New Eyes

Posted on March 24, 2017 by - The Main Thing

Jesus Heals the Blind ManTalking about discipleship and truly being a disciple are two very different things. It is easier to know what we should do than to carry out.

Many saints from our tradition have had much to say about this struggle to do what they know they must do, and not do that which they know they shouldn’t. It is part of being human.

Without God, we have no chance to overcome this predicament. Without God, our actions can ring hollow, or often we are immobilized to act at all. Without God, we suffer with blindness to the truth of what is important and eternal.

The story in John 9 of Jesus healing the blind man is about more than a physical healing and just one man. It is about how each of us can find healing of our blindness by turning to Jesus Christ.

Are you someone that has been saying, “I don’t understand all this talk of discipleship and stewardship. What’s the big deal?” We all have a blindness that needs to be healed, and the Body of Christ needs you so that God’s presence in our world can be seen in a more profound manner.

The reality is that God heals the blindness of those you seek him, so that in turn, they may be vehicles by which others may see as well.

This Lent, you are invited to bring your blindness to Jesus. All the written reflections in the world will not give you new eyes. Those eyes can only be found in Jesus

Put Down That Water Jar!

Posted on March 17, 2017 by - The Main Thing

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

Woman at the WellWhen I think about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, I think of my father. This Gospel reading that we use every year for the First Scrutiny of the RCIA was always my favorite to discuss with those who be baptized in just a few weeks at the Easter Vigil.

Not that many years ago, my father was one of those Elect. That year, the story was more powerful than ever.

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Sin and Compromise

Posted on March 17, 2017 by - The Main Thing

Post by Chuck Frost

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Sin and CompromiseWe’ve heard of the drug dealer cliché, “The first hit is free.” You have to take the first hit to begin the slow decline toward full blown addiction, and if vulnerability is detected the dealer may gladly get us started free of charge. Not too many people think that one little indulgence will end up that way.

We go through life making small moral compromises here and there. Maybe it’s something that seems too insignificant to get all worked up about. Things that we think don’t rise to the level of serious sin.  Things we may joke about or shrug off.

And though I think it’s possible to become scrupulous to an unhealthy degree, it is important that we take account of those small compromises for they can be the devil’s delight.

The DevilThere is a great episode from the nineties television show Northern Exposure called “The Robe”. Shelly, the wife of a local bar owner, despises her husband’s old bathrobe. It looks hideous on him, but he adores it.

So the devil comes to her as an engaging traveling salesman and tempts her to burn the robe while her husband is away. She almost does it, but then turns back at the last minute.  When the devil angrily scolds her for not following through, Shelly replies: “Why did you go after me? I’m nobody.” So he says:

“You’re my bread and butter, Shelly. Look, say I get some corporate raider to suck up some company, turn 3,000 employees out on the street. Where’s the victory there? But if I can get somebody like you, pure of heart, to let her bumper stray over that white line just a little bit…You know that expression, ‘God is in the details’? Well, it’s a little bit like that for me.”

Is it really a big deal if I eat from that tree?  I mean, it’s just a piece of fruit

Chuck Frost is Pastoral Associate at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia

Secret Ambition

Posted on March 15, 2017 by - The Main Thing

Post by Steve Botsford

Godly AmbitionIn the summer of 1980 I went to stay with my grandparents for six weeks. They had a ten-unit apartment building on the Intracoastal in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, a very prominent area of town.

My plan was to work for my grandfather doing painting, yard work, and basic upkeep. I had calculated the amount of money I would make by working forty hours a week for the entire time and it would give me just enough to purchase a new synthesizer. I was a budding musician and it was an ambitious endeavor to say the least.

My grandparent’s plan was to have an extended visit and help me with some spending cash by paying me to do some chores a few hours a day for the duration. Needless to say, I couldn’t afford the purchase when I returned but left with memories that remain with me today – a much greater reward in hindsight.

I went on after high school to work for my father hanging wallpaper and eventually started my own wallpaper business. When he lost a battle to lung cancer a few years later I was left with a profitable trade-and an appreciation for the gift of music and the time we shared doing both. I was ambitious and successfully remained in that business for nearly ten years until I had an epiphany.

Through a series of events I had a spiritual awakening in my late twenties. Interestingly, I lost my ambition to seek fame and fortune but found a new ambition, sharing the Gospel. You see, my value system was altered and my new ambition was driven by the Holy Spirit.

I remained in youth ministry for ten years, went on to Catholic publishing for eleven years and have just embarked on a journey as a parish DRE. The fruits of my youth ministry can be seen today in many of the youth who became productive citizens driven by Gospel values. A few have become youth ministers or teachers and many are parents raising their children as faithful Catholics while maintaining productive value-driven jobs.

