The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Today we find in the readings on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception a peculiar story of Ahaz. Ahaz wasn't a particularly pious king of Judah and in the Book of Kings is known simply as one who "even immolated his child by fire, in accordance with the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites." (16:3) Simply put, he sacrificed his child to a foreign god-idol that promised peace and prosperity. But as if this wasn't bad enough, he also frequently asked for help from Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, instead of relying on God's own armies.
And so we read that the prophet Isaiah tells Ahaz to "remain calm and do not fear; do not let your courage fail", and to "ask for a sign from the Lord, your God" (Is 7:4,11). Isaih is telling Ahaz to turn from his idolatry and pray to God for help. Ahaz, in his defiance, says "I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord" (v12), essentially responding that he will not trust God, but rather in his own power and allies, the Assyrians. Further on, Isaiah then responds that in this case, the Assyrians will shave the Israelites, rendering them powerless and in suffering - "on that day a man shall keep alive a young cow or a couple of sheep, and from their abundant yield of milk he shall eat curds; curds and honey shall be the food of all who are left in the land...every place where there were a thousand vines shall become briers and thorns" (v21-23).
What does this mean for us? First of all, in the light of our current crisis, let me say that God, the author of goodness, does not in our time inflict evil on His children. Suffering is a fruit of man's pride and selfishness, and though God can and will save us, He will allow suffering as a refining fire to burn away our own idolatry. Just as Ahaz refused to give up self-control to God and desired instead to trust his idols and powerful allies, we will often choose to refuse God's help and instead rely on our own powers and allies in a time of crisis.
So, what are our idols?
But, even in the face of God's merciful judgement on Earth, we still have to choose to trust in Him and follow His commandment to love our neighbor. We must see the ways in which God is burning away our dependencies and idols so that we may 'burden Him', not trusting in powers and idols, as Ahaz did when Isaiah asked him to trust in the Lord. We must not sacrifice the lives of our at-risk brothers and sisters - the poor, the elderly, and the frail - to the idol of economy and money, as Ahaz did to his own sons in the name of prosperity. We must use this as a time of repentance for all that we worship in place of the Lord God Almighty who is all good and deserving of ALL of our love.
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
by Jason Wilde
When our daughter, Grace, was 2 or 3 years old, she was a bit of a night owl. We'd find her hovering over our bed at 5 o'clock in the morning, playing in her room just before midnight, or randomly wandering to and from her room at all hours of the night. But there was this one time when I remember checking on Grace just before going to bed myself when I found her huddled in the corner of the hallway, reading the story of the Annunciation in her Children's Bible. It kind of shocked me so much, not that she was clandestinely reading in the hallway, but that she was reading the Bible.
At the time, I don't think we actually had any other Bible in our house. Sure, I grew up always seeing the giant white book with gold embossed letters on our bookshelf, right next to the 28 volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia, but I could only count maybe a handful of times when I actually opened God's Word and read it myself (and all of those were part of either an assignment or trying to use it to prove myself right in some trivial argument). I guess I fell into the old excuse that "Catholics read the whole Bible every 3 years in the Liturgy". (While I can't prove or disprove this, it also requires one to actually read the Sunday AND all weekday readings to even be close.) Because of this, I can honestly say that I didn't have an intimate relationship with the Word of God, or with God Himself. To know God is to know His Word!
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. - St. Jerome
The early Christians didn't have the Word of God in any written form - for about 300 years it was passed solely by word of mouth, tradition, and through teaching. Saint Jerome lived at the time of the Synod of Hippo, which identified the Greek and Hebrew canonical scriptures which we would come to know collectively as The Bible. However, Jerome himself didn't really know or read any of these scriptures, even though he was baptized and could read and understand Greek. Of course, he was a very learned and cultured young man. But in modern terms, he was a lukewarm Christian, far more passionate about Greco-Roman literature than about Christ.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. (John 15:3-4)
Then one night while sick with a deathly illness, Jerome had a dream in which he was being judged by God. He told God that he was a Christian, but Jesus countered that Jerome was actually a Ciceronian because he knew more about the Roman philosopher and his writings than about the Gospel of Jesus. This shook Jerome so much that when he recovered, he resolved to put all of his efforts into the Word of God, eventually translating it into Latin, the common language of the people at the time.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. (John 15:7-8)
Like Jerome, I called myself a Christian for many years, when in reality I was relying only on my knowledge and understanding of the Catholic culture and tradition I grew up in. I knew all about the fasts and devotions, rituals and prayers that are so prominent in a Catholic Church, but had very little personal experience with the Word, aside from hearing three short sections read to me every weekend.
This all changed when we signed up for our first mission trip to the Philippines. On the preparation list was a Bible (we actually had to buy one!) My eyes were opened to the Word as the missionaries directed us in reading, reflecting, and in praying with the Bible in various ways. For me, it was like spending time talking with a new friend whom I'd only seen in passing my entire life. After the mission trip, I was hooked! I began by reading through the entire Gospel of Luke, then Genesis and Sirach. My eyes were opened so much to the actual Words of God that I began to see things differently, to understand His ways and how He wanted me to follow. In many ways, it was the difference between visiting China without studying the language and visiting China with even a very basic non-conversational understanding of Mandarin Chinese. Knowing a few basic words really doesn't help you understand the announcements at the train station, or talk with the taxi driver, or even find the street you are looking for, but in learning those words, it helps you to understand how the traffic can seem so chaotic and yet organized, why people may seem to be so rude, and even why that elderly man is wanting to touch my child's hair.
If you immerse yourself into a foreign language, then you can actually rewire your brain...it affects how you see everything. (Ian Donnelly, Arrival)
Bishop Robert Barron explains how 'Arrival', a sci-fi movie involving an alien ship that suddenly appears on Earth, relates to the Word of God. In this film, the alien language is the central component that draws a linguist, a scientist, and an unhealthy supply of military involvement together to understand how and why the aliens suddenly appeared, and what they wanted with humanity. The language at first seems impossible to learn, but after spending time studying and exploring the strange figures in more detail, the linguist suddenly begins to understand and can even converse. She then comes across a word that causes great panic and alarm: "Weapon". But her study and understanding of their language allows her to look past the initial human response. She tries to explain that "The weapon is their language. They gave it all to us. Do you understand what that means?" to which the anxious Colonel answers "So we can learn (their language). If we survive."
Her response is pivotal, if not absolutely Biblical: "If you learn it, when you really learn it, you begin to perceive time the way that they do. So you can see what's to come. But time, it isn't the same for them."
In Genesis, "God said: Let there be light, and there was light" (1:3). God literally spoke 4 words, and all light now exists. Think about that! God's Word, His Thoughts, and His Breath all have power unimaginable to us. If we, as people of God, truly believe this, and we believe that the Bible is the very Word of God, then why would we use it? Why wouldn't we try to use the Bible as our language course to understand God's Ways, how He works, how He thinks, and how He loves? And even more, why wouldn't we speak it out loud as defense against Evil and Darkness (also known as 'Executing the Word')?
Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict. - Arrival
For the past three years, I have tried to understand the Language of God by reading it every day. Some days I forget, or get distracted or sidetracked. But I try to read it every day, from the Original Source. Even 15 minutes is powerful. In fact, if you read only 15 minutes every day, you can finish the Bible in a year! Now, I can admit that I have not consciously read the Bible in entirety, but I challenge myself every year to do so, and I believe it has truly changed me and my family. Every day, I learn the Ways of God and how He wants me to live while exiled from my Home. If you do not already, I challenge you to become more intimate and familiar in some way with God in this way. Some simple ideas are:
1) Pick a Gospel and read from beginning to end (over several days or weeks is fine!)
2) Do the same for an historical Old Testament book.
3) Read a Psalm each day for the next 6 months.
4) Even better, EXECUTE a Psalm out loud each day! "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)
5) Play Bible Roulette - open your Bible to any random page and begin reading for 15 minutes.
6) Practice Lectio Divina - read any daily reading, think and pray about something that catches your attention, and then read again twice more. Refrain from reading another person's reflections or thoughts.
In addition, if you'd like to join us for a virtual Bible marathon to proclaim His Word around the world, we are looking for readers to fill 144 slots - 30 minute slots over 72 hours (the time it takes to read the entire Bible) - on the days leading up to Palm Sunday, 2020. Please see the link here for details and to sign up. We will be simultaneously hosting a live New Testament marathon at our parish in Littleton, Colorado and would appreciate the power of your readings of God's Word. Please contact us for more details if you'd like to join the live marathon.
by Grace Wilde
I am in 8th grade, and I had an assignment in history, to write an essay on “how to become prosperous?” Many could say this is a simple and easy assignment. But, I do not think we should be rich or even try to be. What benefit would it give you now, and more importantly in heaven? Jesus does not call for prosperity but Poverty. Instead I changed the question to “how to be poor” for that should be our real goal. And that is what I am going to talk about today.
Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven. (Saint Rose of Lima)
What is Poverty?
What do you think when you see the poor? In our society today we think two things. They made themselves that way, and that they are suffering. Those thoughts are not all completely true. They did not make themselves that way. A lot of the time they were born that way. They were kicked out of their homes because they could not pay to live there, or they were just different. Sometimes they are poor because of something we did that hurt them. They are suffering, but God always uses that suffering as a power. Someone can come to that suffering person and bring them to Jesus. If they were not poor, they would not have met the Lord in the first place. As a result of that power, the suffering person can be united with other people’s suffering in love and community. We can live in this suffering too! Poverty is a gift of suffering and freedom from God to man.
The community of believers were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. (ACTS 4:32)
Why should we be poor?
Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be. (Luke 12:33-34)
We know that poverty is a gift from God. But, why should we be poor? First of all, let us see why it is bad to be rich. Let me specify that possessions are not bad. It is our consumption of things which make us self reliable to the point that we have no need to trust God. This leads us into a place where we cannot find the hope of heaven. This consumption that we do which consumes us is called prosperity. The definition for prosperity is “the state of being “successful in the worlds eyes” unusually by making a lot of money.” Successful!?! That is what our society thinks of prosperity, successful. I do not think this is at all accurate. Just look at what prosperity does to the world. All of the selfishness, all the sadness, all the pain, is caused by that desire for more money, more food, more clothes, more and more and more prosperity. And when we consume the world's resources and half of what we own are for nothing, and just end up in a dump, how do we feel? We feel empty. Because when we fill the holes in our hearts with this world and all that is in it, Jesus gets pushed out of our everyday life. We even find it hard to just go to Mass on Sunday. When we are poor we have nothing but the LORD. But, when we are rich, we have everything, but HIM. Now, don’t feel self conscious, we all fall prey to prosperity, even me. So we MUST all live a little poorer for Him.
“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)
How to be poor?
Poverty is a grace and we must live in it. How are we to do it? Instead of filling the holes in our hearts with things instead of Jesus so as to become rich, we need to tear those things out and give everything to the Lord in others. For when we decrease our belongings, possessions, and reputation in humility, we help others in need. As well as we embrace the Lord and embarking on a true relationship with Him. For when we have become so small and so humble, we do not need to push ourselves into heaven with all of our belongings along with us. When we are humble, Jesus can fill our hearts with him, pick us up, and lift us up Himself. Then in our poverty and humility, in every moment of every day we can ask Jesus, “How can I serve you in this moment, in my poverty, in my humility.” Listen to what he says, then ACT. Never be afraid of what another person may think because when we have given up all that we are attached to in this world, we have become not a part of the world. People will oppose because they do not see the world in the lens of the Father. But, never listen to them and teach them through quiet actions, the truth of the blessing of POVERTY.
Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor. (Pope Francis)
Today, Jesus calls for us to live the grace of poverty. It is a hard task in the world that seems like a burden. And even though society thinks of it as a suffering and hardship, it is truly a gift. And when you choose it you can never turn back even though you may try, for when you choose it your eyes are opened and you can embark on that relationship with the Lord with nothing of the world in the way. But, I can not tell you what to give up to the Lord for God calls us all in different ways to poverty and he chooses what we give. Remember that our possessions are not bad. They are our gifts from the Father to give to others. It is our selfishness and greed over those things that is bad. Today, let us pray through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi the patron of the earth and a beautiful example of poverty. Let us pray through his intercession for the world to embrace and choose this beautiful gift of the poverty of the Gospel. Let us also pray that we may find where to put to use the gifts that God has given us.
Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage. (St Francis of Assisi)
by Jason Wilde
Every time I hear the story of Zacchaeus, I can’t help but think of this image of my friend and brother in Costa Rica who climbed to the top of a ladder in the middle of a street in order to tell the story of how we all need to be following Zacchaeus into that tree, looking for Jesus.
Luke portrays three kinds of followers in his Gospel, and it is appropriate because when we know Jesus is coming, there are only three possible responses to His presence. The first, and the preferred response, is that of Zacchaeus. He was the worst kind of sinner in the Jewish community - akin to anyone whom the crowds label as a sinner today - a criminal, an intoxicated beggar on the street corner, an LGBT brother or sister, a Hollywood atheist, or even your least favorite politician. But, Zacchaeus, even in his sinful life, was so much more curious about Jesus’ presence that he climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse. Like him, we should all see our own sinfulness and recognize that we should join Zacchaeus in that tree - if not in curiosity, then instead seeking God’s mercy. We should be standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity and in awareness of our own faults.
