Thursday, February 13, 2020

Tell the Truth Until It Feels Good

I once heard someone say that to tell people to give until it hurts was not good advice.  This person argued that one should tell people to give until it feels good.  I think the same can be said for being open and honest with people.  If you go around pretending to be someone you’re not, you may end up disappointing people because you didn’t live up to their expectations of you, whether warranted or not.  And when you disappoint people you may wind up feeling disappointed in yourself.  And then, it could turn into a cycle of disappointment, and nobody would be very happy.

That doesn’t sound like a very pleasant way to live, does it?  What if you changed the situation from the very beginning?  If you are honest with others when they ask you questions, yes, you may disappoint them at first, and that may not feel very good.  But they will learn more about you through your honesty.  They will learn what they can expect from you.  They will most likely respect you more for being open than for pretending to be something or someone you are not.  In the long run, you will develop stronger relationships because you build trust through honesty.

I have often had people say to me, “Why don’t you do things a different way?” or “Why don’t you try changing x about yourself?”  My answer is simple:  because that’s not me.  If I change something about myself to make people like me better, that is no way to live.  I would be living a lie, disappointing myself, and making myself miserable.  Not to mention, when I am no longer able to keep up the charade, I am going to let people down who think I fit the mold of what I have pretended to be.

So, tell the truth, be open, be candid.  You will gather a group of people around you who know the real you and respect you for who you are.  And I doubt you will miss those who may have liked you for a mere appearance anyway.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sledding in the Dark

There is a prime sledding hill within walking distance from my house.  It is, in my opinion, one of the best sledding hills in the Salt Lake Valley, and no, it isn’t located at Sugarhouse Park.  The reason I feel it is one of the best hills is because it offers something for everyone.  At the eastern end of the hill, it is steep and bumpy – perfect for the thrill-seeking older sledding enthusiast.  As you move west, the hill gets progressively easier – less steep and definitely less bumpy – so it’s great for little kids who might get scared at the eastern end.  I remember sledding there as a kid, and I would always grumble when Mom or Dad said it was time to go home because it was getting dark.  But, as is usually the case, Mom and Dad knew best.

If you drive by this hill after a decent snowfall, you will see cars lined up all along the hill and kids (and adults) of all ages on the slope.  In the past two years or so, there has even been a diehard group that goes to the sledding hill after dark.  I noticed them back again just last week.

Just think of the motivation and enthusiasm these people must have to go sledding in the dark.  They also have to have a significant amount confidence and trust that nothing will go seriously wrong.  Yes, they could use the headlights of their cars to light the way, but they are essentially sledding blind.

Try now to put this in the context of the apostles.  We heard of the calling of Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John in last Sunday’s Gospel reading.  Think what their relatives and friends must have thought when they went off to follow Jesus.  How did they know where he would lead them?  Why abandon a perfectly good (if not entirely stable) job as a fisherman to go off with this man?  Why, why, why?  It must have seemed the height of nonsense, just as sledding in the dark seems to me.

Perhaps they did it for the thrill of something out of the ordinary, at least at first, but I doubt they felt quite as excited once they realized Jesus faced opposition.  Nevertheless, they stayed with him, to the end in John’s case, and most of the Apostles died as martyrs, having come back to Jesus after the resurrection.

Jesus kept them coming back, just as the lure of the sledding hill keeps bringing the thrill-seekers back, even in the dark.  Do we have the courage to listen to Jesus’ call as much as we listen to the temporal urges and longings of our hearts?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Taking the Church's Temperature

At our RCIA session this past Tuesday, we were talking about the history of the Catholic Church from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance.  We discussed several influential Church Councils, including the Lateran Councils and the Council of Trent.  Church Councils serve to clarify doctrine, and reaffirm the Church’s position on moral dilemmas of the day.

In the course of our discussion, the current crisis we are facing – that of abuse of minors – was brought up.  While we do not want to diminish the seriousness of this crisis in any way, the point was made that, as a Church, we have faced a multitude of issues that could have torn the Catholic Church to pieces.  In the case of the splintering of the Church, first through the Schism of 1054 and then the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, differences of doctrinal opinion have divided Christianity into thousands of denominations.

