more important spiritual realities that should be the foundation for everything we do in life, including our works of mercy and justice.

So, how can we begin to bring together our personal spirituality and our more public works? I think this Sunday’s Gospel provides us an important insight: the quality of our relationships.

This might seem like an odd answer, given the emphasis on mission and vocation in this Sunday’s Gospel passage, but let’s consider what Jesus instructs his disciples to do. He sends them out in pairs to “every town and place he intended to visit.” These disciples were to let the local communities know that Jesus and the Apostles were on their way. They were being asked to evangelize—to announce the good news that Jesus was coming. (Remember that our word “evangelize” comes from the Greek word evangelion, which originally meant a joyful announcement that a king was coming to visit or that a military battle had been won.) And the message, the evangelion, that Jesus had instructed the disciples to proclaim was simple: “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Here. Now.

The disciples’ journey and their announcement of the coming of the kingdom—and of the King himself—was the action. But what was bubbling beneath the surface, within the hearts and souls of those early evangelizers? It was their own faith in and relationship with Jesus and with one another.

When Jesus sent out the disciples as “laborers for his harvest,” he wanted them to work together, to share their faith, support and encourage one another when the journey was difficult, and to witness to the fact that to be a disciple of Jesus calls for collaboration and community. But Jesus also instructed them to pay attention to the response of the people they were visiting. They weren’t to just ride into town like gunslingers in a cowboy movie. They were to share their message about the coming of the kingdom but also to watch and listen—to be in relationship with the people they visited. As one commentator observed, “Whether accepted or rejected, disciples ‘harvest the ‘kingdom of God’ by their very presence, by their very proclamation of Jesus’ name, by their very fidelity to Jesus’ mission” (from Living Liturgy 2016).

Their mission was to proclaim the faith they held within their hearts and invite others—all others—to join them in building up God’s kingdom as faithful disciples. Faith and action came together in relationships—the communion and community of the kingdom of God.

As we reflect on the quality of our own relationships, we can certainly also think about the community of our nation as we look forward to our Independence Day celebrations on the Fourth of July. The Founding Fathers and first parents of this country envisioned the United States as a nation where all people were equal (cf. the Declaration of Independence) and where essential rights and freedoms were available to all people without fear of retribution or retaliation. America was built upon a belief in the necessity of right relationships and the responsible practice of freedom for the good of all our people.

As Christians—disciples proclaiming our interior faith through our public works of mercy and justice—we are being invited to reflect on how we are helping build God’s kingdom within our families, parishes, communities, and country. How are we building relationships with others? How does our faith form and inform our relationships? Who are we inviting? Who might we be excluding?

Silas S. Henderson, MTS


God of justice, Father of truth,
who guide creation in wisdom and goodness
to fulfillment in Christ your Son,
open our hearts to the truth of his Gospel,
that your peace may rule in our hearts
and your justice guide our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect from the Mass for Independence Day from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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The Person God Created You to Be

Posted on June 28, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

People atew speaksk me if being on the road so much is hard. I tell them the hard part is being away from my family. However, I also say that the time away seems to give me a greater appreciation of my family when I am at home.

I take less things for granted and am more willing to give of myself. So the travel actually has been good for my family life in a way.

What I do tell people is that I am happiest when I am speaking or leading a workshop. The crazy thing is, outside of spending time with family, I can’t imagine doing anything else that would give me a greater sense of joy or accomplishment.


Create a Dynamic Parish Facebook Page…in Just Ten Minutes a Day

Posted on June 27, 2016 by - Catholic Tech Talk

St. PaulSt. Paul the Apostle spent a lot of time in town squares, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ wherever he went. He spoke of becoming all things to all people, in order to win some to the cause of Christ. And as Catholics we are each called to do the same.

Imagine if you could regularly share the Gospel with those in your community who are feeling discouraged, disengaged, or even lost from the faith in just ten minutes a day. Facebook provides a digital place for you to do exactly that.

Think of Facebook as the new town square, with roughly 1.4 billion active users logging in every month. Your parishioners are here. People needing God are here. And your church needs to be here too.

Many parishes today have a basic Facebook page for their church. If you don’t have one, a good place to start is to share elements of your weekly bulletin and parish website, communicating the information in short segments that can be read quickly, responded to immediately, and shared exponentially.

To take your page to the next level you’ll need to find great content to share to increase your parishioner engagement. There are several simple steps you can take to move forward. With a little bit of planning, you can easily create a dynamic parish Facebook page in less than ten minutes a day.


Three Reasons Every Parish Needs to Be on Facebook

Posted on June 27, 2016 by - Catholic Tech Talk

Churches on Facebook LogoFacebook allows you to engage your parishioners every single day
The Mass is the center of all things for the Church, bringing the sacrifice and love of Christ into the present moment. This is a message that can be (and should be) echoed throughout the rest of the week using your Facebook page.

