Reflection for Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40) – Purpose of Rules

“Rules are meant to be broken.” I’ve heard this many times in my life. Heck, it’s come out of my own mouth. But is this really a sage piece of advice? We like to justify why it is good for us to break the law/rule in this one case. However, what if everyone went around breaking laws and rules all the time? What kind of society would that be? It would be chaos. It might be dangerous. When we think of rules, we think of things we shouldn’t do. 

This is even how the Ten Commandments may sound. “Thou shall not…” However, Jesus brings a new approach to laws and rules. Rather than focusing on what we shouldn’t do, Jesus says to focus on what we can do. What can we do? What should we do? Should we just not do certain things? This is kind of a bare minimum attitude or approach to life. Rather Jesus wants us to thrive. He tells us not just what not to do, but rather what TO do. He says the key to life is love. First we are to love God. We are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. This is important. This is first. This is prior. If we don’t first love God, at best, we are a really good person who will probably not go to heaven. (See John 3:16 and other verses, Catechism of the Catholic Church #846-848) Second, we need to love our neighbor as ourselves. We need to remember the Golden Rule…to treat others as we want them to treat us. 1 John 4:8 tells us God is Love. We are made in God’s image. Thus we are created to love and be loved. This is what all morality and virtue is given to us for. To give us the grace, ability, and the discipline to love God and others the way we were created to.

Blessed are the Poor, for They Will Inherit the Kingdom of God

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples it is hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Then He says, “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.” This means it is impossible for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus says as much when He says, “For men this is impossible.” But then He adds, “…but for God all things are possible.”

Camel-and-needle

I believe the reason for this is that those who are materially poor, very easily recognize that they are not self-sufficient. Therefore, they naturally apply this not only to the material aspect of life, but also the spiritual aspect of life. They naturally realize and are open to the fact that they need a savior, that they need Jesus Christ to save them from their sins.

The rich person on the other hand, because of his material wealth, easily and naturally thinks himself self-sufficient not just materially, but also spiritually. Just think of all the self-affirmation programs, the “spiritual” self-help programs. We, the rich, naturally think we can find spiritual, complete happiness on our own. If I just own that car, get that handbag, or get that amount in my bank account, I’ll be happy. It is almost as if we feel we have a right to happiness. We forget that happiness, life, and material things are all gifts, gifts from God.

It is only with grace, grace from God, grace from Jesus on the Cross, that we, the rich, can become humble enough to realize we are not self-sufficient. We too need a savior. We need Jesus to come and wash away our sins, to give our life purpose. It is only in the humility of subjecting our lives and our wealth to Christ and His love that we receive the satisfaction of all of our desires. It is only in putting ourselves last that we receive what we first desire, true happiness. Jesus says when we give up everything for the sake of His name, we will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life.

So if you are one of the rich, it is “naturally” impossible for you to get to heaven. Thus, give yourself and your life over to the only one who can do the impossible. Give yourself and your life over to Christ. Only in Him is it possible for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.

Bulletin Article for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 17, 2014)

Hello,
I had a great week at Camp Summit. There were a 150 junior high kids from around the diocese there. It was a blast. There were high ropes courses, a climbing wall, ultimate frisbee, football, and lots of other great stuff. More importantly, we had Eucharistic Adoration, Mass everyday, Confessions. Bishop Quinn even came out a celebrated Mass with us one day. So thanks for letting me go.

Next weekend we have the Rite of Testimony for our Confirmation candidates. They will also have a retreat on Sunday, August 24th. This is all in preparation for their Confirmation on September 7th at 2 PM. So keep them in your prayers.

In this week’s Gospel, a woman comes to Jesus about her sick daughter. She shows great faith and trust in the power of Jesus. She knows that just a little trust and grace can go a long ways. Sometimes in our lives, we can choose between having a relationship slowly deteriorate or we can put faith in God and in the other person and confront them about something. Only when we take the risk of being rejected can healing begin. Just as it did for the Canaanite woman. Canaanites and Jews did not talk to each other. She almost expected to be rejected. But she loved her daughter so much, she was willing to risk rejection. And she kind of was. But her faith in Jesus and His ability to heal allowed Jesus to eventually heal her daughter. Have faith in Jesus that He can heal you too.

Pax,
Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 10, 2014)

What a great time of year! The summer is winding down. Time to get one more swim in. One more lazy afternoon (for the kids). Time for an end-of-the-summer camp. That’s what I’ll be doing. This week I’ll be at Eagle Bluff near Rochester, MN at Camp Summit. This will be the second annual Camp Summit, the junior high youth camp put on by our diocese. So pray for me, but especially the 100 junior kids that their lives be radically oriented towards Christ. Pray they realize how precious and special they are to their Savior. I will be saying Mass and hearing Confessions. I will also be rock climbing, dangling by a wire on a high ropes course, and maybe even doing some archery. Pray that I don’t accidentally hurt anyone else or myself. I will be leaving late Sunday and getting back late on Thursday.

Remember Friday, August 15th the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a Holy Day of Obligation. On this day we celebrate that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of Jesus, was assumed not just soul (like us), but also bodily, into heaven. Why? Because this earthly vessel, this earthly human person, had contained the infinite, uncontainable Creator of the Universe. So we get to celebrate how Mary’s yes brought about Jesus, brought about our salvation from our sins, our chance at eternal life in heaven.

