The Joy of Goodbye!

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See, Arkansas is a real place…

While listening to the first reading at Mass this Tuesday, I was struck by St. Paul’s witness in Acts 20. To give some context, Paul has been preaching and evangelizing in Miletus. However, after his stay there, he is leaving to go to Jerusalem for Pentecost and on his way out he says,

“I served the Lord with all humility
and with the tears and trials that came to me
because of the plots of the Jews,
and I did not at all shrink from telling you
what was for your benefit,
or from teaching you in public or in your homes.
I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks
to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.
But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.
What will happen to me there I do not know,
except that in one city after another
the Holy Spirit has been warning me
that imprisonment and hardships await me.
Yet I consider life of no importance to me,
if only I may finish my course
and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus,
to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”

This is Paul’s goodbye! As I try to put some of my words together for my final goodbye to this amazing community here at St. Alphonsus, I cannot help look to Paul for guidance [Paul the apostle..🙂 ].

Now before I get started, I, admittedly, have not been warned by the Holy Spirit of impending imprisonment, martyrdom, torture, etc…    In fact, I am headed to get married and experience the joy of my vocation! Tomato, tomato! But this is exactly what I want to reflect on.

It would have been easier, perhaps, for Paul to remain in Miletus or another location and preach to those whom he was comfortable around. Instead, he chooses to leave in order to spread the Gospel. He knows hardships, change, and pain may all be in his future and rather than shirk his duty, he proclaims, “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from Lord Jesus, to bear the witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.” I would love my final message to you to be the same as Paul’s  – that I am ready to take on any hardships, that my mission to serve Christ is unwavering, that no matter what the pain it may bring, I am ready.

Yet, in my life, I am so quick to avoid pain and jump from discomfort. I am going to Arkansas to be with a loved one, Paul was traveling to bear the burden of the Gospel!

…or was his situation not so different from mine? Was he not going to Jerusalem for someone he loved just as I am going to Arkansas for someone I love? Did he not bear the burden because of his love. He did not move for the sake of suffering; rather, he moved because of a passion for Christ! His joy in Christ outweighed any burden. His love prepared him!

As I move away from this community it will be hard. Moving to Arkansas will come with its fair share of changes and difficulties. Yet, I trust Christ fully. My mission to spread the Gospel and my call to marriage fill me with joy. That joy prepares me for any burden.

In Pope Francis first Apostolic Exhortation called “The Joy of the Gospel,” he expresses the joy of spreading the Gospel, but he does not shy away with its difficulties. Christ’s call to consume our lives is undoubtedly difficult but worth it.

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

Love shadows burden. The joy of Christ wins!

I will always pray for your families – that your eyes may be set on the joy of Christ, that burdens may be fleeting, that you may trust in God’s plan and find joy in all things!

Thank you all for everything!

Let Us Pray

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As theists we often rely on a philosophical approach towards petitionary action in collaboration with the benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient deity. From a metaphysical perspective…what?

Prayer. We often over complicate it.

Maybe you remember one of the oldest and best definition of prayer: “raising the mind and heart to God.” 2 parts, simple. However, many of us are experts at the first part, raising our minds to God, but fail to do the second, raising our hearts.  This imbalance can too often make the experience of praying “dry” or “unfulfilling.”

What this definition intends to say is that prayer involves our whole person in a relationship with God. A wise spiritual guide once said, “Prayer will not bring us a better relationship with God, prayer is our relationship with God.”

Prayer is relationship. We must invest our hearts and minds into our prayer. We must lift up our whole being to the One who created us. We must pray! Here is a great video to help you relate to what your children will hear this weekend

An Unlikely Foot-Washer

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“You cannot be gentle unless you possess power; cannot be truly kind unless you know anger.”   Unknown

The image of Jesus charging in the Temple, making a whip and driving out all the money-changers comes to mind (John 2:13-25). Jesus knew anger; in his anger he overturned tables – a picture we often forget. It was His ability to justly show anger, to stand up for his beliefs and demand justice that made his kindness truly authentic.

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In the same way, here is the omnipotent God made man. Jesus knew power. From God came forth power itself. It was in this power that Christ was able to be truly gentle. Picture a mighty alpha lion devouring prey or out-powering its opponent, yet we can, knowing the power such a creature holds, see real gentleness as it cares for his pride.

Just as picturing the most powerful creature showing gentleness is hard to imagine, the disciples were stunned when on the Feast of the Passover, Jesus decided to wash the feet of his disciples. He, their master and teacher, got on his knees below his disciples and changed the world.

Foot-washing was too lowly a task for even the lowliest of servants and slaves. It was reserved for one’s own self to take care of. In that day, men walked around either barefoot or with sandals. They shared the road with animals that showed very little public decency, if you know what I mean:  Jesus’ disciples, to put it humbly, had some nasty feet.

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For the disciples, this was unheard of. How could this man who had walked on water (talk about a foot-wash!), cast out demons, and multiplied loaves wash their feet? There had to be an easier way.

At Antioch and 4:twelve, we are discussing the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday). On these 3 nights, we are focusing on how radical Jesus, all-powerful & innocent, served lower than the lowest and accepted the worst form of punishment. Could God have chosen an easier way? Yes. Yet, he did not choose the easy or effortless way. God chose willful sacrifice.

We all know anger & we all desire power. Can we this Lent show true kindness, true gentleness, true sacrifice?

“Houston, We Have a… Mission.”

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When I think mission, I picture Tom Cruise attached to a thin wire descending through a narrow space into a high-security vault, obtaining sensitive information, and escaping narrowly. Or I picture Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 saying, “Houston, we have a problem” as dramatic beeps, alarms, flashes, shakes, and dramatic music raise my pulse. A mission… they are only for the most well trained, elite among us.

How could I be expected to do something as great as intercept launch codes for nuclear missiles or return safely to earth with a spaceship in shatters? It is better if I save the mission work for the qualified. Right?

Let’s back up. Seventy years ago in 1945 a group of Redemptorists from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lebanon showed up in Zionsville on a mission.  A mission to spread the gospel and Catholic Church to Zionsville.   The priests spoke with Urban Weitzel, who had been driving up to Lebanon each week for Mass.  The priests asked to begin a parish community in the living room of their little house on 2nd Street near the village  A small group of 12 people gathered in the Weitzel home for the very first Mass in Zionsville.

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Urban & Mary Weitzel with sons

This area was called mission territory!

You see, God has a different definition of mission for us than say, Tom Cruise (believe it or not). In the last book of Matthew in what we call The Great Commission (emphasis on commission) Jesus told his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus’ mission to the First Twelve still rings true for us today even here in Zionsville. Just as his mission for the First Twelve, we receive the same mission, too: to bring the message of salvation, the Good News, to our neighbors. Our small community of 12, only 70 short years ago, has turned into thousands because the faithful have responded to Christ. The Church in our little corner of the world has grown not due to simply the amazingly talented Tom Cruises or Tom Hanks’, but because of many.

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Bishop Doherty and the newly Confirmed Catholics in 2013

The call to respond to God’s mission is not for trained staff or ordained clergy; it is for everyone. Every Sunday we profess we believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. And just as the first apostles were charged to spread the faith, we too are called to the same mission.

This Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at 7pm we have a Parish Mission. Just as Weitzel Hall – a building on campus where many of our religious education and formation classes are held – stands as a constant reminder to our Church’s origins and mission, these three nights are meant to reinvigorate and remind us of our duty to pass on the faith. We often shy away from God’s commission to “go” because we are too timid or do not feel qualified; this is a great chance to equip ourselves with practical tools to pass on the faith!

Houston, we have a mission!

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“Don’t Touch That!”

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In high school I was madly interested in art. Taking 4 years of ceramics I made elaborate vases, bowls, and chalices. Some were good, most were forgettable. But I loved my creations and I still do. They were my creation and I have always found there is something enticing and exciting about the process.

Takes a glob of clay, some water, and a pair of hands. Nothing else.

However, I remember well the sinking feeling of someone walking by and brushing my wet clay or bumping my arm as I made a very delicate pull on the clay. The slightest alter to the project made me want to quiver. I was quick to snap “don’t touch that.” The worst was when we placed our projects on the crowded shelf to let set for the weekend; we all made sure to claim a place where no one could touch it.

And then there was the awkward stare and tilt of the head when someone did not like my project. The verbals could sometimes cut deeper than an actual alteration. “What is that?” or “I don’t like that one (pointing to mine).”

For me it was art. Now I care more about cooking or the organization of my desk. The point is, I am always quick to tell someone, “hands off, that’s mine!” or “you are going to ruin it!” It is amazing how quickly we as humans recognize the value of things, our things. I am quick to recognize the ‘sacredness’ of a piece of art but often slow to recognize others’ real sacredness.

Who am I to care an ounce about a ceramic bowl and so little about others. Or myself.

This week we are talking about “Dating with Purpose and Purity.” Step one of this process is recognizing our worth as God’s creation. When we know the worth of our creation, dating with purpose and purity changes from what seems to be the church saying “don’t! no! sin!” to “I will honor Christ and you with my body.”

The morality section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins with a challenge: “Christian, recognize your dignity (1691). Dignity is your inherent, God-given worth. Therefore, dignity is something intrinsic to self, something irrevocable, indisputable, and indivisible from your created being. It is something uniquely yours and can never be taken away, only given away.

For our kiddos (and perhaps, us), it is easy to judge their own worth based on the latest trend, how they compare to a certain look, their grades, a performance in a sport, show, or concert. If we do not measure up, we are quick to doubt our God-granted dignity.

However, when Christ became man, the dignity of all humanity was raised to an entirely new level – we became partakers of the divine nature. Furthermore, the human body became an earthly tabernacle for the heavenly. As St. Paul explicitly affirmed, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19)”, literally.

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Our designation as walking tabernacles, tabernacles filled with extraordinary dignity, demands something great from us: our whole selves. Just as the tabernacle holds and protects Christ, we must care for the gift Christ has given us. And let us remember that others are walking tabernacles too.

After communion, one of my favorite prayers to say is “Lord, thank you for making me a tabernacle. Help me to be the tabernacle you want me to be. Help me to treat others as a tabernacle too. Amen.”

As we ourselves and our children are forms of God’s art, let us protect ourselves from irreverent bumps and crude comments, but also treat others as the beautiful art for which they were created. Let’s forget the “don’t touch that!” mentality when it comes to others and instead think of the care we owe to our fellow, God-created tabernacles.

50 Shades of Grey, Valentine’s Day, and the Eucharist?

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Valentine’s Day is this Saturday. Celebrated in memory of St. Valentine, February 14 has become the 3rd most commercialized day in the United States. Culturally, it is a day for lovers to express their feelings through gifts, flowers, and cards.

And this year, all the buzz is about the newest movie: 50 Shades of Grey. This first book of a larger trilogy has turned cinematic and sets to debut Valentine’s Day. It is no accident that this movie targets America’s ‘romantic’ holiday with another ‘love’ movie. In their attempt to show love, the trailer features intimate kissing, erotic scenes, and yes, a “happy” couple.

What does the popularity of such a movie or even Valentine’s Day mean? Why are billions of dollars directed toward ‘showing love?’

It means as a people we pine for love. We long to feel close to another. We want intimacy. And though often misdirected, these desires are good!

In fact, we have a God that desires the very same love and intimacy for us. In her song “A Love Song from Jesus,” Danielle Rose so beautifully writes:

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In an age full of Valentine’s Day cards and romantic love letters, we have a God who calls us Beloved. When distorted images of love fill our media and movie screens, we have a God who asks us to hold and kiss Him. That is true intimacy. God understands our need for intimacy on this earth.

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In lyrics of his own, Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), describes how God truly does love us in a very intimate and even romantic way. The true love story this Valentine’s Day (and every day) is not how a romantic lover gives of him/herself to their partner but how Jesus, blameless and sinless, gave himself up for us in what Benedict calls “love in its most radical form… It is from there that our definition of love must begin.”

He goes on to say that Jesus left his physical presence in the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. What does this mean for us?

It means, the institution of the Eucharist in which Christ gave us an enduring physical presence draws us into Jesus’ selfless act on the cross. This means, rather than merely (yes, I said merely) standing in God’s presence, we now become in union through sharing the gift of his body and blood. This love, this union with God, blows contemporary Valentine’s Day out of the water! And we are able to celebrate this weekly, daily.

This week both our Antioch and 4:twelve groups have had the chance to kneel in Adoration of this true and living Presence. This weekend high school students will travel to Destination Jesus, a retreat centered on the Eucharist. This Sunday, we will all partake in the Eucharist. Valentine’s Days come and go. Christ knew our desires and needs, and rather than relying on humans to satisfy our needs, God gave us himself in the form of the Eucharist to be with us forever. It is the most romantic, intimate love story of all time.

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The Shepherd’s Call

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It was a summer evening, and a young priest was spending time in Israel working on an archaeological dig. The hot summer sun did not fall until around 9:30pm and Fr. Harry had trouble sleeping in the sticky heat. So, as he often did, he decided to take a walk and wandered across the foothills of the mountains.

As he topped a hill new to him, he looked down into a small valley where shepherds were herding sheep into a large pen, a plane, rectangular holding area for the animals. Hundreds of sheep from different shepherds poured into the same pen weaving in and out of one another forming one huge, indistinguishable wool mass. Fr. Harry could not help but wonder how the shepherds would know which sheep belonged to which shepherd. How would the sheep know with whom to go? Wrestling with this dilemma he went back to his tent determined to return in the morning to figure it out.

Before the sun had a chance to break the horizon, Fr. Harry had already found his spot on the hillside above the sheep, waiting in anticipation. When the shepherds gathered in front of the main gate, the pen doors were swung open. At that moment, each shepherd began to simultaneously sing and walk away from the pen. The sheep flooded out of the gate and made their way in 5 or 6 directions, forming lines as they followed their respective shepherds. How did the sheep know which shepherd to follow?, he thought.

As the sun rose higher into the sky, the answer dawned on him in a profound way. The sheep were trotting after their masters because they recognized their voices. In reality, the shepherds had been singing all throughout the day to their sheep, loving them, guiding them, and keeping them familiar with their voices. Fr. Harry could not help but hear Jesus’ words echoing in his mind in a new way, “The sheep hear his voice as he calls his own by name and leads them out… the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice… I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10:3, 4, 14).  (story taken from Brian Butler from Ascension Press)

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We are currently at the midway point of our series Vocare, which means “to call.” Every person has a vocation, or calling, that God gives to them. The first vocation, which we all have, is our universal call to holiness and love. This means that we are called to love God with our whole heart, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Being holy means striving to live in a right relationship with God and with one another; when we selflessly love others as Christ taught, and when we honor God with our lives and hearts, we live lives of holiness.

How we live out that vocation to love and holiness has various forms for each person. There are four primary vocations — married life, holy orders, religious life, and consecrated single life. The first two are given in sacraments, and the last two are blessed by the Church.

Our vocation is how we live out our salvation; it is how we were designed by God to live out our calling to love and holiness. For each person, this may be different. Our vocation is ultimately where we will find true fulfillment and happiness, because it is the plan that God has for our lives.

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The last several weeks we have talked about marriage and celibacy. We’ve used John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body to talk about the importance of our bodies and how we can use our bodies to glorify God. For marriage, that means giving ourselves fully, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to our spouse. In celibacy, we give up our desires for deeper relationship with Christ. Both are gifts; both require living selflessly and sacrificing so much as a true gift for something greater.

This week, we are discussing how we are called to listen and follow the Shepherd’s voice among so many noises. His voice calls us uniquely; no two calls are the same. Each of us was built for a different purpose in the Kingdom of God. That is amazing!

In Jeremiah he tells us he knew us before he formed us in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5-8). We have a personal God who knows us by name, gave us a distinct purpose, and loves us unconditionally. The tricky part is hearing it. There are many shepherds calling. We are called to know the voice of our true Shepherd.

  1. How have you heard God’s call lately?
  2. What can you do to help your child to hear Gods voice?
  3. As a parent, how can you lead your child toward their vocation and universal call to holiness?

Feel free to answer the questions or leave comments below!