Detachment and the Prize of Eternal Life

Today, I gave my first ever reflection during Daily Mass. It’s the first time I’ve ever prepared such a thing, and the poor parishioners of St. Eugene had to hear it for the first time. I felt like I was able to do a pretty decent job, seeing as though I haven’t had any formal Homiletics prep. Comments and critiques are welcome!

“I have come to bring not peace, but the sword.” Jesus’ message here is confounding. It’s a message that some may feel is even contradictory to the Gospel message. Why on Earth would Jesus say “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” I think it is important for us to not get too caught up in this and to pay attention to the rest of the Gospel.

The Lord tells us “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The Lord is asking us to have a sense of detachment, a detachment to all things but God. He asks us to even have so great a detachment that we be willing to lose our lives. This sort of thing is one of the many things that makes it so difficult for us as humans to follow God whole-heatedly. Our lives are something that we cherish and wish to protect. After all, it is something that is given to us by God. But, how many of us chose to be so possessive of our lives that we refuse to let God in? When did it become a risk to let God have control and possession of our lives?

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, said in The First Principle and Foundation “We must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long to a short life. Our one desire and choice should be what is ,ore conducive to the end for which we are created, [and that is] to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save [our] soul” (Puhl, XXIII).

The Christian life is not easy. Some days, it may be a Cross to bear. However, when we are detached from the world, we are able to be more closely united with our Lord, in His joys, in His sufferings, and in His triumph. We should carry our crosses joyfully, knowing that they unite us to Jesus himself, who willingly took up His cross for the salvation of our souls. We should desire to look Jesus in the eyes as he carries his Cross and say to him, “I have joyfully carried my cross to give you glory, to give you everything I have.” To return gift for gift, life for life, love for love. Today, may we take that step, to receive the Lord and to grow closer to Him, abandoning ourselves to Him and availing ourselves to receive the Lord’s reward to us, the prize of eternal life.

Your Grace Is Enough

It’s hard to believe that my first year of seminary is wrapping up. But here it is, May. The Spirituality Year will be over in a matter of days, and the culmination of what the Spirituality Year prepares men for is upon us. On May 16, my 21 SY Brothers and I will travel to Broomtree Retreat Center in Irene, SD to embark on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a 30-day Silent Retreat that revolves around Ignatian contemplation and silence. 

If I were to tell you that the year was not full of difficulties, I would be lying. Similarly, though, if I were to tel you that this year was horrible, I’d be lying even more. Even with the burdens that this year has carried, like the Media and Commerce Fasts, it had been the best of year of my life. I wish that every Christian man would be able to participate in this year. The graces that the Lord has poured out upon me have been incredible. There is honestly no way that I could describe all the things that the Lord has revealed to me this year. So, I’m only going to describe a few experiences.  

1). It’s the Lord who does all the work. 

Part of the Spirituality Year consists of a 30-day Immersion with the Poor. I worked with homeless and near-homeless people doing what is known as friendship evangelization. Often, this consisted in taking our “friends” to get food, go shopping, get healthcare, find jobs or housing, and so forth. 

We also had an apostolate, or pastoral assignment. My apostolate was at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School here in Denver. Every week, we would go to our apostolate and hang out with the kids. I was assigned to Mrs. Mary Donelson’s Third Grade Class. We would be in our respective classrooms for an hour then go help out in Extended Care for an hour and a half or so. 

Anyway, back to the grace. I felt like I did very little at my apostolate. Sure, I had fun and the kids did too, but did I really have an impact?  The answer is YES!  How? It is the Lord who does the work through you! If you open yourselves up to God and his Divine Will, you allow God to work through you. By just being me, the Lord worked through me. It is unbelievably hard to even think of this being possible until you see it. 

This grace has also been awesome for me to contemplate over the past several months. In short, if the Lord is doing the work through me, then I really cannot take “credit” for the work. I can thank God for working through me and for the things he has done to others, but I cannot say “Look at all the great things I’VE done.”  As a priest, he cannot praise himself for many of the things that he does. It’s only through the Lord that it happens. 

2). The Lord loves you more than you can imagine, no matter what you may have done in the past. It’s Satan who will try to degrade you. 

In addition to the upcoming 30-day silent retreat, we did a 3-day in the Fall and a 5-day in March. In one of my meditations, the Lord revealed to me Satan’s tactics. Satan, often times, is made out to be powerful, valiant, and cunning. However, this really isn’t the case. Sure, he can be cunning. But most of the time, his tactics are extremely sad and even comical. Satan will attack you where you are weakest. He will attack you in your past, saying how horrible or sinful of a person you are. He will rub salt in the wounds of your past, making you question your worthiness. But the truth is, Satan is pitiful. He has NO control over you once you turn your life to the Lord. He will try to attack you where you are weak because where you are strong, he would be struck down swiftly. Once you realize that Satan is weak and has no control over you, the quicker you can be free of anxiety and doubt and grow to recognize God’s love even more. 

3). I’m where the Lord is calling me to be. 

Even with the ups and downs of this year, my bad days still seem to be better than many of my good days were in the past. True happiness comes from following God’s Will and I feel that I have found true happiness. During spiritual direction recently, I described some of my current feelings about my life and my vocation. My spiritual director then said that it seems that these were signs that I had a pretty solid call to the priesthood. I responded and asked “So I shouldn’t leave the seminary?” He laughed and said “That would be absurd.”  

I ask for your prayers for my brothers and I as we prepare to head off to do our 30-day Silent Retreat. Following the 30-day, I have been assigned to spend the summer at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Oklahoma City. I will be there for several weeks before preparing to head back to Denver on August 20th. My posts will probably be more frequent following the 30-day Spiritual Exercises (we were asked not to blog during the year). 

Easter Triduum 2015: Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Tonight, Catholics across the world celebrate the end of Lent and begin the Sacred Paschal Triduum leading up to the Mass of the Resurrection. The Triduum, as it often shortened to, is a very special time in the Church, full of signs, symbols, and traditions of our Church. For example, Good Friday is the ONLY day of the year where Mass is not celebrated, representing the absence of Jesus from the world at his death. On the Easter Vigil, the Church welcomes those who are entering our Church with Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist.

This year, St. Thomas More will be welcoming six (with Christians of other denominations entering the following Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday). Today, two important things happen during Mass.  First, the priest, like Jesu, will wash the feet of his followers. This year, Father decided that the six who will have their feet washed will be those actively discerning the priesthood and consecrated life. Just as the disciples answered “Come, follow me,” those discerning religious life do the same, actively discerning what God’s will in their life may be. Finally, the Eucharist is removed from the Church and the altar is completely stripped, while Psalm 22 is chanted (though this is not required).  This is another symbol of Christ’s death. As the person who has been chosen to chant Psalm 22, i am deeply humbled, as Psalm 22 was likely recited by Christ in his Passion (cf. Mt. 27:46, Mk. 15:34).  Below is the text of the Psalm

Psalm 22

2 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you far from saving me,
so far from my words of anguish?
3 O my God, I call by day and you do not answer;
I call by night and I find no reprieve.
4 Yet you, O God, are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
5 In you our forebears put their trust;
they trusted and you set them free.
6 When they cried to you, they escaped;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
7 But I am a worm and no man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
8 All who see me deride me;
they curl their lips, they toss their heads:
9 “He trusted in the LORD, let him save him;
let him release him, for in him he delights.”
10 Yes, it was you who took me from the womb,
entrusted me to my mother’s breast.
11 To you I was committed from birth;
from my mother’s womb, you have been my God.
12 Stay not far from me;
trouble is near, and there is no one to help.
13 Many bulls have surrounded me,
fierce bulls of Bashan close me in.
14 Against me they open wide their mouths,
like a lion, rending and roaring.
15 Like water I am poured out,
disjointed are all my bones.
My heart has become like wax,
it is melted within my breast.
16 Parched as burnt clay is my throat,
my tongue cleaves to my jaws.
You lay me in the dust of death.
17 For dogs have surrounded me;
a band of the wicked besets me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet;
18 I can count every one of my bones.
They stare at me and gloat.
19 They divide my clothing among them,
they cast lots for my robe.
20 But you, O LORD, do not stay afar off;
my strength, make haste to help me!
21 Rescue my soul from the sword,
my life from the grip of the dog.
22 Save my life from the jaws of the lion,
my poor soul from the horns of wild bulls.
23 I will tell of your name to my kin,
and praise you in the midst of the assembly;
24 “You who fear the LORD, give him praise;
all descendants of Jacob, give him glory;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel.
25 For he has never despised
nor scorned the poverty of the poor.
From him he has not hidden his face,
but he heard him whenever he cried.”
26 You are my praise in the great assembly.
My vows I will pay before those who fear him.
27 The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the LORD, those who seek him.
May their hearts live on forever and ever!
28 All the earth shall remember and return to the LORD,
all families of the nations worship before him,
29 for the kingdom is the LORD’s, he is ruler of the nations.
30 They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust.
31 And my soul shall live for him, my descendants serve him.
They shall tell of the LORD to generations yet to come,
32 declare his saving justice to peoples yet unborn:
“These are the things the LORD has done.”

The Triduum is so rich in spiritual gifts. I highly recommend, whether you are Catholic or non-Catholic, to be filled with the joy and mourning of Christ and check out the Triduum.