To celebrate, I strongly encourage you to go the Harvest Mass. It is a Mass outdoors to celebrate not only God’s fruitfulness in Mary’s, but also God’s fruitfulness in our crops. The Mass begins at 11 AM. This year the Harvest Mass is right next door. It is at the Knuth’s Sudden Creek Shire Horse Farm (1014 140th Ave), one mile west of Slayton on Highway 30. Since it is so close, unless you have to work, I urge you to give the Harvest Mass a try. There will be a lunch served afterwards. If you can’t go, there will be a Mass that day at IHM at 5:15 PM and then another one at St. Anthony at 7:00 PM.

This Sunday we hear Jesus rescue His Apostles by walking across the water to them. Sometimes the storms in our lives seem about to get the best of us. Even when it seems that Jesus is not there, not answering our prayers, He knows our situation and will come to our rescue when it is best for our salvation. Trust Him, “Take courage; do not be afraid.”

Peace of Christ,
Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 3, 2014)

Hello. Next Tuesday, some of our youth who are preparing for Confirmation will be helping out at Esther’s Kitchen up in Marshall. They are going to help feed those who might not otherwise eat. They will truly be living out the Gospel for this Sunday. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus had been teaching and preaching all day long. Matthew doesn’t record what Jesus said, but it must have been awesome spiritual stuff for everyone to stay and listen that long. (Maybe I should try giving a homily that lasts all day long.) But now it was getting later in the day and the disciples were worried that people might be getting hungry. A large hungry crowd is truly something to be worried about. Jesus then shows HIs concern for not just our spiritual needs, but our physical needs. He not only feeds the 5000 plus, but they pick up 12 extra baskets of food. All of this comes from just five loaves and two fish. This is a miracle. No, Jesus did not get people to share what they had brought. It is clear from what the disciples said that people did not have food with them and would need to go to the nearby villages to purchase food. Jesus truly multiplies the food. Living on a farm, one is keenly aware of how precious food is. And yet, here was someone who could feed them no matter what happened to the crops. Here was someone who could feed them both spiritually and physically.

We too are called to believe this about Christ. We are to rely on Him both for our physical and spiritual well being. Yes, we still need to go to the grocery store, but we can pray and trust that He will provide for our physical needs. Yes, we still need to go to Mass where we participate in the feeding of the 5000 plus in the Eucharist, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, which has been multiplied over and over again, feeding billions of Catholics bothy physically and spiritually for the last 2000 years. We also need to read the Bible every day, feed the poor, love those around us, spend some time in prayer every day. This will feed us spiritually.

Come to Christ. He will give you all you need. Maybe not all that you want, but all that you need.

Peace of Christ,
Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (July 20, 2014)

I had an awesome time celebrating and worshiping God with 1500 youth last weekend. So thanks for letting me disappear for the weekend. Our God is so good to His young people. I wish you could have seen the enthusiasm our youth have for Christ and His Church. One of the most beautiful sights was seeing 1500 youth adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Amazing! I wish more of our high schoolers would go.

This weekend you have Father Pick again because I am in Ames enjoying my family, especially my sisters from Berlin,.Germany and Jordan, in the Middle East.

I will be back next weekend.

The church is coming along. They are still saying we will be back in in October. So keep praying. Thank you for your support during this time. I feel like the Israelites during the diaspora; we are all spread out without a home, a home place to worship God.

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God. So many people wonder why God allows evil. God doesn’t create evil, but He sometimes allows it so that we can grow stronger in our faith, stronger in our relationship with Him. In the Gospel, Jesus says the weeds are allowed to grow along with the wheat. He is afraid that if He removed the weeds, the evil, He might kill the wheat, the good. We trust that at the end of time, God will deal with the non-believers and give them the justice that is due to them and we who believe, will be shown mercy and grace. So even during tough times, trust God, trust that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Because with just a small seed of faith, God can do great things in your life.

Peace of Christ,

Father Vogel

August Trumpet Letter to Parishioners

Hello. August is a great month, one of endings and beginnings. As summer comes to a close we go on last minute vacations. We make some great memories. Maybe even lament what could have been. In the midst of all the flourish of activity it is good to take some time to not only thank God for keeping us safe, but for our Blessed Mother for being with us. On Friday, August 15th, we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, a solemnity and a Holy Day of Opportunity (Obligation). We believe that at the end of her life Mary was assumed into heaven. The Catholic Church has never said whether she died or not before this happened, but either way her body was assumed into heaven uncorrupted and undecayed. Even though this event is not recorded in the Bible, we know from the Tradition passed on down that this happened. We know from the Bible that others were assumed into heaven. For instance, the prophet Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind of chariots and horses into heaven. If this important prophet from the Old Testament was taken body and soul directly into heaven, how much more would God do the same for the very body and soul that carried the very person of God, Jesus, inside their body. This is one of the many reasons Mary is held up as the greatest human person to have ever lived. She was and is greatly blessed by God.

We are blessed this year, because the Harvest Mass, the diocesan Mass that celebrates the rural roots of diocese in connection with the fruitfulness of Mary’s womb in our salvation is being celebrated in our back yard. It is at the Knuth’s Sudden Creek Shire Horse Farm (1014  140th  Ave., Slayton, MN 56172), just west of Slayton. Mass starts at 11 AM with dinner afterwards. I strongly encourage you to go. I realize it is during work hours, but if you can get it off, it is a great celebration of Mary, our connection to God’s creation, and all the work our farmers do to feed the world.

I am gone as of the writing of this article. (I will be back this weekend.) So the last I heard, St. Gabriel’s is still on schedule to be done by mid October. So continue to pray for the safety and efficiency of all involved.

Many blessings and grace,

Father Vogel