Signs, signs, every where a sign!

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Jonah 3:1-10

Luke 11:29-32

3, 4, 5 grade

Have Joe put up traffic Warning Signs one at a time upon the screens and have the kids tell me what they mean.

All these signs warn us what we are to do. In our readings, we are given signs warning us what to do, and we are not to ignore the signs but heed their warnings.  

In our first reading from the Book of Jonah, we are told that Jonah is chosen by God to go to Nineveh and to be a sign of God’s repentance. Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches the message of repentance, and the whole city of Nineveh repents.

In our Gospel, Jesus is telling the people that he is the sign that they need to repent and turn away from sin, but the people do not listen. The people ask for another sign, although Jesus has done numerous signs. Jesus tells them the only sign given to them will be the sign of Jonah.

My friends in Christ, there is only one sign that we need to know today, and it is this sign (show picture of Jesus on the cross). We are here today to see the sign right in front of us of Jesus Christ and repent from our sinfulness.  

What is our reason for Praying???

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Isaiah 55:10-11

Matthew 6:7-15

Yesterday, I received two very troubling phone calls from people in some very desperate situations in their lives. As I was driving back to the rectory from my place in Grand Haven, I decided to take the highway instead of Lake Michigan Drive. I was thinking about these people and praying for them and their situations. I was praying, “Lord, help them, Lord help them!” As I was praying these words, it hit me that it will take a miracle in one of these situations, and I began to doubt. It was  then that I look up at the billboard in front of me, and it read, “Stay Strong.” I thought yes, Lord, I will stay strong because of you.”

Our readings today have much to do about prayer and staying strong. The first thing I would say about prayer is we need a reason to pray. Why do we pray? The answer to that question does not have to be a deep theological reason. It only has to be our reason to pray. I know when I pray, I feel stronger and my day goes much better in my own life. If I do not focus my day on prayer, my day is much more challenging. What is your reason to pray?

In our first reading, we get an image of prayer that we are all can understand as Isaiah says, “Just as the snow and the rain come down and waters the earth, so shall the word of God not return to me void.” We know that the snow and the rain come down, water the earth, and return to the sky as moisture. What is our reason to pray? Stay Strong!  

In our Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, and we are given the Our Father. The Our Father is a perfect prayer. It teaches us that God needs to first in our lives, that God will take care of our physical and spiritual needs, and that he will grant us forgiveness. The other thing to do in prayer is to spend just as much time in silence as we do in words. We need to be ready when God speaks.

In our Eucharist today, may we learn to continue to trust God in all things!

Lord, lead me to where you want me to be!

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 9:8-15

I Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:12-15

What might be frightening or scary in our lives right now? What consumes our thoughts during the day and keeps us up at night? If you feel this way, you are in the right place because Lent always begins in the wilderness, and there is a good reason for this. We need to get a place when we say, “Lord led me into the wilderness, it may not be where I want to go, but it is where I will meet you.”

In our Gospel, Jesus may be saying, “Lord, Father, led me into the wilderness, it may not be where I want to go, but it is where I will meet you.” Before we dive into today’s story, let’s go back to January 10, the weekend we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord. In the story, Jesus is baptized in the Jordon and told that “You are my beloved son, and in you, I am well pleased.” He is given everything he needs to be strong in faith. One might think that he would be driven back to Galilee to begin his public ministry of renouncing sin, preaching, doing miracles, and doing his Father’s will, but he is not. Jesus is driven to the desert to face the wild beast and to know who he is in his suffering.

The second thing we are told of why Jesus is driven into the wilderness is to be tempted. In the Gospel of Mark, we are not given any dialogue from Jesus. We can learn from this that when we are tempted, we are not to enter into dialogue with the evil one in our temptations. The evil will always spin things around to make the temptation more attractive than what it is. We are to call immediately upon the name of Jesus and claim the victory in Christ.

When his time of being driven into the desert and being tempted was complete now, he is ready to go to Galilee and begin his public ministry. Jesus will proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand and it is time to repent and believe in the gospel.

On Wednesday, my friends in Christ we had ashes put on our heads as our reminder that we are dust, and to dust, we shall return. The ashes on our heads was a reminder that Lent is our time to face the wild beasts in our wilderness and say, “Lord led me into the wilderness, it may not be where I want to go, but it is where I will meet you.” In this Eucharist may we be given the grace to face the wilderness, and to take comfort that God is there to meet us?   

What are we fasting from this Lent?

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:1-9

Matthew 9: 14-15

K, 1st, 2nd grade

Tell the kids what I am giving up for Lent.

I am giving up free time. What I mean by this is I have what I call my free time and the time I give to you. I am now seeing all of time as free time as is given to us by God. All of my time is free.

Ask Mr. Z, our holy seminarian – “What are you doing for Lent?”

Ask the students – “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Thank you all for sharing what you are doing for Lent. There are three pillars of Lent. There are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Our readings today have us focusing on the one pillar of fasting.

Fasting is important because as we take something away, we are to replace it with something else. Hopefully, that something else is God!

In our first reading, we are given a big challenge. It is ok to give up candy, pop, and grapefruits, but what the prophet asks is, can we give up being selfish, of thinking of ourselves first? Are we able to be helpful, not complain as much, and be obedient to our parents?

May this Lent be the Best Lent Ever as we enjoy our Lenten fasts!

Will history be made in our lives this Lent?

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30; 15-20

Luke 9: 22-25

History will be made today at 3:55 pm, as the Rover named Perseverance will land on Mars. The Rover was launched last July 2020, and it only had to travel 300 million miles to arrive at Mars. The mission for Perseverance is to look for signs of ancient life by collecting rocks and soil samples. We begin our Season of Lent, and our readings today are looking for signs of life in us.

In our first reading, Moses approaches the people as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. They have wandered in the desert for forty years, and they have had to rely on God to give them life. Moses tells them, “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you choose God, there will be life. If you choose not to follow God, there will be death.” Moses is inviting them to a whole new level of intimacy, but the choice is up to them.  

In our Gospel, Jesus is saying the very same thing to his disciples but with a big twist. Jesus says, “I put before you a choice of life or death. Choose life, but in choosing life, it will mean going to the cross. It will mean that you have to die to yourself and turn to me.”

History will be made today with Perseverance landing on Mars. Will history be made today in our lives, for choosing God to reign in our lives during this season of Lent?

Oh, happy Lent!

Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:12-18 II

II Corinthians 5:20-6:2

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Bring my weight scale from my room and have it behind the ambo. When done proclaiming the Gospel, bring it out and weigh myself in front of everyone.

Every morning, I do this as soon as I get up to see if I have lost any weight or gained some weight. I guess all those donuts I ate for Fat Tuesday are showing up today.

We enter this holy season, and Lent is a little like this scale where I check my weight gain or loss every day. In Lent, we are to check ourselves to see if we are doing what God wants of us or not.

In our Gospel, Jesus asks us to check ourselves every day on three things, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I know that this past year of social distancing, wearing a mask, and not being with loved ones has caused many of us to live in fear, anger, confusion, or a lack of patience.

So, in this past year, how has our prayer life been? Prayer keeps us in touch with God and what we are to do.

How has our fasting been in this past year? Have we picked up some bad habits from which we now need to fast from?

How has our almsgiving been? It may have been easy at times to have a pity party and think of only ourselves and everything we could not do. How though have we thought of others and not ourselves?

In our first reading, Joel says, “Return to me with your whole heart, and be rich in kindness.” 

In our second reading, St. Paul says, “Now is a very acceptable time. Do not wait another moment to seek the Lord.”

My friends in Christ, the pandemic has primed us well for the Best Lent Ever! May we each day of Lent check ourselves in these virtues and grow in holiness. 

What were you thinking?

Tuesday Sixth week Ordinary Time

Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10

Mark 8:14- 21

I am so disappointed in you! What were you thinking when you did that? Have you ever had to say those words to someone? They are tough words to say.

Have you ever had to say these words to yourself? I am so disappointed in you! What were you thinking when you did that? They are tough words to say to ourselves. Our readings have a lot to do with disappointments.

In our reading from the book of Genesis, God is very disappointed in his creation, and he wants to wipe everything away and start over again. However, there is one person who God finds favor in, and God instructs Noah to build an ark. Noah puts his family and some animals on the ark, and when the floodwaters come, they are safe in the ark.

In the Gospels, Jesus is disappointed in his disciples not so much for not bringing anything to eat but because they have short memories and still, after all this time, do not know who he is and what he can do for them if they only believe.

