"I am the way and the truth and the life"
Just a few years ago I was marching in D.C. with thousands of others while my fingers and nose were freezing. I was a first time youth minister and just getting my bearings on how to both chaperone and enjoy an event. I'll admit I leaned more on the chaperone side, but I did get to ask myself one very important question: "Why am I here".
Every good march needs a good cause, as I'm sure MLK would agree. MLK fought for civil rights, and now we are fighting for something even more basic: human rights... the right to LIFE.
Let this sink in as food for thought- more importance is being given to political correctness these days than to protecting an unborn child.
Hope is strong though. This year marks the 44th year that the March for Life has taken place. How many other groups can say they have marched for this long?
Since some of us are unable to make the D.C. March this year, let us rally for our cause in the Tulsa March today and give voices to the voiceless children.
When I was about 10, my dad got me a bow and arrow, and I thought I was king of the world. I would go into the backyard and shoot this cardboard box target stuffed with dead grass for hours. Being a huge Lord of the Rings fan, I would imagine myself as Legolas shooting Orcs.
When we are in the midst of accomplishing goals, we often attribute our successes to ourselves rather than God. In Luke, chapter 18, we see how the Pharisee's prayer consists in telling God how awesome he is compared to the tax collector praying next to him. Jesus ends the story with a powerful reminder: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk.18:14). The tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified after praying that day. Let us pray to God that we may be humble like that tax collector!
In the height of my excitement and narcissism, I shot an arrow straight into the sky to prove to my sister how cool I was... The arrow landed in the ground- just inches from where she stood. I haven't shot an arrow since.
High School Youth Group pictured below:
After reading the Gospel where Jesus settles his disciples' argument over who is the greatest, calms his jealous disciples, and rebukes James and John for their ridiculous anger; we concluded in youth group that the disciples all had unique personalities (Lk.9:46-56).
I remember taking the Myers-Briggs personality test in college and thinking that my personality explained everything about me and that I was in a sense "stuck" in who I was. If I buried my head in my phone during a conversation, I would blame it on the fact that I was an introvert. If I planned something poorly, I would claim that I couldn't help "going with the flow" as the spontaneous person that I was. My personality became a well of excuses that never ran dry.
Thankfully, like the disciples, Jesus filled that well with his love. Our personalities are not meant to define us. They are meant to serve as springboards to love more daily. Take a moment today to thank God for how he made you- even thanking him for your weaknesses. He wants to shine through us in all the beautiful strengths and weaknesses we bear in the personalities he gave us.
Faith can lead us to handle our addictions with an "avoidance mentality" if we don't see the bigger picture.
Last night in Youth Group, we discussed how TV, Movies, and Music impact us more than we care to admit. Speaking for myself, I fully admit that a lot of my down time is engaged in social media or sitting in front of a screen.
So at first our group was making resolutions to simply avoid watching so much TV. Sounds simple enough right? As our conversation went on, though, we realized that it was tough to think of alternatives to TV and playing video games. It was actually kind of depressing!
Finally, after some deliberation, we all agreed to make one new friend this week.
Isn't that interesting? So often we intuitively know that we should spend less time in a certain activity, but we have no clue what to do instead; so we ignore our consciences, continue in our ways, and don't grow as persons. The mentality of avoiding TV and Netflix is not enough to overcome these small addictions. We have to see the bigger picture of maturing into the Saints we are called to be.
As Jesus said, "Do not be afraid" (Mt.14:27). We can all grow in maturity by changing our mentality of avoiding screen time to growing in our love for others. Go visit a nursing home, work out, ride your bike, read a book, make a new friend... the list goes on. There are so many alternatives to being couch potatoes in our living rooms. Let's be Saints!
Prodigal: spending money or resources freely and recklessly. How often this describes us! Sometimes we are like the prodigal son when we go to the mall: spending on whatever catches our eye. How well do we budget our time, money, and talents? Admit it. You didn't need to spend an hour on Facebook today.
We don't always invest in what's best for ourselves because we get so easily distracted. A car is simply meant to get us from point A to point B... BUT LOOK AT THAT BMW! I MUST HAVE IT! Our materialistic culture guides our decision making process more than we care to admit. We lose sight of the IMPORTANT things that we need to invest in.
Jesus made no such mistake. It's interesting that we really don't see much of his yearly budget, but of course he had one, right? I mean the guy traveled all across Israel constantly. He wasn't always conjuring up 5,000 loaves. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that money served a specific purpose for him: fulfilling his mission in life. Jesus wasn't known for wearing the nicest clothes and riding the most expensive donkeys. He did invest in some nice things, such as comfortable Last Supper arrangements, but it always served a purpose.
Even youth groups can get caught up in having the nicest facility, serving amazing food, having the most members. Trust me, I would know :). But we have to remember the bigger purpose of why we're doing things.
As a resolution, let's imitate the example of our Lord and strive for more purpose in the way we budget our resources.
Is there some primordial being existing outside of time that created time, space, and matter? How can we know?
We probed this question in high school youth group last night and realized that, although it is reasonable to believe in God, there is no scientific reasoning that proves God's existence. A level of faith is required.
Our Middle School youth experienced God when they brought simple gift bags to the Nursing Home on Tuesday. Seeing the smiles and gratitude on the faces of their residents as we passed out gifts and sang them songs was an amazing experience. God is love, and visiting those who are sick is always an experience of love.
While we may not be able to prove God exists, we can certainly see him in his works. Just as we can know an artist by studying his works, so too we can know God by experiencing his love in one another, his masterpieces.
In my own experience, I never enjoy service work until I'm actually doing it. Elliott Walz, our Facilities Director at St. Pius, had some great insights in his talk to our High School Youth Group last night.
When he was volunteer working one time, he talked about how he enjoyed it, but felt like he could be doing more. This led him to pursue a heavy machines license so he could help more by driving fork lifts, etc. Service helped him discover his passions in life, and now he has a great job here at St. Pius X doing what he loves.
Let's get our youth excited about service work. As John Paul II said, "Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch".
When we serve, we find ourselves and improve the lives of everyone we touch.
"God laughs at our plans". Any Catholic can probably say that they've heard this phrase either in Church or from a wise parent or sage. I certainly have, and I always get slightly annoyed since I'm not a huge fan of my plans getting laughed at. I found out today, however, that his plans are better than ours in a powerful way.
My day began like any other: wake up, help at school mass, substitute teach Spanish class. I knew I had to register our high school youth group for our Mission Trip this year pretty quickly since registration started at 10am, and my class didn't end until 10:10. As I raced from teaching Spanish to my office, I received a text from St. Benedict's Youth Coordinator, Deb Malcom (with whom we partner for Mission Trips), saying that the place we originally wanted to do Missions at was already full. I panicked. I got angry. How could it have filled up so fast?? Ugh. Youth Ministry probs.
So I got on the phone with Deb Malcom and she said something that really hit me, "God must have a different plan than ours". If you know Deb at all, you know she is a very happy woman at all times. Her way of thinking is what motivates her too. Seeing that God had closed one door, she didn't despair but rather moved on to open a new door. The door we opened also turned out to be even more exciting than our previous plan...
I'm happy to announce that St. Pius, St. Benedict's, and St. Joseph's will be teaming up for a Mission Trip to Champaign, IL from June 18th to the 24th! We are all very excited and glad that God has given us this opportunity to serve in their community. For our fun day on Friday, we will likely spend some time riding roller coasters at Six Flags in St. Louis, MO.
Moral of the story: let God laugh at your plans knowing that his is better; and he is only laughing because of how little we want for ourselves compared to how much he wants to give.
Chariots, long road trips, and standing guard over the Ethiopian Queen's treasury comprised a certain young eunuch's life (Acts.8:27). Still seeking something more, he opened the book of Isaiah to no avail: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth". Is Isaiah talking about himself or someone else?
It was to this man that the Apostle, Philip, appeared seemingly out of nowhere. And apparently Philip did not skip leg day, for he ran and caught up with a CHARIOT. The eunuch invited him in, and his questions began to be answered. Introductions like the name Jesus, the word grace, the story of salvation poured into the young eunuch's mind, driving him toward a future he had never even thought imaginable--like water gushing through a parched desert. The experience ended as surreal as it began--with Philip being whisked away by the "Spirit of the Lord".
Philips ability to touch this man's life had nothing to do with Philip and everything to do with Christ. His message was Christ's, his power to "fast travel" was Christ's. All Philip did was accept this completely unmerited gift. So many Confirmation students think that the sacrament Confirmation is all about what they are doing when in fact it's all about being a passive recipient of the Holy Spirit. May we echo John the Baptist's cry: "He must increase; I must decrease" (Jn.3:30). Do this, and the Holy Spirit will work wonders in you.
During Youth Group this week, one of our high school students shared some insecurities about beginning high school, and rightfully so. It's a scary time! Right now, many who are beginning middle school, high school and college fear failure, and that's a healthy fear. We set expectations for ourselves and want to achieve them so badly that we fear falling short.
Jesus tells us that he loves us and has a "wedding feast" prepared for us (Mt.22:2). All we have to do is respond to this invitation (as the phrase goes, "we have ONE job"). The task should be simple: RSVP for and attend the exciting event. But sometimes we let our fears and indifference hold us back.
Solution? Here comes a typical Catholic answer that we ignore now because we hear it so much: Prayer. Let that word mean more to you today. Make it a real encounter with the Lord who wants nothing more than to see your success, happiness, and peace. When we do this, we can begin this new school year with confidence, not in ourselves, but in him who loves us.