Friday, November 29, 2013

1 Corinthians

Some reflections on 1 Corinthians can be found here.

Get outside!: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

            I had the chance to visit the fifth graders at Wolf Ridge yesterday.  During our afternoon session, we went on a voyageur expedition.  It was pretty cold outside, with a biting wind, yet it was refreshing to take a hike through the woods and build a fire by Wolf Lake.
            I have something depressing to share.  Did you know that the average American over the age of two watches nearly five hours of TV a day?  When I grew up, I thought my parents were nuts.  We could only watch half an hour of TV and didn't have a Nintendo or Sega like many other kids.  You know what my parents did?  They made us play outside!
             Our society needs to get outside more often.  First, being outdoors is healthy.  It gets us off the couch and into the real world.  It makes us appreciate the blessings in our lives--indeed, at Wolf Ridge we couldn't turn up the thermostat--we had to build a fire.
             More important than human gains, being immersed in the wilderness allows us to see God's great creation.  And understanding creation helps us understand our Creator: "Sun and moon, bless the Lord...stars of heaven, bless the Lord...frost and chill, bless the Lord."
             Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving, a festival started by the pilgrims who survived the harsh conditions they found in America.  It was cold.  Cub Foods was not around yet.  Heat came from fire, not electricity.  Through all this our founding fathers saw God's providence in nature and in helping them survive.  They thanked God for all His gifts and were able to appreciate their survival because they lived in the real world.
             Be thankful to God for His creation, and for His providential hand which has blessed us so much.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Widow's Offering--difficult or easy?: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, November 25th, 2013

            I’ve been wondering about the poor widow in the Gospel and her offering.  Specifically, was it difficult or easy for her to drop her two coins in the treasury?
            My first inclination was the former.  She gave everything she had, little as it was.  Where would she get food?  How would she provide for her sustenance, especially as a widow, which was very difficult in Jesus’ time?
            My second thought was to imagine this gift as an easy one for her to make.  In my own experience, it seems people who have less stuff have less distractions and a clearer vision of reality.  Could the widow have given all she had, trusting God would provide for her, without much hesitancy or doubt?  Could she have been so dedicated to God it was no big deal to give all she had?
            Either way, many of the rich probably didn’t notice her offer her two coins.  But Jesus did.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christ the King, an unanswered prayer: Feast of Christ the King (34th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

           Every now and then I hear the song, “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks.  One of its great lines is, “Some of God’s greatest gifts is unanswered prayers.”  Each time I hear the song causes me to think about some of the unanswered prayers—or prayers that were answered, “NO”—in my life.
            There was a time I prayed to be an NBA basketball player.  That didn’t work out too well and I can admit now I’m glad it didn’t.
            Having parents who insisted we played outside, I prayed that I would get a Nintendo.  That one didn’t work out either, but thanks to my parents I now love the outdoors.
            When I grew up a bit I prayed to marry a girl—any girl.  Yet God had different plans for my life and since being ordained a priest I have never experienced more joy and peace.
            One of the greatest gifts ever given in the world was an unanswered prayer.  For centuries the Israelites prayed the Messiah would come.  Born in the line of King David, they prayed for a man who would bring riches, freedom and military victory for their people.  Yet God didn’t give them an earthly king with power, money or military expertise.  But He did give them His son.  
And Jesus was no ordinary man, but a God-man.  Our Christian faith sprang from Judaism and it is our faith in Jesus Christ that makes us unique.  We reflect on this truth in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Jesus is certainly our King, but he reigns in a much different way than the Israelites expected.
This can be seen in Luke’s vivid account of Jesus’ crucifixion with the two criminals.  The rulers sneered.  The soldiers jeered.  One criminal was a cynic, demanding ironically, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us.” 
But the second criminal—the Good Thief—showed his faith in Christ’s divinity.  Remember, Jesus was crucified by the Romans, who thought he was rivaling Caesar, and the Jews, who called Jesus a blasphemer by claiming equality with God.  What the Good Thief says on his cross is a powerful statement of faith: “…we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”
On this great Feast of Christ the King, we renew our faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, once more.  We trust that he is not only the king of the universe but also of our own lives.  We pray for the grace today to be loyal subjects to our King.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cutting out sin: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, November 21st, 2013 (Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

           “As he finished saying these words, a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein according to the king’s order.  When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal; his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused; he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar.  At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king who was forcing them to sacrifice…”
            What the heck?  Is our first reading condoning murder?
            When facing such passages in the Old Testament, we must keep a few things in mind.  Granted, a daily Mass homily cannot do justice to explaining the nuances of reading the Old Testament, but here are a few pointers: First, we can’t lose the forest for the sake of the trees.  Second, Jesus hasn’t yet come and we are in a period with a less clear understanding of God.  Third, the Scriptures were written in specific societies and have contexts in which to be read. 
            All Scripture is inspired and teaches truth.  The truth in the story of Mattathias, the catalyst to the Maccabean revolt, is that he sees evil and sin and cuts it off.  He acts quickly and swiftly.
            This is what our Blessed Mother did every day.  Like any other person, Mary would have faced temptations to fall.  Yet by God’s grace, she never did.  She cut sin completely out of her life.
            Especially in the Confessional when someone confesses habitual sin, I try to guide people to consider what leads up to sin.  The battle is usually won or lost, not at the moment of temptation, but in falling into near occasions of sin.  It is in this moment we must strive to make decisions to cut sin out of our life.
            May we be like Mattathias in his zeal to root out evil.  Mary ever sinless, pray for us.

From mother to Mother: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

            Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage, she exhorted each of them…”  I have to admit I was a little nervous when I read this line in our first reading—“womanly heart with manly courage”—because I am the only guy with you Sisters!
            In reading the Old Testament we must do so in light of the New—men and women have equal dignity in the eyes of God.  Such concepts weren’t as developed in the Israelite and Greek customs.  Yet the basic point of this verse remains true.
            Typically women are recognized for their compassion and care giving.  Throughout history men have been noted for bravery, strength and protection.  In fact, the Latin word for man—vir—comes from the same root as courage—virtus.  Yet the point isn’t to discriminate, but to show that while some virtues come more naturally to a man or to a woman (or even to individual people), we must strive to supplement our strengths with virtues that aren’t so easy.
            In being courageous in the face of her seven sons’ deaths, this woman showed a balance between compassion and strength.  In so doing, she is a sign of our Blessed Mother.
            Mary held the virtues we strive for in perfect balance.  Like the mother in Maccabees, Mary watched her child die a horrific death.  Yet rather than seeking a way out (due to a natural maternal instinct) she lived out the words of the unnamed mother, “Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”
            We ask our Mother to pray for the grace to grow in virtue, to be strong and compassionate.

Why Mass? Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

            It is at Mass when we experience a line from the Luke’s Gospel fulfilled most clearly: “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
            Note that Jesus was condemned for going to a house full of sinners.  And what will Jesus do this evening?  He will come to this chapel which is also full of sinners.
            And how did Zacchaeus respond to our Lord’s presence?  Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over…”  Zacchaeus, after coming to the Lord, went out into the world to serve.
            That’s precisely why we come to Mass and how we should ask when Mass is done.

Monday, November 18, 2013

True and false vision: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, November 18th, 2013

           Our readings this morning focus on true and false vision. 
            In the first book of Maccabees we see men and women that were swept away by Greek culture and religion.  They removed the marks of circumcision—a visible sign of a Jewish man’s faithfulness to God—and participated in forbidden practices.  Worse of all, they turned from God to worshiping what was not gods, setting up shrines to pray to these false deities.
            But some of the Israelites had true vision—“But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.”  These saw what was true—God—and were not swayed by cultural influence.
            The blind man from Jericho, ironically, could see better than the crowds.  When he heard a ruckus he asked what was happening.  They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”  It is important to know that this title—Jesus of Narazeth—would have been Jesus’ human designation as he was from Nazareth.  Yet remember how the blind man responded, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!  The son of David was no mere man, he was to be the longed for Messiah.  By this cry the blind man expressed faith in Christ.
            Christ said it was this faith that made the blind man see.  Like many of the miracles of Jesus, a physical healing took place.  Yet the point of Jesus’ works was not to remain at the physical level but to inspire a spiritual conversion.  In this case, the blind man received even clearer vision of who Christ was.
            We pray that we may see clearly the Truth in our lives and respond in turn.

"It's the End of the World as We Know It": 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

            In 1987 the rock band R.E.M. debuted its hit “It’s the End of the World as we Know It”.  I would sing it to you, but I don’t think this would do anyone any good.  Plus there are like 4,000 words in this song and I only know “Six o’clock tv hour…”
            Remember last year when the end of the world was going to end on December 21st?  On December 20th I walked around our school playing this song and sang the chorus: “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine!”  I did feel fine because I knew the world wasn’t going anywhere based on an ancient calendar system.
            Near the end of the liturgical year we focus on the end.  And in our readings we see a few different perspectives on what will happen at this time.  Malachi, as an example of the prophets, focused on how God will bring justice for the poor and weak and condemn the rich and haughty: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts.”
            The men and women of Thessalonica thought the second coming of Christ was immanent.  The reason why St. Paul gives the Thessalonians my Dad’s favorite verse—“If you don’t work, you don’t eat”—is that they had quit their jobs in expectation of this miraculous event.  They assumed Jesus would come back to heaven within a few days.  Paul told them to get back to work.
            Jesus speaks about the end himself.  While he, too, says some mysterious and even scary things, we don’t need to be afraid of the end.  Malachi ends with a note of hope, “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  Jesus also gives us great confidence: “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute…not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
            Admittedly, the end times may bring thoughts of confusion or fear.  Yet most of all, we should be excited because Christ will be back on earth.  The eternal Word who became man, died for our sins, rose again and ascended to his Father, is coming again.  Our friend will return.  These facts should give us confidence to persevere to the end, be it our own life, or the end of the world.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Look beyond the earthly to see the spiritual: Daily Mass Homily--Friday, November 15th, 2013

            Earlier in the week I preached about seeing God’s handiwork in creation.  It was from this chapter (13) of Wisdom to which I had referred.
            As humans, we have five senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell.  Yet as Christians we grow a sixth—the sense of faith.  This sense, which we receive as a gift and mature in through prayer, sees past the physical world to the spiritual.  And what is our faith if not seeing past what is worldly?
            The author of Wisdom chastises people who did not attribute to God the works of creation: “All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan…For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord?”  When we see a mountain, lake, forest or sunset, we should recognize God as the Creator of the universe.
            And think about the Sacraments.  It is our faith that allows us to believe that what looks like water spiritually cleanses a baby in Baptism.  This same faith teaches us that after the consecration, what appears to be bread and wine is Jesus’ Body and Blood.
            As we are blessed to be with God our Creator another day, may we have the grace to see past what is of this earth to what is of heaven.

Friendship: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, November 14th, 2013

            One of the greatest gifts in my life is the gift of friendship.  My close friends have not only supported and inspired me in the path to priesthood, but were catalysts to my initial conversion and simply good for my human life.
            My love of my friends and the Scriptures motivated me in writing my MAT thesis in seminary and I focused on friendship in the Scriptures.  I learned that only two men were called friends of God in the Old Testament: Abraham and Moses.  Both of these men had powerful experiences of God, communicated with Him in a dialogue and were a bridge between God and His people.
            In our first reading we learn that wisdom “passing into holy souls from age to age…produces friends of God.”
            We believe that Wisdom became a man in Jesus Christ.  And Jesus has a thing or two to tell us about friendship: “No longer do I call you slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is doing.  I have called you friends…”  In announcing this reality to the disciples of his time, Jesus calls each of us—as disciples two thousand years later—friends.
            Do you think of God as your friend?  Do you consider yourself a friend of His?  Reflect on this sort of relationship and allow God to be your best friend and you to be His.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanks: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

            There are a number of words or gestures we would never get tired of.  Hearing “I love you,” “thank you,” or “good job,” or receiving a hug, high five or smile never get old.  One of the most important phrases in the world is indeed “thank you.” 
Today in the Gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers.  We must remember that a leper not only had physical pain—skin falling off the bone, loss of fingers and toes and other disfigurement—but also were separated from their families and friends.  Jesus doesn’t just heal these lepers physically but allows them to return home in their communities of love.
Yet only one came back to give him thanks, and it was a Samaritan.  The Samaritans were hated by the Jews because, centuries before, they succumbed to pagan society and religion are rejected their Jewish heritage.  Yet Jesus recognizes that it was the Samaritan—the hated one—who offered thanks to God for the miraculous cure.
The word Eucharist comes from a Greek word eucharistein which means thanks.  We offer God thanks in the greatest way by coming to Mass.  And we pray for the strength to say the small words and make the small gestures that we love to hear and receive to show our love, appreciation and thanks for others.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God loves us. We sin. God is faithful.: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

            The whole story of the Bible can be summarized into three short phrases—God loves us.  We sin.  God is faithful.
            The sacred author in Wisdom captures these three movements in salvation history: “God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made them.”  God, out of His desire to love and have creatures love Him back, created humans.  He didn’t have to do this but did.  But by the envy of the Devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.”  It didn’t take long for our first parents—Adam and Eve—to sin.  They chose not to trust God and choose something outside of His will through the temptations of the serpent.  Yet God remained faithful to His creation: “But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.  While sin disrupted the relationship between man and God, man and woman, and man and creation, through God’s fidelity these relationships were not utterly destroyed.
            We can see each of these movements in our own lives.  None of us chose to be born—we were created by God and by the love between our parents.  Each of us, like our first parents, sins.  Yet rather than being cast immediately into hell, God gives us many opportunities for us to seek His faithfulness by asking forgiveness, especially in Confession.
            We are called to respond to each of these facts of life—God loves us.  We sin.  God is faithful.  While His love can never be repaid, we are called to love God to the full and our neighbor as ourselves.  After we sin we come before our Lord humbly, seeking His mercy.  And we thank Him for his infinite patience and forgiveness.
            As our life ebbs and flows with these realities, we respond by gratitude, humility and perseverance.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hunting can lead to God: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, November 11th, 2013

            As you probably know, this weekend marked the beginning of the deer hunting season.  It’s no secret that I love hunting and fishing, but deer hunting takes the cake.  On Saturday I sat in a stand for over six hours.  Sunday I sat for over four.  I didn’t see a thing, yet had a great time anyway.
            Getting outside to hunt affords me time of quiet and solitude.  It helps me get away from the noise, distractions and busyness of the world.  It also immerses me in God’s creation.  So whether I get anything or not, I love time outdoors.
            In the first reading from Wisdom the sacred author declares, “…the spirit of the LORD fills the world.”  Elsewhere in Wisdom, pagans were denounced for worshiping things of nature because they didn’t give credit to the Creator.  I’ll admit, if I never knew of God or Jesus Christ I would probably do the same.  Something happens to me when I see Lake Superior, serene woods, twinkling stars or a sunset that takes me out of myself to a different reality.
            St. Thomas uses the order and beauty of nature as one of his five proofs for God’s existence and seeing the above is proof enough for me.
            A couple of weeks ago I was praying at the abortion clinic during 40 Days for Life.  A young man came up to me and asked me a series of questions.  Most importantly he asked, “How do you know God exists?”  I replied, “Look around you!”  (It didn’t help I was in downtown Duluth).  I wish I could have talked with this searcher in a deer stand to attribute the beauty of creation to God the Creator.
            In our busy and noisy society be sure to step out of the virtual world into the real world.  Take a walk or a hike or sit down and enjoy the view.  By seeing God’s creation we get glimpses of God Himself.

Watch: Bulletin Article (11-17-13)

               “Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).
                As we near the end of Ordinary time, we near the end of the Liturgical year.  This is the time of year our readings at Mass will focus on the end.  Heaven, salvation, death, Christ’s second coming and good triumphing over evil are all themes that will appear.
                We do not need to fear the end for “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:19).  But we do need to be ready.  Are you?
                Christ promised he would come again to earth.  He also promised to die for our sins, rise again and return to his Father.  He followed through on all three.  While the specifics of Christ’s second coming are a mystery, you can bet that he will fulfill this promise too.  If Christ came back to earth today, would you be ready to receive him?  Are there things in your life you would like to change to be better prepared?  I know there are in mine.
                While we are unsure of when Christ will come again, we can be sure that each of us will die.  We can be confident in facing our individual end because of God’s mercy for us all.  As Catholics, we have the richness of the sacraments to lead us to heaven.  I have been blessed to see men and women go to Confession, receive the Eucharist, be Anointed and receive the Apostolic Pardon at the end of their life and leave their bedside knowing they are heading upstairs for all eternity.  If you or a loved one is nearing the end, be sure to call a priest to offer the sacraments!
                We do not need to wait until we are near death’s door to receive God’s mercy.  Part of being watchful is keeping tabs on our souls.  Am I in a state of grace?  When was my last Confession?  How have I hurt God or my neighbor?  Christ desires to grant forgiveness to you now and you are one Confession away from being ready for death, Christ’s second coming or a renewal in your faith life.
                Watch therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Watch” (Mark 13:35-37).

Sunday, November 10, 2013


It has been too long since I worked on my commentaries on the Good Word.  I'm picking it up again, hoping to make the final push through the rest of the books of the New Testament!  Thoughts on Romans can be found here.

Bacon, resurrection and Christ's second coming: 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

            This morning I would like to meditate on two truths we believe in as Christians—the resurrection and the second coming of Christ.
            Before beginning with the resurrection, I would like to start with bacon.  Bacon is the best food ever.  Period.  I am amazed that you can give a pig good food or garbage and it still makes bacon.  We can eat bacon today because Jesus fulfilled the Law and at one point declared all foods clean.  Yet the Israelites—and Jews to this day—did not eat flesh from a pig.  This was partly due to hygiene—eating an animal that lived in its own filth was understood as unhealthy—but above all to the Law.  You scholars of the book of Leviticus know that the pig was unclean because it had cloven hooves but did not chew the cud.
            The seven brothers in 2 Maccabees gave their lives to follow the Law and not eat swine’s flesh—bacon.  (I don’t know if I would have been as strong as them with freshly fried bacon).  It may seem petty now that they died for not eating a food, but they remained steadfast in living out the Law to the full.
            In so doing, they represent the greatest understanding of the resurrection in all the Old Testament.  Chronologically, 1 and 2 Maccabees are the last books of the Old Testament, and it makes sense that the picture of life after death was growing clearer.  The first four brothers in our reading today show remarkable faith in the afterlife: “…the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever…It was from Heaven that I received [my tongue and hands]; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again…It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.
            Jesus speaks of the resurrection after being confronted by the Sadducees, “those who deny that there is a resurrection.”  That’s why they’re sad, you see?  (Get it?)  But greater than Jesus’ teachings about the resurrection, we know that he rose from the dead.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters do not believe that Christ rose from the dead, and it was this teaching that sparked a completely new religion.
            We are blessed with our place in salvation history.  We have the benefit of looking back at the most important moments in the world—the incarnation (God became a man), Jesus’ death, Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  We believe such events happened because they did happen.  The brothers in Maccabees didn’t have this luxury—they didn’t know God would become a man, die, rise and go back to heaven.  Even Jesus disciples failed to understand that Jesus, having died on the cross, would rise again.  We can see the big picture after the fact, and for that we are blessed.
            Yet there is one more big event that is to happen—Jesus’ second coming.  And here we are in a similar place as the brothers or the disciples.  We have heard the teachings from Christ that he will come again but it hasn’t happened yet.  We do not know when, how or where, but believe this truth.  At Mass today, we will profess our belief that Jesus, “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  We just heard in our Gospel acclamation, “Be watchful and ready, for you do not know when the Son of God will appear.”  In the Eucharistic prayer the priest prays, “…we look forward to his second coming.”  During the last few weeks of Ordinary Time the Church gives us readings that focus on the end and one of the themes is indeed Christ’s second coming.
            A great question on which to reflect is, “If Jesus Christ comes back to earth today, would I be ready?”  Being honest with myself, I know there are things I would do differently in my life if I knew Christ would visit me tonight as a man back on earth (though I hope he waits until deer hunting is over).  I suspect you would as well.
            While we don’t know when Christ will appear again, we believe he will.  He promised resurrection and rose from the dead.  He promised to come again and he will.  Are you ready?  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pushing others: Daily Mass Homily--Friday, November 7th, 2013

            I think I’ve told you before about how Fr. Rich and I used to fight over the remote during my first few weeks here.  I wanted to watch ESPN at breakfast and he wanted to watch the news.
            Since Fr. Rich is gone, I have been able to keep up with the sporting world each morning.  One of the biggest stories now is quite bizarre.  A player from the Miami Dolphins left the team and entered a mental health rehabilitation program.  He claims he has been bullied and harassed by one of his teammates.  As the reports continue, it is unclear if this was an individual bully, a group shunning, or perhaps nothing at all.  What is clear is that something went amiss with the Dolphins in how they push each other to be better players.
            Each of us is responsible to lead in some way.  Whether it is in our family, work or among friends, we should strive to make people around us better.  Sometimes this requires pushing them—and as a priest I see this as an important part of leading parishioners, staff and children.
            St. Paul pushed the Romans to be better, and note how he does it: “I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.  But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects…”  First, he affirms his brothers and sisters.  Second, he sees the good present in them and responds with mercy rather than condemnation. 
            When we are faced with challenging someone we need to keep this approach in mind.  No matter how annoyed or angry we are, we should first seek the good in someone we need to confront.  They, too, are God’s beloved son or daughter and have gifts and talents to serve His kingdom.  Affirmation goes a long way in correction.
            Pushing someone to become better is not always easy or fun, but at times it is necessary.  In such times, seek the good in this person, affirm them and approach the situation with mercy and love.