Be That One Man (or Woman)

Saint-Paul-743Today, St. Paul teaches the Romans the power of grace and life over sin and death through Christ Jesus our Lord. The reading from Romans 5:12-21 follows:

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.

If by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many. For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification
for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Adam and EveSt. Paul is teaching the very important truth that with God, sin, death, disease, pain, hardship, and brokenness will never be the end. God ALWAYS has the last word. God’s grace is more powerful than any sin that we or anyone else might commit. The disobedience and sin of Eve and Adam is undone through the obedience of Mary and Jesus. Yes, ultimately, love prevails. And that’s good news. Jesus is risen, and we are a risen people!

Sinful WomanI think the take-away lesson that’s so important for us, is first and foremost, through Jesus Christ, in spite of our weakness and sin, we can all experience salvation through God’s amazing grace. As St. Paul says, “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” Yes, we have been justified (made right with God) not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done! Celebrate your new life though Christ Jesus and give thanks always for the goodness and generosity of God.

Secondly, live in the truth of your new lease on life. I was just doing a retreat in Fresno with a good girl helpingman named, Francis Ruiz. He shared with me that not once but twice, he was as good as dead, but miraculously, God protected him and preserved his life. He was thrown from a motorcycle at 75mph and by all rights should never have lived…and yet there he was. His experience helped him to realize that no moment on this earth can be wasted. God has a plan for him. He doesn’t know what it is, but there’s no time to waste. He has dedicated and rededicated his life to the Lord. Like Francis, each of us needs to be honest about our new life, and serve the one who set us free–namely, Jesus, by serving our neighbor.

helping homelessFinally, we need to be more like Jesus. I’ve heard that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It always brings me joy as a teacher when by the end of the school year, my students have mastered by words and actions, and they all run around acting like Mr. Valgos. I have entered their heart through my love and care for them, and they flatter me by doing what I do, and saying what I say. So too must it be with those who follow Jesus. If we have new life through him, we must live in response to that new life by giving life to others with our words and deeds. The true indication that the love of God through Christ Jesus is in us, is the degree to which we love, forgive, show mercy to, and have compassion for others. Be like Him, love like Him, speak like Him, and act like Him. He won’t mind–in fact, He’ll be overwhelmed with joy!

Christians do not love out of fear of punishment or a desire for reward. We love because we can. We have been set free by Jesus (who loved us in spite of our sin) to love others who often don’t deserve it any more than we do. This is how all will come to know that we are His disciples, if we have love for one another. (John 13:35). We can quite easily teach the truth that is contained is St. Paul’s teaching today by being willing to love and bring light to a world in darkness and sin. Love, forgive, and show someone close to you mercy today…because you can, and be that one man (or woman) that brings life to the world through Christ Jesus the Lord.

candle light

Y.O.L.O.

Originally posted in 2013 for Lent

And then God said to mankind, “YOLO!” Well, not really, but something like that. My students enjoy a new sort of saying today (You Only Live Once) that I believe is very true, although we have a very different way of interpreting its meaning. While my students will use it to justify irresponsible action that is potentially harmful to themselves and others, I believe that it is a wake-up call to love and accountability. That we only have one life to live is a painful reminder that life is short and it’s time to examine ourselves to discern whether what we are doing is consistent with the will of God.

St. Paul tells the Romans, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (12:2) We are not the Creator, after all, but the creature. We were created by God and for God, and find our true happiness only in His will.

Our Church celebrates this reminder of our mortality and the brevity of life on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of our 40-Day Lenten journey of transformation. My students say Y.O.L.O., but Scripture says it like this: 

  • GN 2:5-7 When God made the Imageearth and the heavens—He formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.
  • GEN 18:27 Abraham speaks to God and says, “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!”
  • PS 90:3 God says through the psalmist, “You return to dust, “Return, you mortals!.”
  • PS 104:29 When God hides His face, we are lost. When He takes away our breath, we perish and return to the dust from which we came.
  • ECCL 3:20 We are made from the dust, and to the dust we return.

In all these different ways God’s Word is a consistent reminder that we will not be on this earth forever–in fact, but for a short time! No one will make it out of here physically alive. Everyone you’ve known, everyone you know, and everyone you will know will ultimately “return to the dust.” This became painfully obvious to me when visiting Terceira, one of the Azores Islands, when I was a boy. I visited our family’s burial plot next to the old church. It was not fancy and very, very small. People had been buried in this tiny plot, about the size of a quarter of a football Imagefield, for generations. There were bones everywhere (hence the term “bone yard”) as each new generation reused the same plot to bury their dead where the previous generation had buried the ones that they loved years before. My friends, in short time we all return to dust. 

The most common response I hear to why people get ashes on Wednesday is, “Well, I’m Catholic.” The conversation with the co-worker goes something like this, “What’s on your forehead?”

“Oh, those are Ashes.”

“That’s kind of weird. Why do you have ashes on your head?”

“Well, it’s Ash Wednesday, and I’m Catholic, so we’re supposed to get ashes today.”

I’m told that short of only Christmas and Easter, more Catholics attend Ash Wednesday services, than any other time of the year. The crazy thing is that Ash Wednesday is not even a Holy Day of Obligation, as are all Sundays and Holy Days of the year. Why would so many people get to Church before work, on their lunch break, or after work just to get ashes that many know nothing about? A cynical friend of mine assures me that it’s because that’s the only day the Church gives out anything for free!

Or maybe it’s because down deep we know that the teaching is true. We are prone to sickness, disease, brokenness, and death. We see it on the news, experience it in our towns, our schools, and in our families. WE ARE HUMAN and will die, but we have also been MADE DIVINE and the Spirit of God lives in us, and so we too are eternal.

Where we spend our eternity, either with God or separated from God, hangs in the delicate balance of how we choose to live our lives for this brief time on earth. We can either choose life and love, or brokenness and death. And we choose it with every decision we make, with every word and deed. Our bodies have come from the earth and will return to it, and none of us knows when. How should we live in light of the shortness of life and the great length of eternity? Reflect upon that as you receive your ashes today. God Bless.

Y.O.L.O.

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Let Your Light Shine!

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Luke 8:16-17
Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.–Luke 8:16-17

When I read these words about a lamp on a lamp stand I’m always reminded of when I go camping! Anyone who has been in pitch darkness with a lantern knows exactly what Jesus is talking about. No electricity, no flashlights, nor overhead lightbulbs! When in darkness, if you want to see, you’d better light your lamp and raise it high!

And let’s be honest while we’re at it as well, all of us are a little afraid of the dark! Maybe not like my 5-year old, but there’s something deep down in us that knows there is a much greater chance of danger, of pain, suffering, anxiety, fear, sadness, and loneliness when it’s dark. With light comes warmth, security, peace, and joy. Jesus is the light of the world, and we who are united to him share in His light so greatly that we might own the title “a child of light.”

And these are Jesus’ instructions for us today. Be what you are, a child of the light in a world of darkness. Christians bring love, life, energy, truth, goodness, and peace wherever they go! Let us never hide our light–not even for a moment! There is a world in need Jesus’ light and we are commissioned to bring it! What an honor, what a privilege, what a challenge! Raise your lamp high for all to see–we still live in a world of darkness. I’ll be praying for you!

Y.O.L.O.

And then God said to mankind, “YOLO!” Well, not really, but something like that. My students enjoy a new sort of saying today (You Only Live Once) that I believe is very true, although we have a very different way of interpreting its meaning. While my students will use it to justify irresponsible action that is potentially harmful to themselves and others, I believe that it is a wake-up call to love and accountability. That we only have one life to live is a painful reminder that life is short and it’s time to examine ourselves to discern whether what we are doing is consistent with the will of God.

St. Paul tells the Romans, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (12:2) We are not the Creator, after all, but the creature. We were created by God and for God, and find our true happiness only in His will.

Our Church celebrates this reminder of our mortality and the brevity of life on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of our 40-Day Lenten journey of transformation. My students say Y.O.L.O., but Scripture says it like this: 

  • GN 2:5-7 When God made the Imageearth and the heavens—He formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.
  • GEN 18:27 Abraham speaks to God and says, “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!”
  • PS 90:3 God says through the psalmist, “You return to dust, “Return, you mortals!.”
  • PS 104:29 When God hides His face, we are lost. When He takes away our breath, we perish and return to the dust from which we came.
  • ECCL 3:20 We are made from the dust, and to the dust we return.

In all these different ways God’s Word is a consistent reminder that we will not be on this earth forever–in fact, but for a short time! No one will make it out of here physically alive. Everyone you’ve known, everyone you know, and everyone you will know will ultimately “return to the dust.” This became painfully obvious to me when visiting Terceira, one of the Azores Islands, when I was a boy. I visited our family’s burial plot next to the old church. It was not fancy and very, very small. People had been buried in this tiny plot, about the size of a quarter of a football Imagefield, for generations. There were bones everywhere (hence the term “bone yard”) as each new generation reused the same plot to bury their dead where the previous generation had buried the ones that they loved years before. My friends, in short time we all return to dust. 

The most common response I hear to why people get ashes on Wednesday is, “Well, I’m Catholic.” The conversation with the co-worker goes something like this, “What’s on your forehead?”

“Oh, those are Ashes.”

“That’s kind of weird. Why do you have ashes on your head?”

“Well, it’s Ash Wednesday, and I’m Catholic, so we’re supposed to get ashes today.”

I’m told that short of only Christmas and Easter, more Catholics attend Ash Wednesday services, than any other time of the year. The crazy thing is that Ash Wednesday is not even a Holy Day of Obligation, as are all Sundays and Holy Days of the year. Why would so many people get to Church before work, on their lunch break, or after work just to get ashes that many know nothing about? A cynical friend of mine assures me that it’s because that’s the only day the Church gives out anything for free!

Or maybe it’s because down deep we know that the teaching is true. We are prone to sickness, disease, brokenness, and death. We see it on the news, experience it in our towns, our schools, and in our families. WE ARE HUMAN and will die, but we have also been MADE DIVINE and the Spirit of God lives in us, and so we too are eternal.

Where we spend our eternity, either with God or separated from God, hangs in the delicate balance of how we choose to live our lives for this brief time on earth. We can either choose life and love, or brokenness and death. And we choose it with every decision we make, with every word and deed. Our bodies have come from the earth and will return to it, and none of us knows when. How should we live in light of the shortness of life and the great length of eternity? Reflect upon that as you receive your ashes today. God Bless.

Y.O.L.O.

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