Bible Reading Order

Bulletin Article, Ordinary Time Sunday 17B

As a follow-up to my previous article, here is the order in which I read the books of the Bible each year. The order found in most Bibles is based simply on the genre and length of the books, but that is not often helpful if you are trying to understand what you read and see the relationships between the different parts of Scripture. The order I use is based variously on the human authorship, the time of events described, the time of writing, and the theology of the book. I hope you find this helpful, whether you start with the Old or the New Testament.

The current Catholic Lectionary is made up of a three-year cycle of readings for Sundays and a two-year cycle for weekdays, but even over the course of three years, if you go to Mass every day, at best, you’d still hear less than 25% of the Old Testament and less than 72% of the New Testament. For the full statistics on the use of Scripture at Mass, please visit http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm

We live in an age when more people can read and write than ever before. But how often do we take the opportunity to read the only books that we know are inspired by God Himself? We are not a religion of the Book, however, and the Word of God, Jesus Christ, comes to us in many ways, especially in the Sacraments and in the Sacred Tradition and Teaching of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. One of the reasons I also read from the Catechism every day is so that I am familiar with and receptive to the Church’s teachings, which help me to avoid misinterpreting Sacred Scripture.

I continue to encourage you to invest in your faith, in your knowledge of the faith, and in your relationship with God. Lots of other information we may use for a time, but our faith helps us towards eternal life. I am excited to hear about a Bible study that is usually held during the school year here at Holy Spirit. I hope that many will be able to attend.  

Hungry for God

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 16B

How hungry are you? How desperate are you for Jesus Christ? Today in the Gospel, the crowds are hungry, the crowds are desperate for the Good Shepherd. They have been like sheep without a shepherd for so long that they will do whatever it takes to follow Jesus and to learn from Him, to be fed by Him in good pastures. Are we hungry enough for Jesus Christ? Are we desperate enough to follow wherever the Good Shepherd might lead us?

If you’ve ever been to the Holy Land, one of the great things about being there and just walking around is to get a sense of the scale of things. Now, here in America, and in South Dakota in particular, we’re used to wide expanses of land, and the country stretching out between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and even beyond those Oceans. In the Holy Land, everything is on a much smaller scale. You have the Mediterranean Sea on one side and then the Jordan River on the other side with the Dead Sea at the southern end and the Sea of Galilee at the northern end, and Israel is between these waters, and it’s a relatively small country, not much larger than the State of New Jersey. Now many of the events of the Gospel take place around the Sea of Galilee, a fairly large lake, but only about 30 miles all the way around. And at the time of Christ, with many of the ports around the northwestern part of the lake, someone standing on shore could easily watch a boat leave from one port and go across the lake to another port, because going across the lake did not usually mean actually crossing the entire lake to the opposite shore. Instead, they stayed pretty close to this northwestern shoreline to reach one of the other ports. Someone on the shore could follow around the lake on foot to meet the boat at the other port without too much trouble. 

So when Jesus and the Apostles try to get away from the crowds by boat in today’s Gospel, the crowds are able to anticipate their route and hurry around the shore of the lake to beat them to their destination. The crowds were hungry and desperate for the Good Shepherd, whose heart was moved with pity for them. And to feed the hungry crowds, what is the first thing the Good Shepherd does for them? “He began to teach them many things.” To teach them. That might surprise us, but Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “The truth will set you free.” Do we really believe that? 

The spiritual hunger and desperation of the human heart finds peace only in the Truth of Jesus Christ. The truth at once confronts us with the reality of our sin, of the choices we’ve made to tear people down, to grab and to claw and to carve out our own share of this world’s goods and to crush the competition, to shore up our own reputation by attacking the reputations of others. And as strange as it seems, this knowledge of our sins does bring peace. Because at the same time that we are confronted with our sins, we are also met by the loving gaze of our Savior. Yes, in the Truth of Christ, we find that it is our sins that crucified Jesus, our sins that killed the Son of God and continue to wreak such havoc in the world and in our relationships today. But we also find in the Truth of Christ, the One who is able to free us from our sins, who was willing to suffer all things to convince us of His undying love for us and of His endless desire to give us new life, new freedom in Him, a better life and a better way than what the world offers us. But do we really believe that? Do we believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? And what are we willing to do to start to experience that new life in Christ?

I’m kind of amazed nowadays at all the diets, exercise routines, color runs, mud runs, gadgets to monitor the number of steps we take and to set goals and measure our progress. We have all these things to try to measure and encourage our physical health, but to see a change for the better, it takes a commitment. You can’t expect much to change if you decide to exercise just once a month or even once a week. It takes a commitment and the forming of new habits. And as important as our physical health is, we should be even more concerned about our spiritual health, or lack of spiritual health. Of course, real spiritual progress is much more difficult to measure, so you probably won’t find many apps for it on your phone. 

But do we have spiritual goals? Do we have a routine of spiritual exercises? Do we pray every day? Do we pay attention to what we eat, spiritually? Do we allow Jesus to feed us with his Truth, or are we caught up in so many fantasies, in TV, Movies, and YouTube, that we never make time or commitment to prayer, to silence, to learning Christ? How can we make room for the Good Shepherd to feed us, not just on Sundays, but throughout the week? Are we hungry enough, and desperate enough, spiritually, to make a real change in our lives, to experience the new life that Jesus longs to bring us? Are we hungry enough to pick up the Bible, to pick up the Catechism, to pick up Lighthouse CDs, to learn, and continue to learn the Truth of Christ?

In a short time, the Good Shepherd will feed us once again with his own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Drink deeply of the love of Jesus Christ, and ask Him how He wants to feed you every day, and where He wants to lead you, to bring you at last to the green pastures of heaven. 

Living in God’s World

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 15B

“I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets,” but “the Lord took me […] and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” At certain times in our lives, we’re given the grace to take a step back and catch a glimpse of how God has been working through the events and circumstances of our lives, and how He has been directing everything according to His divine plan. A particular moment of clarity for me was as I approached graduation from the University of St. Thomas and faced the prospect of four more years of study and preparation for the priesthood, this time to be spent in Rome. When I was growing up, I never imagined that I would someday travel so far, and see so many historical and beautiful places, and meet so many different and interesting people. But at the same time, as I looked back over the years and surveyed where God was leading me, I realized that God had been answering all my prayers, and even the unspoken desires of my heart. 

When I was a kid—and I know that to most of you, I still look like a kid—but when I was kid, I always loved adventure stories. One game series sort of epitomizes this sense of adventure for me, and it’s called the Legend of Zelda. In the Legend of Zelda games, you play as a hero that would fight monsters, solve puzzles, work your way through dungeons and find treasures, and with each new challenge, in each dungeon you would find one treasure, one new item that would be the key to overcoming new challenges and to making your way through the rest of the dungeon to reach your goal. This was kind of a theme that ran through each of these games, and it gave a strong sense of providence, of destiny, and of adventure. 

In a similar way, I saw that God had sent me on an adventure. To someone from Elk Point, the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis seem pretty big and diverse. And the University of St. Thomas has some impressive architecture, with arches and buildings that almost look like castles. And then to be going to Rome for four years, and all the opportunities that would bring, to see unbelievable art, history, and architecture, and to meet people from all over the world. Just an unbelievable privilege. And all along the way, I found that God was equipping me with exactly what I needed to meet new challenges and to face new obstacles. And I also found that most often, my greatest obstacle is me. And most of time, God is equipping me with what I need, through the people around me. 

That’s why I’m so excited to be here at Holy Spirit with all of you, to begin the next stage of my adventure. You will find, though, that with all my German blood, I don’t usually express my excitement very exuberantly. But I am excited to be here, and to see what God has planned for us. It’s already been an adventure for me, trying to move in and get settled, and to see how a youth room, can become a sacristy, and now parish offices as well. I don’t know all the reasons why I was sent here, but God knows why I’m here, and why He brought you here today, and God knows what He has planned for each of us, and how we are to help one another to live as Christians, to live as followers of Jesus Christ.

The Catholic faith and the Christian life, when lived authentically, can never be boring. Our life of faith should be an adventure for each one of us. God is constantly stretching us, especially through our interactions with the people around us. God is constantly calling us out of own comfort zones, just as he called Amos to be a prophet in our first reading. If we’re really listening, God is calling each of us, and challenging each of us, and Jesus sends us out, even as He sent the Apostles, to proclaim the peace of His kingdom in our own day and age, in new and creative ways, in our words and in our actions, to everyone we meet in our day to day lives. This is the Christian vocation. This is the task of everyone who has been baptized into Christ. This is our task. 

In my own journey, I’ve found that I can live in one of two ways. I can put myself at the center, and try to make myself the king of my own little world, and be constantly trying to direct everything and everyone to serve my own little needs. And it is during these times, when I serve myself, that life becomes boring and heavy, when I choose to live in my own little world. But if I choose to put Christ at the center and to serve Him, to die to myself and live for God, an unbelievably larger, more beautiful, and more exciting world opens up to me—God’s world—and I can stand in awe of how God directs everything according to His plan, and brings about things more wonderful and more beautiful than anything I could have asked or imagined according to my own small way of seeing things. 

This choice, this decision to put myself or to put Christ at the center, has been the fundamental struggle for me in my own Christian life, and I am sure that it will continue to be my fundamental struggle in the priesthood. I’m glad that you’re here to remind me, and that I’m here to remind you, to keep Christ at the center, to see a bigger world, so that, together, we can live this adventure, which is our Catholic faith, and finally reach our goal of eternal life with God. Keep Jesus Christ at the center of everything you do, and you will truly live. 

Background and Hobbies

Bulletin Article, Ordinary Time Sunday 15B

Since my arrival last week, I think I’ve gained a little insight into why I was sent to this parish at this time. You see, for the past four years, I’ve been living in Rome, Italy, for nine to ten months out of the year. I’ve grown fairly accustomed to living out of a suitcase. So now that I finally have my own office, we’re packing up for the renovations. However, despite any small inconveniences, I feel truly blessed to be here at Holy Spirit during this exciting time for my first months of the priesthood. I look forward to everything I will learn from Fr. Cimpl and from all of you in this parish in the days ahead. I hope that you find me to be a calm and calming presence among you. Please be patient with me as I try to learn names and faces.

