Deacon Corner, April 7 2019

It’s finally April and that means two things.  First (hopefully), Spring is really here!  Second, Lent both continues and ends this month.

As Lent continues, let’s remember that no matter how it’s gone so far, whether we’ve really nailed our Lenten commitments like All-stars or felt like amateurs playing way out of our league, God never has a bad day.   He never fluctuates in His commitments; and is always there for us.  He is our salvation and our strength.

In the daily Gospel from last Tuesday, Jesus heals a man who was cripple for most or all of his life.  Scripture says Jesus tells the man to “Rise up, take your mat, and walk. (John 5:8)” When I read this verse, I wonder -why didn’t Jesus tell him to toss his mat away?  After all, the man was lying on that mat for 38 years.  Maybe Jesus wanted to leave the man with a constant reminder of his former condition?  Lugging around his silly mat might have been annoying, but I’ll bet the man never forgot his life depended on Jesus.

So it is with us – we carry our mats.  Our Catechism tells us that although Baptism removes Original Sin, there are certain worldly consequences of sin like suffering, illness, death, and human weakness that keep us from getting carried away with our self (CCC 1274).   Our human vulnerability to suffering and death actually unites us to Jesus, who suffered and died for us.  Our lifelong war against temptation prepares us to receive a crown of glory.  After all, Jesus did establish seven sacraments to receive sanctifying grace, not just one.  Baptism does indeed make us holy.  The rest of the sacraments, especially regular Confession and Communion, make us more holy.

In our second reading today, St. Paul said “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13b-14)” As the weather warms, the trees and flowers begin to bud, the beauty of Spring unfolds around us, and we look forward to the joy of Easter, may nothing – no lingering discouragement or regret, cloud or darkness – impede our Lord’s victory over sin and death.  May your final 40 days of Lent be blessed remembering this is the season that unites us to Jesus, our Savior and our Lord.

Deacon John

Adapted from The Magnificat, April 2019

 

Deacon Corner, March 31 2019

One topic I seem to write about the most is prayer.  Maybe that’s because prayer is something I struggle the most with.  So, for Lent, rather than “give something up”, I decided to take something on – to become more disciplined in my prayer.  Specifically, to make sure I make the time each morning and night to pray as I promised I would when I was ordained to be a deacon.

Two weeks ago while dashing through the church to get to a meeting, I realized I had not taken time yet for Morning Prayer.  I sat in the front pew and struggled to focus as I prayed the Breviary, I was speaking the words, but my mind was wandering.  So, I just sat there and talked with God. He helped me sort out my priorities for the day and remember a few things to do that were not on my list.  Although I felt a little guilty for struggling with my Breviary prayer, I also felt refreshed and “ready to go” after talking with God.

Later that evening I read a reflection on prayer by St. Francis de Sales.  He said, “If during vocal prayer your heart is drawn to mental prayer, do not restrain it, but let your devotion take that channel, omitting the vocal prayers which you intended to say: that which takes their place is more acceptable to God, and more useful to your own soul.”   I think that’s what I experienced earlier in the morning while praying.  Was I forcing my mind to vocal and written prayer?  Was God calling me to talk to him through mental prayer?  I’m not sure, but those are questions to add to my list of “things to ask God” someday when I meet Him.

Our Catechism says prayer is God’s gift of grace to us.  Whether we pray through words or gestures, prayer is centered in our hearts (CCC 2563.)  Prayer is not presenting a list of wants and needs to God.  We don’t pray to give Him our grievances about life.  We pray to be ever mindful that God is with us no matter what we are facing.  We pray in thanksgiving and to honor Him.  We pray to do our best in the given situation to keep our focus on God and exalt him in everything we do.  We pray for strength and courage, and yes, we even pray for miracles.  But most of all, we pray to be ever mindful of God’s presence in our life, and keep us focused on doing His will.

To quote my first Deacon’s Corner on prayer: “St. Ignatius said praying is like talking to Jesus as a friend.  Ask forgiveness.  Ask for protection and help.  Ask for wisdom about the problems you face.  Do all this in the spirit of gratitude to receive the grace of peace in your heart that comes through prayer.”

May you have a Blessed week in prayer with our Lord.

