GROW: Superbowl Sunday was two weeks ago, and many of us were more likely interested in the commercials than the actual game. After all, companies pay a ton of money to have their products paraded in front of us, and – in theory at least – take the time to make these particular ads memorable and funny. If we can be convinced that we will be better people, or our social outings greater and filled with more laughter, we will buy what they are selling. It’s the modern version of the words of the serpent in today’s first reading: if you eat this, “you will be like gods”! Today’s readings are a reminder that we are all sinners and burdened by being vulnerable to false promises – but also that we are relieved of this burden through one man: Jesus Christ. If we tend to forget that the most important part of our salvation story is that it is full of more grace and forgiveness than we can comprehend, this first Sunday of Lent is a good time to prayerfully ponder this. If God seems far away or distant, let us recall that he loved us so much that he breathed our very life into us, and then gave his only begotten Son to us that we might have life eternally. All he asks in return is for us to accept this gift and follow in his footsteps. Lent is the time to be mindful of grace-filled opportunities that draw us closer to God.READ MORE
GROW: Today is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time before Lent begins. I realize in saying it that way, however, it sounds like a warning (“the bookstore will be closing in five minutes, please bring your purchases to the register!”) rather than an acknowledgement of the celebration that it is. So let me put it another way: Today is the 7th – of 33 – Sundays in Ordinary Time this year, which means, we’ve only just begun. We are in some of the earliest days of the Church’s “ordered” (ordinary/numbered) approach to helping us mature and grow in faith. We do this by living with and in the life of Christ over the course of a year. At each step we celebrate the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, but we also set aside different seasons to focus on those specific elements. And so it makes sense that as we approach Lent, we hear more about what exactly God asks of us. Lent will be a season of preparation for Christ’s passion; have we prepared our hearts accordingly to receive him? Today’s readings remind us of what sets us back: hatred for others; desire for revenge; grudges; worldly wisdom; all things which are destructive of God’s temple – our souls, as Saint Paul says. Having a heart full of these things means there is no room for love, which means there is no room for Christ. Let us pray for God’s help in ridding ourselves of all that is destructive, and for the strength to grow a heart only for him.READ MORE
GROW: Just the other day some of my friends agreed on a new way to approach the new year: Select one word, a kind of mantra for 2023. Ironically, even though I am indecisive to a fault, I had no trouble deciding on mine: “Choose.” I often get stuck, whether it’s deciding which online clothing purchases to return, what to order on the menu … and don’t get me started on major life decisions. Today’s reading from Sirach reminds us of the choice that matters most: If we choose to keep the commandments, they will save us. “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” We are well into 2023, but it bears reminding that each day we have an opportunity to choose anew: To follow God’s law, fulfilled in the words and example of Jesus. He will show us the way. “If you trust in God, you too shall live.”READ MORE
I recently decided to learn to cook. As I sit at the feet of various YouTube cooking masters, I notice how much of cooking is adding ingredients that don’t provide any more nourishment, like herbs and other seasonings. But man! They make all the difference because they make the meal delightful to eat and share.
Jesus calls his disciples “salt of the world.” No one eats just salt. So, Christians are not meant to replace or do away with the world. They are meant to be agents of preservation and glorification. Notice how often these days the Church seeks to preserve what is threatened: the goodness of marital and family love, the desires of young people for greatness, the value of honest work, healthy economics, and altruistic political engagement, the dignity of the poor and vulnerable. Over and over, we say to a world who wants to throw things out, “It’s worth saving! We’ll preserve it! We’ll show you it’s wonderful.” If we can’t engage the world like that, Jesus says we are the ones who get thrown out, because salt alone is worthless.READ MORE