Thursday, October 23, 2014

Holy My Hand

parent-holding-childs-hand

One of the benefits of being a priest is that I have nieces and a nephew.  The great thing about that is I get to truly enjoy them and share in their lives.  

Last year around Christmas time I took my three nieces to the square in Strongsville for their annual Christmas lighting.  There was such a big crowd that we had to park pretty far down the street.  As we approached I got a little anxious because there was tons of activity, it was getting dark, and there was a crowd.  My nieces were skipping along and I instinctively reached out to grab their hands.  There were three of them and I only have two hands.  So I took the two youngest by the hand.  I didn't want to lose them.  Meanwhile they were mesmerized by their friends, the lights, the music, the hot coffee, the popcorn, Santa and live reindeer!  

I found myself always looking ahead, keeping my eyes on them, and taking their hands whenever they would let me.  

God does the same for us.  He loves that we enjoy this life but is always aware of the potential for us to get lost when we begin to walk away from him mesmerized by some apparent and seemingly good attraction.  The world is good and full of good, just as it was that evening.  However, we have a tendency to let go of God's hand and become distracted by the good.  

The wonderful thing about God is that He initiates.  He always sees two steps ahead of us and whenever we are in danger or begin to walk away from Him he reaches out his hand to us.  

The Lord initiates!  He grasps us by the hand!  Even before it even occurs to us to reach for him.  

Do you find yourself drifting away from God because of any "pleasures" or "attractions"?

Do you want the Father to be involved in everything that you do?

Do you delight when you realize that God takes you by the hand and shares in your adventures?

Sometimes it is just good to know that not only is God always there with us but He takes us by the hand even before we realize we are straying.  




Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
subduing nations before him,
and making kings run in his service,
opening doors before him
and leaving the gates unbarred:
For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
of Israel, my chosen one,
I have called you by your name,
giving you a title, though you knew me not.
I am the LORD and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, there is no other.

The song "Hold My Hand" by Hootie and the Blowfish illustrates this quote well.  Imagine God singing this song to you, taking your hand, and sharing in the great adventure of life with you!


HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH LYRICS
"Hold My Hand"

With a little love, and some tenderness
We'll walk upon the water
We'll rise above this mess
With a little peace, and some harmony
We'll take the world together
We'll take 'em by the hand
'Cause I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you
Yesterday, I saw you standing there
Your head was down, your eyes were red
No comb had touched your hair
I said get up, and let me see you smile
We'll take a walk together
Walk the road awhile, 'cause
'Cause I've got a hand for you
I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you
Won't you let me run with you? yeah
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to a place where you can be
Hold my hand
Anything you wanna be because
I wanna love you the best that, the best that I can
See I was wasted, and I was wasting time
'Till I thought about your problems, I thought about your crimes
Then I stood up, and then I screamed aloud
I don't wanna be part of your problems
Don't wanna be part of your crowd, no
'Cause I've got a hand for you
I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you
Ah, won't you let me run with you?
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to the promised land
Hold my hand
Maybe we can't change the world but
I wanna love you the best that, the best that I can, yeah
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to a place where you can be
Hold my hand
Anything you wanna be because
I...Oh...No, No, No, No, No
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to the promised land
Hold my hand
Maybe we can't change the world but
I wanna love you the best that, best that I can
Oh, The best that I can

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Change your mind





This is one of my favorite Gospel stories. And I think it's because when I was a child I tended to be the defiant one in the family. My parents and I can still laugh about it today, because Jimmy and I, my younger brother, were really close, and so we did a lot of things together. We often got in trouble together.





Whenever we would have some punishment that I didn't think was fair or some horrible thing my parents were making us do, I would always argue it to the hilt and say, "I'm not going doing that." And I would be defiant and just tell them I wasn't going to do it until I had a good explanation. And so, I'd battle, a war would break out because of that. In the end, I would do it. I would do whatever I had to do if I understood why.





Yet Jimmy, my younger brother, who never caused any trouble, would always, when given a punishment or given something to go do, would always say, "Yeah, I'll do it," and he never would. But my parents, I don't think, cared because he never put up a fight. He just said, "Sure, I'll do it, no big deal," and they forgot all about it. So I feel a little bit of redemption here, you know, because it's the first son that changed his mind and changed his ways that is the one that got to eternal life.





The truth is, though, it's hard to change our minds. Changing our minds, especially if we can be stubborn or bullheaded, can be a very difficult thing to do. So what does it sound like when you do change your mind?




Seth Godin who is one of the founders of the internet, he's an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, public speaker, writes a story about the beginning days of the internet.





"Nineteen years ago, shortly after I hired Mark Hurst to join the team at my internet startup group, I turned to him and said, 'I don't think the web makes sense.' This was the most expensive mistake I ever made.





"At the time, we were working on AOL, CompuServe and other online services. The web was in its infancy, and I notoriously said, 'It's just like the Prodigy, but slower and no business model.





"It took me eighteen months to change my mind. Actually, that's not true. It took me about five minutes to change my mind, after eighteen months of being wrong. I still remember how it felt to feel that flip switch in my head.





"This is one of the assets of youth, and something that's worth seeking out and maintaining. That flip, the ability, when confronted with a world that doesn't match the world in your head, to say, 'Wait, maybe I was wrong.' We're not good at that. Science brings us overwhelming data about the truth of washing hands before surgery, of the age and origin of species, about the efficacy of placebos, and the natural instinct is push those facts away, rather than find that moment where were can shift our thinking.





"If you needed to, could you argue passionately for that thing you don't believe in today? Could you imagine walking over to the other side of the new argument, to once again hear that sound?





"That's the essential skill of thriving in a world that's changing fast."





Malcolm Gladwell, who is an author, he wrote some books you might have heard of called the "Tipping Point" and "Outliers." He writes on this whole idea of change and how difficult it is for us to change, and how change can actually be perceived as being a flaw. And he actually commented -- and now, just to let you know, he's extremely liberal, a wonderful author, but he's just very liberal on that side. He writes about Mitt Romney and the time where Mitt was running for the election, and he had changed his mind on an issue. He changed his platform on universal health care. And actually, Gladwell will go on to say that Mitt Romney got so criticized for flip-flopping, as many labeled him, and for changing his mind on an idea after he had more evidence. He said he was crucified by the Democrats and the Republicans because he changed his mind.





And the truth is we all kind of do that. We expect people to be solid on what their thoughts and solid on what their platforms are and solid on what they're thinking, and while there is a value to that, there is also a value to changing our minds when we have new information, when we have a greater revelation.





And so he looks back and he says that though Mitt was made fun of -- there's actually flip-flops that you can get that say "Mitt" on one side and "Romney" on the other. Though he was made fun of and criticized, he thinks all of that was done extremely unfairly because this man gained new information and changed his mind, and rather than seeing that as something virtuous and good, it was condemned and vilified.





And sometimes we do this with ourselves. Sometimes we get caught in a mindset and we argue something, or we wrestle with something that we know deep down isn't right, it's not truth, but for some reason we feel like we have to cling to the argument, like we have to win the argument.





I can just picture a husband and wife arguing over something, or good friends arguing over something, and at some point in the conversation you start to realize you're wrong, but for some reason we feel like we have to keep arguing it further and try to make ourselves right, even though deep down inside we know that we are wrong.





But what if we could just actually change our minds? What if we could actually just admit that we are wrong, and given new information, we can adapt our minds and actually change our minds to this new information?





And we hear about this in the Gospel today. The Gospel is about the two brothers. The first sentence, as I said before, obviously when asked by his father to do something, he said, "No, I will not." But later changed and went and did it. The older son said, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go." And Jesus asked, "Which of the two did the father's will?" And they all answered, "The first." Then Jesus goes on to say, "Amen, I say to you. Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you." Why? Well, because the Jews that he was speaking to were locked in an old mindset. They couldn't see right before them that Jesus was God. They couldn't see this revelation, this prophecy that John was trying to point people to the Christ, who was in our presence. And the tax collectors and the prostitutes, through their forgiveness of sins, through their looking and being loved by Jesus through this encounter with Jesus, have a change in their minds. They can grasp who he is.





But the last line, I love the last line of the Gospel because it says, "Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him." So Jesus is saying, even when you saw, you know, that these people were getting it and you weren't, you did not change your mind and believe in him. And you could see they were stuck in their mindset. They couldn't change their mind.





I always try to think of an image or an idea or a story to tell, or a song. And as I was praying about this and just thinking about this all week for the homily, this song came to mind from ABBA, actually. And the first line of the song is, "You can change your mind."





Anybody know the name of it?





It's "Take a Chance on Me." So I'm just going to read you the first verse and we're going to listen to a little bit of the song. But it goes, "If you change your mind, I'm the first in line."