We must not despair at the brokenness of our Church, even when scandal seems to rise to a fever pitch.  The Church is still here, 2000 years after Jesus Christ walked the earth.  It has been rocked by scandal and division before, and God has sent defenders of the faith to guide it through tumultuous times.  We can only pray that He will do so once again as we face the issues of today.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Working through Changes

Life very rarely stays the same, which is a good thing.  Just imagine if nothing ever changed.  How boring would life be then?  But often in our lives, we can be resistant to change.  Adapting to changes, rolling with the punches, is a skill we have to learn as human beings.

Change often accompanies “milestone” life events – births, marriages, deaths, etc.  When my grandmother died, my parents spent almost nine months in California, getting her house ready to rent.  Truckloads of her possessions made the nearly thousand-mile trek from Santa Barbara to Salt Lake City.  We are still going through bits of it, almost nine years later.  In the act of going through her things, it brings back memories of her life, her mannerisms, her accent, and it brings a smile to our faces, so the change is not all bad.

Another big milestone is on the horizon for my family.  My brother will be getting married in May, and moving out of our family home.  He’s moved out before, when he went to college and then vocational school, but it wasn’t permanent.  There is a significant age gap between us, and to me, he’s always been my big brother, across the hall or just downstairs.  I can always depend on him to be there for me and for our parents.  Now, he will still be “there,” just not physically.  Again, this change won’t be all bad – I get a sister out of it, after all – but it will still be difficult.

Life will go on.  We will adapt.  And we will find a new normal.

When things change in your life, when you find it difficult to accept change, ask yourself:  How am I going to grow because of this change?  How can I be joyful through this change?  Do I need God’s help?  Have I asked for it?

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Post-Christmas Slump

Christmas, in the secular sense, is over.  After this Sunday, the Christmas Season will be over in the liturgical sense as well.  There are Christmas trees on the curbs awaiting collection on garbage day.  The winter days are just cold and gray.  And with the current political climate there is a feeling of trepidation and uncertainty in the air.  You might ask yourself, how am I supposed to keep the Christmas spirit with the world in this mess?

Yes, it is hard, especially when the post-Christmas slump hits and you might feel exhausted from all the activities that took place over the holidays.  It’s hard to go back to a regular work schedule.  It’s hard to go back to a “normal” life.

Try to keep a spirit of joyful anticipation in your heart.  What do you have to look forward to in the coming weeks and months?  How can you incorporate God into your waiting?  How can He help you to get through the inevitable “let down” of having to return to routine?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Even though the secular world tends to think that Christmas lasts from Thanksgiving until December 25th, as Roman Catholics, we celebrate the Christmas season from Christmas Day until the Baptism of the Lord, on January 12th this year.  When everything around us goes “back to normal”, we still celebrate.  Usually, we are reminded at Easter that we are “Easter people,” celebrating the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection each Sunday at Mass.  But think about it.  If Jesus wasn’t born, he couldn’t suffer, die, and rise again.

Those “C and E Catholics” or “Chreasters” miss out on a ton.  They only celebrate the “big stuff”, and perhaps they don’t even really celebrate except in the secular sense.  Think about it in the context of your own life.  If you only really lived for the “big stuff” – births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and deaths – is that really living?  What about all the in-between bits?

Think about that as we near the first period of Ordinary Time, but for now, try to keep a sense of Christmas joy with you for as long as you can, and, as Father Erik said in his homily this weekend, make your neighbors think you’re crazy!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Advent Themes for Focusing Prayer Part 4: Love

This year, the fourth week of Advent was very short, but it wasn’t as short as it could have been.  There are years when the fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve, so the fourth week of Advent ends up being only a few short hours long.  Nevertheless, the fourth week of Advent has its own special theme for focusing our prayer:  Love.  And how appropriate is it that in the last hours or days before Christmas, we focus on the virtue that Jesus Christ embodies as fully human and fully divine?

Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is love incarnate, love made flesh.  He is the fulfillment of God the Father’s love for humankind.  The oft-referenced verse, John 3:16, tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (NABRE translation).

Jesus shows us how to love more perfectly.  He teaches us that we are to love those around us (our “neighbors”) and he gives us a model of how to love them.  At Christmas, we recall Jesus’ first coming at his birth in Bethlehem.  Now, invite him to come again, into your heart to perfect how you love others, and ask him to help you love more perfectly.