Tag Archives: Trust

Something Greater

I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.

—Matthew 12:6–8

Cross_in_the_Wilderness_by_Frederic_Edwin_Church,_1857_AD,_oil_on_canvas_-_Museo_Nacional_Centro_de_Arte_Reina_Sofía_-_DSC08680Throughout Scripture, we find stories where God asks someone to give up everything for Him. Countless prophets and disciples are asked to separate themselves from earthly attachments, leave their old lives behind, and start from scratch. Why does the God of mercy require such extreme sacrifice from His people?

God uses these experiences of sacrifice not as punishments but to prune our hearts and allow us to grow into who we were created to be. He asks us to let go of our attachments in order to prepare us for a greater mission; to increase our dependence upon Him; to replace our earthly perspective with a heavenly one; and to give us a testimony of the God Who has walked with us and sustained us through every desert, Who has shouldered the crosses we bear.

Jesus does not desire sacrifice for its own sake but to make room for something greater. He sacrificed everything for us as a means to show His mercy. He endured torture, betrayal, wrongful conviction, and death for love of us. He entered into our human condition, sharing with us an intimate closeness. And in doing so, He has redeemed all of our sacrifices, transforming them into pathways of His mercy.

In light of Jesus’s sacrifice, our sufferings are not burdens holding us back but graces lifting us upward toward the Cross of salvation. Sometimes, He requires us to let go of good things so that our hands are open to receive great things. His claim is a bold one: that He Himself is greater than the temple. Greater than the temple! What seemed like blasphemy to the Pharisees is in fact a profound truth: there is no offering more sacred than the Body of Christ, no sacrifice greater than the Mass, and no act of devotion more powerful than His Passion.

Image: Frederic Edwin Church, Cross in the Wilderness / PD-US

Originally posted at Frassati Reflections.

The Testing of Faith

In these few weeks’ Sunday Gospel readings, we embark on reading the Bread of Life discourse found in John 6.

Last week, we saw Jesus asking Phillip: “Where can we buy some bread to eat?”
Obviously Jesus knew that the Apostles didn’t have enough money, neither did they possess the resources to go and get bread. Jesus knows it all.

Why then did Jesus “test” Phillip? What was He testing?
He was testing Phillip’s faith. He wanted to know if Phillip would believe that Jesus could do the impossible, He wanted to test if Phillip would respond with “Lord, this is all I have — 200 denarii. Take it. All I have is Yours. I know You can work wonders.”

Likewise, Jesus is asking us to do the same. In our lives, Jesus asks us to do something that we obviously don’t have the resources to do. Sometimes He asks us questions that we don’t know the answer to. And most times, we respond in a similar Phillip-fashion and tell God, “I only have this much, how can I do what You’re calling me to do?”

But the real test is this: can we respond to the Lord and tell Him “Lord, I only have so little. But the little I have is Yours. Take it, use it, and make it profitable for Your Kingdom here on earth.”

Are there times in our lives where we are so stricken with fear that we shut ourselves off completely to God? Are there times in our lives where we are like the crowd — we who only turn to God for the miracles and wonders that He can do? We often go to God for what He can give us, but we rarely go to God to offer what we have.


Originally posted at Catholic Rambles.

Image: Giovanni Lanfranco, Miracle of the Bread and Fish

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

2 Peter 1:2-7, Psalm 91, Mark 12:1-12

The wicked tenants in this Gospel passage do not just represent Israel’s leaders. Our Lord too, has left us each a ‘vineyard’ of blessings, gifts, talents and charisms.

How have we been using these gifts God has loaned to us? Have we been prideful of our abilities or do we praise and thank God everyday for them? Pope Benedict tells us:

“We should not become elated over our good deeds… it is the Lord’s power, not our own, that brings about the good in them.”

Going a step further, through Baptism, every Christian is expected to participate in Christ’s ministry as Priest, Prophet and King.

As Prophets, we are expected to share the Truth of the Gospel boldly and prudently.

As Priests, we are expected to be faithful followers of Jesus. This refers to our interiority and inner disposition. If we begin to think of ourselves acting in a priestly fashion everyday of our lives, we would undoubtedly carry out the work of Jesus — bringing justice and love into our world.

As Kings (or Queens), we are in charge of ourselves. Intellect and free will are powers bestowed upon our rational souls. This gives us dominion over our choices and bodies. We have a moral obligation to look after our temples and keep our passions under reason.

