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Only All for Jesus

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Every day, I begin my day in prayer. The routine is very simple but well-rehearsed. It is the same prayer I have had for the last nine years. As part of my routine, I pray that I be the vessel by which the Lord fulfills His work. It is a prayer of surrender. Surrendering is not new to me, I have lived my life in surrender to Jesus Christ since I was sixteen years old. When I get that "feeling" it usually falls in line with a moment of change, a moment of conversion at the climax of surrender. We are meant to go through multiple conversions throughout a lifetime as we grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus by surrendering to His will. I recently had one of those moments that moved me deeper into conversion resulting, once again, into surrendering. It is then that I started having that "feeling". I am now left waiting to see what the "feeling" is going to bring. Since my announcement to transition out of the principalship, many have asked what I am doing next. I truly do not have a “next”. I am open to the will of the Father. He will make my path clear but until then, I am here.

Many Saints write about conversion and surrender, as it is a pathway to holiness. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say, "We have to love until it hurts. It is not enough to say I love. We must put that love into a living action. And how do we do that? By giving until it hurts". This loving until it hurts is conversion. It is surrender because it is counter-cultural. St. Faustina brought us the depiction of surrender through the image of the Divine Mercy and the simple yet powerful prayer "Jesus, I trust in you!" Releasing oneself to the will of the Father is liberating yet terrifying.

It is not enough to say yes to God when he has called us for himself. It's very important to put that “yes” into a living action. And how do we put that into a living action? By our total surrender to Him. We understand that He has chosen us for Himself - all that follows is that we allow Him to use us without consulting us. We are human beings and we like to know exactly what He wants, how He wants, and so on. But if we really want to be only all for Jesus, it is important that we give Him a free hand to do with us what He wants, as He wants. Only then can we really say we are only all for Jesus. - Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Thirsting for God, 2000. 

Transformation and Conversion

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Over my years in ministry, I have heard many different interpretations for why we take up practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent. I’ve heard that we take up these practices for the sake of suffering as Jesus suffered. Another common theme is that we do these practices as a form of penance for our sinfulness, or that we take on these practices as a kind of personal testing, as Jesus was tested in the wilderness, to see if our faith holds up. The list goes on.

While there is some element of truth in each of these interpretations, what they lack is that they often make the practices ends in themselves. We suffer for the sake of suffering, or undergo a test for the sole purpose of saying we did it.

But the Gospel for today shows us what we are truly aiming for: transfiguration, transformation. This passage from Mark is widely understood as a revelation of the true reality of the crucifixion—that what on the face of it looks to be gory destruction, is actually the glorification of Jesus Christ. So too, our Lenten practices are not meant to be just brutal sacrifices for the sake of brutal sacrifice; they are meant to be transformative. They are meant to bring about the glory of God through our own transfiguration. The goal of Lent is not suffering, it is conversion. We too are meant to be “dazzling white.”

So this Lent, may we keep this perspective as we strive and struggle to hold fast to our resolutions. May we remember the ultimate goal is conversion, and allow the Lord to use our successes and failures to lead us closer to Christ and make us more Christian, more Christ-like.

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.

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