That I May Preach There Also

Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.'”

-Mark 1:36-38

We have all heard the common adage “the squeaky wheel  gets the grease.” To a certain degree, that plays out in our everyday lives, whether it be at work, at home, or even in the garage for that matter. It is true that the more obvious a problem is to us the more likely it is that we are going to solve it first. If a pipe in a home is dripping slowly, the repair may be put off for a long time. However, if there is a profuse trickle or something of that sort, a trip to the hardware store may be in short order.

That is not the particular message that Christ is relaying in the end of this passage however. Christ is not limiting His own presence and ministry to those who are calling out to Him, or to those needs that may not be as pressing in His ministry. He is also not limiting His ministry to those to whom he has close physical proximity. Instead, when Simon comes looking for Christ to lead Him back to the people of that same town, Christ responds that, actually, He and the disciples need to move on. Has He adequately taken care of the people that He is actively leaving, however?

Surprisingly, even with others still looking for Him, the answer is yes. What He is doing is serving as a good model for evangelization. One of the major problems that the Church has encountered over the past few centuries is that it has often and inadvertently limited its range and mission to those inside the doors of the Church. This has become a problem that manifests itself, not only in evangelization, but even in view of a parishioner’s life, who often limits religious engagement to that place that is actively calling for his or her participation in worship.

We are certainly not called to limit our worship to Church during Sunday Mass. We are not called to limit our evangelization to ourselves. We are called to take up Christ’s Gospel message and permeate our entire life with it. To truly live an authentically Christian life, we need to carry the Gospel to others, especially outside the Church. This is what Christ is showing us in the Gospel message for this Sunday. If we are only seeking those who have already been found, for the most part, what happens to the others that have wandered off or never been invited into the fold of our Church to participate in our worship? What happens to those who are in dark places, and have not even heard word of the Light that is Christ?

We are not self-evangelizers strictly, nor are we limited to those who have it mostly figured out and know God in a real way. Even in our own lives, while we certainly have our daily conversions to the Lord, we need to be assessing whether we are bringing our own evangelization to those who have not heard the message, especially those who are in even more desperate need than we find ourselves. We must not limit ourselves to evangelizing those who are actively seeking, but we need to be seeking those who have never been sought. Thus, we must move on to the nearby villages ourselves, and continue to seek for all of the rest of God’s children.



The Woman Caught in Adultery

“Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”

-John 8:10-11

One of the fundamental lessons that I remember learning as a young boy was that actions had consequences. If I broke one of my belongings, it would no longer work. If I flattened a bike tire, I had to save up enough money to buy a new one. If I didn’t eat dinner, I could expect to miss out on dessert as well. These aren’t uncommon lessons that I learned- they are essential to man’s nature as a social being, and one with a free will.

How does the story of the woman caught in adultery fit into this idea though? It could certainly appear that, at first glance, the woman that had committed a serious sin, especially by practice of the Israelite community- and one that merited death. Jesus was well aware of this practice to stone such a woman in His time- why does He act against that particular drive? Why does it appear that he is taking away the consequence of her action?

It seems that there are two fundamental lessons to be learned here. First, we are not the best judges of our own standing in comparison to others or to God. Jesus’s invitation to the leaders of the community to allow the first one of them without sin to cast a stone at her. What was the meaning of this? Perhaps, it was a wake-up call to them. They could have been in worse sorts than she was herself, in some sense. However, it seems to make sense that Jesus wishes us to treat others with mercy and compassion, similar to what we enjoy ourselves. This is an easy lesson to hear, but it is certainly harder to apply. For example, the next time you are cut-off in traffic and desire to enact vengeance upon your fellow motorist- can you say that you are above them in your own morality, let alone an immaculate driver? If you catch someone in a lie, does this make you better than them because you weren’t? To go out on a limb here, it is likely not to be the case. It is important to remember our own need for mercy when we deal with others; otherwise, what place do we have to ask for mercy ourselves? It really seems to be a mistake to start pitting ourselves against others and feeling superior. That is not the true meaning of mercy, and there is certainly a high probability that our evaluation has come up short.

I do not desire to get into a political discussion, but I recently found an excellent example of this when I came across an article on Facebook decrying the fact that President Trump had spoken at the March for Life, because as the article purported, “he is not a pro-life politician.” I am not going to address the validity of that particular claim, because that is not my point; my point is that if we feel that we have the grounds to start casting stones in an accusatory way, we really have to evaluate our own situation more closely. Are truly the most worthy spokespeople of the pro-life message we claim to be portraying? Have we lived up to the pro-life message of the Gospel ourselves, in a way that fully respects the dignity of every human being? Have we always built our neighbors up in a pro-life way(even if just in the perception that others have of them), or have we torn them down in some way that we truly didn’t respect their life and dignity? We cannot start to think we have it all figured out in comparison to another, or we will find ourselves in a very proud and dangerous place- prone to very hard falls, and a false sense of self-righteousness. To do this is not mercy as Christ teaches- it is arrogance. It doesn’t give another a second chance, even when we know we need second chances ourselves. I do not say this to say we shouldn’t ask if a person is truly pro-life; I say this to warn against a cavalier attitude that will not give a person the chance to change to a pro-life stance; maybe his stance has changed, and maybe it hasn’t. He said it has- and that is the hope- and the point. The woman in adultery certainly desired to change- are we to throw stones regardless of that change?

As with many things, this lesson also comes with a very important caveat, and it is seen at the very end of verse eleven above- “Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” What this means is that Jesus is not giving out “free passes” to anyone who desires to sin. He is giving chances to do the right thing- and so many times, it is far more than two chances. Such is the case for our neighbor to be sure, even if they have in some way wronged us or wronged someone else. We aren’t necessarily called to let everyone off the hook, but we are called to be merciful in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in- and hope for positive change in them, but also pray for positive change in ourselves. We cannot abuse our chances and expect to always get off the hook- nor should we. This gospel is not saying that we should- it is saying that we should be mindful of our own state and God’s forgiveness for us, before we begin to tear others down. Otherwise, it is at that exact moment that we have begun a fall that could be worse than the one we have placed ourselves above. This ultimately will send us away from Christ in shame, as the Pharisees were sent away, rather than in freedom, as was granted to the woman that was caught in adultery.

The Holy Family

The Presentation of Our Lord

This day in the Church’s liturgical calendar marks the feast of the Holy Family, and it seems that there would be no other more appropriate time to do so. In the formation of one particular family, Christ’s becoming man in the Incarnation became a reality. It is in this particular family that God became man and was raised from a child to a man, in the care of Mary and Joseph. This seems to be no mistake, for it gives our own families a sort of model to look to for life within our own families. This is not to say that we should fall into distress when our families seemingly miss the mark by inches or by miles, but it should give us hope, and the desire to strive for the same virtuous life of the Holy Family to be present in our own. What are some of the characteristics of this life?

One of the most important characteristics that our own families should possess is love. The Holy Family show us this in a variety of ways. For example, Joseph manifested his love for Mary in taking her into his home, even after discovering she was with a child that was not his own- one that was Divine. Mary and Jesus both loved Joseph and were present at his death, one that is thought to model what ours should look like when it comes. Mary illustrated love for God in a Trinitarian way, loving the Father and His Will for her to bring forth His Son, loving His Son in His Birth, His earthly life, and through His Passion. Jesus loved both His mother Mary and his foster father Joseph in obeying them as a child should be obedient to His family. We should strive to do the same.

Another characteristic that should be present is harmony. A family should be at peace with one another, though this is certainly not always easy. Even in the more tense moments for the Holy Family, such as when Jesus was lost and then found in the temple. Even though both Mary and Joseph had reason to be upset, there was such harmony between all of them that, even though there may have been some fear in that situation, there was not anger. They understood, at least in some sense, that Jesus had a Divine mission. We to should understand each other in our work, and also in our faults.

Finally, the Holy Family was one that, in some sense, challenged each other to grow. Though Joseph may have the “short end of the stick” in that regard, it would not seem unreasonable to think that they all had to learn in some capacities- though Jesus’s learning would likely be limited to human function alone. Mary and Joseph grew in faith through Christ’s coming into their family, and Christ brought extra grace into their midst to help them to do just that. We are largely called in our families to challenge each other to grow in even more challenging ways. However, this is important because the family is the domestic Church- it is that classroom of the faith that we are born into. This challenge to grow is something that will not necessarily be done in a day, week, month, or even a year, but is something that will last a lifetime, whether we are a child, or building our own families (even spiritual ones as our vocation requires). Our families are called, in whatever ways that we are in them, in any circumstance, to follow the Holy Family, and to challenge ourselves to become like them. That is a challenge that is not to be taken lightly, but one that has heavenly rewards.

O Holy Night

Nativity Stained Glass Window in St. Joseph Chapel at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Whether or not Christmas is going to be white or warm, at home or away, the special season has arrived upon us! A fallen and weary world is given the first signs of what the hymn “O Holy Night” calls “a new and glorious morn.” This season of peace and joy opens its arms wide for us to celebrate the very moment when heaven meets earth- and the Divine becomes human. There is suddenly a spark within the human nature again- one that calls man to something higher than himself. This has an almost incomprehensible impact upon all of mankind and his future- they are saved from a fate that, for all intensive purposes, was one without hope. Yet, here in this humble beginning of a small babe, born in a manger, mankind is given that sign of hope that they have longed for for so long.

“Fall on your knees; O hear the angel voices!” This isn’t just a past event- it is something that is as present today as it has been in the past, and impacts our future in the same way! It should be a powerful event for us- one that does indeed bring us to our knees! Let’s let this season elicit the joy of a promise of future hope fill us with so much joy that it spreads to others- as the angels did in the fields to humble shepherds so long ago. We should be so overfilled with joy and zeal as they were to proclaim this news to everyone in our words and our deeds- Christ has humbled Himself to set us free from our fallen state! Let us allow this joy of the Christmas season not only fill us with joy, but also have impact in our future. This ultimately means that we are allowed the ability to cooperate with God’s extension of His Son to give us our salvation- we simply need to  open our hearts to receive our Lord into our own “mangers” as humble as they may be. He comes to raise up our fallen humanity by His Divinity! Let us rejoice on this “night divine!”

May you and your loved ones have a Merry and Joy-filled Christmas season!