Embrace the Wall of the Cross

striped skunk Jacob DingelWe all know there are different kinds of walls out there.  There are the thick brick walls of our church and there are walls of cotton and polyester and nylon that form our clothing.  Sometimes a facial expression can put up a wall.  Several years ago there was the popular expression: Talk to the hand – a wall of sarcasm.  The other night I was locking up our church.  I stepped out the front door and began to fumble with my keys when I saw this dark shape just past the steps and while I couldn’t make out this creature’s eyes, he was looking at me, but before I could even let out a scream he was raising up his hind legs and I heard the dreadful hiss of his spray as I ran around the wall of the church to get away from the wall of his terrible potpourri.  I was out walking a couple nights later and was rounding the outfield fence of our ballfield when I saw that same familiar shape running along in front of me.  He didn’t need to put up his wall, because my own wall of fear helped me turn and run twice as fast back towards the house.  If I understand what the skunk has been trying to tell me with his new boundaries – I can have the Church and he’ll take everything else.Image result for talk to the hand

We throw up a wall when we want to protect something.  And there is nothing more valuable to protect than life itself.  In our first reading, God wants us to understand that He is protecting us and to enjoy the same kind of comfort as a child nourished and at peace within the arms of its mother.  So, He says that we will find our peace within Jerusalem which is a city famously surrounded by a high wall.

Image result for ancient jerusalem walled cityBut just like my skunk example should indicate walls are not always good…or at least while walls might be morally neutral we can choose to put them in the wrong place.  Jesus sends out His 72 disciples on a mission to preach the Kingdom of God, but walls come back into the picture because He warns that those who reject His message (block His message) will suffer worse than the people of Sodom.Related image

Did you know that before its destruction, the Bible compares the city of Sodom with paradise?  They were both gardens and they were famously surrounded with a gate or wall.  We hear of a boundary around paradise after Adam and Eve have to leave it and angels are stationed at the gate to Eden to protect the tree of eternal life.  Again, life is the most valuable thing to protect and eternal life the most valuable of all.  But in the story of Sodom, two angels (symbolic of Eden) are sent within their gates.  The reason is that the people of Sodom have tried to set up their own paradise – their own city of pleasure – but they have done so by keeping choosing unnatural relations with each other that do not lead to children.  It seems they sustain their population by taking prisoners from battle and indoctrinating them (Gen 14:21).  But they also have their own sense of right and wrong to justify themselves and are not interested in contrary ideas.  Lot tries to reason with them and they are infuriated that he while only a sojourner would try and correct their ways (Gen 19:9).  In a sense they have a double gate against new human life in terms of children and against repentance.   When the men of Sodom seek to violate the angels of God, we see the outward manifestation of their sinful attitude towards the tree of life.

Image result for sodom destruction fire john martin

Today we have a battle over the rules regarding the tree of natural human life over marriage and family.  Society tells us that we simply get to make up all the rules for ourselves.  The rules of biology do not matter.  The tradition of caring for children does not matter.  We decide the meaning of life and the meaning is us.Image result for mother telling stories children

Honestly, that appeals to us on a very deep level.  You know there is one strange place we might look for an answer.  Hearkening again to the vision of peace from our first reading of being at rest on our mother’s lap we could think back to the kinds of stories that have built our Western world – fairy tales.  Fairy tales are interesting because they present a very realistic vision of how life works through these imaginative stories.  On the one hand there is always one magical rule that we are not supposed to break.  Think of Cinderella who gets to go the ball and have the night of her life as long as she is back home by midnight when the spell breaks.  In other words, in at least one way her own will is checked by something outside herself.  Without that element, the story is actually really boring.  If Cinderella had no limitations with her new glamorous coach and dress and glass slippers – she would cease to be lowly Cinderella at all.  She would risk becoming as bland as the rest of damsels at the party.  We can have a night back in paradise so long as there we remember how we got there – there’s two ingredients: In Cindy’s case the first ingredient is a fairy godmother.  In our case it is God….but if Cinderella were to ask her fairy godmother why things have to change back at midnight…Godmother could ask, how is it that she gets to go at all.  It’s a gift that was originally bestowed on Cinderella because of her humility.  Because she had not asked for it.  Once we realize that things don’t have to be at all, we are free to rejoice in the gift of what we have.Image result for cinderella pumpkin

We approach the tree of eternal life by giving thanks for the gift of our regular life itself.  How amazing that we exist.   Think of the disciples and how little they carried in today’s Gospel.  How can you find a new way to appreciate food?  Jesus has them take no money bag, no sack or sandals.  When they entered any food became a delicacy and a real expression of love.  Do you want to sit down upon a heavenly throne?  Start by walking through the Middle East without any sandals – every chair to rest their feet became the doorstep to divine comfort.Image result for crucifixion

If modern man wants to flee from the tree of natural life, our response has to go higher.  We must embrace the tree of eternal life and St. Paul tells us where to look.  In our second reading he even describes a rule with regards to this tree.  He lives in a fairy tale of his own and his one rule is that he should never boast except in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  Now boasting is what we are proud of – what sets us apart.  But, for St. Paul, the only thing that he wants to be proud of is what was achieved by another – by His will and so instead of being imprisoned in a garden for one, Paul chooses what actually unites him to each other.  This Cross has always been understood as the true tree of eternal life.  From it, Christ gives us the meaning of life which is the paradise we find by depending completely on His love.