As for my own background, I am the youngest of nine kids born to Arlynn and Dorothy Schmidt. We all grew up in Elk Point, just an hour or so south of here. I attended Elk Point-Jefferson Public Schools, then Saint John Vianney College Seminary for four years at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. For the past four years, as I mentioned, I had the great privilege of studying theology and then specializing in spiritual theology in Rome, Italy, living at the Pontifical North American College and attending classes at the Angelicum University. My time at the heart of the Catholic Church in Rome was a tremendous experience of the Church spread throughout the world. I was ordained as a transitional deacon in St. Peter’s Basilica with the rest of my class in Rome last fall. On June 26, 2015, I was ordained to the priesthood. These first days and weeks have been very graced times. I really get the sense of Jesus working through me in spite of my weakness, doing things that I would not be able to on my own. I look forward to serving you and equipping you to spread the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel to your homes, your friends, your workplaces, and to everyone you meet.

People often ask about hobbies. For exercise, I enjoy running, though I’m always thinking of getting more into biking. In my free time, I like to tinker and fix things, whether it’s with computers or things around the house, although I don’t know much about cars or sound systems. I’m not sure if this counts as a hobby, but at some point, I calculated a system for reading the Bible and Catechism once a year. I still read from each almost every day and have made my way through them once a year for about the last 5 years. As it is, for the Catholic Bible, 26 chapters each week will get you through the whole thing in a year, and for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 55 paragraphs each week is what you need. I try to read four chapters of Scripture on weekdays and three on Saturday and Sunday to stay on target, along with eight paragraphs of the Catechism each day except seven on Sunday. I also have my own order in which to read the books of the Bible that I find more helpful. If you are interested, please let me know. Scripture and the Catechism played an important role in my own deeper conversion and following of Christ, so I am confident that they will be a continued source of renewal and enlightenment in the years ahead. God bless you and keep you in His merciful love. 

Scoffing at the Ordinary

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 14B

I continue to be amazed at God’s providence, and I am very thankful that this Gospel passage was not the one in the lectionary for last weekend. Last Sunday, I celebrated Mass in my hometown of Elk Point, so proclaiming this Gospel, that “a prophet is not without honor/ except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house,” it might have been a little awkward for me there in my native place.

But what I find most fascinating and even alarming about this Gospel passage is the way that St. Mark puts the last couple verses. He says that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deed there.” Jesus was not able? But Jesus is God and therefore, all-powerful. How can Mark say that Jesus was not able to perform any mighty deed there? As God, Jesus can do anything. In describing the same scene, St. Matthew says that Jesus did not do many mighty deeds there. St. Matthew won’t say that Jesus couldn’t, just that He didn’t. So in what sense can St. Mark say that Jesus was not able to perform any mighty deed there?

The answer is in the last verse of this passage: Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.” Jesus was not able to perform many miracles because the people were unwilling to believe in him. In other passages, Jesus often says to those who ask something of him, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” Jesus is God, and He is all-powerful, but out of respect for our freedom and dignity, God does not force Himself upon anyone. He does not force us to believe in Him. Faith is always free. In his love and mercy, God awaits our free response to his gentle promptings, to the small and mysterious signs of his providence and presence in our lives.

So what keeps us from faith, from really trusting in God’s power and love for us? Often, it’s what we see in the readings today. This kid that we watched grow up in Nazareth, along with all his relatives, who worked as an ordinary carpenter for so many years, this kid is supposed to be the Prophet? We are scandalized and take offense at the ordinary. God often comes to us through very ordinary means. He uses water to grant forgiveness of sins and new divine life in Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism. He uses bread and wine, and not even fancy bread and expensive wine, but regular wheat bread and grape wine, to make the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, present to us and to allow us to consume Jesus Himself and to be consumed by Jesus in the Eucharist of every Mass. 

We take offense that God comes to us through such seemingly mundane things, just as many took offense at how ordinary and unremarkable a human life Jesus lived for so many years in the insignificant backwater of Nazareth. We refuse to believe that God is really speaking to us all the time through the ordinary events and circumstances of our daily lives and through the ordinary people around us. We want to see visions and hear voices from heaven, but we close our eyes and ears to what is right in front of us every day. 

Most of all, though, we take offense that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness,” as St. Paul says in the second reading. Weakness and suffering is what we really cannot tolerate, and yet God, to show the perfection of His power, chose to redeem the whole world through the love and obedience that is willing to endure all suffering, the love of Christ which stops at nothing, that follows us even into death to bring us back to God. The mystery of the Cross of Christ and our participation in it has always been a scandal, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who have faith, the Cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because God’s weakness is stronger than human strength and God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. 

We pray today for that gift of faith, for that unconditional trust in God and His love and care for us, that Christ may have His way with us and be able to perform many mighty deeds in our midst. In the ordinary and mundane events and circumstances of our daily lives, Jesus, I trust in You. In the midst of suffering, pain, and trials of body, mind, and spirit, Jesus, I trust in You. In all things and at all times, Jesus, I trust in You.