The Psalmist today gives us the simplest solution on how we can fulfill our three roles to its maximum potential: “In you, my God, I place my trust.” (Ps 91:2).


Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Jesus and the Rich Youth

Mark 10:17-27

The Gospel on the rich young man is rich with meaning. It is noteworthy to point out that Jesus still loved the youth despite knowing that he wouldn’t give up his possessions to follow Him (c.f. Mk 10:21).

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofmann (1889)
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofmann (1889)

This young man had observed the laws from his youth (Mk 10:20). Although he did not choose to take on the path to perfection (give away all his possessions and follow Jesus), he did not suffer a lessening of Jesus’s love.

It is amazing how intelligent and philosophical Jesus is as he brilliantly draws from Eccl 5:10 to illuminate the path to our perfection; “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves wealth, with gain: this also is vanity.”

As St. Augustine comments: “Although he did not pass the bounds of humanity, nor follow the perfection of Christ, still he was not guilty of any sin, since he kept the law according to the capability of a man, and in this mode of keeping it, Christ still loved him.”

This passage corresponds to plenty of us today, for most of us are the type who would do our best to keep away from grave sin and obey basic Gospel precepts, but we would REJECT the idea of following the Spirit’s Counsel towards Perfection.

There is a stark difference therefore, between the Perfect and Permissible Will that God has planned out for each of us.

Let us remember; when we listen to God, it becomes possible, but as long as we keep our human notions, it becomes impossible (c.f. Mk 10:27).


Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US


Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

I discovered many beautiful water bodies in Sydney, including popular coastal beaches as well as obscure lakes in the suburban areas. There’s always something about the ocean or lakes that speaks volumes to our human heart.

The thunderous roar of the waves crashing against the rocks or shore proclaims mightily the awesome power of God; the ever-changing patterns created by shore waters imprinted on rocks just declares God’s creative beauty; the calm ebb and flow of the lake waters gently caressing the boats they hold somehow reflect God’s gentle touch in our inner being.

But what I discovered even more was the ocean in my heart, where God was pounding ferociously to awaken a much deeper call and desire deep within my heart; where God was creatively revealing even more beautiful patterns and plans that invite me to participate in; where God was gently seducing me into an even more unimaginable plan of His that is giving me much peace, freedom and joy as I consider the deeper waters God is calling me to.

I pray I may have the strength and courage to walk on water wherever He may call me, the faith and assurance that He shall be with me above the waves, and the peace and freedom to trust in His greater plans and desires.


Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

God Can Even Overcome Our Imperfect Parenting

“Things were in God’s plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that – from God’s point of view – there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God’s divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God’s all-seeing eyes.”

The eloquent St. Edith Stein, Jewish convert and Auschwitz concentration camp victim.

While her life was tremendously more sorrow-filled than mine, these words of St. Edith Stein resonate with me and my understanding of God’s control over my life. Everything is in His view; from conception ’til death, He has known my every move, thought, reaction. Furthermore, He brought good out of all things, even my mistakes, so that I might know Him and live with Him for eternity where my mistakes will be no more.

Unfortunately, at times, I give too much emphasis to my mistakes, especially when concerning my role as Father. However, I continue to remember and understand that God is in control and that His Providence will even allow for my bad parenting mistakes to be avenues that bring my children to Him.
As a self-diagnosed overzealous parent, I recognize that there is a lot that I want for my kids and their futures. Furthermore, right now, I want a lot for them in regards to their happiness and proper understanding of the world around them. But, most of all, I want them to have an amazing relationship with Jesus and avoid all of the problems that I went through.

To help set them on the path toward my dreams for them, I have implemented a few methods. I have worked to be present to my kids so that they will not feel an aching desire for a Father-figure their whole lives. I make an effort to emphasize quantity and quality time to cultivate a good relationship with each of them. Also, my wife and I have struggled to filter their entertainment and place limits on their technology time in hope of keeping their lives filled with innocence and wonder.

I still think all of these and more are good things to do, but I notice how much emphasis I have been placing on “my work” to raise my children. Now, I am not saying I should quit caring and let my kids do whatever they want under the guise of my trust that God will handle it. He still wants my participation. However, I think I need to worry less about those times when I fall far from the image of Fatherhood I would like to be and trust that God is ultimately in control of my children’s lives. All I can do is model for them the loving relationship with Him that I would like for them to have.

Essentially, the only power we have is that we can say yes to God’s plan for us. I personally know the deep joy and love that one has when this beautiful acceptance takes place and want my kids to know it as well. We cannot get caught up in the superficial or silly complexities of the mundane day to day that can weigh us down.

