I once read an interesting analogy...imagine we could each choose to adopt one mascot to describe our self - personality, desires, looks, preferences, everything. However, we only have 2 choices: A purple hat-wearing, black and white striped camel that wears leather boots and only eats straw, OR a toupee-wearing orange kangaroo wearing a black tuxedo shirt and a blue tie.
So, go ahead - choose! Well, it doesn't really matter if you like purple hats or not, as long as you love striped camels of any color - you're going to choose the camel, right? And lets say you really don't like wearing shoes of any kind - then I guess you'll just have to pick the orange kangaroo. But, if you don't like wearing anything on your head, well, then, I guess you'd better pick the better of two evils - toupees or purple hats!
Eventually, you'll learn to like kangaroos, or purple hats, or toupees, as well as anything orange or striped or leather, and before you know it, you'll downright despise anything...or anyone...associated with *that other* mascot.
This, my friends, is the behavior of tribalism. When you become associated with something on one side or another, you begin to only listen to your side, which constantly tries to make itself bigger and better in the eyes of itself and in doing so, continues to find ways to differentiate and demonize the other. The psychological brainwashing continues until you really don't care whether you like hats at all, as long as everyone else knows that you are a purple hat-wearing, black and white striped camel that wears leather boots, and if anyone even suggests that wearing hats is out of style, well, then, they are obviously part of that toupee-wearing orange kangaroo tribe wearing black tuxedo shirts with blue ties! And THEY are the REAL kind of evil, amiright?
So many of the actions which could resolve suffering and wrongs in this country could easily be agreed upon if we just didn't possess an insane desire to be a part of an axis of power. But this is a part of our human nature, and so we must turn it for the greater good. The danger is that in gravitating to that bigger tribe, we stop thinking as individuals, but instead will defer to the decisions of the greater tribe. We succumb to tribalism. It is not long before "the faith claims and institutions of one's political party generally trump those of one's religion" (Camosy). But, if we give up our own individual needs for attention, power, or money, and if we instead desire to gravitate towards the community of Jesus Christ first and foremost, then we can see how our participation is never for our own glory or even for our own community's glory, but for the building up of the Kingdom which even includes God's children who may not be a part of our community in some way or another.
I was once a die-hard political fan boy, so entrenched that I thought there was nothing my side said that I wouldn't agree with. But then I read a very well written argument that helped me to see that Jesus didn't fit into any side. Not only did He not fit, but He didn't even care to enter into the political power debate between Romans and Jewish leaders. Our Church is the same - if we ascribe to the belief that any worldly power completely represents the comprehensive teachings and tradition of the Body of Christ, without question, then we are probably falling into a trap of idolatry. In fact, it is even dangerous to say that one political side or the other is 'closer' to Church teachings without allowing discrimination of each issue independently. Once I freed myself from bondage to this kind of tribalism and political fighting, the world looked completely different. I began to see the good and wrongs that cut through every human heart, not between groups of people. But, more importantly, I began to think unencumbered by worldly powers which allowed my heart to be led by the Holy Spirit. And this, my friends, is true freedom!
One of the hardest stories that we often tell about our time in rural Costa Rica was of the local church community and how it struggled to live by many of the Catholic customs and rules that we take for granted in our home parishes. The people who had it the hardest were the Nicaraguan Catholics, most of whom had fled various difficult circumstances, left behind everything, and migrated illegally to our little community. Because they fled without thinking about their baptismal certificates (I mean, that would not exactly be the first thing on my mind), they were very restricted in how they could integrate into the Costa Rican community. Sacraments were not accessible, for example, since everything hinged on a baptismal certificate. To add to this, most of them felt unwelcomed inside the physical church building, and so they would travel, sometimes walking several miles, only to stand outside the latticed walls and listen in. To put it lightly, there was an unwritten but palpable wall that stood between them and Jesus.
Some were told that they could receive the Eucharist again if they stopped living with their partner - except that they had lived together for decades as spouses because of the limitations on the sacrament of marriage. Also, women would have to find a job, which was virtually impossible, or starve. Others were told they could be baptized if they attended classes - which were held once a week, an hour by car up the dirt road at the parish center. Again, since most worked 6 days a week, they would have had to basically quit their jobs to do this.
It was our first glimpse into real sacramental poverty outside of the U.S. While we know that there are similar cases of parish segregation here, it is rare to find such extremes in limitations on receiving sacraments. I guess this is why we didn’t really get too upset when churches were closed during the shelter-in-place orders across our country. We kind of saw it as a way to live in solidarity with our Catholic brethren in most of the undeveloped or underdeveloped world. To live in longing for Jesus in the physical Eucharist is a reminder of how much He means to us. It also helped us to see God in many of the other ways that He can show Himself and His Glory to our human eyes.
As time goes on during this pandemic, we really didn’t know when we’d be able to set foot in a church building again. My wife, who suffers from a suppressed immune system and has a history of chronic and recurrent pneumonia, is solidly in the ‘at-risk’ population, and so we continue to follow guidance and shelter in place, even after the country has opened and Masses have begun in public forms again. At one time, we talked about attending weekday Mass, or maybe even a drive-in Mass held at a nearby parish. But, we are often discouraged by discussions which are less than convincing that our fellow parishioners are as concerned about obeying official guidance - even flaunting civil disobedience in some circles. When I do walk to church wearing a mask, I feel the same discriminating stares as the time when Margarita walked past the latticed wall and sat by us during Mass. Religious freedom is being mistaken for personal freedom in our communities, at the cost of inclusion and protection of those who are at-risk.
Just as the Nicaraguan Catholics are given supposedly ‘simple’ solutions to their sacramental poverty, we have been told to simply trust in God, that a few vocal neighbors are probably not representing the hearts of our community, and that the sacraments are more important than health. These are easy things to say, and honestly, we would probably have said a few of these things if it were not for the medically induced trauma that our family has endured over the past year and a half. The one thing that we’ve learned about solidarity is that it is the silver bullet against judgement.
Excuses aside, we now live very much in solidarity with our Central American brothers and sisters who sacrifice so much only to have a very real barrier, stronger than bricks, placed between them and the Holy Eucharist - a barrier in the form of social excommunication. Like the illegal immigrants outside those walls, we look to our shepherds to guide us. Bishop Mark Seitz and Cardinal Blase Cupich have been encouraging positive witnesses for us, letting us know that we are loved in our absence, publicly wearing masks, and often encouraging such behavior. But, we also see some shepherds and leaders encouraging divisive behavior, while many are not going out of their way to model care for those on the margins. It is a selfish structure that has built itself around the physical presence of Jesus, suffocating our Church so that it cannot breathe and exhale the Love of God. Like the Samaritan woman who was prohibited from worshiping God according to local customs, Jesus seeks us outside of the crowds, and so we worship him in Spirit and Truth (John 4:23).
In our poverty, we continue on, just as so many in our world hope to see God provide for their needs. God has allowed our solidarity to become minor but very real suffering, a grace that connects and joins us with our brothers and sisters who, like us, look forward to the day when He welcomes us again.
By Jessica Wilde
The following testimony is a personal testimony of how Jason and I grew closer to the Lord and each other over the past several years. While they may be disputed, our decisions are based on our Catholic Faith. This story was not written to start a debate, and it was not written to chastise anyone for their personal decisions. This testimony was written solely to show how we came to a deeper understanding of our Faith and to glorify God for His miracle in our life.
This is our miracle story!
One afternoon in Costa Rica, one of our closest friends stopped by our house, anxious and confused. She said that the doctor had told her that if she gave birth to any more children that she would be committing a sin because she lived in poverty.
I was shocked! As Mother Teresa says, "How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.”
But if I'm honest with myself and with you all, there was a time when we believed the same. When we found out that we were pregnant with Alex, we truly believed our family was complete and that we only had the financial resources available to have three kids. To clarify, Jason's salary was nearly six figures at that time, so we weren't poor. But we wanted to give our kids everything...dance classes, sports, world travels, best education, etc. So, having more kids to us meant having to sacrifice those worldly things that we wanted for our kids. A couple of weeks before Alex was born, Jason had a vasectomy. My labor with Alex was really scary and dangerous for me. We were even more happy with our decision to have a vasectomy because we didn't want to put me at risk again.
