A Higher Love – As Seen in a Christmas Commercial

Most of us begin by thinking the world can make us happy. But if we reach maturity, both spiritual and emotional, we realize that we were made for something higher, something more akin to our hearts truest longings. The body gets the most from this world, but our soul needs something else, someone else—and that someone is God. Without God, our hearts are restless and unsatisfied. Sadly, many try to bury this longing with more and more of the world. In the end, it does not work. We need God, our heart’s truest longing and the fulfillment of all our desires.

John Lewis is a chain of English department stores.  Each year, they produce a great Christmas commercial. In this commercial, a little penguin teaches us the lesson of our heart’s truer longings and the inability of the world to satisfy us. The surprise ending of the commercial is that the lesson is in us, not the penguin.

All is Calm, All is Bright…Really? Maybe This Video Will Help

120514The video below was produced by the Archdiocese of Washington for our “Find the Perfect Gift” Christmas outreach. It is an attempt to refocus Catholics and non-Catholics on the truest and most perfect gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ. It also invites each of us to give the perfect gift, the gift of our very self to God and to one another.

The video illustrates well a problem that we can all have at Christmas: hectic, hurried lives, made even busier by “holiday” requirements and traditions. These traditions, beautiful though they are, sometimes backfire and become a kind of countersign to some of the songs we sing, which speak of all being calm and bright, heavenly peace, peace on earth, and so forth.

The video also shows a problem that has become worse in recent years with the “stovepiping” effect of technology, which allows us to live in our own self-designed but very separate worlds. Many of us walk about with ear buds in and barely notice the others around us. Others of us tune in to a very self-selected world of cable TV and/or Netflix. It is possible, as this video demonstrates, for people to live in the same house and yet inhabit different worlds.

Somewhere in the busy-but-isolated world of the household depicted here, is a member of the family who gets it right, and both finds and sings of peace. We all struggle to get it right and to find our proper center. Allow this video to give you a little vision of what the perfect gift is and what the perfect Christmas is. Gifts, parties, and yuletide joy are nice and have their places, but don’t miss the perfect gift!

For more information, you can click through at the link above, or visit this URL: www.findtheperfectgift.org.

Do Not Forget the Works of the Lord – A Meditation on Fear, as Seen in a Short Cartoon

101014There was a moment in Peter’s life when he faced a choice to focus on either the storm or the Lord. It is in the memorable Gospel story in which Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus. As the Gospel recounts,

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink (Mt 14:30).

It is so difficult for us. We seem wired for the negative, wired to be anxious, doubtful, on the alert for any danger. It takes great faith to keep our sights focused on the Lord, who alone can save us and will save us if we trust in Him. But too easily the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to steal our serenity and snatch from us our ability to see God. And losing that ability, whether through careless neglect or weakness, we are overwhelmed by the fears of the world that loom large. SO often our loss of the sight of God has us frantically running about wondering what to do. Scripture says,

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust shall be your strength. But this you did not will. “No,” you said, “Upon horses we will flee.” Very well, you shall flee! “Upon swift steeds we will ride.” Very well, but not as swift as your pursuers! (Is 30:15–17)

Scripture further warns,

  • For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge (Is 17:10).
  • You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth (Dt 32:18–19).
  • But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel (Ps 106:13).

Indeed, do not forget the works of the Lord!

I thought of these things as I watched this little cartoon. It features an astronaut of sorts. He is in a threatening place, alone in orbit high above the earth. But he has a picture of his beloved, likely his wife, and this consoles him. He struggles to keep his eyes on his beloved as his fears grow. He loses his connection with her as the warning bells sound and he rushes about in a panic. Finally, his fears wholly snatch his beloved from his sight and his fears overwhelm him.

And this is a picture of us, too, who so easily allow our fears to sever our connections with our Father in Heaven. How quickly our fears, elicited by the world, the flesh, and the devil, snatch away our connection with God. And then our fears loom large, overwhelming us.

Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Thirst as an image for prayer, as seen on TV

062714Scripture often uses thirst as an image for prayer and desire for God. And thus we read passages such as these:

Oh, God you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting … My body pines for you like a dry weary land without water ... (Psalm 63:1-2).

Like the deer that longs for running streams, so my soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:2)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Mat 5:6).

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (Jn 7:37-38).

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10).

And there are many others besides those.

Thus thirst is a symbol for prayer and longing. And so when I see the commercial below, I know that although the guy says “Stay thirsty, my friend!” to make me want to buy beer, what he REALLY means to say is, “Get in touch with your longing for God and pray often, my friend!”

And so I say to you: “Stay thirsty, my friend!”

On the Joy of Giving, as Seen in a Beautiful Commercial

Volunteers at St. Matthew’s Cathedral serve a hot breakfast to guests at the Christmas breakfast on Dec 15.

In our care for the poor, there are many rewards that we know must wait. Sometimes we are not exactly sure what the help we supplied even did at all!

Scripture does speak of some blessings that will wait until heaven. And thus Jesus counsels us to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal (Matt 6:20). Of course, we do not store up treasure in heaven by putting it in a balloon or a rocket and sending it up there. Rather, what Jesus teaches is that we store it up in heaven by giving it to the poor and needy. Scripture says elsewhere, Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for it will come back to you after many days. (Eccles 11:1)

And thus, some of our care for the poor will have rewards that we will reap later.

But some rewards are now. Perhaps we see what a difference our help has made. Or perhaps, too, we notice how God’s goodness to us increases, since he can trust us to be generous with His blessings. Scripture says, And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. (Matt 10:42). Or again, Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38) And yet again, Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. (Proverbs 19:17).

Yes, some rewards are now, and not just “return gifts” from the Lord, but also the joy of giving itself; the joy of connecting with others.

All of those personal rewards and others besides are seen in this beautiful video. Please enjoy it! And remember, GOD will not be outdone in generosity.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men…. (Gal 6:9-10)

Why is the surprise end to this video so shocking? It ought to disturb you; but why?

This is one of those videos that I think you should watch before I say much about it. There is something shocking about the end of it, something awful.

And yet the request by the young man in the video is a common one today, though it often comes in more subtle forms wherein people use one another in the most crass, utilitarian, and selfish ways. Do others exist merely to give you pleasure? Is this not often the message of cohabitation and sex without marital commitment?

Let me ask you one question about the ending of the video: why does what the young man says shock you?

A Guardian Angel Like You’ve Never Seen! As seen on T.V.

Most of us have very sentimental notions about angels in general, and especially our Guardian Angels. And yet the Bible depicts then as powerful, fierce, and almost warlike. They are holy and good, but their glory overwhelms. In Scripture, almost any time someone encounters an angel, the person becomes filled with fear and very disconcerted.

Further, while many of us think of the angels as here more to help us, God tells us to obey them.

[The Lord God says], See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. (Exodus 23:20-22).

So angels are to be revered and respected. They are not the prancing, doll-like figures we often imagine.

I do not write this to dash sentimental notions, only to add balance. Our angels love and serve us, but they do this with a divine authority that we ought not to trivialize.

Humorously, I thought of all this when I ran across this old commercial of linebacker Terry Tate who is brought into a business to “motivate” the workers to follow their better natures. Please take this in the humor I intend it. I am not saying that angels act in this manner. But what makes me laugh most is that I have often wondered if my own angel doesn’t sometimes need tactics like this in order to shape me up!

Enjoy the commercial, and remember your Guardian Angel and obey him!

Of Our Guardian Angel and the Hidden Mercies of God, as seen in a Commercial

Most of us struggle with the fact that God allows bad things to happen to us. Why does he not intervene more often to protect us from attacks of various sorts, and from events that cause sadness, setbacks, or suffering?

While mysterious, the clearest answer is that God allows suffering in order that some greater blessing may occur. To some degree I have found this so, since some of my greatest blessings required that a door slam shut, or that some suffering be endured. And so if my college sweetheart had not dumped me, it is likely that I would not be priest today, which is a very great blessing. Had I gotten some of my preferred assignments in my early years as a priest, I would not have been enriched by the assignments I did have. Those assignments have helped draw me out and grow me  far more than the cozy, familiar places I desired. Had I not entered into the crucible of depression and anxiety in my 30s, I would not have learned to trust God as much as I do, and I would not have learned important lessons about myself and about life.

So despite that fact that we understandably fear suffering and dislike it, for reasons of His own (reasons He knows best), God does allow some degree of it in our lives.

Yet I wonder if we really consider the countless times God did step in to prevent any number of disasters in our life. We tend to focus on the negative things in life and overlook an enormous number of often-hidden blessings: every beat of our heart, every proper function of every cell in our body, all the perfect balances that exist in nature and the cosmos in order to sustain us.

Just think of the simple act of walking and all the possible missteps we might have taken but did not. Think of  all the stupid risks we took in our life, especially when we were young, that did not end in disaster. Think of all the poor choices we made and yet escaped the worst possible consequences.

Yes we wonder why we and others suffer and why God allows it. But do we ever wonder why we don’t suffer? Do we ever think about why and how we have escaped some awfully stupid and foolish things we have done? In typical human fashion we minimize our many, many blessings and magnify and resent our sufferings.

One of the expressions I have picked up over the years, and that I use in response to people who ask me how I am doing, is this: “I’m pretty well blessed for a sinner.” I have heard others say, “I am more blessed than I deserve.” Yes, pretty well blessed indeed!

I thought of all that as I watched the commercial below (aired during the Superbowl). And while it speaks of the watchfulness of a father, it also makes me think of my guardian angel, who has surely preserved me from many disasters.

As you watch the commercial, don’t forget to thank God for the many hidden rescues He has executed for you through your guardian angel. Thank Him too for the hidden blessings—blessings you know nothing of—but that He bestowed anyway. And think finally of the wonderful mercy He has often shown in protecting you from the worst of your foolishness.