Lincoln’s Log 3-7-2021

Scrutinies and Sin

“The scrutinies… are rites for self-searching and repentance and … are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ….”
RCIA #141 [Emphasis added]

This weekend, and for the next two weeks, we will be praying the scrutiny rituals over our elect. These ancient rites remind us of the power of Sin in the world. Sin, with a capital “S” is the power of evil in the world that separates us from the love of God. It binds our freedom and leads us on the path of death. Like an addiction, sin roots itself deep in our hearts and makes us it’s slave (Rm. 7:14f). Sin also has a role in shaping the culture around us and distorts the way we see reality. Ultimately, Sin cuts us off from God, the source of life itself.

The Gospels for the next three weeks expose various ways Sin lurks in our midst, so that we can allow God to heal us and be delivered from all forms of Sin.

  • This weekend, as we encounter the Woman at the Well (Jn. 4), we see Jesus’ power over personal sin. This woman has made bad choices and given herself to false gods, but Jesus has the power to free her. She is released from the shame that has held her in bondage and is free to worship God “in Spirit and in Truth” (Jn. 4:23). We too, can be set free by Jesus.
  • Next weekend we will hear the story of the Man Born Blind (Jn. 9). We hear that we are blinded by Sin. We think we see, but we are blinded by our expectations and prejudices. There is social sin (CCC 1869), which distorts our vision and prevents us from seeing God’s Kingdom breaking in around us. Yet, as he healed the Man born blind, Jesus has the power to heal our blindness and reveal God’s Kingdom in all its glory.
  • Paul tells us “the final enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). In our final scrutiny Gospel, we witness Jesus’ power over this enemy. Jesus’ friend Lazarus has been claimed by death and rots in a tomb, but Jesus brings life which has power over death (Jn. 11).

For these next three weeks, the Gospels expose Sin and we pray, invoking Jesus’ power to free, heal, and conquer death itself. As we approach the great Mystery of Easter, let us turn to Jesus, our source of life.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 2-28-2021

Growing in Trust

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Rm. 8:31b

“How deeply do you believe that since God is for you, no one can destroy you?”
Question of the Week

In the story of the Transfiguration we hear of a powerful encounter with God. A few disciples travel with Jesus to a grand mountain vista. There, before their eyes Jesus begins to glow with a radiant light. Ancient prophets appear with Him and a voice booms from heaven declaring Jesus, “My beloved Son.” Wow!

How would you react if you were one of those disciples?

Mark tells us that the disciples were “terrified” (Mk. 9:6). The whole scene was overwhelming. The disciples didn’t know how to respond.

And suddenly, it was over. The disciples look around and there is no one else there, “but Jesus alone with them.”

As they come down the mountain and return to their lives, the questions keep coming. What does this mean? Jesus “charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mk. 9:9). They don’t even understand what Jesus was talking about but are questioning in their hearts “what rising from the dead meant” (Mk. 9:10).

This powerful encounter with God didn’t provide the disciples with answers. It spurred them to deeper questions. The mystery of God’s love for them in Jesus didn’t come all at once. It was only after the resurrection that the meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration began to become clear to these disciples. It took time for them to trust what had been said to them in that powerful mountaintop experience. They had to grow in their ability to trust Jesus, even though it had been revealed to them.

We all make a similar journey. We know that God loves us. We have heard the Gospel and we celebrate it week after week in our walk with the Lord. Yet, like the disciples we need to grow in our ability to trust. Every morning we open our eyes, every disaster averted, every prayer answered, every experience of forgiveness, generosity, or love reveals the trustworthiness of the Lord. We trust a little more. Some days are better than others. Some experiences challenge our ability to trust and others make the Lord’s steadfast love clear.

This week we explore the heart of that trust with our question, “How deeply do you believe that since God is for you, no one can destroy you?”

Pray with the question. Share it with others. Ponder it in your heart. It can lead you to deeper trust if you allow it.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 2-21-2021

Ministered to by Angels

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts and the angels ministered to him.”
Mk. 1:12-13

“When or how could you step away from your daily responsibilities to renew yourself, so that you can do a better job of following in the footsteps of Jesus?”
Question of the Week

I still remember the first retreat I led. It was for people who were preparing for baptism. Lent wasn’t too far off and this was the first retreat for all of them. They were all a little nervous, but I had been walking with them for several months and knew them well. They trusted that I wasn’t going to do anything too strange. Besides, it was only a few hours on a Saturday morning. I think most of them expected an extended version of what we did at our normal sessions.

But that wasn’t it at all.

After sharing a few readings from Scripture, I talked with them about spending some time in quiet. I stressed that the silence had a lot to teach us. I challenged them not to spend the time thinking about all the things they could be doing instead of being quiet but to allow the silence to teach them. I gave them a handout with a few spiritual questions on it about the readings we had read, but urged them to ignore the handout unless they were going crazy with the silence. I would be available to visit with them if they needed someone to talk with and we would discuss their experience with the silence after our time was up.

And the silence was powerful.

As I sat and prayed for them, I could see them settling into the quiet. They spread out throughout the building. They were all very quiet. A sacred silence descended.

After our time was up, we gathered together and shared our experience with the silence. One woman said that she felt a deep peace. Another man said his mind was racing for the first 20 minutes or so, but finally settled down and he could hear the beating of his heart. One woman said that she cried most of the time we were in silence, but she didn’t know where the tears came from. After the tears she felt that part of her had been healed. Several people said it was strange at first but they were able to settle in after a while. Some folks struggled and honestly admitted that it was hard, but they could see that it could be valuable to have silence as part of their life.

Jesus experienced a profound silence in the desert. We read that he was tempted by the devil, surrounded by wild beasts, and that angels ministered to Him. When we allow ourselves to be led into silence the same things can happen to us. All of our temptations are exposed, our inner wildness becomes apparent, and we can experience the ministry of angels… and we are renewed. Take some time this week to ponder our Question of the Week: “When or how could you step away from your daily responsibilities to renew yourself, so that you can do a better job of following in the footsteps of Jesus?”

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 2-14-2021

Scary Words, Scary Questions

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1

“Would you have the courage to tell others to do as you do in order to be a Christian? Why or why not?”
Question of the Week

This Sunday’s short second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1) contains some very scary words. Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Paul is holding himself up as a model for others to follow. He is saying that when people look at him and the way he lives his life, they should see how a Christian is supposed to live. Paul is putting himself out there as an example saying, “look at me and you will get a glimpse of Jesus.”

What makes these words scary is not that Paul says them, but that as Christians we are all called to live them. Each of us has been immersed in Christ at our baptism, confirmed in the Holy Spirit, and fed the Body and Blood of the Lord. Because of this close connection with Jesus we should be able to use those same words that Paul says. “Look at me and see Christ!”

Our lives should be models for others to follow. The truth is, that our lives are models, whether we admit it or not. We look to one another for guidance through life. Children look up to adults as models. If we do something, more often than not, they follow our lead.

Now you know why those words are scary!

But “Be imitators of me… “ is not all Paul says. He goes on to say, “… as I am of Christ.” Paul is holding himself up as a model only because he is following Jesus. Paul knows that his life is not about him. He knows that he is weak and that he fails. But Paul is striving to be the best disciple of Jesus that he can be. Paul keeps his focus on Jesus, and not himself. He trusts that by focusing his life on following Jesus, he will lead others to him. By surrendering to Jesus, Paul is able to influence others.

Lent begins this Wednesday and we have a chance to take stock of where we are in our desire to follow Jesus. Do we share Paul’s confidence? Are we able to hold up our lives as a model for others? In what ways do we still need to grow as disciples of Jesus?

This week’s question of the week makes the point clear, “Would you have the courage to tell others to do as you do in order to be a Christian? Why or why not?”

Now that’s a question that can lead us into a fruitful lent!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 2-7-2021

The Meaning of Life

“Job spoke, saying: ‘Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of a hireling? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages.’”
Job 7:1-2

“Jesus told his disciples, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose, I have come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.”
Mk. 1:38-39

This weekend’s readings confront us with the question of meaning. Job shows us the depths of despair. We see Job, in the midst of his suffering. He reflects on the lack of meaning in life. He asks, Why do I get up morning after morning? Every day is like yesterday. The sun comes up. The sun goes down. I get up. I go to work. I come home. I eat. I sleep. What does this all mean?

Despair is lurking at the gate of Job’s heart. And it lurks at the gate of our heart, too. These same questions can haunt our days and keep us awake at night. Everyone I know has struggled with these questions.

And Job doesn’t really get an answer to his questions. Instead, later in the book of Job, he has an encounter with God. This encounter changes the way he sees everything. In some mysterious way, meeting the Lord helps Job discover meaning in his life. He realizes that he is part of something bigger than himself. He has a role to play in the great drama of salvation, even if he can’t fully understand what it is. The answer to Job’s question of meaning is encountering the Lord.

The same is true for us. It is only in the light of an encounter with the Lord, that we discover life’s true meaning. It is much bigger than the answer to a question. It is a new relationship with everything because of our relationship with Jesus.

The gospels we’ve read since Christmas give us a glimpse of what this encounter can look like. When the first disciples encountered Jesus they dropped everything and followed Him (Jn. 1:35-42; Mk. 1:14-20). When the people in the synagogue encountered Jesus they discovered a “new teaching with authority” (Mk. 1:21-28). And in today’s Gospel Jesus heals those who encounter Him. He tells Simon that He has come to bring good news to all people – “For this purpose, I have come” (Mk. 1:38b).

Every day we have a chance to encounter Jesus by inviting him into the “meaningless” parts of our lives. He may not give us an answer, but He will be with us.

And that changes everything.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 1-31-2021

Question of the Week

“What is this? A new teaching with authority.”
Mk 1:27b

“What can you tell others about Jesus with the most assurance?”
Question of the Week

Over the past few months, we have been including a “Question of the Week” in the bulletin (near the week’s bible readings), in the weekly Powerpoint (the last slide of Mass), and in our weekly Flocknotes. These questions relate to the weekly Gospel and are meant to help us think more deeply and personally about the Gospel. They also make great starters for faith conversations (or “faith-talks”) in the car on the way home from Mass or around the dinner table or anywhere a faith conversation could be appropriate.

This week’s question got me thinking. “What can you tell others about Jesus with the most assurance?” What am I certain of about Jesus?

Several years ago, I taught a course on the historical Jesus at the University of Wyoming. In that course, we sifted through the historical evidence and various theories about what we could know about Jesus as a historical figure. It was a controversial time in the historical study of Jesus with the “Jesus Seminar” making strange and unfounded claims about what was “historical” and what was not. But even in the midst of controversy, there are some facts most historians would agree with.

However, these historical facts are not what I am most certain of about Jesus. Reading through academic analysis and historical studies did not make me more certain (or less certain) about Jesus. It clarified some points and obscured others. It gave my faith deeper roots in history. But it did not tell me the most important thing about Jesus and the thing I am most certain of.

It did not tell me that Jesus is alive. It did not tell me that Jesus is someone I can talk with in prayer, serve in caring for others, or encounter in the sacraments. It is these things that I am most certain of about Jesus.

Pope Francis said it well in his encyclical on evangelization, “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life for you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” The fact that Jesus is alive and available today is what I am most certain of. I hope that this message is what I can tell others about Jesus with the most assurance.

How about you?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 1-24-2021

Review: Love your enemies

“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths.”

Psalm 25:4

Over my “staycation” this past week, I spent a lot of time praying and reading. One of the books I read was Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks (You may know him as the author of The Conservative Heart). I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with the division in our country and our world.

As the title indicates, he names the source of division as contempt – the view that the person you disagree with is unworthy of consideration. Rather than engaging in genuine disagreement or debate, many of us are likely to dismiss the person we disagree with as unworthy. One jarring statistic from the book was that “in 1960, only 5 percent of Americans said they would be displeased if their child married someone from the other political party. By 2010, that number was 40 percent, and no doubt has risen from there.”

We are deeply divided politically, and this division is spilling over into the other facets of life, including our religious and spiritual lives.

How do we begin to heal this division? How do we move beyond simply tolerating those we disagree with to loving them?

Brooks offers some very practical guidance on how to heal this division. Here are his five summary rules:

  1. Stand up to the Man. Refuse to be used by the powerful.
  2. Escape the bubble. Go where you’re not invited, and say things people don’t expect.
  3. Say no to contempt. Treat others with love and respect, even when it’s difficult.
  4. Disagree better. Be part of a healthy competition of ideas.
  5. Tune out: Disconnect more from the unproductive debates.

Reducing the book to one sentence, Brooks writes, “Go find someone with whom you disagree; listen thoughtfully; and treat him or her with respect and love. The rest will flow naturally from there.”

This is good advice for all of us in this politically divided world. If you are distressed by our current division and looking for practical ways to love those you disagree with, I would urge you to read this book.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 1-17-2021

Staying with Jesus

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ They went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day.”
Jn. 1:39

This week we enter my favorite season of the church year: Ordinary Time. It doesn’t sound glorious or exciting, but Ordinary Time is my favorite season of the church year. Why?

I think my love for Ordinary Time comes from the fact that it is NOT glorious or exciting. Ordinary Time is about the basics of discipleship. It is a time of learning what it means to follow Jesus in the day to day aspects of life.

Let’s face it. Most of the time, being a disciple is not flashy. It involves getting up in the morning, praying, going to work or school, doing chores, eating, sleeping. The normal things of life. But when we do these ordinary things as disciples of Jesus, going where he leads us and responding to the promptings of the Spirit, they take on a deeper meaning. Following Jesus makes these ordinary things shine with divine light. Simple acts, done in love, become extraordinary.

I think that insight is central to the Gospel this week. The story of the Gospel is simple. It outlines an encounter with a rabbi with some disciples of John the Baptist. However, this encounter changes everything for those disciples. The rabbi invites them to “Come and see” what he is about and they stay with him.

That is our invitation this Ordinary Time. We are invited to stay with Jesus. As we spend time with Him, we learn that love is present in the most ordinary activities of life. No glory. No excitement. But the more we stay with Jesus, the deeper our souls become and the more we are empowered to love.

Discipleship takes place in the day to day routine of life. As we enter this season of Ordinary Time, let’s stay with Jesus. It is the most important thing we can do.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 1-10-2021

Looking Back at 2020

“My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
Is. 55:11

2020 was a rough year. Here is a year-end review from Joyce Rupp that I use every year. I hope it is helpful for you as you review your year.

As you look back on the year just completed (2020):

  1. What name would you give to your journey the past year? How would you describe it to one of your friends? What image or metaphor would you use to talk about it?
  1. What were some of your “epiphanies” of the past year (your discoveries of the Holy One in your midst)? How did you grow because of them?
  1. Who were your wise persons? What did they reveal to you? How did this influence your life?
  1. Did any of your hopes and dreams become a reality?
  1. What was most satisfying about the year? What was the least satisfying?
  1. How did your experience of the past year affect the world in which you live?

As you look to the year before you (2021):

  1. What name would you like your new year’s journey to have? What gifts do you bring with you into the year before you?
  1. Do you find resistance within you? Of what are you most afraid as you enter a new year?
  1. What is your greatest need for the coming year?
  1. Who do you bring with you for your support and strength as you begin to journey through the year?
  1. How is your relationship with the Holy One as you pause on the threshold of the new year’s vast landscape? What is at the heart of your new year’s prayer?
  1. What do you hope to contribute to society in this coming year?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 1-3-2021

Epiphany

“It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.
Eph. 3:5-6

“The word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal,’ in the sense of ‘according to the totality’ or ‘in keeping with the whole.’ … All men [sic] are called to this catholic unity of the People of God… and to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation.
CCC #830

God wants everyone to be saved (See 1 Tim. 2:4)! That desire for salvation is what we celebrate on the Feast of the Epiphany. Our prayers and readings remind us that God is calling everyone to salvation.

Our first reading reveals God’s promise that not only would God’s chosen people be saved, but that all the nations would find salvation through them (Is. 60:1-6). The second reading reminds us that in Jesus, God’s promise of salvation has been opened to all people, not just his chosen people. Finally, the magi in the Gospel are the first fruits of this new offer of salvation to all. As foreigners, they are invited to salvation through Jesus, the Messiah long-promised to God’s people.

This desire of God for the salvation of all humanity is what motivates us to share our faith. Those of us who are parents start at home by doing our best to help our children to grow up as disciples of Jesus. All of us proclaim the good news of salvation by serving those in need around us and praying for the salvation of the world. We can also reach out to specific people we know who may not have heard about the mercy and love of God.

We do these things because God wants everyone to be saved and He wants us to help him make that desire a reality. As we begin this new year, let’s recommit to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone we know!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader