Lincoln’s Log 9-26-2021

Three Big Questions

Who is God?

What is the Gospel?

Who am I?

I’ll be spending the next 5 months focusing on these three big questions as part of the discipleship formation I’m engaging in the Renovaré Institute. I’ll be in online discussions, reading, writing, and finding creative ways to engage these three questions. These questions are foundational to our life as disciples. They cut to the heart of what we believe.

How would you start to answer them? Where would you look to find some answers? They are questions that, whether you are aware of them or not, we are answering every day. These questions that lurk behind our decisions and actions. They shape each of our days.

As a Catholic, I know the key place to look to find answers to these questions is Jesus Christ. The church teaches:

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. (Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World #22).

Jesus reveals who God is. He reveals who we are. And Jesus comes to proclaim and make present the Good News of the Gospel.

I invite you to join me in looking to Jesus and seeking a deeper understanding of these three Big Questions.

  • When you look at Jesus, what do you discover about who God is?
  • What does Jesus teach you about who you are?
  • And what is the Good News that Jesus brings?

Let’s explore these deep mysteries together. I’d love to hear what your think and what you have discovered.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 9-19-2021

New Beginnings

This past week, I began a new course of studies on discipleship. Here is a poem from John O’Donohue’s book, To Bless the Space Between Us, that was shared as we began:

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

As we begin a new academic year, may the blessing of New Beginnings be with you!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 9-12-2021

Renovare

“We imagine a world in which people’s lives flourish as they increasingly become like Jesus.”
Renovare Ministry Team

“The Renovaré Vision is simple and straightforward: a life of flaming love for God with all our ​“heart, soul, mind, and strength” and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29 – 31).”
Richard Foster, Renovare founder

Over the course of the next two years, due to a grant from the Diocese of Green Bay, I will be participating in the Renovare Institute. This ecumenical institute focuses on renewing disciples to become more like Jesus. This weekend I am at the first of four week-long intensives on spiritual formation. Along with in-person intensives, I will be reading, praying, practicing spiritual disciplines, and studying with others around the country and a few international participants. I am excited about this opportunity and I ask for your prayers as this journey begins. (We were supposed to begin last year, but COVID postponed our work).

I know that participating in the Renovare Institute will shape the way we form disciples here at St. Thomas More. Discipleship is at the center of what we do here at St. Thomas More. The Diocese of Green Bay has made forming missionary disciples our number one priority. I believe that the tools, resources, and connections that Renovare offers will help us to be renewed as disciples.

I am holding St. Thomas More in prayer as I begin this journey. I would encourage you to visit the Renovare website at http://www.renovare.org to find out more. The Renovare Book Club beginning soon and would be a good place to start if you like what you see.

May God continue to renew us all as we grow to become more like Jesus.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-29-2021

What’s important?

“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
Mt. 7:6; see Is. 29:13

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
James 1:22

Our lives reflect our priorities. What is important to us comes out in our behavior. How we treat the things, people, and events around us uncovers what we find essential and what dominates our attention. We must guard our hearts for from them flow the springs of life (see Proverbs 4:23).

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus is confronting some scribes and Pharisees. These men are seeking the approval of others (or even striving to feel good about themselves). External compliance with the rules is what matters to them. Going through the motions is enough for these scribes and Pharisees. It is the letter of the law that matters. For these folks, looking good to yourself and to others is what is most important.

But that is not the way it is in the Kingdom of God! External observation of rules does not impress God. We may be able to dazzle those around us. We might even be able to impress ourselves if we try hard enough. But God is concerned with our hearts. Jesus points out that what matters is what we allow to flow from deep within ourselves where our spirit and the Spirit of God dwell.

Like these scribes and Pharisees, the way we appear to others can come to dominate our decisions. One way this distortion manifests itself is through social media. Our clicking and posting can feed the desire to “look good.” We may carefully cultivate and curate our online images in order to give the right impression. We can market ourselves as intentionally as any influencer. We just aren’t as good at it. This is the warped approach to life that Jesus is confronting.

Instead, the Word of God tells us to stop deluding ourselves and others. We are challenged to dig deep into our hearts and uncover the Spirit dwelling there. Then we discover what is important. It is not looking good externally, but discovering “the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Pt. 3:4).

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-22-2021

Eucharist 4: Tough Teachings

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Jos. 24:15

Peter said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jn. 6:69

This weekend we return to the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel for the end of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. It is here that we are confronted with a decision. Do we believe what Jesus is saying? Do we believe that whoever eats His flesh will live forever and that He has given His flesh for the life of the world (see Jn. 6:51)?

We are confronted with these questions every time we celebrate Mass. Every given Sunday, we are faced with the question of the Eucharist. Is this really the Body and Blood of Jesus as He said it was?

This is not an easy teaching to accept. The Gospel tells us that “As a result of this [teaching], many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him” (Jn. 6:66). It was too mysterious, too strange, too intimate.

But many of us show up week after week, precisely because of this Mystery. The strangeness and intimacy bring us close to a God who is strange – beyond our comprehension, but who longs to be so close to us that He gives us His flesh. We have “come to believe” in Jesus, who is who He says He is and does what He says He does (Jn. 6:69). When Jesus invites us to this level of intimacy, we are shocked but respond as Peter does, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn. 6:69).

Jesus never forces our response, but He is always inviting us to a deeper connection and friendship.

