Lent, 5th Sunday (C) Let us read today’s Gospel in the light of Palm Sunday. Jesus is the true King and the final judge. He alone is free of sin; he alone can throw the first stone. Instead he grants mercy. She can go free because Jesus takes her place and pays the price for her sin. Jesus takes your place; Jesus pays your penalty. Will you live for the one who died for you?
(7 Apr 2019) Guest stars the Langer Family Choir. Thank You!
Going Deeper: Next time you feel tempted to point fingers or hurl stones at those who have done wrong, offer them the same mercy that Jesus has offered you.
I still remember our college trip to watch The Cider House Rules. Michael Caine plays a doctor who secretly performs illegal abortions in the 1940’s. Tobey Maguire plays a young orphan who becomes his assistant — and uncovers his dark secret. In the course of the movie Tobey’s journey helps him come around to understand the doctor’s motivations. Full disclosure: I went to see this movie with our pro-life club. We wanted to understand the movie so we could respond to it. The movie opens with a scene in which Tobey Maguire is taking a pot outside to bury its contents. Later you realize that the pot contained the remains of an aborted fetus. As I mulled over the movie’s message, I remember thinking, “No matter how clever your smart take on abortion, just open the lid and show us what’s in the pot, and your argument is over.” Unplanned lifts the lid and shows us what’s in the pot.
This is not a heartwarming, family-friendly Christian film. It’s a movie about abortion and Planned Parenthood. It is based on the true story of a woman’s journey into the world of Planned Parenthood and back out again. It warns you right up front that it’s a messy story. I had already read the book and knew the basic story. Still, to see the scenes from the book acted out on screen is something I wasn’t fully expecting.
This movie is heavy stuff. It’s very personal and very honest. You see a teenage girl pressured by her parents to end her pregnancy, and a woman whose mother is begging her not to have an abortion. And you see everything in between: blood, agony, and lots of tears. Her boss is cast as a villain, and Planned Parenthood as a sinister corporation. But the abortion clinic workers are kind and professional; it actually feels like a decent place to work most days. There are angry protestors with signs of aborted babies, and kind protestors reaching through the fence. The movie doesn’t try to be too big or intentionally shocking. It’s a small story, told with reverence and hope. You needn’t be afraid of what you will see. Just bring some tissues.
The movie doesn’t have all the answers, and it doesn’t tie things up in a pretty bow. But it does end with a beautiful tribute to the children whose lives were lost to abortion. It is deep, touching, and rewarding. You cannot watch this movie and not be changed by it. If you’ve heard conservatives raving about it, that’s not because the movie says a bunch of stuff they agree with. Its because they were touched and changed by this movie in ways they weren’t expecting.
How did this movie change me? I have a new appreciation for the weight someone like Abby, or any former clinic worker, carries with them when they walk away from the clinic. I have a new appreciation for the struggle women face when they find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. I have a new appreciation for perseverance. The pro-life message wins because it is true and good and beautiful. But we have to keep showing up at the clinic and speaking the truth in love, no matter the results. And we need to learn how to love those on the “other side of the fence.” The “Coalition for Life” people are presented as kind and unconditionally loving. Some might argue it’s an unrealistically positive portrayal of pro-lifers. I see it as an invitation for all pro-lifers. The only unrealistic thing I saw was Doug, Abby’s amazingly wonderful husband. He’s a total stud. To all you men reading this: Be Like Doug.
You should see this movie. Especially if you’re one of those people that just doesn’t get what the fuss is all about when it comes to abortion. If you’re not sure you’re pro-life, and uncomfortable with a film that is, then make it a double-feature. Stream The Cider House Rules first with your friends, then take the same crew to Unplanned. I watch a lot of superhero movies and spy thrillers. But after walking out of this movie I thought: The real drama is right here, all around us. We don’t need to fly to some foreign planet or uncover a secret plot to destroy the world. The battle for life and love is right here — every day, every life, is high drama — even the 12 week old baby that started all this. You’ll look at life differently after you see #whatabbysaw
Lent, 4th Sunday (C) We need to come back to Home Base: the Father’s love for us. Sometimes we are the younger brother, sometimes the older. But we are all called to love like the Father. Experience God’s mercy 77 times, and welcome others as He welcomes you. (31 Mar 2019)
Lent, 3rd Sunday (C) The ancient gods are forces within creation. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob isn’t just another force in the universe: I Am Who Am. He is The Creator, not a creation. Moses needs to be convinced of three things: 1) God’s Power 2) God’s Plan 3) God’s Love. When we are convinced of these three things, we can turn life’s “crap” into fertilizer. (25 Mar 2019)
Going Deeper: Dump your ? at Confession this week.
Lent, 2nd Sunday (C) It’s the second week of Lent – have you been falling asleep on your Lenten resolutions? Peter, James, and John were falling asleep when they were supposed to be praying. Abraham, on the other hand, chased away the birds of prey and resisted the temptation to run from God. He fights for the Covenant and God blesses him abundantly.
We need to fight for the things that matter: family time, couple time, God time. If you fight the little battles of couple time and prayer time, you’ll be ready for the big battles. If you let the little things slide, you won’t be prepared for Gethsemane. Want to win the battle? Chase away the vultures. (17 Mar 2019)
Going Deeper: Schedule couple time with your spouse, if you’re married — or quality time with God, or both.
Lent, 1st Sunday (C) Is the Church a cruise ship or a battleship? Do you see yourself as a passenger on a faith cruise, or a crew member on a battleship? Today Jesus gives us the key to victory: obey the commander-in-chief. This week you are sailing into war! You must make yourself “Battle Ready.” (10 Mar 2019)
Challenge: Think of the one thing you’re really struggling with so far, then Google: Bible verse ________. See what comes up, look it up in your Bible, write it out by hand, and commit it to memory.
Ash Wednesday • The question we all ask is, “What are you giving up for Lent?” But the real question is, “Why are you giving it up?” We can certainly give up things because we want to be better, healthier, have more time, less addicted. Good things. But Lent is about participating in Jesus’ death so we can participate in His Resurrection. It’s only a Lenten sacrifice when we can say, “Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice for me. I want to unite this sacrifice with your sacrifice on the cross.” (6 Mar 2019)
We are just on the cusp of the great Lenten Season. Lent is a time for fasting, abstinence from meat, reflection and reform. The Church requires all Catholics from age 18 until age 59 to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting means a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence for anyone 14 or older. Abstinence in this context means not eating meat. Instead of the pepperoni or sausage pizza, you’d eat the cheese or veggie pizza. I know it’s a terrible hardship, but you’re likely to survive. In an earlier time, Christians went vegan for the entire Lenten season. Fast days meant eating and drinking nothing. The Catholic Church of today wants to encourage a basic level of fasting and abstaining. You are welcome to add more, but you shouldn’t do less. A good friend of mine give up snacks, sweets, and condiments last Lent. He said it was exactly the right thing for him. What is the right sacrifice for you this Lent?
More importantly, why do we fast? In the Beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God required one little fast from Adam and Eve: not to eat the fruit of one single tree. Adam and Eve broke the fast. Essentially they chose food over God. By fasting a little in order to strengthen our relationship with God, we are choosing God over food. Fasting is ultimately about abstaining from sin. It is also about preparing for God. We fast for one hour from all foods (except water) before receiving the Eucharist. Fasting prepares our bodies, and our hearts, to be truly fed by the Bread of Life. Fasting is a clear way of declaring that we depend ultimately on God and not on the resources of this world.
Children go hungry every day all over the world, and even in America. Fasting is a means of solidarity with the poor. It is a way of leaving resources for others. It is also a path to self-discipline, greater chastity, and a restraining of the appetites. Who know that a few small sacrifices could mean so much? Happy Lent!
Ordinary Time, 8th Sunday (C) When we are shaken by bad weather, the bad words come out. Where are they coming from? If your heart is filled with anger or pride, your mouth will be filled with bad words and gossip. We are called to be good stewards of the our little corner of the universe. Empty the junk out of your little corner and fill your heart with goodness. Your speech will change when your heart changes. (3 Mar 2019)
Ordinary Time, 7th Sunday (C) Apparently I have never recorded a homily on this particular set or readings. If I had preached, I would have talked about how we tend to make ourselves the standard. Everyone who drives faster than me is a maniac; all the slower drivers are “little old ladies.” Everyone older than me is “old”, everyone younger than me is young. But the true line is Jesus. I’d suggest this homily, in spite of it being from Advent: