Trust in Jesus

Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid (Matthew 14:27).” Jesus speaks these comforting words to the disciples who were overwhelmed while riding in the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee.

When one goes out on the Sea of Galilee during the day it seems like a large lake that could not possibly be intimidating for one to sail across in a small boat. However, at night it gets really dark and the winds often blow fiercely down the mountains toward the sea causing dangerous conditions.

The disciples were returning from the feeding of the thousands to the town of Capernaum by boat and got overconfident on sailing a familiar route but at an unfamiliar timenight. All of a sudden rather than navigating familiar waters they found themselves a few miles off shore and in a situation, that was out of their control.

Jesus enters into the out of control situation by demonstrating His Lordship and mastery over creation as He walks upon the troubled waters. From His path upon the churning and tumultuous sea, Jesus speaks into the fears of the disciples by encouraging them to set their fears aside and trust. Placing his faith in Jesus Peter states, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water (Matthew 14:28).” Jesus beckons for Peter to walk toward Him across the agitated waters, as Peter’s faith is strong he walks towards the Lord, as he focuses on himself Peter begins to sink, leading him to cry out, “Lord save me!” Jesus then says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt (Matthew 14:31).”

This Gospel account is describing our life in Christ. Many people who believe in Christ have storms or difficulties in life. It can be our intention before the storm to act on our own when life is going great and all the blessings are coming our way. Even thinking to ourselves during the good times in life that down the road we will give back to the Church or Community as a sign of gratitude. But how quickly can our fortune change and we find our health failing or money running short or even people we love getting sick and dying.

During the storms of life do we cower in fear on the ship of our own making and forget that Jesus is in our midst? Or do we establish a relationship of trust through daily prayer and regular service of God’s people that helps form us to call upon Jesus when we are getting rocked by life’s challenges and difficulties?

Jesus Himself identifies that area that is weak in this whole situation and that is faith. If we follow Jesus in what He says and does then we must be willing to trust in Him when life challenges us. We cannot afford to be “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose what they want to hear and believe in. Our souls are in real jeopardy if we ignore Jesus in the feel-good parts of our life and then curse Him or whine for Him in the storms of our life.

Rather than seeking Jesus when it is convenient for us, we need to be honest and look at the gift of faith we have received and say yes, I am living my life with complete trust in the Lord or no I only relate to Jesus when life gets crazy. If you find yourself lacking in trust in Jesus, take time this week to examine your life and identify the places where faith needs some encouragement and also where priorities need to be shifted so that Jesus is first in life.

 

God Is Love

“I love you” is a phrase that we hear from another that makes us feel loved and cherished. When we love God and other people in our lives we say, “I love you.” As Christians, we learn about how to receive the special love of God and share this love with others around us.

Love is a person for as we hear in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” God chose to reveal His presence of love by the following truth, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).”

From the example of the Father’s love for each of us in sending His Son, Jesus, Christians, as they mature in their faith, should understand that love is a choice. God chooses to share His love with us and reveals His great love to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. We in turn learn from God’s example how to choose to love those around us.

This weekend, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is another powerful way that the Father reveals His great choice to send love into our midst. “Transfigure” literally means “changing thoroughly” (trans) and “a person’s body” (figure). In this week’s Gospel account, Jesus goes up Mount Tabor with His three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, and changes His bodily appearance before them.

The action of Jesus’ Transfiguration is not a normal, everyday occurrence and most of us, without a whole lot Divine encounters, could not handle the sight. In the changing thoroughly of His Body, the face of Jesus becomes like the sun and His clothes become white as light. Jesus on Mount Tabor literally becomes Glory before the disciples.

As we pray in the Nicene Creed in stating our belief in Jesus Christ, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” faith compels us to believe that the Glory of Heaven is revealed to us through the Lord. Bathed in this glorious and heavenly light, Jesus offers a glimpse of the ever-present reality of eternal life and His authority over the known things of the earth.

Jesus as the Lord of History fulfills or completes the Torah (Jewish Law) as revealed by Moses and fulfills the messages given through the prophet’s voice that prepares people for the coming of the Messiah embodied in Elijah. In the midst of this intense encounter, Peter offers to build three tents in order to remain in the present, but as the Lord of the past, present, and future, Jesus is revealed as always present love by the Father, “From the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him (Matthew 17:5).'” The Father’s great love for Jesus proclaims and reveals the motivation for salvation, namely, God’s great love for us.

As eyes struggle to see anything after looking up at the sun, so too it is impossible for us to fully grasp the greatness of the love of God for us found in Christ Jesus. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “After the Resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of His glorified humanity (CCC 445).”

The Transfiguration for Christians stands as a powerful example of God saying, “I love you,” and should be taken as a gift that reveals the Father’s plan of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Messiah and He reveals the glory of heaven that awaits those who believe in Him. May we receive the gift of faith anew this day so as to have nothing else before our eyes but Jesus alone and hear the voice of the Father saying to Jesus and us, “You are my beloved.”

All Things Work for Good

“Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

St. Paul this week gives us an encouraging word for those who are trying to listen to the voice of God and do what is asked of them. This past week I was reminded of this Scripture verse as I stopped to visit Lake of the Woods Bible Camp by Baudette, MN. This verse from St. Paul was our theme for the youth coming to the camp and became a conversation starter for them to reflect on what they want to do in life and what God wants them to do in life.

As I walked through the camp I prayed in thanksgiving for my summers at that camp on the Rainy River, and I prayed for the young people who now as adults are hopefully living God’s will and serving the purpose intended for them. At times in life we should stop and pause in prayer and reflect upon our past. As we do so hopefully we can see the hand of Our Heavenly Father guiding us through major events and small alike. I know in my own life that God has saved me from my foolishness and led me into places of abiding love and joy with Him.

Our life is a gift from God and we are created with an intentional mission to know, praise and serve Him. If you are feeling that your life is a waste or that you feel out of place in your job or life situation turn to the Lord in prayer, reflect upon the blessed times in life, see the hand of God at work and know that His love is everlasting.

 

Discernment of Spirits

The discernment of spirits is important in each Christian’s day-to-day walk with God. It is important for each follower of Jesus to pray every day and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in all our decision making. St. Paul says “[t]he Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings (Romans 8:26).” The discernment of spirits is part of the expression of our relationship to God.

If I go to Mass once a month and never pray or think about God it will be nearly impossible to understand the world around me in a spiritual way. However, for the Christian who spends time each day in prayer, there comes an openness to the voice of the Holy Spirit and an increased awareness of Good and Evil in the world around us. Taking time to pray and reflect upon Sacred Scripture allows a person to notice God’s action in the world and in our lives.

In our quiet time with God we can notice our thoughts, feelings, and desires. Taking prayerful time to notice what is happening inside of ourselves leads to opportunities to acknowledge what is happening in our lives to Jesus, relate the truth of our thoughts, feelings, and desires to Jesus, receive the words of blessing or guidance from Jesus, and to respond with love and honesty for the truth He invites us to embrace.

When we pray in this transparent way each day, our eyes and hearts begin to see the work of the Holy Spirit and the Evil Spirit in our lives and in the world around us. This increased awareness helps us to become more aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit and our need for daily prayer and reflection. Over time, as the discerning Christian understands the ways that Holy Spirit guides, counsels, and corrects, they also begin to understand the ways that the Evil Spirit confuses, lies, and promotes sinful behaviors. Through the help of the Holy Spirit a person can then practically discern the realities around them through the discernment of spirits by accepting the movements of the Holy Spirit and rejecting the enticements of the Evil Spirit.

Taking time daily to slow down and be still before the Lord opens our hearts and minds to the truth of the discernment of spirits. Making prayer a priority in our life can assist us in our journey to eternity. Are you taking time this summer to pray and be still before the Lord? If not, why not? If so, go, go, go to the Lord!

