Who You Talking To?

As summer comes to a close, I am excited for the 2nd Encounter Dayton on September 10 and Encounter Cincinnati on September 24.  Both of those are going to be great events.  We are going to be able to lift up praise to our God with our voices, return to His merciful embrace through Reconciliation, and stand face-to-face with Him in Adoration.  Now all of these things are available to us all the time.  Seriously, check Masstimes.org.  But I get it why they can all seem just a little more amped at Encounter.

A part of this reality might tie into the fantastic word that we get to hear.  The speakers have always peeled back the layers of distractions at every Encounter I’ve gone to.  This clarity helps me run, not walk to Reconciliation.  It reminds me to pray our praise songs.  It releases me to embrace the mystery of the Eucharist.  But not without a struggle.

See, whether it is Steubenville, Encounter, or a homily, I have a battle to fight inside.  Maybe you can relate to this.  The second I feel challenged or convicted by a message I cease to be the audience.  Do you know what I mean?  Instead of letting the words sink in, you spiritually deflect them, like Obi-wan with his lightsaber. “This talk is great!  So & so needs to hear this.”  Have you ever done that?

Don’t get me wrong, we can share pearls of wisdom with others, but if we don’t let that wisdom impact us as well then it wasn’t sharing at all.  It was more like pelting them with pearls of wisdom.  And we can’t do that!

We cannot do that because:

  • It can often come from a place of judgement.
  • We need to be challenged.  Jesus wants to be our best friend, and you know what my best friends do?  They tell me when I’m not acting like myself.  Is there anyone who knows the true you better than Jesus?  We need to let Him call us out.
  • If we train ourselves to deflect when God is trying to challenge us because it makes us squirrely and squirmy, we will do it again.  Only this time we might redirect when we hear the Lord say,
    • “I love you.”
    • “I am proud of you.”
    • “You are my beloved Child with whom I am well pleased.”

When you are at Encounter or listening to your priest’s homily, let the tough word sink in.  For if we can admit that our Father’s word of correction is truly for us, we can allow our hearts to truly hear His love for us.

Photo Credit: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Form_III/Legend

Praying with the Psalms

I read the Amos prophecy and thought of some really cool, impractical thoughts I could offer.  So, I ruled out those.  Then I read the Gospel and felt so distant from cloak patching and wineskin drinking that I wasn’t sure what to say there.  I then thought, what about this often forgotten section, the Psalm.  Remarkable isn’t it?  We read the Psalms multiple times a day in the Church.  Psalms are included in nearly every office of Liturgy of the Hours, every daily Mass, and every Sunday Mass.  This is one rich Old Testament book.  So today, let’s look to the Psalm, and I want to offer a rewording of the Psalm as a meditation.  So you don’t have to leave this page, here is the original text:

“I will hear what God proclaims; / the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people. / Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, / glory dwelling in our land. / Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, / and justice shall look down from heaven. / The LORD himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps.”

Help me listen for your voice, Lord.  I trust that You speak and that I will know Your voice for it will lead me to peace.  For with You there is peace as I am near the fullness of life.  I find peace in You, especially when I admit that you are God and I am not.  When I walk so as to please other people I find myself lost amid the paths of wilderness.  But when I fear You, when I desire to please You above and beyond any creature, for You are Creator, I find the narrow way stretching out before me.  When I walk this way I see how little comes from me and how all that is around me is a gift.  The world is charged with Your grandeur, O’ God!  When I walk with You, difficult things to reconcile become well acquainted.  To know You, to follow You, is to walk as a disciple of Love and Truth incarnate.  It is to stand in awe as Justice and Peace kiss where the beams of the cross meet.  We call this choreographed collision of Love, Truth, Peace, and Justice, Mercy.  Misericordia, Your righteous heart (cordia) stooping low to encounter the truth of our misery (miseri) which is lifted to You by Truth nailed to a tree.  In this mercy, this meeting of Your heart with our misery, we share in Your love, compassion, and even Your divine nature.  Help us to bear fruit, Lord, so that Your vineyard may grow…

Now this prayer isn’t over yet.  I did not rewrite the last two lines of the Psalm because want to invite you to adapt them into your own words.  Use this as an opportunity to practice praying the Psalms.  Even share your rewrite if you are so inclined.

– Spencer Hargadon


Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Mercy comes in unexpected ways.  For instance, shortly after my mother-in-law had twins (giving her four kids three and under, not to mention the three older ones!) my mother-in-law requested of the Lord, “God, give me Mercy!”  Not long after she found out she was pregnant again.  They named my sister-in-law Mercy.  Mercy certainly comes in unexpected ways and Jude captures that in today’s first reading.

Here is the portion of the passage we should draw our attention to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.”  In these words we see three mercies and the source of the grace for us to walk in these three mercies.

  1. “On those who waver, have mercy.”  This first mercy is the one that overrides our desire to turn to our brother or sister and tell them, “Get your crap together.”  This is particularly a mercy to be shown between believers, and it comes authentically from the awareness that all of us, in some way, must confess the words, “Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.”  We all have areas where we are lukewarm.  We all have convictions in which we waver.  This mercy stops me from being blind to my own wavering by focusing on condemning my brother or sister.
  2. “Save others by snatching them out of the fire.”  The image that pops in my head is ripping keys out of my son’s hands before he shoves them in an electrical outlet (don’t worry we have since put in the outlet plugs).  For in that moment my son was ignorant to the danger.  In other cases this may be the person who doesn’t yet see the harm they are already experiencing.  A simple example is me when I go to the beach and neglect to refresh my sun screen every 3 minutes.  I’m going to be burned unless someone snatches me from the fire of those evil UV rays.  Spiritually speaking, this can happen to.  Someone can bask in habits, sins, mindsets, lifestyles, and choices that are so harmful to them, but they just don’t see it yet.  Jude is saying, snatching them from that is a mercy.
  3. “On others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.”  This is the mercy that enters into brokenness, sin, and dysfunction in order to accommodate the person, but not enable the problem.  This fear is a holy fear of the destructive nature of sin.  This is the mercy one might show to an abuser, a firm mercy that forgives but still moves to protect of the victim at all costs.  This is the mercy shown to a friend or family member addicted to drugs.  Always loving on them, but never enabling them.

The source of the grace for us to walk in these three mercies is articulated in this line, “Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”  To persevere in the love of God means we will love what God loves and hate what God hates.  I can only show true mercy when I love someone all the more when they are in sin, because I hate the damage sin does.  And I see this love in Christ in the Gospels.  When Christ enters the locked upper room where the disciples cower and says, “Peace be with you,” he has profound mercy on those who are wavering.  When he calls Zacchaeus from the tree he snatches him from the fire of his greed.  And when he reminds Peter who is Master and who his disciple, with the words, “Get behind me, Satan” he has mercy with fear.  He sees the temptation to pride in Peter’s advice and abhors the work of the accuser there, while still calling Peter to return to his rightful place, following Jesus.

And why do we have this mercy, because we can look upon all of this through the lens of eternity because He has had mercy on us.

– Spencer Hargadon

QotD – O Lord and Lover of Souls – 05.24.2016

“For with you great strength abides always;
who can resist the might of your arm?
Indeed, before you the whole universe is a grain from a balance,
or a drop of dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook the sins of men that they might repent.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls.”

(Wisdom 11:21-26)

Hands Wide Open

It may not look like it now but in college I used to rock climb all the time.  It works your mind, body, and will all at once.  You have to climb smart to be any good.  Smarts alone won’t cut it though if you can’t pull yourself along sometimes.  Both smarts and strength though can be rendered useless if you don’t have the perseverance and confidence to trust your grip or positioning to keep you on the wall when it counts.  Anyway, all this climbing experience came back to me when I first heard the song, “Nothing I Hold Onto” (don’t know it?  Listen to it here).

4e6b9e50e70fa868bac5523456d2a15b“Nothing I Hold Onto” is a great praise and worship song.  It is simple and easy to enter.  The lyrics are specific enough to make a prayer but vague enough to make your own.  When I first heard it I loved it stylistically.  One problem.  I don’t listen for style.  I’m a lyrics person.  So, when we got around to the line “I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open” I got distracted.  I’m listening like, “Really Will Reagan?  Climbing with my hands wide open.  That is called falling.”

IMG_1738That is when my son, Ignatius, popped in my head.  Iggy was about 1 at the time.  When he decided walking was a little too pedestrian for him, he would come to me or my wife with his arms up and hands wide open.  Every parent knows that is the universal sign for “Mommy, Daddy, pick me up.”

Suddenly, Will Reagan didn’t seem like he needed a physics lessons.  Instead, I saw that he understood the Father’s love better than I did.  Climbing this mountain with our hands wide open is running to God with arms up and hands wide open.

We climb this mountain with our hands wide open because our Father stoops low and lifts us to new heights, giving us a new perspective, and broadening our horizon.

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1)


No More Enemies?

Scripture Readings

As I read today’s gospel passage I was reminded of a post I saw online.  It said, “Love your enemies and you won’t have any.”  Jesus’ line today goes a little more like this, “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you”.  So the question I want to raise is, “If you follow Christ’s instruction, does an absence of enemies naturally and necessarily follow?  Is there possibly a bigger purpose for why we love our enemies?” Continue reading “No More Enemies?”

My (nearly) 2 Year Old Found this Prayer

I have no recollection of writing this, but it was floating around my house.

Lord, grant me humility by deflating my pride.
Lord, grant me courage by destroying my fear.
Lord, grant me confidence by forgiving my shame.
Lord, grant me strength in my faith by removing my doubt.
Lord, grant me wisdom by enlightening my mind.
Lord, deepen my love, by removing my barriers hindering Yours.
Lord, make me gentle as the sheep that I am.
Lord, set me free, by taking control.

QotD – Power of Truth & Love – 2.14.2016

But the power of being is not man’s own power; it is the power of the Creator. And faith teaches us this about the Creator: that he is not only Truth, but also Love, and that the two are inseparable. God has as much power in the world as truth and love have. This would be a melancholy thought if all we knew of the world was what we ourselves have been able to observe and experience in the course of our lifetime. But from the perspective of the new experience that God has bestowed on us in Jesus Christ, together with himself and the world, it is a sentence full of triumphant hope. For now we can read this sentence in reverse: truth and love are identical with the power of God because he not only possesses truth and love, he is Truth and Love. Truth and love are, therefore, the real, the definitive power in the world. On this certainty rests the hope of the Church and the hope of Christians. Or better: that is why Christian existence is one of hope.

(Ratzinger, J. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. 59–60)

Rhythm of Inconvenience

Scripture Readings (this is a day late)

Here we are.  We are nearing the first Sunday in Lent.  We have taken our Lenten fasts and devotions out for a test drive.  At this point, we might have been put in a situation by our Lenten practices where we say “Well this is inconvenient.”

Among the many purposes of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer during Lent, I find the moment of inconvenience so important.  It is a part of our training for the Christian life.  This rhythm of inconvenience is found throughout all the readings today.

The first movement of inconvenience is the call.  This is found in today’s gospel reading.  Luke records, “Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.  He said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.”  The inconvenience of our Lenten practices helps prepare us for the ever-deepening call from the Lord.  This is the Lord that shows up in the middle of Levi’s workday and just says ‘Come, follow me”.  When Christ, encounters us at inopportune times we hope to stand up and respond.  To do so, we need to be willing to do that which is inconvenient for our Faith.

The second movement is a hopeful effort to address injustice.  We see one approach to this in Luke today, “Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.”  We also find this call articulated in the first reading, “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”  Anyone of us can see how the call to “remove from your midst oppression” seems like an inconveniently impossible demand.  Yet we are called to pursue it in Hope, trusting that the Lord can do far more through our meager efforts than we could ever dream.

The third movement is the surrender of our rest.  The entire end of the first reading speaks to this.  Here is what is found in Isaiah, “If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the Sabbath a delight, and the LORD’s holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice. Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  The quintessential day off, or Sabbath, is not ‘my time.’  It isn’t the day that I get to spend however I want; doing whatever pleases me.  Instead, Isaiah inconveniently tells us that true rest, “the heritage of Jacob”, comes from the Lord.  And so we are called to Love the Lord to the point of even trusting Him with our rest.

Lord, this Lent, as we partake in fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, help them to deepen faith, hope and love within us so that we may respond to your call, offer ourselves as a solution to injustice, and surrender our rest to you.

QotD – Love, a more cogent teacher – 2.8.2016

“We cannot help conforming ourselves to those we love.  It is in this sense, I think, that the great apostle says that, ‘the law is not made for the just.’  In fact, the just man is not just unless he has holy love.  If he has love, there is no need to urge him on with the rigor of the law, since love is a more cogent teacher and solicitor to persuade a heart possessing it to obey the will and intentions of its beloved. … Love is a magistrate who exercises his authority without noise, without bailiffs or sergeants-at-arms, but merely by that mutual complacence whereby, just as we find pleasure in God, so also we reciprocally desire to please Him.” (Sales, Francis de. Finding God’s Will for You. 8)