Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trial and Error

You are standing there, waiting for the jury to give their verdict.

You have been anticipating for this moment for a while now. Your father, who is the plaintiff, is trying to bring justice on a few bad men. They stole from him, lied to him, and spread false rumors about him. To make matters worse, they have been threatening your family for the better part of a year.

As you bask in what is to be a sure win, the foreman addresses the judge ...

"Your honor, we the jury find the defendants ..... guilty as charged."

You raise your arms in celebration, excited that justice has finally been served. Just as you move to hug your father, the judge hammers his gavel onto his bench.

"Order in the court! Order in the court!"

You pause, mid-hug, and listen gleefully for the punishment to be handed out to these evil people.

"The defendants have been found guilty. As punishment, you must carry this hundred-pound weight across six football fields ... after which you will be executed."

You realize with great shock and horror that the judge was pointing at you while handing down this sentence. But that can't be right, can it? After all, you aren't the guilty one - they are. You have not done anything wrong - they did. Why would an innocent person have to carry out the punishment for those that are guilty?

Just as you start to question the judge - to ask him how this could possibly be fair - one of the guards comes over and slugs you in the stomach. As you are doubled over, another guard hits you across the back.

As they drag you out of the courtroom, you catch a glimpse of the three guilty men. They are smiling, packing up their things, and ready to return to their daily lives.


For those of you that have been reading since last Lent (like this post and this post), you know I like to try to put perspective around what Jesus did for us. Especially during this time of year. It's my way of making sure I spend time thinking about what He went through, so that they never become just words on a page.

I hope you are all having a spiritual Lent.

God Bless.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


"Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you." - Matthew 26:41

"Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." - Luke 18:1

"One of those days, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." - Luke 6:12

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Col 4:2

"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thess 5:17


What does it take to pray - with strict concentration - for an entire night?

What does it really mean to devote yourself to prayer?

In today's hectic world, how on earth do we "pray without ceasing"?

I entered this Lenten season thinking about what true prayer looks like, and with a commitment to get better at it than I am now. Right now, aside from morning and evening, I usually end up squeezing prayer into openings in my day.

Which means it is taking a back seat to my day to day life.

And something in my soul tells me that I've got that backwards.

God Bless.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

100 + 40 = 140

It's not often that I post on a Wednesday, but God has a funny way of timing things.

Today, on the first day of Lent, I am writing my 100th post.

When I started this blog August 7, 2008, I really wasn't sure what God wanted me to do. I just felt like He wanted me to start writing. I thought that He wanted me to add to the online Catholic community to help people spend more time with God.

Little did I know that He sent me here to learn from all of you.

So this 100th post is my thank you to all of you that have stopped by here to read my posts, to encourage me, and to make me smile. You have taught me what true Faith looks like, what God's community feels like, and what real prayer sounds like. Through your blogs, your comments, your knowledge, and your prayers, you have helped me grow closer to God.

And as I have said before, for that I am eternally grateful.

I pray that you all have a very Blessed Lenten season as we prepare for the coming of our Savior.

- Michael

P.S. You are probably looking at the title to this post and wondering what that equation means. Well, the 100 is because this is my 100th post. Lent starts today for 40 days. Those two added together obviously equal 140 ... which just so happens to be the number of characters Twitter gives you to say whats on your mind. So, one of my Lenten commitments is going to be to praise God via Tweets as often as I can during Lent. Not a Twitter fan? You can follow my tweets in the upper right corner of my blog. Have a twitter account? Why don't you join me and help me fill the Twitter-sphere with praise!?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mountain or Plain, It's Pretty Much The Same

I would be remiss if I didn't write about Luke's Gospel reading today (Sermon on the Plain). After all, just two weeks ago I mentioned it was one of the top three hours of Jesus' life I would like to go back and witness.

I thought it would be fun to look at a few of the differences between Luke's and Matthew's account of the Sermon and possible reasons for each.

  • Matthew has the sermon taking place on a mount, or mountain. Luke has it taking place on a plain. One explanation might be that Matthew's Gospel was intended for a mainly Jewish audience. By placing Jesus on a mountain for this sermon, he is drawing parallels to Moses and showing that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. Since Luke was writing to a broader audience than just the Jewish people, the parallel to Moses may have been less important. Another explanation might be that they could both be referring to a mountainous area, which would have both mounts and plains. In fact, I believe Luke's Gospel translated literally from Greek means "level area" which could be a flat part on a mountain.
  • In Matthew, Jesus is with his Disciples. In Luke, he is preaching to a crowd as well. Again, this may be attributed to the audience each was writing to. Matthew's audience is Jesus' closest followers - all Jewish. Luke's audience includes people from Tyre and Sidon, which may mean there were Gentiles there as well (especially when paired the way they are with "Judea and Jerusalem"). It could also mean that Jesus first delivered this sermon to His Disciples, then walked down the mountain and delivered it again to the crowds.
  • Matthew 's account seems to be more spiritual (poor in spirit, thirst for righteousness, etc), while Luke's appears to be more physical (poor, hungry, etc). I've read a lot of different explanations of this. I've always thought they were one in the same, with Matthew offering a more exact spiritual description and Luke being more symbolic and vague. But some say that Luke specifically writes about more physical conditions because (a) he tended to write about the "today" and (b) they allowed him to connect with his larger audience who were of differing spiritual beliefs. Others say that one of Luke's agendas was to portray a God that was for the poor and oppressed.
  • Matthew lists 8 Beatitudes while Luke lists 4 plus 4 "woes". There could be many reasons for this. If Matthew and Luke are indeed writing about two different sermons, perhaps Jesus used two different "lesson plans". (Just like a teacher today would use two lectures depending on his/her audience) It's also possible that Luke left out some of the Beatitudes to either shorten his chapter while keeping the "overall gist" or to omit those that did not fit as well with his agenda of the "now". Finally, it is possible that Matthew (or Luke for that matter) are adding other common teachings of Jesus into this sermon to make it easier for the reader to link the common theme.
Despite the differences, I've always believed that it is the overall theme that is important - not the individual thoughts themselves. It is the collection of them that teaches us how God wants us to act.

But the most fascinating thing about the Beatitudes, to me, is that they are beautiful and scary at the same time.

They are beautiful because they represent a lesson from our Savior. One that flies in the face of the ruling class during His time and society today. (How wonderful must it have been for the "lower class" of His time to learn that they could get to Paradise?)

They are scary because, despite their almost poetic tone, they represent very real warnings for us. Especially today. We must constantly strive to live for Heaven, not for Earth. To ensure we are doing all we can with what God has given us to do His will. And to remember that God is everywhere, especially in the "least of His people."

And lets face it, sometimes that is more like climbing a mountain than walking on a plain.

God Bless.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Listen "Up"!

Before I get into this week's post, I wanted to take a minute and thank everyone that participated in my A Fly on the Wall Meme. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading everyone's choices. (A special thank you to Judy for not only answering, but giving her young daughters, Mary and Grace, permission to play along. It was very moving to see God working through them!)

This Sunday I attended Mass about an hour from home.

The priest gave a very moving homily about how God speaks to us, using the three readings from today as examples (Isaiah in dreams, Paul in a vision, and Peter in a net of fish).

I've been thinking a lot about that topic lately. How do I know when God is talking to me? What does it sound like? What if I miss His message?

In any case, the priest made one point that really knocked me upside the head. He said the reason we have such a hard time hearing God these days is because we are so darn distracted.

We wake up and immediately turn on news. Or check the internet.

When we take a shower, we turn on the radio.

We listen to our iPods in the car.

We work all day.

We text, IM or Facebook every hour.

Any time leftover is probably spend on our cell phones. Or chasing kids.

How could we possibly hear Him when we don't spend any quiet time listening?

I chuckled to myself for a minute, a tad humiliated. Here I've been worried about understanding His message. But the truth is, I haven't spent enough time actually listening properly!

And so I move on, a bit smarter than I was yesterday, thanks to that priest.

Yes, sometimes God speaks to His people in dreams. Or visions. Or fish.

But sometimes, for those really stubborn people, He just leads them to a different Church for a week.

God Bless.