The second response is that of the crowd, who all knew Jesus was there, but just stood by, following others around them. There was no awareness of the need to reach out and see Jesus, but just knowing that He was there was enough. In many ways, this is a group of people who feel self-sufficient, “(asking) nothing from the Lord because he does not feel needy or in debt, but he feels that God owes something to him. He stands in the temple of God, but he worships a different god: himself. And many “prestigious” groups, “Catholic Christians”, go along this path” (Pope Francis, Mass for Closing of the Amazon Synod). I have been in this group before, not really looking for Jesus, but rather looking at the backs of people around me, the world, and just trying to follow what the world asks of me. I would seek out the group that I felt had the right political views and follow them, hoping they were headed in the same direction I should be going. I followed those who had wealth and power and wanted to imitate them because I had lost sight of Jesus.
The third group of people in the Gospel are those who stand at the front of the line or the front of church every day, but don’t seek Jesus at all - instead they grumble and try to condemn Him when He meets with Zacchaeus, for “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) They affirm that Zacchaeus is a sinner, but aren’t really caring much for him, but rather to pin Jesus for a social crime. This is because in many ways, “we are presumptuous, able to justify ourselves, masters of the art of self-justification” (ibid). We forget that we are sinners altogether and instead seek to destroy the good that Jesus seeks out. How many times have we tried to argue that Zacchaeus doesn’t belong in the Church in our own justification of the Gospel message? How often do we try to criminalize clergy, bishops, or the Pope for accepting those who bring in different views, or even welcoming the outcast? How often do we applaud the ones who withhold Jesus from our perceived enemy? But even worse, are we doing it out of humility and holiness, or out of a desire to point fingers and de-legitimize the merciful one?
Like my brother, I would rather leave the crowd, acknowledge my sinfulness, and seek Jesus’ mercy in ways that no one else does. I call myself a “misionero loco” and will do whatever it takes to be in that tree with the sinner and the poor in spirit - because that’s who Jesus will be calling for. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
by Jason Wilde
A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’" (Luke 16:1-2)
While it is true that in Genesis, God gave man authority over all of His creation, we have to remind ourselves that it is HIS creation!
What does this mean? Well, let's put it this way - if you left your house one evening and told your eldest child that he was in charge, what would you expect when you came home? Maybe since he was in charge, your son decided to knock down a few walls and create a giant game room. Or maybe, as in many cases, you come home and find the place absolutely trashed. Is this what you expected when you said he was in charge?
Recently, Pope Francis announced a synod on the Amazon. In an Italian interview, he states precisely that this synod is a child of Laudato Si', "which is based on a "green" reality, the custody of Creation". In this interview, he expressed concern over several issues. To quote directly, he said:
So if it's a global emergency, why aren't we acting? It's easy to immediately put on a political hat and begin denying or claiming certain things, arguing with or against different talking heads and blogs. But this is all exactly what tears apart our very relationship with our neighbor and with God. It is easy to sit in a bubble deny that 'I am not part of this problem', or 'That is no problem', but in the end, this is just division and ignorance. I recently came across a self-named Catholic organization who was "against the ecological movement". What does this even mean? Just because you cannot agree with some component or piece of the world's problem, then you say that we should not care at all? What do you think God would say when he comes back to see His creation completely ignored by people who want to claim His name?
I was in this camp at one time. I know exactly what it feels like to want to completely deny any 'liberal' thinking about the environment, and I remember all the studies that didn't come true and all the crazy ideas about carbon banks impacting my own bank account. I remember laughing at Al Gore, because it was easy to just say "It's all nonsense" and not really care.
I read Pope Francis' encyclical with the specific purpose of trying to disprove it. It's crazy how we can be so convinced of our own righteousness and then God uses His servant to flatten you, spin you around, and turn you in the right direction. St. Paul would certainly agree.
Just like with a true relationship with our Lord, once your eyes are opened, you begin seeing truths like they were clear as day, even though they were always there staring you in the face. Shortly after reading Laudato Si', I visited a museum where they displayed several samples of everyday landfill trash. Each item had a label showing when it was placed and how long it will take to decompose - tissue paper: 3 months, rope - 1 year, leather shoe - 25 years, metal can - 50 years...
