Category Archives: Today’s Readings


During the Second World War, a group of American soldiers were fighting in the rural countryside of France. A soldier was killed, and his comrades did not want to leave his body on the battlefield. They remembered a church a few miles behind the front lines, next to a small cemetery, surrounded by a small fence. With their captain’s permission, they set out for the church. When they arrived, an elderly priest answered the door, and they asked if they could have one of the plots in the cemetery.

The priest paused and said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t allow that here. You can bury him outside the fence, if you wish.” And so the soldiers dug a grave… and buried their friend… just outside the fence.

The next morning, these same troops were suddenly issued new orders, and the group raced back to the little church for one final goodbye. But when they arrived, they couldn’t find the gravesite. Tired and confused, they finally knocked on the door of the church, and they asked the priest if he remembered where their friend was. “It was dark last night and we were exhausted,” they said. “We must have been disoriented.”

The old priest paused for a bit, then said. “I have a confession. After you left, I could not sleep. I went out early this morning… and I moved the fence. He’s in the cemetery now.”

Sometimes, in order to the right thing, we all need to move a few fences. Maybe it has to do with our stuff at work, or our health, or confronting someone we’ve excluded from our lives… but we all have moments where we know “what I have done, and what I have failed to do.” But just like that elderly priest, God has big plans for us. We just need to trust Him in our difficult and awkward situations.

And maybe that’s what’s behind today’s Gospel. Once again we see the Jewish authorities — as well as Jesus’ family — not willing to move a fence. How can He drive out demons? What do you mean He’s ‘healing people’? He’s out of His mind! That’s not how things are done around here. Jesus knows them, of course. He knows the obstacles. So perhaps we can say that Jesus is not permanently excluding his family… maybe He’s just waiting for them to move a fence. To see the Kingdom of Heaven in their midst. Just like us.

See, we know that committing to a relationship with Christ is hard work. And He never puts a fence in our lives that we can not move. Maybe we’re not welcoming at first either, but that doesn’t mean we need to stay there.

So, where are your fences? Someone needs you to be a listening ear because they are in a difficult relationship…. Maybe you’ll have to drive an extra 10 miles to give someone a ride home who you don’t really like… maybe it’s about going to Mass on vacation… a son or daughter needs to move back home because they got laid off.

We never know the graces and blessings God has in store for us when we decide to do the right thing. It may be hard at first, but just like that old priest, it’s never too late. To ask for forgiveness. To forgive. To visit the sick. Feed the hungry. To console the brokenhearted.

As a community of faith, we’ve had to move some fences before… like when we heard that God became one of us in the sinless person of Jesus. That He rose from the dead and is now seated at God’s right hand. That He lives within each of us through the Holy Spirit. That He gives himself to us (through his body and blood) in Holy Communion. That He destroyed death — not just for himself, but for us too. If you think about it, every one of those ideas were probably resisted at first.

A fence needed to be moved.

So… who is knocking at your door? What fences will need to be moved in your life? What is God asking of you today?

landscape romantic forest trees

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3rd Sunday of Advent

I was in high school when the very first Star Wars movie came out. And I, probably like many of you, was blown away by the special effects at that time.  In many ways, that movie was a pioneer: since then, I’ve seen Gravity, Guardians of the Universe, Interstellar, and even some of the Star trek movies… all owe a tremendous debt to George Lucas.

Do you remember in that first movie that scene when Obi-Wan-Ben-Kenobi and Darth Vader meet for thier final battle?  In the end, there is that moment when Ben sees that Luke Skywalker, the future promise, is safe.  And when he does, he turns his light saber off and surrenders to Vader.  Or, so we think… It’s a shockingly selfless act, isn’t’ it? There’s a similar scene at the end of Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s film. I’m sure if you take a moment, you can think of other movies.


There is another story that’s like that. When they ask John the Baptist, ‘Who are you?’ he gives them one of the most simple and most profound answers ever recorded.  “I am not the Christ.”  In other words, it’s not about me. I need to step out of the way for someone more important.  I didn’t get the job promotion. She’s not going to marry me. I didn’t win the Lotto. I’m not the smartest person in my class. I didn’t get chosen for the lead in the theatre production.

But John doesn’t seem too disappointed, does he?  Just the opposite.  Actually he’s a little excited about his options now. He’s not plotting how he can make a few bucks or become famous because he knows who Jesus is.  Think about it: if you knew Jesus back in the day, wouldn’t you have done everything you could to get on his good side?  But have you noticed that John the Baptist is not mentioned as one of the original disciples?

No, John the Baptist is the perfect messenger.  He knows who he is, and who he is not. He knows his role is proclaim the One who is yet to come, whose sandal strap he is not even worthy to untie. He’s doing what God has asked him to do, his role in life. Is there any better goal to shoot for — to do what God asks you to do?

And maybe that’s our Advent inspiration for today: The only way to find yourself is to lose yourself. Are you confident enough in yourself to let go of your insecurities, your sinfulness, and make room for a life-long journey with the Christ child? Can you see what a difference your life can make if you forget who you are and live another story, our Christian story?… The one that has an answer for the desperation of our sin and our need for salvation?

On his flight to Chicago, Bishop Cupich voluntarily gave up his first-class seat so someone in coach could be pampered instead of him. Of course, he’s just like Pope Francis… who waits in line in the dining hall with everyone else, paid for his own room during the papal conclave, and gives up his seat on public transportation.  No act of selfless consideration is too small for our church leaders.

Aren’t we, deep down, inspired by those simple acts?  When our leaders lose themselves for the sake of another?  It reminds us, again and again, to see the dignity inherent in every person we meet, especially the poor and marginalized, especially those in our home, at work, in school, especially those sitting next to you right now. To step aside and think about another person. Like the very first line of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life:

“It’s not about you.”

Wait a minute… that book sold 20 million copies, with an opening line like that?  Really?

“It’s not about you.”

I bet John the Baptist loves that line.  And Pope Francis. And Bishop Cupich. Let’s face it. In a very profound way, we all love that line. It tells us something about the nature of ourselves, and the nature of God.

So let’s be pioneers. Let our simple acts of selfless love continue to build the Kingdom of God. Let’s lose ourselves for Christ and our Church.  Let’s follow our leaders on this one, and be blown away with joy, far greater than any movie can provide.  Let’s be lifted up like the lowly, and bring glad tidings to all we meet this Advent season.  And beyond.

And may that force be with you. Always.




Still looking for a Lenten offering?

Still looking for a Lenten challenge? How about committing to prayer every day this Lent? And to help you with your decision, please consider the following program: Moved to Greater Love. To begin, simply click “Sign Up” at the beginning of the post, enter your e-mail address, and you are on your way.

Why not commit to deepening your relationship to God over the next 40 days with guided prayer and reflection? It’s simple, it’s easy, and God promises to bring peace to the center of your world. Why not sign up today?!

Do I really trust in God?

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, I couldn’t help but think of how I am such a Pharisee at times.  I demand signs, I complain about how things are not working out, I want my problems resolved immediately, I want a miracle! Right now! But as you can see in the Gospel today, not only did Jesus not send a sign, but he actually walks away from those who doubt Him.  He gets in a boat and leaves!  It’s like he’s disgusted with that behavior, that complete lack of trust.  For me, this is just what I needed to hear today: to trust that God is in control, and my prayers are being heard, even if it’s not on my timeline. God delights in faith, not petty requests. Just like those in the Book of Joshua and Judges, my focus should be in asking God for great things, and knowing that He will not abandon me. God will not walk away from those who believe. Ever!

May I have the grace today to grow as a person of faith, and trust in You, Lord Jesus Christ!