The Choice Is Still Before Us

 
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?” – Luke 6:46
Recently I was paid a great compliment: I was called a disciple. My reaction surprised me. I didn’t feel pride or embarrassment, but alarm. My immediate concern was that if people consider me disciple, they might strive to be like me and fall short of true discipleship. The closer I get to God the more clearly I see how far I have to go. I am a tall man, but a low bar.
 

We all have a choice to make, to leave our former life behind and follow Christ to Calvary. As Deacon Ralph Poyo shared in his recent visit, it is an all-or-nothing choice. We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The only way to put God first is to place everything else behind Him.

The bad news is that we cannot work hard enough or love well enough to earn heaven without God’s grace—but neither can we cease to work and presume God’s grace will carry us.

The good news is that the choice is still before us, in every interaction, every moment here on earth.

How do we make the right choice in the moment? Jesus gives us clear instructions. For example:

  • Renounce your possessions, pick up your cross, and follow—otherwise you cannot be a disciple (Matthew 16:24-16, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23-26).
  • Love God, love neighbor, love enemies—it is not enough to love those who love you (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36).
  • Provide for the needs of others as you would for Jesus Himself—anything less is damnable (Matthew 25:31-46).

These words are like a punch to the gut for me. I have no trouble at all crying out to the Lord, but I’m terrible at doing what He commands. I go to Mass, pray pretty regularly, and try not to sin. But I enjoy my life, I dislike suffering, and I am comfortable in this community, in my circle of friends and family, in a job that suits my skills and pays the bills.

Surely I get bonus points working for the church? Didn’t the Pharisees?

We have hope, however. God seeks us constantly, loves us endlessly, wants to forgive us and welcome us home. God proves His love by sending His son to sinners, to live, suffer, and die in order to save us from our sins. We can choose today to accept this love or not. We can choose to love God back or not. We can choose to follow Jesus or not. We can make this choice right now.

But we can’t do it alone. If you are ready to change your life and follow Christ today, talk to someone today. Ask someone you regard as a disciple what to do next. They might be a little flustered at first, because discipleship is a big responsibility. If they are uncomfortable, it may mean they need someone to walk with, too. Ask them to partner with you. And if you don’t know who to talk to or want help from the parish to get started, send an email to smallgroups@stmcatholicchurch.org or call me at the parish office. 

Don’t wait. The way is narrow, but not so narrow that we can’t walk it together!

Embracing ‘Already but Not Yet’

A few years back I was blessed to participate in the Catechetical Institute (Class of Padre Pio) at Saint Andrew Catholic Church in Elk River. I expected it to be a great learning experience: a deep dive into the what and why of Catholic teachings. I did not expect it to be as convicting, converting, and hopeful an experience as it was.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is a systematic overview of the Catholic faith with lots of references to sacred scripture, saints’ writings, and other Church documents that flesh out the teachings in more detail. But the overall theme of the book—and the foundation of all Church wisdom and teaching—is God’s plan of salvation, culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One of the great mysteries of that plan, emphasized again and again throughout the institute, is the sense of already, but not yet:

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Over the Long Haul

I was blessed last month to be invited by our morning and evening MOM’s Groups to speak about marriage. At the time, I wondered what a man in his late 40s could offer a group of mostly young mothers in their first several years of marriage. Then I recalled a conversation with our oldest son Brendan and his wife Becky when they were discerning marriage. Specifically, I remember telling them, “We promise for better or for worse without really knowing what that means.”

It’s best that we can’t see the future. Maybe an unforeseen struggle will derail all our plans. Maybe it’s a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a child, a broken past or hidden addiction. Or maybe it’s the slow-building weight of sarcasm or unsolicited advice, the accumulated slights of day-to-day living in close quarters, or the endless routine of raising a family. Whatever our cross, when it comes, we can either carry it as a burden or swing it as a bludgeon. For better, or for worse.

After 26 years of marriage, I’ve learned that I’m still the same guy. Certainly I’ve changed a bit: I’ve kicked a few really bad habits, praise God, and gained some gray in my hair and beard. But I still have all the same buttons in all the same places, and Jodi still pushes them—for better or for worse.

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Book Break: Laundry Love

Those who read my blog regularly know that book-related posts often include the caveat that this book might not be for everyone. In the case of one my latest reads, Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson and Karin B. Miller, it’s definitely true, though not for the usual reasons. There is no dark or objectionable content, nor even a discouraging word, from start to finish.

However, I did make the mistake of discussing this book in mixed company exactly one time. The women were amused and ribbed me gently. The men in the room rolled their eyes and mocked me openly, then worked to change the subject. Apparently a book about doing laundry in more economical and environmentally friendly ways, written by a fellow with a deep love of vintage fashions, disco balls, and stain removal is, in fact, not for everyone.

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Mr. Fix-It?

Back in the summer of 2019, my 1966 Ford F-100, Rosa, died along the side of the road between Elk River and home. She was my daily driver to Saint Andrew and back, and it was a sad day when the tow truck operator rolled her off the flat bed to her shady spot beside the garage.

The neighbor boy, watching the action over the fence with the acute interest of a future heavy equipment operator, said: “Best. TV show. Ever.” He didn’t sense my loss.

As of this weekend, Rosa rides again. Yesterday, she joined the parade of tarp-lined pickups and minivans loaded with leaf bags headed to the compost site to remove the leavings of autumn. She stalled once and sputtered twice at stop signs and traffic lights; she also seeped oil from nearly every seal and gasket for the first couple trips, until they swelled and began to hold again.

I told Jodi during our morning prayers yesterday that I knew we had a busy day planned, but I wanted to do at least one thing that I just flat-out enjoyed.

I’m an emotional guy. The first load of leaves choked me up a bit. I had a big, goofy smile all the way home. Rosa’s back!*

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