The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The Kingdom of Christ was meant for us: we are princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God our Father. Our Father’s greatest desire is that we come home to His Kingdom. He fills our life with opportunities to enter the kingdom. What do these opportunities look like? Hungry mouths, thirsty neighbors, strangers in our midst, homeless and naked, and prisoners in our prisons. Be open to receive these great opportunities, because the King won’t forget.

(23 Nov 2014)

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—– Part 3 of 3 —–

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine. (Code of Canon Law 1176 §3)

Last week I shared about my Grandmother’s funeral. We chose to have her funeral Mass celebrated in her local parish church, with a brief open-casket visitation before the service and a burial at the cemetery following the service. Sometimes loved ones express that they “don’t want any fuss” or “just do it all at the funeral home.” But this isn’t really what is best for them or for us. When they get to the other side, they will see more clearly the good reasons behind our ancient traditions. The funeral is not a time to get too creative; the old customs work best. This is especially true when it comes to cremation. The Catholic Church permits cremation, but the ashes of the deceased have to be buried in consecrated ground or in a mausoleum.

I was meeting with a family to prepare for a funeral and they told me they wanted to scatter Mom’s ashes. I asked them, “What would it mean?” They told me, “Well, it means that it’s over, and she’s free now, and she can be one with nature and the universe.” I answered, “There’s the problem. What you have just said completely contradicts your Catholic faith.”

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Ordinary Time, 33rd Sunday. In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, the nations will be separated into sheep and goats based on how the they treat “the least brothers of mine”, namely Christians. How then will the Christians be judged? The answer is today’s reading, also from Matthew 25. A man goes on a journey and gives his servants 5, 2, or 1 talent. A talent is a large sum of money; even the man who only got 1 talent still had a lot to work with. The difference is not the quantity but the attitude. The last servant is motivated by fear; he’s trying not to go to hell. Fear paralyzes the servant and he proves himself unworthy of the investment.

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—– Part 2 of 3 —–

Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church, but all the things of this world are not yet subjected to him. The triumph of Christ’s kingdom will not come about without one last assault by the powers of evil. On Judgement Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of history. When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace. (Catechism of the Catholic Church para 680-682)

Death is never convenient. I distinctly remember Wednesday afternoon, February 21, 2013. I was talking on the phone in my office at the portable trailers on the west side of Oconto Falls when my father called and left a message: “Call me.” I called him back and he said tersely, “Joel, my mother just died.” ‘Grandmy’ was cheerful and healthy, enjoying her 70’s and looking forward to golf. I was at a total loss. Fortunately, Holy Mother Church is never at a total loss; she knows just what to do when someone passes. Our loved one has to be transferred from the land of the living to the land of the dead. This involves three tasks: 1) wrap up their life on earth 2) take care of the body 3) take care of the soul.

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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The church building serves as a visible reminder that God dwells among His people. Just like the Jewish temple, so the church is a place where heaven and earth are in right relationship and where you can encounter God. We sacrifice (time money, your heart) and God responds by blessing us. The true temple of God is not the church but your heart. Your heart is a place of encounter where we offer sacrifice and God returns blessing. God wants to dwell in your heart. Cast out the clutter to make room for Christ.

(9 Nov 2014)

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—– Part 1 of 3 —–

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

“They say death and taxes are the only things that are inevitable. The truth is, you can not pay your taxes. I’ve done it, and there’s consequences, but it can be done. Death you’re not going to get out of, and you kind of got to deal with it.” – Steve Earle

November is a month when Catholics pray for the dead. One thing we know for certain: you are going to die, and there’s no way out of it. To be human is to face death and come to grips with it. If we look back to the Victorian era, just a century or two ago, death and grieving were woven into the fabric of society. Gathering around the deathbed of a relative was a sacred ritual. Whole families, including children, took time praying and keeping vigil. They listened closely for any last words the dying said that might give clues about the other side. Too often, though, death was sudden and tragic, the result of a runaway horse, factory fire or plague. It could come at any time; people were always prepared for death.

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The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Family Mass #2). If you want to catch a deer, you have to think like a deer. Satan uses money and candy to catch humans. How can we escape the trap? By thinking like God. We are running around in the maze of everyday life but God looks down and sees the right way to go. How can we start thinking like God? Pray every day. And read the Bible. The Bible readings at Mass tell us how God thinks.

How does God think about the dead? “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.” They see God face to face and experience His joy and peace and love. One thing keeps them from being perfectly happy: We aren’t there with them yet! They are praying for us to make it home. Let’s pray for them too.

(2 Nov 2014)

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Solemnity of All Saints. The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse into Heaven. It is meant to encourage Christians to persevere through the tribulations because Christ is coming soon. Heaven is more than just a place, Heaven is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ. The love, peace, joy and healing that we long for all come from being in the presence of God. Heaven is happy and beautiful because it always experiences His presence. The Beatitudes sketch the face of Christ. They also show us what our faces will look like when we begin reflecting Heaven’s light. Live in His presence today.

(1 Nov 2014)

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Ordinary Time, 30th Sunday. Priesthood isn’t complicated: All you have to do is love God, and love His people. It’s not complicated, it’s just humanly impossible.

Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest and he tells them: the one you recite every day. It sounds simple but its humanly impossible. No matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to love others as we should. What’s wrong? We have to put the first commandment first. We can’t really love our neighbor until we have loved God. More specifically, we have to start receiving God’s love for us. Only when we know we are loved can we respond with love. 

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