For example, when we finally have had enough of the whining and we do not speak in the tone of voice with which, we imagine, St. Joseph and Mother Mary always spoke to Jesus. Or that time we were watching “The Nativity Story” with our 3 year old and the intense birth scene came up. And there are those many other times of guilt when we think we are messing up as parents in some sort of way that we should overcome with trust in God’s love for us.

We have a perfect Father in Heaven who can make up for our imperfections. We know that our kids deserve Jesus and they can have Him. All that we can do is our best to help them come to know Him.
God’s Providence means that only good comes out of all things for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Therefore, if we truly love Him, and our kids know this, then we have nothing to worry about with our parenting. True love of God would mean we are trying our best as parents anyway and so I imagine that there can be very little we could do to keep our children from knowing God.

Although, we cannot drop the ball either. As parents we are the primary educators of our children and so we must take seriously our role as parents to shape our children. Just as our kids learn to walk and talk by being around us, they will pick up a love of Christ through our witness as well. Moreover, just as we teach them to read and write and perform math calculations, we should teach them how to pray and know about their Faith so that they can make it their own.

A classic quotation from St. Augustine is that “we must work as if everything depends upon us and pray as if everything depends upon God”. This fits perfectly into the task of parenting in that we must take it seriously and strive to give our children the best life of holiness, but remember that God is the One who is in control and He is most Faithful. Keeping in mind that His desire for my kids to know Him and love Him is greater than mine brings me great peace. Furthermore, it helps me the get over the many mistakes I make as a father, as I know that God is bringing good from them for both my and my children’s well-being.

Trust and Truth

tumblr_o2cxh2udzd1re8qseo1_500Sometimes, when one hears of a poor fellow being scammed, losing his savings to a nonexistent online girlfriend, or wasting thousands on damaging psychobabble seminars, one wonders—how could he have believed such an incredulous thing?

Trust is the bedrock of human society—every time we have a conversation with a friend, conduct business, or worship, we trust that overall, what we are hearing and doing is true. The feeling of betrayal and disillusionment when one finds that one has been duped is the absolute pits.

Yet, one has to accept that others and ourselves have limited vision, and that our weaknesses will more often than not cause us to make bad decisions. Scams play on people’s desire for something good—a relationship, money, or a way to fix their life’s problems. This world is disordered by sin and strife, and it is not always easy to find peace with oneself and one’s circumstances. People grow tired of struggling through painful loneliness or the trials of life and leap at seemingly easy solutions.

However, it is through struggles that we grow in maturity and wisdom. One may have to accept the pain of being scammed—that, too, is an opportunity for self-reflection and a reality check that ultimately we cannot fully trust ourselves or other creatures, but must place our full trust in God alone, Who gives us the peace that the world cannot give, no matter how terrible our tribulations and failures. “Truth Himself speaks truly / Or there’s nothing true,” as St Thomas Aquinas hymned.

How incredible that God trusts us, frail humans, with bearing His Word to others!

Image: Joy-Sorrow

The Hipster Nativity Set

As a child, one of my favorite things about Christmas was the Nativity scenes. From the teeny-tiny one on my family’s home altar to the life-sized diorama at the Church of St. Alphonsus, carvings of the Holy Family brought the story of the Incarnation to life.

This morning I awoke to the sight of a “Hipster Nativity” on my newsfeed.

hipster nativity

It’s pretty darn clever. I mean, the three wise men on Segways bearing gifts from Amazon!? Too perfect. One of these generic “individuals” even has a waxed mustache. Nice detail.

And Mary. Mary holding a cup of Starbucks next to baby Jesus while making a pursed-lip duck face for their selfie…

— Tara McGinley, “Sweet Jesus: There’s a ‘hipster’ nativity scene you can buy”, Dangerous Minds

There was the attendant Catholic outcry on Facebook about blasphemy and sacrilege. A friend commented: “Good grief… Maybe this is just a comment on the already unbearable commercialization of Christmas.”

One of my favorite comments came from Stephen Duffy in the Catholic Discussions Facebook group:

Well the thing that stands out about the traditional nativity scene is that Mary and Joseph have NOTHING. They manage to find a water trough and some straw to make a bed for their baby. All the people who have stuff, are too busy partying at the local hotels. Now [here’s] a bunch of guys who want to take selfies at the nativity scene with their luxury devices. [It’s] cool to be involved in the nativity scene. Do you think these people would [have] sat round a dirty old stable seeing the baby of a couple of skinflints when they could be having fun with all cool people? If such people were to see the nativity happen right in their face they would call social services immediately and would perish the thought that there was something magical going on.