When Love Responds

Related imageOn August 21, 2015, three American friends (23 year old Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, 22 year old Army National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, and 23 year old Anthony Sadler) were aboard passenger train Thalys 9364 from Amsterdam to Paris and crossing the Belgian Border.  Suddenly a young man came out of the lavatory without a shirt on wielding an assault rifle.  There was a scuffle, but the gunmen threw the first man to the ground.  A second man managed to knock the assault rifle from his hands, but the assailant pulled out a pistol and shot the second man in the neck who fell to the ground seriously injured and playing dead.  The terrorist picked the rifle back up and as he walked fully into the passenger area he raised his weapon to fire upon the occupants.  By this time the three American friends having seen the shooting of the second man had begun to move into action.  Skarlatos cried out “Get him” and Airman Stone not knowing that the gunman’s weapon was in the process of jamming ran up the aisle straight at the man to put him into a chokehold.  The terrorist repeatedly cut Stone with a utility knife in his hand, his head and his neck.  Meanwhile Skarlatos grabbed the rifle which had fallen to the floor and used it to help subdue the attacker.  A British passenger, Chris Norman, 62, gave his t-shirt to tie the man’s arms behind his back and was injured in the process.  It is fitting that the shirtless man was ultimately held bound by a shirt.  Eventually, Stone kept on holding the man’s neck until he lost consciousness.  The British Norman later mentioned, “I’m not going to be the guy who dies sitting down.  If you’re going to die, try do something about it.”  The gunman later admitted he was seeking revenge upon Americans for bombings in Syria.  The train was carrying 554 passengers. Image result for thalys train 9364

You know as we cruise towards the 4th of July, it is always a good to remember that not only have our old enemies become our friends, but that American and British citizens even cooperate every once in a while to save the day.  Certainly we hope that someday somehow these places such as where this gunman came from might become not only peaceful to us, but interested in such forms of friendly cooperation.    Image result for sitting down sleep

But back to what that British hero said: “I’m not going to be the guy who dies sitting down.  If you’re going to die, try to do something about it.”  Our Gospel begins with this turning point in Jesus’ mission.  “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”  Not only was He not going to die sitting down, but Jesus marched on His way to the place where He would give His life for you and me. Related image

We have this great freedom in our lives.  How will we use it?  These heroes on the train could have stayed in their seats.  Their actions put their lives at risk.  Stone got cut up significantly by the terrorist and nearly lost a finger – and it could have been far worse…remember they didn’t know the gun was jammed when they charged him.  Now, perhaps we could say, “in a situation like that – there is a high likelihood you are going to die if you do nothing – and others perhaps someone more innocent than you as well.  Sure, it is risky, but it makes sense to take that risk with no other good options.  So in other words, yes they had freedom, but this is the obvious best use of that freedom.  But the best use of my freedom is not always so clear.”  I wholeheartedly agree.  We can get distracted.  But I would also say in one sense that we are on that train right now….only it’s in slow motion. Image result for slow motion train

We have the same threat: there is an attacker who is coming at us for revenge.  Only he doesn’t discriminate against Americans.  And there is not only the threat of death.  We will end up giving our lives in some fashion or another.  But will we give them up while sitting down…or will we act in our freedom for good?  Will we live and die in a way that is giving life to others?  Thinking of others?  Or not?Image result for thinking

So, we’ve just sort of crossed dimensions.  We were in the dimension of recent history.  Now we are looking at the spiritual dimension.  If we want to act with the great love of Jesus, we have to consider the cost.  It’s valuable to reflect on the Paris Train attack and the sacrifice others are willing to make, because we have to get a sense of what is at stake in an even larger way in the spiritual life.  That is because love is a reflection of our faith.  We have to believe in faith that there is a spiritual danger, for us to take seriously Jesus is calling us to sacrifice before we can rise up out of our seats in love.

Jesus has a man come up to Him in the Gospel and he says boldly, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.”  But Jesus knows more.  He knows that this man is not looking to act in love.  Perhaps he is looking to be noticed, to be remembered, to earn honor, or to be perceived as a “somebody”.  Whatever it is…“The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  In other words, if you are not ready to sleep on the ground without a pillow, you are not going to be able to carry the cross very far. Image result for nowhere to lay his head

The second man who wants to bury his father is symbolic of one who wants to live in the past.  Don’t live in the past!  Jesus has the power if we follow Him to redeem the past and to raise the dead!  The third man who wants to say good-bye mistakenly thinks that a life with Jesus means a separation from happiness.  Let me go and get the happy things I still want to do in life in before I follow You, Jesus.  Whenever we sacrifice with Jesus, for Jesus we only find more freedom.  We find greater joy.  We find the whole spiritual dimension opening up.   If we allow Christ to bind up the devil and the sinful inclinations in our lives, we are able to be the cause of joy to many many others. Related image

Christ has nowhere to lay His head except whatever area in your life you carve out, so that He can live in you.  If we yield up the desire to make a name for ourselves, He will give us a name.  If we die to those things that are dead in our past, He will give us new life.  And if we set aside the pleasures and the immediate gratification of the flesh, we will receive even the pleasures that our good for us back in a way that is refreshing.  Carve out a place for God and He will help us use our freedom in love and love is the reason that we are free.

Smallerize to Greatness!!

hail caesarHe was betrayed and killed, but before that injustice he was held by many to be a god.  He was the greatest king that the world had ever known and even raised to the priesthood.  He lived around 2,000 years ago and yes I’m speaking about a man with the initials JC…but this is Julius Caesar – not Jesus Christ and the similarities end there.  What sets Julius apart is his expertise in exalting himself.  If you want to take a lesson it’s important to begin with important parents who get the whole promotion started for you.  The parents of Julius enabled him to claim that he was a descendent of both Venus (the goddess of love) and Mars (the god of war).  As a teen he was made a priest of Jupiter, the ruling deity of Rome.  It helps to date somebody who also considers themselves to be divine.  Caesar chose Cleopatra who added the word Thea to her name so she was Cleopatra the Goddess…in the Roman Civil War, Caesar began getting called god and savior and when he returned and built a temple to Venus, he commemorated it to her in a way that invoked her as his own divine ancestor.  If you can get a victory parade, then follow Julius’ example of frequently finding excuses to wear your triumphal head wreath and just say like Caesar that you are trying to cover your baldness.  Rename the month July after yourself or better yet just change your name to Julius and he’s already done it for you and if you can get coins minted with your likeness – than as Christ says, people can repay to Caesar what has always been your divine right – to receive the wealth of the land. Image result for apostles painting

Well, if you look at our Gospel it would seem the apostles are at risk of starting to think of themselves as people of importance… perhaps not as kings, but as a kind of oligarchy – a wise few.  Maybe they were chosen because they were better.  They haven’t yet realized they chosen because they were common themselves.  They had just gotten back from their mission where they had been roughing it without a staff or money or bread.  They approach Jesus as His high council and suggest, Hey Jesus, maybe you should dismiss the crowd…you know these people who aren’t called in the same way that we have been…yes, Jesus it’s as if they think You can rain food on them from heaven like God Himself – send them off so they can take care of their lodging and provisions.  Jesus seems to put it right back on them.  Hey, that’s a good idea.  If you have some wisdom that they don’t, and you seem to think that they don’t know how to take care of themselves or that I can’t provide for them – than you give them something to eat.  Let’s see what distinguishes you from them. Image result for feeding five thousand

The feeding of the five thousand and the Eucharist are so similar.  In both settings Jesus treats these groups of people as if they were His equals.  He takes and breaks bread and shares it and gets them to treat each one another as brethren.  But there are some key differences.  When He feeds the five thousand the miracle is visible – they had only 5 loaves and 2 fish and somehow 5,000 men and more were eating and satisfied.  But this was a miracle for a people who were traveling along the way to faith.  They were not living the Kingdom of God yet and as such the food itself was still only natural and made to assist their physical bodies.  In the Eucharist the miracle is completely invisible.  We do not see anything change.  And yet it is for those who believe completely in Jesus Christ – who are already members of His Body and are living totally for the Kingdom, and therefore Jesus nourishes those at the Last Supper and we ourselves with a bread that has been transformed into His Body and Blood.

When He feeds the five thousand — They want to take and make Him king….  Unlike Julius Caesar, Jesus is not pretending to be God – He truly is God, but He did not come to us so that He could Lord it over us as our superior.  While Caesar puffed himself up to grow in power, from the beginning Christ humbled Himself to be with us and His power is that of a son looking to His Father and trusting that He will provide Him with all that He needs.  In other words a power that you and I can share as His brothers and sisters.

Why is the Eucharist such a plain miracle to our senses?  One reason is that Jesus is emphasizing that on the outside there is no difference between His kind of body and yours.  Now, just as at the Last Supper, He is 100% human.[1]  On the other hand, the inside of what has been plain bread is now Jesus Christ – with even His soul and divinity…..we too are called to be transformed into sons and daughters of God, also why looking the same before and after. Image result for eucharist

In truth there is another parallel between our Gospel today and the Eucharist.  When Jesus Christ tells His apostles to give the crowd some food themselves, they were unprepared and did not know how to respond — but that doesn’t mean that Jesus was kidding around.  They had the power to call upon God the Father themselves, they just didn’t believe yet that they could do so, for they had not seen Him do it.  In the Mass, Jesus does half a miracle.  He provides Himself as food for us.  The other half of the miracle is up to us.  We are still called to be His Body and to go and give others the spiritual food of Christ’s presence by actually lowering ourselves.  How can we accept that Jesus Christ has humbled Himself to be received by us into our very bodies and then go and think that we are above anyone else?  We will imitate and grow in all the greatness of Jesus Christ if we seek to become as small as He became so as to win everyone as our brothers and sisters.Image result for super guy little glass pbsng on what is common between Christ and us.

Sharing Delight

Related imagePeople speak differently than they used to.  For example, from the time of the ancients through Shakespeare, people used to use the word, “Behold,” as in “Give your attention to this” or “See this.”  Today we rarely use the word “Behold” unless it is for really significant things, like “Behold the king,” but it used to be used for all kinds of situations.  The King James Bible has some 1298 instances of the word in its pages.  My scripture scholar friend used to try to fit it into common speech, like “Behold Taco Bell.” “Behold your seven chalupas.”  “Behold my heart burneth.”  “Behold the Tums!”  So many possibilities, but you it  I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ was asking for callers to share a story of a man (whether the caller or a relative) finding out he was a dad.  This woman called up and said she wanted him to figure it out in a sweet way, so she baked all of these cookies – half of them pink and the other half blue – and she arranged them on the table for when he got home.  And he gets home from work and she makes some kind of reference to the kitchen and he’s supposed to see this arrangement and put it together with her excitement….and he’s not getting it.  And she remembers that he’s really colorblind and has no idea what’s going on.  So, behold the cookies did not turn into behold you’re a father and so she had to spell it out.

Fatherhood is a mystery.  Even if he had gotten the clue, a man acknowledging that he is a father takes a different kind of belief than a woman acknowledging that she is a mother.  Nature will tell her of the baby from within her own body whereas he will have to wait for outward signs.  Fatherhood takes an act of faith.  If he responds in faith, fatherhood draws the man into a new level of relationship with the mother.  He not only must see her as a person, but now he is challenged to see the person within the person – and that he is called to serve them both.

It’s interesting than that today is also Trinity Sunday.  We really need this feast each year because it is not easy to love others.  Many men fail to be fathers today because they don’t know their own potential.  Even if we are taught to look beyond ourselves and love the other person for more than what they can do for us it is common to get it wrong.  We can love people in a shallow way….as if the other person is one dimension less real than us.  We think they are to serve us because we don’t know the depth that there is to our own lives and so we look for them to fill it.  Our food is a dimension less than us and so we think nothing of consuming it.  People in a sense can seem disposable.

How do we get a sense of our own depth?  Well, we reflect God.  We are going to understand the depths of our own soul about as richly as we understand the depth and the richness of God.

Behold, the first reading.  We hear of God’s divine wisdom embodied in a form that from the beginning was poured forth before there was any depth to creation – there were no fountains or springs – no mountains or hills…not one clod of earth.  This embodiment of Wisdom should remind us of Christ – the Eternal Word who is present in the beginning.  And as all of creation is established through divine wisdom – through the Eternal Word there is an appreciation of all that God the Father crafts and the Father delights in the Son, in His Wisdom as He makes all well and the Son delights in the human race.  And since this creation has gone on and continues to go on to this second – even you and I have been particularly and uniquely made through the Son and He has delighted in us.  The Father and the Son behold together the full beauty of life, and to share this capacity with us They have even made creation possible of reflecting Their love.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that He is going to share His Spirit with us.  Why?  Because He has more to share with us, but without the help of the Holy Spirit we will not be able to appreciate it.  Why not?  Well, He is about to die and He wants them to realize the relationship He has with the Father.   But before they themselves have the strength to look death in the face and believe that you can come back – they are not going to really get the full strength of Jesus as Son of God.  They will continue to see Him through their own weakness, as a really awesome version of themselves.   The Holy Spirit reveals that they are weak, that they and we too and everybody – that we are called to serve God our Father through the same love of the Son in His Holy Spirit.

