… And They Laid Him In The Tomb

Yesterday, while waiting for the Good Friday service to begin, I was really struck by the impact the bare altar had on me.  All of the candles were gone. The altar cloth had been removed.  Crucifixes were wrapped in purple cloth. The tabernacle was there with its doors wide open, and it was empty.  It really brought home the fact that we were remembering the day Jesus was crucified and buried for our sins.  

As I pondered sin and its grievous nature, I realized how little I appreciate the depth of my sins.  While a part of me knows that my sin is grievous, a part of me wants to think, I’m a good person. I only do small, venial sins.  I’m only responsible for a thorn in his crown, one that is just scratching his skin.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

I know I’m telling myself a lie, but I have yet to find the eject button that would clear the decks and allow me to more fully appreciate the extent my sins played in his death.  I have yet to find the key to this deeper appreciation for what he did for me, which would lead to a deeper conversion, and a closer walk with him.  I am still too proud to take responsibility for that which I knowingly do. 

I have gotten close a few times.  For instance, yesterday, I was reading from Knowing the Love of God by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.  He promoted a reflection on the malice of sin, even venial sin. By this he meant that God calls us to live the divine life. He is there beckoning us to him, and we choose earthly treasures over the amazing gift that he offers.  How appalling is that – that I would choose a metaphorical bobble over the glory, power, and might of the Lord our God who created me to be in union with him? He also talks about how sin blinds us to the malice of sin.  Unfortunately, he also talks about the fact that the conscience always knows when we are choosing incorrectly, even when we ignore our conscience.  We are culpable, even though we lie to ourselves about the grievousness of even the slightest sin. 

Still, the part of me that longs to balance between the things of the world and the things of Jesus’ kingdom struggles to admit my guilt. To experience something that leads to deeper conversion requires change, change that I resist.  So, the blindness to the malice of sin continues.  

At the same time, Jesus preaches a message of hope. In fact, he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  The Holy Spirit is a source of grace, and grace is the answer to our sinful nature.  Grace is something that beckons gently without overriding a person’s will. It is easy to overlook unless we build habits of looking for it and following its lead. So today, let us commit or renew our commitment to relying on grace to lead us from sin; to bolster us in the pain of changing from things of the world in favor of God who is love and the ultimate fulfillment of all of our needs. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit sitting in awareness of the stark reality that he died for you.  Invite him to melt your heart at least a little today and every day as you learn to take more responsibility for your sinfulness.  Ask him to show you how to cooperate with grace and move towards a less and less sinful life. Ask him to help you suffer your own crosses as you make changes in your life, and learn to live a life in Christ more and more fully. 

In Him,


What Are You Willing To Give Me?

In Mark 26:14-15 Judas asks the chief priests what they would give him to sell out his master.  Apparently 30 pieces of silver was Judas’ price.  

In our earthly bodies, our soul and flesh are constantly battling against each other.  The flesh desires good, but often settles for the short term pleasure of earthly goods. The soul longs to curb the body’s earthly desires in favor of the greatest good, which is God.  Jesus explains this to us when he talks about people who want to be disciples needing to carry their crosses and die to self. These requirements of discipleship should never been interpreted as God wanting us to suffer, but his desire for us to achieve the fullness of life Jesus longed to give us.  Jn 10:10.

From the lives of the saints, we can see that by sacrificing the goods of the world in favor of God that much joy, peace, and love come from this countercultural behavior.  We see how people feel more fulfilled and satisfied because God created us to live in union with him. Jesus took on human flesh to restore the link to such union by his life, death, and resurrection. He came to show us how to achieve it through obedience and dying to our desires for lesser goods.

Still, because of this battle we often sell out our efforts to the holy life in favor of these earthly goods. A couple of examples: some, like Judas, seek monetary rewards and the comforts that go with it.  For others, it is ambitions that fuel their pride and set them against their brothers and sisters in Christ.  

In effect, there are always worldly things that beckon us to sell out our relationship with God. Luckily, when we realize that we have gone astray, we have recourse to the restoration of this relationship by asking forgiveness and receiving his mercy.  

At the same time, we need to realize that while he is merciful and loving, we cannot achieve the true treasures of the world and eternal life without striving with all of our might to stay at the table with Jesus instead of walking away with Judas. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit analyzing your life.  Where are you selling out Jesus for things of the world? Where are you focusing too much on his mercy, and not enough on the true benefits of living more fully in the life of Christ? Where are you continuing to sell yourself short by taking the goods of the world when you could be living your life with him, in him, and through him.  Spend some time seeking self-knowledge on these points, and then spend some time asking forgiveness and basking in his love.  Jot down some notes on how you can curb your earthly treasure hunt, and refocus on the higher objective of Heavenly goods. 

In Him,


… And One Of You Will Betray Me

Scripture tells us that at the Last Supper, Jesus told the Apostles that one of them will betray him. What an awful word – betrayal. When we use this word, we can mean a variety of things, including an act that causes someone to lose trust in us or outright disloyalty. 

Why did Judas betray Jesus? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but over the years I have hears several theories on this matter.  One theory I heard was that he didn’t expect them to condemn Jesus to death, and he wanted the money for the poor.  It is also possible that he wanted the money for himself.  

I also read that maybe Judas was disillusioned by Jesus’ view of Messiahship, and he wanted to force Jesus to become the Messiah that he wanted him to be.

A third theory is that Judas acted with Jesus’ permission because it was necessary to achieve God’s plan of salvation. The word usage adds some credence to this because the word used in this sentence is paradidōmi (Greek word using Latin letters).  According to Strong’s, this word is more commonly used in Scripture as delivering something, including delivering someone up to authorities. So, the connotation is more like Judas delivered Jesus over to the authorities for trial. In other words, this translation takes out some of the negativity of betrayal.   (For more on the usage of paradidōmi in Scripture: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3860/kjv/tr/0-1/). Given the reaction of the Apostles to Jesus’ statement and Judas’ demise, this point doesn’t make much sense.  Still, it might help us in our analysis of our own spiritual lives. 

Another theory, based on the Lukan Gospel’s wording, is that Judas came under the influence of the Devil. (Luke 22:3: “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, …”). So, Judas didn’t act under his own influence, but that of the Devil. 

As stated yesterday, the purpose of the blogs this week is to focus on the behavior of these Biblical characters in an effort to grow in self-awareness; to more fully stand in the light of truth.  The spiritual life can be seen as a cycle of on-going self-awareness, leading to conversion, resulting in an encounter with mercy, which leads to an ever deepening love of God. Through these cycles, we grow in our commitment to God, learn to cooperate with him to avoid occasions of sin, and grow ever more in union with God. Such union is then perfected in Heaven.  

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit asking him how your own behavior is similar to that of Judas. Be open to hearing how you, like Judas, betray Jesus.  Consider all of your behaviors that are disloyal to your belief in Jesus.  How have you failed to be trustworthy in your relationship with Jesus? How about in your role in the Body of Christ; in your apostolic works. Do you justify behaviors because the ends justify the means, even though the means are not according to His teachings? Have you struggled in your relationship with him because he doesn’t behave according to your expectations? Are you struggling with demonic temptation, and need the freedom provided by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection? Don’t be afraid to be open to truth. God loves you. If the Holy Spirit shows you some areas where you are betraying Jesus, just ask for his forgiveness, know that you receive it, and revel in his love. 

In Him,


… and the Chief Priests Plotted

This week, I hope to analyze the people involved in Jesus’ passion as a way of challenging us to see how these people and their actions might shed light on how we, too, contribute to Jesus’ passion in our own time and in our own way. As you read this series of blogs, be asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the areas of your life where he wants to work. Remember, it is his job to heal us of our propensity to sin.  It is our job to learn how to surrender, to be open, and to cooperate. 


In John 12:10, we read that the chief priests plotted against Jesus.  Why? Again, I do not know with certainty, but I can speculate.  

On the one hand, there were those priests who were proud, and maybe they didn’t like feeling that Jesus was usurping their power and their influence over the other Jews. 

There were likely those who saw Jesus as leading the crowds away from the true faith, and wanted to lead them back to the fullness of Jewish tradition; to the fullness of living out the covenant of God’s chosen people.  I mean, let’s face it, bad things happened to Israel when the people of God were not living within the covenant. 

Maybe some of them were feeling like sinners despite the fact that they perceived themselves as living the covenant perfectly.  These self-righteous ones might have been challenged by Jesus’ message.   Jesus said he came to heal the sick, not the healthy. Maybe they were starting to realize that they were sick, and in need of healing. Maybe these feelings were uncomfortable, and they didn’t like feeling uncomfortable. 

It is even possible that for some, he was challenging them to review their beliefs about covenantal living against the way they were living their lives. Maybe they didn’t like the discrepancy being pointed out to them. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit asking him how you try to put Jesus, or at least his teachings, to death in your own life. Be open to where you are living a lukewarm spirituality by living both in the world and living out the covenant incompletely.  Ask him to help you understand all of your motives for being Christian.  Is there at least a small part that wants to do the bare minimum so as to attain Heaven instead of Hell?  Is there a part  of you that holds onto what you were taught by your parents? Is it for the friendships that develop at your church events?  How much is based on an encounter with Jesus that called you to conversion, and to a life dedicated to knowing and serving the one you love? We all have room for improvement in our lives, and sometimes we need the Spirit of Truth to come in and shake things up.  Let him enter, the King of Glory.  The fullness of life can only be attained by letting him in more and more fully throughout our lives. 

In Him,


Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Many of us celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday, the day Jesus enters Jerusalem for the Passover.  At mass, it is common to read the Gospel staring with the last supper through Jesus’ burial.  The passage about his entry is filled with hidden meaning that maybe not all of us know.

First, when you look at a map of Israel, you would be correct to assume that the most direct route between Galilee and Jerusalem would be to walk southwesterly, and approach the city from the north.  In fact, according to a few estimates on the internet, this route, the one through Samaria, was at least one day faster than the other route, the route most chosen by the Jews because of the hostile relationship between these two peoples. This other route went due south along the Jordan, then west through Bethany, the Mount of Olives, and approached the city of Jerusalem from the east.

Which route did Jesus take? While there is evidence in stories like the woman at the well that he travelled at least once through Samaria, but for this final Passover, the Bible is very clear that Jesus came through the Mount of Olives.  So, instead of entering from the north, Jesus would have come in from the east. This is important because in Ezekiel 10:19, God’s glory is seen leaving Jerusalem through the eastern gate. So, it should be little surprise that God would return to Jerusalem through the same gate. Add to this that Ezekiel prophecies that God would return through the eastern gate. Ez 44:1-3.

How many were traveling with Jesus? How many participated in this triumphal entry?  I do not know, but a lot. This journey was taken simultaneously by all Jews living northeast of Jerusalem who wanted to avoid Samaria while heading to Jerusalem for this mandatory feast.  One estimate on the internet is that there were roughly 400,000 people living in Galilee around the time of Jesus. Not all were Jews, not all Jews were able to travel, and some might have opted for the Samarian route. We have no clue how accurate this estimate is, but we know that Galilee was a very fertile region, and with these facts, we can imagine a large throng of people traveling with Jesus. 

During this trip, Jesus worked miracles and preached to the people.  Just flip through Luke 9-19 to see all that he did on this journey.  Imagine the throng of people walking with him, witnessing his work, and then imagine what they were likely thinking as they approached the eastern gate that day.

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit imagining yourself approaching the eastern gate with the throng.  Imagine how the experience of traveling for 4-6 days down the southern route to Jerusalem would have impacted you.  Imagine yourself grasping the mystery that Jesus is the Messiah, and how you might have reacted.  As he climbs upon the donkey, allow Zechariah 9:9 come to mind, “your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Spend some time interacting with these people, with Jesus, and imagine the joy of knowing your God has come home. 

In Him,


… and the Israelites Grumbled Against God

This morning, as I read about the Israelites in the desert, I thought about how God mightily delivered them from captivity in Egypt, and, despite this, how they longed to return to Egypt because of the creature comforts provided for them there. They were willing to put back on the shackles of slavery in order to satiate their longing for leeks and onions, and their longing to eat meat again. 

When I was younger I used to think the ancient Israelites were crazy, stupid, or both.  They saw the power and might of God first hand, and still they doubted; still they sinned. At this point in my life, I better understand that I, like them, still long to live the life of sin. I still long to live a life of slavery to the flesh, a life of filling the flesh with its every wish and whim.  

However, as a Christian I am called to give up my slavery to things of the world. I am called live in the freedom provided by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   I am called to a virtuous life whereby I use my natural abilities to curb my appetite for anything that keeps me from living the life of faith. I am called to live a life in the Spirit whereby I allow Him to supernaturalize my natural talents. I allow him to be my strength in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9. 

What a better time than Lent to spend some time training our bodies to long for heavenly things, and to learn to rely on the graces of the season as a way of bolstering our personal efforts. Maybe with His help we can enter into the season of Easter living more fully the freedom and fullness of life promised by Christ.  Maybe we can more acutely learn that choosing freedom is ultimately more fulfilling than the short term pleasure associated with giving into all our desires. Maybe, just maybe, we can learn to enjoy freedom, even if it means living in the desert.  Maybe come Easter we will have taken substantial steps towards appreciating our hard earned freedom, and stop grumbling at God because his ways are not our ways. Mk 8:33.  

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit asking him to help you identify your “leeks and onions.”  Which worldly desires and pursuits keep you from living more fully in the freedom won for you by Jesus Christ?  What commitments are you willing to make to God to put these sinful behaviors behind you, and to more fully embrace the life of faith.  Make sure you pray for the awareness of the indwelling Holy Spirit whose job it is to move us towards doing the right things. Ez 36:27. Without him our efforts will only fall short. True victory comes in understanding our littleness and in learning to rely on his guidance to help us choose virtue over vice.

In Him,


The Fig Tree and the Gardener

This morning at mass, I heard the parable of the fig tree.  In this parable, the land owner gets angry at a fig tree that hasn’t produced fruit in three years, and wants to have it cut down so it doesn’t drain the soil of nutrients.  The gardener proposes that he be allowed to tend to the tree for another year, and if it doesn’t produce fruit by then, it can be cut down. The owner agrees. (See Lk 13:1-9). 

This morning, I saw much “fruit” in this story.  First, it can be a call to analyze one’s life; to see if one is producing fruit in his or her faith life. Second, it can be a call to ponder the relationship between a Christian and the Holy Spirit or Jesus, depending on which person of the Trinity you relate to the gardener. 

In analyzing the first point, it seems important to know what is meant by “fruit in the Christian life”? Here are a few examples. If discipleship is about dying to self and cross carrying (Mk 8:34), one might ask how much progress has been made.  Another way of analyzing fruit is whether you are experiencing the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Are you experiencing heavenly knowledge, wisdom, and/or understanding? Are you manifesting the gift of tongues? Prophecy? Healing? Are you growing in the virtues of faith, hope, and/or love?  In addition, people who are bearing fruit should be drawn into some form of selfless apostolic work. I say selfless because it seems to me that dying to self means one is becoming selfless.  

Second, what does the gardener’s efforts towards tending the fig tree tell us about the spiritual life?  Again, there are many ways of explaining this, and here is one example. Scripture talks about baptism being a transformative event. When we get baptized, we allow the Holy Spirit to take up residency within us, and it is his job to sanctify us; to lead us in the way of Truth.  This job takes a lot of effort, and the entirety of our Christian lives.  

How does it work?  It is hard to explain, but I’ll give you a personal example.  Several years ago, I was reading “The Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales.  In the early part of the book, he provides several meditations for the reader to try.  I read the meditation on pride, and I closed my eyes to ponder his words.  I invited the Holy Spirit in, and I accidentally fell asleep. (Luckily, St. Therese of Lisieux tells us not to worry about occasionally falling asleep in prayer.)  When I awoke, I had this understanding that I had been healed of a layer of pride.  I knew that while still proud, I was less proud that I had been before starting my prayer.  As I said, it is hard to explain. Still, when we invite the Holy Spirit into our activities, he works with us to remove everything that is sinful from our lives.  

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit pondering your own faith life.  Are any promises contained in Scripture manifesting in your life? Are you allowing the gardener to do his job of tending to you?  Jot down a few thoughts and any action items you intend to take to improve this area of your life. 

In Him,


On Being Christian

I don’t know about you, but I want to be the best Christian I can be.  This is what I want, but this is not always what I do.   I find peace in knowing that Paul, too, struggled with this. He didn’t always succeed in doing the good.   Rom. 7:19.  We have probably all encountered this interior struggle between wanting things of the world and things of Heaven.  

It is important to understand that the body is not bad.  The body is drawn towards good things.  Unfortunately, there is a big difference between created goods / earthly things, and the perfect good, the Heavenly good, which is God.  A major part of living a better Christian life has to do with retraining the will towards giving up lesser goods in favor of the greatest good.  For example, food.  Food is good, but too much food or food that doesn’t properly nourish the body is not so good. We need food to live, but gluttony crosses the line.  When we sin by doing things like gluttony, we close ourselves off from the greater good of God. We fill our longing and hunger for good with lesser goods, instead of filling our selves with God. 

How do we retrain the will? I recently read that reading Scripture helps to educate the will on the greater good, which influences our ability to choose the greater good.  (Michelle Jones, The Gospel Mysticism of Ruth Burrows: Going to God with Empty Hands).  I also just read that love is the best motivator for changing behavior. (Art Bennett, The Temperament God Gave You). 

For love to motivate us, we must first come to know the one we want to love. We come to know someone by talking to them.  Thus, meditating on Scripture, which is the word of God, is a way of talking with God.  It teaches us truth about him, about who we are, and what a proper relationship between creator and created should look like.  We are drawn to the good, and Truth is good.  Plus, the more we know God through Scripture, the more we love him.  In fact, I think this is what John meant when he said we love him because he first loved us. 1 Jn 4:19.  When we realize just how amazing his love is, how much more perfect than the love we receive from humans, we respond to his love with love. 

At the same time, there is still resistance.  We want to be the be all – end all in our lives. Being Christian is about dying to self so that we can be open to receiving God’s love, and in so doing, grow in greater love of him.  Being Christian means constantly deeper and deeper conversion in response to God’s love and mercy.  Being Christian means admitting our short comings, and relying on the Holy Spirit to be our strength in weakness.  2 Cor 12:10.  None of this is easy. All of this feels contrary to our nature.  However, if we have faith, then living our lives according to Scripture will reap rewards such as peace, joy, and love.  Unfortunately, reaping those rewards first requires that we begin acts of dying to self (curbing our desire for lesser goods) (Mk 8:33); we must first become disciples in act and deed. 

In the meantime, do not be surprised if you stumble along the way; if you find yourself in patterns of choosing lesser goods.  Just turn to him, recognize that you are weak, and ask him to show you how to curb your appetite for worldly things; how to desire him more than things of the world.

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit asking him to grant you the grace to love him more. Ask him that through this love you might choose more and more often the greater good over the lesser goods. Ask him to help you in your self-discipline, in exercising your will in favor of the greater good.  If needed, ask him to help you humble yourself, to accept your weaknesses, and to turn to him in love. 