Personally, I saw it as an indictment of modern “culture”. Instead of Joseph and Mary focusing on Jesus in profound adoration, here the parents are taking a selfie. Isn’t that true of so many parents today, who even set up Facebook fan pages for their children? Instead of paying attention to God, people are driven by modern technology and social mores to seek attention for themselves. One can take away a chastening spiritual lesson from this Nativity scene.

If the birth of Jesus took place today, it would be a far cry from the historical tale as yesterday’s youth knows it. There’d be a Nav system to guide the Wise Men to Bethlehem, the actual birth would be “live” on Facebook and Tweets from the manger would be posted hourly…

The Hipster Nativity Set makes perfect sense for today’s Millennials. They can relate to a Man-bunned Joseph taking a selfie and a Starbucks-toting Mary.

— Laura, “A Hipster Nativity Set So The Millennials Can Relate”, if it’s hip, it’s here

There is something really crude about modern-day attention-seeking. It feels as if the populace has been infantilized, with rampant neediness and the draining demand to “Look at me! Look at me!”. One is tempted to stick up a cynical nose à la Holden Caulfield and deride all the “phonies”. Or to mock how contrived others’ selfies are, with hilarious parodies, as Chris Martin did with his daughter’s Instagram photos, and Australian comedienne Celeste Barber with celebrities’ sultry images. One also laments the accidental destruction of magnificent art in stupid quests for a selfie, as with the woefully broken statues in Lisbon (St. Michael and Dom Sebastião), and tragic deaths.

But underneath all this is a hunger for love: a deep, aching yearning for fulfilling communion, a communion that makes you feel accepted, wanted, and completely beloved.

That’s what Christmas is about. God loving us so much that He sent His only Son to become one of us, an ordinary-looking babe born to an ordinary-looking couple. Infinite Beauty and Divine Love deigning to be bound in the finitude of a human body with a human will. That’s true love. Look at Him! Contemplate Him, and you will then understand your true worth as an adopted child of God, a marvelous creation needing no selfies or human approbation for everlasting fulfillment.

In the Hipster Nativity, the parents have turned away from their child, rupturing the loving communion of quiet togetherness in a self-seeking lust for outward approval. In a traditional Nativity, Joseph and Mary are transfixed by the wonder of Almighty God lying helpless in the manger, offering Himself as Living Bread for the world, and depending on humans to carry out His will.


God makes Himself vulnerable to us, in order to heal our vulnerability, our wounds, and receive us into His heart. When we look at Him, solemnly gazing up at us from the manger, we begin to understand the first intimations of this wellspring of Love that will pour Itself out on Calvary. We begin to learn how to love ourselves, and to love others, seeing Christ in their faces hungry for the Living Bread born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread. By loving others, we reveal their true nature to themselves as icons of Christ, bearing the stamp of divine Love by virtue of their humanity. True Love gives profound attention to a person, binding their wounds and helping them flourish. This Advent season, let us not be distracted by the junk food of facile attention, but go deeper, partaking of and giving the nourishment which is God’s Love.

“Needing attention is a p-p-powerful force in the world, isn’t it?”
“Absolutely. Most people would think of it as a very natural need. Almost a right.”
“By ‘natural’ you mean ‘m-m-morally neutral’?”
“Without God, people find it very hard to know who they are or why they exist. But if others pay attention to them, praise them, write about them, discuss them, they think they’ve found the answers to both questions.”
“If they don’t believe in God, you can’t blame them.”
“True, dear. But it still makes for an empty, unhappy person.”

“Are you saying, Father Joe, that in the matter of motives, or even morally, there’s not ultimately much difference between me and my targets?”
“I’m afraid not, dear. If the result is that you only have a personality other people shape. If you really exist only in other people’s minds.”
“I think you’ve just described celebrity.”
“I’ve just described pride, dear.”
― Tony Hendra, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul

By His own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: He was absolutely helpless; He could go nowhere but where she chose to take Him; He could not speak; her breathing was His breath; His heart beat in the beating of her heart.

To-day Christ is dependent upon men. In the Host He is literally put into a man’s hands. A man must carry Him to the dying, must take Him into the prisons, work-houses, and hospitals, must carry Him in a tiny pyx over the heart on to the field of battle, must give Him to little children and “lay Him by” in His “leaflight” house of gold.

The modern world’s feverish struggle for unbridled, often unlicensed, freedom is answered by the bound, enclosed helplessness and dependence of Christ — Christ in the womb, Christ in the Host, Christ in the tomb.

This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us. During this tender time of Advent we must carry Him in our hearts to wherever He wants to go, and there are many places to which He may never go unless we take Him to them.

— Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God, p. 31 [Christian Classics]

Images: Dangerous Minds; Hallowedground

Lessons From The Desert

“To receive the grace of God, you must go into the desert and stay awhile.” – Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Every Christian must enter the desert at one point or another. It’s a seemingly dry, empty space where we feel lost, confused, heartbroken, or like God is nowhere to be found. I have lived in the desert on many occasions – sometimes for a day, other times for months on end. It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. It requires a constant denial of ourselves and our own desires. But over the years, I have found that these periods of my life have been the most transformative out of any other. And when I really think about it, those were the times that I felt the most intimate touches of God in my heart.

During this season of Lent where the Church enters into a proverbial desert of self-sacrifice and penitence, we can remember five important lessons to strengthen our resolves and to keep us going:

1. We are in constant need of God’s grace.  Nothing is more humbling than being dragged out into the wilderness. I’ve almost always seemed to enter into a desert period right when I think I have things all worked out by myself. Coincidence? Probably not. Only when God strips us down to bare bones can we understand how truly weak we are without Him. We realize how feeble our wills are and how attached we are to physical, emotional, or spiritual consolations. We suffer without these things for a time, but when God restores them after a season of famine, we learn to love Him and appreciate His goodness all the more.

2. The greatest growth comes from pain.  Gold can only be purified by fire. It was during my times in the desert that I was forced to practice the virtues that I wanted badly to grow but was too weak or stubborn to actually carry out. It was only when God pressed me harder with a gentle hand that I was truly able to develop into a better version of myself in Him. Any struggle He asks us to endure is an opportunity for us to become better.

3. God uses hardship to call us to greater intimacy with Himself.  Often times, God draws us into a dry season in order for us to see and hear Him more closely (“I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14). When we are free from earthly distractions or are in a place of pain, we are able to connect with the Lord in a much more real way. Some of my greatest spiritual consolations have come from periods of suffering and loneliness. Many times that is the only way the Lord can break into our hearts of stone.

4. We are never alone, no matter how desolate our situations seem.  Being in the middle of a spiritual or emotional wasteland can seem like the loneliest place in the world. But even in the most remote solitude, even in the most arid of times, we can remember that we truly are never alone and that He is always there to guide, comfort, and strengthen us.

5. It will end.  Finally, we know that he desert does not last forever. God knows our limits. He knows that our crosses are heavy and that we need help carrying them. That’s why He offers us reprieves – consolations and comforts return, we are renewed in our strength, and trusting Him becomes easy again. Remember, the Jews eventually entered the Promised Land after forty long years of wandering in the desert. So will we.

During this Lent, and any other time in your life when all seems barren, instead of trying to run, ask yourself, “What is God trying to teach me through this trying time? What virtues might He be asking me to cultivate? Trust? Abandonment? Humility? What is He stripping off me so I can follow Him more closely? My pride? My plans? My will?”

Let’s embrace the loving transformation that Christ is seeking within us during times when we think nothing is happening or when we’re down to nothing, for it is during those times that we grow the most in holiness. The desert can be cold and empty, yes. But if we walk closely next to Him through the sand, holding on tightly, we will emerge stronger and more beautiful than we were before we entered.

Forget Trust Falls; Try a Game of Throws

As a kid, I always loved it when my dad would throw me up in the air. There was always a hairs-breadth line between uncontrollable giggling from joy and uncontrollable urination from fear. I never really thought about why it was so memorable and enjoyable until I became a father when we adopted three siblings a few years back. Almost by instinct, and probably on the first day we had them at the house, I grabbed little Davey up by the armpits and hurled him into the air. Suddenly, my childhood joy made sense to me as a few things happened.

First, my wife–and everyone around me–gasped and made desperate lunges for the boy. Yes, people seemed to think I was actually capable of hurling him too high into the air, to the point where he’d either get lost in orbit, or at least get hit by a low-flying African Swallow. Apparently, this pic is true:

Courtesy sycmu.com

Second, the air was filled with the unforgettable sound of involuntary belly laughter, the kind that makes you laugh along with it just as involuntarily. Davey’s eyes shone, his head flew back, and he went completely “rigor risus” (stiffness of laughter). I quickly caught him and held him close just to check in on him and make sure the scales between fear and fun tipped in fun’s direction. They did.