Fast forward a couple years, we were called by Jesus to not only say we were ‘pro-life’, but start acting like a pro-life family through the gift of adoption. The road to adoption opened our eyes even further to the plight of the poor. It was at this point that we gave our lives to the Lord to serve the poorest of the poor, and in this Spirit that we discovered Family Missions Company. We went to FMC's Come and See discernment retreat.
We were amazed at the poor missionary families who were choosing to live Gospel poverty and serve the poor. These were large families with 5+ kids and were happier than most families that we had seen in the secular world! The parents were giving their kids so much more than the things of the world by giving them God, family time, and service. While speaking to one mom, my eyes were finally opened to the horror and sin of Jason's vasectomy. We were denying the author of life and our loving creator the opportunity to use our marriage to create life.
A side effect of our choice was that it also negatively affected our relationship in the bedroom. Sex had become for us a completely physical act of love, void of the gift of God’s spark of life. It was more of a ‘transactional’ act of love, kind of like when you rub your partner’s back in hopes that they will return the favor. In fact, we have read how this is the same mentality that sparked the sexual revolution of the past century - the separation of procreation from the act of romantic life. Sex has become something to be bartered or won by one partner or the other, which has now led to commoditization, sexual consumerism, and even more selfish violence over sex (c.f. Camosy, Resisting Throwaway Culture). In a very real way, it is taking God out of our marriage.
Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2370)
After this revelation, I was ready to reverse the vasectomy right then but Jason wasn't yet. He was fearful of my life and of me dying in childbirth. We made a heartfelt confession. But I truly felt God was asking us for more. With great respect for Jason, I prayed and gave him time to make his own discernment.
One of the first talks during our missionary training is one about missionary commitments, called "Be the Bacon". In the talk, the following anecdote is given: If missions were breakfast, would God ask you to be the cow, to be the chicken, or to be the pig? The key point here is that while all three contribute to a good breakfast, it is only the pig that gives the total sacrifice of its life to “be the bacon”. God wants us to be the bacon. He wants us to give our lives to Him. This talk affirmed our life long vocation for missions but also opened Jason's heart to understand my willingness to bear another child for God if He desired. We finally had a desire, as St. John Paul II put it in his “theology of the body”, to give each other a mutual and total gift of self.
Over Christmas break, between Intake training and being sent into the field, we used our personal savings for a vasectomy reversal by a Catholic doctor in New Braunfels who offers the reversal at an affordable cost. The procedure was one of the most Holy moments of our lives. Jason was awake the entire time with me looking into his eyes. The doctor sang Christian music and prayed during the entire procedure. I felt Jesus, Mary, the Saints and Angels with us cheering us on.
Spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God. Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility. (CCC 2367)
We went to Costa Rica with big dreams of sharing Christ's love, helping the poor and growing the kingdom literally through making a baby for God. But then we were thrown a curveball. We were devastated when we found out that I had cancer. But we trusted the Lord's goodness and mercy. At my first oncology appointment in Louisiana, the oncologist advised us to harvest my eggs because the chance of me being fertile after chemo was unlikely. This was our first real temptation with IVF, but by this point we had already learned how this was just another tool that humanity has created to play God, and that it reinforces a ‘right’ that we feel we have to procreate, even when it is physically impossible or unlikely. We have also read research that showed how couples who adopted instead of a successful IVF had overall better relationships (Andrew Hough, How Adoption for IVF Couples Could Lead to a Happier Life). I knew this was a sin and told him no. This was God's baby not ours. So, if God wanted us to have more children, I trusted that I would still be fertile after chemo, or that He would place a child with us through adoption. We placed our miracle baby in God's hands.
The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others. (CCC 2379)
If I got pregnant during chemo, I would have had to stop treatments. We did not want this to happen, so we abstained from sex for 6 months. It was as if we were making up all the time that we should have been abstaining all those years. Honestly, it was difficult. But our marriage became stronger with a renewed focus, love and commitment built on God. We began intentionally setting aside time for a coffee date every afternoon to keep our marriage and friendship strong.
Miraculously, I kept my period until the last chemo treatment and then lost it. I was sad and began having pre-menopausal symptoms. This was followed with multiple hospital stays due to pneumonia from my suppressed immune system.
Three months later, Grace received the sacrament of confirmation. The Mass was filled with the Holy Spirit. Each child that was confirmed seemed to rest in the Spirit when Archbishop Gustavo laid his hands on them. Besides the cancer and losing my period, I expressed to Jason that I wished the Bishop had prayed over me, but we were already driving home. Five minutes later, we found out we had left Grace’s Confirmation certificate at the church, and we turned the car around. I walked into the darkened church and ran into the deacon’s wife. She helped me turn on the lights and find the certificate. But unaware of my wish, she told me that the Archbishop should pray over me. She took me over to him and peace descended on me as he prayed. The next day, my period returned.
It has been a long 2.5 years since Jason's vasectomy reversal. I think of Sara from the Bible - she was 90 when she gave birth to her miracle, Issac. Now, that's a lot of waiting! We have even tried adopting again, but because of the many unjust restrictions placed on adoptive parents (and, honestly, a very consumerist model that overtaken yet another beautiful gift of love), we are disqualified due to health, wealth, and depending on the adoption route, age.
But God's timing is always perfect. We found out that we are pregnant a few weeks ago. Thanks be to God! Our miracle baby is on its way and will be arriving January 2, 2021 (likely December 2020). We are overwhelmed with joy!
Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity. (CCC 2373)
by Grace Wilde
When you take a deep breath, do you ever think of how important that air is in this world? Are we truly thankful to God for the air that permits us to exist? Think of all those things that could never happen without the atmosphere around us. If that air was gone and/or taken over by some other toxic gas we would never survive. The sad thing is, that unless we have a true change in our hearts and in our world, this could happen. This is called air pollution. I experienced it first-hand many years ago when I visited Shanghai with my family. Even wearing a mask, breathing felt unbearable and the city advertised as fun and shiny, was barely seen, covered in a thick layer of toxic fumes. I realized there that air pollution has become a real and dangerous problem all around the world.
The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).” (Laudato Si’ 2)
Air Pollution happens when toxic gasses or liquids such as CO2, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, and Ozone are released carelessly into the atmosphere through the burning of substances such as petroleum and natural gas, which humans over the last 100 years have come to depend on. Most of this is burned through factories, transportation, and home heating and cooling. Once these toxic fumes are released into the atmosphere they may be taken anywhere by the wind.
After this three distinct things may happen. The first one is that this toxic air falls on a city in the form of smog. This often happens “when mountains or tall buildings prevent air pollution from spreading out” . This is part of the reason why we often hear of smog in countries like China who have high population density and many cities. When this toxic air is inhaled it causes many health problems. “Ambient (outdoor) air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.” (WHO, ) And even those who survive the impacts of smog end up with very weak lungs and asthma.
The next possible outcome is acid rain. Acid rain is when some of the gasses become trapped in rain clouds. When the rain clouds let go of the water droplets, they also let go of this gas which, mixed with the water, is liquid and toxic to the environment. Acid rain does not have any immediate effects but, over time direct effects can be seen. Some effects can be, less nutrient water hurting the environment in those waters. It also affects trees, “dead or dying trees are a common sight in areas affected by acid rain. Acid rain leaches aluminum from the soil. That aluminum may be harmful to plants as well as animals. Acid rain also removes minerals and nutrients from the soil that trees need to grow.” (EPA, ) Humans are not affected directly but overtime, health problems tend to increase in influenced areas.
The final effect of air pollution, but probably the hardest to stop is Global Warming. “Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.” (NASA, ) When toxic gasses in the atmospere do not fall back down in acid rain, they are trapped in the atmosphere preventing heat from escaping. We are literally smothering the earth, and it will be hard to turn back.
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.” (USCCB, )
That does not mean we ignore this climate crisis. We must take action at once before it is too late. This will not only make this world more beautiful and cleaner but it will prevent any more pandemics like this one!!! Did you know that our lack of care of the environment is what started and is nurturing this virus. It has been proven that this virus came from bats in the jungles in china. The virus did not hurt the bats, they did not even show symptoms. But then when we started in the US to buy more and more stuff from china. The people there were forced by us to cut down the forest where the bats were living in order to fill the demand. Then these bats which were living peacefully before, were forced to live among humans. And that is when the virus came to humans. All because of our own greed and selfishness. Unless we think more environmentally friendly we will have more and more viruses like this one. But how do we do this? Here are three simple commencing habits we can make to end this worldwide calamity:
Buy Prudently: One of air pollution's greatest contributors is the exhausts from factories. Now we cannot shut factories down. But we can limit the ways we are obtaining the objects these factories make. For example, before you buy something think, do you need this? Is there something you already have that could supplement this? If no, then you check resale stores for this product you might need. Then finally, if necessary you may go buy from Wal-Mart or stuff like that. This may seem like a lot of work, but because of this you are saving money and the environment.
Drive Prudently: Another grave contributor to air pollution and global warming is car exhausts. How do we stop that, we have to get places? Well we can walk when we are only traveling short distances. Bike if you can, for medium distances. And when the distances are really far, take public transportation or ride with someone else. This really helps this cause and gets you a daily exercise on the way to work.
Speak Out: Now this is what over time will stop air pollution for good and it is not as hard as it looks. You can buy and drive prudently, but one person doing this does not help the overall effect of air pollution. But, if we do these things and share them with everyone you meet. We will make a difference and this world will truly be a cleaner place.
Now there are many other things you can do, but just start with this and the rest will come sooner or later.
For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God” (Romans 8:19)
So, air pollution is a problem even if it has not affected us yet. But, just because it does not affect us doesn't mean that we do not do anything about it. For by the time we are affected by this calamity, it could be too late to turn back. So today let us speak out for our Mother Earth whose voice has been silenced. Let us take care of this gift God has truly given us, not for personal wealth, but for us to use and reuse. So as to constantly continue in this beautiful form of praise to him.
Laudato Si’ By Pope Francis
 National Geographic on Air pollution
 WHO on Air Pollution
 NASA on Global Warming
 EPA on Acid Rain
 US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Care for Creation
by Jason Wilde
The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn. - The Lord of the Rings
The best way to divide a people is to make them believe that another person is an enemy. One of the fruits borne of the Spanish Flu in 1918 was a growing sense of individualism. Aided by wounds from the Great War, this caused, among many other things, most Western countries to become suspicious of one another, to mistrust any person or thing that did not belong, and to spurn anything foreign. In Germany, the plight was even worse due to a struggling war recovery effort which saw few friendly helpers. A common enemy was needed to unite a battered and wounded country. The Jewish people were as convenient as any - after all, they had been known to be protective, to isolate themselves, and they often held financially beneficial positions.
For decades, there had been gossip that these people had a secret agenda to take control and destroy a way of life that Germans took a lot of pride in. Occasionally, stories of exploitation, mostly overblown, were printed, and most of the readers just looked on. But in the formidable years following 1918, a young Adolf Hitler had already begun working on propaganda that sought to identify 'traitors' who caused the defeat of Germany.
It was this propaganda, or 'chatter', that seeded his absolute power 15 years later, largely due to divisions and inaction among the majority who opposed Nazism - divisions that were caused by the same propaganda.
I recount this history not to condemn or name anyone as Hitler or the Third Reich (I've been accused of this before), but to point out ploys which darkness uses to plant its roots. I'm not talking about any single physical being. This is a darkness that cuts to the soul of every living person, being, and creature. It is one that is reborn in every age, under a different name or disguise, but always with the same intent - to divide us and pit one against another.
However, I do observe roots beginning to spread again amidst a similar background of sickness, destruction, and anguish. There is again a small but very loud 'chatter' going on in our social media, in everyday conversation, and in the news that tries to convince us that some person, group, or demographic is our enemy, and that we must be on guard against any competing suggestion. Many times, we don't even know the source of this chatter and gossip, but we are happy to share if it agrees with our belief about a particular enemy.
I observe that many of the same tactics and attacks which were historically used against the Church now have renewed vigor within the Church...
