The Love of God Enfleshed

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 18A

Whenever I travel to Elk Point to visit my parents, at the end of each visit is a sort of contest to see whether I can make it to my car and get on the road before having my hands and arms filled with different foods that my mom wants to send along with me. Now with a 5-hour drive, you can well imagine that not every kind food keeps as well as possible inside my car. But I realize that giving food is one of the concrete ways that many people express their love and concern. And I can understand how much this becomes ingrained into mothers, if you think of how new babies, some of the only things they do is eat, sleep, and fill their diapers. They’re so dependent upon their parents and especially their mothers for milk and nourishment. And when they get sick, parents show their love for their children by nursing them back to health, often very sacrificially, losing sleep and spending themselves in astonishing ways. 

Our readings this Sunday reveal to us that God wants to express His love for us in some of the very same concrete ways, by healing and nursing those who are sick, and of course feeding the hungry. When Jesus gets to shore and sees the vast crowds, the Gospel tells us that His Heart was “moved with pity for them.” The Greek word that’s used here for being “moved with pity,” splagchnizomai, comes from the Greek word for inner organs or guts, that Jesus was moved from within Himself, from the very pit of His stomach, to show us mercy and love. The same word is used elsewhere in the Gospel for when the Father of the Prodigal Son catches sight of him while he was still a long way off, is moved with pity, and then runs to meet him, to clothe him, to embrace him, to prepare a feast for him.  

So, too, when the most Sacred Heart of Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds who have followed Him, He jumps into action and immediately heals those who are sick among them. And in the evening, despite the disciples’ urging, Jesus refuses to send the crowds away without feeding them. The Gospel even tells us that Jesus “ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.” Now, can’t you just hear someone’s mother saying, “Oh, you can’t leave yet. You’ve gotta have something to eat first. Sit down. Sit down. I have something right here in the fridge that I can whip up real quick.” 

God’s love for us is not abstract. It’s concrete, tangible, even physical. That’s why He gave us the seven sacraments, these bodily, sensible signs of His love and care for us. A close friend of mine as I was growing up, who was very Protestant but who challenged me in many wonderful ways to grow in the catholic faith, he had an older brother later on who married a Hispanic girl and converted to Catholicism. And when he asked his brother about it, his brother said it wasn’t because she was Catholic. It’s just that the Eucharist started to make so much sense to him. He saw and always acknowledged how God feeds us in different spiritual ways, through the words of Scripture and when we pray and ask for God’s help. And so, more and more, it just made sense to him that God would also feed us in more physical ways, that we’re body and soul, not just spirits. 

It’s especially in the Eucharist that Jesus wants to heal us and feed us, even as He showed His love for the crowds in concrete ways. But it’s also God who feeds us by sending the rain upon our crops and gardens, providing the water in our aquifers, and who works through various other means to keep our livestock in good health. God works through doctors, nurses, and surgeons, through pharmacists and scientists, even through the natural processes of our bodies to help us experience health and strength each day. You might think of a kid climbing a tree who falls and breaks his arm. After getting it set in a cast, he prays and prays that God would heal his arm. Well, even if God doesn’t fix the broken bones instantaneously, God is still the One who designed our bones to be able to rebuild themselves, and God is the One healing his arm even if it ends up taking longer than the kid would like. 

Are we able to recognize the myriad ways that God expresses His love for us, concretely, every day, all around us? If we’re not able to recognize His hand guiding so many of the blessings around us and within us that we so often take for granted every day, we’ll have a much more difficult time recognizing the Body and Blood of Jesus poured out for us upon this altar. God’s love is not abstract. I hope we’re able to see that, and in turn, I hope that our love will not just be abstract, but that we’ll express our love for God and for our neighbor in concrete ways. 

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”

—St. Jerome

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 18A

Now that I’ve been here for more than a year, I’d like to start offering a Scripture study or adult catechesis in each of the parishes. High school students would also be welcome, along with any non-Catholics you may wish to invite. I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity for a more in-depth look than what is possible during homilies, along with the opportunity for members of the parish to see and get to know me in a different setting and on a more personal level.

In previous years, I’ve offered studies on the Book of Sirach as a summary of the Old Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews and the priesthood of Christ, the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians and evangelization and the many moral issues he raises, and a summary course on Ecclesiastical Latin. Besides these, I have a book on the Psalms and would love to do a study on those, the most frequently used Book of Scripture by far. I could also offer an introduction to Gregorian chant and the Church’s musical patrimony. If any of these are of particular interest, or if you have other ideas (I’ve also read the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church several times), let me know.

The other question is of course when to meet. Seems like Tuesday evenings would be most convenient and when I am most consistently in Hoven. Sunday evenings would be a possibility in whichever town has the Sunday morning Mass (Bowdle in September thru December). Besides the first Friday, Friday evenings would work in Bowdle. I’d rather not commit Thursday evenings as this is when a lot of the priests gather for a meal in Aberdeen. If it works for a number of people consistently, I’d even be willing to do an early morning. Let me know if you have any ideas or preferences on what works for meeting times.

Also, just a note on how the current phone system is set up. I’m only able to check voicemail messages when I’m in Bowdle. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you’ll typically have much better luck reaching me at 605-948-2245, which is the only line that rings for me in the Hoven office. When I’m in Bowdle on Thursdays and Fridays, 605-285-6466 is the number to use. Thanks for your patience. Please let me know your ideas for meeting times and topics for a Scripture study or adult catechesis.

All for One

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 17A

I often wonder how many people are able to understand why I became a priest. Even my older siblings, by the time I was in high school, many of them had already moved out of the house, and so I’m sure it’s difficult for them to think of me as anything other than a little kid. And they might just figure that I have a particular interest in Catholic stuff, in the way that they might have an interest in computers or sports. Or how we all excelled in mathematics while we were in school, I just liked to pray more or spend more time in church. But a vocation is much more like how Jesus describes it in today’s Gospel. The kingdom of God is like someone who finds a treasure buried in a field and out of joy sells everything that he has to buy that field, or like a merchant in search of fine pearls who, upon finding a pearl of great price, sells everything out of joy to buy that pearl.

Now to the outside observer, the actions taken by the person who sells everything just to buy a field or a single pearl, these don’t look like the actions of a sane or well-balanced person. Usually when someone’s looking to buy a field, no matter what’s buried in it, or if they’re in the market for pearls, they don’t sell the rest of their belongings. Instead, we’d expect them to ask the owner what he’s asking for it and even try to talk him down to a lower price. Most would try to spend the bare minimum to get that field or that pearl so as to keep the highest possible profit margin. And it’s not that people were just bad at economics back in the days of Jesus, selling all their belongings each time they came across something they really wanted. The kingdom of heaven and our relationship with Jesus goes beyond any merely material possession. And our response to Christ’s invitation should go beyond what’s reasonable or balanced or acceptable behavior in the eyes of the world.

For the Apostles who left their nets and their families, who left their wealth and tax office, the Apostles who left everything to follow Christ, this was not just an area of particular interest for them or a passing phase. When they met this strange man called Jesus from Nazareth, they were changed. Life could not go back to the way it used to be. They could keep fishing, but not the way they did before. Their thoughts would always wander back to that Jesus. Who is He? What is it that is so strange about Him, that they had never seen in anyone else before?

In his book called Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis argues that based on the Gospel accounts and the other Scriptures, Jesus can be only one of three things: Lord, liar, or lunatic. The option that Lewis says we don’t have is to view Jesus merely as a good teacher among many others, taking some of what Jesus says but leaving aside what seems too difficult or too extreme. But if Jesus is God, if He is truly the Lord, if He is who He says He is, then He deserves full acceptance, the re-orientation of our entire lives, how we work or go to school and all our other relationships and activities need to be different in view of Christ. They can never be the same because we belong to Jesus. Just to offer God an hour or so on Sundays might sound reasonable, but it’s not nearly enough for the One who laid down His life for our salvation.

The one and only reason that I became a priest is because I came to know Jesus and to grow in friendship with Him. He calls, and I try to follow. I still struggle to give Him everything. There are still parts of my life that I’d rather keep for myself, but Jesus is Lord. He is the Treasure in the field, the Pearl of great price. He deserves more than everything, more than we could ever give. If it were just a matter of my personal interests or what I enjoy doing, I would not still be here. If this Mass were just a social gathering, merely a matter of human society and not communion with the Angels and Saints in heaven, I would not still be here.

Jesus is Lord, the Lord who gave His life on the Cross for you and for me. We are that precious to Him. He is the One who found you and out of joy sold all that He had to ransom you. What are we willing to give Him in return? What are we willing to do for Him? What are willing to spend on Him? If we’re busy trying to talk God down to a lower price, to just get by paying the bare minimum, why are we still here? Jesus is worth all that we have and much more.

Catching My Breath

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 17A

It’s nice being able to relax a bit after quite possibly the busiest weekend I’ve ever had. Not to complain but just to give you some idea, it started with a wedding rehearsal and supper on Friday evening in Bowdle, and on Saturday morning, a Funeral Mass preceded by the Rosary and administering the Anointing of the Sick to two people in Hoven. After the Funeral, I set up for a visiting priest to celebrate a private Mass and then attended the meal at the Legion. Saturday afternoon I was back in Bowdle for the Wedding, then the evening parish Mass followed by the reception. Sunday was rather light with just one Mass in Hoven (and setting up for another private Mass by a visiting priest), but I did return to Bowdle Sunday evening to finish tidying up the rectory for the Bishop’s stay.

Monday morning, I was back in Hoven for another Funeral Mass and meal at the Legion hall, followed by a trip to Ipswich for our Deanery Meeting with the Bishop. Afterwards, when the Bishop arrived at the rectory in Bowdle, we took a trip to Hoven so that he could see St. Anthony Church, which he had heard so much about. Tuesday morning, Bishop DeGrood celebrated Mass in Bowdle and greeted parishioners before having breakfast and heading on towards Mobridge and Selby to visit with the pastors there.

By the end of his visit, I think the Bishop was rather jealous of my assignment. He had always wanted to serve as a priest for rural parishes and was never given much opportunity during his time in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I’m definitely grateful for this assignment and such supportive and hardworking parishioners. The Bishop also commented on the beauty of the land during his drives.

One does wonder—with all the turmoil in society, rioters, and viruses that naturally spread more quickly in places with greater population density—if there won’t be more people wanting to move away from big cities back to more out-of-the-way places. There may be advantages to living in or near cities, but we should never underestimate or fail to return thanks to God for the many blessings we enjoy in South Dakota and in this part of South Dakota. And I hope to never take for granted the great privilege of serving as pastor two of the greatest parishes in the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

Adversity in Answer to Our Prayers

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 16A

A lot of people when they that I’m the youngest of nine kids in my family, just assume that we must have grown up on a farm, but we never did. We always just lived in town, down in Elk Point. The closest we got was that my mother always had a large garden next to the garage, and many of us spent our summers working in corn fields, for one of the local seed companies at the edge of town. I spent five summers in the fields. But even in my own limited agricultural experience, helping in the garden and in the corn and soybean fields, it’s always kind of amazing to me just how quickly and how vigorously the weeds tend to grow, even as we hear in today’s Gospel. And I could never figure out why we always ended up with so much wild spinach in the garden, when my mom never planted any. Especially during times of drought and adverse conditions, it often seems like the weeds do a lot better than even what we’ve actually planted.

