Category Archives: Church

Be Awake

Dear Folks,

We begin advent, a journey of waiting and preparing to be more welcoming to God. I challenge everyone to take a look at how we understand prayer and how we pray. It involves attentiveness to God’s presence. Jesus emphasizes the need to stay awake.

In our second reading, St. Paul says “You know the time; it is now the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation now is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).”

Obviously, this does not mean that we should stop sleeping, sell our beds, fill up on coffee and try to be awake 24/7. We are still human and cannot function that way. So what does it mean?

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap (Luke 21:34-35a).”

Notice two sources of drowsiness: pursuit of pleasure and anxieties of daily life. This should remind us of the parable of the sower (See Matthew 13:1-23). Seed that is sown on rocky ground withers because of some tribulation or persecution. Seed that is sown among weeds is choked by worldly anxiety and the lure of riches.

Perhaps being drowsy involves being so focused on the pleasures we pursue and the tasks and worries that pursue us that they fill our whole mind, and we start to think they are all that there is. We have heard stories of those who would spend all their time either at work or at the golf course and lost contact with their families, and they became strangers. The idea is not to remove all pleasure from our lives, nor to neglect our tasks, but to put them in proper context of our relationship with God. Heaven knows we struggle to balance the parts of our lives that are always competing for our attention, and they can be overwhelming. On vacation I read a book called “Juggling Elephants” about sorting your life like you were a ringmaster coordinating a three-ring circus.

I would ask you to consider some questions:

What if prayer is more important than you have thought it is?

What in our behavior shows that God is a dear friend to us?

Do we treat Him like a dear friend?

What if everything depended on a bit more prayer each day?

Is there anything else we do that we can shave just a couple minutes off from to make just a couple more minutes for prayer?

Even a brief minute attending to the presence of God several times a day can make a difference. What if we resolved this advent to make a bit more room for God every day? We might be surprised, first that we can do it at all, and second, how good it is to do it.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, patron Saint of doctors, mothers, and unborn children, pray for us and for our nation. Help us be attentive to God’s presence in everyone, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Strength in Weakness

Dear Folks,

Today we celebrate Christ the King. In our Gospel today (Luke 23: 35-43), we see Jesus portrayed as King, but appearing as unkingly as it is possible to appear. This is the great paradox of Christianity, that the greatest of all victories was won by what looked like the greatest of all defeats. This defies the wisdom of the world and turns it on its head. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, though I encourage you to read the whole chapter).”

In the Second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul is dealing with a challenge. He had taught the Gospel to the Corinthians, but then some others came and claimed to be better apostles with a better Gospel. They called St. Paul weak, and unworthy of following. They boasted about how wonderful they were by comparison. St. Paul said he could boast too, and then talked about being imprisoned, flogged, shipwrecked, and similar things that were normally not cause for boasting. He accomplished great things because he was willing to be a suffering servant.

This is not possible without a close relationship with God. Christianity does not work as a project, as a set of beliefs and tasks. It is a love relationship, or it is not Christianity. Our Scribe and Pharisee friends tried to make it a project, a set of beliefs and tasks, but their hearts remained closed. “Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that on one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I would rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell within me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:6 -10).”

By the way, I’m very unhappy with the passing of Proposal 3. I’ve talked to a number of people who are also unhappy and would like to do something about it. We all can recognize that what we have been doing hasn’t been getting us where we need to go. I’ve connected with a few people on a project to shift the culture. The first step will be to pray (of course!), and I don’t mean saying a quickie prayer and getting to business, but serious time with God. Then we can talk about action, and I suggest that we work messages that promote empathy for unborn children. I’m tentatively calling this the “Notice Human Life Project.” Much more to be figured out, but this is a beginning.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Power of Baptism

Dear Folks,

At the priest conference, Dr. Timothy O’Malley said that if there is going to be Eucharistic revival, we must deepen our sense of the Baptismal priesthood. He reminded us that when we got ordained, we had a different role in the Church and the world, and the presence we bring is different, but it doesn’t immediately “attune” our thinking and our behavior to our new reality. That is a task we take up from then on, to be who we have become. I gradually

got used to the fact that people looked at me differently because I was a priest, and there were different sets of expectations (that is several conversations right there). When he got married, there was a similar process. Our faith tells us our baptism changes us. We

remember from the rite that we are anointed “priest, prophet and king,” a participation in the anointing of Christ (we remember that “Christ” means “anointed.” We are then called to attune our view of ourselves, and how we approach the world, according to that reality.

The Second Vatican Council called for renewal of awareness of the Baptismal priesthood, but what was often done was to erase the distinction between the baptismal and ordained priesthood. People started saying priests’ parts at Mass, and there wasn’t room to talk about the unique gifts that the ordained priesthood brought to the Church. When I was in the seminary, it was pretty rare to talk positively about the ordained priesthood, except when they were talking about ordaining women (the dropout rate was very high). The mistake was thinking it was a zero-sum game, that for one to shine, the other had to be in the shadow. We can celebrate both vigorously.

The council said that the two priesthoods differed in kind, rather than degree. Think about how love relationships can differ in kind: the love between husband and wife, the love between siblings, the love between parent and their children are different kinds of

relationships, each with some different qualities and proper ways of expressing themselves. We do not start by ranking them according to intensity but appreciating their uniqueness.

The baptismal priesthood is exercised in sanctifying the world. The Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) says, “Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none

the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ, he effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the

sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation, and active charity (LG 10).” People help sanctify the world through their worship, through their seeking to grow in holiness, through their family life, through their work, and through their enduring suffering and trials with patience and faith. Again, the council says, “For all their works, prayers and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation

of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit –indeed even the hardships of life if patiently borne—all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pet 2:5) in the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God (LG 34).”

Let’s face it; the world needs lots and lots of sanctifying.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Eucharistic Revival I

Dear Folks,

At the priests’ conference, we talked about the Eucharistic revival. Our speaker was a theology professor, Dr. Timothy O’Malley. We reviewed the statistics about the (vast) majority of Catholics who believe that at Mass the bread and wine are only symbols of the

Body and Blood of Christ, rather than being truly, substantially the Body and Blood of Christ. As horrible as that is, we cannot solve the problem simply by telling them the correct doctrine, but people need to know why this matters, what difference it makes in

their lives. Furthermore, they must not only know it cognitively, but personally, deep down to their core. There is a gap between faith and life, and people don’t see that it matters that much.

Nor need we think only of those already beatified and canonized. The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”. In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people (Gaudete et Exultate 6).”

We are so busy and moving so fast that life is a series of events, and we don’t step back to see the larger narrative, the meaning. People have been taught that the good life is being very productive. Relationships, contemplation and meaning get pushed aside by an ever increasing torrent of tasks. People are falling apart, and there are not nearly enough counsellors to help people who need counselling.

People see the reality as primarily something to manipulate rather than resonating with it. Consider, for a moment, resonating with someone or something. Rather than coming to a reality with preset preferences and trying to see how much we can push things in that

direction, we are sensitive to the movement and quick to adapt. Think of two people dancing together, their movements seek to be synchronized so that they flow together. This is a powerful experience and helps draw us out of ourselves. One of the major challenges of our time is to get more Catholics to see themselves less as customers in the Church, and more as disciples and co-workers in mission. More on that later.

As we talk about becoming a Eucharistic people, we start with looking more deeply at the meaning of baptismal priesthood. I trust everyone was taught that at our baptism we were

anointed “priest, prophet, and king,” but we most were not taught much about what that means, much less what it means in practice. That is for next week.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Stewarding the Gift of Faith

Dear Folks,

A theme of the Gospel readings from Luke this fall is our response to God’s gifts. God has given us the most wonderful gift of the Catholic faith, and this is a good time to ask how we

are stewarding that gift. Many who were raised Catholic have been sacramentalized but not evangelized, with what Pope Benedict called “The torpor of a Christianity of mere sacramentalism, little different from magic, and not productive of the faith that comes from hearing (From Theological Highlights of Vatican II).” That is so sad when we think of what can be.

It’s not just a matter of accumulating tidbits of information but developing a Catholic perspective and a Catholic imagination. In the words of “From Christendom to Apostolic Mission” by the University of Mary, “Christians don’t see some things differently than others: they see everything differently in the light of the extraordinary drama they have come to understand.” We follow God’s teaching, not because God is standing over us to

smite us the minute we step out of line, but because it is the fullest, most free, most ultimately satisfying way to live, and because the more we grow in our love for God, the more we want to please Him. Moral principles are not rules arbitrarily imposed upon us,

but revelation of how to live out our dignity. The challenge is to learn and share this great treasure.

We have so many resources now for everyone to be able to learn more about the Catholic faith. At Saints CJM, we have access to Formed.org, and many others do as well. That makes available a huge treasure of books, video, and movies of every description. [I really wish that everyone everyone everyone would watch Trent Horn’s one hour talk “How to Talk about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions.” If we want to make headway, we don’t start with appeals to religion or tradition, but humanity, and why would society privilege a certain type of relationship.] There are so many wonderful books, study programs, even YouTube videos, and anyone can do little bits when we get a moment. We are surrounded by tremendous wealth.

Jesus said, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more (Luke 12:48b).” Read Luke 12:41-48 if you dare.

Our Gospel reading this Sunday is about the rich man and Lazarus, and the rich man had been abundantly blessed with material goods, and did nothing to share with poor Lazarus, who lay dying outside his gate. The Gospels are pretty fierce about the mandate for Christians to address physical poverty. Now, what about the poverty of spirit? We have been so richly blessed with the treasures of our Catholic faith, and the world is full of people suffering and dying because they don’t have this truth (Show hands, who thinks the world would be a better place with more Jesus in people’s lives?). What will God say to us if we decide it’s not our job to help share the goodness, beauty, and truth of Jesus and His story with the world?

I know people are horrifically busy, overwhelmed, and tired from the other demands of life. If you can only do a tiny, little bit but do it with all you have, that is huge in the Gospel perspective. Remember the story of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4). The critical thing is that we recognize the great need to do what we can and be ready to tell God that we did the very best we knew how. He will take care of the rest.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Church in Transition

Dear Folks,

I think it is safe to say we are going through transition. The shortage of priests is getting people’s attention, but also the fact that most people who were raised Catholic are not practicing the Catholic faith, even minimally, in any measurable way. Our society is

getting more and more hostile to some core Christian values, and we don’t know how far that will go (there is no natural limit).

People point to various reasons why people leave the Church, but we must always remember the other side of that question: they were not given enough reason to stay. If you take away one thought from me today, let it be this:

Many, many people think the Catholic faith is much less than it is, and it doesn’t take much to get them to leave because they don’t think it matters that much anyway. Now there have been generations who were taught that way, and we are seeing the

results. If they had a semi-decent appreciation of the awesome gift of the Catholic faith, for the magnificent and unique gift of the Eucharist, you couldn’t pry them loose with a crowbar. Turning that around is a central factor in setting the course for our future.

As we seek to fix this, there is a challenge. There is polarization in the Church, and that is a major problem. I think Satan laughs himself silly every time he can get Christians fighting

Christians, and he has had much cause to laugh of late. To reduce some complex issues to simple categories, we can speak of traditionalists and progressives, each with a different set

of emphases and priorities. This is often coming up in how people think we should celebrate Mass.

Before Vatican II, there was tremendous emphasis on the other-worldly nature of the Mass, on reverence, on how is was unique and transcendent it was. The problem was that people

often had a sense of being disconnected from it, even while present. After Vatican II, there were a number of changes, not all of them called for by the council. There was a greater

sense of the importance of participating, on the community dimension, on making the mystery easily accessible. The problem was that some people often thought of the Mass as just another gathering, to be judged according to how it makes us feel and what kind of experience they have.

Coming off the lock-down, many are saying they have decided they like to do their Sunday morning prayers in their jammies in their beanbag chair with their hot chocolate. The big tragedy is not that they have stopped coming, but that they had so little sense about this in the first place.

We need to connect people as powerfully as possible with the divine mystery, a key component is how we celebrate Mass. Vatican II did teach that people should be taught to understand really well what is happening and why, and encouraged to full, conscious, active participation. The council also said that people should be able to sing or say at least those parts of the Mass that pertain to them. This does a number of things. It helps set apart the

liturgy from other activities: Folks, this is different from everything else we do, and we must be conscious of that. That is part of having a sense of the sacred. It requires more effort to learn and understand, and there is merit in that. It also unites us with people all over the world. If people are gathered from other countries with other languages, we can all pray together. Even if that doesn’t happen to us on a regular basis, it reminds us that Church

is much larger than us and helps us put ourselves in perspective. We also focus on music that is different from secular music, that is faithful to what is being celebrated, and pulls something from deep inside us.

Some people are unhappy because we are being more traditional. Some people are unhappy because we are not being much more traditional. One thing is fairly certain: we will not get

through this without dealing with things we don’t like. I think that’s part of why God calls us to be Church: this is about something larger than us.

The adventure continues.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Things I’ve Learned as a Priest

Dear Folks,

Last week I wrote a bit about my experience as a priest, and I mentioned that I have learned a great deal. Graduating from the seminary is like getting a complicated piece of IKEA furniture with no directions. I had components, but no idea how they fit together. It has taken some time and some trial and error (and error and error), but I have made some progress.