So, I reared up and launched him for another flight, this time with a twist. It goes without saying that I wanted to see how high I could truly get him. And, why not? The more time he’s in the air, the more time I have to get ready to catch him, right? The addition was that I also started trying to see how long I could wait before I caught him, and as soon as I started doing that, the game was out of control.

Davey’s laughter hit new heights (pun!), I was enthralled, and the people around me went into that awkward sniggering people do when they’re not sure if what just happened is okay, like when I insist that my 10-year-old drives home as I leave the grocery store because I’m “just too tired”.

Interestingly, as the game’s intensity increased, Davey made one alteration on his part. He didn’t stop laughing or enjoying himself. He didn’t beg me to stop. He just shifted from the initial head-thrown-back posture to maintaining eye contact with me the entire time. Still the smiles, still the screams, still the glitter in his eyes, just intent on me.

And it’s always like that with the “toss me” game, I’m finding. Give it a shot. Stop reading, go outside, grab a kid, and toss him up in the air a few times. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your own kid, but the game and outcome changes drastically if it isn’t.

I gradually came to realize something about how this activity effected everyone involved. It wasn’t the height that brought enjoyment to me and Davey and concern to those around; it was the time I waited to catch him. That’s when the theology kicked in. In the biz, we call it the “that’ll preach” moment.

So often Christianity, Catholicism in particular, gets the reputation for being dank and daft, more comfortable in the Middle Ages than Modernity. On the contrary, Christianity is not one of servile obedience, where you routinely kill every enjoyment so that your sour and scowling face will get you through the pearly gates. Christians do not punch the religion card so that the God monkey will stay off of their back for the week. This faith is not one of willful ignorance and denial of science and statistics. We don’t hide out inside cold, stone sanctuaries, afraid of what lies outside the church doors.

In my experience, Christianity, including every single tradition, Tradition, doctrine, and dogma providentially accumulated over the course of 2,000 years, serves to adequately prepare and facilitate us for the mystically intimate relationship with God that He offers. At the heart of this faith is the simple act of scurrying up to your “Abba”, saying yes to His offered hands, and then letting Him hurl you into the air.

imageedit_2_8937462944Everything that is true of my “game of throws” with Davey is true of our relationship with God. As the Church as a whole, and we as individuals, progress and endure in divine intimacy, we increasingly find that He not only tosses us into higher, more exhilarating situations, but our eyes increasingly fix on His, as well. The most fun, in my humble opinion, comes from the times He waits a bit longer to catch you than He has before.

Whether it’s been moving to a new country, giving the biggest bill in my wallet when a beggar asks for change, or adopting a third child with only $.07 in our bank account, God has proven time and again that no matter how high and far He tosses me, and no matter how long He seems to wait until He catches me, He won’t drop me. He can’t drop me.

He can’t drop you.

Capable is too chintzy of a word to describe His grasp on the situation. A better term would, of course, be the more biblical one: faithful. If he begins a good work, He is faithful to complete it. When we are unfaithful, when we bungle it and wriggle in the air, even trying to get away, He still catches us. As I’ve said elsewhere, you can trust Him.

None of our minds can fathom, none of our eyes have ever seen, and none of our ears have remotely taken in what He is able to do if we merely look Him in the eye and say, “Let it be done unto me.” When we come to the sanctuary, our place of refuge and safety, we place ourselves in His care and compassion. We receive forgiveness, strength, body, blood, soul, and divinity. Then, in an exhilarating move, our Father tosses us through the doors, out into the world with a simple, “Go, glorifying God by your lives!” And the game of catch begins, with the sanctuary as our gravity, pulling us back each time we reach the arc of our momentum.

And lest we get too proud of ourselves in this journey, the Church consistently reminds us how beautifully small our part in the scenario is. My son does very little when I toss him, besides letting me do so. It is the same with God. Christianity is, in essence, less like an admirable leap of faith, or even a trust fall, and much, much more like a good old game of “toss the kids around”. No matter how long you’re in the air, it’s always worth it to land in His loving, scarred hands.

Give It Some Time

It seems like every announcement from Rome creates instant clash between different Catholics. One side is “See, Pope Francis is getting rid of the old guard.” The other side is “See, Pope Francis is getting rid of the old guard.” Time after time, I wait and see what time will tell, and time and again my anxiety dwindles.

Just four years ago, one side of the Catholic aisle screamed that the Church is not political and warned their followers not to read anything into such actions. However, when an announcement is made in their religious ideological favor, they rejoice that the Pope must be on their side. Just one year ago, another side of the Catholic aisle screamed that the Church is not political and warned their followers not to read anything into such actions. However, when an announcement is made in their religious ideological favor, they rejoice that the Pope must be on their side. So what do we make of all this?

Here is my take. Stop watching TV. Every organization does not operate like Conrad Grayson of Grayson Global, Frank Underwood the 46th President of the United States, former director Henry Wilcox of Clandestine Affairs, or even the deceased president of the United States, Charles Logan. Everything that the Pope does is not part of some larger conspiracy that can only be interpreted by viewing a Michelangelo painting as the sunlight creeps through a church built by the masons that were directly linked to the Knights Templar.

The latest is the soon to be probable announcement that Cardinal Burke will be leading the charge of the Knights of Malta rather than as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. I have read many conclusions on this story already. Many will not read another update because they have read one person’s thoughts and grant that one author is just short of being divinely inspired.

I believe it was St. Paul that warned the early Christians:

But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apol′los,” are you not merely men?

What then is Apol′los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apol′los watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

According to the commission of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble— each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.

Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apol′los or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3)

Just as with God’s creation around us, the seasons change. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our Faith. It is He that breathes life into the Church, raises saints, and converts the hearts of the Church Militant. Our focus needs to be Christocentric not Vaticanista-centric. All this despair and gloom reminds me rather of the fire and brimstone preachers found in dispensationalistist theology.

What is the answer to this despair, anxiety, and disheartenment? The only cure is found in a simple virtue of trust. The modern age calls us to question everything and conclude nothing. This leaves the human person in a constant state of turmoil and ripe for the picking of division by the master of the masters of suspicion. As Catholics, our action should be to trust like the little country girl from a little place when she was greeted by an Archangel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Trust: The Ultimate Bait-n-Switch Game

One Trick Pony, One Message Fool

At the risk of sounding like a broken record in everything I write, both at Ignitum and elsewhere, let me just say that you can trust God. Always, fully, wholeheartedly, without need for reservation. You can trust God. In every aspect of your life, you can trust God. In the biggest tragedies that crush you like a bulldozer, and in the irritating minutia of life that gets underfoot, like crumbs on your bare feet in an unswept kitchen, you can trust God.

I can look back at my life and see that every, lasting good that I’ve experienced, and am currently experiencing, has come as a result of choosing to abandon myself to the One whose ways and thoughts are . Sometimes I’m blown away by the fact that I’m currently living my dream of being a speaker, paid writer, and missionary, with a strong and vibrant marriage and two beautiful boys, adopted from the island we currently live on.

Please note, though, that none of this is “boastable”material. Quite the opposite. I’m actually trying to show you that I’m a clueless fool who, left to his own devices, would ruin everything, but has found a safety net in trusting God. No matter how pristine the snapshot of my life is right now, it is paradoxically true that whatever good I do have in my life is a direct result of letting go of the sub-par screenplay I’d previously scripted for myself and trusting a better Writer.

In fact, let’s take a glance at this very moment in my life, made possible by the wonderful, productivity-destroying social media site, Vine. See below or click here.

Beautiful, right? I’ve got my ol’ donated laptop, the quiet, luscious Roseau Valley, and the Caribbean Sea. True, it’s all amazing. However, if you look more closely at those 6 seconds, you see hints of what it took to get here.

Did you see that blue, 55-gallon barrel? It represents the fact that our whole lives had to be crammed into a few suitcases and a couple of barrels, leaving behind 99% of the comforts we were used to. Did you hear the rain in the background? It’s been raining on and off for days, which makes it impossible to dry your clothes, which already have the permanent odor of sweat due to the sweltering heat. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the heat; but, I also love having a dryer to give me dry, freshly-scented clothes.

Notice that huge Caribbean Sea? Gorgeous, of course, but it also means we’re island-locked on a 16 x 29 mile rock with very few of the conveniences that we usually take for granted. No Target, no Wal-Mart, no Uncle Louis Cafe (pic on left), no Home Depot, no Best Buy, no super grocery stores, no dollar menus, no vehicle of your own, no family, and far less reliable health care.