One way to understand the parable of the weeds and the wheat in today’s Gospel is that each plant stands for one person, that each one of us is either a weed or a wheat, growing together in the field of God’s kingdom until harvest time. But another way of understanding the parable is that the wheat, the children and fruits of God’s kingdom, wheat refers to the many virtues that God plants in each one of us, the virtues of patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, the virtues that God asks us to cultivate in ourselves by cooperating with His grace. The weeds, then, are the vices, the children and plantings of the evil one, the habits of sin, impatience, anger, selfishness, violence, those tendencies in us that constantly threaten the good plantings of God.  

Ultimately, God is the Gardener of each one of us. He gives freedom and strength by His grace, but He doesn’t decide everything for us. By our own actions, by the choices we make every day, by the words we speak, we decide which plants in us are going to receive water and nourishment, either the virtues that come from God or the vices that come from our enemy. Are we going to choose patience, to react with kindness and perseverance to the inconveniences, the challenges, and setbacks that life presents to us, or do we more often choose to nourish impatience and anger?  

When we pray, are we open to letting God answer our prayers according to His will or only in the ways we think He should answer? God often answers our prayers without us even realizing it, because as St. Paul reminds us in our second reading, “we do not know how to pray as we ought.” And the problem is not that we ask too much of God, but most of the time we ask far too little. God’s desire for us is to become Saints, every last one of us. He’s wanting the transformation of our minds, our hearts, our actions, our desires but too often, we merely ask God to change the things around us, not to make us into Saints and build our character, but just to change our circumstances and give us an easier life.  

We might ask God for patience, for example, but then we quickly move on to asking him to remove from around us all adversity and to make things go more smoothly for us. Then God is left wondering, Well which is it? Are we asking for patience, or are we asking for an easy life? If we’re really asking for patience, we should remember that this virtue is only cultivated and exercised precisely when things are not going our own way, when we’re forced to deal with people and with situations that make us feel very impatient. So when we ask God for patience, and then we quickly run into countless obstacles that actually test our patience, why then do we complain that God doesn’t answer our prayers? He answers our prayers precisely in providing opportunities for us to exercise the virtues that He desires to see within us. Virtue is only proven through trials, adversities, and setbacks, through the saving but mysterious power of the Cross of Christ.  

You are God’s field. You can either work with Him to cultivate and strengthen the good wheat of His virtues, or you can work with His enemy, and cling to the false idea of an easy life in this world. There is no easy life. The sooner that we can accept that, the better off we’re going to be. We might think a life of sin is easy, but it’s not for those who are in it, those who experience the emptiness, the loneliness, the pointlessness of it all. A life of virtue is difficult to reach, but a life lived with God and for God and for our neighbor is infinitely more worthwhile and fulfilling. There is no easy life. So be bold. Ask God for patience and perseverance, and then prepare yourself for trials. 

Meaning of Life, Mercy of Purgatory

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 16A

I hope everyone enjoyed the cooler weather we had a few days during this past week. It’s always nice to open the windows and let fresh air in. I’ve been a bit busy with funerals and a wedding. Please keep in prayer the faithful departed and those who mourn their loss and all newlyweds as they begin a new life and covenant together. I return now to questions from some of our students.

  1. Why were we put on earth?

We were put on earth to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. Also because the gravity of places like the Moon and Mars is insufficient to maintain a breathable atmosphere.

  1. Why did the devil choose to hurt people as his power?

The usual explanation is that it is a combination of pride and envy. Never able to become greater than God and unable to hurt God, the devil tries instead to harm those who were made in the image and likeness of God: human beings. He does this mainly through temptations, because enticing us to disobey God through our own will by sinning is the only way for the devil to truly cause us harm.

  1. What and where is purgatory?

Purgatory is not so much a place as it is a status or process of purification undergone by souls after death. Since human souls apart from their bodies are immaterial, they do not occupy space, so a specific place is not really necessary for Purgatory. People who die in the state of grace (so without unforgiven mortal sins) but who still have various venial sins, imperfections, temporal punishment still owed for previously forgiven sins are purified by God after death and before entrance into the bright light of God’s own glory in heaven. Many of us do not reach the perfection necessary for entrance into heaven by the end of our lives, and so in God’s mercy, He provides another opportunity for purification and strengthening.

It is possible that God allows some souls in Purgatory to appear on earth, popularly referred to as ghosts, if these are not demonic spirits of fallen angels. God allows this to encourage prayers and Masses to be offered for the repose of these souls, to shorten their time in Purgatory.

Blessed Beyond the Prophets

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 15A

People often ask me, “Fr. Schmidt, when was it that you first thought about becoming a priest?” I’m not sure how old I was, but I remember going to Mass during the week with my mom. My other siblings must have already started school by that time. After Mass, my mom was painting an apartment for the company where my dad works, and I must have still been too young to do much of anything useful, so I just sat on the floor of the empty apartment and looked through a St. Joseph’s Picture Missal, that has what the priest says and what the people say at Mass, and I remember thinking then that it would be really cool to be a priest.  

Now, fast forward to my teenage years, as I struggled to figure out who I was or where I would fit in the world, as I struggled with sin, and habits and slavery to sin in my life, as I wondered who could free me from the chaos of my own mind and my desires, as I wondered where I could find refuge from the chaos and darkness I observed in the world around me, I found myself drawn back, time and again, to the little Eucharistic chapel of my home church of St. Joseph in Elk Point. And there Jesus would ask me if I would be willing to give my life in the priesthood, to become another link in the chain, so that another generation would always be able to find refuge and hope in His Eucharistic Presence, in the tabernacle of every Catholic church and the red glow of the sanctuary light. 

Now, fast forward to the present day. After five years in the priesthood, am I still able to recognize that the proper celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist is the most important thing that I can do for the salvation of the world? That if I think the Mass is boring or if it becomes just routine for me, it’s because I’m not really paying attention to what I’m saying and doing, or rather, to what God is doing for us in each and every Mass. To make present for us again and again the one saving sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross, the one perfect act of obedience that is infinitely more powerful than all the sin and evil in the world, more powerful than the evil of my own heart. Am I still able to recognize in this Eucharist the great gift that the Apostles received, that “many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” Blessed indeed are our eyes and ears that receive Jesus Himself today, the Word of God Incarnate, through the Scriptures proclaimed, and in His own Body and Blood poured out for us upon this altar.  

How often do we stop to think and take time to realize what God does for us at each and every celebration of the Mass? Do we really believe that just one worthy reception of Holy Communion is enough to heal every disease of my body and every disease of my soul, to free me completely from every habit of sinfulness, as Jesus Christ comes to us in the Flesh? Someone once told me that loving our enemies is not actually the most difficult Catholic teaching to live out. Much more difficult is to really believe with living faith, and to have our actions reflect, that in a few moments, the bread and wine that you see upon the altar will be changed into Jesus Himself, Jesus who raised the dead to life, Jesus who commanded the wind and sea and the evil spirits, Jesus who reigns as Lord and King forever. It’s not a metaphor; it’s not a nice idea. It’s a reality that has the power to change us into what we receive, to change us into the Person that we receive, as Jesus, the Word of God, works to bear fruit in our lives. All the greatest Saints of recent times, Padre Pio, John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and so many others, one thing that they all had in common was an extreme devotion to Jesus present in the Eucharist.  

If I do nothing else throughout my entire priesthood, I pray that I may foster reverence and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, so that each and every person might find, always present in the tabernacle of every Catholic church, our one true hope and refuge from all the anarchy of the world. Not to treat the Gift of God casually, but to really pay attention to the One that we receive, and to prepare ourselves by going to Confession, by penance and prayer, even to treat the Heavenly Banquet of the Mass as an occasion that’s worth dressing up for, that’s worth showing up early for, and that’s worth giving thanks for in silence afterwards. To believe with living faith, that at every Mass we witness and are caught up into the one perfect sacrifice of Christ, who alone can free us from our sins, who alone can bring us the peace that we desire. 

I’m convinced that so much of the unrest and the violence that we observe happening in our world even today ultimately stems from the sin of ingratitude, not recognizing just how abundantly blessed we really are. And we are especially blessed as Catholics, with access to the true faith and the opportunity even to eat the Flesh of God. Even the holiest of the prophets throughout the history of Israel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many others who endured tremendous trials and sufferings, even the Great Patriarch Abraham who left family and homeland to follow God’s call, only to wander as a stranger in the Promised Land, they never had the privilege of receiving the sacraments of Christ. They would have scarcely dreamed of having their sins washed away completely in the waters of Baptism or in the Sacrament of Confession, and to consume the Flesh of the God-man even once goes beyond any blessing they ever received throughout their entire lives. And any time we desire, we can make a visit to the Lord, present in the tabernacle of every Catholic church. 

Lord Jesus, strengthen our faith. Give us the eyes to see the realities communicated to us in your Sacraments. Give us the reverence to kneel in awe and wonder at all the marvelous things you have done for us, and fill us with endless thanksgiving for all that you continue to do for us through your Most Sacred Presence.  

Lifeblood Freely Given

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 15A

During this pandemic, I’ve seen several reminders that people are still able and highly encouraged to donate blood. Hospitals obviously still need a supply for live-saving procedures. Sounds like they’ll be receiving donations in Hoven on Monday, so I should be able to give. My parents have donated blood for several years, into the gallons of blood by now. Probably the last time I gave down in Elk Point, I heard about an interesting difference between donating whole blood rather than being compensated for giving blood plasma.

I was told that in the United States, federal law only allows blood that has been given freely to be used for direct transfusions. It is thought that those who are being paid for their plasma might be more motivated to lie on the questionnaire. Now I’m not saying that there isn’t a need for plasma donation or that they don’t make life-saving treatments from the proteins found in plasma, but I found it interesting that it is only blood freely given that is used for transfusions. I do always enjoy the refreshments available after donating, but I suppose those aren’t enough motivation—for most people—to lie on the questionnaire and bleed for ten minutes or more just for some cookies and juice.

In Biblical times, blood was seen as life itself (Cf. Leviticus 17:11), quite logically, because they observed that someone or something losing all of its blood would lose all of its life as well. So when Jesus freely pours out His Blood for us on the Cross and gives us His Blood in the Eucharist, He gives us His very Life so that He can live in us and we can have true life in Him. Jesus holds nothing back and looks only for our feeble love in return. Indeed, it is only by His grace that we are able to love Him in return at all. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

During this month of July, dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Christ, may we come to appreciate more deeply the gift of His Life’s Blood, freely poured out for our salvation, so that we can imitate Jesus more completely in pouring out our lives and our blood for one another.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 14A

I once knew someone who claimed that as he was growing up, whenever he heard this passage from the Gospel, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light,” he thought what it was referring to was egg yolks, y-o-l-k, instead of y-o-k-e. I’m still not quite sure I believe him. In context, talking about egg yolks really doesn’t make all that much sense, although I suppose having eggs over easy might be refreshing to some people. But there are lots of ways that we can misunderstand the words of Scripture or just not really think through the meanings of the words, even—and maybe especially—when it comes to very familiar verses. This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, even one of the verses I put on the cards I had made at my ordination to the priesthood. I often feel tired, and so this invitation to find rest and refreshment in Christ has always resonated with me. But even I don’t often think about what a yoke is, what it’s for.

A yoke is for work. Field work. Before we had tractors, we had yokes. A yoke was usually worn around the neck, or often, the necks of two animals so that together they could pull a plow and cultivate the earth. So when Jesus invites us to take upon ourselves His yoke, to walk beside Him, to learn from Him, to pull with Him and work with Him, are we still willing to wear His yoke, or would we rather just stay behind?