Facebook allows you to share parish news, as it happens, not just on Sundays
Make Facebook your place to keep parishioners up-to-date with parish news and event information. By liking your page, they will receive up-to-the-minute notifications every single time you post.

Facebook gives you the tools to share the good news of Jesus Christ
Use Facebook to post content that speaks to the power of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Then encourage your parishioners to share those posts with their friends to spread the Gospel.

The Remedy for Spiritual ADD

Posted on June 23, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

SunriseThe world is a very busy place. Our lives are sometimes very complicated. Everywhere we turn there are distractions.

Add to all this the increasing number of people with virtually no attention span or diagnosed ADD and you have a reality where it can be quite hard to stay focused and committed to any task at hand.


Answering the Call

Posted on June 21, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 26, 2016, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Volunteer Jim constructing a welcome sign at Biblical Tamar Park.

“When was the last time you volunteered your time to try to help your community?” That was the question this past week on The Book of Questions Calendar that I purchased at the beginning of 2016. Hmm, I thought to myself, volunteering… I pictured myself raising my hand at some committee meeting.

Every morning around breakfast time, Jim and I share a reading for the day from his devotional and the Scripture passage referenced. We discuss it and then ask “the question of the day from the calendar.” From breakfast we go about our work. We are at Biblical Tamar Park in the Arava Desert in Israel. Volunteers! Jim is from Texas and I’m from Wisconsin.

As I read “the question” last Tuesday, I asked Jim, “When was the last time you or I ‘unvolunteered’?” And we laughed. This is my third summer spent in the heat of the Israeli desert. Jim has been here multiple times. Jim decided, when he retired, that he would spend the rest of his life volunteering. He’s helped build a playground by the source of the Amazon in Peru and worked in Cameroon as well as Nigeria. Both of us have volunteered in our local churches in the US. Our discussed common goal is to help any way we can to spread the kingdom.

Is volunteering like answering the call in this Sunday’s readings? We would hope so! Spreading the kingdom today is both similar and dissimilar to scriptural times. Most of us don’t have a prophet throwing the cloak of his ministry over us or Jesus himself inviting us. In that way, the call may be dissimilar. But similar in so many ways, one of them being questioning its genuineness.

How do we know when a call comes? How do we know if it is from God or is just a crazy idea popping up in our heads? Jim can attest that some of those crazy ideas are genuine calls. If it won’t go away, that may be one sure sign it is genuine. We can’t always expect a confirmation of our call from the people around us. Just reading about Elisha’s sacrificing all his oxen seems foolish at first glance. Can you imagine what his family, friends, and coworkers thought about that? How they must have talked during the great feast that followed his sacrifice! He really burned his bridges along with his plows! He gave all he had to follow his call.

Excuses. Jesus invited and got excuses. Just questioning the idea can be an excuse for not responding to the call. The idea is just too crazy! What I heard from some friends and acquaintances was that going to Israel is walking into the lion’s den. Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria are much too close for comfort. And then there are the constant threats of conflict between Jews and Palestinians. But then, who would have guessed that going to a club in Orlando could be so disastrous? (We are praying for all involved!)

What are our excuses for not answering the call? An older lady from Saskatchewan stopped here with a tour last week. She asked about volunteering, but had no idea how to do it? What about visas? Is there a lot of red tape? I assured her that it was an easy process. Was she too old? No, I’m seventy-seven and can still do all the tasks I’m asked. Jim started volunteering at seventy-one and you should see him go! He says, “God has blessed me all my life. I want to give him all that is left.” No excuses!

What is God calling you to do? Listening for God’s ideas can be the hardest part. They may seem really crazy! But so was following a wandering Jew who had nowhere to lay his head. Is there a crazy idea in the back of your head? Might it be from the Spirit? What excuse is holding you back? Come!

Pat DeGroot, OblSB


Lord Jesus,
we thank you for the wondrous gift of Your Incarnation.
Just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was used to bring You into this world,
help us to use our time and talents to bring the Good News into the world.
May we never forget the love You have for all of us,
and may we never forget to share that love with others.

-Closing Prayer from the Stations of the Nativity from the Institute on Religious Life.

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Stewards Among Us

Posted on June 20, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Inspiring Discipleship One Story at a Time

Take a moment to think back to the days when you weren’t so engaged in parish life. Remember how it felt to show up for Sunday Mass without knowing a soul or feeling any connection to your parish?

Now recall the specific instance when you were invited to join in a particular parish ministry or group. Why did you say yes?


Cleveland, King James, and Belonging

Posted on June 20, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

In the past two years, I have given several talks in the Cleveland area at the request of the Diocese. Each time I spoke, it was about growing a more engaged parish community and the value of cultivating a sense of belonging.

I would begin each talk by playing the following Nike ad featuring Lebron James entitled Together.