My priority should not be maintaining the status quo of the institution, or even forming the institution, but forming people in the faith, helping them build and nurture a relationship with God and helping them serve God. That will do the most to help the institution.

There will always be a hundred gazillion tasks nibbling at my ankles, but priesthood is not first and foremost about tasks, but about relationships (you still have to do tasks, though). Without putting relationship with God first, none of the rest of it makes sense.

It is not enough to say something that is correct; how you say it matters at least as much.

That is an art that takes a lifetime.

As long as the work of the Church is better off with me than without me, self-care is a sacred duty.

In building a vision for accomplishing things, I need to have lower expectations short-term and higher expectations long term (God is mighty, but it can be frustrating how patient He is until we remember how much we depend on His patience).

Lessons are often like spices. They have to simmer for a while before they can have their full effect.

However much patience I think I have learned, God seems to think I need to learn more.

I keep finding more about how the world is a mess, the Church is a mess, and it goes very deep (other words than “mess” spring to mind, but I’d better stick with that one). This leads to anger, disappointment, frustration, and several other reactions. I must avoid the twin temptations of being in a constant state of rage on the one hand, or giving up, doing the minimum, and waiting to retire on the other hand.

Learning from experience is not automatic. It requires will to take the effort and skill to do it well. We must look at what happened, analyze it honestly and clearly, then strategize how to do better. This is an art worth a lifetime of effort. This goes double for learning from our mistakes.

Looking back on my life, I can see how God had been at work, forming, shaping, and preparing me. It did not make sense at the time, but it looks much different in the bigger picture.

The more I learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more wonderful I find it is and the more anxious I am to learn more. God is at work, and I think He is planning something wonderful. If we accept the challenges that face us, the road will be hard, but leading to a glorious future.

I have more, but I better stop now.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

35 Years of Priesthood

Dear Folks,

I have been a priest for thirty-five years now. It has been quite an adventure.

“Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood in the presbyteral order, as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock?” We are not to be free-lancers; we are part of a team. There can be disagreement that can be frustrating, but I think God planned it that way.

“Are you resolved to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and religiously as the Church has handed them down to us, for the glory of God and the sanctification of Christ’s people?”

“Are you resolved to exercise the ministry of the Word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and explaining the Catholic faith?” This is perhaps the most underestimated aspect of the work of the Church. Many don’t know enough about their faith to maintain it in the face of attacks from the world, or even questions they naturally ask as adults. Many learned a version of the faith that made them think that the Catholic faith doesn’t make much difference, and there is no reason to learn more. Our succeeding as Church absolutely depends on our learning lots and lots about the faith. I’m learning as fast as I can, given the realities of my life.

“Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of His people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a perfect sacrifice?” First and foremost, our lives are meant to be an offering to God: this is what I have done with what You gave me, Lord.

As a priest, I deal with the most important issues that exist, the things that go to the center of the human person, the things that affect someone’s life forever (yes, literally forever). I have the privilege and the challenge of regular intimate contact with the most sacred, most profound mysteries. The challenge, of course, is the temptation to forget how amazing and powerful they are and treat them in a matter-of-fact manner. This requires constant care. I have had so many different experiences. I have been to hospitals, psychiatric wards, jails, prisons, rich neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, schools, and other places I can’t think of. I have been with people in their happiest moments and their saddest moments. Helping people through the most important moments of their lives is a unique privilege.

I have had a sharp learning curve. I look back in horror at some of the mistakes I’ve made. I remind myself that God knew all about me when He called me, and somehow decided it was worth it to have me around. Someone once said, “Remember God has incorporated your stupidity into His plan.” I find that wonderfully comforting. I’m not responsible for where I started, but I’m responsible for where I go from there. Priesthood has been such a great opportunity to learn and to grow, and I can’t imagine what I would be like now if I weren’t a priest.

I have dealt with all sorts of people. Some are the kindest, most generous, holiest people who are an inspiration to be with. Some are very hard and painful to deal with. Some are quite broken. Some demonstrate incredible gifts, and some have not discovered theirs yet. Everyone is someone I can learn from.

The Church is undergoing major transition now, and how we react is going to make a great difference for our future. I see signs that there will be major difficulties but also potential to accomplish great things. This is an exciting time to be a priest. It is an exciting time to be a Catholic.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Prophet Priest and King

Dear Folks,

In “Sign of Contradiction” by Pope John Paul II, he speaks of the three “munera” (offices, functions, duties) of Christ: to teach, to sanctify, and to rule. “Christ is alive in the Church as prophet, priest and king, thanks to the share in these functions enjoyed by the whole people of God” (Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 10-12; 31).

