Reflection for Sunday, September 30, 2018: Great Lengths

Some people go to great lengths for sports. I know a pair of parents that never missed any of their son’s football games. This was true in junior high, high school, and college. Home or away. And he didn’t stay in his hometown to go to college. This is commendable. I’m not saying it is bad. It is very good. They went to great lengths to be there for their son and to support him in his football career.

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks in hyperbole. He is not advocating hurting our bodies. But He is asking us to consider what lengths we will go to get to heaven. What great lengths will we go to be the holy person God wants us to be? Maybe we need to put down the internet by a certain time so that we are not tempted to look at pornography. Maybe we need to get two hotel rooms when we travel with a friend of the opposite gender. Maybe we need to travel 30 miles to get to Mass on Sunday. (Many of us travel further than this to go to sporting events, myself included. How much more should we be willing to drive to receive the Creator of the Universe, God Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist?) Maybe we need to be more generous with our money so that we learn to put our trust in God and not in our wealth. Maybe we even need to change our friendships because we know that the group of people we hang out with are not leading us closer to God, but away from God. Maybe we need to dump our boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe we need to get up at some crazy hour of the day to make sure we get our prayer time in with God each day. What great lengths will we go to to make sure we are ready for heaven, to make sure that we are holy, to make sure we are close to God.

The Timeless in our Hearts

In the first reading today from Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, the author talks about how there is time for everything under the sun, some of it is good and some of it is bad. However, in verse 11, the author says God has put the timeless into our hearts.

Whether it is the Fountain of Youth or cryogenic freezing or whatever, we have a desire to exist for an eternity. However, God in His mercy, after the Fall, cut off humanities access to the Tree of Life. To live forever in a fallen world would be torture. So God allowed us to die so that we can rise to eternal life in heaven.

So even though we are finite beings in time, we are created for the timeless, for eternity. God is God. He doesn’t need our praise and worship. But we need to be humbled enough to realize that we are radically dependent on God. We want to live for ever. In Christ Resurrection, this desire becomes a real possibility. So day in, day out; hour in, hour out; minutes in, minute out, we need to make sure we are living for the infinite. for God.

Confusion can lead to Truth, Love, and Goodness

Before Herod had John the Baptist beheaded, John “greatly puzzled” Herod. In today’s Gospel, Herod is again perplexed. Herod is perplexed because some were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Others were saying Jesus was Elijah or one of the ancient prophets. Luke records that Herod kept trying to see Jesus. Herod was obviously not a great guy. Adultery and murder and all. However in John the Baptist and Jesus, Herod recognized that something was there that he didn’t have. He may have even subconsciously recognized that there was truth in Jesus and John the Baptist that he lacked.

In the first reading from Ecclesiastes the author declares that there is nothing new under the sun. When it comes to fallen human nature, there is nothing under the sun. Now the Catholic Church has been studying the fallen human condition for 2000 years. If I, at 43 years of age, disagree with a teaching of the Catholic Church, I need to think real hard about that. The chances of me having more wisdom than the Catholic Church about the human condition are pretty slim. If I disagree with the teachings of the Catholic Church, if I am perplexed or puzzled about the teachings of the Catholic Church, it would be imperative that I study and find out why the Catholic Church teaches as she does. Doubt in God or God’s teachings does not have to be a bad thing. It can be an opportunity to learn more about God and God’s teachings and thus, fall deeper in love with God.

God created us. He knows everything there is about human nature, fallen and redeemed. He knows what brings us true and lasting joy. In the end, Truth, Love, and Goodness will bring us joy. Jesus’ teachings for us allow us to live life to the full.

* I feel I need to add that I understand if some of what I’m saying is hard to hear in light of things that have come to light in the past couple of months about leaders of the Catholic Church and their own personal morality. If a math teacher does something immoral, it does not change the truth of the math that he taught you. I realize this is slightly different in that the leaders of the Catholic Church are in the business of teaching and passing on morality, the very thing they themselves failed at. However, the analogy still holds. We need to pray for the conversion of the souls of the people who did these awful things. They should be punished in civil law and appropriately punished for their crimes.

Bulletin Article for the Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 23, 2018)

Hello from Okoboji,

I have had a great week hanging out here with the other priests. We learned about the 4 levels of happiness. I may visit this is some future homily. 

This weekend we welcome two newborns into the family of God. During the 9 AM Mass at St. Teresa’s we have Sloane Kristine Fox being Baptized. Then at 1 PM on Sunday, we have Oliver Walker’s Baptism at St. Joseph’s. What an exciting time! It is great to see young couples inviting new children into the world. These are eternal souls that will end up in heaven or hell. So let’s do all we can to support them and their openness to human life.

Also, later on Sunday, we are having our first Gala fundraiser for the Newman Center in Mankato. So please pray it goes well and that people are able to see the amazing things that are happening there and capture the vision for the great things that could happen there in the future. It is true. The Holy Spirit is doing amazing things with our young people. They love Jesus and the Catholic Church. 

We often spend time comparing ourselves to others. We do this in sports, in class ranking, in grades, etc. In some ways this is good. We know and learn more about ourselves. We learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. However, we need to realize that our self worth comes from being a son or daughter of God. This is our identity and it means we have infinite worth. Not bad grades, a bad game, nothing can take that away from us. In the Gospel, Jesus catches the Apostles discussing who is the greatest. Jesus puts a child in front of them and says the first is the one who last and serves the rest. Jesus demonstrated this for us ultimately on the Cross. If we want to be first in the Kingdom of God, we need to learn how to serve others.

Peace of Christ,

Father Vogel 

May Our Hearts be Good Soil

In today’s (Saturday) Gospel we hear about the seed falling on the different soil. There are so many things in our modern first world life that can obstruct our ability to let the Word of God to take root in our souls. First we need to listen, to read, to spend time with the Word of God, with Scripture, with the Bible. Then it needs to come alive in our actions. Being a Christian isn’t something we do for an hour on Sunday morning. It is whole lifestyle. The old question, if you were convicted of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence (from your life) to prove that you are a Christian?