In Him,


Dying With Christ This Lent

As we enter into this season of Lent, let us reflect for a moment on what this season is all about.  One way of looking at it is that it is a time of dying with Christ so that we might rise more fully with him this Easter.  

First, what is it that needs to die so that we might rise?  Our tendency towards sin.  Humans come into the world naturally craving the good; however, we all too often choose the lesser goods of God’s creation over the greater goodness of God.  Lent is a good time to curb our worldly desires so that we might more fully live the life he wants us to live.  

In addition, God created humanity to be in relationship with himself.  Most of us have a tendency to march to the beat of a different drummer.  We want to make our own decisions.  We want to do things that make us feel good or increase our prestige in the eyes of the world. So often, these and similar desires lead us away from this deeper union with God.  

By finding ways to die to self we open ourselves to the greater good, which is God, who is love.  We make room for him to live and breath within us. We clear out the voices in our head that cry out for the goods of the world, and this allows us to hear Him more clearly.  

The problem is, we are weak, and any solo effort to die to self is destined to fail, at least in part.  There is a reason that God, through the prophet Ezekiel, told us that he wanted to replace our stoney hearts with hearts of flesh; that he wanted to place his Spirit within us in order to move us towards compliance with his decrees. Ez 36:26-27.  There is a reason that Jesus had to ascend so that the Advocate could come and guide us in all truth. Jn 16:13.  We were never intended to take on the role of dying to selves by ourselves.  If we have been baptized, we have the source of all goodness residing within us.  We have within us the one who will be our strength in weakness (2 Cor 12:10). All we need to do is learn to hear him; learn to follow his lead towards holiness. 

This Lent, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer with the Holy Spirit seeking his insights on how you can take steps towards dying to self so that you might live life to the fullest (Jn 10:10). By this I mean so that you might live life in union with the Triune God who dwells within you.  Spend this Lent working with the Holy Spirit to curb your earthly desires, and learning how to follow his lead more readily. Spend time praying that he help you be open to his grace so that you might be moved away from sin and moved towards the Father who loves you.

In Him,


In Weakness

Last week, I went to confession, and confessed my holiday blues and the sloth that it generated in me.  I confessed the inordinate amount of time I spent watching TV and gaming on my phone.  I always love the healing and affirmation I feel when I hear, “you are forgiven.” At the same time, before I left the room, I asked Father something like this, “Sometimes I feel too weak to avoid sin.  Instead of falling into a place of despair, I find myself drawn to sitting in awareness of my littleness.  Does that sound wrong?” 

He said he didn’t think so, and that it sounded like something a Carmelite nun had been saying in her books. He encouraged me to read something by Ruth Burrows, the pen name of the Carmelite nun.  I’m only a few pages into a book on her major writings.  Her life so resonates with my own, while being very different.  

She talks about how Jesus met her in her littleness. This resonates with Paul’s writings when he talks about allowing God to be his strength in weakness (2 Cor 12:10), which is one of my favorite Pauline quotes.  She says in this littleness we find the Christ who emptied himself for us.  She talks about how in our brokenness, in our neediness, we more profoundly find him who is the way, the truth, and the life. She says that there is something mystical in accepting our imperfections, and in relying on him.

The more I ponder what I have been experiencing in my own spiritual life as enlightened by what I have read of Ruth’s book, the more I realize how much the Christian life must be rooted in being open to one’s weaknesses. There is a tendency to fall into complacency.  However, the objective is to find the humility to turn to him who desires to be our strength in weakness. The objective is to learn to hear the voice of Truth that dwells within us as a result of our baptism, and to follow him to a place of healing, a place of peace and joy.

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit pondering your own spiritual life.  How are you dealing with the fact that you are still sinner while redeemed in Christ?  Ask him how you can better live not only in your own littleness, but in reliance on his grace.  

In Him,