You know it would be impossible to say enough about the Trinity in an encyclopedia let alone a few hundred words.  But if you want to the know the secret shortcut that the Church has used for thousands of years and the Jewish people for even longer in learning more of the heart of God….check out the Psalms.  Read one a day or pray the Liturgy of the Hours with the thousands of priests and religious and a growing number of lay faithful around the world.

St. Paul explains the real strength of a father’s joy.  Men who live like Christ in their families are the best of fathers, and their joy is present even when they suffer afflictions.  “We even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and [behold – my contribution here] hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Your Happy Birthday Pentecost Suit!

Image result for Holy Spirit dove fireHappy Birthday to you and to me and to all of us!  Today we celebrate altogether with the Church our 1,986th birthday.  If you are surprised, that is excellent – because Pentecost has never stopped – it is a continuous birthday party and there is more surprise every time the Holy Spirit brings life into the world.  While your birthday is the one day of the year that we set apart and we are thus reminded that no other day of the year is our natural birthday….Pentecost is the one day we set apart to be reminded that every day is our birthday into the supernatural life of Jesus.  Or it at least it can be if we call upon the Holy Spirit.  Now, if this is similar to a surprise birthday party, there’s got to be some gifts and so of course, the Holy Spirit comes and brings us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, knowledge, and fear of the Lord.  And at a surprise birthday party somebody has to be surprised.  Now you might have figured Father Foy would have some nerdy birthday party gimmick, and the apostles might have been tipped off by Jesus who said that He would be sending them another Advocate, the Holy Spirit…but even if they knew something was coming, the guys out in the streets in today’s first reading were caught off-guard.  Each of them heard the disciples speaking in their own native tongue calling them with one message whereas they had forgotten a long time ago that they had started off as one people.  Alright, well, every surprise birthday party is really an attempt to pay us back for the surprise we give the world when we are born….coming out in spectacular fashion in nothing but our birthday suit.  So is there some kind of special way the Holy Spirit connects us to the world….is there a Pentecost suit? Image result for baby

Before we look at that, think back to the people in the street.  They seem innocent enough.  But they were divided.  They were all in their own little worlds.  You know every year we hear this litany of peoples: Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs.  Image result for apostles pentecost preachingWhy do they have to list all of this off?  Couldn’t they have just said there were people from all over that spoke in different languages?  Well, this is one of those places in Scripture where it seems we are going for good PR.  We want all of these nations to be welcome among us, so why not list them off and show that nearly everybody can relate to one of these groups that was there on the Church’s birthday?!  But this passage also recounts a time when this division of nations wasn’t the case.  Remember the Tower of Babel.  God sees this building going up and He says, “If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do?”  Now, what was so wrong doing whatever they presumed to do?  Not necessarily very much other than it is really boring!  If you always do want you want there are no surprises in your relationship with God – and you are not open to His input.Image result for opening jar

Recently I heard about a couple who had an interesting way of sorting things out.  Apparently when they would have some falling out and the wife was not speaking to the husband, he would go into the fridge and tighten all of the lids on all of the jars in the kitchen.  Inevitably she would decide it was just easier to get whatever jelly or jam, etc. open by opening up again to her husband to discuss their issue.  Well, what is the issue at stake with the Tower of Babel?  They want to make a name for themselves….They want their lives to mean something.  Yes, but they are trying to establish their names and their lives independent of God.  God takes away this easy unity of speech and their technological project is abandoned and a greater unity – a unity of hearts will have to be sought with His assistance. Image result for tower of babel confusion

By the time of Pentecost….some of this unity has happened – at the level of all of these various nations.  People have banded together and they have their identities and their languages, not unlike today…and people are proud of the distinctions among people, but when we are a couple of Phrygians or Medes amongst the Jewish capitol city – how isolated we might feel.  Now the Holy Spirit comes to them and while everyone is addressed – it is not that there is a new solitary language that is infused into them.  God could have done that so that all might speak the same language again.  An entirely new language would cut them off from their national cultures and history – their identity.  No, everyone’s language is paid the highest compliment by being the vehicles carrying the words of the Holy Spirit to them.  They are all to share in this one body in a way that has been provided for from the beginning.  There is a reason these nations have been allowed to struggle and yet to endure to this point – that they might fill their role in the Body of Christ.   Image result for church triumphant

We are called to the surprise that we are all to be One, to share One Spirit, in One Church.  But whether we can actually live that out involves that question about whether the Holy Spirit gives us some kind of Pentecost suit from Him.  Jesus in Luke’s Gospel seems to hint of this just before His ascension.  “I send the promise of My Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.”  We were born into this world without anything, but we will be clothed with power when we enter the life of the Church.  In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit comes to them as tongues of fire that part to rest on each of their heads.  They are physically divided, and so the tongues of fire part – but they are all clothed with the same power and filled with the same Spirit.  What is this Spirit?  I would argue that their power is the same kind of fire that guards the way back into the Garden of Eden.  It is the fire capable of cutting us away from our own selfishness that we might give of ourselves completely.  The fire to love holding nothing back and to be joyful through it all.  The fear of death and the fear for ourselves gives way knowing that Jesus will save us from everything. Related image

Yet, the Holy Spirit is so personal.  One of the messages that is necessary to drink in more and more is that God wants us to be His – every part of who we are.  He didn’t give us any gifts to let us leave them on the shelf.  And so when we respond to His call to do something like go to Mass or help out a brother in need – it is a good start to do it because we are told to do it — to do it because we recognize some obligation, but it’s not enough….we eventually are called to do these things out of love.  If we never do them out of love, we will never enter into these actions with our whole hearts.  And our hearts will be divided as individuals – cut off to some extent from God or from our brothers and sisters.  So what about those Pentecost suits?  Jesus hints at this in Luke’s GospelImage result for clothed with holy spirit

Not only is there this description of fire and power from the outside that can unite us to God and others…we still know that we have fractures within our own souls.  We have one more place of division that needs attention.  Like that wife who would find jars too tight to open without her husband, there are places within us that seem tight.  Problems that have persisted for too long.   But Jesus says that if we thirst for Him and come to Him and drink then “rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.”  Those divisions that are within ourselves fill up with the Holy Spirit and our union with God is made perfect, and as we continue to thirst we will continue to drink and we will rejoice to give with our whole hearts, because we will have all of ourselves to give.Image result for streams in dry land