Fertile Soil

“Thus says the Lord, Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and the bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

In all of our scriptures this weekend we hear an agricultural theme. The seed that is placed in the good ground and is watered and cared for from above will produce abundant fruit. Any farmer knows that there are many aspects to growing crops that are out of his control. Just last week when a storm came through Blooming Prairie with the strong winds, heavy rain, and scattered pockets of hail, all that could be done was say a prayer for God to spare the fields and flocks of our area families.

We cannot control the weather or the amount of sun or anything in the seed-to-crop process, really. We need God and are invited to a posture of total trust and dependence on Him. It is the seed of God’s word that is to be planted in our hearts and nurtured by daily prayer and sacrifice that will grow into something beautiful to be harvested as the first fruits of the Spirit. The human heart that is still and available is a fertile place of discernment where the movement of the Holy Spirit can be noticed and followed.

In the midst of these summer days, spend some time in quiet reflection either praying a rosary or reflecting upon a passage of scripture. Allow God to tend to the seeds of faith that have been planted in your heart and with Him watch them grow. Maturity in the spiritual life does not happen immediately, but like crops in the field God watches over our souls and brings about a rich harvest of faithfulness.

The Reason for Our Hope

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for the reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15).”

The reason for our hope as Christians is Christ. Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed on the lips of Christians and honored in our speech and conduct every day. There is no way a Christian can communicate their hope in Christ if they never pray daily or go to church on the weekend. If a baptized Christian would simply pray, worship, and love those around them for Christ’s sake, their hope in Him would radiate.

With our hope of salvation found in the risen Christ, each Christian should be able to share their confidence in Christ’s love for them and the truth of His victory over sin and death.

The Good Shepherd

“Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pastured (John 10:7-9).”

Jesus explains in this week’s Gospel that He is the Gate and the Good Shepherd. Our Lord explains to the Pharisees that to be a good shepherd in general is to know the sheep and that they in turn know the voice of the shepherd and they respond accordingly. The Pharisees who were convinced of their own righteousness could not see that they were out of touch with the people they served and therefore were not doing the work of God, but in the name of God were imposing burdens and hardships on the people.

The key points that Jesus makes about His leadership is that as a Good Shepherd He knows His sheep and they know Him. The relationship is important for Jesus and should be consoling for our hearts that He wants to be in relationship with each of us in our prayerful way each day of our lives. Sheep need to be fed, and Jesus as the Good Shepherd feeds us with the Word and with the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. Jesus came to nourish our souls on this journey of faith that we might not die of spiritual famine, but rather find our strength and vigor renewed in His divine nourishment.

The Good Shepherd defends His sheep and protects them from the wolves or worldly evils and selfishness. Jesus through His example of defending the lives of His chosen ones reveals that He will fight for His flock even unto death, death on the cross. In His teaching on the Good Shepherd, Jesus offers to each Christian the formula for following His example in all aspects of our Christian life. We are not called to live for ourselves, rather, we are called to follow the example of Jesus Christ and develop relationships with others in faith through prayer and sacrifice as well as to lead others to the nourishment of Sacred Scripture and the Sacraments and to defend the truths of the Catholic faith even to the point of shedding blood.

During this Good Shepherd Sunday, take some time to give thanks to God the Father for sending His only begotten Son to seek out and save the lost. Pray for the grace also to become like the Good Shepherd in our own lives in taking care of those around us spiritually through prayer, kind words, and sacrifice.

Jesus in the Eucharist

“Stay with us Lord, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over (Luke 24:29).”

The deepest desire of the human heart is to remain always in Jesus. Last Sunday’s scripture account of the Resurrection points to those followers of Jesus who were traveling from Jerusalem back to their homes in Emmaus after the events of the Passion. We are given a clue as to who the two disciples are who meter Jesus on the way. After Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden early in the morning after the resurrection, He appears to a man and his wife: Cleopas and Mary.

They probably knew Jesus well and followed him closely. Jesus stirred their hearts with longing years before from the accounts of the miracles and authoritative teaching that they listened to. This couple more than likely was present for some of the key moments such as the procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as well as standing in helpless disbelief as the Christ was paraded through the streets towards Calvary. This particular Mary was very close  to Jesus as we read, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25).”

With this information one can conclude that Jesus appeared to close relatives on the way to Emmaus. Because Jesus appeared in His glorified or perfected form they, like Mary Magdalene, did not recognize Him at first. It was not until Jesus explained the scriptures that referred to God the Father’s plan of salvation and then finally broke the bread that their eyes were opened and they were able to see the Savior in their midst. This caused Cleopas and Mary to exclaim, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us (Luke 24:32)?”

As Christians, we need to reflect on the Word of God anew and see the Eucharistic celebration opened to us with fresh eyes. It can happen to any of us that we try to look for Jesus in fads and in over-the-top ways, and all the while He is in our midst teaching our souls in the way of love and mercy through the basic modes of Scripture and the Holy Mass.

Pray for the grace today to hear the Scriptures clearly, to see Jesus present in the Eucharist, and to feel the burning fire of God’s love in our hearts.

Divine Mercy

“Be merciful just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).”

On the Sunday after Easer the entire Church is called to gather throughout the world to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. The message of mercy or God’s healing love is extended by Jesus to the Apostles gathered in the upper room as well as to us to seek forgiveness for our sins. Jesus breathes upon those gathered in the upper room and says, “Peace be with you.” Do you desire the peace of Jesus Christ to be breathed into your soul?

The Easter season reminds us of the truth that Jesus Christ, for our sake, was crucified, suffered death, was buried, and rose from the dead. Jesus came into the world to set us free from the bondage of sin and death. We are mindful especially of the merciful love of the Father revealed to us by sending His Son, for “God so loved the world, that He sent His Only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).” The truth of Jesus rising from the dead reveals to us today the continued loving plan of God the Father for humanity.

Sometimes it is tempting to look at the events in the world where terrorism, decaying morals, political strife, and indifference are rampant and to give up hope on the direction that humanity is going. Then we look at the Father of Mercy and we can see that in His continuous and unceasing love for us that He continues to offer us forgiveness, restoration, and peace. The world may be a crazy place at times that seemingly lacks hope or direction, butt for those who follow the plan of God the Father there is a purpose and there is a goal.

Jesus was sent by the Father into our midst as a pledge of merciful love, so that men, women, and children would humble themselves in the presence of true love and be encouraged to live in a loving and faithful way to strive for heaven. St. Maria Faustina Kowalska received the message from Jesus in one of her mystical encounters that the Sunday after Easter is a day chosen by Christ as a day of extraordinary graces – a complete outpouring of His mercy upon all who approach Him with great trust and expectant faith.

Take time to give thanks to the Father for His plan of mercy and give praise to Jesus Christ for his sacrifice that sets us free, “If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed. (John 8:36).”

Celebrate Easter!

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay (Matthew 28:5-6).'”

Easter Sunday is the day that gives meaning to life! Jesus Christ has won victory over sin and death. After the horror of the crucifixion and the uncertainty of His dying, Jesus rises from the grave and gives hope to all who believe in Him.

The angel meets the women who are on the way to the tomb and delivers the message not to be afraid. Filled with confidence they arrive at the tomb and find it empty and void of the body of Jesus, but they are reminded of the promises of Christ and are overcome with joy as they learn from the Messenger of God that Jesus has been raised as He said.

In faith we gathered at the tomb on Easter morning in 2017 filled with joy and encountered the truth of our faith; namely, Jesus Christ is Lord! Whether we go to Church one day out of the year or everyday, the truth is before our hearts that the powerful love of Jesus Christ could not even be contained in the stone cold tomb by death.

In the light of such an awesome event, Christians throughout the world should be on their knees praising the Lord with uplifted hands in gratitude for the gift of eternal life that has been purchased for us by Jesus Christ. If every Christian understood the magnitude of Christ’s victory over sin and death we would pray everyday, go to church every opportunity we had, and lovingly serve every person we encountered.

The sad truth is many Christians living in our communities throughout South-central Minnesota are “party poopers” (people who are too lazy or disinterested or preoccupied to give acknowledgement to Jesus Christ for the gift of new life they have received in baptism) and these baptized men, women, and children are going to miss out on the greatest part ever held, i.e. heaven.

During the upcoming 50 days of Easter, don’t be a “party pooper,” rather find yourself active, interested, and open to prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to Jesus Christ for the great gift of eternal life He won for us.

As they say on Easter Sunday in most of the Christian world with a shout of joy and a kiss on the cheek,
Khristos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!” (Greek) or
Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!” (Latin) or
Cristo ha resucitado! En verdad ha resucitado!” (Spanish) or
Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!” (English).

Overcoming Gluttony and Slothe

Almost every day one can hear the phrases of our culture, “Just do it!” or “Have it your way!” or “Betcha can’t eat just one!” or “I’m lovin’ it!” All around us the voices of a consumer culture sway our opinions and cause us to make choices for what we purchase and desire. In our minds and hearts we can obsess over these items and remain fixated on them until we have them in our possession. Sometimes the bombardment of advertisements numbs us and we just go into “creature of habit mode” and buy the same things just because we have always done so. Good advertisements and marketing strategies aim at getting people to buy items and services that they don’t really need.

The deadly sins of gluttony and slothe love to lurk in the shadows for people who are prone to hearing the “easy” messages of society. The sin of gluttony is the disordered desire for the pleasure found in food and drink to the point of overindulgence. Do people need food and water? Yes. Do we need to obsess over food by watching 8 hours of the cooking channel each day? No. Do we need to drink 12 beers in one evening to quench our thirst? No. Is a balanced meal each day good for our health? Yes.

Advertising and media can present to the undisciplined appetite the need for overindulgence on any numbers of items that, in moderation, are not bad for us, but when overindulged in on a regular basis can be bad for our health and our spiritual life. The result of overindulgence in certain food, drink, video games, and other habits can lead to the modern day sin of slothe.

Slothe, or acedia, is the sluggishness of soul that finds a person unwilling to exert themselves in the performance of a spiritual practice, i.e. going to Sunday Mass, because of the sacrifice and effort required of them. Slothe is a mortal sin when a person becomes lazy or indifferent in their relationship with God and ultimately stops listening to God’s voice due to the self-sacrifice and labor needed to cooperate with the actual grace of God or to remain in the state of grace. This kind of laziness is directly opposed to the love of God and is one of the main reason why some people after years of virtuous living give up the faith, grow cold in their prayer & Mass attendance, and become distant from God.

The enemy uses the “double-whammy” of leading us into overindulgence so that our dependence is upon the things of earth and then in our disordered condition tempts us to embrace ease over spiritual exercises that can enhance our love of God and neighbor. We see these two deadly sins at work in our own communities. How many Catholics from our area attend the Holy Mass? How many Catholics from our area don’t attend Holy Mass? Why do people not attend Holy Mass?

If we believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist then we would do whatever it takes to organize our lives so that we could attend the Holy Mass. I see families reorganize their lives every March for the State wrestling and basketball tournaments, but do all those families, while up in the Twin Cities, go to one of the almost 200 Catholic Churches that are there? “Father, we couldn’t find a Church when we stayed in Minneapolis.” You didn’t look really hard for the 50+ Churches in that are with Mass times ranging from Sunday 6am to 9pm.

Unfortunately, the common scenario for many Catholic adults includes the following: Saturday night one stayed up too late drinking alcohol with friends and family (gluttony) and one needs to sleep off the effects of their choices, which causes on to conclude that Mass is too early on Sunday so one does not attend (slothe).

The remedy for these spiritual maladies is to practice moderation in our intake of food and drink to overcome gluttony and to pray every day and attend Holy Mass weekly to build spiritual strength to overcome spiritual laziness.

Two slogans that are noticed on Palm Sunday include, “Hosanna to the Son of David (Matthew 21:9),” and “Crucify Him (Matthew 27:22).” One slogan praises Jesus and one slogan dismisses Jesus. Do the choices we make concerning daily prayer, Sunday Mass & Holy Day of Obligation attendance, Confession once a year, reception of the Eucharist during the Easter season, observance of fasting and abstinence required by the Church, and financial support of the Church’s mission demonstrate our praise of Jesus Christ or our dismissal of Jesus and our responsibilities as Catholics?

Overcoming Greed

What do you think about this situation I encountered as a pastor?

While meeting with a family as their mother was dying, we prayed and spoke about what happens at death. The family wanted to know if the Church would allow for cremation when the time came for their mother to pass on.

The Church’s position on the Resurrection of the Body and life everlasting was stated. Also the importance of a full body burial if at all possible was highlighted and only in exceptional circumstances should there be cremation and that the Church teaches that the person’s body should be present at the funeral or at the time of visitation with cremation the same day after the funeral with proper burial to follow. Under all circumstances, the deceased person’s body or cremated remains should be buried right after the funeral Mass. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH PROMOT OR ENCOURAGE KEEPING THE REMAINS OF THE DECEASED IN THE HOUSE OR PUTTING REMAINS IN A LOCKET OR OTHER CONTAINER OR ALLOW FOR THE REMAINS TO BE DESECRATED IN ANY WAY! YOU WOULDN’T KEEP ON OF MOM’S ARMS ON THE SHELF OFTER SHE DIED, WOULD YOU? THINK ABOUT IT…

One of the adult children in this conversation then spoke up and stated that his mother never like to spend much money, so in her honor cremation should be considered in order to take the most economical route. Considering that this woman went to daily Mass and lived her Catholic faith, all agreed that a funeral Mass should be celebrated in her honor.

When I left this situation a bible verse stayed in my heart, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor (John 12:5)?” The comment made by the son seems like a reasonable thing to say. However, knowing the situation and the family, the son’s motivation revealed, “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keep of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:6).”

Greed was the motivation at work in the discussion on funeral planning and I knew it in my heart. The son did not care about spending less money on the funeral for his mother’s sake, but for getting a little more for himself. Really? It is one thing not to be able to afford a proper burial because you are dirt poor, it is another to be driven by greed. Just as in life, it is one thing to live within your means and it is another to be totally driven by money so as to spend it wildly or grasp onto it as a miser.

Greed is a deadly sin because it is a disorder in a person that reveals they want control over the goods of the earth. Rather than seeking what is of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, greed leads the human heart to covet neighbors’ houses, cars, jobs, boats, farms, etc… and even leads people to justify why we should cheat our own mother out of a proper burial. When money controls the human heart it can lead us to make selfish and inhumane decisions.

Recently I have been studying the 1932-1933 Holodomor, or forced starvation, of 11 million Ukrainians by Joseph Stalin and the Soviets. Most of the world has never even heard of this event because it was covered up in the Soviet-controlled media and diplomatic channels and was somehow overshadowed by the Holocaust or killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis. However, at the root of 11 million deaths was Greed, or one man’s desire to control the wealth of a rival country for the sake of his own political power and standing.

Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).” As we look at our lives, do we let money control our actions and relationships? Does money have almost an obsessive place in our thoughts and dealings? Are we able to be satisfied with what we have? Do we embrace the remedy to greed that is generosity? Am I kind to those around me? Do I support the works of the Church or other charities? When I see someone in need, do I help them immediately? Do I find myself willing to cheat my own mother out of a proper burial for a few hundred extra dollars?

In this week’s readings, each one deals with the topic of death. The prophet Ezekiel points us to the Lord’s words, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them and bring you back to the land of Israel (37:12).” The Lord makes a promise to raise the faithful from their graves and bring them into a new relationship with Him in a new homeland. For the baptized, we know that “If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit dwelling in you (Romans 8:11).” We are given a pledge of new life in Christ and each of us who has the cross etched into our souls possess the indwelling Holy Spirit which leads us into paths of virtue and holiness.

Jesus encounters His deceased friend Lazarus and with the words, “Lazarus, come out (John 11:43)!” shows that He has power over death and can raise the dead to life. The true power that Jesus has is not for political or financial gain, but a power over sin and death. Jesus, in this account with Lazarus, demonstrates that the power of God has the ultimate end in our lives and that ultimate end for those who believe in the Lord is the salvation of our souls.