Today, the Church celebrates Good Friday. It seems odd to me to call the day Jesus suffered, died, and was buried “good.” Because on this day Jesus shed his blood, we have been rescued from sin and death, and we also know just how deep and wide the love of God for us really is that makes it truly good. [Read more…] about The Cross = a Broken Heart?
Below is the written text for Deacon Pat Hessel’s homily at Holy Trinity Parish on the weekend of August 6-7, 2016 – on our motivation for living our life of faith.
Some people speak about reward and punishment in terms of “the carrot and the stick.” They talk about it in relation to motivating people. It comes from the image of a person sitting on a cart pulled by a mule. The driver dangles a carrot in front of the mule. The mule wants the carrot, so it moves forward. But the driver also holds a stick, and if the mule stops or doesn’t move fast enough, the driver hits the mule with the stick. In the business world, carrots and sticks are used all the time to encourage productivity. The top salesperson might get a special bonus at the end of the month – a carrot. On the other hand, the worker who doesn’t perform well or who misses work often, risks being fired – a stick.
Many of us view our faith life in terms of carrots and sticks. Our ultimate carrot is, of course, heaven, and our ultimate stick is hell. Carrots and sticks sound manipulative, but they work. “If you get your homework done before supper, you can have ice cream for dessert.” “If you don’t do your chores, you’re going to lose your telephone for two days.” All of us as parents have used carrots and sticks with our kids. They work – most of the time. [Read more…] about The Carrot & the Stick: Homily for August 7, 2016
“…show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” -2 Corinthians 3:3
One of the first large youth ministry events I organized was a youth rally meant to bring together the young people from several parishes in the Edmonton area. We titled it “Hearts of Stone and Flesh” in reference to the above scripture passage. Among other exciting things, we promised to give out free t-shirts to all who registered for this rally, and we wound up having 250 shirts printed with the following emblazoned across the front of the shirt in big, bold letters:
“ARE YOU STONE?”
This, of course, looked an awful lot like “are you stoned,” and reflects the first and last time I was ever allowed to design youth event t-shirts. In spite of these t-shirts, the rally was a great success (and is now headed into its thirteenth year) – and the theme is one that has stayed close to me in the years that have passed. Simply put, someone with a stony heart, is someone who, for a variety of reasons (usually sin or pain) has closed themselves off from loving others and being loved by them. Ezekiel explains that God intends to heal us of this condition:
“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” -Ezekiel 36:26
There is perhaps no place we see this play out more quickly than in the story of Luke Skywalker and his father, Darth Vader, in the original Star Wars trilogy.
[Read more…] about Lessons From Star Wars: The Stony Heart
Because I spend a lot of time trying explain my faith to teenagers, many of them have no problem turning around and asking me questions about this or that teaching of the Catholic Church. Bar none, the most popular questions I’m asked usually have something to do with morality – why is it that God expects us to live in a certain way? What’s generally behind these questions are two other assumptions:
1) Why can’t I just do what I want?
2) Doesn’t God know it’s hard (if not impossible) to do this? [Read more…] about What does it mean to be free?
As a certifiable Trekkie (I have attended three Star Trek conventions and once forced my wife to make a stop in Vulcan, AB, so I could check out the Star Trek museum there), I get really excited when I come across a scene I can use in my work with teenagers. One such scene came from JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek, when in the new, alternate timeline, Captain Christopher Pike has encountered a young James Kirk. This Kirk is different from the Kirk we knew in the 1960’s Star Trek, in the first seven Trek movies… this Kirk grew up without a father, and has spent his life wandering, aimlessly. He hasn’t even considered enlisting in Starfleet. The compilation of scenes which introduce Kirk in this movie present a man who has no respect for the rules, for authority; very little value for his own life; and who has just been beaten up pretty badly in a bar fight he started with four Starfleet cadets. In this moment, Captain Pike looks at Kirk and tells him the following:
If you’re half the man your father was, Jim, Starfleet could use you… your father was captain of a Starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives, including your mother’s and yours. I dare you to do better.
Manhood doesn’t happen by accident. [Read more…] about Man up!