As you celebrate Communion this week, respond to the Lord’s shocking invitation to intimacy. You will not be disappointed!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-15-2021

Assumption of Mary

I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.”

Jn. 6:51

“Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”

Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus

[Note: because of the feast of the Assumption, we will read the final section of Jn. 6 next weekend]

Today we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul into heaven. The feast has been celebrated as far back as at least the 5th century. The doctrine of the Assumption is the focus of the fourth joyous mystery of the rosary and leads us to reflect on the meaning of death. What happens when we die? What is the nature of eternal life?

The Catechism states that “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (#966). In other words, Mary’s Assumption reveals to us in a concrete way, that we will all be resurrected to live with Christ. Jesus is indeed the “firstfruits” but we will all share in His resurrection. Maybe we should speak of Mary as the “second fruit” of the resurrection.

However we talk about it, the teaching is clear: we will all have bodies in heaven. These will be glorified bodies (see 1 Cor. 15), but we are created as bodily creatures.

This teaching is important because it shows the fundamental respect that we owe our bodies and the bodies of those we love. This is clearly seen in the church’s teaching that we should respect the bodies of those who have died through burial in a sacred place. This teaching applies even when the body has been cremated.

This teaching also challenges us to respect our bodies as sacred while we are alive. We are embodied creatures and our bodies are to be respected.

On this feast of the Assumption, may we renew our appreciation of the gift of Mary as our mother and of our bodies as sacred!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-8-2021

Eucharist 3: Flesh Given for Us

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

Jn. 6:51

We continue our journey through the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. In last week’s Gospel, Jesus made the startling claim that he was the “bread of life” (Jn. 6:35). This weekend’s Gospel deepens that claim.

The people are murmuring because Jesus claims to be the bread of life. They don’t know what to make of it. It confuses them. They think they know who He is, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph” (Jn. 6:42)? But Jesus doubles down.

Jesus affirms that He has come from the Father, “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me” (Jn. 6:45). The people do not really know who He is. There is more to Him than they can know. He will not be pinned down.

Nor do they know His mission. “… my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51). They cannot understand this. Jesus has come from the Father to give His flesh for the life of the world. This promise will be fulfilled on the cross at Calvary and it will be continued through the mysterious “bread of life” that Jesus keeps speaking about.

This bread of life is a matter of life and death. “… this is the bread come down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die” (Jn. 6:50).

We’ve come a long way from the miraculous satisfaction of material desires where this chapter started (Jn. 6:1-15). But we haven’t left the material world behind and retreated into some ethereal “spiritual realm.” We are dealing with flesh and blood; life and death; and real bread. In two weeks, when we read the last part of John 6, we will see how hard this teaching is to accept. Stay tuned and keep reflecting and praying on this powerful chapter of John’s Gospel.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-1-2021

Eucharist 2: Jesus is the Bread of Life

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Jn. 6:35

Last week we heard about the miraculous multiplication of the loaves (Jn. 6:1-15). This miracle was a glimpse of God’s Kingdom, where God cares for our needs. But the crowd could not understand that. They just wanted more bread and a king that would give them bread.

Today our reflection goes deeper.

Jesus reminds the people of the way God fed His people in the desert (Jn. 6:31-32). But then things get strange. Instead of simply saying that God will do the same for you, Jesus makes the startling claim, “I am the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35).

He is saying, “As great as miracles are, I am even better.”

Or, “As important as material food is, I am more important.”

Or, “I am the only one who can satisfy you.”

There is nothing more important than our relationship with Jesus.

But he is also making another, equally startling claim. He is claiming that He is bread. This is confusing when we first think about it. How is Jesus bread?

Jesus affirms the same thing when he holds up the bread on the night before he suffers and dies. He holds up the bread and says, “This is my body” (Lk. 22:19; see 1 Cor. 11:23, Mk. 14:22, Mt. 26:26).

What does Jesus mean by claiming to be bread?

The rest of the sixth chapter of John explores this question. Read and reflect on this chapter. Next week, we’ll find out more about Jesus’ astonishing affirmation, “I am the bread of life.”

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 7-25-2021

Eucharist 1: Sign of the Kingdom

Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
2 Kgs. 4:44

When they had had their fill, Jesus said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
Jn. 6:12-13

This week we begin a series of Gospel readings that take us deep into the meaning of the Eucharist. We read selections from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. I would encourage you to spend the next several weeks reading, reflecting on, and praying with John 6. There is a depth of wisdom about the Eucharist expressed in this chapter.

The selection for this week (Jn. 6:1-15) places the miraculous front and center. We begin with the miracle of the “multiplication of the loaves”. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. In fact, it occurs twice in Mark and Matthew. It is an important miracle and highlights the importance of the gift of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a miracle in our midst.

This miracle of the multiplication of the loaves is a sign that points to the Kingdom of God. The twelve baskets collected point that out. Like the twelve tribes of Israel, or the twelve apostles, these twelve baskets indicate that the kingdom of God is coming. Through this miracle, Jesus is establishing that Kingdom.

This is clear to the crowds. They understand that Jesus is pointing to the coming Kingdom. How do we know? Because “Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king” (Jn. 6:15).

But the crowds (and the disciples) are still confused about what the Kingdom of God is about. They think only in material and external terms (food, power, etc… ) so Jesus withdraws from them.

God’s Kingdom is deeper than that. There is more to be uncovered about this mysterious kingdom and especially its mysterious king. Stay tuned for next week to find out more about Jesus and the reality of the Eucharist.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader