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The Effort of Zacchaeus

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When I was a young boy, I had a book that I used to love to bring to Mass. It was the story of Zacchaeus. I must have read that story a hundred times. I found it fascinating that this short guy would climb a tree to see Jesus.

When I read it again today, through the eyes of an adult, I hear Jesus speaking to us about conversion and discipleship in “Eucharistic” ways. Consider what it takes to attend Sunday Mass. Yes, for some of us it takes little effort. For some, maybe it's a little more difficult. It surely takes the effort of Zacchaeus climbing a tree for families with little ones to make it to Mass on Sunday. It takes the effort of Zacchaeus fighting the crowds, for an elderly couple, or for one who has worked many hours during the week and would rather spend a few hours relaxing.

But, they come to Mass. Why? Because we know that the Eucharist changes lives. At each Mass, Jesus invites himself to our home - our very being, just as he did to Zacchaeus. When we receive him and welcome him into our heart - our home, with great joy we can allow ourselves to be changed. Zacchaeus was a sinner, just as we all are sinners. Through the healing power of the Eucharist, we find strength for conversion. Like Zacchaeus of old, we can become disciples to the poor and those in need through our conversion. So, whether you climb a tree, fight crowds or not, know that salvation can come to your house - not by any merit of your own, but through the power of the Eucharist - the Son of Man, who has come to seek and to save.

God is Alive

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Sharing in the mission of Jesus is difficult; yet each one of us is called to do so. The notion of discipleship is a powerful one. To be a disciple means you strive to hold nothing back from your commitment to follow Jesus. Over the past year, my commitment to Christ was tested in major ways. I still struggle with many unanswered questions. In and through these difficult experiences I never said, “That’s it God, I don't want to continue to try and be a disciple for you”.

 Why? I have come to know against all odds that God is alive. He is my hope, deliverer, Lord, Savior. I am thankful for all of my life experiences whether difficult or joyous. They helped to shape me into His disciple. Just recently, I was introduced to a song that has become my “discipleship” anthem. It was a great help to me when facing a tragedy in my family. It’s called, “Raise a Hallelujah”.

 “I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, Heaven comes to fight for me

I'm gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

 I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee
I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me!”

Do you have a discipleship song? Share it with us.

May Crowning

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Did you ever wonder where the May Crowning tradition came from?

To recall a bit of Church history, monotheism, or the belief in one god, was rare in the ancient world. Abraham, according to our faith tradition, was the first to interact with God in order to establish a belief system rooted in the one true God. God establishes a covenant with us through Abraham that connects the faithful to Him throughout time.

A common practice of the polytheistic cultures, those who believed in more than one god, was the practice of making offerings on an altar to a particular god or group of gods in order to find favor with them. If you were found to be in favor with the gods, good things would happen. If you were not in favor with the gods, not so good things would happen. Abraham understood this polytheistic practice. Abraham did many things that demonstrated the application of polytheistic practice to a belief in the one true God. Abraham even made an offering on an altar after God spared Isaac's life because that is all ancient people knew what to do to honor the gods. Abraham applied what he knew to God. Altars were for sacrifice. Altars were for prayer. Offerings were often burned on altars so that the prayers would rise to the heavens in hopes that the gods would find favor.

Sound familiar?
Jesus's sacrifice is the Eucharist. The celebration of that sacrifice is done at the altar. Incense is burned to symbolize our prayers going to heaven. Many of our church rituals are rooted in these ancient ways. 

The May Crowning is no different because many polytheistic cultures honored spring by burning offerings to the goddesses in their belief systems. Whether it was Minerva, Hera, or Persephone, flowers were brought to an altar and burned as prayers were lifted for fertility, a good harvest, family, etc. As Christianity spread among the Roman Empire, they attached an old practice to a new belief; offerings to Mary as opposed to the goddesses. This would explain the procession of flowers and the burning of incense.

While some believers may come with intentions of fertility, harvest, and family, we all come to honor Mary as our Mother and our gratitude for her intercessory power that goes directly to the heart of her Son. We honor her. We celebrate her. We love her. We bring her gifts to demonstrate that love just like we do to our earthly mothers and those that are like mothers to us.