Now, instead of ABBA singing this to you, I want you to think about the Father. Think about the Father singing this to you, God, the Father, who loves you saying:





If you change your mind, I'm the first in line

Honey I'm still free

Take a chance on me

If you need me, let me know, gonna be around

If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down

If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown

Honey I'm still free

Take a chance on me

Gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie

If you put me to the test, if you let me try

Take a chance on me

Take a chance on me





(Playing the song)





So we hear in this kind of lighthearted song how God is inviting us to change our minds. So I just want you to think about that for yourself. Are you stuck in any mentality of God or of the church teachings or of commandments? Is there anything that you've just set yourself against and you don't want to change your mind about it, even though deep down you know you might need to? Maybe you still have the old mentality of God, the Father, being this stern discipline, you know, just kind of like scary figure.





Well, you know, revelation has shown us, Jesus has shown us, that we have a loving Father. And maybe you've been taught all your life that he's not, that you can change your mind, and you can come to this revelation, this insight that God is such a loving and gentle Father and all He wants to do is be with you.





Maybe there is some church teaching that your heart -- your head has gotten so set on what you believe, and maybe you disagree with the church teaching, and deep down inside you know you're wrong, but you've just argued for so long you can't imagine changing your platform. Well, you can. You can change your mind and be open to revelation and church teaching.





Maybe it's something at home. Maybe it's something superfluous with your wife or member of family and maybe it's an ongoing argument and you know you've been wrong. Maybe it's a rift in the family deep down for 15, 20 years, and you know you are wrong. You can change your mind. And we do this by taking a chance to God. You can take a chance, take a chance, take a chance, take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on God. Change your mind and experience this new way of living.



Get it here! 

(Playing the song)



"Take A Chance On Me"
If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try


Take a chance on me
(That's all I ask of you honey)
Take a chance on me


We can go dancing, we can go walking, as long as we're together
Listen to some music, maybe just talking, get to know you better
'Cos you know I've got
So much that I wanna do, when I dream I'm alone with you
It's magic
You want me to leave it there, afraid of a love affair
But I think you know
That I can't let go


If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try


Take a chance on me
(Come on, give me a break will you?)
Take a chance on me
Oh you can take your time baby, I'm in no hurry, know I'm gonna get you
You don't wanna hurt me, baby don't worry, I ain't gonna let you
Let me tell you now
My love is strong enough to last when things are rough
It's magic
You say that I waste my time but I can't get you off my mind
No I can't let go
'Cos I love you so


If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best, baby can't you see
Gotta put me to the test, take a chance on me
(Take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on me)


Ba ba ba ba baa, ba ba ba ba baa
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best, baby can't you see
Gotta put me to the test, take a chance on me
(Take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on me)


Ba ba ba ba baa, ba ba ba ba baa ba-ba
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me


[fade]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vail, Colorado

The Prodigal Father Productions had our quarterly board meeting in Vail.  We were there for the peak leaf changing of the Aspens.  It was breathtaking.  One morning I even woke up for sunrise coming up over the mountains and layer of light by layer of light brightening the "W" Mountain before me.  Absolutely beautiful.

We spent the mornings and afternoons in conference and the rest of the day horse back riding!  Colorado truly is "God's Country".

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Grade School Children Released 18 Doves at the Prayer Service for Peace!

Check out the video!


The Elite member: Boarding group 1... Envy and Hope

American Airlines - Elite Status Member Benefits 

Boarding the Plane



I have a good friend who just recently flew back from Florida, and on the flight back he was flying American Airlines. And American Airlines has Elite status, you know. So a lot of the airlines are doing this now, where you are boarded by groups. So you have Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4, and you are boarded in that order.


Well, the Elite status members get to go first, so they all board the plane, and then they call the next group. They call Group 2, Group 3, Group 4. When they are done calling all of the groups, they say, "All groups now board at this time." When they do that there is a big line, and everybody gets into that line and prepares to board.


So he got into line. And he's kind of like me, what's the purpose of rushing to get on the plane when you are going to be stuck there for, like, the next half hour. So as they are all in this big line, somebody had come in last minute and they are an Elite member. So she's telling everybody in line she's Elite, she gets to board first. They said, "Well, they have called all groups, so you have to wait in line like all of us." And she goes, "Well, I don't want to wait line." So she goes up to the desk and she says, "I'm an Elite member. I don't want to wait in line with these people." And so they let her go on the plane first. And, you know, there are people in line that were, of course, upset. She was upset, everybody was angry and upset about each other, and he's kind of standing, looking and laughing and like, why do they want to get on this hot plane any earlier than they have to? And so he experienced this moment of envy. So some of these passengers were envious of the Elite member that got to go first. Even though the Elite member came at the very last moment, she got to go on first.


We hear about this in the gospel. You know, Jesus gives us this parable, and he ends with, you know, this phrase that is so striking. It strikes to our core. Are you envious because I am generous? You know, so that's the first of two things that I just want to talk about in the Gospel. Are you envious because I am generous?


So envy is one of the capital sins. It's one of the seven deadly sins. And Jesus addresses it today in this Gospel. So if you think about it the catechism says the vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose. They're called the capital sins because they engender other sins or other vices. So envy might have been the first sin, you know, but before you know it there comes anger, there comes impatience, all the other sins kind of come after that. So the seven deadly sins are pride, avarice, anger, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth.


So I just want to talk about envy for a moment. I'm going to give you the definition from the catechism and just try to think about yourself and reflect in this because we all have some of these sins in our lives, but maybe envy is a core sin for us. So envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity. The baptized person should struggle against it by exercising goodwill. Envy often comes from pride. The baptized person should train himself to live in humility. So if you think about that airport experience, the people were experiencing envy, and it was a refusal of charity. They were refusing to be charitable and just kind to this person.


The second thing is envy is a sadness at the sight of another's goods and the immoderate -- and immoderate, I looked up in the dictionary because I didn't know what it means. Immoderate means not sensible or restrained; excessive. So immoderate desire to have them for oneself. It is a capital sin. So it's an immoderate desire to have what somebody else has, to want to have their Elite status, to want to have whatever they are given.


You know, in the Gospel today, Jesus talks about the laborers in the vineyard. For those of you that go to churchSunday after Sunday, you are like the ones. If you've been doing this all your life, if you're from like a baptized Catholic, you've been doing this all your life. You've been working the vineyard from 9:00 to 5:00, right? And sometimes there can be envy when other people that come in later or come in whenever, or don't even practice their faith, are given more by God, are blessed more by God, and then that can cause us to be envious. So envy is sadness at the sight of another person's goods.
So what do we do to combat envy? The catechism says, "The baptized person combats envy through goodwill." So willing the good of the other through humility and through abandonment through the providence of God. Finally abandoning ourselves to the providence and really accepting what God has given to us.



So the first thing I just want to challenge us all to think about in our hearts is, is there envy there? Do we find ourselves envious of others? Do we get upset when others have more than we do? And if we notice that, it's a good thing. That's actually a grace to notice that and to realize that, because once we realize that sin in our hearts, then we can go to God and ask for forgiveness, and not only forgiveness, but to free us from that envy so that we can actually experience and desire the goodwill of the other person.


The second point I would like to talk about in the parable today is for those workers that come late. You know, the workers that come late, they come at five o'clock, which is like the end of the shift, you know. So they work like an hour and they are given everything. So I just want you to think about that because many of us struggle with people that are away from the faith.


I was just at lunch with a couple of ladies from the church. Their hearts were torn because their grandchildren are choosing not to practice the faith. One of them has gone to the Methodist church, one of them has left the church completely and doesn't go to church. Their hearts are really torn over this. And I just, all I can do is give them encouragement that, you know, just as we hear in the Gospel today, at any point in their lives they can turn to God. And even if it's that last final breath that they take, they will be accepted into the Kingdom, they will be become one of God's laborers, and they will receive eternal life.


So the truth is it's like all of us gathering on that plane ride, you know, the American Airlines ride, and we might all be in different groups who might experience and come to the faith at different times in our lives, but the grace is, through baptism, we all have a ticket. We're all going to get on the plane. You know, it doesn't matter what order we get on the plane, but we are actually all going to get on that plane and take that travel into eternal life.


So first of all, if there is any envy in our hearts, to ask God to free us from it; and secondly, to have great hope and great trust that God will bring back everyone to his church and that we will all get on that plane together and fly one day into eternal life.
----


Catechism References:

1866 Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices.138 They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia. (2539)

2540 Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train himself to live in humility: (1829)

Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised.329

2553 Envy is sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate [not sensible or restrained; excessive.] desire to have them for oneself. It is a capital sin.

2554 The baptized person combats envy through good-will, humility, and abandonment to the providence of God.