If Frogs Could Fly

Related imageSo I had two recent experiences in the woods.  First I was out at Lone Elk Park and there were all kinds of animals – but I only saw a couple of elk.  Elk (at least the kind in the park) are very different from deer.  Deer run for it.  Elk just stand there looking at you as if they would rather you move.  Then this past week it was raining all the time on my retreat, but I did take my rosary into the woods and the creek behind the monastery my last full day there.  It’s funny that if animal life is big enough (like an elk) it isn’t scared of us or if it is small enough (like ticks and mosquitos) we wish that we were scared of us – but they’re not.  But just about everything in-between is terrified.  So, I was walking by the creek this frog leaped from the side of the trail and did some kind of back-flip down the side of the creek to hide.  Honestly, I don’t think I would have seen him at all if he hadn’t moved.  His camouflage worked perfectly with his new environment, but he had called attention to himself and while he was frozen – I knew exactly where he was.  Meanwhile, across the creek something else caught my attention: leaves bouncing around and beneath them was this bright red crawdad.  He was waddling around, falling from side to side like a drunken sailor.  I’m not sure if he was aware of me or not – and maybe he didn’t care.  The creek seemed to make all the difference.   Across the creek, the crawdad was in another world while the frog on my side seemed too afraid to cross as if the creek was the River Styx itself .Image result for river styx


Nature and the fear of the frog got me thinking of the Resurrection: how awesome it is!!  We can take heart that we do not have to fear the future, because we do not even need to fear the separation of death.  Christ has crossed the creek and left us a bridge.  But today’s feast is so important because while we have been reconciled with life, the Ascension is now a bridge not simply to more life — but it connects us to God Himself – Christ has taken us to heaven, because He has taken our human nature there.  Again, the Resurrection is vital.  Without it death would be the end.  But, today Christ ascending is essential.  Without it our souls would simply remain here below – we would be creeping along like that crawdad, but not really getting anywhere.  If the Resurrection could be compared to the getting the frog across the creek, the Ascension would be to give him wings. Image result for stairway to heaven

Now by ascending to heaven, Jesus also saves heaven for us.  His course through the clouds reveals a hidden staircase of 10,000 steps.  But thankfully, it does not destroy the ground from underneath us and make everything heaven and on the other hand Jesus did not annihilate the stars and doom everything to earth.  There remain these two worlds.  One may ask: why is it a good thing that He didn’t just rapture us away all at one time?  The answer is adventure.  Jesus shows us how to live a perfect life and that we have the most wonderful Father who is worth going home to, but by living a human life and even a human death and 40 more days to demonstrate that He made it across – He shows us that not only is it our eternal home worthwhile, but so is the climb.  Do you remember when you first got a bike and rode somewhere – maybe to a store, maybe to a park – but you got there.  Sure, you could have gotten there by car, but it was important to go there “on your own.”  We certainly we do not make it through life without God – He gave us our “bike,” so to speak, but He does take His hands off the handlebars.   The struggle makes the destination meaningful.  Without suffering, we do not really understand the value to life. Image result for helping kid ride bike

But can it get any easier.  I would say yes.  Jesus teaches us to fly.  Without the Cross, there is no Resurrection.  It works the other way too.  With the Cross, there is ascension.  In other words, if we hang in there, we can fly through life.  That is one of the ancient selling points to our faith.  Christians who know Jesus – know how to be taken up into His glory.  It’s when you look up at the big picture amidst the doldrums and begin to sing.  I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to pray the rosary, for example, and tried to pick up the pace.  I was thinking of it only as a chore….there’s almost a kind of spiritual greed that can set into my thinking where I want the value of the prayer, but I am not looking at the prayer for its value.  If I slow just a bit and think of Mary and Jesus, suddenly I am in relationship with them.  I am taken out of my rut and this simple thing can be done well.  Anything that is worth doing and can be done well can be enjoyed. Image result for elijah elisha jordan river

You know Jesus didn’t have to let anyone see Him leave.  In the Old Testament, there is a story that when Elijah was done with his earthly work and he was going to his reward he was told to cross the Jordan River and Elisha, his protégé follows him all the way there.  Elijah rolls up his cloak and strikes the river with it as if it is a staff and the river parts to the right and left as if he were Moses or Joshua.  They cross the river and Elijah asks Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken up from you.”  And Elisha says, “I pray you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”  Elijah replies: “You have asked a hard thing; yet if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you.”  And behold a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated them and he was taken away.  And Elisha receives his spirit and He parts the Jordan River on his return home.  Jesus didn’t have to fly up in front of His friends to go home.  He did it because He enjoyed it.  His course has filled us with the capacity to receive His Spirit.  His Spirit enables you to fly…for when you face the obstacles in the journey – His Spirit helps you recall the destination – and Christ is with you the whole way. Image result for ascension of jesus christ

Even at Mass we can get separated from the meaning.  But His Spirit reminds us of the destination: heaven itself.  Jesus, you chose something so simple and repetitive….but in the middle of this repetition under the form of bread…You let Yourself be split in two that You might once more show Yourself as the Bridge between us and the Father.  May we let ourselves be broken open that we might love and in our love that me might fly.

The Multipurpose Men in Black

Image result for catholic priest in cassockHappy 6th Sunday in Easter!  Happy Memorial Day!  You know I started off last weekend with a theme regarding our nation’s military because last Saturday was Armed Forces Day.  Today I want to hit on another branch of service – that of service in the Church as a priest.  We just had ordinations yesterday and we now have seven newly ordained baby priests…one of them, Father Tony Ritter, will soon be moving into St. Francis Borgia parish which is exciting.  It is a great time to be a priest.  It really is.  Please if you remember anything that I say today, remember to encourage your sons or the young men that you know to consider whether God is calling them to the priesthood. Image result for kid raising his hand in class

You know often enough when I’m visiting kids in class they’ll ask me, “Why is it that priests always wear black?”  I think I’ve given different answers to that question.  I actually asked a brother priest just yesterday how he responds.  He gave the standard explanation that I’ve used about the symbolism of being dead to the world, and then the white part of the collar represents the hope that we have in Christ.  But sometimes symbols have multiple meanings.  I was listening to a talk recently and the speaker related how birds and humans are similar.  He said they both live in two worlds.  We think of birds as being creatures of the sky.  They live in the world of the sky yes, but he added that they are also creatures of the land.  What sets them apart from most is the ability to fly, but they can’t fly on and on without landing on their feet otherwise they’ll exhaust themselves.  They need that other world.  When it comes to human beings, we are creatures of the land, but in a special way we fly as well – with our souls which take us into the realm of ideas and the spirit.  Like the birds we can’t live up in the clouds forever, we need grounding — but today I would argue we have too much grounding.  We need the sky to know that there is a whole mystery of ideas and that our lives have meaning and purpose.  We need to know that we are connected to more through the spiritual life.  Too much time plodding through the hum-drum aspects of life depresses our souls.  We were made for more and to hope for more.  Perhaps one of the reasons that priests wear black in this symbolic witness to a dying to the world is so that they can reveal that there is a whole life in the world of the soul beyond what we see.  The priest’s wearing of black can be a window telling us that we can try to die to ourselves and still live and hopefully be happy in a whole other world of the spirit that God is calling us to inhabit.   Image result for bird landing

Priests are sent on mission.  In our first reading today, these two priests Paul and Barnabas are sent off to help deliver great news.  The Gentiles can be brothers and sisters to the Jews without becoming Jews themselves.  They can similarly be united to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, but all Christians can move beyond the need to be circumcised and the various Jewish dietary laws.  Christ is the unifying force in our faith – not the Jewish laws.  This truth is still affecting us.  What is going to draw us together ultimately is Christ.  This mentality has saved and spared all of the uniqueness of all of the other nations that have become Catholic.  As an example, just think: why do we have the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas, some of the trappings of Halloween — with nearly every Christian holiday we have the Christian feast united to some earlier pagan elements that were allowed to continue.  This is just an example, but If we had all had to drop our old pagan customs to become Jewish first and then Christians, there’s a good chance the significance of Christ would be diminished and the emphasis on Jewish culture and customs would have been looked at the unifying factor.  If what makes you Christian first involves trying to look as Jewish as possible – part of that would involve throwing out everything to do with your root culture.  Why do priests wear black?  The priest on his mission to all peoples is bringing Christ in all of his brightness, but as we meet new people – the priest’s absence of color should allow anyone to draw near with their own shade and their own distinctive traits might be joined to Christ’s spectrum.Related image

What do you get with all of these various peoples caught up in the one love of Jesus?  Is it chaos?  Is it a mess?  Or is it romantic?  The second reading describes the unity that Christians have as the New Jerusalem, a holy city coming down out of heaven from God.  Gleaming in splendor.  There is this language of high walls with gates and surrounded by angels.  Filled with an illuminating light from within that is the perpetual Presence of the Lamb.  This is an image of the consummation of the Kingdom.  But it is the priesthood that helped fill those walls with souls.  He was the watchmen at the gates and he maintains his position even in heaven.  Psalm 110 says, “You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizadek.”  Many people I think are hesitant to recommend the priesthood to those they love, because they think of earthly romance and so they see the priesthood missing this and therefore deficient in terms of joy.  But think of heaven.  There we will be united to all in the Kingdom in the marriage of the Lamb.  There you will know in a special way all of those whom your life on earth has helped in one way or another to glory.  The priest therefore has a unique privilege.  Through the sacraments, he has been involved in a sacred bond with thousands of souls.  For all of eternity that sense and understanding and welcome into so many souls should give him a vantage point and an ability to grasp a wider and fuller vision of God’s masterpiece.  The priest has been helping to bring it to completion in a special way and so now for all eternity he will enter into a greater appreciation of the romance of God with His people.  Why does the priest wear black?  Perhaps, because he is so closely associated with the divine bridegroom.Image result for bride and groom cake

Last, but not least in our Gospel today, Jesus says to us and the priest repeats this at every Mass: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.  Christ’s peace is eternal and perfect.  It does not pass away.  Yes, but we are temporal and while our souls fly in the world of the soul and spirit, we still need to ground our feet every day in the temporal world with all of our temporal needs.  While the peace of Jesus is eternal and complete, for us to realize it for our whole life – we need to enter into it again and again.  He leaves His peace with us by giving it us over and over again.  He is the Living Bread, but we need to receive His love as daily bread.  On behalf of His flock, as their father the priest offers the thanksgiving sacrifice of the Mass each day and especially on Sunday calls the whole family is called together.  And while the priest still wears black it is draped over for the Mass, because once we have passed the portal of the outer doors of Church we don’t need to think of another world.  We are there, and the priest leads the charge into whatever festivity and color that Christ wants to share with his family, as we all take flight.Related image

Mission: Love One Another

Image result for soldier in foxholeSo, yesterday was Armed Forces Day and I was thinking about all of the time that soldiers spend guarding us and doing various tasks and I wondered: what do they do when they get bored?  Searching, I found a soldier who wrote that if you are in combat and you get some downtime – whether that is five minutes or five hours – here’s what you do: you check your weapon which you check even if you checked it a minute ago.  Is the safety on – is it in single fire mode or burst?  Is it loaded? How much ammunition is there?  Is the magazine okay?  Is the sight clean?  How’s the rest of your gear?  Are your boots tied?  Pockets closed?  How is your water?  Are you in a good place or do you need to move?  Are you on schedule?  How much time till dusk/dawn?  How is your squad?  Where is everybody?  Where’s your squad leader?  Is he worried?  Where is the enemy?  Are they going to attack?  What’s their plan?  Is their artillery fire getting closer?  What’s that noise?  Is it from your side or theirs?  Is it time to change socks?  If you are satisfied with everything you will try to sleep.  You never get enough time to sleep in combat so you have no time to get bored – “you either check your stuff or you sleep.”

As human beings in general we are all in this field together and as Christians in particular we are called to be soldiers for Christ – fighting off temptation and spreading the Kingdom of God into hostile territory.  We wage the most important battle and Christ Himself says, “the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.”

There are two parts to that statement and in the first lies the great problem.  God created mankind to be a tremendous player in the universe.  St. Maximus says humanity is a kind of bridge designed by God to link the opposites of male and female, paradise and earth, earthly creatures and angelic creatures, sensible reality (things you can sense through the five senses) and intellectual reality (which originates in the minds of thinkers), and finally all of creation with God.  That’s a big job.  But then in the easy days of Eden, before Adam and Eve could fulfill all of these purposes – they sinned and did violence to heaven by trying to seize God’s power.

