Thursday, July 31, 2014

One fish, two fish, good fish, bad fish...relativism: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, July 31st (Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola)

            One of the most dangerous philosophies of our society is relativism.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called such a belief the tyranny of relativism.  This worldview states that what is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.
            On one level this system is okay.  For instance, it is true for me that I like chocolate ice cream.  At the same time, it may be true for you that you loathe chocolate ice cream and prefer cookies and cream.  Both of these may be true because they are subjective—based on an individual’s perceptions.
            There are other truths, however, that do not allow such differences.  We call these objective or universal truths—they are simply true no matter what any individual thinks. 
            Jesus highlights this fact: The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets.  What is bad they throw away.”  Indeed, there is such a thing as good and bad, especially when it comes to human morality.
            St. Ignatius of Loyola was famous for his Spiritual Exercises.  His primary focus in this work was in learning how to discern our spiritual ebbs and flows to be able to understand what is from God, what is from the world, what is from our personal sinfulness or what is from the evil one.  His focus is on discerning the truth—not according to our standards, but God’s.
            May God give us the wisdom to discern what is right and wrong in the choices we make today.  May we always choose the good, avoid evil and so glorify God.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jeremiah: model of honest prayer and sure hope: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

            Jeremiah has the nickname the weeping prophet.  This man was unique in that he prophesied to God’s people prior to, during and after the most devastating event in their history—the Babylonian exile.
Jeremiah wears his heart on a sleeve and expresses to God exactly what he is thinking.  Today is a great example: “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!  A man of strife and contention to all the land!”  Sometimes our prayer consists of telling God what we think He wants us to say.  Yet true prayer is honest prayer—God already knows what you are thinking, feeling and going through any way so tell Him.
Jeremiah also couples his honest struggles with faith and hope in God’s promises to His people.  Today he cites the Word of God as one of his sources of hope: “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart…”
Like Jeremiah, may we grow in our prayer lives to give to God all that we experience, both the good and the bad.  In times of difficulty, may our hope be founded on God’s love and fidelity, especially in His holy scriptures.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Martha, Martha: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 (Memorial of St. Martha)

           Our Gospel recounts Jesus’ visit to the home of his friends Martha and Mary.  While Martha was “anxious and worried about many things” while serving the Lord, Mary made herself present to Jesus. 
            Jesus’ words to Martha were not to rebuke her hospitality or welcome—these were both cherished virtues in Jesus’ culture.  And Jesus is not endorsing laziness around the house!  Rather, he wanted Martha to remember the point of all she was doing and to show that Mary’s focus on Jesus was more important.
            The Fathers of the Church see in Martha and Mary examples of two forms of living out the faith.  Martha represents the active life and Mary the contemplative.  We need both in our world and in our Church.  Those of us who live in the world—priests, religious and all the faithful—must live out and proclaim the Gospel in the world.  Others are called to devote their lives to prayer in solitude and this features many religious orders.
            In our busy lives, we may fall in the same way as Martha did by anxiously trying to get everything done.  This includes our personal prayer life.  Many of us have our list of prayers to complete each day—the Rosary, readings, novenas and the like.  Each of these are beautiful devotions, but remember that we are not bound to a list but to a Person.  If the checklist gets burdensome, redirect your focus to spend quality time with Jesus.
            May we follow the virtues of Martha in her efforts to be hospitable and welcoming.  At the same time, remember Jesus’ words today—“There is need of only one thing…”—and don’t forget to simply spend time with him.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Jeremiah's dirty underwear?! Daily Mass Homily--Monday, July 28th, 2014

            While revering Scripture in my personal and public prayer life, sometimes I have to chuckle at some of the passages.  Like today, for instance.  God compares Israel to dirty underwear!  (A loincloth was the regular undergarment for centuries.)
            Like many other prophets, Jeremiah was asked to do a symbolic prophecy in which he took off his loincloth (I hope he put something else on!) and buried it, per God’s instruction.  When he was told to dig it up later, naturally it was soiled.
            God provides us with a great image for sin.  Now I’ll move on from considering our unmentionables, but you all know how quickly our clothes get dirty.  I know my laundry piles up, especially my work out clothes which absolutely reek when I am done with exercising.  Now, consider babies.  They literally soil themselves from both ends!  Loving parents continue to clean and bathe their little ones who would otherwise live in filth.  This is what sin does to our soul.  It stinks and soils.  Whenever we sin, we have an mind a pleasure, desire or other supposed good.  Yet what we are really choosing is a smelly, soiled diaper.
            Keep this image in mind the next time you are tempted to sin.  And if you fall, present yourself to God to get washed up and forgiven.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How do you spend 168 hours? 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

