Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vote for Change...

By the title of the column some might think it is an endorsement of some kind. Don’t get carried away or let your mind wonder. When it comes to endorsing someone I will refer you to the bishops of the Church in the United States. They are the experts and many of them are heroes for speaking out in favor the real issues at stake in this election. Their defense and commitment to the dignity of human life, and their work for justice and peace are an example to us all. If you want to know who to vote for, ask them.

With that said, I wanted to take some time to reflect upon the central theme of 2008 presidential election. CHANGE. Anyone that has paid the least bit of attention knows that both candidates have claimed to be real agents of change and put forth their ideas for change in our country. According to them, we have to change healthcare, we have to change the way we use energy, we have to change the way we fight wars, we have to change the way we deal with other countries, we have to change the way we do taxes, we have to change we regulate education, and we have change the government works. We apparently were supposed to even change the way elections are run - and it is pretty safe to say that goal didn’t work out very well.

Observing the process of the campaign, and all that comes with it, it is quite clear that many people are hungry for change. The concept of change has taken center stage because people want something different. At this point, they are becoming followers of two men who seem to think they have all the answers. The have packaged this whole notion of change up in some nice wrapping paper and a great big bow. But here is my only question: What is at the heart of a desire for change? Is it really about healthcare, education, government, or taxes? It could be. But I think there is something deeper going on here. I am convinced that people don’t only want things to be different, at the same time they are yearning for something MORE.

My friends, perhaps they change we need is not a change from politicians or the government. The change we need is a change of heart. In the Church we call it conversion. And to go a step further, we need a transformation.

You see, I would propose that people want change so much because they are tired of feeling they way they do. They are tired of getting up every morning and wondering if this is all there is in life. We yearn for a purpose that goes beyond our daily schedules and routines. We yearn for answers that go beyond the short term fix, and temporary happiness. We yearn for change, but little did we know that we have to allow ourselves to be changed.
The change or transformation our hearts long for is a movement away from the thing that holds us back, the thing that distracts us, and leads us away from being who God wants us to be. The transformation we need is not only to say “no” to certain things, but perhaps more importantly, what we are saying “yes” to. The whole concept of change is so popular and makes everyone feel good because there is a possibility of something new and different to come. People get excited about new solutions and new ways of doing things.

Beyond the big ideas and solutions that candidates have for change, which comes down to more money and government, here is the change or transformation that is needed for those who follow Christ: Love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself. If we can allow ourselves to be transformed enough to have Jesus be the most important thing in our lives, the change or transformation we all long for will become a reality. Until Jesus becomes everything to us, a change of heart, or a change of culture for that matter, will just be a dream. Love of Jesus then becomes love of neighbor and the place in which we live begins to change. You would be amazed to see that the issues the candidates are discussing would take care of themselves if we all allowed ourselves to be transformed into the life of Christ. Abortion, poverty, war, the environment, and even tax policy would look different if the hearts of all Americans were in the right place. The change of heart is the change we need.

The crowds that show up to speeches wait in longs lines to see a man or women they think has the answer to their desire for more. The only unfortunate problem about this whole is process is that millions of Americans will wake up on November 5th and not feel any different. They put all their hope in those who could not give them what they are looking for. My friends, we do need change but not the change of this world but the change that Jesus wants to give us. Sorry senators, all do respect, but you can’t give me what I am looking for.

The change of Jesus, is change we can believe in!

God Bless You,

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Boss’s Economic Plan

"You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared to whom will they belong?” Thus will it be for the one who sores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God” - Luke 12:20-21

I sent out a press release this morning letting the news agencies and media know that I would be announcing my Boss’s economic plan today. I got no response (which is not surprising!) so I guess talking about it in my column this week will have to do. I took Economics 101 my freshman year of college so I feel somewhat prepared to reflect on the issue. Ok, not really but I promise it will make sense.

I am in no way an economic expert. I have my bank account, good credit, pay taxes (since I make so much money…that is a joke because I don’t at all!) and strive to save my money. Anyone who pays attention to the presidential race has heard about the differing economic plans that both candidates have proposed. Simply, it all comes down to cutting taxes, raising taxes, and trying to make the poor richer, and the rich poorer (or richer for that matter), depending on which plan you choose.

It is time propose a new economic plan today. It is a traditional plan, very comprehensive, and well done. Many advisors have been working on it for years and years. The Boss likes to call it the “Eternal Rewards Plan” and the great news is that He truly desires everyone to be rich! Maybe His plan will inspire your vote and your life.

Here is the plan:

Be Rich in Dignity

Promote and defend the dignity of every human person. From the baby conceived in the womb to the poor jobless person on the street, to the homeless immigrant, to the mentally handicapped, to the aged and the dying. If we start from the very beginning of life and remain committed to the end, then our work will not be in vain. The priority is the defenseless and those whose dignity is not respected. Recognizes and love the dignity in every person that you meet.

Be Rich in Peace

War with other counties or peoples is not the best answer even thought it is necessary at times. Do not get used to it and see it always as the best answer. Peace is not only the absences of war but also the harmony of people living together with one mind and heart. Peace must be worked for in our families, friendships, schools, work, and society. Peace among the popular and the unpopular, the athletes and the non athletes, the young and the old, and those who think or look differently than me or you. Our ability to work for and establish a lasting peace will determine the fate of our culture and world.

Be Rich in Service

Is your life about you? It is time to make it about someone else. Take the time and effort to reach out to others. With a generous heart give when no one is asking, help when no one is watching. Have others around you be your first priority. Be the first one to offer your place in line, be the first one to perform an act of kindness to the guy or girl in the hall who seems lonely, be the first one to offer a ride home to the younger student who usually walks, be the first one to offer a hand to those struggling with their school work, or be the first one to offer advice and a kind heart to the one who is lost or afraid. Reach out beyond yourself, and help someone else.

Be Rich in Love

It is time to put the pride and selfishness aside and put on love. There is no time to only love those who love us, but to love without limits those who might not love us. Love your family, friends, and those close to you, but also love in a bolder way those who bug you, get on your nerves, or even those who hurt you and make fun of you. Love those who disagree with you, who hate what you stand for, and will do anything to make you feel like you don’t matter. Love solves everything.

In the end my friends, be rich in what matters to God. And if your voting is rich in what matters to God, cast your vote. However, it is quite clear that being rich in what matters to the world doesn’t lead us anywhere. It leads us to MTV, Hollywood, and powerful people who don’t have the slightest clue about the wealth that will last. These candidates have thousands and thousands of people showing up to events and rallies. Their ideas are short-sided and incomplete. And the crowds are yearning for something more.

In fact, they are yearning to be RICH. Not only in money, but in their whole and complete selves. They want to feel rich. Rich in dignity. Rich in Peace. Rich in Service. Rich in Love.

The Boss sends His Love. Also, he would like to remind you that you will be paid very soon. Some of the money you will get now…but you will be paid-in-full in eternity.

Sounds like a good plan to me!

God Bless You,


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Let Your Hearts Not Be Troubled...

I have been waiting for the right moment to bring up this election. Now that it is only a few weeks away, I thought it would be a worthy and timely topic of conversation. While they say that this election is one of the most important elections of our lifetime, (as if every election isn’t important), I would like to propose the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves.

Here is what we do know. One of these two candidates is going to be the next president of the United States. And one of these candidates will propose economic, social, foreign, military and governmental policies that will dictate and shape the direction of our country. If you take the next president and the policies he will propose you might either be happy with the future holds, or you might be uneasy about what is to come. In either scenario, whether we like it or not, there is something greater at play here. Let me explain.

Most readers might remember that last year I wrote about a trip I took to Poland. It was an amazing pilgrimage and there were many significant reflections I took from the experience. Perhaps the one that had the most impact on my life and vocation came upon me when I was sitting at the top of a hill at the base of the 13th Station of the Cross. I had stopped there to take a rest and absorb what was going on around me. I pulled out a book and was struck by the Catholic author George Weigel’s reflection on what happened in Poland over the course of history. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of Poland, during World War II, the country suffered greatly from the influence of the Nazis. After the war, they suffered from Communism). Weigel reflected on how Poland survived:

“Culture drives history over the long haul. A people in possession of its culture, a people that owns the truth about itself, has weapons of resistance that totalitarianism can’t match. People determined to live the truth of who they are, people determined to live vocationally are the most dynamic force in history.”

Wow. I was amazed. Who or what is the most dynamic force of good and change in history? Many today would probably say a strong military, thriving economy or a powerful government. Are those not the proposed answers of those running for office? Are those not the things that we all look to for security and peace? In Poland it wasn’t a particular governmental leader, or products that brought prosperity, or a powerful army either, it was a man named John Paul II who urged peace and dignity of the person. It was St. Maximillian Kolbe and St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross who died in concentration camps with joy in their hearts so others might live around them. It was St. Faustina who preached and lived the message of God’s mercy for all people. And it was countless others who worked tirelessly for the cause of goodness and peace in that country. The saints of Poland changed the course of history in the country for the better, not money, or military, or power.

People determined to live the truth of who they are, people determined live vocationally are the most dynamic force in history. Talk about that in a political speech. Bring up that in a debate! Let’s see that in a campaign advertisement or video. Let’s hear that being the answer to our social, economic and foreign challenges that we face. My friends, there is no question that we are at a pivotal point in our nation’s history. The reality of the situation is, that it does matter who we vote for. It does matter who wins this election. But what matters even more is when you and I start living as if what we do and how we live really matters.

This is no time for being worried about the future. This is not time to get nervous about who are next president will be. This is a time to start calling in the back up. This is a time to realize that if we live the truth of who we are as Sons and Daughter of Jesus, our influence and ability to light this world on fire with goodness and love will be unstoppable. The most dynamic force in history are those people who unite together as followers of Jesus Christ, knowing the truth of who they are, and live their lives as if nothing else matters.

About the election - don’t let you hearts be troubled! May the Lord’s will be done. WE KNOW WHAT MATTERS MORE. Live your vocation and that will be more than enough. Just imagine…if everyone lived like the Lord wanted them to…that kind of force would be unlike any in American history.

It is a nice thought to have - let’s make it a reality!

In Him and His Beautiful Mother,


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Playing To Win...

I come from a sports family. We were blessed growing up to be involved in and have the skills to participate in sports at a high level. It is always interesting to reflect upon my athletic experiences and where they fit into our culture and young peoples’ lives today. Before I go on, I should say that every college football team I wanted to win this weekend lost. It was a rough weekend to feel good about my teams. Don’t worry, I am almost over it.

We have all lost in our lives at one point or another and I think we can agree that it is not a good feeling. After we lose a game or experience some kind of defeat in our lives, it is always good to ask some follow up questions to see what the exact problem was in the game or situation and why it didn’t work out the way it was suppose to. It could be the equivalent of watching game film and trying to figure out what went wrong.

My older brother is an assistant college football coach. He is a very gifted and talented guy, not to mention a wonderful son, brother, and husband. I visited him this weekend and got to seem him in action, and unfortunately his team was one of the losses of the weekend. (If you are reading this coach, you’ll get them next time!) When I was talking to him after the game and asking his reflections about his coaching experience, his philosophy inspired me. It basically came down to a few simple determinations. Number one, he said you play to win. And number two, you have to set your team up to make the plays necessary to win. Of course a lot of other things go into the preparation and execution in order to win a game, but the strategy made sense to me. The strategy did not only make sense in football, but in life. Here me out..

PLAY TO WIN. In my conversations with many people, I often get the feeling that many are not playing this game of life to win. I am sometimes amazed when I hear outlooks on life where people limit themselves, make excuses, and put thing off. Perhaps one of the biggest road blocks from playing to win is an attitude of minimalism that has captured many hearts. Why overwork myself to get an A when I can just get a C? I am tired, why put in the extra reps in the weight room? Why do the assignment when I can just copy off my best friend who already has it done? Why exercise today? I have heard them all and more!

My friends, my bold assessment of many lives today is that most young people are playing to LOSE. We know our victory is found in striving for greatness and living for the Lord who calls us to one day be with Him forever. If that is the goal, why do we choose a path that is leading to mediocrity or failure? Why are we choosing a path that will lead us to fall short and at the end of the game leading us to wonder what went wrong? If we want to play to win, we have to adjust our focus and perspective on the whole game. To live for our Lord and follow Him at all costs is the recipe for winning. To make Him our end and respond to His call to love and transform the world will lead us to victory. Let’s put first things first. Let’s play to win. You in?

SET YOURSELF UP TO MAKE THE PLAYS. Once we are in the game, the moment of the big play is not the most important moment. The preparation is perhaps more important. To set our self up to make the big decisions, to choose the Lord at school, practice, work, or at home, we have to set ourselves up to be successful. Tools such as prayer, the sacraments, virtuous friendships, and healthy lifestyle, all point to a radical commitment to Jesus and can aid us in the big plays of life. If we are not committed to pray and a personal relationships with the Lord and we do not base our lives in the sacraments, we will not be ready to make the plays to win.

My friends, playing to win and be prepared to make the plays is a great recipe for our spiritual lives. This week, do some reflecting and look at your outlook on life and see if you are playing to win and practicing things in your life to give yourself the tools necessary to be successful in the game.
According to my favorite coach these things can lead a team to victory.

God Bless You,