My friends in Christ, Lent begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. It is an excellent time to take a redo if we are disappointed in our spiritual lives. Our Eucharist offers the grace to help us grow out of disappointment and into holiness.

Our Valentine circle!

Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46

I Corinthians 10:31- 11:1

Mark 1: 40-45

Fr. Mark – I can’t go on! Turning toward Jake, say, “Jake, you have to go, and you have to go right now!”

Jake – “Fr. Mark! What have I done?”

Fr. Mark – Jake, you are too tall, too skinny, and have more hair than I do! Now go!

Jake – leaves, looking dejected, and at the halfway point turns and says, “Give me another chance!”

Now that was quite dramatic, but it happens all the time in our lives. We dismiss people for good reasons, for wrong reasons, and no reason at all. Our readings challenge us to think of those we have rejected in our lives and ask God for his help in returning them to our family.

In our first reading, we are given the basic Hebrew understanding of holiness and wholeness. The Hebrew people understood that God created everything, and it was good. Their whole existence was to protect what was good. There was an understanding that if one was wealthy or healthy, they were good and blessed by God. If a person was poor or unhealthy, it was because the person did something wrong and God was not blessing them. In any skin ailment, one would have to separate themselves from the community so others would not get sick. The person was treated as a public sinner, and you could have no physical contact with anyone. All of this information sets up for us our gospel story.

In our Gospel, a leper approaches Jesus, and he does not follow anything of the rules of what he was to do as he walks up to Jesus and says, “Jesus, if you wish, you can heal me.” This is a proclamation of faith! The man is saying, “Jesus, I know you can heal me, but it is up to you.” The original text says, “Jesus was moved with pity.” In translating the Greek, it is Jesus has compassion for the man that his insides felt like they were being poured out.

The big challenge comes in the words of St. Paul, “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” Paul is saying, “Every action we make should be done, to build up the community of God.” 

My friends in Christ, in every relationship that I have, I have to ask myself, “How have I by my words, thoughts, and actions either excluded this person or welcomed this person?” We come to this Eucharist to the one who made the leper whole and welcomed them back to the community. May we welcome those who we have excluded back into our community?

God is love! And so should we!

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17

Mark 7:14-23

Feast of St. Scholastica

3, 4, 5, graders at Mass

What holiday is this Sunday, February 14?

What is the symbol for Valentine’s Day? (Put a heart on screen)

What does the heart symbolize?

Our readings today have a lot to do with our hearts.

In our first reading from Genesis, we hear that God created human beings out of his great love. As God was creating human beings, he put his love into us.

In our Gospel, Jesus wants us to focus on our hearts by calling us to love others as God loves us.

In our Eucharist today, God shows us how much he loves us by sharing His Body and His Blood with us. May we love others more deeply in all we do today.

What is God’s Plan for us today?

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Genesis 1:20-2:4

Mark 7:1-13

I say this often, and it is true, God’s Word is alive and powerful. Our readings are perfect for us as Lent begins next week. We should be already thinking about “Who will we become” during Lent. Our readings challenge us to be authentic in thought, word, and deed.

In our first reading from Genesis, we get our first challenge as we are told that God created everything, and everything was created for good.  While I was at my home in GH yesterday, the snow came down all day, and it was the light, fluffy snow, and it was beautiful.

In our Gospel, we get another challenge as we hear about the scribes and Pharisees who have taken the purifications of hands, cups, jugs, kettles, and other items to a whole new level. Unlike the rest of the Jewish nation, the Pharisees created more ritual purifications to do before a meal. The idea was to grow in holiness by imitating what the priest did in the temple by purifying all the vessels and their hands. All these purifications were to sanctify to help people think about God all day.  What has happened is the Pharisees have become scrupulous in their ways, and all these external aspects have not led to a deeper meaning of love for God.  Jesus calls them hypocrites because they pay lip service, and they do not look to change their hearts.   

My friends in Christ, what are we doing well in our spiritual lives? And it is good! However, the more significant challenge is for us to look into our hearts and see how we are like the scribes and Pharisees. How do we pay God lip service by saying all the right things, but it does not affect our lives, our hearts are not changed to see Christ. Think of the last sin we know we committed. God is calling us to focus more on him and bring him in to help us stop this sinful behavior.

The Eucharist we celebrate is meant to bring us closer to God and loving others? May we see God in all things today?