Easter Sunday 2010

The closer you get, the better it gets!

I am a hoop’s fan and I like the Portland Trailblazers.  The Rose Garden, where they play, has over 20,000 seats.  It is fun to go to games and can be quite electric.  I have sat in the nose-bleeds, half way up,  6 rows behind their bench, 3 rows behind their bench, 2 rows off the court and then, just recently I got to sit court side.  Court side!  You are right there.  It is almost like you are playing in the game.  You see and hear the sweat, determination, expressions, laughter, communication (some they probably should go to confession for) that is going on. There is a big difference even between court side and 6 rows back.  It does not get any better than court side!

The closer you get, the better it gets!

Jesus has made it possible for everyone to sit court side.  You can be right there!  It does not get any better.  You see and hear all that is going on in heaven.  It does not get any better or more joyful or loving than heaven.  And the closer you come to heaven, the better it gets!  So, draw close!  Use all the invitations and directions to get court side!

I am so moved by the power of this line from the preface of the Eucharistic prayers during the Easter Season (Listen for it in mass throughout the Easter Season):

The  of the resurrection renews the whole world!

Jesus’ JOY not only renews you, your whole family, your local community, your country, your continent but it renews the whole world!  How great is that JOY?  If it can renew over 7 billion people living, it can renew you such that all  people see when they see you is JOY! JOY- Jesus Over You!  Jesus over sin and death and pride and suffering and selfishness and betrayal and loneliness and hopelessness and poverty and abuse and injustice and on and on.  If we put Jesus first we will come into the JOY of his perfect love in this life and the life to come!  He offers that JOY everywhere, all the time now that he is Risen from the dead.  Take him up on the offer- all the time.  The JOY that renews the whole world is with you all the time. And it is not just any ol’ JOY- if you noticed on the bottle- it is ultra-concentrated!

The closer you get, the better it gets!

I pray we have all gotten closer to court side, to the JOY that renews everything, this Lenten Season.  As Karen Carpenter sang so beautifully, “We’ve Only Just Begun.”

It has been such a blessing to journey with you to Jesus this Holy Season.  My love and prayers!

Blessed by the BEST- all the time,
+Fr. John

Holy Saturday 2010

Your first, greatest and only lasting marriage is to Christ.  In heaven we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.  We set our sights on the great wedding feast of the Lamb when, finally, we are fully united with our Maker.  Can you imagine?  If you could see and hear what heaven is seeing and hearing you would drop everything, even the person you love the most, and run to it.  To be embraced by the Love that created everything.  To be in union with the One who is the source of all the beauty you have ever seen or will see knowing that the majority of his beauty you will not even begin to scratch the surface on in this lifetime.  We are just on the tip of our union with Christ.  It is like the ocean I have talked about.  Jesus is the ocean and most of us are just beginning to dip our toes at the end of the trickling wave as it washes ashore.  Wait until we dive in in total union at the wedding feast of the Lamb, the Maker of it all!  It is there, in union with him, that we will all be united together in the song of heaven.

Why are so many Christians sad?  Why so many small-minded and unforgiving?  Why are so many Christians bored out of their gourd and dull as a butter knife?  It is an issue of union!  So many Christians have a weak union with Christ. What does it look like when you dive into the ocean that is Jesus and live in union with him?  How could your mode of existence ever be sad again when you are united to the One who is constantly rejoicing over everything he has made?  How could you ever again be small minded and unforgiving if you are united to the one who forgives all sin, even the most grave?  How could you ever be dull as a butter knife again when the One who walked on water, calmed the storm, made the blind to see, the lame to walk and raised people from the dead- how could you be dull and bored when that “One” lives in you?

The reason we are joyless, small minded, unforgiving, bored and dull is because we have chosen ourselves over Christ.  To be in union just with ourselves gives us that result.  Jesus is Joy, forgiveness and constant fascination.  To be united with him means to rejoice, forgive and live in constant fascination and wonder!

To be in union with him!  To be in union with him!  To be in union with him! (I repeat 3x in honor of the Holy Trinity.  Any time you see three anywhere- think Holy Trinity!)  How ya gonna get there?  How to become united with Jesus?  People are sacrificing their lives all the time for work, possessions, notoriety, power, championships and Olympic gold but is it leading to greater union with the One who is the Maker of it all?

The One who is our husband and Maker is in the tomb this Holy Saturday.  In a few, short hours he will rise.  He will rise and offer you union with him.  How ya gonna get there?  How are you going to dive into the ocean and never be joyless, unforgiving and dull again?

Blessed by the BEST- all the time,
+Fr. John

Good Friday 2010

Each time I celebrate the mass I break the bread, Jesus, as we remember the Lamb of God who takes away all the sins of the world.  Jesus is broken for you and me.  His crucifier’s break his body.  They break his bones, whip his flesh to a bloody pulp, pierce his head with thorns, and drive nails through his flesh and bones. Breathing is labored because his legs are broken and he cannot push himself up to get a good air exchange.  The oxygen necessary for life is being taken away.  Gasping for oxygen, we can only begin to imagine the excruciating pain Jesus endures as his life in blood spills to the ground.