            I recently read an excellent book by Matthew Kelly (the same author of Rediscover Catholicism) called The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.  I highly recommend this book as an inspiration in your faith.  This morning I want to focus on one of the lines that really stood out to me.  Kelly wrote, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”
            God gives us 168 hours a week.  Have you ever assessed how you spend this time?  Subtract out the time you sleep and consider—how much time do I spend at work?  With my family?  Golfing, fishing or watching sports?  One question that continues to surprise me—how much time do I spend watching television or playing on my cell phone?  And the most important question of all: how much time do I give to God?
            Our time should be devoted to God, both in direct ways (like coming to Mass and praying) but also throughout the various activities we do on a daily basis.  By thanking God for the chance to fish, we can offer an afternoon on the lake to Him.  By asking Him to bless our workday, this to can be time used to serve God.  In fact, there is nothing (save something sinful) that cannot be offered to God throughout our day.
            I mention this because our readings focus on putting first things first.  Jesus gives us some vivid parables to demonstrate this call.  He explains: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  This person doesn’t sell part of what he owns, his surplus or his leftovers.  He sells all that he has to acquire the treasure.  So, too, does the merchant: “When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
            In another place in the Gospels, Jesus reminds us, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  It is helpful to consider how we spend our time each week to assess where our heart really is.
            We have two examples before us who put first things first.  In the first reading, God gave Solomon a blank check: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”  He could have asked for anything he wanted, and he chose wisdom—the ability to serve God and the people under his care.  God’s response: “Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—I do as you requested.”  In the next verses after this section, God promises to also give everything that Solomon did not ask as well.
            Second, consider our patron—St. Thomas Aquinas.  To say he was brilliant would be an understatement.  He could dictate four or five different works at the same time.  He would give one scribe a paragraph to write, then turn to the next and give a different subject.  He would go all the way around the circle and begin again.  His most famous work, the Summa Theologica, is a five volume theological and philosophical work that is an exhaustive explanation of our faith.  His introduction states that is intended “for the beginner”! 
            Near the end of his life, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “You have written well of me, Thomas, what shall your reward be?”  Thomas’ reply: “Only you Lord.”  Only you, Lord.  Thomas chose God above everything else.
            Look at the way you spend your time this week.  How can you give more of your time to God in order to put Him first and make Him your treasure.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Part of my Vision as Pastor: Parish Bulletin: 7-27-14

           Thank you for your warm welcome to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban parishes.  I am also grateful for your continued patience and flexibility during this time of transition.  You have all helped make this a blessed time moving into a new home and community!
            I also want to reiterate my gratitude to Fr. Kris McKuskey.  He did an amazing job here as pastor and I am blessed to be following him.  In speaking with our staff, faculty and many of you, St. Thomas and St. Columbus are much better off thanks to his work.  I hope I can continue the great work he did.
This week I would like to share a few thoughts on what I believe God is calling me to do in my time here as pastor.  As I shared last week at Mass and in the bulletin, my number one goal is to support you and your families in your walk with Christ.  Through the graces God has given us through the Catholic Church, I want to assist you in any way possible to grow in your faith, especially through our rich sacramental life.
            I come from an educational background.  My parents were both teachers and I received an undergraduate degree at the College of St. Scholastica in math teaching.  In college I was also employed as a youth minister.  Through these experiences I have seen how crucial it is to teach the faith to our young people.  This was only enhanced as I served my first two years as a priest under Fr. Rich Kunst who was completely invested into his school.  He constantly said, “Any parish with a school needs to treat its school as its number one mission.”
            I agree!
            The Church has consistently taught that you parents are the primary educators of the faith.  Whether you currently send your children to St. Thomas Aquinas School, public school or educate your children at home, know of my support in your mission to educate your children, especially in the faith.
            Many of you have shared with me the rich traditions of St. Thomas Aquinas School and I hope to help rebuild and reestablish this great gift of our parish.  This will include both recruiting families into the school and helping raise funds to assist young families who would like to send their children but need help from us.  I would ask you all to pray for the success of these endeavors and to respond generously to support our school.
            I am also excited to work with Jean Johnson and Mary Morrisseau in the faith formation programs we offer.  I pray that our students may experience the love, mercy and joy of Jesus Christ through a positive encounter of the Catholic Church in our faith formation programs.
            As I begin work as a pastor please pray that God, who has begun the good work in us, may bring it to completion.
            God Bless!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blessed are your eyes and ears: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, July 24th, 2014

           After rebuking those who did not believe in him, Jesus told his disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”  Indeed, Noah, Abraham, David and the many other men and women of the Old Testament never knew Jesus, thus his followers lived in a blessed time in salvation history.
            Yet I would argue that we live in a more blessed time.  While Peter, the apostles and disciples knew Jesus while he walked on earth, consider the Lord’s ministry then and now.  While he forgave sins, fed the hungry, cured the sick and preached the Word, he did so in a small portion of our globe.  He did so over a period of three years and reached a relatively small group of people.
            Now consider how Jesus has worked in the last 2000 years.  He continues to be really present in the Eucharist every day around the globe.  Through the sacraments, billions of people have been forgiven, healed and taught.  The Catholic Church has fed more of the hungry, worked with more of the sick and educated more people than any other institution in the last 2000 years.
            May we always remember Jesus’ words to us: “blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
            May we keep our eyes and ears open today that we may perceive God in our midst and spread the Good News today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

God's answer to Jeremiah's and our own excuse: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

            You probably noticed that the Gospel this morning was familiar—it was the same one we prayed with on Sunday.  This is one of those unique examples when we have a reading repeated because our Sunday readings are on a three year cycle while the daily readings rotate every other year. 
            This morning I want to focus on the call of Jeremiah.  God sent him on a mission in a personal way: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” 
Like many others in the Bible, Jeremiah’s response was an excuse: “‘Ah, Lord GOD!’  I said, ‘I know not how to speak; I am too young.’” 
God reassured Jeremiah, reminding him that he was in fact chosen to proclaim God’s Word to the people: “But the LORD answered me,Say not, “I am too young.”  To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.’”
As Catholics we, too, are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to our family, coworkers, friends and others we meet.  We, too, may have excuses: “I am too young,” “I am too old,” “I don’t know the faith well enough,” “I am not a theologian.”  Yet God speaks to each of us, “Say not, ‘I am too [fill in the blank with your excuse].’”  We must be confident that God will use us and give us the grace to speak and act to witness to Jesus.
When you think of it, the greatest evangelizers were normal men and women.  The apostles were mostly uneducated fishermen and tax collectors.  The woman of Samaria who met Jesus only once at the well converted her entire community simply by sharing her experience of Christ.
Be confident today in spreading the Gospel.  Let God know what shortcomings you have, but then trust in His grace to preach the Good News.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mary Magdalane--a model for handling shame: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 (Memorial of Mary Magdalene)

           I have been reading an interesting book by Brene Brown—a researcher and psychologist who has focused on vulnerability and shame—called Daring Greatly.  Her basic premise is that, while it is easier to sit on the sidelines of life and to be critical, it is much better to be in the arena struggling to live wholeheartedly.  While this is challenging it is much more fulfilling and is what God wants.
            I mention this on this memorial of St. Mary Magdalene because she probably felt a lot of shame in her own life.  There are many Mary’s in the Gospels (Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Mary the mother of James and John, Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, etc.) so it is difficult to know for sure some key information about Mary Magdalene.  The Gospels agree that she was possessed by seven demons that Jesus cast out.  She may have been a prostitute.
            Either way, Mary brought the shame she had (and imagine the potential shame of being possessed!) to the feet of Jesus.  With humility and on her knees, she wiped his feet with tears of repentance.  Jesus forgave her.
            In the Gospel Mary Magdalene is the first to understand that Jesus rose from the dead.  She told this to Peter and later the apostles, for which she deservedly has been called Apostle to the Apostles.  This understanding came in a mysterious way—at first Mary didn’t recognize Jesus.  Yet after saying her name—“Mary”—she understood.
            May we, like Mary Magdalene, bring all of our shame, guilt and confusion to the Lord.  He will call us, too, by name, forgive us our sins and commission us to preach the Good News.

An Old Testament Gem: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, July 21st, 2014

            Sometimes we may be intimidated to read and pray within the Old Testament.  The several different type of literary genres, long lists and confusing passages may deter our prayer and study of this section of the Bible.
            Yet the Church has always maintained the sanctity of both the Old and New Testaments for meditation and knowledge.  These books show how God’s providence has worked in salvation history.  Plus, St. Augustine gave a basic axiom we have always held as true: “The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New.”
            If we skip the Old Testament, we miss many gems of wisdom that are applicable today.  Micah features one of them today.  (I won’t ask you if you have ever read this Minor Prophet, or if you could find it in the Bible quickly!)  He declares, “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  This is the Gospel in a nutshell and is clearly fulfilled by Jesus.
            Lord, may we do right, love goodness and walk humbly with you today.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

God's forgiveness in Confession: 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

            Our readings this morning remind us of one of the most comforting qualities of God—forgiveness.
            When we sin, we may subconsciously think—though we would rarely admit it—that God is like a child on an anthill with a magnifying glass who can’t wait to smite us.  Or that God is that crabby teacher who delights in marking our test with red ink and putting a big fat F on it.  This is far from true.  In fact, God is our loving Father Who can’t wait to pour out His love and mercy upon us.
            We just prayed together, “Lord, you are good and forgiving.”  The third stanza of the Psalm echoed an event that happened long ago, recorded in the second book of the Bible—Exodus.  The event occurred after Moses asked to see God’s face.  God promised He would show Moses His glory, though Moses could not perceive His faith or He would die.  So He showed him His back and uttered the words reechoed in this Psalm: “You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.”
            Our first reading also captures God’s willingness to forgive: “Your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.”  Think about that—our all powerful, all knowing and ever present God is lenient to us.  The author goes on to write, “But though you are the master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us…”  I know if I had absolute power, I would be tempted to seek revenge and justice on those who have wronged me.  Yet we have nothing to fear when approaching God with humility.
            There is no sin you can commit that cannot be forgiven.  All you have to do is ask for it. 
And God gives us Catholics a great gift—Confession.  A five-minute confession to a priest and a simple prayer by him and all your sins are wiped away.  That’s the best deal in the world!  While it may be embarrassing or awkward to confess, know that I am not here to condemn you or yell at you.  I go myself weekly because I, too, am a sinner. 
Having been a priest two years, the most joyful and humbling experiences I have had have been in the confessional.  This is especially true for those who haven’t come for thirty, forty or fifty years.  You might think these are the people we priests are most likely to give a hard time.  Quite the contrary is true.  I am even more inclined to show Christ’s compassion with such souls.
Please see the bulletin as some of our confession times have changed.  If it has been longer than a month, please come soon!
Jesus gives us a vivid parable in the Gospel with the wheat and the weeds.  He is specifically addressing the end times when the wheat will be harvested and the weeds will be plucked up and burned.  Yet the Catechism shows that this parable also applies to our own souls.  Indeed, we each have wheat—our good deeds, virtues, prayers—and weeds—our sins, vices and poor decisions—growing in us.  Confession is the place where Jesus plucks up the weeds in our soul and throws them out forever.
Please come to Confession and know of God’s love and mercy.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Recreation can lead to re-creation on Sunday: Daily Mass Homily--Friday, July 18th, 2014

            In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus declares, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath…”  Elsewhere in the Gospel he teaches that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
            As we end another workweek, we prepare for the weekend.  This features the best day of the week: Sunday.  We all know that Sunday, as the Christian Sabbath, is the day when we should go to Church.  But it is also a day in which we really should rest.
            It is interesting to note that, in our English language, the words re-creation and recreation are the same.  We can and should recreate on Sundays in a variety of ways.  This includes finding rest and nourishment for our souls in coming to Mass.  It may also include calling up Mom or Dad, visiting family or friends, (my favorite) taking a nap, going fishing or hunting or catching a ball game.  All of these, when they are done in the spirit of being re-created for God, are beneficial for our lives. 
When we observe Sundays well—when we worship and recreate—we are in fact re-created for another week.  I pray you will have a blessed weekend and that your Sunday may be spent in prayer, worship and recreation in order to be refreshed for another work week.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rest and be Confident: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, July 18th, 2014

             Our Gospel has provided many opportunities of fruitful meditation and prayer.  This is especially true if I am stressed out, feeling overwhelmed or during a bad day.  Listen again to the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
            We can always find confidence and rest in God, no matter what life throws at us.  From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.”  From heaven, God looks down and is present with you at every moment of every day.
            Remember this frequently throughout your day, especially if it turns out to be a rough one.  Remember to give your burdens to Christ and allow him to give you rest.  Remember that God always looks upon you from His heavenly throne.

Mass + Mary = Home: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 (Last Mass at St. John's!)

             It gives me great comfort to be celebrating a Marian feast—Our Lady of Mount Carmel—on this, my last day at St. John’s.
            Mother Mary is a part of all of our lives, whether we know it or not.  My devotion to Mary began in high school as I prepared to attend World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada.  As I got ready to meet my hero, St. John Paul II, I began praying the Rosary daily because I know he did.  After an amazing time I continued this devotion daily.
            The Rosary was a staple for my prayer life throughout college, and it was a blessing to have prayed the Rosary from time to time with my Grandmother.  It was actually Grandma Betty who had taught me how to pray the Rosary as a young child, even though I didn’t begin praying it until many years later.
            The Rosary was the setting for one of the most powerful experiences of faith I have received.  While praying it with her and a friend mere hours before she died, she spoke her last words to me: “Jesus loves you.”  These simple three words were foundational for my own faith and vocation.
            Mary was also there when I said yes to go to seminary.  Before a daily Mass with the Sisters of St. Scholastica I was drawn by an angel that was carved into the altar.  I reflected on how Mary was approached by an angel to proclaim her salvific mission to bring Jesus into the world.  I felt called to go to seminary and I remembered Grandma leading me to Mary who led me to Jesus.  And I said yes. 
            I have also been reflecting on a line from Jesus in the Gospels: “The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”  Many people ask me how I am doing as I approach moving to a new location to begin a new assignment: “How are you doing?  Are you nervous or excited?  What is it like to be uprooted to move?”
            While I haven’t yet moved as a priest, and I have been a priest for only two years, I have already noticed that I always feel at home during Mass.  I have had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in a variety of locations, including Ghana, Africa.  And when I do I know I am home.
            We all know that where Mom is, that’s home to us.  My Mother is in International Falls and Little Fork just as she is here in Duluth.  While saying goodbye and leaving brings feelings of sadness and indeed some nervousness, I am confident that Mother will always take care of me.
            Thank you for a blessed two years.  Please continue to pray for me as I move to a new earthly home, but continue serving as a priest in our true home with Mary and in celebrating Mass.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Moving North! (A few words and my final bulletin at St. John's/St. Joseph's)

The bags and boxes are packed and the trucks loaded.  Tomorrow morning I will have my final Mass at St. John's, say goodbyes and then head north to International Falls.  I am honored and excited to be the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas parish/school and St. Columban!

With the move comes mixed emotions.  While I am eager to begin this new mission God has called me to, it is not the easiest to move on, especially as my two years at St. John's parish and school and St. Joseph's parish have been so abundantly blessed.  As the place where I was welcomed as a youth minister, seminarian, deacon and priest, and in the church in which I presided at my first Mass, I will be dearly missing the wonderful people with whom I walked.

Below is my final bulletin article at St. John's/St. Joseph's in which I thank the faithful for their support over the past two years:

As I prepare to move north I want to thank you all for a blessed time at St. John’s and St. Joseph’s. 
It has been unique that I spent time in official capacities here as a youth minister, seminarian, deacon and a priest.  Fr. Rich can’t even say that!  (Though he can claim to have been my priest, Vocation Director, Teaching Parish pastor and now boss).  I have learned more from Fr. Rich than any other priest how to be a good pastor of souls and I thank him for many years of formation and friendship.  I look forward to our continued work as priests and am very pleased to be on equal footing as of July 16th when I will officially be a pastor!
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with all of you in a variety of contexts: worship and Sacraments, St. John’s School, faith formation, RCIA, Family Nights, social events and meals at your homes.  I am very grateful for your warm welcome here and I could think of no better experience for my first assignment as a priest.  Thanks for all of the ways—big and small—in which you have inspired me to grow in my own relationship with Christ as a priest.
Thanks a ton to all of the faculty, staff and volunteers at the parish and school .  I have learned so much from you.  In fact, you taught me more about the day-to-day practicals of being a priest than six years of seminary did!
I appreciate the many kind words many of you have offered as I prepare for this transition and they inspire me in my goal of being a good and holy servant of God.  That said, please remember two facts as I move on.  First, Jesus is the reason any good comes from any priest.  Second, I’m not dying!  Seriously, no tears or eulogies…
Please pray for me as I move into my next assignment as a priest for our great Diocese.  Know of my prayers for all of you!
God Bless

Be comfortable being uncomfortable: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

            I began running competitively in junior high.  It wasn’t long before I realized that there was a point in every race that I wanted to fall over and die!  My cross country coach gave me some great in advice to push myself.  He always told our team, “You have to be comfortable running uncomfortable.”  To this day, every race I have done features a moment when I want to give up, but my coach’s words prove effective.  In fact, great performances, and especially great athletes, feature pushing harder when the race is the most difficult.
            The same is true in our faith life.  We will all face difficulties in life, and some of these are most severe—the death of a loved one, illness, facing an unexpected crisis and the like.  We must be comfortable being uncomfortable in the light of such trials.
            Isaiah provides two gems to motivate us, especially when life is most difficult and our faith is most challenged.  First, he gives a word of confidence: “Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail…”  He then points out a very simple, yet very true fact: “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!”
            These words should strengthen us because they are not simply coming from the prophet Isaiah—they are God’s Word to us.  May such words inspire us to overcome every challenge we face in life and in our faith.