Seeds of the Kingdom

Posted on June 9, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 14, 2015, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 14If you read any of the accounts about American Pharoah last weekend, and the way he secured a place in sports history by winning the Triple Crown, you might have thought his triumph was inevitable.

But the man who helped raise him wasn’t so sure.

Tom VanMeter, owner of Stockplace Farm in Kentucky, remembers it this way:

He says at the time of American Pharoah’s birth [three years ago], the colt was just “another nice big brown horse.” “It’s like saying that Michael Jordan was going to be a great basketball player when he was in kindergarten,” VanMeter said. “You just don’t know.”

You just don’t know when something small might defy all expectations. It’s that way with horses. As this Sunday’s Gospel suggests, it’s that way with mustard seeds—and with the kingdom of God.

In Mark’s Gospel this Sunday, we hear Jesus compare the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. It “is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth,” he told his followers. “But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.”

An ancient writer, Pliny the Elder, once described the mustard seed this way: “With its pungent taste and fiery effect, mustard is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand, when it has once been sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”

That may not be what many of us think the kingdom of God to be like—pungent, fiery, hard to control. But there’s also something wonderful and exciting about that description. Jesus described a kingdom that started small, but grew to a point where no one could contain it, and even the birds could build their homes in it. It is a place of great, limitless possibility—one that welcomes all.

And isn’t that the sort of place we’d like to call home?

As we slip back into ordinary time this weekend, and move further from the fire and fervor of the Easter season, it’s good to remember that sometimes what seems ordinary is, in fact, extraordinary. We need to remain alert to possibilities of grace—or even, perhaps, small miracles. They are the seeds of the kingdom. Who knows what wonders await?

More importantly: if the seeds of the kingdom are here, how can we help it grow?

Listening to the Gospel this Sunday, let us pray that we can help make God’s kingdom flourish here on earth—spreading the good news with our lives—and making that kingdom a welcoming place for everyone.

Dcn. Greg Kandra


Heavenly Father,

Pour forth your Holy Spirit to inspire me with these words from Holy Scripture.

Stir in my soul the desire to renew my faith and deepen my relationship with your Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ so that I might truly believe in and live the Good News.

Open my heart to hear the Gospel and grant me the confidence to proclaim the Good News
to others.

Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my
everyday life through my words and actions.

In moments of hesitation, remind me:
If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel?
If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed?
If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?

God, our Father, I pray that through the Holy Spirit I might hear the call of the New
Evangelization to deepen my faith, grow in confidence to proclaim the Gospel and boldly
witness to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
New Evangelization Prayer © USCCB.

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Building a Vibrant Parish in North Dakota

Posted on June 9, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

IMG_1972Each year, LPi conducts dozens of Building a Vibrant Parish seminars across the country to help local parishes engage their members and strengthen the Church. Today our team is at Spirit of Life Catholic Church in Mandan, ND sharing our experiences, tools, and strategies to help build a more vibrant parish.

Click here to see when we’ll be in your area or contact us if your church is interested in hosting one of these free seminars.

Everyday Stewardship / Feast of Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Corpus Christi)

Posted on June 5, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

Eucharist“While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God,’” (Mark 14: 22-25).

If you take the time to gaze upon your God in the simplest of forms, and begin to reflect on what has actually taken place with bread and wine becoming the presence of the Divine, then you can begin to understand true humility, sacrifice, and love.

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A Fresh Look at Parish Communication

Posted on June 5, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Prince of Peace Cover RedesignThe church bulletin is certainly the oldest and most common channel of communication used by parishes. How it is used and what is included as content varies greatly from place to place. But too often, it is seen as little less than a handout containing dates, times, and advertisements for programs. The potential of many a bulletin is left completely untapped.

You could create a dozen different ways of communicating in your parish, but the bulletin is the only way to communicate to all Mass attendees and visitors. Even as the digital world expands, that paper bulletin is gold in terms of evangelization value, because you get it right into their physical hands. Imagine the Catholic who has returned after years away, the young adult who showed up for the first time not sure whether church is even relevant in her life, and the young family that is church shopping and had a difficult time just getting all the children out the door, all at your church on a Sunday morning. What is contained in that bulletin you place in their hands that might make all of the difference? Does the ink tell of only news, or does it clearly celebrate the good news?

To read more from Communicating Kerygma, A Fresh Look at Parish Communication by Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS, Director of Parish Community & Engagement at LPi, click here.


In the Company of Witnesses

Posted on June 4, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship


Keep CalmI became a Christian at age 17. I didn’t go to church growing up and really knew very little about Jesus. That is, until I met a girl whom I liked quite a bit. When I finally mustered the courage to call and ask her on a date, she told me that she would like to go out with me but that she liked to end her dates in prayer.

Being church is all about a company of witnesses who “stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live.” Is your life stirring up irresistible questions? Is mine?

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Eucharistic Presence

Posted on June 3, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 7, 2015, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 7Our first reading this weekend from the Book of Exodus makes a very bold and confident statement of faith. “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” People of faith must constantly be reminded of what God says and their willingness to accept what is said through lives of service. It is interesting to note that the sprinkling of blood on the people is really a profound statement of connection and sharing; of God sharing the life of his covenant with his people and the people sharing their lives with God. The Eucharist, the heart and center of Catholic life, brings this sharing to its most perfect level.

At every Eucharist and in a more particular way this week as we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we have to remind ourselves of what God is saying and asking us to do. St. Augustine stated it most clearly when he said that it is through the Eucharist that we become what we eat. Ultimately, then, God is asking us to become the very image of Christ. The Eucharist is not something that is celebrated for the sole purpose of getting us to heaven. While our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of the “promised eternal inheritance” that awaits us, it is even more profound. The Eucharist is celebrated so that transformation can occur in the lives of those who receive Christ! We become what we eat.

Mark’s Gospel reminds us that on that first eucharistic night of Passover, a New Covenant came into being. It was a covenant that asked those first disciples and those who follow after to do all that the Lord had commanded and to become like him. The amen we boldly state when presented with the body of Christ is not only a statement of our faith in the Real Presence before us but a bold statement of faith in our willingness to become that presence!

It is no secret that Jesus went out to those most in need. He forgave the sinner, ate with the outcast, defended and fed those who were poor and hungry, worked for true justice, risked being unpopular, willingly accepted suffering and death, always stayed connected with his Abba Father, and consistently reminded folks that God’s compassion, love, and mercy trump everything, even the law. This is the Christ that the Eucharist calls us to be. As we look around our churches, our town and cities, and our world there are many places and people who need to see the face and body of Christ. Some of those most in need may be right within our families. But it is always in the poorest of the poor and those most vulnerable where the greatest need exists. When the gift of the eucharistic Christ takes root in our hearts, we can more readily see the face of Christ in others.

There are many who are vulnerable, but I believe that highest on the list are the homeless. They show us the face of Christ. Whatever the cause, to have no place to go and no place to call home takes a toll on the human spirit. For Jesus when there were hungry people, they were fed. God asks us to do the same … feed people. There are many who are hungry physically, emotionally, and spiritually and gifted by the eucharistic presence of Christ, we bring them Christ himself. Who are the hungry around us and how can we feed them?

When others are hurting, you comfort them. When others are hungry, you feed them. When others need clothes, you provide them. When others are cold, you warm them. When others are in prison, you visit them. With over a million people who are homeless and over a quarter of them children, it is important to ask the question why and strategize for ways to lessen the problem or at least effectively respond. But asking the question “why” cannot let us off the hook for responding to the immediate need that presents itself at our door. Whether a person’s current station in life is self-imposed or the result of being victimized, it is second to the fact that that person still needs help. We cannot lock the door and send others away and still believe we are the presence of Christ. It doesn’t work like that.

The issues behind the cause of homelessness, loneliness, depression, and all of the things that “starve” people and rob them of freedom and life are complicated with no easy answers to be found. People are complicated. Our shelters are filled with people who have tremendous stories to tell, stories of domestic violence, of being a lost and emotionally wounded veteran, of not being able to afford rent and provide for their families in spite of working two jobs, of losing their homes, of losing their spouse, and of struggling with mental illness and addiction. When you listen to what these people have to say and their eyes meet yours, they are the eyes of Christ and they need to see Christ looking back.

The Eucharist, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, is about celebrating, strengthening, enriching, focusing, and becoming. The tabernacles in our churches may need to be locked but the tabernacles of our hearts need to be wide open. John 6:51 reminds us that Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven. Figure out who around you is hungry, make an act of faith, and be that living bread for them. Leave what you are to do and what you are to say to the One who lives within you. “I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.”

Rev. Mark Suslenko


Shelter us, O Lord, and give us the compassion and
knowledge to help others in their search for shelter.
Protect us, O Lord, from darkness, and give us the
wisdom and skills to protect others who life in unsafe
and unhealthy housing and long for the light.
Bless us, O Lord, with homes that make comfort and
joy realities for our families, and give us the grace to
ensure this for all families.
—“Longing for Home” prayer by Education for Justice.

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Cutting the Grass Again

Posted on June 2, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

GrassWe are not like grass. We do not grow without a decision to do so. The grass receives water from the clouds, sunlight from a far off star, and the occasional fertilizer from yours truly, but it still never makes a decision to grow. It just does. You and I have to decide to grow, or we can find ourselves years later at the same stage of ignorance we are at now.

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Lavishly Sowing Seeds

Posted on June 1, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

SeedsWe all know sowing is the process of planting seeds. Jesus tells of the sower – some seeds fell on the path, on rocky ground, some among thorns and some on rich soil. We are also aware that the seed Jesus refers to in the parable is the Word of God. A sower might be careful not to waste seed on areas that will not grow, but Jesus knows that we cannot always tell who will represent the path, rocky ground, thorns, or rich soil. Therefore, we must lavishly sow seeds for the kingdom of God.

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