Finally, in the last few frames of the clip, you’ll notice a small, green pyramid shape in the bottom right corner. You can’t see the cross, but that’s the steeple of St. Alphonsus’, in our little village, wonderfully named Goodwill. St. Alphonsus is a great community of believers with a vibrant faith life and joyous celebration. The people are wonderful and the music is beautiful. (Click HERE to listen to this week’s processional hymn.) However, as great as St. Alphonsus is, that steeple still represents the fact that we had to leave our home church of St. Benedict’s in Duluth, MN, where we not only had family and friends, but I also had a solid job, with opportunities to speak about Theology of the Body and all the other aspects of God’s love all over the diocese and elsewhere.

Trusting the Rungs

By way of example, let me sum up much of the good in my life and what each rung of the ladder has looked like:

  • As a fame-hungry 18-year-old, it took me giving up my dreams of applause and lights to find the vibrant fulfillment that comes from using time, treasure, and talents in the service of Christendom.
  • As a female-obsessed 20-year-old, endlessly distracted from God by the girls around me, it took me finally throwing up my hands and begging for “the either/or”, marriage or celibacy, to finally find my way to Jacelyn.
  • As a Jacelyn-obsessed 21-year-old, it wasn’t until I entrusted God with my future goals of ministry in America, that I was able to see the exhilarating life being offered to me as a missionary. (Jacelyn had known since she was ten that she wanted to be a missionary, and I’ve known since I met Jacelyn.)
  • As bright-eyed newlyweds, if we’d never trusted God enough to work as teachers in China for two years, which was a terrifying decision for us at the time, we’d never have visited Cambodia, where, on one of the 4 roads in the country, Jacelyn had “the light bulb moment” of feeling called to med school.
  • As fervent-but-frustrated Christians, if we hadn’t been open to change and willing to admit where we were wrong, even on points of our deeply-held faith, we would literally have been unable to to have found, embraced, and experienced the solid, transforming, and life-altering power and presence of God in the Catholic Church.
  • As emotionally exhausted, sexually hopeless spouses, if we hadn’t trusted Christ with our marriage, our intimacy, and our attempts at love, we’d never have been able to experience the intense depth of transformation and, yes, sexual healing, that we now enjoy. If we hadn’t gone celibate for a while, placing every attempted act of affection into the care of the One who created intimacy, we wouldn’t know how to truly love. We’d still be digging the grave for our marriage.
  • As a discouraged couple who has struggled with infertility, one of whom was/is in med school, both of whom were/are penniless, it was incredibly daunting to trust that God was, indeed, leading us to adopt two wonderful brothers–Davey and Christian–from a local village; but, having taken the latest of the insane leaps God’s lined up for us, we can’t imagine life without them.

Gesu Confido In Te

In January of 2010, we were blessed to be able to take 6 of my youth to Rome on a pilgrimage. Having lived there for 6 years, Fr. Eric Hastings, my boss in Duluth and our guide in Rome, would just take us walking through the streets, in and out of various churches. On one such outing, we stopped in to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia, not far from St. Peter’s Basilica, and off to the side is a large, vibrant painting of the famous “Jesus, I Trust In You”, or “Gesu Confido In Te“.

Gesu Confido In Te

At that point in our lives, Jacelyn had been turned down by the one medical school she desperately wanted to attend, and had been struggling with not only the confusion of rejection, but also as to what our next step should be. Kneeling in front of the painting for times of prayer, multiple days in a row, Jacelyn was able to once again let that eternal message, “Jesus, I Trust In You,” permeate her heart and become her desire, committing her next breath, her next 7 years, and her life to her true Beloved.

And here we are today.

Bottome Line

If you pry your fingers from all the joys in your life that you’re grasping and allow God to look them over, like inspecting a great find in a thrift store, you will very quickly see God hand them back to you, polished, tweaked, and finished, “that your joy may be full“.

If you invite God to that table full of worries that you’ve spread out in front of you, desperately trying to get your mind around how to keep it all afloat, you will invariably see that the God who told us not to let the good news be choked out by the “worry of the world” is also the God who created water and then walked on it.

If it seems like I’m complaining, let me assure you that I wouldn’t consider changing anything about my life right now. I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl about it. Everything we’ve given up has, after the fact, been a pallid substitute to the radiance that trusting in God can bring. Lewis was right when he said that God “always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.”

You can trust him. With peril and prosperity, dirges and dances, sex and cents. What does a life of trust look like? To me, it looks like the final minutes of this video.