Monday, March 23, 2009

“God Saves”

*Pardon the absence of columns over the past month! Seminary life and being on the road the last few weeks are making things kind of crazy! - Rusty

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that all who believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life” –John 3:16

May the Lord give you His peace!

A few weeks ago I found myself in Newark, New Jersey at St. Rita’s homeless shelter. A religious brother who is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and I were leading a bible study and discussion with men and women staying at the shelter. Our discussion was centered upon the passage in which Jesus says that the Good Shepherd will leave the 99 sheep just to go after the one who was lost and how much rejoicing there will be in Heaven when one sinner returns and repents of his sins.

When we finished reading the verse, I was unsure of what to expect with our new friends at the shelter. How would they react? What would they say? However, I was both blessed and humbled to listen and experience the humanity that was before me. It was one of those moments where I said to myself, “this is what Jesus was talking about! This is the Gospel alive right in front of me!”

So many of the men and women told stories of how Jesus was working in their lives. Some of them did not have jobs, or money or any family members to support them. Some were alcoholics, addicted to drugs, and caught in what seemed like a never-ending cycle of bad decisions and impossible circumstances. But beyond all that they faced, they still had hope. Some said they owed their whole life to Jesus because of particular circumstances that ended up working out. Others talked about everyday life experiences where they could see the hand of Jesus and His love. Whether it was finding money to pay the bills or receiving milk from the neighbors to feed the baby, or being a part of their daughter’s wedding or simply just having a place to stay, a hot meal to eat, or a friend to lean on - I could see Jesus among them! He was working in their lives!

As I listened to all their stories I felt an overwhelming sense of Jesus as Savior in our lives. He was saving them and giving them new life. He was not allowing them to perish and fall beneath the weight of the world, but being close to them and rescuing them from all that burdens or things that hold them back. He truly is our Savior!

So what does that story have to do with us and the season of Lent? I couldn’t help but ask myself the question: “How is Jesus saving me?” I am often reminded how most of us focus on what Jesus is not doing in our lives and often we don’t stop to reflect on what He is doing. I learned so much from listening to the men and women at the homeless shelter as there was so much they could of be upset about, but they chose not to dwell on what they didn’t have but on what Jesus had given them. How is Jesus saving you in your life? What has He given you this Lent to embrace?

Most of us have shelter, food, and are taken care of financially. And most of us have a family who is supportive and friends to walk with us through life. So our “issues” are different from those who might be materially poor, but we all need to be saved. In listening to young people and dealing with life myself, I see Jesus using His saving power everyday. He saves us when we turn away from that one sin that has been keeping from Him. He saves us when we decide that with His grace we do not want to be lazy anymore and commit to a life of prayer. He saves us when we choose to turn away from lustful and selfish relationships and choose to live in chastity and purity. He saves us when we finally understand that gossip is hurtful to others and that no one deserves to be talked about in a negative way. And He saves us from the cheap imitation of happiness that our culture has given us and leads us to find true life in Him. My friends, praise the Father who sent us only Son to save us!

This week, reflect on your life and see where the saving power of our Lord is present. Rejoice in His presence and His love as He reaches out to us in every moment to save us from our sins and lead us to ever lasting life.
May God bless our friends at St. Rita’s shelter as they were a great reminder of our God who truly came to save us. May Mary our hope give us the grace we need to follow in His way.

May God be praised!

God Bless You,


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Kind of Stimulus...

May the Lord give you His peace!

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, let me fill you in. This week, President Obama will sign an economic stimulus package into law equaling over 800 billion dollars. Now, if you want insight on whether or not it is going to work, you are reading the wrong column. But, trying to understand the whole concept of “stimulus” might be worth our time.