As prophet we are called to witness to the truth according to our own vocation. He emphasizes that people have a right to the truth, and many forces seek to deny it to us. He speaks about how the world will often manipulate the truth by disseminating some aspects and suppressing others (He said this in 1976; I wonder what he would say now). If we are going to proclaim the truth effectively in this complex world, Jesus’ advice that we be “cunning as serpents and innocent as doves” (See Matt 10:16) is as relevant as ever.

I have spoken a great deal about exercising the priestly function, offering our work and ourselves to the Father united with Jesus’ gift of Self. Also, we consecrate the world by praying for it and by work that develops creation so that it better helps people and show His glory.

The regal function requires special attention. How are Christians called to exercise leadership in the world without “forcing our religion on others” (an accusation frequently and often carelessly made)?

All laws and all governments are forcing certain practices on people based on some idea of what is right and what is wrong. People with little sense of history and philosophy often presume their basic ideas of right and wrong objective and obvious to everyone (and have always been), so that they can boldly assert and expect everyone else to recognize them, as well as condemn people in the past for not practicing them. They then believe that other ideas are biased and irrational, and if they are put forward by a Christian, they are religious beliefs and have no place in public policy. However, many of their ideas were not accepted or even heard of for much of human history. A strong case can be made that many of the moral beliefs that are now taken for granted would not be with us if it were not for the work of Christians. The notion that the life of a peasant is sacred in the same way as the life of an aristocrat or even the emperor would have seemed like madness in most of the ancient world. It was the Judeo – Christian tradition that made possible what was later incorporated into the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights … include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Christianity gets much criticism for not immediately abolishing slavery, as if it should have been obvious from the beginning. However, the notion that slavery was wrong pretty much did not exist until it percolated up from Christian thought. Of course, overturning millennia of human practice did not happen quickly or easily. It required many years of persuasion, but they could not persuade everyone. A pivotal moment in persuasion was when “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was written by the Christian woman Harriet Beecher Stowe. It aroused empathy for slaves, showed the horror of their situation, and shifted the conversation. It was not definitive, however. In the Civil War, they overpowered the forces that were pro-choice on slave holding, and those who profited from the slave industry lost power. Perhaps when slavery was abolished it became possible for more people to believe that society could work without this “peculiar institution.”

I have much more to say, but it will have to wait. How will history look back on Christians today? I hope it will show us tirelessly pushing to protect the lives, the dignity, and the rights of all people. We shall see.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Ready for Jesus

Dear Folks,

Our Gospel today talks about being ready at any moment to meet Jesus. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’ – you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, ‘If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.’ But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil (James 4:13-16).”

Life is full of things we can neither predict nor control. If things have been steady for a while, there is danger that we will think we can count on things just continuing. Life can change in an instant. Empires can rise and fall with amazing rapidity.

Two books come to mind. “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard talks about the human tendency to think we are entitled not to be affected by change, and how we can choose to stay stuck or to adapt. “Age of the Unthinkable” by Joshua Cooper Ramo speaks of how life is changing faster and faster, compared to previous centuries. He recommends resilience. St. Paul understood resilience: “I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living abundance and in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me (Philippians 4:11b-13).” Our relationship with God gives us something to cling to when the storm hits, and the stronger that relationship, the more powerfully it can carry us through the turmoil.

That brings us to Treasure in heaven. Luke 12 talks about giving alms and talks about a prudent (phronimos) steward who is found doing God’s work when the Lord comes (which could be any time).

Matthew 6 talks about prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and that we must be careful not to do it for the wrong reasons. Story of the rich young man Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30 all tell of Jesus saying that giving alms will bring us treasure in heaven.

With all those in mind, it might be worth rereading the parable of the dishonest steward in Luke 16:1-13, and understand Jesus is talking about stewardship that builds treasure in heaven.

There is a point I want to emphasize really hard: this is not about buying heavenly bitcoin. If we ever reduce Christianity to a business transaction, we have missed the point. Christianity is a love relationship with God, and the more powerful the relationship, the more joyfully we encounter our beloved. Heaven is consummating our relationship with God, and the more our hearts are by our discipleship here, the more we are open to that love in heaven. How do we get our hearts widened? Love relationships stretch us by being attentive to the presence of our beloved (as in prayer), choosing our beloved over other goods (as in fasting), and doing things to please our beloved (as in almsgiving).

May our desire for God ever grow, and enable us to seek first His Kingdom.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim