One way.

“Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.”

Last week we studied Jesus, the gate-man. The one way to enter is through Him. We enter through and by Him so that we might have life eternal. Recall that entering through Him gives us abundant life. We call ourselves Christians and we live like we got heaven for indeed we do.

This theme carries through to today’s gospel. Jesus holds a dialog with his disciples. He was preparing them for the long and difficult road to Jerusalem and the cross. In doing so He means to give them assurance. Of course, the disciples being very literal missed the literal meaning of Who Jesus is. So, He explains it in even plainer language.

Those same questions plague our minds these days. I don’t know the way! I don’t know how to go! Jesus answers succinctly – “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He truly is our One way of going. His words and example are our truth. He holds the key to real life. We put ourselves into Him, take Him into us knowing real life is in Him.

Ok, but… we can hear ourselves saying. But what about my life now, here, today? What about my worries, fears, and stuff? If we were to lose it all, if we were to be left like Lot, sick, sitting on a dung hill, with people around us trying to figure out what’s wrong with us, we would still possess the greatest gift of all, the One way to the Father. See, neither our stuff, worries and cares, nor anyone else’s promises will get us to heaven. If we have Jesus, we have the Father and eternal life.

Today we honor great figures and witnesses of faith. There is a reason.

Our moms taught us about Jesus because they got it. They cared more about our everlasting life than daily worries or stuff. They wanted us to know Jesus, to know the way, truth, and life. Their gift was not just our existence, but rather the fullness of life in and through Jesus. They wanted us to see the Father, so they helped us know Jesus. Bp. Joseph Padewski knew this, from his mother and from his Holy Mother the Church. He laid down his life under torture, refusing to reject Jesus. No secret at all. He had it all. He hung on to Jesus, the way, truth, and life and came to everlasting life. Our moms, Bp. Padewski, lived knowing they had it all in Jesus. Let us as well.

Specks, logs, planks,
whole trees.

“How can you say to another believer, ‘Friend, let me take the piece of sawdust out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye. Then you will see clearly to remove the piece of sawdust from another believer’s eye.”

Today marks the last Sunday of the Pre-Lenten season. It confronts us with the hardest challenge we can face in life, the tendency to be judgmental toward others while simultaneously failing to perceive our sins and failings.

There are two keys here. First, how easy it is to perceive the failings in another, and to turn that perception into an accusation. How hurtful and damaging to the target. Beyond that, how often we fail to understand the reality behind another person’s perceived weaknesses. We never know the real reason, the hurt, the pain, the negative experience behind another’s minor failing.

Second, it really isn’t that we fail to see the plank – the hugeness of failings – in our lives. They are exactly huge because they are so close to us. My unbridled passions, lusts, desires, cruelties – huge!

Jesus really hits home in calling us hypocrites exactly because we already know our failings. We see them clearly every day – and yet we turn to hurt another. Wow!

In preparation for Lent we are called to attack the log, the plank, that huge dead tree in the middle of our lives. We are called into a holy season that is to be filled with action. We aren’t to go into a solitary cell, sit quietly, and ponder our dead tree. We are to take action, cutting it down and replacing it with the most life-giving tree of all – the Cross.

Jesus is calling us to go deep in removing that dead tree. The dead tree, the dead roots, all must go. Then we will come to conversion so that we “bear good fruit.” We are then that good man [who] out of the good treasure of his heart produces good. Then people will know who we are for out of the godly abundance of the heart will our mouths speak.

There are two kinds of trees we can focus on. We can live in a forest of death and accusation or come to the Tree of Life. Throughout Lent we are going to focus on getting back to the Life tree – to Eden, that paradise God has prepared for us. The place of joy, peace, and true life.

In Eden there are no dead trees, there are no planks, logs, or specks. We do not look at a another and pass judgment. We see in them Jesus and another self. If we perceive in them hurt, pain, or negative experience we do not accuse. Rather we actively heal them. We gather them under and into the life-giving tree. Jesus has opened the door to Eden for us. Let us go to the Life tree.

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isn’t life a pain?
Not if you rise up and live!

“Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

Janell King writes about her experience in Malaysia:

At home, I have a painting of a little girl with her arms spread open, her head thrown back, and a smile on her face. On it are the words from the scripture above. I received this painting at a crucial point in my life. It seemed like the weight of the world was pressing me down, determined to crush me. Relatives had passed away, community was tough, school was overwhelming, and I couldn’t seem to connect with God. I felt somewhat dead. When I first saw this painting, I didn’t just read the words…it felt like God was speaking them straight into my spirit like the roar of a lion. I felt something in me awaken.

The last day in Malaysia, I was doing laundry when our contact Janet came out to talk to me. I had received some prophetic words the night before during prayer, and God had given her some more clarity for the things spoken. As she spoke, I was glued to what she was saying. I don’t know if you have ever had those moments where you feel like a complete stranger is peering in to you… reading your story… but it was one of those times. I couldn’t soak in what she was saying fast enough. In the middle of Janet’s conversation, she looked me straight in the eyes, pointed to me, and said “Rise Up!”

Those words continue to echo deep inside of me. I’ve been overwhelmed with all God is doing on the race. So much growth for such a short time. So much challenge in such a short time. Yet, despite the struggles, it’s time to arise and mature and act on my faith. I’ve been praying and praying that God would teach me the path of righteousness. It finally clicked that I know the way! He gave me the Word! He has given me the instructions. He has given me Holy Spirit! It’s time for my own heart to come alive. It’s time to lead others into the kingdom! To the little girl inside of me, longing for more, Rise up!

Jesus didn’t just heal from maladies. He raises us up so that we may live. Our call today is to trust in the Lord who created us for life and for good – to be light. Let us place our trust in Him and rise up, not in drudgery, but filled with life. Let us rise from our slumber because Jesus’ light shines on us. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. We have life and light that will last forever! The author of life will raise us up one day, but we shouldn’t wait. Rise up today and live. Smile. When people ask why, tell them the reason for your joy – Jesus.