Life with Conflicting Opposites

Posted on August 16, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Life with Conflicting OppositesFor Sunday, August 20, 2017
20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

A simple authentic and honest encounter with another human being can reveal hidden truths, allow enemies to embrace, and mutual respect to flourish. It is necessary to journey into the heart of a person in order for walls, prejudices, and antiquated barriers to be removed. Inclusivity has been one of the hallmarks of God’s agenda from the beginning of time. His house is intended to be “a house of prayer for all peoples” where human dignity is safeguarded regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what we believe. (more…)

Silence in the Storm

Posted on August 9, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Silence in the StormFor Sunday, August 13, 2017
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

Have you ever heard five hundred teenagers singing? As a music minister, it’s not always easy to pull off. When I worked in a Catholic high school, there was one song that nearly everybody always sang, whether it was in the Mass, on retreat, or at a prayer service: “Oceans” by Hillsong, the music ministry of an Australian evangelical church. Here are some lines of the refrain: “And I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise.”

I spent a lot of time considering why this song roused an instinctive response in so many students, regardless of grade, race, and social clique. In many ways, I think this simple song reflects the cry of the human heart. We all, at times, feel storm-tossed and unconsoled. The song isn’t just about our effort to reach out to Christ, but the steadfast presence of God as we brave the unknown.

I don’t know the history of the song, but I have no doubt it was at least somewhat inspired by today’s Gospel. Jesus has spent time alone, consoled in his weariness by the presence of his Father, and he returns to his friends by night, supernaturally walking on the waves of a stormy sea. Peter, in a classic display of bold faith, trusts that if the figure really is Jesus, than he too can walk on the water. His Lord will do the miraculous, keep him from sinking. (more…)

A Hope that Gives Life

Posted on August 2, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, August 06, 2017
The Transfiguration of the Lord

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Peter 1:16-19
Matthew 17:1-9

The death of Chester Bennington, lead singer for the popular group, Linkin Park, has stunned the music world. His alarming death by suicide follows that of another popular singer of his generation, Chris Cornell, who fronted the seminal grunge rock groups Soundgarden and Audioslave.

While such deaths have not been uncommon in the world of music, the suicides of the rich and famous shock us because we think they “have it all.” In fact, they only prove that success, money, fame, and power do not ultimately fulfill us and cannot shield us from life’s difficulties. (more…)

The Kingdom of God in Our Midst

Posted on July 26, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, July 30, 2017
17th Sunday Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s Gospel can seem obvious, even cliché. We’ve heard the stories before. Man roaming in field finds treasure, sells everything, buys field. Merchant finds pricey pearl, sells everything, buys pearl. “God is worth it!” we hear loud and clear. But this Gospel presupposes something that, to be frank, I don’t think is always presupposed. These people were actually looking for something.

Consider the man in the field. He’s taking time away from tasks to wander a patch of open land. Consider the merchant. He knows what he’s looking for and he’s thrilled to discover it. I wonder, if we’re confronted with the kingdom of God in our midst, will we know it when we see it? Have we given ourselves the mental and emotional space to search? (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

“You Feed Them!”

Posted on June 14, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: “You Feed Them!”For Sunday, June 18, 2017
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
John 6:51-58

Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
John 6:57

In 1928, Myles Connolly published a small novel entitled Mr. Blue, which tells the story of a young man who decides to live out the Christian faith in a serious, transforming way. The book was intended to serve as a Christian response to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic work, The Great Gatsby. Blue lives a life of extremes, we might even say of excess, but it is a far cry from the extravagance of the Roaring Twenties.

Mr. Blue has much to say to us about how faith in Christ can shape a life, transforming a person’s very existence into an act of eucharistia—an act of thanksgiving—that by its very nature draws others into communion. (more…)