Monthly Archives: February 2022

Fearful to Speak the Truth

“Fear neither them nor their words when they contradict you and reject you.  Neither fear their words nor be dismayed by their looks for they are a rebellious house.  But speak my words to them whether they heed or resist.”  Ezekiel 2:6-7 

God is instructing Ezekiel with these words as he calls him to be his spokesman to the people of Israel.  He tells Ezekiel that he will hold him accountable for the people’s rebellion if he does not speak up. 

In recent years we have seen increasing cultural acceptance of governmental actions that erode the sanctity of life, God’s institution of marriage, and sexual identity.  We have had litigation on whether our health care laws can require Catholic institutions to provide medical insurance for abortions.  We have seen public accommodation laws require Christian businesspeople to provide services for same sex marriage in contravention of their personal conscience.   Recently the NCAA has allowed biologic males who identify as females to compete with other females in collegiate swim meets.

All of these actions present a dilemma to Christians since they run counter to God’s Word found in the Holy Bible, natural law, and basic common sense.  How should we respond to so-called political correctness and woke culture that are advancing these positions?  How often does fear of what others think cause us to withhold our comments on proposed government actions that erode our First Amendment rights?    

Fear is a powerful human emotion.  Perhaps that is why God was preparing Ezekiel to deal with the resistance he would encounter when he began to speak God’s word.  That is why God told Isaac, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Genesis 26:24)  He encouraged Joshua to be “strong and courageous.”  (Joshua 1:6)   When angels appeared to Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, to Mary, and to Joseph, the first thing they said was, “Do not to be afraid.”  The first words of St. John Paul II to the people in St. Peter’s Square upon his election as Pope were, “Be not afraid.” 

The more a culture moves away from God, the more it moves away from truth.  When Jesus, the embodiment of all truth, stood before Pilate and told him that he had come to testify to the truth, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Fear is the favorite tool of the enemies of truth, but Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.” (Luke 5:10)     

Does political correctness deter you from speaking up for the truth of the Gospel?  

Jars of Clay

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  (2 Cor. 4:7)

The treasure is Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in us.  The jars of clay are we who have accepted Christ, who have been baptized into his church, and who have opened the door of our hearts to experience his presence and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

But this treasure is not just for us, but also for the people and circumstances in our lives.  To release the treasure, the jars of clay need to be broken.  We need to be broken of our pride, our agendas and doing things “my way.” 

My self-focused nature is often the greatest obstacle to my sharing the treasure of God’s love with my family, friends and strangers that enter into my daily life.  It is amazing how easily I can forget that Christ lives in me when responding to an unsolicited phone caller, a store clerk who doesn’t seem to meet my expectations or the interruption of my plans for the day by a loved one. 

Yet as we share this treasure, the light of Christ, his love, truth and sacrifice will shine in the darkness of the world surrounding us even if the darkness does not understand it.  There are of course countless ways to share this treasure.  Let me offer one example. 

One day I was having lunch with a business colleague and he started to share with me how his wife of more than 40 years had left him due to some actions on his part.  I could tell that he was very distraught over both his actions and her response.  After listening to him  get choked up as he described their life and the recent developments, I asked him if I could pray with him.   He said yes, I reached across the table, took hold his arm, and prayed that God would give him courage to say he was sorry and ask his wife to forgive him; that she would be open to receive his request and the grace to forgive. 

He was not necessarily a religious person, but by God’s grace they reconciled.  He subsequently retired and died of cancer a couple of years later in her love and care.

How are you allowing the treasure of Christ’s presence in your jar of clay to impact the people and circumstances of your life?

A Fool’s Eulogy

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Have you ever heard a eulogy at a funeral commemorating the deceased for his or her wealth? 

Eulogies are usually about how someone has been a good parent, a loving spouse, or a faithful friend.  We hear about attributes such as being kind, gentle, patient, diligent and loving.  We listen to stories about how they have served others instead of themselves, how they have been generous with their time and resources, and how they have volunteered for this or that cause.

What we hear in eulogies seems to confirm Jesus’ warning about greed.  Jesus shares the Parable of the Rich Fool, whose land produced an abundant crop.  So he decided to tear down his barns and build larger ones to store all his grain.  He then said to himself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.’” (Luke 12:16-21)

Throughout recorded history people have been consumed with accumulating money and possessions in order to achieve some supposed level of security.  Power, authority and fame all contribute to this drive.  As a young attorney, I was very career focused early on in my life.  Marriage and children started to temper that focus.  Then I experienced an encounter with Jesus Christ, and a renewal in my faith that led to some challenging choices between career and family, and later between work and ministry.    

Being blessed with abundance is not sinful in itself, but it can become a distraction to what God wants for us because of the temptations of increased self-focus, entitlement, increasing comfort, and isolation from people in need.  These are not the kinds of characteristics that usually end up in eulogies.  No doubt that is why Jesus urges us to “Watch out!”  

When a reporter asked John D. Rockefeller, who at the time was considered the richest man in the world, how much money is enough, he responded, “Just a little bit more.”  Although Rockefeller, a practicing Christian, used a good part of his surplus wealth to build hospitals, support numerous educational institutions and other causes, his response demonstrates how insidious accumulating wealth can be.  

As eulogies bear out, a kind word, a joyful heart, a loving act of service and sacrifice have lasting effect.  They are indeed eternal and, as Jesus characterizes them, “treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”  (Mt. 6:19-20)

What will be your eulogy?

“I AM Doing a New Thing”

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

God’s work did not end with his creation.  Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  (John 5:17)  God never stops creating.  He is constantly doing new things.  Through his Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, he loves, forgives, teaches, heals and guides.  He also invites us to join with him in taking care of his creation.  In all of this he is always looking forward, not backward. 

While our sin can interfere with God’s creation and work, God provides a remedy through repentance and forgiveness.  Once we acknowledge our sin and seek to change, God offers forgiveness.  While it is natural to regret our past sin and mistakes, once we acknowledge them and are forgiven, it is time for us to move on and seek to live the life that God is calling us to live today. 

For me, that includes loving and caring for my wife of 58 years, supporting an adult child with special needs, and being available to love and encourage four other adult children who are raising families of their own.  It includes being a good steward of the time, talents and resources God has made available to me to serve him in family, work and ministry. 

As an example, God has opened the door for me to work with a charitable organization that raises funds and supports special education and inclusion in Catholic schools.  This past year we have taken steps to hire professional staff and expand our board to bring more expertise and resources to our mission.  At one point our diocese had no schools that served students with special needs.  Today, students with special needs are being served in all four diocesan high schools, and ten parish schools.  The objective of our organization and our Bishop is that every Catholic school in the diocese will be able to offer a loving, nurturing and inclusive education for students with special needs.   

God is doing a new thing in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, and I am blessed to be a part of it.  He is always seeking to do something new to further his kingdom on this earth.  So too with us, he is always seeking to do something new – providing new opportunities for us to love, forgive, teach, heal, guide – always looking forward, advancing his creation “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Do you hold on to the past, or are you opening your eyes to the new opportunities God is putting before you?