The Mountain

Today my son, Tim, completed the Leadville Trail Marathon in Leadville, CO, in 4:01:16, a pace of 15:34 minutes per mile.  Yes, I’m bragging.  If you want to brag about your kid, get your own blog.  The fact is that, other than prayer, I had nothing to do with his accomplishment.  I ran a little when I was younger, but nothing like this.  He ran up a mountain and then ran back down, at high altitude.  They tell me that coming down is actually harder than going up, but I wouldn’t know.

Running this marathon is the culmination of months of training in good weather and bad.  Tim’s run in heat and cold, rain, sleet, and snow.  Today is his reward for hours and hours of hard work.  Only another distance runner can have any idea of how much work this must have been and how satisfied he must be to have reached his goal.  Congratulations, Tim!

Here’s the thing.  We all have our own mountains.  Some we chose, like Tim’s challenge of Leadville.  Others of us have our mountains thrust upon us, not of our own choosing.  Most of us tackle our mountains alone, just like he ran alone all those hours.  We may have a support system, but when it comes to the actual climb, its usually just us and God.  Of course we know that nothing is impossible with God’s help, but it can be a lonely climb.  It’s easy to become discouraged.

I wish I could have been there to run with Tim through the training and the actual marathon, but like so many things in life, when it’s time to put up or shut up, human help just isn’t possible.  I have a lot of friends who are climbing their own mountains, and I pray for them every day.  But, in the end, we must put one foot in front of the other and keep going.  Life is a series of mountains, some steeper than others.

So, yes, I’m proud of my son, just as I’m proud of all my children.  On this Father’s Day weekend I’m very thankful that God has chosen me to be the father of four wonderful human beings who make me proud every day.  I’m also thankful for my five grandchildren (with number six on the way).  God is good.

I pray that whatever mountain you’re trying to climb today, that God will be by your side and that you’ll reach all your goals. Like the song says, “you’ll never walk alone.”

Happy Father’s Day!

Trinity Sunday

I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post!  I apologize for my inactivity.  I will try to do better in the future.

Here’s my homily for Trinity Sunday/Father’s Day.  I hope you like it.

Today is Trinity Sunday, the day we celebrate the unique nature of our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Here in America it’s also Father’s Day.  It’s unusual for the two celebrations to coincide since the Church calendar and the Hallmark calendar are two very different instruments but here we are.

I’ll get to human dads in a minute, but first I want to take a look at the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  We know that both of them have existed since the beginning of time.  In the very beginning, in the Book of Genesis, we hear God talking to someone.  Who’s He talking to?  He’s talking to His Son.  How do we know?  John tells us at the beginning of his Gospel.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was at the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him, nothing came to be.”  The Son, Jesus, was with God from the very start.


So God creates this beautiful world for us, “through His Son.  Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan just as you and I continue to be tempted by Him today.  Remember that God the Father said to God the Son, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  This was His “pet project”.  He wanted everything to be perfect, a regular “Garden of Eden”.  But Satan was waiting.  The father of lies wanted to get back at God and this was his chance.  He couldn’t attack God directly so he went after His greatest creation, you and me.  And we fell right into his trap.


We know all the Old Testament stories; all the examples of how human beings were tempted, how often they failed, and how often they succeeded, with the help of God the Father.  God the Son is silent in the Old Testament.  The prophets gave hints that He was coming, but it’s only in hind sight that we make sense of the prophecies.  The Old Testament is much more about the battle between good and evil, God the father versus the father of lies.  The world was a mess.  What was God to do?  He’d warned us over and over that we were headed down the wrong path and we didn’t listen.  How could He get through to us?


“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  Jesus must come to earth and live as a man so we’d listen to Him.  We may have been made in God’s image and likeness, but we don’t have anything remotely like His intellect.  To use a modern phrase, God had to “dumb down” the message so we’d understand it.

While Jesus was here He lived like a man.  He did everything any other man would do EXCEPT SIN.  In spite of being tempted many times, he remained sinless, just like His Father.


Since the people of the time were expecting the Messiah to come as a mighty and powerful savior, we know that many of them didn’t accept Jesus as the Son of God.  He had to perform signs and miracles, just like His Father to prove that He was who He said He was.  He was God’s son and anyone who spent any time with Him came to understand that.  The signs were all there for anyone who took the time to see them.


Which brings me to Father’s Day.  For those of us who have been blessed with children, we know that they’re formed in our image.  Not just the physical image, but their thoughts and their actions are all formed by what they’ve observed in us.  For good or bad, we’re their role models and their first teachers.  People may identify our kids as being ours by their eyes or their noses or by their smiles but they also may pick up on other qualities like integrity, honesty, or love of God and say “Isn’t she just like her dad?”  Or “Isn’t he a chip off the old block?”


Jesus may have been the Son of God but He was also the stepson of Joseph.  He may have been a little easier to raise than some other kids, or maybe not.  Joseph went through a lot.  Not just the visit from the angel, or the unexpected pregnancy of his young bride.  Twice the angel came back to him to tell him he must give up his business and take Mary and Jesus to another place.  We don’t know when he died.  Not one word of his is recorded in the scriptures.


But he taught Jesus how to be a carpenter and how to be a man.  He nurtured Him and protected Him and His Mother and when Jesus got lost in the temple his heart must have been broken when Jesus said “Didn’t you know I’d be in my Father’s house?”


Joseph wasn’t an essential part of the story….or was he?  Mary was Jesus’ mother and God was His Father.  Why did the Blessed Mother have to be married?  One obvious reason was that single moms were frowned upon in Jesus’ time.  Life would have been much more difficult for Mary and her Son had they lived alone.  But while Jesus showed us the way to heaven by becoming a human Son and Mary showed us the virtue of surrendering ourselves completely to God’s will, Joseph showed us how to be a father.  I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for what he did.


Joseph must have been just like every dad.  Kids don’t come with instruction books, especially a kid like the Son of God.  We do the best we can with our limited experience but most of us are pretty clueless.  I know I was, and still am, even after four kids.  Anything we do right is either a result of observing another dad, usually our own, or by divine providence.


As a father I’ve always trusted in God to smooth over my mistakes and my constant prayer is that He’ll watch over my kids and forgive me for my shortcomings as a parent.


Did Joseph ever fail as a father?  I’m sure he did.  After all, he was the only person in his household who was capable of committing sin.  Imagine what that must have been like.  If somebody ate all the cookies, it had to be Joseph.  If somebody left the front door unlocked, it had to be Joseph.  It couldn’t have been easy being the only sinner in the house.

Today  as we celebrate our dads, and granddads, and uncles, and older brothers and anyone else who has filled the role of father in our lives, remember that it’s not an easy job.  God the Father, Joseph, and all of us earthly dads have an important role to play, one for which we may or may not be properly prepared.  Fortunately we have Joseph, the stepfather of our Lord to use as a role mode.   And we have the Father of us all, the creator of the universe, the all powerful God to fall back on.  He’ll never let us down and is always there for us.   He answers all our prayers.  All we have to do is call on His name:  whether it be in the name of the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit.  Amen.