Plastic straw - 200 years.
This was a revelation that I knew in my heart but it never clicked until now. I began recycling and composting like crazy, and this eased my conscience. But it didn't by any means end my revelation. Removal of waste, in fact, is only half of the problem, because we only have to think about waste or trash when we've consumed something. And we consume a LOT. So, if we could consume 30% less 'stuff', then we have 30% less trash. It's easy math.
Even better, it also saves all of the manufacturing, shipping, and resources used to create that 'stuff'. This really hit me when we visited Shanghai and I saw my daughter struggling to breath with her little cloth mask covering half of her face. I remembering sitting in the hotel at night wondering how people live with the constant burning in their lungs, worrying about pollution warnings that come and go several times each day. One of my friends put it into perspective when she said that many Chinese people have rejected and feel dirty if they walk into one of the hundreds of Chinese markets selling mass produced goods. It is the product of the very sin that affects their lives so much.
The disappearance of biodiversity. New lethal diseases. A drift and devastation of nature that can lead to the death of humanity." (ibid)
Then, I realized that being pro-life meant doing something to protect their lives. I realized that birth defects in these countries are being caused by the things that I buy and toss by the end of the day - birth defects that end up causing premature deaths, poverty, abortions and orphans. And this is why we decided to adopt our son specifically from China. It was God calling us to make reparations of sort, even if only partially.
So what can we do?
(Our daily conduct) does have an impact, because it is a matter of concrete actions. And then, above all, it creates and spreads the culture of not dirtying creation." (ibid)
Catholics are very good at talking about small acts of suffering, penance, and sacrifice. We feel good when we fast, it makes us feel like we are a little closer to Christ's suffering. So, why shouldn't we feel called to suffer for the least of these? Why can't we sacrifice just a tiny bit of our convenience knowing that it saves lives and eases the suffering on those in most need? Even if we all picked just one small thing and sacrificed for a month, it would help to create this culture that Pope Francis talks about, and maybe we could even learn to do more.
Today is the World Day of Prayer for Creation and marks the beginning of the Season of Creation, which culminates on Oct 4, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Maybe we can all do something this month...
And finally, go outside, find a quiet spot in the beauty of God's Creation, and pray. Pray for an hour or two and, most importantly, give thanks to Him for allowing us to enjoy being outside without wearing a mask and to be able to still see trees in our back yard. Then ask Him what I can do to ensure that it stays that way for my children's children, and for theirs as well. For we are all just borrowing our Home for a short time, and we have to remember that we are only borrowing it from our future generations who also need it to enjoy their lives.
Let's all be good stewards together.
LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. (Laudato si', )
by Jason Wilde
If St. Francis of Assisi were alive today, where or who would he be?
Maybe he would be the beggar on the curb, about whom we complain does not contribute to society.
He could be the son who refuses to go to class at the private university where his parents pay tuition.
He could be the lone voice at the capital campaign meeting who asks why they can't re-purpose existing rooms instead of building a new $10M church.
He could be the lay missionary who is told that his mission is unsafe and impractical, and that only priests are missionaries.
Maybe if Saint Paul were alive today he'd be walking through malls and placing anti-Amazon.com billboards proclaiming that the gods we look at through windows and screens are not the One True God, and to stop worshiping them.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta could be working on the border, crossing every day into Juarez to serve refugees, and maybe Saint Karol Wojtyla (aka Saint John Paul II) would be a Honduran priest accompanying and serving the migrant caravan with regular roadside Masses.
If Saint Patrick lived in our generation, maybe he would have been Nelson Mandela, a slave of his own country who worked at the highest levels to change it.
St. Isidore could be the Mexican construction worker being told he couldn't take Good Friday off to go to Mass or he'd lose his job. Dorothy Day might even be searching him out so that she could tell his story in her blog and find support for an organized protest.
St. Anthony could have been an Occupy Wall Street protester.
St. Stephen could be like Fr. James Martin, continuing to be stoned every day for challenging God's people.
Maybe the leper who came to Jesus is the gay man whom churches turn away and judge as sinful because of his outward sign, but Jesus is asking him to come and be welcomed in His Church.
It's easy to read the Gospels and say "I'd be a disciple of Jesus, even to the point of death", but when He asks us to sell everything and give it to the poor, we would find a way to rewrite His Words, saying "He really didn't mean that literally."
Many saints' lives are romanticized in our modern history, reduced to just a few clever quotes about serving one another or being faithful. But in their own times, most were seen as outcasts, ridiculed, and persecuted by their own families and Church. It's easy to say 'If we had lived in their days, we would not have joined in their persecution', but in reality that's probably not true as their lives were and still are so radical in a worldly view that few can truly accept or achieve what they lived for. But we must still challenge ourselves to look beyond the romantic biographical view of their lives to not only see the fruits, but the labors and hardships they endured.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’" (Matthew 23:29-30)
by Jason Wilde
I just feel like we need to be here.
The day had already felt like a series of busts as far as planning goes. We had been on the road for about 3 hours by this point, our first two stops fell through, and so we felt kind of down. Driving another half hour to our final planned stop for the night, the Wal-Mart sign just caught my eye as we drove into town, and so there we were. I honestly had no personal desire to be here. So when Jessica asked what we were doing here, I told her the truth - something told me we needed to be there.
We walked in the entrance, each parent holding two kids' hands. I asked for the Holy Spirit to help, and we walked around the store, talking, praying, quietly singing on occasion, and simply said, just being a family. We stopped at a large bin of candy under a 98¢ sign and explained to Chi Yu that if he spent all his gift money on a box of candy, it wouldn't really fill him up, but that something else would, referencing the woman at the well.
After we walked around the store and down each major aisle, we decided it was time to go and headed to the bathrooms. A man suddenly stopped us, looked at all 6 of us holding hands, and said
You guys look like you have Jesus all around you. I love it!
In the end, this is all that a missionary does. We bring Jesus to those we meet, and even if we don't directly encounter anyone, we hold Him in our hearts so closely that it looks like He is all around us, spreading joy in this world that can look so dark.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of night
In the third world, this means bringing gifts of food, water, clothing, or shelter, and it opens people's eyes to see the Jesus in us. But as our ministry has shifted to a first world, U.S. culture setting, we find ourselves trying to reach the spiritually poor, the lukewarm Christian, and those distracted and addicted to the things and shiny gods of the world. We can't simply bring them a bag of food and expect people to see Jesus. And, against popular belief, no one has ever found a relationship with Jesus by being argued with, judged, or yelled at. Instead, we have to be so filled with the love and joy of knowing our God that it simply radiates from us, like it did from Moses' face or from the disciples on Pentecost. It has to be something that is so compelling and so different from the 98¢ candy bins of this world that it catches someone's eye and makes them say "I don't know what it is, but I want to know how to get *that* for myself."
The hard thing with this kind of Christian witness is that we probably will never see the conversion that takes place. We don't get to proudly claim that we converted XX people or saved YY souls (notice the sly sin involved here). We'll never again met this man, and in reality, I feel like he was there to encourage us, like the Spirit saying "Good job, faithful ones. Keep going!" Because the seeds that are planted with a good Christian witness of the Fruits of the Spirit can and will multiply and produce abundant fruit in time.
Joy is prayer. Joy is strength. Joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. You give the most when you give joy. God loves a cheerful giver. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen." (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)
By: Jessica Wilde
In 1958, my Grandpa and Grandma Brammeier bought a little house on Pearl St. in Littleton, Colorado when my Dad was just a baby. I grew up hearing stories of all the love, laughter and hardships that filled this little house on Pearl. My grandparents were poor but rich in love. In the 6th grade, my Grandpa was a homeless orphan. As a teenager, he cared for the horses and spent his nights living in the horse stalls at Centennial Racetrack. He fell in love with my Grandma when she served him a soda at a soda fountain. They married shortly afterwards. They moved into the little house on Pearl after their third kid, my Dad, was born. My Grandpa worked several jobs at a time to provide for his family but still had time to go square dancing with Grandma and hunting with his kids. He died of a brain tumor when my Dad was only 19. While his death could have left a giant hole, it didn't. His spirit was always present next to Grandma. Their witness of undying love showed me that love is stronger than the grave.
As a kid, I spent my summers driving up from Texas to visit Grandma. When we drove up to her house, her yard overflowed with plants of all kinds: roses, sunflowers, grapes, etc.
Grandma was filled with the gift of hospitality. Every summer, Grandma hosted a cousins sleepover in her living room. We would eat 'girl cheese' and 'boy cheese' sandwiches. She would serve us buttermilk pancakes by the dozen for breakfast. She also hosted many family gatherings where we feasted on Grandma's signature green chili burritos or homemade lasagna. During the cold winter, we'd roll in the snow before jumping into the hot tub. Family was the most important thing to my Grandma. She took great care to get to know each grandkid personally. And she always made her house a sanctuary for her family in times of need.
The year Jason and I were married, Grandma was diagnosed with lymphoma...the same cancer that I was diagnosed with fourteen years later. She underwent chemo which prolonged her life. A couple years later her great grandkids were born, and the hot tub was replaced by a ducky fountain. The family parties on Pearl St continued. Her cancer spread. She tried an alternative therapy and died of side effects when Grace was only 6 years old. Our whole family mourned the loss of our matriarch.
When I found out that I had the same cancer as her, I was scared that my life would end like hers did and early like my Grandpa. When I walked out my front porch, miraculously there was a wild sunflower growing in our front yard. I had never seen sunflowers in Costa Rica until the day that I found out I had cancer. The next day we went on a home visit to my friend Yolanda's house. Her yard was full of sunflowers too! On the third day, our community leader Penny brought me back an image of Mary with sunflowers from her pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Since then, sunflowers have appeared when I need peace the most. With each sunflower, I feel like Grandma is with me, interceding for me in heaven to bring me peace. Since then, I have seen sunflowers on the way to CT scans and along our Busita drives. We’ve even dreamed of going back to Costa Rica to serve for a few months each year because of these sunflowers.
But everytime we start planning anything, God shows us His plans which are always better than ours. Within a couple days of serving in Colorado, a generous benefactor offered to let us use Grandma's house as our Busita Mission Hub. We would just pay for the utilities when we were in town.
It was no surprise when after expanding my grandparents driveway to fit the Busita it was parked amidst Grandma's sunflowers.
As we prayed and discerned the Pearl house, God's plan made sense. God doesn’t ever ask us to give up something if he doesn’t have something even better planned for our lives. I thought of everything we’d left behind and sold to become missionaries. We had literally sold or donated everything we owned except for one closet in my parents house. And now, God had gifted us a beautiful fully furnished house in the center of the country for us to continue His ministry to serve the poor.
This past week, we heard the parable of the merchant searching for fine pearls, and how “when he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Mat 13:45-46). After Mass, we met a local Catholic family at the park, and we told them our story and how we were planning on using Denver as our Busita mission base. They asked where we lived. We gave them the address on Pearl Street. He said “So you did find the ‘Pearl of Great Price’.” We sure have! Thank you Jesus for that pearl, for being our everything. Thank you Jesus for continually providing for our family. Thank you for sustaining us in missions. We love you Jesus!
Jesus said to his disciples:
by Jason Wilde
For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. (Galatians 5:13)
We are given many freedoms in this life. In fact, you could say that we are free to do anything we want. If I want to say something, I can open my mouth and say it. If I want to tear down a tree, there is nothing that stops me from doing so. If I want something I don't have, I can go and strike someone who has one and take it from them. It's really amazing, all these freedoms we're given!
But these freedoms, if not kept in check, will eventually result in chaos. This is because our flesh wants us to desire, dominate, and survive. God created us with these freedoms knowing that they could be our undoing, but He also provided His guidance.
And so we are given laws that enable or discourage some freedoms. Some laws are from God's covenant with man, others are from governmental principalities, and still others come from our culture and the way people 'normally' act. God's law is simple - to love Him and each other. If you do something that does not lead to loving Him or your neighbor, than it is against His law. Beyond this, all other humanly laws limit freedoms that God has given us. Even a worldly law that agrees with God's law will not prevent sin, as Ben Sirach tells us, "Like a eunuch lusting to violate a young woman is the one who does right under compulsion." (20:4)
On the contrary, God's law does not limit our freedom, but demands that we "serve one another through love." In this one calling, it actually frees us from the things of the world that enslave us - houses, clothing, food, addictions, mindless entertainment, boundaries, governments, social and political associations, cultural norms, or anything that keeps us from loving one another. No law of this world can actually provide freedoms in the way that God's law does. If you claim a freedom to speak and then use it to cut down, gossip, or spread hatred, then you are a slave to anger and revenge. If you claim a freedom to pray but use it to discriminate against others, then you are a slave to pride. If you claim a right to own property but refuse to share it with someone in need, then you are a slave to greed. If you claim a right to security but fail to open your door to the oppressed, then you are a slave to selfishness. If you claim a right to possess weapons that are designed to kill humans, then you are a slave to fear. All of these so-called 'freedoms' are still bound by God's Law.
And then there are laws that are contrary to freedoms provided by God's law. No institution of man is immune from creating these laws because we are all sinful. But we must recognize these laws and actively fight them, lest we become guilty of the evils these laws create. Most commonly, these laws are used to attack the most vulnerable who are not represented and have no voice - a non-citizen, a convicted person, an unborn child, or the poor. Recently, we have come across laws that prohibit direct charity to the homeless, for example. But there are also many laws which do not explicitly attack anyone but still harm and erode the dignity of humanity, of a person's ability to provide for a family, or to seek a better way of life. Our economy and social structures do a lot of this on their own without written laws, but when a government uses its own power to enact restrictions instead of protecting the most vulnerable, it becomes a god, swaying the wills and minds of politicians and voters to believe that some people are not valued.
On a day where worldly freedoms are openly celebrated, remember that the only true freedom comes from God Himself who calls us to use it to serve one another through love, for "the whole law is fulfilled in one word, namely 'you should love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Gal 5:14)
by Jason Wilde
“Hey, I noticed y’all’s shirts say you’re Catholic Missionaries…”
Not exactly a quote I get every day, but nonetheless, it helps me get past my fear of encountering a stranger. The stranger was a lone fisherman sitting by his pickup truck on a quiet beach in Louisiana. We had walked his way and briefly chatted about the 30 lb fish that he caught moments earlier and then gave to a nearby family sitting on the beach. His bait now wet again and line taut in the waves, he called us over to tell us that he too was Catholic, that a relative of his was a Jesuit missionary who he thought ‘did some good stuff’, and that he liked seeing us walking around the beach with our kids instead of watching TV or something else.
As we talked, I noticed an interesting looking contraption made out of PVC pipe. As I stared at it sitting by his truck, he began explaining how some guys had once caught an 8 foot Bull Shark while standing next to him, waist deep on the sandbar about 100 feet from shore. This terrified the fisherman as he didn’t like that one of the most aggressive sharks was swimming just feet away. And so, he built this PVC contraption which ended up being something like an air-powered potato gun for frozen squid slugs that he tied to his line and then shot beyond the sandbar from the safety of dry land. It really was a genius solution that would have never come about if he wasn’t placed in such an uncomfortable situation.
“Are you an engineer?”, Jessica asked.
The fisher smiled broadly. “No, I’m a Cajun.”
There are two responses to fear - fight or flight. This man could have wrapped up, sold his tackle, and found another way to live, or he could continue to do what he wanted to do in the face of a trial. But in the end, he did something better - he chose to look at the trial as a way to spark something new and better.
One of our conversion moments came in India when we were also placed in an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situation. But instead of saying that we’ll never travel again, we turned to God, and He told us that we should lean in to our fear, traveling for His purposes.
Sometimes God uses these situations to allow us to revisit our life, step back, and turn to Him for a better answer. It gives us the chance to really depend on His wisdom and providence to rescue us, instead of thinking that we are in control and can work our way out of the predicament. As we begin the Easter season and listen to stories of the early Church from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we can really understand the uncertainty and fear that was going through the minds of these poor fishermen. Their Rabbi was crucified for His teachings, and they were next if they were caught. But the Risen Jesus changed all of this - He told them to put away their anxiety and do the opposite of what human reason would have suggested. He told them to go and be courageous. With no leader and no home, they boldly stepped out and God rewarded them with miracles of healing, preaching, and conversion. When they were forced out of the city walls, they didn’t scatter but instead camped out and shared everything they had with each other.
One of the biggest dangers of our modern lives is that it is too easy to depend on ourselves, to place our security in the hands of reason, technology and insurance companies instead of in God’s hands. It becomes impossible to see Him working in our lives, and therefore become closer to Him, when we are constantly looking for the human solution to any insecurity. Our Church is not suffering because of lack of religious freedom but because we have freed ourselves from needing God’s help and therefore have lost our witness of a life truly dependent on Him.
In the end, the fisherman’s solution was an inspiration to us...a witness of sorts...that went beyond his worldly needs. It taught us that we too need to give our fears and our plans to God and allow Him to give us the blueprints that we need in our lives.
The old man stayed all night, sleeping in his truck on the beach with his pole and squid cannon. Then as we watched him pack up his tackle and drive away the next morning, I couldn’t help but remember that St. Peter was a fisherman...
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.