October Baby and the struggle with commitment

October Baby and a test of commitment
Lately I’ve been thinking about a reflection my brother (Fr. Paul Rutten) gave on our cultures struggle with commitment; whether it is a commitment to a party or a married relationship, our culture fears commitment. The example he talked about was evites. The fact that we can select maybe as a response for an evite, instead of yes or no, is new to our culture. There are many reasons for selecting maybe but I tend to think we might want to attend, but we don’t want to be committed in case something else comes up.
I experienced this trial of commitment myself last week when I went to the movie October Baby. I went the last night it was showing in town and after I ordered my ticket, I heard a guy behind me ask for a ticket to the Godfather. Caught off guard by the request, I slowly walked away and pondered the situation. As I was trying to comprehend how he could be going to the Godfather, I saw the sign in the theater advertizing a one-time showing of the Godfather part II and it happened to be that day. My problem was that I was already committed to October Baby and I had bought my ticket.
A battle in my heart began to be waged. Should I go to October Baby or change my mind and go sneak into an all-time Hollywood classic, the Godfather. My brother’s reflection on our cultures inability to commit to things came to mind and I felt myself called to stick with my first commitment, although everything else in my body was telling me to go to the Godfather. My brothers wisdom won the day and I went to October Baby.
If you have seen the movie, you know I made the right decision. If you have not seen the movie, it is a must see when it is released. It is a truly powerful story with lessons of love, forgiveness and ultimately the mercy of God. I also learned that the spiritual battle of commitment to Christ is waged in many small ways every day. In small ways everyday our fidelity to God and others is tested. Some day the test won’t be as light-hearted as a decision between two movies, it will be between heaven and hell. It is our small commitments today which will strengthen us for the big commitments in the end.
Make it a great day!

Charity and fasting

The following is from ZENIT news service. I thought it was very insighful and helpful for us to remember that we don’t fast from things to hoard them for tomorrow, but we should seek to share that which we fast from with those in need.  As the reflection reminds us, our great poverty in america is a poverty of spirituality.  Be generous with your faith this week and share wit those you encounter.  They may be starving for the food which gives everlasting life!

“How splendid is fasting
That is adorned with love,
Break your bread generously with one who is hungry
Otherwise yours is not fasting but saving.”
With this chant of Vespers of Tuesday of Lent, the Maronite liturgy, imbued with the theology of the Syriac Fathers, links fasting and Lent closely with charity. At a time in which for many fasting is, in fact, a form of dieting, the Church, which teaches through the liturgy, reminds us that Christian fasting is much more than abstinence from food.
The Apostle Paul had no doubts about the fact that charity is the crown of the Christian virtues, and fasting that is not embellished by the splendor of charity is vain. And the Apostle John clarifies that the corner stone of true charity is its practice and concreteness. Hence, he exhorts: “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Poverty has different faces, and Mother Teresa, who was so familiar with poverty and material hunger, said one day that in the Western world – where people seem to be richer – there is a greater hunger and a graver poverty than that found in the alleys of Calcutta: it is spiritual poverty, the lack of meaning and the indigence of those who have renounced their Lord, source, meaning and end of our existence.

The slippery slope of sin

Today’s Gospel (Jn 12:1-11) provides us with an interesting moral insight into the nature of sin and the moral life. In the Gospel Jesus is in Bethany having dinner when the famous encounter between Mary and Jesus occurs where she annoints his feet with an expensive ointment using her hair.
Let us reflect on the figure of Judas in the story and see how sin grows. I think that we will find seeds of Judas’ betrayal growing in his heart prior to his final act of betrayal of Jesus. Many of our recollections of Judas are that he betrayed Jesus but do we consider the fact that it wasn’t an isolated act of betrayal, or simply one big mistake. It was a final act of betrayal, but not the first, as the Gospel writer tells us today.
We know the famous criticism of Judas against Mary for using the expensive oil to wash Jesus’ feet instead of selling it for three hundred days wages and giving the money to the poor. The Gospel writer points out that Judas said this, not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief. We are told that Judas was the one who held the money bag and he use to steal the contributions.
Consider that. Judas’s love of money, his sin, wasn’t isolated to the final act of betrayal for thirty pieces of silver. His heart was betraying Jesus every time he stole from the money bag. Isn’t this the nature of sin? Small sin (Venial) not addressed, leads to larger sin (Mortal) that eventually destroys us if we do not repent of it. What are the small sins in our lives that if left unaddressed may lead to larger more serious sin? What are the little weeds in our garden that if cultivated or at minimum not addressed could grow out of control? Wisdom would encourage us to examine the little sins in our lives and seek to route them out so as not to lead us into more serious and deadly sin.
The best medicine following such reflections is a good confession. May this Holy Week be an opportunity for conversion and a deeper sense of God’s love for you!

Shadrack, Meshack & Abednego: A few reflections for today!

What a great reading from the Old Testament today (Wednesday, March 28, 2012), the story of Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego and the fiery furnace. The story is ingrained in many of our childhood memories as the story captivates the minds of children who have always been told the great danger of fire and witnessed its destructive forces while roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Adults often remember the story for another reason; the difficulty of pronouncing the characters names. King Nebuchadnezzar might be hard enough but Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego seem virtually impossible, especially if you are the designated reader standing in front of a captive audience, trying to pronounce their names not once, but three times. It’s like navigating the Ninja Warrior obstacle course, just when you start to feel comfortable you get hit with a knock-out punch. (If you do not know what the Ninja Warrior obstacle course is, you-tube it and enjoy the entertainment)
On to my reflection…Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon forces Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego to bow down and worship a golden statue. Nebuchadnezzar taunts them saying, “who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?” Their response is not to defend themselves but simply to say, ‘If God can save us from the furnace may he save us, but even if he will not, we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue.’ Because of this, Nebachadnezzar had them bound and thrown in the furnace.
It is in the furnace that an angel of God frees the three men. They are found walking in the fire unfettered and unhurt. Nebuchadnezzar, shocked at the sight, blesses the God whom Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego trusted in. He praises them for disobeying the royal command to worship a god other than their own God and being willing to sacrifice their bodies as a consequence.
Reflection #1 – On Wisdom – Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego’s response to the king’s command was filled with wisdom. Sometimes people who hold themselves in authority over us revel at the power they possess and find pleasure in the confrontation with those they consider their subjects or of lesser significance. S, M & A (it’s easier than writing out their names) choose to trust in God instead of trying to argue their way out of their predicament. Do we spend too much time trying to figure out a human solution to our problems instead of entrusting ourselves to God’s will and His infinite love and mercy? Whatever your problems are this day, do your part to solve them, but then give them to the same God who saved S, M & A from certain destruction.
Reflection #2 – On expectations – S, M & A petitioned God to save them, but ultimately entrusted themselves to the will of God. They’re expectations were centered on God’s will not their own. They petitioned God to save them, but if he had different plans then they would accept any suffering that God would permit to come to them. How often do our expectations come with strings attached? How often do we petition God for needs and wants without considering if our petitions are a part of God’s plan? Whatever our plans and petitions are this day, let us resign ourselves to accept God’s will even if the outcome isn’t what we wanted.
Finally, don’t forget that S, M & A were preserved from the suffering and persecution of the King, but this isn’t always the case for those that follow the Lord. Are we willing to suffer for our Catholic faith? In America it is easy to be raised soft in faith. Apply the story to our nation today. The King (President Obama) has put out a decree (Health and Human Services mandate) to us. He is forcing us to worship gods against our will (Abortion, sterilization and contraception). What will our response be? Will we refuse the royal command like S, M & A and accept the consequences that come as a result? Or will we bow to the evils that surround us in our country and rationalize our position with empty excuses and hollow justifications in order to maintain the status quo and an illusion of peace or prosperity?
I for my part will stand with Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego against the tyranny of the King! Whatever the consequence, even unto death, may I never forsake my Lord. Will you not stand up as well? I feel like ending with a good quote from Braveheart!
“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”
Amen to that brothers and sisters!
Joe Rutten

Let the weather draw your heart and mind to God!

I imagine the existence of God has been argued since the beginning of mankind. The great Catholic tradition for God’s existence is built on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, but his works are not alone.

One of the great arguments is based more on experience than logical analysis. It is called the argument from aesthetics, or beauty. It is simple; when we experience beauty in the world (birth of a baby, grandeur of the mountains, sunrise at the lake, etc) it leads us to the source of that beauty (the one who created the beauty we experience), God who is Beauty itself.

Enjoy the beauty of the spring weather and let it draw your mind and heart to God this week.  Praise lightens the heart and purifies our attitude!  It is good medicine and it’s free. 

One of the most popular ways to experience the argument from aesthetics is through sacred music and art. If you are in Sioux Falls you can experience both at the Cathedral of St. Joseph for the Novena to our patron at 6pm each night unitl March 19th, the Feast Day of St. Joseph. It lasts about 45 minutes and it is a sure encounter with the beauty and grandeur of God through the aesthetics of the Cathedral itself, the prayer of the community and the sacred music from the organ.

I promise you will not be disappointed!  St. Joseph, pray for us.

Secularism in modern society

I was watching Piers Morgan the other night when he had Kirk Cameron on as his guest.  My students just finished talking about him in relationship to our unit on creationism and evolution as they relate to the proper understanding b/w faith and reason for the Christian.  Although I probably don’t agree with Kirk’s views on origins (I believe he is a creationist; believing the world was created 6,000 yrs ago in 6 days as recorded in Genesis) but by no means would I call him a Christian “extremist” as the media is after he voiced his position on homosexuality.

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