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...
by Jason Wilde
About 15 years ago, I knew a friend who was a great music teacher and loved what he did. He inspired his students to use their talents and not be afraid of what others might say is more important. Recently, I decided to find out where he was working and found him on LinkedIn. During the recession, I could see that his job was most likely not stable and so he began working in the corporate world, where he moved up the ranks over the past 10 years. But to my surprise, from his LinkedIn profile, I could hardly recognize that he had any interest in music at all. The only reference to his former life was that he effectively managed the budget of a music program.
The way a person can completely change how they describe themselves in a corporate setting, hiding some of their God-given traits under the rug while trying to highlight and honor more 'marketable' skills is shocking. As someone who interviewed candidates for many years, I found it very common and at the same time disheartening that a person cannot be what God made him or her to be while contributing their gifts and talents to the common good.
We live in an economy where people are seen as mere resources, and we are always changing our very self to fit 'the mold'. Even more so, we are in a way bound to the job, vocation, and degree that we have chosen. This shouldn't surprise anyone because we are trained from a very early age that your education and degree defines you, and if I don't have a good, high paying job, it is because I didn't study and work hard enough. Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium that "Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor...for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless." We spend years of our lives being indoctrinated with education, an estimated 17,000 hours of our life in the 17 critical years of education, but only 1-2 hours a week finding God during that same time, which amounts to about 1,700 hours (that's right, 1/10 of the time!). When we do have that dream job, we find ourselves bound to it - our mobility, freedom to have time with family or God, and even our health care is controlled by our employment. (In fact, one theory about the high costs of health care in this country suggests that it is because our health care is socialized by insurance companies who can pass inflated prices on to the corporate world!) If we ever want to change jobs or vocations, or even take a sabbatical, we are threatened with loss of status, vacation time, health care, and future welfare in retirement.
They answered, 'We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, "You will be set free?"' (John 8:33)
But, living in a country that was founded and emphasizes freedom, it is hard to see myself as a slave. Like the Pharisees who were confounded by Jesus' use of the word, I can't even imagine what slavery would look or feel like, blinded by the very oppression that causes it.
Sin directs the heart of the wicked man;
The problem goes beyond employment - it lives in our media, telling us that we are less valuable as a person if we don't pursue new cars, a home mortgage, or lavish vacations at resorts. Then, when we do take on the mortgage and debt of things of this world, we are further bound to the job that allows us to keep paying for it.
This is not just a problem for the white-collar world - I've witnessed many poor neighborhoods where large TVs and cable service are normal, but it is because of advertising games - enticements of free high ticket items in exchange for years of payment for service. And then we judge these people for not having food to feed their children, but it is really no different from a wealthier person who has no time for his family because he has to work to pay for his home mortgage, car loans and security system.
"Man is reduced to one of his needs alone: Consumption" (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium)
I have also fallen slave to politics, believing everything that a politician would say while critiquing and questioning something that a church leader might teach in a homily or exhortation. In fact, I read Laudato Si', Pope Francis' encyclical on care for our common home, in order to find faults in it. I believed more in a political party's beliefs on the environment simply because they were the "pro-life party". Power is just as corrupting as money, and it is this quest for political power that entices us to unconditionally and wholeheartedly approve of anyone who opposes any one thing we don't agree with. This too leads to slavery like the Israelites, who were warned "how great an evil it is in the eyes of the Lord that you (ask) for a king." (1 Samuel 12:17)
But then there's the argument that money and power do not lead to slavery, if they are carefully used to save us from some evil. Daniel was a fine example of this argument when he was able to interpret (with God's grace) Nebuchadnezzar's dream, earning him a seat of power and importance in the king's land at a time when the Israelites were held as slaves. But, it is important to realize that this kind of gift must also be given up as soon as Satan tempts us to be slaves to the gift. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gave up their seat in this same court when the king asked them to worship his idol, and it sent them into the fiery furnace (c.f. Daniel 3). They knew that by rebelling, they would face death and yet trusted in God to keep their souls safe. God rewarded them with a powerful miracle that helped do more good than anything they could have possibly done as administrators. We should also do the same, recognizing when our employer, favorite brand, or political party asks us to worship an idol or refuse God's love for one another.
By Chi Yu
Warning!!! This blog was published unedited with original spelling and grammar to preserve cuteness!
1 DEAR WAWA
1 DEAR WAWA
2 CHAPTHER 1
3 WAWA WAS PLAYING WIEF THE BUS ON THE NEXT 90 WEEKS WAWA
4 WAS FISHING OUT OF BIG WOODS 3 AND WAWA LIVE IN 1099 FEET
OF A HOUSE AND ON THE NEXT DAY
4 MR LOVER WAS PLAYING TECKT TO RIDE AND WAWA PLAYING THAT GAME.
JESUS DIE FOR ALL OF US.
IN MEXICO THERE WAS A GOOD GOOD GOOD GOOD FOOD ON THE NEXT 9089 THERE WAS
GG WAS PLAYING TECKT
1 TIME THERE WAS CHI YUDOOR AND THERE WAS
WAWADOOR ON THE NEXT DAY WAWA AND THERE WAS A
GOOD GOOD GOOD GOOOD GOOD GOOD GOOOD FOOD
ON THE NEXT DAY WE WAET TO MEXICO I LIKE WAWA
by Jason Wilde
I watched the scenery from the back of Padre Carlos' tiny hatchback on our way to Mass at a distant Puebla on a rainy Sunday morning. As we slid through the muddy back roads, I noticed that the scenery was changing. The rough, unfarmed greenery was slowly turning into flat, grassy ranches lands spotted with cattle and an occasional horse. Another 20 minutes later, Padre pulled his car up to a tiny little store and we made our way to the even tinier chapel perched on a hill on the other side of the road. The locals were just starting to arrive by truck and by foot, and I noticed that the men were relatively well dressed compared to other pueblas that we'd visited. Most had clean blue jeans, boots and cowboy hats; they were clearly ranchers.
The Gospel reading that Sunday was about Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Padre Carlos was a very popular homilist, and he didn't let us down. He started by asking the men standing in the back of the chapel how they called their herds. We listened as each one whistled in his own unique way, and the crowd of about 20 people giggled each time.
"If I could imitate one of you"...(whistling feverishly)..."would I be able to call your cattle?", Padre questioned.
"No!", the cowboys all responded in unison.
"Similarly, then if Jesus is the 'Buen Vaquero', do we listen to His call?" Padre continued.
Everyone laughed and seemed to nod in agreement.
"....or do we also listen to others? Do we listen when strange gods call us - gods of money, drugs, alcohol, gossip, TV, internet...?"
The still silence was deafening.
I keep reflecting back on this homily as we stand on the precipice of another season of lent, trying to decide how we are going to prepare ourselves to receive the Good Shepherd whom we all claim allegiance to. But, we live in a world of gods: gods who are loud and in our faces, gods who all vie for our attention and for our support, gods who want us to follow them, to be like them, to reject all others. And while we might claim to only serve one God, in reality we all struggle with this, and unfortunately, our God is a jealous God. He doesn't like when we listen and follow the calls of those other gods:
Interestingly, when push comes to shove, it seems that the faith claims and institutions of one's political party generally trump those of one's religion.
Lent is a time to remove ourselves from the presence and grasp of those other gods. It is a time to clear away the noise that distracts us from His calling. Usually, this means we must sacrifice something that makes us uncomfortable so that we can feel His healing presence. Every year, I struggle to find 'what I should give up', but in reality, I should be working to free myself from the calls of these gods so that I can hear the angelic whistle of the Good Shepherd.
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.