To Catch His Gaze (3.3.2018)

Scripture Readings: Micah 7:14-20; Psalm 103; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

“Celebrate Mercy” was the name of a Lock-in I helped run a few years ago. We chose as our Scriptural cornerstone for that event, the parable we read today in Luke. For today we’ll call it the parable of the Prodigal Son, though a friend has made a good case for calling it the parable of the jerk-face brother. Anyway, I digress, for the real hero of the story is the Good Father.

Our passage from Micah beautifully sets the scene for our hero, especially with the words that describe how God, “does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt.” This is the character of our God as we see Him further extolled in the Psalms. Micah is echoed, and the parable foreshadowed, in these words, “He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills … As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.”

0e5885409_1486053429_2009110-riojasThe character described above is the same as the Father who runs to his son and embraces him, casting his sin back into the far away country from which he came. This is the same Father who slaughtered the fattened calf to celebrate his son’s repentance and return. And now we come to the paradoxical part of this father and our God. The celebration of mercy comes not because God is blind to our sin, but because he knows it better than we do and knows how detrimental it is for us. He has watched us in the far-off land and then celebrates our repentant return. He sees this not as the wizening up of a foolish child, but as the resurrection of a dead man.

We can be grateful when people don’t know our vices. We can be thankful when someone chooses not to bring up our failings, but the Father delights in clemency and celebrates mercy. This can only happen if we can stare our sin in the face. This can only happen if God has intimate knowledge of our darkness because he has been staring into it waiting for us to turn around and catch his gaze.

prodigal son3

This reality of God’s familiarity with our sin is evident in the earlier readings too. In Micah, God treads our guilt underfoot and casts our sin into the deep. In the Psalm He heals us while we are still ill and puts our transgression far from us. Finally, in the Gospel, he embraces us while we still carry the dirt of the road and smell like the pig sty from which we came.2077807

We celebrate mercy, because God’s mercy is not an act of blind denial by a God who is ignorant or lying to Himself, No, it is the work of a God who can see through the darkness.  The same is true for us. Unless we can recognize the darkness from which we are called, we’ll never fully celebrate the light we enter.

The 7 Deadly Sins & the 7 Last words of Christ

An Examination of Conscience

This examination started as a personal exercise that a friend asked me to put to writing. 

Thank you to Sarah Cerrone for putting that challenge to me and thank you to Will Marsh, Fr. Steve dos Santos, Dan Hutson, Austin & Makayla Citrigno their help editing it.  Thank you also to Bishop Robert Barron for inspiring me to begin examining my walk by looking for the 7 Deadly Sins.

Please pray this. 

Ask the Holy Spirit to take you down roads I missed and to allow you to be honest with yourself. 

I pray daily for anyone using this examination, please pray for me.


  • Does my anger persist long after an offense? Have I lashed out at others while angry?
  • Do I dwell upon the harm I wish to cause another? Do I have grudges? Do I fuel them in myself or others?
  • Have I allowed anger to damage, even break, my relationships, especially with family?
  • Do I blame others for my anger? Have I apologized for it? Have I refused another forgiveness because of my anger?
  • Do I pray for and bless my enemies?

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

The first words of Christ after being lifted up upon the cross are words of forgiveness.  The sinless one is being unjustly killed and yet he does not hurl insults and curses.  Instead, Christ is raised above the people gathered there and showers them with the mercy of the Lord.


  • Am I pained by the success of others? Do I take pleasure at other’s failures?
  • Do I find myself envious of the gifts and talents of another, instead of praising the Lord for them?
  • Am I envious of others’ possessions or relationships?
  • Am I drawn to gossip, slander, or libel (written slander)? Do I encourage those sins in others?

“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

As Christ hangs upon the cross he does not take comfort in the suffering of the criminals next to him, rather he has pity on them.  He does not cling enviously to who he is – Life, Love, Light, and Truth – but in his generous mercy lavishes these upon all of us, even the repentant criminal at his side.


  • Do I view other humans as a means to satisfy my sexual desires?
  • Do I demonize my sexuality? Do I view sexuality as a gift to be cared for or a curse to be dealt with?
  • Have I committed adultery with my body, my mind, or my emotions?
  • Have I violated another sexually – committed sexual abuse or harassment?
  • Have I released my sexual desires through pornography, erotic reading, self-stimulation, or sexual activity outside of marriage? Within marriage, is our intimacy a renewal of our freely given marriage vows?  Are we open to God’s participation in our marriage (e.g. do we pray about our budget, do we use contraceptives, is our home our castle or a place of welcome)?

“Woman, behold your son … Behold your mother.”

When Christ entrusts Mary and John to each other he raises the dignity of motherhood.  However, it’s not just what Jesus said, but how he said it.  In using the word “Behold” he calls Mary and John to see each other as they truly are – as God sees them.  Lust, however, violates how I see another and how I see myself.  This is why it is commonly associated with the eyes.  Not because it is a sin of looking, but because it is a perversion of seeing.  It is to see another and believe we can take what is theirs and will never belong to us.


  • Am I the center of my own little world? Have I sidelined God and others?  Do I have idols?
  • Do I make time for a daily prayer life? Do I make Sunday Mass a priority?
  • Do I act as if God owes me or believe I can manipulate God? Do I help the Lord’s name and reputation be respected?
  • Do I set myself apart, particularly above others? Do I judge others’ hearts, something only God can do?
  • God is truth and life, do I insult Him by lying or degrading others’ human dignity?
  • Do I flaunt a false humility?

“My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus teaches us that true humility is honest.  It is honest about how little I know of God’s plan and that God is God and I am not.  Thank God for that!  I am not trustworthy like the Lord is.  Thus, true humility is allowed to feel confused in the face of hardship and suffering.  When we are humble we might cry out for guidance like Christ on the cross, but we never forget that we can trust the Lord in our weakness, just as Christ’s words are the opening lines of Psalm 22 – a psalm of victory.


  • Do I overindulge in food or drink? Am I wasteful with that same food or drink?
  • Do I disregard my physical health? On the flipside, am I vain about my physical health?
  • Are my acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving used to help the poor and disadvantaged?
  • Do I use illegal drugs, drink underage, or put myself and others at risk through my drinking?
  • Do I spurn hospitality because what is offered does not suit my tastes?

“I Thirst.”

With these simple words, Christ stands in solidarity with all of those around the world who need food and clean water.  Christ needed.  The second person of the Trinity subjected himself to the needs of human life.  This legitimizes our need for food and drink, but a legitimate need is very different from an abused practice.  Our thirsty Lord was not satisfied by a choice wine that costs more than what some families pay to put food on the table.  Rather, he was satisfied by spoiled wine.


  • Am I wasteful with the gift of time? Am I inconsiderate of others’ time?
  • Do I lack motivation in the areas of life that matter – faith, family, well-being of others?
  • Do I lack the capacity to say “no,” thus allowing busyness to prevent me from committing to anything?
  • Am I lazy or apathetic? Do I lack diligence?  Do I procrastinate?
  • Do I put-off loving those around me because I presume I’ll have plenty of time for it later?
  • Am I sloppy and hasty in an effort to just be done with a task?

“It is finished.”

This world will come to an end.  Our earthly lives will come to a close.  Even the God-Man declared “It is finished,” as he neared death.  Christ, convicts us to act deliberately and diligently.  He doesn’t establish efficiency as a virtue, but he makes it clear that we have work to do and we best get to it.  The harvest is ready, but the laborers are few.


  • Do I place my worth and value in possessions? Do I thirst for power and authority?
  • Do I compromise my morality in order to possess and experience? (ex. piracy, lying)
  • Do I use resources excessively? Am I aware of the wider impact of my consumption?
  • Do I invest my time and talent into my church and community or do I only seek to receive?
  • Do I explore the most moral ways to spend my money or do I always seek the lowest price?
  • Do I give to charity and the Church? Do I take on the cost of hospitality?

“Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”

It is so tempting to grasp and grab at everything.  We live in a consumer culture that says “you are what you have” and “if you get it, hang onto it.”  God, on the other hand, is the divine gift-giver.  His divine life is gift.  Naked, destitute, abandoned, and nailed to the cross Christ made a gift of all he had left – his life.  Can we live lives of giving and receiving instead of taking and selling?

Lord, having recalled my sins and reflected the last sayings of your Son, whom I desire to imitate, please convert my heart and give me the grace to prevail against these sins in the future.
Let this meditation on both my need for forgiveness and the source of that mercy bear fruit in my life.  Stir in my heart a desire to hear your words of mercy again in Reconciliation.
I love you.
In Jesus’ name,

Quit Playing Games (7.23.16)

It was 7th grade.  We were sitting in line waiting for our name to be called to go out to our cars.  I had something pressing to tell my friend, probably something about the Pokémon I was looking for (yup we were playing that when I was in middle school too).  Knowing we weren’t supposed to talk, I folded my hands over my face so my palms covered my mouth and my fingers met on the bridge of my nose.  I was mid-sentence when my teacher crouched down right in front of me, hands just like mine telling me, “I can still see your mouth moving.”  That’s what he said, what I heard was, “I see you trying to be clever which means you know the rules, but you’re not that clever, so stop playing games with me.”

Similarly, I think God is telling us in today’s readings to not play games.  Listen to these words: “Are you to steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal, go after strange gods that you know not, and yet come to stand before me in this house which bears my name, and say: ‘We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again’? Has this house which bears my name become in your eyes a den of thieves? I too see what is being done, says the LORD.”

We cheapen God’s mercy when we presume upon it, forgetting that it comes to us through the cross.  Jeremiah could as us: Do we tithe with the money we saved by buying sweatshop products?  Do our judgements and stinginess push scared mothers toward abortion?  Do we make the faults of our spouse or significant other the butt of our jokes with friends?  Do we have our morning devotion to our smart phone, burn incense to our flag, bow down to our politics, or ‘tithe’ to our own comfort while neglecting prayer, the Kingdom of God, putting on the mind of Christ, and giving to the poor?  Do we look at all these, shrug and say, “It’s ok, God understands?”

It is true God understands!  But we need to lift up a cry of, “Thank you God for understanding,” not dismiss him with the mindset of, “Forget God, He understands anyway.”  God is merciful when we fall, not merciful so we’ll fall.  The book of Wisdom says it this way, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance” (11:23).

Through Jeremiah God essentially tells us, “I wasn’t born yesterday, so please, don’t play games with me.”  We play games with God when we ‘prepent’ (sinning counting on repentance later, “Father forgive me for what I’m about to do).  Or when we make a God a fool to manipulate.  Or in these striking words from Fr. Larry Richards, when we claim love for the Eucharist, but neglect one another (Fr. Larry is admittedly a little brash, but sometimes we need the challenge): “Do we see Christ, really see Him, in the people around us? Or do we come in and say, ‘Oh, I only see Jesus in the Eucharist and I bow down and worship Him. Oh Lord, I love you.’ But then I hate the people next to me. Oh am I sick of that. If you can’t love the person next to you, don’t play games saying that you love Him. Don’t even begin to do it because you are a liar. Don’t play games with God. If you sit there and you see Jesus here, then you darn better well see Him in the person next to you, whether you like them or you don’t like them, Christ is there. Stop judging them. Stop putting them down and stop saying all of these things against them. Christ is in the person next to you just as real as He is in the tabernacle and that take’s eyes of faith. Do you have the eyes of faith?”

Lord, help us to rejoice in your great mercy because we take you seriously and comprehend how great of a gift it truly is.

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

Guest Post: The Gift of Trust

“The wages for sin is death.” (Rom 6:23)
“When sin reaches maturity, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:15)
Neither of those verses are from today’s readings, but they both came to mind as I was pondering the promise of punishment made in Amos 3:2:
You alone have I favored,
more than all the families of the earth;
Therefore I will punish you
for all your crimes.
The punishment at hand is enormous. When we stare the fruit of our sin (death) in the face, there can be roughly 3 responses. The first is feigned ignorance– choosing to disregard the effects of willfully pursuing ways of life outside of loving God and neighbor with our whole heart. The second is despair– to believe that our sin is too great for the love and mercy of our Lord, and to give up either on ourselves or on God. The third option is possibly the hardest, but inevitably the path we must take– to know both the gravity of our sin, and the endless faithfulness of our Lord, trusting in mercy but never ceasing in our desire to be perfected.
When we find ourselves in the third camp, there is nothing to fear. There are no storms of our soul, no matter how great, that are not calmed by the love and mercy of God. We do not fear for our bodies, because we know that bodily death is not the end. We do not fear for our souls, because we have entrusted ourselves entirely to the mercy of Jesus.  When Jesus asks his disciples, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” he is not mocking them. Hidden within the question is an essential truth: “I care for you so deeply that I will not let you perish. Please trust my love for you. Please trust my mercy. I am doing everything, everything, even becoming man, to show you how much I love you.” Beyond an intellectual understanding that God is greater than sin, Jesus invites us to give Him a gift– the gift of trusting Him.
-Katrina Boos


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)

Temptations of a Heady Christian – Evil Stepmother

This was the scene today.  Bess and I were in the kitchen talking about something inane, like how we are going to spend our weekend?  (its all a formality, we are going to spend it tired, chasing children, and lamenting how quickly it is passing… such is parenthood).  Anyway, mid-conversation crying starts from the other room.  My sister-in-law Mercy says, “He bonked his head on the table,” and Ignatius comes trotting into the kitchen holding the back of his head crying.  I, the closer of the two parents, crouch down and open my arms.  Iggy, cuts hard to the left, jukes my attempts at comforting father and gets swept up in Bess’ motherly embrace.  Immediately, she is all, “It’s okay honey.  You are all right sweetheart.  I’m here snookums, sugar lips, etc, etc.”  Ok, maybe not the last one, but the whole scene got me thinking (note to self: the tendency to have theological musings as your child is in pain might be why he chooses mom).

tremaineSee, I think one of the temptations that heady Christian’s face is that we are bad at expressing the emotive motherly church that ‘loves on’ her children.  We’re really good at talking about love and defending that love sometimes need to be firm (which it does!).  However, as a heady Christian, I frequently skip the step my wife offered my son so well.
It is easy to be more like the evil stepmother than the loving mother.  Let me offer examples of one vs the other:

A child bonks his head playing under the table.
Comes to the evil-stepmother crying:  “Well I’ve always told you not to do that.  Guess you learned your lesson. I was only telling you no because I loved you.”
Comes to loving mother crying: After comforting the crying child by loving on him, she says, “Honey, I’m sorry you bonked your head, but this is why you aren’t supposed to play under there.”

Am I crazy in thinking this is analogous to the ways we, as the Church, can approach those hurt by their own sin?  Certainly there is the mother who doesn’t discipline or correct and we need to avoid that extreme, but that is hardly the heady Christian’s temptation.  No, we are more likely to fall into the trap of correcting before comforting and relying on our statement of love to suffice instead of consciously expressing love.  We are tempted to take a detached, “What did you think would happen?” attitude, instead of accepting that sometimes we don’t think, or at last not rationally.

The Church is a mother, and like any parent she needs to be able to correct and guide her children, but she also needs to know that sometimes they need to get through their tears before they’ll open their ears.