At one time, the Church battled relativism - a belief that what is true for me is not necessarily the same as what is true for you or anyone else - a selfish argument that sought to divide the Church with moral differences. But now there is what Pope Francis calls a 'practical relativism', where everything is irrelevant unless it serves one's own interests - not only morally, but also financially, legally, politically, conveniently, or even spiritually: 'This' issue is not important because 'My' issue is preeminent, 'This' is not the rite of worship because it is not how 'I' see God, 'This' is bad politics because it doesn't help 'Me', or 'This' is the way it should be because 'I' am comfortable and secure.
For decades, we've seen the ill effects of individualism - that what I do is my own business and in the name of personal freedom. This ploy birthed a sexual revolution, a drug boom, newly morphed godless spiritualities, and the subsequent breakdown of family and adoption of birth control and abortion as a norm of life. But now there is a tendency to discredit any kind of communal thought as an attack on this individualism, even among the Church who only lives in communion. Former self-centered battle cries for abortion and sexual freedom are now being used to rally for all kinds of extremist political ideologies, economic interests, and even religious freedoms. If you don't believe me, then just take a look at some of the arguments being used to fight against pandemic life-saving measures such as social distancing, wearing masks, and stay-at-home orders, and then see if they can be used to justify 'My body, my choice'.
Then there is the idolatry of money. For the past 150 years, famous names such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and eight Catholic popes have spoken caution against trust in economic models which do not value human life and dignity. Much of the 20th century was spent defending against communism as many saw how it silenced the Church's views on worker's rights and dignity. But now we see the same neglect for workers as they are seen only as pieces in a machine to be controlled (and now sacrificed) by the very economy they support. If there is anything that the economic collapse due to COVID-19 has shown us, it is that capitalism, unchecked and supported in large by mega-corporations and political pandering, can be just as neglectful of worker's rights as its socialist counterpart. People should never be ordered to work against their will, especially when it comes at a risk to their life. "(God) calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement" (Evangelii Gaudium, 57). But, in order to reverse these sins, we must make personal sacrifices in our own support of this system - in our finances, in conveniences, and in our way of thinking about being a holy consumer.
Big Business and State Socialism are very much alike.” - G.K. Chesterton, April 10, 1926
I don't want everyone to think that I'm a doomsdayer. In fact, I believe there is a Light shining in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome. There is still a large majority of good and caring people who love their neighbors and live lives of selflessness. But just as in the 1930's in Germany, we must not be the divided and inactive majority who hides our light under a basket. It also means that Light is not necessarily coincident with prosperity, convenience, or 'the way it used to be'. Suffering has always been a part of the Christian life, and we cannot confuse personal happiness, prosperity, and health with living in relationship with God who cares for the poor, the outcast, and the suffering.
The culture of prosperity deadens us." - Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 54
by Jason Wilde
August 6, 1945: While most Americans living right now will not recognize the importance of this date, it is certainly one of those which the world remembers. Like our own remembrance of the 1906 earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, Malaysian Flight 370, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and 9/11, these days when so many lives were tragically cut short are solemn memorials that life is fragile and that we can and should work to avoid any such loss of life.
A Connected World
These days also remind us of our interconnectedness - that a life is so much more than a series of breaths, or a resume, or a bank account statement, or even a well written eulogy. Each of these tragic days instantly brings us back to a time and a place in which we grieved for some of our brothers and sisters, allowing us to feel a physical and spiritual closeness with their shortened lives, even though we never knew or met them before that day.
It is this closeness that also allows us to remember the Son of God who died on Good Friday - for if He were not fully human, then we would not be able to grasp the magnitude of the sacrifice of His life for all of humanity. We join our suffering with His on this day and allow ourselves to feel a small fraction of the physical pain that He felt, an act of solidarity that reminds us of His Love for our frail human souls. I believe that if Jesus had not been condemned to die as a sinner and a criminal, then He could not have entered Hell as, with a few exceptions, all of humanity had before Him in order to free those souls which were forgiven in a divine act of mercy. Even more importantly for us, He could not have given us hope in an existence beyond our mortal bodies, a hope that allows us to see past our own sins of self and feel love for even those suffering brothers and sisters that we never meet.
Perhaps even more tragically, it is these days that remind us how all sin is connected in such a cruel and twisted way that it impacts all of humanity. Each of our own personal acts of selfishness has a ripple effect, as does each act of kindness and generosity. But in our broken humanity, it is sin which infects with such voracity that we must constantly be on guard against the thought that “‘My life depends solely on me.’—No, it doesn’t. We are part of humanity and humanity is part of us” . I am a sinner in my very nature of being human, and so I contribute to each of these tragic days, now and into the future. But even more tragically as a weak human who does not see the fullness of all existence, I cannot see these connections of sin. As much as I may try, I could never grasp the spiritual realm that connects us all, for better and worse.
A Lesson for Humanity
Just as with the many falls of the Nation of Israel accounted for in the Old Testament, God never forgets us; He can also allow us to learn from our sins and entrusts us to repent. Worldly tragedy can be a catalyst for this conversion; it can be a teacher and a reminder of our interconnectedness in both life and sin
The lives lost on that particular Monday morning of August 6, 1945 are the martyrs in the fight for a better world, free of nuclear arms in particular, but also hoping to be free of all wars and armaments which destroy so many lands and lives. An estimated 70,000-80,000 lives were instantly lost when the first nuclear bomb was dropped on a civilian city, Hiroshima, Japan - lives that are remembered each year as a symbol of world peace.
As the worldwide death toll due to the COVID-19 pandemic passes this same mark, it must also serve as a lesson for us. I firmly believe that, while God did not cause this nor any other human tragedy, He can work miracles through it. It is already ominously apparent that, coinciding with the season of Lent in which we are to live in remembrance of the suffering of Jesus Christ for 40 days in the desert, we are called to quarantine - a word which literally means to separate from the world for 40 days - as an act of personal sacrifice for the greater good. Beyond this lexicographic similarity, we also remember that, a year since the burning of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral on Palm Sunday, we are now being asked to separate ourselves from the physical buildings we also call churches and instead be more intentional in visiting with the Church of our family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and with all of humanity which suffers the same as we do today. In a time when sacraments are physical impossibilities for nearly all Christians, we can look to the example of Christians who live now and in the times of the first Christian communities - outcast and excluded from society and religious institutions - and yet they grasp ever so firmly onto the hope and faith in a God who never abandons us. All of these things, the luxuries of the world, an ornate building, or even a sacrament, can become idols when they become the source and goal of our living instead of God who gives these things to us.
On this Good Friday, we expect that the death toll in the United States due to COVID-19 will equal the daily death toll due to abortions in our country, and this should be a two-fold reminder for all people that lives should not have differing values - that ALL are children of God, no matter their age, race, or religion, and that sin and death as present in all of us can and will traverse human barriers, laws, and even hearts. “Never have we been called on to become aware of the reciprocity that is at the basis of our life as much as we have during this terrible emergency. Realizing that every life is a life in common, together we make up life, and life comes from ‘the other’” . It is not until we ourselves find God living in the ‘other’ that we will understand how connected all sin is - how our actions affect the ‘other’, and how much we are in need of conversion and salvation.
In the same manner, we also should see how overcoming sin is not just a matter for someone else - it is our own personal sin that connects us to these tragedies. Another coincident social trend with this pandemic is the popularity of ‘Tiger King’, a Netflix series which celebrates the sin of playing god to Creation, of mistreating one of His creatures, and of endangering brothers and sisters in acts of personal selfishness and freedom. The coincidence is that these are the same sins which caused this novel virus to come into contact with such a large population. For nearly a generation now, the first world’s prosperity and luxuries has been borne on the backs of our Asian brothers and sisters, causing rural farmers to use previously virgin lands to produce our raw food and products, forcing native creatures to migrate out of their typical habitats, either into unnatural virgin habitats or into urban centers. Then, as capital and the hunger for more technically advanced products surged, we have witnessed a dramatic and unnatural mass migration of these same rural populations into overpopulated factory centers in order to fulfill orders for mass-produced goods. As we now know that the Coronavirus spread from non-native animals to the Wuhan region, which is a densely populated manufacturing hub for the world’s autos, technology, smart phones, and even fast food products, we cannot rinse our own hands of these sins. Our own personal selfishness, freedom, and consumption bore the wages offered to this virus in its early stages of mutation and rapid intensification in this region of the world.
