The God Who Is Not a Program

Posted on July 19, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The God Who Is Not a ProgramFor Sunday, July 23, 2017
16th Sunday Ordinary Time

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:26-27
Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30

I have been working in the Church now as an adult for twenty-five years and I have seen so many things come and go. There were so many programs that promised to completely overhaul your parish and, in turn, change the world. There have been trends brought to us by conferences and workshops, buzzwords that seemed to either bring joy or tribulation to one’s heart, and book after book intending to be that last book you will ever need in ministry or in changing your life.

Today, I am full of hope because of all the talk about the new evangelization and a renewed emphasis on leading people to a real relationship with Jesus Christ. But at the same time, I see many of the same old traps that lead to cults of personality, blind faith in the latest idea or process, and the sin of feeling superior to others. If you are in a particular group that thinks a certain way, you are truly doing God’s will. If you are not, apparently you just don’t seem to get it. (more…)

Discerning the Seeds of Stewardship

Posted on July 16, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Green PlantsOver the years I have wasted a lot: a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of talent. Sometimes I didn’t realize I was wasting these things, but after reflection, I realized I could have done more and accomplished much greater things. Of course, I think that is part of our imperfect humanity.

It truly is easier for us to waste our gifts than grow them into something more.

The parable of the sower speaks about the Word of God that gets planted in our hearts. If the soil of our heart is rich, than the Word will grow and change us. If that soil is rocky or full of weeds, the Word will lie there without any impact, bearing no fruit.

This parable can be applied to living a stewardship way of life as well. As sowers, we have been given the seeds of our time, talent, and treasure. We have a choice of where to plant these gifts. As good everyday stewards, we are called to plant them wisely and prudently. Often times it is not enough to simply give away what we have.

We need to discern the best places to sow these gifts so the maximum harvest can grow. This takes prayer, reflection, and study. Without a solid discernment process, we can find ourselves sowing seeds endlessly without much to show for it. But joyful is the person who has used their gifts wisely, for the bounty of the harvest is great.

Why Radical Hospitality Matters

Posted on July 15, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Hospitalitity I really love hospitality and try never to take it for granted. When someone takes time to create a beautiful environment or greets me with a warm welcome and a smile, I am hooked. My name is Jane Angha, Director of Ministry Blueprints, a little company all about radical hospitality and welcoming in faith communities.

Leading with Beauty 

People often think hospitality is a luxury or an option if you have time, money, and volunteers. Others think it is a waste of resources to fuss with hospitality and things such as décor, environment, food, and how the room looks for an event or gathering. They swear it doesn’t matter to most people and that no one will even notice. I beg to differ. Hospitality is an integral part of setting the stage for an encounter with Christ. Leading with beauty touches our hearts, minds, and souls.

(more…)

Who Likes Waiting?

Posted on July 12, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Who Likes Waiting?For Sunday, July 16, 2017
15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Isaiah 55:10-11
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9

I’ve heard that if someone waits more than four seconds for your website to load, there’s a 25% chance the person will skip it entirely. When there’s a line at Starbucks, we tap our foot. When the subway is delayed, our eyes repeatedly flick to our watches. When the tinny “all circuits are busy now” chirps in our ear for the fifteenth time, we grit our teeth and debate hanging up. When the promised reward is slow in coming, we don’t like to wait.

On a larger scale, we can see the same impatience for change. Hasty to fulfill campaign promises, the Republicans brought their healthcare bill to the House floor without a guarantee of support and now, as a result, move forward more hesitantly. Of course, all earthly leaders face the same scrutiny. Whatever side of the aisle, we want our promises fulfilled. And we don’t like waiting. (more…)

Why Should We be “Digital Catholics”?

Posted on July 6, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

Greetings and salutations! My name is Sr. Helena Burns, fsp. The initials after my name stand for my congregation, the Daughters of St. Paul (in Latin). Founded in 1915 to evangelize with media, the Daughters of St. Paul are obviously very pro-media and pro-technology! Our Founder, Blessed Fr. James Alberione, told us to use “the fastest, most modern, most efficacious means to reach the greatest number of people” with the Word of God. He gave us the mandate to use every new medium, every new form of communication as soon as it appears on the horizon. In other words, the Daughters of St. Paul are called to be “early adopters.” We then learn the particular “language” of each new medium in order to use it to communicate optimally, as our Founder said: “in an appealing, attractive way that people are used to.”

(more…)

The Cost of Spiritual Joy

Posted on July 5, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: The Cost of Spiritual JoyFor Sunday, July 09, 2017
14th Sunday Ordinary Time

I remember getting the message that my godson was about to be born. Weeks previously, I was honored when my friends asked me to be the godfather for their second child, and then I was shocked that they’d also asked me to be present when that child was born.

After a stressful day, I found myself in the hospital. With her husband by her side, and the nursing staff assisting, this soon-to-be mother gave a few strong final pushes. After the initial excited announcement of “it’s a boy,” silence fell. There was still more activity going on, but everything seemed a lot more peaceful. After about fifteen minutes, this tiny, seven-pound, wrapped bundle of human miraculousness was placed in my arms for the first time. (more…)

No One Before God

Posted on July 2, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

god first

It took five years of marriage before I was ready to have that first baby. Of course, now that I have three children I cannot imagine a life without them. After twenty-five years, I cannot imagine life without my wife as well.

And I know that I am lucky. I know those who have lost children or have been widowed. They couldn’t imagine life without their loved ones either. (more…)

The Paradox of Life in Christ

Posted on June 28, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: The Paradox of Life in ChristFor Sunday, July 02, 2017
13th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16A
Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
Matthew 10:37-42

A few weeks ago, my family and I were involved in a rollover accident coming home from the grocery store. Thankfully we all walked away, but internally it was the kind of life event that shakes you to the core. Something that hit me the hardest afterward was the terrifying feeling I had while rolling over. Not just the dreamy feeling where everything seems to go in slow motion, but the feeling that I was not ready for this to happen. I wasn’t ready to die. That shook me. Where is my faith? Who have I been living for up until now? What does God want me to change so when that time comes I am ready to embrace his will?

In this Sunday’s readings, we encounter a reality meant to be a similar wake-up call. In the paradox of the cross, we experience the tension of losing everything in order to gain all. In order to live we must die. It’s a reality we seldom think about at length because it’s uncomfortable. Self-denial is a prerequisite for holiness. This is something I thought I was living, but as the van rolled I quickly realized how little I really was. (more…)

In Awe of Creation

Posted on June 27, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

god's giftWhen I was a teenager, one year after a Homecoming dance I took my date for a walk on the Potomac in downtown Alexandria. The moon was out and I was struck by how the light shimmered on the water. I remember focusing to try to see all the details of the dancing rays on the ripples.

My date didn’t see it and didn’t really get it. She thought it was no big deal. It was a great date and a fun night, but for that one moment we saw the world from two completely different vantage points.

Two of the greatest gifts from God to each of us are life and time. Without taking care, we can easily miss the grandeur and beauty of both. Being mindful as an everyday steward means pausing to see the detail in all that exists around us.

God’s creation is not something created with a broad brush, but instead with the intricacies of a master painter.

God created all things with purpose and a complexity only the Divine could fully comprehend. Every single hair on our head has been counted! But when we take a moment to reflect on the beauty that is created by that complexity, we allow ourselves to revel in God’s generosity.

There is so much to give thanks for in this life. But you and I can’t give thanks to God unless we really stop to take notice. When was the last time you stared in awe at the moon?

Moving Beyond Fear

Posted on June 21, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: Moving Beyond FearFor Sunday, June 25, 2017
12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20:10-13
Romans 5:12-15
Matthew 10:26-33

We live in unsettled times. Issues are brewing across the globe, whether in North Korea, Russia, with ISIS, or in our very own country. Conflicts and divisions seem to be deepening every day and the news headlines constantly reveal more. We hesitate to have our children play outside alone, we fear being vulnerable in public places, and things we normally could trust are being called into question. Fear is an emotion not only becoming more common, but becoming justifiable in light of our current situation.

But we are people of faith and Jesus clearly makes the point that fear has no place in the life of the disciple. Matthew’s Gospel specifically tells us: “Fear no one.” Even the Stoic philosopher, Seneca, had no tolerance for fear: “If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.” That being said, there is a difference between actual fear and imagined, crippling fear. Fear in the presence of a specific threat can propel us to action. For the Christian, however, that action must be a faith response. Imagined, crippling fear can prevent us from discovering and enjoying life’s beauty and developing our true potential. (more…)