Saturday, March 26, 2016

Signs and Symbols

I hate this shirt.

Makes sense, right? It's hideous. 

I've had it for about 5 years. What's more is that I even actually wear it. Made of moisture-wicking material, I don it for workouts when I'm less than excited about working out. I hate the shirt more than I'll hate the workout, no matter what the workout will be. In fact, I get so upset about putting on the shirt that it typically inspires a great burn. 

As such, this shirt has taken on new meaning. I still despise it; however, it has become a symbol of the grit needed to remain disciplined to a program of exercise. What was once something despicable, this shirt has turned into something life-giving. When I'm in need of a pick-me-up to workout (or more appropriately a kick-in-the-butt) I opt for this shirt. 

It is a sign and symbol of something very different now than when I first received it. I wouldn't wear it out (I workout in my lanai), but I appreciate the lift that it provides to my time of exercise. 

This shirt has undergone a transformation similar to the extreme makeover received by the cross used for crucifixions. As Bishop Robert Barron states in the video below, the cross / crucifixion was "state sponsored terrorism" and was "meant to terrify people and it did terrify people in the ancient world." Crucifixion was used as a sign and symbol to discourage any type of behavior that crossed those who employed it as a punishment. 

Crucifixions were public affairs. The crucified were exposed as public deterrents to rebellion, or any behavior in opposition to the state. This is precisely why the disciples are seen running from the cross and hiding in obscurity immediately following his Passion. Crucifixion was the worst form of death; it was to be avoided at all costs. 

Enter the Resurrection. 

What was once a symbol of terror is now held up as one of hope.

What was once a sign of death is now proclaimed as the only path to life. 

St. Paul throughout his letters and teachings claims that he preaches one thing: Christ crucified. 

To the early Church, this message would have been hard to accept. How could this instrument of death be so boldly mocked?

In the words of St. John Chrysostom:

O Death, where is your sting? 
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. 

How could people follow? How could people believe? How could we, 2000 years later, use the cross as the central symbol of our faith in Jesus Christ?

Quite simply, because it's true.

While the endorphin-making atmosphere that my shirt initiates will most likely fade away over time, the power of the cross to remind believers of hope, peace, joy and love has endured for over 2000 years. 

If it was a lie, if Christ didn't conquer sin and death by submitting to it, would the apostles have come out of the upper room? Would the early Church have actually spread if the Resurrection was nothing more than a clever conspiracy? Wouldn't a cult have just died with its zealously crazy core group? 

Peter, John and the apostles didn't just encounter an empty tomb; they encountered the risen Christ. They saw Him. They touched His wounds. They knew that He had risen and lived their lives in such a transformative way from that day on that they were able to establish His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Let us lift high His holy Cross today and every day. 

Christ is risen! 

Hope Will Rise! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016


On his way to defeat Goliath, David stopped by the river and collected five stones to use in battle. We have used this concept throughout Lent to focus on five spiritual practices aimed at helping us defeat the giants in our lives - sin, suffering, weakness, doubt, sadness, death. 

The Liturgy planning committee has done a phenomenal job in presenting Works of Mercy, Prayer and Scripture, the first three of our five stones. Reconciliation and Eucharist remain. 

Depending on which set of readings your particular Church decided to use for today, you heard either of the following two readings: 

Isaiah 43: 18 - 19
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.

John 11: 39 - 44
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, 
“Lord, by now there will be a stench; 
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe 
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me; 
but because of the crowd here I have said this, 
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice, 
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands, 
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

We used the reading from Isaiah for prayer during our Faculty Meeting this past week. I had mentioned its selection stemmed from its reoccurrences in my life over the past few weeks. It sprung forth again - not only for me, but all of you as well! God is making something new. It is springing up in our midst. He is bringing water to the wasteland, a way to the wilderness.

Similarly, the Gospel for the Year A Scrutinies (for use with RCIA candidates), told the story of Lazarus. This miracle story, a moment of foreshadowing in the Gospels, speaks of new life as well. Jesus tells the disciples to roll away the stone. He calls out to Lazarus, "Come out!" Jesus ends in ordering, "Untie him and let him go." Jesus speaks these words to us as well:

"Come out of your grave of sin, suffering, weakness, doubt, sadness, death! Find new life in me! I am the Way. I am the Bread of Life. I am the Resurrection!

Untie the bands that hold you back. Come out of the darkness and into the light!" 

Be bold during these final two weeks of Lent. Put your rally caps on and get ready for a comeback for the ages. A true Cinderella story during March Madness! Your story. HIStory.
With Holy Week just around the corner, it's time to finish strong. UMD student Matt Muhich gives a game plan for winning.
Pick up your stones and fight - for joy, for life, for Him!

He is doing something AMAZING...perceive it and believe it!