Deacon John

 

 

 

Deacon’s Corner, March 24 2019

For the second year in a row, our parishes have joined together in a single effort to prepare our young adults to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Since last September, 17 candidates from our 2 parishes, representing 5 different schools, have met monthly on a Sunday evening with a common goal – preparation to receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  The curriculum for the Confirmation program is “Called to Mercy” by St. Mary Press which uses group study and service projects to focus on the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy:  feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, give alms to the poor, and bury the dead.  Their service projects included making and serving dinner at the Share-the-Warmth homeless shelter in Adrian, making cookies for food pantry Christmas baskets, and making comfort blankets for children facing family issues at Catholic Social Services.

At Mass last Sunday and this Sunday, these young adults took part in the Rite of Enrollment to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this Spring.  Fr. Todd asked them a series of questions to reaffirm certain promises they made at the beginning of their Confirmation journey to prepare them to receive the special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the Faith as a witness of Christ.  These promises were:  have an open mind and heart, and commit to praying daily to grow in faith, hope, and love; attend Mass every Sunday and on all Holy Days of Obligation; receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before the day of Confirmation; and continue to accept more responsibility in their family, parish, and community by putting their talents and gifts at the service of others.  At the end of the Rite of Enrollment, Fr. Todd asked us to continue supporting these young adults in faith, prayer and example.  When he said that, I wondered how many of us could stand up and make those same promises to our children.

These young adults of our parish are the future of our country and our Catholic faith. I am very proud of them.  Not only do they set the example for how to love God and serve others – they are yearning to learn more.  It’s our job to teach them, our job to nurture and mentor them – to show passion for our Catholic faith – and help them grow into the Christian leaders our society so badly needs.

We thank our Confirmation catechists, Angie Atkin of St. Mary on the Lake and Nancy Kuenzer of Sacred Heart, for their hard work in preparing our candidates for Confirmation.  Confirmation will be at 7pm on May 8th at Sacred Heart.  Please join us with 28 candidates from five parishes for a blessed evening to celebrate receiving this Holy Sacrament at Mass.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, March 17 2019

Two weeks ago, our 5th and 6th graders became Dragon Slayers.  Dragons are obstacles and temptations which detract from leading a virtuous life.  For the past 2 months, they have been learning how Dragons Slayers of old (the Saints) wrestled with the same dragons in their life.  They learned about The Chief Dragon Slayer (Jesus), the Mysterious Three (the Trinity), and the Ancient Manual (the Bible), how to use Spiritual Armor, and the Heros of our Faith (the Saints and other famous people).  Dragon Slayers fight the Obstaks and Sinisters who are led by the Chief Dragon Rider (Satan).  Obstaks are dragons which get in our way of doing the right thing.  They cause us to procrastinate and avoid making tough decisions.  Sinisters tempt us to do bad things.  All dragons lie to us, scare us, and try everything they can to lure us away from following the Chief Dragon Slayer.  They will do anything to destroy our souls.

There are 17 dragons, each with its own distinctive stench which warns us they are near.   Although they look cute and friendly, dragons are dangerous.  The 4 dragons which bothered us to most were Braggen, Slackbottom, Stinkmouth, and Frantix.  Braggen is a Sinister who smells like boasting and pride. It has 2 heads.  One head attacks us by bragging, while the 2nd head attacks others by making them feel inferior.  Slackbottom, also a Sinister and smells like laziness and procrastination.  It attacks by telling us to put off doing homework and chores because there are more fun things to do.  Stinkmouth, another Sinister, stinks with gossip, rumors, and bad-mouthing.  It tempts us to make snide remarks about friends or family, or attacks by making us feel bad when others do the same to us.  Then there is Frantix, both an Obstack and a Sinister.  It’s the one that bothers me the most.  Frantix smells of never having enough time to get things done, panicking, and doing everything in a rush.  Frantix lives in the Whelming Sea, and exhausts me by giving me too much to do, then blocks my path, while the Whelming Sea opens up and sucks me in.

In becoming Dragon Slayers, our children learn how to gain control of their emotions and actions as they identify and conquer the dragons that personally attack them.  By doing so, they can grow spiritually, assume accountability, and discover the awesome goodness of God.  As adults, we are never too young to do the same.

St. James said Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits (James 3:16-17).”  As you go out this week to face the Obstarks and Sinisters, may the Mighty One bless you with wisdom and good fruits so you can become a Dragon Slayer, too.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, March 3 2019

The Deacon’s Corner

I used to tell my project teams – plan your work, work your plan, and begin with the end in mind.   So, with the first few days of Lent behind us, what is your plan and are you working it?  You know, “giving up” whatever it was, spending more time in prayer, or maybe opening your Bible and reflecting on Scripture?

Today in the Gospel, we hear the story of the devil tempting Jesus in the desert.  Satan attacked Jesus’ human side because he knew he would lose the battle with Jesus’ Divine side.  But Satan still lost anyway.  Our Catechism tells us through Jesus’ temptation, God is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He has been tested in every respect as we have been tested, and Jesus won those tests.  It says “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (CCC 540)  Knowing all this, how can we not have a plan for Lent, and how can we not be working it?

The reason we make a plan for Lent is so when Lent starts we know what we are doing and not floundering around.  We plan our work.  We plan a trip.  We plan for holidays.  All this planning to envision the end and ensure success.  We have a plan to know that when we get to the end we have accomplished something and didn’t waste our precious time doing it.  So it only makes sense to have a plan for Lent.

Lent is a time to receive God’s grace by acknowledging our weaknesses and undergoing a spiritual revival to grow closer to God.  We plan for Lent so we won’t be surprised at the end and say “ooopps, I missed it, and all God’s graces that goes with it.”  What is your plan for Lent, and are you working it?  Because this is one project where failure is not an option.

Deacon John

 

Deacon John Bulletin, March 3 2019

The Deacon’s Corner

This past week, our 5th and 6th Graders became Dragon Slayers.  Dragons are obstacles and temptations which detract from leading a virtuous life.  For the past 2 months, they have been learning how Dragons Slayers of old (the Saints) wrestled with the same dragons in their life.  They learned about the The Chief Dragon Slayer (Jesus), the Mysterious Three (the Trinity), and the Ancient Manual (the Bible), how to use Spiritual Armor, and the Heros of our Faith (the Saints and other famous people).  Dragon Slayers fight the Obstaks and Sinisters who are led by the Chief Dragon Rider (Satan).  Obstaks are dragons which get in our way of doing the right thing.  They cause us to procrastinate and avoid making tough decisions.  Sinisters tempt us to do bad things.  All dragons lie to us, scare us, and try everything they can to lure us away from following the Chief Dragon Slayer.  They will do anything to destroy our souls.

There are 17 dragons, each dragon with its own distinctive stench which warns us they are near.   Although they look cute and friendly, dragons are dangerous.  The 4 dragons which bothered us to most were Braggen, Slackbottom, Stinkmouth, and Frantix.  Braggen is a Sinister who smells like boasting and pride. It has 2 heads.  One head attacks us by bragging, while the 2nd head attacks others by making them feel inferior.  Slackbottom, also a Sinister, smells like laziness and procrastination.  It attacks by telling us to put off doing homework and chores because there are more fun things to do.  Stinkmouth, another Sinister, stinks with gossip, rumors, and bad-mouthing.  It tempts us to make snide remarks about friends or family, or attacks by making us feel bad when others do the same to us.  Then there is Frantix, both an Obstack and a Sinister.  It’s the one that bothers me the most.  Frantix smells of never having enough time to get things done, panicking, and doing everything in a rush.  Frantix lives in the Whelming Sea, and exhausts me by giving me too much to do, then blocks my path, while the Whelming Sea opens up and sucks me in.

In becoming Dragon Slayers, our children learn how to gain control of their emotions and actions as they identify and conquer the dragons that personally attack them.  By doing so, they can grow spiritually, assume accountability, and discover the awesome goodness of God.  As adults, we are never too young to do the same.

St. James said Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits (James 3:16-17).”  As you go out this week to face the Obstarks and Sinisters, may the Mighty One bless you with wisdom and good fruits so you can become a Dragon Slayer, too.