So we are in a broken world….how do we get bored in the middle of our mission?  We fall into a routine and we are unable to see how to utilize all of our gifts.   We are supposed to move heaven and earth with our prayer, but perhaps our view of the universe gets too small.  We pray only for our own corner and as we mainly look out for ourselves – we find everything dull.  In reality, God has not made us for ourselves.  God has made us for His glory.

That word glory can take us back to the military.  How do we think of the word, glory?  Well, if you think back before the modern era, serving one’s country was very often tied to this word: glory.  Men even named our flag “Old Glory.”  Men competed with each other on who could do more daring things for the God and country.   We still honor our veterans who have suffered to defend us.  That is the key word.  There is some relationship between suffering and glory.  Those who willingly risk suffering are those who we associate with winning glory.

But, how do we glorify God?  Christ speaks of this in the Gospel.  He will glorify God.  Are we really able to do the same?  Well, in the second reading today, the Son of Man (Christ) says that He makes all things new.  Well, our old obedience which was originally designed to be eternal was interrupted and our hearts which were supposed to love the farthest stars were damaged.  Our obedience was broken by sin and our love was bent towards things far beneath the stars and in some cases wrapped around ourselves.  So Christ underwent suffering and even death, but He never surrendered His obedience to the Father or bent His love away from Our Father.  He fulfills His own word, because He violently takes Heaven by force by subjecting His own Body to the violence of the Cross.

Today, He tells us to love others as He has loved us.  This is just like Jesus.  He takes what we have become bored with…nay….what we have even learned to despise – our neighbor – and makes them very the path to God.

For Jesus loved us when we were yet sinners – when we deserved nothing.  He chose to put Himself into our presence and even to suffer for us.  He did not love God in us, but He loved God into us – He forgave us and made us capable of receiving Him.  Today He calls us to do the same.  When we extend love to others who are unworthy, we encounter the cross, we encounter suffering because we are loving them by the force of our will – we are choosing to love them when it wounds our hearts – and we claim these sinners for the Kingdom by saying to God – God I want You and I want them for You…because I know that You want them and You wanted me when I was just as bad or worse.

When our obedience to Jesus is tested it can be found intact if we keep praying for other brothers and sisters.  In this is spiritual suffering is glory, for the glory of God is man fully alive and we are fully alive when we help unite all creation with God and soon our combat ranks will herald the Royal Wedding and the holy city coming down out of heaven and adorned for her victorious Husband.

On Being a Sheep with Distinction

Image result for happy mother's dayHappy Mother’s Day!  As I was thinking about Mother’s Day, one of the things that occurred to me was an opportunity growing up where on repeated occasions I did not do something for my mother.  You see there was an annual mother-son dance at my high school, but I never told my mom about it and certainly never invited her.  I recall thinking something like, “Uh..if people saw me and my mom out there, I might never live it down.”  This came to mind because two weeks ago I had a chance at redemption.  At St. John’s we were hosting our first mother-son dance and I had actually asked my mom to accompany me.  So, here I was at 6 pm Mass.  My mom had agreed to come out to the Mass and then we would go over to the Parish Hall afterwards.  Throughout the Mass I looked out into the pews.  I didn’t see her.  Could my mom have stood me up for the Mother-Son Dance?  Was this some kind of sick payback?  Did she forget?  Maybe she’s coming after Mass?  Would she explain on the phone later that she just got really busy washing her hair or some other impossible excuse?  And then I saw her around Communion time…she was here after all, she was just hard to spot…and we headed over to the dance and it was a total blast.  We bootscooted to the Cotton-eyed Joe…we slid with the Electric Slide…we Jungle Boogied….Come on Eileen, you name it.  20 years late, but better late than never.Image result for christ good shepherd

So, I was thinking of my mom and mothers in general and how today is at the same time Good Shepherd Sunday.  How do I work the two of these things in together?  And then it hit me.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd – always has been – no contest.  He guides us to green pastures and watches over us.  He gives us life eternal and no one can take us out of His hand.  Yes, but while I’ve seen innumerable paintings and sculptures of Christ – I’ve never actually seen Jesus’ physical human form.  My ears have never heard His physical voice.  But I know the unshaking, unwavering truth of Jesus Christ and His love for me and I have been able to sort of triangulate where I am with respect to Jesus and how I am doing regarding His teachings all throughout the years because of my parents – and I think primarily today of my mom.  I didn’t always agree with my parents and I remember arguing a lot of points with my mom, but her position was always drawing me back – pointing towards the heart of the Good Shepherd Himself.  She wouldn’t just cave to my point of view.  And so often, it is a mom who teaches service flowing from within the household and around the dinner table and out the front door to helping out in some way with those less fortunate. Image result for moms doing chores

Now, the whole issue I had with my Mom in high school and not wanting to be too closely identified with her – I think that’s pretty common.  We are afraid people will just lump us together – that any flaws of our parents will stand out as our own flaws.  They probably are many of our flaws, but we’ve been working so hard in high school to conceal them.  Our parents could care less.  People will see them and then see us and make the connection and we are afraid people won’t see us for who we really are.  We’ll lose our identity.  And that’s one of the challenges I think we can face with Good Shepherd Sunday.  I don’t mind Christ as Good Shepherd, but the idea that I should want to be a sheep is not as attractive.  In my mind all the sheep look the same.  They seem dumb, uninventive, etc.  and if some group of people is called sheep in the secular world – it is derogatory.  It means they are followers without any real capacity to reflect….and again: being in this one flock – we would seem to lose our identity – unless we are the lost sheep – and that’s not so positive while we are lost. Related image

When it comes to the Early Church, I think this was one of the challenges that the Jewish people faced.  They had always been the chosen people and now Paul is teaching that they have sinned and put to death the Lord Himself.  He emphasizes that nonetheless Jesus has now risen from the dead and because of the greatest love and mercy possible in Jesus – they are actually better off.  Okay, but now Paul is taking the message to all peoples.  They might have thought: We were the chosen people and now collectively we are a returning sheep that has strayed and even when we are back.  It looks like we have lost our identity if God has chosen all people. Image result for lost sheep

As I think once more on younger days and wanting to be seen as my own man with reference to my parents – that independence that I wanted – at the same time it was so that I could fit in better with my friends.  We all wanted that freedom from parents so that we could all be in that same herd of students that ends up all dressing the same way and listening to most of the same songs, etc.  Out of own group and into another.  The reason the Jews were chosen out of the other groups of people was to receive the Law and recognize that it was better to live by God’s Law – even if it meant suffering than to serve false gods.  But once the Holy Spirit is given to all, so long these Gentile brothers and sisters (which most of us are) have ceased to worship idols, we can all now come together without automatically leading each other astray.Related image

And even as sheep it isn’t a bad deal.  The sheep of His flock actually grow in individuality.  Think about it: to keep the One Spirit of God, each of us has to find 99 different ways to sacrifice to live out the Law.  We have to be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents – meaning like doves we hone in on the voice of the Good Shepherd and return to the Source, but because we move along the ground like serpents we have to find our way through and around obstacles..all..along..the..way.  And if you try to live with the Love of Christ in a world like today – sometimes you are going to stand out (you will realize just how individual you are whether you want to or not).  Thankfully, Christ knows each of us by name.Image result for father son spirit

Because we are all shooting for this love that is eternal, we all can recognize it even as we express it in different ways.  Even as we find ourselves becoming the lost sheep and then we come back to the flock – we come back with new stories of God’s mercy that are particular to us.  The same mercy from the same Cross, but expressed differently.  Just as we all have different mothers, but they are all striving to love with the perfection of the same Blessed Mother.  And today Jesus takes us into His hand and reveals to us His own uniqueness from the Father – for He explains that “The Father and I” — both distinct Persons “are one.”  They are always One in love and they offer that same sense of eternal belonging to us.

The Adaptable Disciples

Related imageWe all have to introduce ourselves from time to time and this happens pretty often to me as a priest, and I have to admit that I answer the question differently depending on the situation.  Sometimes I’ll just say I’m from Kirkwood, but often enough I will throw in there that I grew up in Crystal City.  Sometimes I’ll even add other places I’ve lived – because I want to relate to more people.  Maybe people don’t know Kirkwood, but perhaps they know Crystal.  And Kirkwood is kind of a suburban place….Crystal City has a different small town sense about it.  I don’t want to sound one-dimensional…  The thing of it is I hope that my life is an adventure, and a good adventure story isn’t one-dimensional.   We don’t go to the movies and watch Bill grow up and inherit a fortune and sit around his house and play golf and cricket where nothing goes wrong and Bill vacations to the best venues and then that’s the end of the movie.  There is nothing morally wrong with the story except that it doesn’t seem very real.  Not even wealthy golf-playing heirs to great fortunes will find much in it, because their own lives probably had all kinds of problems that aren’t reflected in that kind of story.

Related image  But while we are always interested in watching an adventure, rather than a one-dimensional fantasy – when we are actually living our own lives, we quite often want things to go in simple, less interesting – less adventurous direction.  Most of the time this makes a lot of sense – particularly if is safer.  Driving without your seatbelt buckled makes things more dangerous, but it doesn’t make your life into a better story.  And that’s where we have this tension of control.  We want control quite often.  Sometimes it makes sense to take and do things the safe way.  Sometimes, we have to loosen the reigns a bit and give some of the control back to God – He is the story-teller.  In the first reading, the Pharisees for example, are trying in vain to keep control over Jesus.  Remember Caiaphas the High Priest.  He was afraid that while Jesus was alive that His followers would bring the Roman Empire down on the Jewish people.  Like the classic bad guy, he says to his inferior, “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”  They couldn’t control Jesus while He lived and so they condemned Him to die. Image result for paul apostle of christ

Now, they can’t control the followers of Jesus after they crucified Him.  “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name?!”  The problem is that going outside their religion to put Jesus to death to rescue their nation.  But, the only really special thing about their nation is their religion.  In other words, they are throwing away their practice of their faith to save their ability to practice the faith.  The rebuttal: “We must obey God rather than men.”  That’s the answer of a rag-tag bunch of heroes.  You want us to fear for our lives – as if we really have complete control over them anyway.  No, thank you.  We will gladly sell our freedom on this earth and even our mortal lives for the freedom of heaven and God Himself. Image result for i will not deny you peter

Okay, if you and I look at these words and say, “I want to be on that team, but I don’t know if I could do that.”  Well, it’s very possible that part of the reason that Jesus picked fishermen to be His closest disciples is because their profession sent them out to work every day in a manner which was so obviously outside their control.  They had to depend on God and one another.  There was a significant balance in the work between simplicity and at the same time all the risk that comes from operating offshore amidst all of the storms.  But Jesus had called them away from this line of work for more important business that was even less within their control.  We get this Gospel today though, because Peter, himself, had to work out some control issues.  He was often looked to for leadership, and when Christ tells him that all will fall away, Peter says: not me.  So, Jesus says, “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.”  “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you (Mt 26:35).”  He asserts the control he wants to have.  So it happens like Christ says.  And Jesus rises.  What’s this whole bit about going fishing?   When Peter and the others go out this time, it’s because the old fishing for fish business is what they know.  It’s familiar.  In a sense, Peter is still trying to do things on his own.  And they catch nothing. Image result for peter fishing disciples

When Christ is alone with Peter He talks about love – something beyond our control.  We miss the meaning in English, but when Christ first asks Peter if Peter loves Him, He says, “Peter, do you love me with agape (self-sacrifical) love?”  Peter is humbled.  Yes, and he wants to say yes all the way, but he responds by saying, “I love you with filial – love – that is with friendship.”  Jesus asks him again in the same way.  Do you love me with agape, the word for sacrificial love?  Peter, says, Yes, I love you with filial (friendship love).  Peter, do you love me with filial love?  Peter is hurt now, but responds yes.  Christ gets Peter to recognize that he has failed to be sacrificial and his friendship is up for debate, so He can reveal to Peter how much more that Peter can improve.  Much more is asked of Peter.  Much more is asked of us.  More than we can control.  But, if we allow ourselves to see how Christ is asking us for more and we follow Him –  we will help pull in a great catch.

You know there is always something to numbers in the Bible.  Despite his problems, Peter helps haul in 153 fish.  This number reflects all of the known nations at the time of the Gospel.  Every last one of them is wanted, for the adventure continues far beyond one dimensional safe zone of our control.