In the Gospel today, we hear of the mother of two of the disciples who also had an ambition. She asked Jesus to seat them at his right and left and he said she didn’t know what she was asking. Is it possible we have ambition without really knowing what we’re after?

The thing is, there are two kinds of ambition, the worldly and the otherworldly. One seeks prominence and the other servitude.

Jesus had a secret ambition. He was to be the King the Jewish people had been waiting for, only they couldn’t easily grasp what that meant. He was to usher in a new Kingdom of love, service and sacrifice.

In spite of two thousand years of faith and tradition, we still struggle today with ambition. As we continue our journey through the season of Lent, let us pause to ponder what is truly meant and implied by our Lord’s secret ambition.

Steve Botsford is the Director of Religious Education at St. Ann Catholic Church in Marietta, GA. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a Master of Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans. Steve is married with three children and is the creator of FeastDay, the Liturgical Year Board Game.

My Part of Everything

Posted on March 10, 2017 by - The Main Thing

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Lent 2017

2nd Sunday of LentCatherine Doherty said, “Yes, stewardship pertains to everything and I am responsible for my part of that everything.” I am reminded of that quote when I read the words from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Both point to our own responsibility as a disciple, as well as the reality that we are not alone. We live with God in community. We each have our part to play in the Kingdom of God.

Lent is an important time to focus on how our stewardship way of life causes us to sacrifice and, at times, experience hardship. If we find that we never seem to feel our sacrifice, then it is a good time to ask ourselves if we really are fully living as good stewards, cultivating what we have been given and then offering it all back to God. If we only give from our excess, then we will never understand the meaning behind the words of St.Paul and Catherine Doherty.

This is why we must challenge ourselves. We must push ourselves to go that extra mile. It really is a way of exercising our stewardship muscles. So as this Lenten season is still in it’s first weeks, what can you attempt to do that really pushes you out of your comfort zone. Can you double or triple your prayer time during the season? Can you search your household and give to charity more than just things you don’t need anymore, but also things you still want? Is there someone to visit a few times before Easter than can no longer get out? Whatever it is, the strength will come from God to take greater care of your part of His everything.

Bearing the Mark of Jesus

Posted on February 28, 2017 by - The Main Thing

So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

— 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

Ash WednesdayI remember one year when Ash Wednesday and a presidential debate fell on the same day. Knowing there were a few Catholics involved, I waited to see if any would appear with ashes on their forehead on national television.

Alas, none of them did. And of course, there was no mention of it being Ash Wednesday.

It is not a holy day of obligation so maybe no one went to Mass that day. Or maybe they did and after reading Jesus’ admonishment of the hypocrites showing off their fasting, prayers, and almsgiving they decided to wash their foreheads. I certainly would never question a person’s faith by whether or not they still had ashes on their head.

However, we do allow the words of Jesus to serve as an excuse to play down our faith. I don’t think that ever was His intention. Bearing witness and showing off are too different things. I personally love to see all the area high school kids at Mass on Ash Wednesday before school.

And I know first hand that most of them wear those ashes all day long and are asked several times what that smudge on their head is all about. Believe me, when you are sixteen years old that is not showing off. That’s courage.

Ash Wednesday is a perfect day to bring God into the everyday places and moments of life. Whether you happen to be on television or in a grocery store, those ashes say more than any amount of words. If you can get to Mass early, they will be there all day. So, you say evangelization is difficult and not for you? On Ash Wednesday the Church makes it easy for you.

Reflection taken from the book, Everyday Stewardship: Reflections for the Journey, Tracy Earl Welliver, Liturgical Publications, 2015.

The Big “E” is for Everything

Posted on February 24, 2017 by - The Main Thing

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Here I Am LordWe often say in the Church that stewardship is about the three T’s, time, talent, and treasure, but really, stewardship is about the big “E,” which is everything. We are made up of more than just our time, talent, and treasure, and the gifts that come from God are overwhelming.

All that we have, from the obvious to the not so obvious, is a gift from God. We are called to cultivate them all and offer them back to God with increase.

But that also means holding nothing back. That requires a stepping out in faith. Our trust then cannot be in the gifts God gives, since we have hopefully given them all over to God. Only in God can we place our trust.

Our homes, our 401k’s, our family, and our bodies all belong to God. With nothing left, we have nothing or no one else to put our trust in but God.

If you find yourself unable to place all of your trust in God, perhaps you are still holding something back. Is your comfort found in something other than God? It is pretty common for a Christian to “hide something away” while saying they are all in. But of course, nothing is hidden from God.

Pray about it and ask God to grant the strength to surrender all to Him. We are asked to trust in God, but really, true trust is a fruit that comes about when we have had the courage to surrender it all. Trust is just a word if we continue to serve two masters. The great thing is that not only will God not turn away from us, God will also help us turn toward Him.

You may be asked to surrender it all, but you are never alone.

Analog Faith

Posted on February 17, 2017 by - The Main Thing

A post by Chuck Frost

Record AlbumsI remember going to the record store almost every Tuesday when I was young to sort through the new releases.  I recall one particular album that I knew was forthcoming, so I trekked weekly into the shop to ask the clerk: “Is it in yet?”  When it finally arrived, I called my friends over and we ‘dropped the needle’ and listened together. 

Those days are pretty much gone.  If you have a Smartphone, you have all your music in your pocket.  People walking down the street, earbuds on, is a common sight.  Outside of concert attendance, music listening has become more private.

Modern music formats are also heavily compressed.  The music piped through your phone and earbuds has a different sound than it does on a vinyl record.  One artist, reflecting on his new album, said this:

“When it comes right down to it, I feel like the earbud generation is missing out a bit…. It’s a little bit soul-crushing to imagine, with the amount of work that went into the frequency spectrum of this record, that it would all be squished into tiny little laptop speakers or earbuds.”

Another difference between analog (vinyl/tape) and digital formats (CD/mp3) are the imperfections in the sound waves.  Audiophiles will tell you that it’s those imperfections in the analog recording that help make it sound more real, more alive. I think this in part explains the recent resurgence of vinyl records.  People are looking for authenticity.

I believe there’s an insight here relevant to the Christian life.  It is tempting to compress our faith to the point that it becomes a mere private practice or personal matter – just ‘me and Jesus’.  We might go to Mass but leave it there.

Faith, however, is communal, full-bodied, and meant to be shared.  We gather not for our own private Mass experience, but to worship the Lord together and share in the joy of being brothers and sisters, with all our imperfections.   And from there, we are called to go forth and emit the full spectrum of faith to a listening world.

Chuck Frost is Pastoral Associate at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Chuck was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2000 after spending 10 years as a United Methodist Pastor in Mississippi and Alaska.

Leaving This World a Little Better

Posted on February 17, 2017 by - The Main Thing

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

Anne Frank QuoteMy pastor likes to say that his parents would always remind him to “leave a place you visited a little better than the way you found it.” I have always tried to live by those words as well. The important word here is “tried” as I am sure that I have not always been successful.

The desire to always go a step further, to give even more than is required, is truly honorable. Jesus speaks to his disciples about this when he urges them to give more than what is asked and to travel two miles in service when all that was required of them is one.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to live the same way. It is fundamental to understanding a stewardship way of life. True generosity has no limits.

When we say that mature disciples are to answer the call of Jesus Christ regardless of the cost, we are inviting good stewards to embody this type of generosity. We can be the person who does not respond to the call, be the person who responds and gives what is required, or finally, be the person who seeks to give above and beyond what is required.

God doesn’t just give us what we need, but He gives us more than we need. Made in His image, we are called to do the same. If we try to live in this manner everyday, then we might just succeed on leaving this world a little better than the way we found it.

“Cross” Eyed

Posted on February 16, 2017 by - The Main Thing

Post by Steve Bostford

Jesus Heals the Blind ManWhen Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?”

Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village,” (Mark 8:22-26).

After my confirmation class my co-teacher confided in me that she was suffering because of her job and personal circumstances and compounding responsibilities. She wondered if God was listening as he prayed as her situation had  progressively gotten worse over time. I certainly wondered how to respond to such a dire situation and desperate plea for help.

In today’s Gospel reading Mark tells us three important things about healing: 1) the faith of the community is important, 2) reconciliation to the people of the community is important, and 3) the gift of faith is important. Jesus’ healing love enables us to see the world anew with the eyes of faith.

What should our response be to people in need of healing? As part of the community of faith we are called to have faith and lead others to Jesus and the Church, his and our community. We are to embrace those in need with compassion and offer tenderness and support. And together, we are to gaze upon the cross of the one who has gone before us in great suffering. By keeping our eyes on the cross of Jesus we are able to humbly approach the one who understands, loves, and reconciles.

Steve Botsford is the Director of Religious Education at St. Ann Catholic Church in Marietta, GA. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a Master of Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans. Steve is married with three children and is the creator of FeastDay, the Liturgical Year Board Game.