Like a dish he is broken but so much more than a dish.  A dish does not feel.  Can you imagine the physical pain Jesus is going through as they beat him to smithereens?  What about all the emotional pain of all the sin for all time heaped on top of that?  The full force of hell, all that is opposed to Jesus comes at him in his extreme physical brokenness, attempting to defeat the redemption he is offering through his body.

Brothers and sisters, don’t you ever go through the motions at this part of mass again!  When we pray out, “Lamb of God, you take ways the sins of the world. Have Mercy on us.  Lamb of God, you take ways the sins of the world. Have Mercy on us.  Lamb of God, you take ways the sins of the world. Grant us peace.” know whose presence you are in and what they are doing for you out of love for you!  It is Jesus- his body, his blood- his everything- broken for you!  It is not a cracker, it is not a cookie, it is not a small piece of bread.  It is the Lamb of God who takes away all your sins and every sin of all time.

Pray to feel the brokenness of Jesus when the priest breaks the host at mass just before communion.  Pray to begin to know the love behind physical and emotional brokenness Jesus took on for you and me.  There are many times when I want to cry when I break the body of Jesus in mass.

Let us pray: “Broken Jesus, help me to know how much it cost you to die for me.  And in that knowing, let me see how much you really do love me and care about me.  I guess I probably will really never know how much it cost, but help me to know more and more.  Do not let me be asleep or deaf or dumb or blind to your brokenness for me.  When the priest breaks the host at mass please let me experience the mystery of your love.  In your brokenness, you take on all the brokenness of the world and make it whole.  Make me whole, Jesus, in my own brokenness.  Amen. “

Blessed by the BEST- all the time,
+Fr. John

Friday of the First Week of Advent Dec. 2, 2005

“They shall keep my name holy” Isaiah 29:23

Many times the place, outside of the context of church, where I hear God’s name the most is when I am playing basketball at a rec. center. The fellas on the court are not keeping God’s name holy- if
you know what I mean. Jesus Christ is used as a swear word and God is told to damn something. Why would we ever talk this way about our God who created us in love, saves us in love and sanctifies us into the fullness of love?

As I think about the word holy and how we are supposed to keep God’s name holy, there are some ideas percolating in my brain. Holy means “other”. We know the scripture, “As high as the heavens are above the earth so are my ways are above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” God’s ways can often be quite other/different than our own.

I am also thinking of holy as sacred, something we hold in the greatest of reverence and that if we follow its leading we will have the love, life and happiness we are looking for.

As I reflect on the 100’Friday of the First Week of Advent Dec. 2, 2005s of reflections I have written in the past 6 years during the Holy Seasons of Advent and Lent, the heart of what I write is a plea to come back to God. Come back to God who is
true life, love, peace, forgiveness, joy etc. Come back to God who is Holy/other.

A dangerous thing we do to our own detriment is hold the culture as holy. We hold culture in the greatest of reverence and that if we follow its leading we will have the love, life and happiness we
are looking for. And what is the culture telling us as we prepare for Christmas? Buy things and then give them to each other and then we will be happy. The problem is that this has never worked. So why do we go crazy with all the buying?

Soon Jesus comes to us in a manger. He asks us to keep Himself and God holy. His way is ‘other” than the empty materialistic show of the culture. Jesus gives love, life and happiness forever.

Jesus says, “Christmas is not about presents but about my holy presence in all your doings.”

Two final questions that the Holy Spirit just gave me:

If you put as much time into hearing and seeing Jesus during Advent and Christmas as you work on buying presents, how would you be different?

If you had to make a choice between buying presents and seeking his holy presence this season, what would you choose?

You and I are the reason for His existence,

Fr. John

Thursday of the First Week of Advent Dec. 1, 2005

“A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

A little six year old girl takes measures in her power regarding her future financial security. Call her very prudent or highly neurotic, she puts pretty much every penny she makes in the bank so that
when she grows up she will have the means to take care of money matters. She is bound and determined to take care of any physical and material needs with the money she has amassed.

The coaches have always seen the young boy as an exceptional athlete. He seems to especially excel at baseball. He loves playing sports and his parents might even love his playing sports more. It is time to start thinking about high school and a college scholarship and then who knows? How will we get him to perform at the highest level? How much time each day will he need to devout to baseball? What camps and coaches will we seek out? How much money will we spend in specialized coaching and training?

Now, it is truly important to be prudent financially at the same time remembering that money is not the cause of peace in our hearts. Have you ever seen a u-haul following a Hertz limousine to the
grave? Peace comes from knowing, loving and serving the One who will raise us from the grave.

We have bowed down to the God of sports in this country. It is not wrong to want to do well in sports but how much is too much? Most athletes who do well in high school will not be good in college.
So, what are all the hours and days and $1,000′s for? What does it all have to do with God’s peace?

What if our firm purpose was to have God and His peace? In the big picture, our money, games, physical bodies are here today and gone tomorrow. Money and sports can provide a temporary high but not eternal blessed assurance. Eternal blessed assurance is the peace of
putting our whole lives in the hands whom will make all things well today, tomorrow and forever. That is why the baby Jesus came- to bring us peace.

What do you invest in that is lasting? Make it your firm purpose to invest in Jesus and know everlasting peace and blessed assurance.

If we have the peace of Jesus in our lives, we have everything. If we do not have the peace of Jesus, we have nothing.

You and I are the reason for the season,
Fr. John