The goal of this stimulus package is to try and jump start the economy - basically to put a whole lot of money into the hands of businesses and people so the broken economy and money market will begin to heal and recover. Make sense? Well, it is clear we need something to jump start the economy, but how about a stimulus package for our culture? For a culture that is guided by MTV and Hollywood and one that finds itself lost, bored, and self-medicated, I don’t think it’s a bad idea. We need to make a jump start in our own lives in order to make a difference in the culture that is desperately needed at this time. How can we do this?

All of us have things to give. But the real question is, what are you giving? If we simply give ourselves, no transformation of culture will take place. We must give Christ and let Him be the center of the renewal that needs to happen in our time. Prayer leads us to encounter Jesus in a real way so we can share him with our world. Encountering the living God is central to stimulating our culture!

How our culture would change if we truly cared for one another. Often times we find ourselves keeping score or never really thinking about how we can help others. Helping those who are near to us and those who are strangers will have a tremendous affect on life as we know it. Charity given generously impacts so many people - but how often do we do it? Hearts giving generously and not counting the cost is greatly needed.

Our culture could use a little joy don’t you think? I am not talking about a happiness that is fake or one that comes from the world. I am talking about the joy that enters our hearts and lives when we know we are loved by God - a joy that comes from being truly free and able to experience the joys and sorrows of life with a perspective of hope and faith. You can’t stop joy, it brings light into a world that can be so dark at times.

It is safe to say that many people and things are fake these days. Our culture needs a sense of what is real. We must be the ones who no longer settle for the cheap imitations we have been given, and discover what it means to be a young person and reveal to the world the truth - the truth of who we really are as sons and daughters of a loving God, and the truth of what it takes to be happy: a relationship with Him and His Church.

My friends, if today we make a commitment to be more prayerful, generous, joyful and authentic in our lives, there is no question we will see a jump start in our families, schools, communities and culture. So often, we leave making changes and improving the world to being someone else’s responsibility. But today, let’s make it ours.

This week the economy is going to receive a stimulus. Let’s give our culture one too. Today, pray a little more and let the Lord work in your life. Be generous to those around you. Carry joy in your heart, bring a smile to other people face, and be an authentic son or daughter of God. That ought to get things going!

God Bless You,


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our Problem, Not His...

“And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in His native place and among his own kin and in His own house.” So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, a part from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith”
-John 6: 4-6

May the Lord give you His peace!

Last Wednesday night, due to a break from classes at the Seminary, I was able to attend Mass at my college alma mater in Iowa. During the homily, the priest challenged us to reflect on the above passage from John and how it was both “surprising and scandalous.” After a long day of driving, the best I could come up with was the notion of how Jesus was not accepted in His hometown - of all places! Well I wasn’t entirely correct, but I guess I could have made a case. What about you? Any guesses?

“So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there…”

Does this line make anyone else surprised or confused? This statement should make us very uncomfortable! Our Lord in this situation was not able to perform any mighty deeds like He had been doing all over the region. A subtle line like this in the Gospel is easy to skip over if don’t take time to think about the implications of what is said. Jesus was not able… Was He losing power? Did He not want to? Was He truly God?

While all those are good questions, we can take a deep breath and breathe a sigh of relief because the answer to the problem was not found in our Lord. It was found in the people. In this gathering, the people of the town were questioning Him and took offense at Him. And over the course of their time with Him, they shut themselves off to the Lord and everything He wanted to give them. The people were not able to receive what the Lord wanted to give them. It is not that Jesus was incapable of giving, it was that the people were incapable in receiving. Their hearts were closed and bitter. They were uncomfortable with the presence and invitation of Jesus to a better life. They shut Him out and closed themselves off from becoming fully who they were called to be.

My friends, how often we render Jesus powerless in our lives because we choose not to be ready to receive what he wants to give us! We, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, choose to close ourselves off to what the Lord and His Church want to do in our lives. Jesus came to bless us in abundance! He came to heal, forgive, transform, and unite. He came to inspire, love, teach, and bring peace. But, how often we find ourselves in a place in our culture and personal lives where we are not ready to receive what Jesus promised. Oh how He longs to give us everything we need, and how His heart aches when we cannot receive it!

