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,

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

What Happened?

Scripture Readings

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles can leave us wondering, “What happened?”  The passage describes an idyllic, utopian community of believers that are single-minded in their wholehearted love for the Lord and His people.  They care for the needs of those around them and trust the Apostles to distribute their earthly goods as justly as possible.  Today, we look around at Christianity and we see divided hearts and minds among the thousands of different denominations.  We hear suspicious accusations cast upon our leaders in the Church as well as upon the needy.  We are compelled to ask, “What in the world happened?”

Fear happened.  Fear crept into the Church as it had crept into the garden and whispered that we should not trust.  This lie, told by the Liar, is a starting point for sin, for instance, when I fear for my happiness I seek fleeting remedies like overindulgence in alcohol, tv, etc.  So many sins can be shown to have a connection to fear: Pride fears that God doesn’t know that He is doing, Envy fears that another’s happiness diminishes mine, Anger fears that justice will never be fulfilled, Sloth fears that I will never have enough time, Greed fears that without possessions I have nothing of value, Gluttony fears that if I don’t get mine now I’ll never have it, and Lust fears that without pleasure there is no fulfillment.  Thus, if we want to be anywhere close to the Church described in Acts we need to become fearless again.  For you see, the prevailing undercurrent of all three readings is that there is a trust in God that overcomes fear and it is these three points I wish to present for our reflection.

In Acts, the power of the Resurrection, and Apostles witness to it, fostered fearless trust.  Would our bishops, priests, and lay leaders be easier to trust if they courageously bore a stronger witness to the resurrection of Christ?  Does the Resurrection of Jesus possess power in our minds and hearts, or has it been relegated to a cultural celebration and religious novelty?  Does it help us overcome the fear of death?

The Psalmist finds great assurance in Gods firm trustworthiness.  Do we share that view?  Do we find firmness and stability with the Lord?  Do we find God’s decrees trustworthy or do we fear that they will impugn upon our freedom?

Finally, in the Gospel, we find Christ prophesying his own death.  He said, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  Christ thus shows his trust in the Father’s plan.  Do I trust that my life serves a definite purpose?  Do I fear to die to myself because I do not trust God that there is truly fullness of life available to me, even now?

Lord, give us the grace to trust you in such a radical way that sin diminishes in our lives and that we can reflect the one heart and mind of the Church in its infancy.

There’s No Place Like Home

Scripture Readings

“There is no place like home.”  There is a lot of truth to this famous phrase from Dorothy as she escapes from OZ.  For many of us, there really is no place like home.  Home is relaxing and rejuvenating.  We are secure and welcome at home.  That is what home is supposed to be.  This is why sins against the home are so damaging and terrible.  When a home becomes a place of fear, isolation, and exhaustion it violates everything it is supposed to be.  It was the mentioning of the home that drew my attention in today’s Gospel.  After the debate among the Pharisees, it says, “Then each went to his own house.”  Why does John give us this detail?  Was it a good or bad thing? Continue reading “There’s No Place Like Home”

Discerning the Lord’s Will

Saturday after Epiphany

Scripture Readings

Today’s first reading offers a strange relationship between our petition and God’s providence.  Here is what John says, “We have this confidence in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked Him for is ours.”  This text seems like an appropriate clarification on Jesus’ “Ask and you shall receive,” but it also adds something to our side of the equation.  I not only read this and see John calling us to rely on prayer, but I sense him pushing us to discernment, particularly in three ways.

First, I should be pursuing and discerning the Lord’s will for me so that I may stand in greater confidence.  This form of discernment is more familiar to us.  This is the discernment of engaged couples, seminarians, postulants (baby sisters), and job seekers.  This is the discernment that builds off of the phrase, “God has a plan and purpose for you.”  This is good, but I think John asks us to go deeper.

Second, I need to try and understand the character and will of God, to the best of my fallible, human ability.  This level of discernment humbly recognizes that God had a will long before I ever existed.  The eternal God has me in His plan, but I’m only needed in it because He chose to create me.  This means that there is a discernible will and plan that is much larger than I.  This is important for me to pursue because it keeps my humility in check (see John the Baptist’s “I must decrease”), and it directly relates to prayer.  Scripture commands me to pray for others.  If I am to stand in confidence regarding those prayers, I need to discern God’s character beyond my own call.  The Gospel is accessible to me, and is meant for me, but it is far bigger than I alone.

Finally, discernment is necessary in the following verses.  “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life.  This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.  There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.”  These verses get tricky if: I don’t seek to understand God’s will; or I don’t try to get to know His character.  That ignorance can either make me blind to who my brothers and sisters are or make me as legalistic as the Pharisees in judging the severity of sin.  Not to mention, without discernment, how do I figure out what to do in the case of a deadly sin?

This entire section of 1 John calls me to get to know God, intimately, deeply, and in a way that I can stand in confidence.  Now in my language of discern and pursue I might make us sound a little too active.  Whether it is quieting yourself enough to pray in a posture of listening or letting the words of scripture transform your worldview, the Lord wishes to impart His will to you.

He is the bridegroom and we are the bride, let us enter into an exchange of wills with Him, so that we may stand confident in His love and His vows.

The Gift of Holiness

On All Saints’ Day I’d like to draw our attention to the gift of holiness and its antithesis, sin.

Too often our language is about the accumulation of sin and holiness seems to be nothing more than a lack of sin in one’s life.  Now this language isn’t entirely wrong, but if we use it exclusively I think it gives us some wrong headed ideas of what holiness means.  Holiness is not a deprivation or the great with-holder, sin is.  Holiness, which Christ calls us to, coincides with the call to have our joy, life, and peace complete and fulfilled.  Here is a perfect example of how we have lost this focus. Continue reading “The Gift of Holiness”

Blasphemes Against the Spirit

Reflection on the Readings for October 17, 2015

As it is the feast of Ignatius of Antioch, one of my son’s namesakes, I wanted to spend the entire reflection talking about him.  But then I read the Gospel.  So I’ll have to leave my focus on St. Ignatius of Antioch at a recommendation to check him out and give you these words from our 2nd Century brother, “It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”  Right, on to the Gospel. Continue reading “Blasphemes Against the Spirit”

Shackles & Chains

Last time when we reflected upon Mark 5:1-20 we stayed in the beginning.  Primarily we reflected on the fact that the man Christ met was possessed.  That reflection can be found in this post.  Our previous reflection took us through Mark 5:1 & 2.  Now we’ll continue on to verses 3-6.  Here is 3-5 in full: Continue reading “Shackles & Chains”