Beyond this initial relation with our own sins, we now see how other sins are related. The way in which the smallest animate object can invade our personal lives unbeknownst to us should be a reminder that sin and death affect each one of us personally in different ways, regardless of nation, race, or religious beliefs. Pride and a sense of ‘it won’t happen to me’ allowed the rapid migration of the virus to other parts of the world unchecked, even weeks after health authorities warned of its danger. Our own unbridled economic systems even propagated and now suffer from the virus, becoming crippled as its workers - many of whom are the slaves who receive the least from that system - are forced to step away from it for a time. We all can see now that not caring for those who have the least even affects how fast the virus spreads due to the lack of healthcare or even a home to sleep in at night. People who are infected suffer from a for-profit healthcare system that is burdened with large financial accounts and yet are inadequately prepared to provide protective equipment for the very doctors and nurses who are so tirelessly putting their lives at the service of the infected. Poverty and abortion rates are skyrocketing as the lack of reasonable social and financial safety nets forces the unemployed and underemployed further into debt without hope of a future, All of these are not causes of sin, they are the effects of a society that embodies each person’s pride, relativism, and selfishness.
“Our difficulty in taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cultural decline which has accompanied the deterioration of the environment. Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centred culture of instant gratification. We see this in the crisis of family and social ties and the difficulties of recognizing the other” [LS 162].
A Light of Hope
Among such grim circumstances, this pandemic is also a time for renewal and conversion, if we allow it to be so. If we embrace the connectedness of all humanity as well as the invisible relationship between our own sins with the world’s suffering, we can see what God envisions for us. “Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity: the opportunity to move out from the danger” . One of the first rays of hope was in the very environment that created such disaster. Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan, wrote a popularized poem which says that even among fear, isolation, panic buying, sickness, and death,
In cities around the world, we can see a glimpse of what a future without pollution, traffic, and full schedules looks like, in just a few days of lockdown. Overwhelmingly, citizens of such megalopolises are seeing blue skies for the first time, as a reminder that God’s Creation is always there with us and for us, if we allow it in. “Today, I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion” .
An intensely focused return to simplicity has caused many to break the chains of a poverty of time and put aside scheduled recitals, sports events, and school activities in lieu of time together with children, as a family.
Fighting politically, socially, and between nations has stopped in many areas, if only due to the threat of a common enemy which does not respond to arsenals of warheads and machines.
Grocery store shelves are empty of the things which exploit brothers and sisters in third-world countries - a sign of how connected we truly are with the poor, and a sign of how idolatry of an economy that only places value in profits falls when its workers are not valued. “Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human” .
Our return to lives of simplicity in every way allows us to live in solidarity with those who have not. Many live without knowing they will have food on the table that day, just as we do when we now worry about finding food in the grocery store. Many live without knowing when they’ll see a priest again, just as we wait for the time when we can return to physical communion with our Church. But this should all lead to conversion in our hearts - just as many non-believers are experiencing a sense of deeper longing and importance that has sparked spiritual conversions of Faith in God Almighty outside of the normal realms of evangelism and churches.
As we spend this Good Friday in seclusion and true fasting, let it be one of living in solidarity with the suffering of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who experienced so much pain at the hands of His own brothers who rejected His challenging words, just as the ones written here are for most of us.
All of this is God’s Hand at work in a time of darkness. But, He does not ask us to just sit and wait for darkness to pass. “Let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back at this time” . We must be people of constant transformation and reformation. “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences” [LS 161].
Jesus, the Son of God, the Great Alleluia, the Resurrected who walked from the grave, can and will renew our own hearts if we put aside all of these idols of the world and let Him in. “What we are living now is a place of metanoia (conversion), and we have the chance to begin. So let’s not let it slip from us, and let’s move ahead” .
: “GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD Note on the Covid-19 emergency”, Pontifical Academy for Life, Mar 30, 2020.
: “‘A Time of Great Uncertainty’: An Interview with Pope Francis”, Austen Ivereigh, Commonweal Magazine, Apr 8, 2020.
[LS]: "On care for our common home : the encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment, Laudato Si'", 2016.
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)
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.