So how can be ready or prepared to receive what the Lord wants to give? We must humble ourselves, and realize our own ways are not always right or what’s best for us. We must be open to conversion in our lives and turn away from the sin that keeps us from the grace of our Lord. We must stay close to the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist. And finally, we must realize that what Jesus has to offer us is a better way for our lives. Our openness to receive from Jesus will change our lives instantly.

This week prepare your heart to receive from Jesus. Let us form a community and culture where Jesus can work and transform our lives. Are you ready?

God Bless You!

In Jesus and Mary,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thy Kingdom Come...

“It began in that hour, and of this “kingdom” there will be no end. Thus you remain the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope. Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!”
-Pope Benedict XVI (Spe Salvi, 50)

My friends, may the Lord give you His hope!

This past weekend I was on a glorious silent retreat. Yes silent. It was wonderful to turn off my phone, put down my school work, and spend some intense quality time with our Lord. The theme of the retreat was hope. Reading and praying over Pope Benedict’s encyclical was very fruitful and inspiring. Also very timely, for at the moment I went into silence for the retreat the noise was still loud about our new president and his first couple of days in office. It could have been a coincidence, but I see it as God’s providence!

Last week was historic and for many a time to rejoice. But if you are like me, the transition to a new president brought a sense of frustration and even disappointment for what the future may hold. Elections have consequences and we will see really soon what the true outcome will be. But after a weekend of prayer and reflection I hope we all can consider a different way of looking at this new challenge.

The “change” promised by our new president is evident in his plans. We are all concerned about his radical support of abortion, which is probably the most notable. There will be other things that affect our lives and policies that will that will upset us and we must do our part to stand up for life and our beliefs. But will every move and every decision made by our new leader define the way we live? Will we let his agenda control us? Will we allow it to take away our peace and passion for our faith and what is right? I hope not. Because I can tell you one thing, I will get tired and worked up really quick if my life is consumed with President Obama.

Christ is our HOPE!

“The true shepherd is one who knows even the path that passes through the valley of death; one who walks with me even on the path of final solitude, where no one can accompany me, guiding me through: he himself has walked this path, he has descended into the kingdom of death, he has conquered death, and he has returned to accompany us not and to give us certainty that, together with him, we can find a way through.” (Spe Salvi, 6)

While praying, it hit me. “Of His kingdom there will be no end!” (Luke 1:33) It was kind of like a spark that put in perspective this new world we find ourselves in. As much as our culture might change and as heart breaking and challenging it might be, Jesus will have the last word. As the cross and resurrection have shown us, HE wins…end of story.

Now this might not do much for us as our country and world for that matter are still in the fascination mode. But when you find yourself worried, frustrated, and wondering what is going to become of us, remember Luke 1:33. Write it down, put it on your mirror, make up a song about it, or do whatever it takes to remember that the Kingdom of our Lord cannot be conquered. The end is decided and with great hope it is up to us to fight the battle of truth and love. Jesus knows our struggles, He walks with us and we can be certain that He will see this through.

Let us turn to Mary who is our hope and guide to her Son. May she give us great confidence and hope as we strive to live for Jesus and the salvation of souls.

Mr. President, the hope you speak of is not yours to give. We pray you find the true hope of Jesus and that He becomes your way, truth, and life. We are praying for you…

God Bless You,

In Mary,


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Not So Ordinary...

Welcome to Ordinary Time. Wow, how exciting does that sound?! Christmas is over, the baptism of the Lord was this past Sunday and today, when the priest processed in for Mass I was thrown off by the green color of his vestment. Where did the time go?!

For most of us, the transition into ordinary time is quite painless. However, this year, maybe it would be good for us to look at ordinary time a little differently and see how the beauty of this church season can make a difference in our lives. In reality, this season is far from ordinary. You with me?

Looking at my own life I am surprised how God works. Over the years I have somehow garnered up this expectation that the way God reveals himself to me is going to be in a drastic, life changing and mighty way. While it is true that God works in this way, it is the experience of most people that God doesn’t come with mighty trumpets, or in powerful storms but through common and everyday happenings. Sure we read Scripture stories where God showed His great power or we hear stories of miracles that have changed peoples lives, but how much do we miss when our expectations are different than what God wants to reveal to us?

The great news is that God wants us to live His providence in every moment, especially the ordinary moments when His presence is ever near. The Church gives us the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter to form us, help to grow in faith, and to convert our hearts to that of Jesus’. The Church also gives us ordinary time to reveal that Jesus continues to give us the same call of conversion and repentance in every season and everyday of the year. What a call!

What does this call demand from us? Something quite extraordinary. In the shadow of Advent and Christmas, the call of ordinary time demands a response to the promise that was given to us by Jesus in the manger - the promise that was foretold by the prophets and the promise that threatened Herod and the society of the day. My friends, it is just not enough to put the manger scene back in the box for another year and act as if just another Christmas season has come and gone. That is exactly what our culture is doing right now. The lights are coming down, the stores are changing out their Christmas items and most people are just moving on. If we have fallen into this, how much we have missed yet again this year!

Ordinary time is a time to respond to the promise given on Christmas. It is a time to make Jesus the center of our lives and recommit to living the lives that Jesus and the Church call us to live. There is nothing common about this response or way of life. At school it could be just a simple smile, being more grateful, working harder in class, including those who are on the outside, or quitting the gossip that ruins friendship. When we respond to Christ in the manger it could be forgiving someone, making wholesome social decisions and even choosing to respect and love our parents and family. How great is this season of ordinary time! How great is the call of our Lord to be anything but ordinary in our response to Him becoming a child for us! What is ordinary time going to be like for you this year?

Take some time to reflect on this new Church season. Sure we miss the romance of Christmas, but let this new season captivate your heart and respond to the Lord in His love for you.

Green is the color and ordinary is the name, but if you respond to our Lord this season, it will be anything but ordinary.

God Bless You,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No Time For Compromises...

Someone who encounters the Ultimate, who knows about the end, must let go of every compromise. In the presence of the Ultimate the only thing that survives is what is authentic. All compromise shatters there. All cheap negotiating shatters there. All half-truths, and all double meanings, and all masks, and all poses shatter there. The only thing that stands the test is what is authentic.
-Father Delp

Rejoice always! The third week of Advent is a reminder to look forward with great joy to the promise of the Lord coming into our lives. Take a moment this week to truly rejoice in where the Lord has brought you in your life - whether there have been baby steps, leaps and bounds, or gradual movements to the Lord and His will for you, rejoice today in His love and purpose in our lives. He came to save, born of a Woman, to set us free from sin and lead us to turn to Him in this life to live with Him fully in the next. Rejoice always!

Two weeks ago we reflected upon being like children, who are humble and trusting. Last week we talked about being ready like Mary to receive the Lord in our lives. This week we talk about letting go.

Thinking about this topic brings a smile to my face because I know how hard it is to do for most of us young people. We live day to day holding onto certain things and desires that we never want to give up. We compromise with ourselves, making us feel better about the sin in our lives or certain weaknesses that we have. We negotiate with God, our parents, and anyone we feel cheated or slighted by. We embrace half truths in our lives when we are scared by the real truth or when the full truth might put a cramp in our style. We wear masks that protect us from revealing our true selves and keep us from loving or being loved as we truly are. If you find yourself in one of these boats, don’t feel alone because all of us are there at one point or another.

The great news about Advent, is that if we humble ourselves like children striving to be ready to meet our Lord, then we let go of all the compromises, negotiating, half truths and masks in our lives. When we encounter our Lord Jesus as a child in the manger, we can’t help but encounter our authentic selves at the same time. What a time this is! We encounter the living God who became man, and in that very instant the veil is lifted and all the things shatter that keep us from our true authentic selves.

My friends, for this to happen we must let go. If we truly desire to meet Jesus in a new way this Christmas and if we truly desire to respond to the promises he made four our lives and future, we must no longer settle for the cheap imitations that we all have become accustomed to. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of living inauthentically at times. I am tired for settling or negotiating with myself about my desires for my life or what my future my hold. And it has been my experience that when we meet the Lord and are able to let go, then our Lord reveals to us our true selves. It is in those moments that we feel most complete and whole. The Lord in His great mercy and love has given us permission to be our authentic selves, exactly as he made us.

This week, get rid of anything in your life that is inauthentic. Look at your words and actions and see the places where you are not being the true self that Jesus wants you to be. Let go of everything that keeps you from the baby in the manger.

It feels good to be authentic! You know what I mean? Let it all go…

God Bless You,


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ready or Not...

The Angel’s message found her heart ready, and the Word became flesh, and in the holy room of her motherly heart, the earth grew far beyond its limitations into the human-divine sphere. There are the holiest comforts of Advent.
-Father Delp

In a world that was dark and suffering, an angel spoke words that forever changed history. A lowly handmaid who was younger than most of us, said yes to God who wanted to become man. God prepared her and at the perfect moment sent his messenger to reveal her destiny. How was it that she was able to say yes so willingly? How was it that she didn’t ask tons of questions, or even take time to think about it? A simple “let it be done” was all she had and in an instant she became the Mother of God.

This might be a good time to wish you all a happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is truly a joyous day and one of my favorites of the Church year. What we celebrate today is why Mary was so willing and trusting when the angel appeared to her. God formed her in her mother’s womb free from all sin. How perfect and beautiful was Mary in the womb of St. Anne! It only makes sense that if she was going to be the Mother of God, that she be spared the stain of sin and death. God prepared her to say yes to Him, and her heart was so overwhelmed with grace and beauty that she responded with her whole self.

I don’t think this is breaking news to anyone, but we are not perfect. Even though some of our moms think we are, it is not the case. So if we are not perfect and were not immaculately conceived they how do we play this game? I thought you would never ask. Believe it or not, God has also prepared us to say yes to Him as well. Through grace and the sacraments, the Lord’s works to convert our hearts and open us to respond in our own lives as Mary did. But the other important notion we must all remember is how Mary was READY.

“Those who wait for you will not be disappointed” -Psalm 25:3

My friends, Advent is about waiting, and this is not a waiting because we are bored and have nothing else to do. This is a waiting that prepares and becomes ready for the Lord who is coming to meet us. Mary was found ready because she was hungering and longing for her God to come. She was very aware of the Old Testament prophecies that foretold the Messiah coming to save the Jewish people. Believing with her whole heart, purifying herself from sin, and living rightly among her family and community, Mary was ready to receive Him. Little did she know she would be His mother and bear Him in her womb, but she was ready when becoming the Savior’s mother was God’s plan for her.

If God came today would you be found ready? A true waiting is a true longing, and a true longing is doing everything necessary to be ready when the time comes. For us, let us start this Advent by not only putting down the weapons that separate ourselves from Jesus and others, but challenging ourselves to get ready for the Lord. This begins with realizing that at every moment the Lord wants to come into our lives.

This Advent we must also make a good examination of conscience and look at the areas of our lives where we need to purify ourselves from sin, removing that darkness that keeps us from being prepared to receive the Lord. Lastly, let us reflect upon our family relationships and other friendships and ask ourselves if the people close to us are helping us become truly ready for the coming of Jesus.

What an amazing day to reflect about Mary’s life. She was conceived to bear Jesus and help give life to the world. All this because she was found ready. Imagine what the Lord wants to do in your life if you are found ready when he comes to reveal himself once again.
Surely we will not be disappointed.

God Bless,