Deacon John

Deacon’s Corner, February 24, 2019

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While reflecting on the Gospel reading from last Monday, I couldn’t help to think how much I can be like the Pharisees in the story.  They came to see Jesus and demanded he give them a sign from Heaven as a test of who He was.  Jesus gave a deep sigh and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? (Mark 8:11-13.)”

The Pharisees tested Jesus throughout the Gospels.  They wanted signs to prove he was really God, asked tricky questions, and tried to prove Him wrong.  But, why?  Before this encounter, Jesus performed miracle after miracle: cleansing lepers, healing paralytics, raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and immediately before this Gospel, feeding four thousand people with a few fish. What more could they want from Him? The Pharisees were looking for a specific sign that their place of honor in Jewish society will be rewarded with a powerful position in Jesus’ kingdom. They wanted Jesus to give them the power and honor that they feel they deserve.

Like the Pharisees, I often want signs from Jesus, too.  I make deals with him – if he does this, I’ll do that.  If I pray he takes away some suffering or hardship from my life, I’ll try harder to be a better person.  If I light a votive candle, my special request will be answered.  If I go to Mass every week, my life will go smoothly.  And if I do all these things, and nothing happens, if Jesus doesn’t give me a sign, well, maybe the Pharisees were right all along.  Maybe Jesus really isn’t God after all.

But Jesus doesn’t work this way.  Our relationship with Him can never be transactional.  It can’t be used to bargain or make deals.   Jesus, by virtue of being God, already has everything.  So, there is nothing we can give God that he needs.  But, we can give him what he wants – our love.  Look at the people in the Gospels who don’t expect anything but receive signs from Jesus. They don’t go to him with a list of reasons why he should do what they ask of Him.  They call out to Him.  They push through the crowds, they drop everything to follow Him to a remote hillside without any idea of how they’ll find dinner. They have faith that God will give them a sign, and they are right.  In return, they give Jesus their faith, hope, and love.  The Pharisees demand a sign, and they leave empty-handed.

What do we ask of God?  What deals do we try to make?  May we pray this week to not seek signs, but for the faith to believe God really does have a plan for us, and his plan is good.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, February 17 2019

Why do Catholics use the crucifix instead of a cross?   After all, Jesus is not dead, He is alive. A crucifix is a cross with Jesus’ Corpus, a representation of his crucified body.  A cross bears either no figure at all, or one like the Risen Jesus.  There are a few ways to answer this question, so let’s start with the Mass.

Simply put, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal requires a crucifix be clearly visible either on or near the Altar for Mass.  The crucifix is there to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made which becomes present every time we celebrate Mass.  Not that Jesus is sacrificed again at every Mass, but that we are REMINDED of the sacrifice he made for us.  A plain cross just doesn’t have the same impact.  The Crucifixion of Jesus is a one-time event that can never occur again in history. But it is an event which should never be forgotten.

We need to be reminded of what Jesus endured to prove to us that His way is the way into the Kingdom – that He IS GOD, not just someone telling us stories to make us feel good.  Remembering Christ’s Passion, death and resurrection helps us get though our own daily sufferings and struggles – to spiritually grow from them.  Because Jesus’ victory over death is not just physical death, but our road to victory over a spiritual death.  “Spiritual death” can sound scary.  But that’s what Jesus was talking about when He told Nicodemus “unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3.”)  When we die to our old self, we rise to a level of spirituality, we are “born again” into a union with God.

Finally, St Paul said to “preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23.)”  In fact, many of Paul’s scripture writings are based on the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and His victory over death – physical death and spiritual death.

By reflecting on our daily struggles with Jesus hanging on the cross, we better understand what Jesus meant when he said to “deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).  How can we be born again if we are constantly reminded of Jesus being dead instead of alive?  The answer is found from what goes on inside our heart when we sit and reflect on Jesus hanging on the cross.  When suffering comes our way, the image of the crucifix can give us spiritual strength and inspiration because of what Jesus did for us.

The image of the crucifix, is placed in our homes, our churches, our schools, or our hospitals, to make sure that this sacrifice of our Lord for us is not forgotten.  It is a visual reminder of Christ’s battle over sin, the turning point in our spiritual battle, so we never forget God’s redeeming love for us.

May you have a Blessed week!

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, February 10 2019

Our Scripture readings today are as much about humility as they are about God calling us to step up and do whatever he has planned for our life.

The 1st Reading is about the call of Isaiah.  His first response to the Lord was “why me” – my lips are unclean.  The 2nd Reading and Gospel are about the apostles, Peter and Paul, who Jesus called to carry on his message and ministry.  Peter says “why me?”- for I am a sinful man.   Paul says he, too, is sinful – “the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  In spite of their past, God had a plan for each of them, and used those three, humble men to alter the course of history.

Just who are the Isaiahs, the Peters, and the Pauls in our society today?   When God wants to send a message of love to the outcasts of this world, who will say “Here I am; send me!”  When God wants someone to speak out in the halls of government against injustice, who will say “Here I am; send me!”  When people march out to war, violence, and bigotry and God needs someone to march in the opposite direction with a message of peace, who will be his messenger and say “Here I am, send me!”  As our world suffers from the ill effects of the evils and unfairness we’ve caused, and the Church offers a way out through its social teaching of justice and human dignity, who will be Jesus’ apostles to bring that message to the world?   Who will jump up and say “Here I am, Lord; send me!”

 During a radio message in 1978, Pope John Paul I said, “My brothers and sisters—all people of the world! We are all obliged to work to raise the world to a condition of greater justice, more stable peace, more sincere cooperation. Therefore, we ask and beg all—from the humblest who are the connective fibers of nations to heads of state responsible for each nation—to work for a new order, one more just and honest… We open ourselves with great trust to the assistance of the Lord, who, having called us to be his representative on earth, will not leave us without his all-powerful grace.”

 As Christians, we are called to work for the good of every human being.  God will give us the grace to stand up for those suffering from bullying, poverty, loneliness, and living in fear.  To step up and be humble, virtuous leaders at work and school, in the community, and especially in the family.  And to continue the work of Jesus by spreading his message of peace and salvation for all.  Thousands of years ago, God called Isaiah, Peter, and Paul to carry on this message.  Each thought they were not good enough to do what God needed done.  But, they responded anyway and changed the world.

Who will God call to do his work today?  Just whom will God send?  Will it be YOU?

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, February 3 2019

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“What good is it…if someone has faith but does not have works?…If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it (James 2:14:17)?”   Those are the words of St. James in his letter circulating around the house churches in the early days of Christianity.  James’ letter goes far beyond being donors, volunteers, caregivers, and ministers.  It goes directly to the heart of spending our day in the marketplace – those places we where we live, work, study, and play every day.

During a state of the company address in my former life, our CEO presented his thoughts on what it would take to be successful given the global economic crisis at the time.  He said “we must continue to look for ways to be smarter about the projects we bring forward for approval.”  Now that made sense, but I didn’t see projects fail because we weren’t clever enough to know they were bad deals.  I saw projects failing because of greed for personal gain or hastened to meet company goals.

Faith and economics rarely encounter each other in the business world.  St. Pope John Paul II recognized this when he wrote “…on the one hand, [is] the all-consuming desire for profit, and on the other, the thirst for power, with the intention of imposing one’s will upon others.  In order to characterize better each of these attitudes, one can add the expression: at any price (Sollicitdo Rei Socialis §V.37.)”  He argued that accumulation of profit and power cannot be measures of success in business unless they are reinvested back into society to promote the social, cultural, and spiritual well-being of people (§II.9).  In other words, making better projects and business deals is not so much about being smarter as it is to be grounded in our faith.  Making business decisions which consider the greater good, instead of personal gain or maximizing corporate profit, far benefits the company, the employees, and the community as a whole.

For the Christian leader in the marketplace, faith and works are not an “either/or” option.  They are a “both/and” necessity for ethical business life.  To tell an employee “have a good weekend” rings hollow when that same employee is facing low wages, long hours, no insurance, or loss of their job.  Being a Christian leader in the marketplace takes prudence, planning, wise counsel, courage, and compassion.  Daily decisions involving cost cutting, maximizing profits, optimizing equipment maintenance, business unit performance, and product value tradeoffs are a reality in the business world.  But then so does God’s expectation that our faith and works become one.  Ethical life for a Christian in the marketplace is a reflection of Christian discipleship.  For Faith without works is me meaningless.

Deacon John