Monday, July 14, 2008

Worshiping With Those Who Have Lost Everything

Our family vacation recently took us to Greensburg, Kansas. Greensburg, you may recall, was wiped out by an enormous tornado a little over a year ago. St. Joseph Catholic Church, like all the other churches in town, was completely destroyed. They currently worship in a temporary modular building as they await the completion of their new church building.

As my family and I went in on Sunday morning, we found our way to a folding chair in the back row. Things were so different from what we are used to. There are no pews, no beautiful windows, no Stations. It is stark. Don't get me wrong; the people of St. Joseph have made it as nice as it can be. But it isn't how most of us are used to seeing church. But this is church for them.

I felt privileged to be in their midst. These have truly suffered the loss of all things. I worshiped with people who had lost their homes, businesses, and church. Yet, you wouldn't know it. There was smiles and laughter and hugging and visiting and pleasantries as if life was completely normal.

There is a longstanding tradition within the Church that it is through suffering that we are made holy. We become more like Jesus as we patiently endure suffering. I felt that I was seeing some of that as I worshiped with the people of St. Joseph.

How would I do in their circumstances? I honestly can't imagine I would do as well. I have so much. I have a nice home, church, community, clothes, everything. I have so much. They have so little.

It is more than giving them things or money. They truly do need our prayers. But then, I think we need their's. We, who are so prone to be infatuated with our things, are in greater danger of deifying them. Do we live for this world or the next? The answer cannot be both. It truly is one or the other. Suffering the loss of all things is terribly difficult, but it does help one come to grips with this vital truth of the spiritual life. So who is truly the poorer? I wonder if it isn't all the rest of us who are in need of the prayers of the saints in the making of Greensburg.

Be thankful for all that God has given to you, and then swear off any temptation to cling to it too tightly. Learn to suffer the loss of all things in your heart so that if the day should come that you are called to do it in deed, you will be ready.

May the Lord bless the people of Greensburg and the parish of St. Joseph!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I will be away from the blogosphere for the next week while I am vacationing. Keep me and my family in your prayers.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

At Home With Demons

The whole town came out to meet Jesus,
and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.
Matthew 8:34

Today's Gospel reading is Matthew's account of when our Lord came to a place called Gadara and encountered two men who were demon-possessed. The Scripture says they were so fierce that no one could pass through that way. But Jesus simply commanded them to come out and the men were freed. However, Jesus gave the demons permission to enter some nearby pigs which sent them careening down the hill to be drowned in the sea. The local merchants weren't terribly happy, or impressed. Their response was to implore Jesus to leave their area.

This strikes me as almost humorous, but also as very sad. The people had lived with these demoniacs presumably for quite some time. They had become comfortable living with them; so much so that they actually preferred the chaos of the demoniacs over the peace of Christ. How could this be?

But then I think of how it is in our lives. We too have become comfortable with the demonic. Think I'm crazy? Most of us would prefer two hours in front of the television with perversion, profanity, and violence to fifteen minutes in prayer with Jesus. Isn't that the same as being at home with the demonic and uncomfortable with Jesus?

Take it a bit further. We endure the chaos of our fast-paced life. We think this is normal. Everyone lives this way. We are overstressed (which is not the same thing as overworked as work done for the Lord is very satisfying), worried, anxious, and usually in a hurry to do it all. Yet, we have become comfortable with this way of life.

Jesus offers us peace. He offers us rest. He offers us true joy. But it must come in His way. It's not because He's an egocentric tyrant. It's because He truly does know what is best for us. Because of His great love for us, He yearns that we would have all of these blessings and so much more. But it goes even further than this. The simple fact is that God really loves us and longs to simply be loved in return. It's really all about relationship. We were created for this, but we run from it and try to find that same satisfaction in just about anything else. It can't be done. As St. Augustine said, "You created us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You."

If you find yourself in the midst of the demonic chaos of life, stop! Listen for the liberating word of Jesus and respond by welcoming Him in to stay, not driving Him away!