Awkward Catholic

Living my faith as the awkward man of God that I am.


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True Discipleship

The Ascension

What is a disciple? I’m pretty sure we all have an image of a disciple in our heads. In my head I see the Apostle’s, a rag-tag group of unwashed and unshaven men following an itinerant preacher in Ancient Israel. Or perhaps today we might imagine some sort of missionary going door to door trying to share the Good News of Christ’s salvation, or perhaps, we could envision just an ordinary person who claims to follow Christ going about his or her day not looking all that different than everyone else around them.

At its essence though a disciple is someone who engages in an active relationship with Christ, one who sits at his feet and learns from him, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” Matt 11:29

So a disciple is someone who is bound to Christ, follows and learns from him. Clearly, just because you follow Christ doesn’t mean you’re a disciple; just look at Judas. So we need more than this if we are to be true disciples of Christ.

What else did Christ command of his followers? “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Matt 28:19. A disciple therefore is in relationship with Christ and shares this relationship with others, we could say, they bear God to others to invite them into relationship with Christ.

So a true disciple of Christ is in relationship with Him and obeys his commands to go out and make disciples of all nations. A friend of mine shared with me the other day some thoughts she had on the Ascension. She said it was kind of funny how Jesus commands them to go and evangelize and they just stand there and stare at the sky as he ascends into heaven. So an angel comes down and commands them to go. So what do they do? They go back to the upper room. So finally, God sends the Holy Spirit and they are transformed and go out and literally change the world. It took the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and also their cooperation, their yes… their amen… their “Let it be done.”

And why, what is all this for? It’s simple really, what is anything for? What is the purpose of all creating things? As it says in Eph 1:11-12 “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”

Everything that exists, and the entire will of the Father is in, through, and for the Son. We exist to praise, glorify, and magnify God’s glory. To do this is to do the will of the Father. To be holy, to be set apart. That is what the word “holy” means after all, to be set apart for God. It’s the reason we consecrate our churches, the altars, the vessels, and the hands that do the consecrating. To consecrate means “to make sacred with”, or to make holy, to be set apart. It would be terrible sacrilege to drink beer out of the chalice used at Mass. And so we too should be holy, set apart by God, to exist for the praise of his glory.

OK, so how do we get there? Well, looking at all of life, nothing is done on our own. In everything we do, we need others to help us and teach us. So, I think a first step is to find a teacher, a role model, one who is a true disciple who can show us the way. And throughout history there have been many true and good disciples (the saints), but ultimately each of them, as holy as they are and as amazing and awesome as they are, are only copies of the original, the first disciple, our Mother, Mary.

Mary & Elizabeth

Look at her life:

Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit:

Luke 1:35: “And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

She gave her yes, her amen, her “Let it be done”:

Luke 1:38 “Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

She then immediately goes to Elizabeth and bears the Good News to her relative; she is the first and truest “God-bearer”:

Luke 1:39-40 “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”

She learned from her Son:

Luke 2:19: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

She exists for the praise of his glory:

Luke 1:46-47: “And Mary said, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’ “

If we are to be true disciples, our best hope is to be like the first disciple, the prototype, there can be none better. Fly to Mary, our Mother and ask for her intercession. Pray to her often, love her with all your heart. As St. Padre Pio said, “Never be afraid to love Mary too much. You can never love her more than her own Son.” After all, who are we to disobey Scripture? Remember, the true disciple does the Father’s will. And as it says in Luke 2:48 “Behold, from now will all ages call me blessed.” Mary says this just after her cousin Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit proclaims in Luke 1:41-42, “Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ ”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!


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Checking Your List for the Divine Invasion

That awkward moment when you see the horrible things going on in the world around you and you realize that this day, or any day, might be your last and that you aren’t prepared, that there are too many things left undone or unsaid. At the very least, you want to check off a few more things from your bucket list.Bucket

So, what’s on your bucket list? My bucket list has four items on it: To marry a beautiful woman, to have a family, to be published and to become a saint. Thus far I’ve accomplished 3 of my four goals.

What about you? If you haven’t actually made a bucket list, then at least ask yourself what you most want to accomplish in this life before you die. But then ask yourself why you want these things. Most likely there is some story behind your desire or need for each item on your list. Most likely you believe that obtaining those goals will bring you satisfaction or fulfillment of some kind. And most likely they will, to a certain extent.

But now I want to ask you what do you think is on God’s bucket list? The obvious answer is that he wants us with him for eternity. But really, that’s too generic, isn’t it? Your bucket list is most likely specific and concrete, why wouldn’t God’s be?

I’ve said this before but I think it bears repeating: why did God create the world?

The answer is simple: to love you; so that you would be here for him to love. You are the apple of his eye, the treasure of his heart, his precious. What God wants is you; simply you. Nothing else, nothing less, he wants you and you alone. Every star in t he sky exists so that God could love you.

But we resist this, don’t we? We look for our satisfaction just about everywhere else. Why is that I think? Why do we continue to seek the satisfaction of his love elsewhere?! I think a major part of the problem is that, for most of us, eternity is so far away, so distant into the future that it’s hard to think about, to live for. Rather, most of us are just trying to survive this week, or this day, aren’t we?

Yeah, I want to go to heaven but right now, I want more to make it through today without giving up, without being hurt, without hurting someone else or embarrassing myself or messing up or disappointing someone.

This, in a certain sense, in a very real sense, is the war we find ourselves in on an almost daily basis… a war with its most evil manifestations in the mass shootings and terrorism around us, but more importantly in the everyday lives of everyday people. None of us signed up for this war, but we find ourselves in it nonetheless.

Each day we find ourselves simply trying to survive the day and all these fears, hurts, dangers and traps are the weapons of the enemy, the devil. We’re so focused on these small battles that we forget the overall war, the goal. We make concessions saying that I don’t think I can obtain salvation, or I’ll worry about it later. Right now, I just want a little rest, a little peace and something joyful. To be clear, delighting in the everyday joys, the little things that make life good or tolerable are not bad. In fact, they are gifts from God. But the danger comes when we begin to make these little pleasures all we’re fighting for.

That’s why the idea of a bucket list is actually a good one. Typically, a bucket list contains things that are life-changing, life-defining, lifetime accomplishment type goals. They are real and concrete and help us focus on the long term, they help us to keep fighting and moving forward. But make sure those items on your list have the right priority. What is your #1? What should it be? If the love of God isn’t your #1 goal then you’re missing the point.

But let’s get back to this war we’re fighting. We’re getting ready to celebrate the Incarnation of Christ, where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Think about that for a minute, about how in this Great War, a war that has raged through all time and space, there was a moment when God’s plan had come to fruition and it was time to strike. And so he sent his army of One onto the front lines, a beachhead in the form of a baby in a manger… the Divine Invasion began and continues today.Nativity

In our lives, our minds and hearts, Christ comes again and again, in the silence and stillness. Just like he came the first time as a still, small baby; he comes to us now in a still, small voice. Not with guns or bombs or fanfare but in the silence of a still mind, a quiet, searching heart. Mark my words, strength to survive this week or the day will not be found in those small pleasures of things but rather in the stillness of silence.

Sure, silence is a terrifying experience for most. With all the countless distractions of today it’s nearly impossible to know silence. And this, I believe is one of the most potent weapons of the enemy. I know well the fear of silence. I had a difficult time growing up. My inner thoughts were filled with self-hatred and disgust and the thought of spending time with those thoughts, of wrestling with them was a terrifying one. Why would I want that?

But where else am I going to find healing and wholeness? It is in the silence where I am able to confront my wounds, wounds inflicted on me and those I’ve inflicted myself. Then, in his mercy he enters our hearts and minds, often unseen, and begins to heal those wounds and we find peace and begin living the eternity we are destined for.

This Advent, prepare your heart for the coming of Christ. Wrestle with the silence and hear the voice of God say to you, “You are my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” You are his Beloved! Sit with that in the silence. Let this truth overwhelm your fear and wash clean your wounds, you are God’s entire bucket list.