In almost every type of work, there are more effective and more efficient ways of accomplishing the same tasks, and often the more experience someone has, the more they’ve learned strategies at working smarter instead of harder. As a simple example, just think if you wanted to get a copy of the homily that I’m giving right now. You could borrow these pages after Mass and sit down to write out by hand word by word what you see here. A much easier way would be to use a copy machine that would scan the pages and then print a new copy. Or after I get it posted, you could just pull it up and print it from my blog online and not even need me to hand it to you. Very similar results with vastly different levels of work involved.

Now when Jesus talks about taking on His yoke, He’s not just talking about work that we do that we could be doing better or more efficiently. He’s talking about walking beside Him, learning from Him in every area of life, in our rest and recreation, in our relationships, in our work, in our study, in prayer, in everything that we do. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the greatest expert at living a human life and arriving by the shortest route possible at our ultimate goal, which is heaven, eternal life with God.

If the shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line, if A is where you are now and B is the heavenly kingdom, it’s only by being yoked to Jesus in everything that we do that we’ll stay on the best course and avoid wasting so much time, so much energy, so much anxiety and worry—needlessly—on pointless pursuits and our own meanderings. Most of the time, though, we’re convinced that we’re just fine finding our own way. Or we think our own way will be more enjoyable. We like to stop off at every tourist trap along the road of life, even to wander into the dead ends of mortal sin from time to time, and rebellion against God and the wisdom of His laws, but we only ever end up harming ourselves and wearing ourselves out. We keep pushing and pushing against the same boulder, even as Jesus invites us to just walk around it, leave it behind, and move on.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” If you’re tired, like I’m tired, of making the same mistakes over and over, committing the same sins, running up against the same walls week after week, year after year, yoke yourself to Jesus, in everything that you do. Work smarter, not harder, and He will give you rest and bring you by the shortest, the surest, the easiest path to a truly abundant life in this world, and life everlasting in the next.

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 14A

Happy Independence Day to one and all! It’s certainly been an interesting year for our country and for the world. I pray that it gets better, but it doesn’t really look promising. As I was growing up, I was convinced that pretty much everyone in the world really wished they could have been born in the US. One of my favorite lines from The Office is when Creed says, “I already won the lottery. I was born in the US of A, baby!” My own ancestors came across the Atlantic around the year 1900 to this vast land of freedom and opportunity.

That’s why it’s been so heartbreaking for me to watch as so many of our nation’s cities have been torn apart, burned, and innocent lives ended or altered forever. Of course, everyone was united in condemning the murder of George Floyd, but the demonstrations and rioting supposedly done in pursuit of justice have been the occasion of countless more injustices. To also see how many of my fellow Americans not only seem to not realize how very blessed we are but even have an active hatred for the land of our birth, and that much of this hatred was learned in our very own institutions of education and “higher learning” is disgusting to me.

To see families torn apart, videos posted to social media of children asking to be adopted to get away from their “racist” parents, to see holy images of St. Junipero Serra torn down, that of St. Louis IX threatened, to see the CEO of Catholic Charities Eastern Washington claim that all white people are racist along with the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities, this goes beyond anything I thought I would witness during my lifetime. The United States is far from perfect, and many members of the Catholic Church are far from perfect, but to cast suspicion of racism over all words, actions, and institutions is not at all helpful in actually moving beyond racism and valuing each person for their God-given human dignity.

Patriotism is a virtue, part of filial piety. Just as we honor and owe gratitude to our parents who brought us to birth, to our God who creates and sustains everything in existence, so also we are to love and give thanks for the land of our birth. I pray that God will heal the divisions and strife that have so quickly overtaken so many in our country. I pray that authentic justice would be sought and obtained by peaceful and rational means for all those unfairly disadvantaged in society. Violence and destruction, rash judgment and division serve only Satan, the enemy of our human nature. May God soon restore and establish “liberty and justice for all.”