Paving the Way Through Recon-seal-iation

For over two years now, my wife and I have been blessed to live in a comfortable townhouse in a suburb community.

During this span, we’ve experienced many wonderful and joyful memories, visiting with loved family and friends, and welcoming our two treasured sons into the world.

But owning a home has also carried many responsibilities and challenges, including regular maintenance of the house.

Earlier this summer, Catherine and I arranged for some much-needed interlock landscaping to be done in a portion of our driveway. Following the work, I decided to pave the remainder of the driveway, as new asphalt sealer would accentuate the interlock while bringing new life to the front side of our home.

It occurred to me during this work that driveway sealing is very much like the sacrament of reconciliation.

Driveway SealingWhile working to great lengths to evenly pave our driveway, giving it a sharper and livelier appearance in the process, I was reminded of how God wishes to pave over our sins and give us a clean slate.

As I aimed to fill any asphalt crevices by rolling over them with sealer mix, I appreciated how the confession of our sins enables God’s endless offer of a fresh start, washing away our stains and recreating a smooth and even surface in our lives.

Just like our driveway receiving a new look, this grace-filled sacrament of reconciliation allows for rebirth and renewal of our minds, bodies, hearts and souls.

Jesus presents this very opportunity to us through priests, His earthly representatives. This longstanding Church sacrament traces back to Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance to His apostles, when He commissioned them to forgive the sins of all through His holy authority. (John 20:19-23)

Yet, while attending confession seems so simple in having God steamroll our transgressions, it is often far easier in theory than in practice.

Some people might consider themselves too busy to speak with a priest, while others may feel too uncomfortable. There may be others still who simply have not truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit envelop them in past reconciliation experiences, and are therefore reluctant or skeptical to explore God’s powerful healing available to them.

This can become a point of contention between ourselves and anyone wishing to encourage us to go to confession. But just as stress can build up between my wife and me over the quality and timeliness of my driveway sealing performance, the absence of reconciling with God and receiving absolution for our sins can further widen the gap between us and the Lord.

Without confession, our sins can cloud our judgment and compromise our subsequent actions, causing us to drift further from God and preventing us from recognizing His omnipresent love. (Isaiah 59:2)

Conversely, the sacrament of reconciliation can introduce new joy with God once again, providing tremendous strength and liberation. Like the pride and relief I felt after having completed our driveway sealing, a weight is lifted from our shoulders when we confess our sins and are reunited with Christ.

Calculating the preparation required and the completion of the sealing job itself, I must admit I spent several hours devoted to improving our asphalt driveway. After having applied multiple coats of sealing mix on different occasions during this sequence, I would continue to notice some spots left unattended.

My wife – along with many others, I’m sure – knows me to be a bit of a perfectionist and would suggest I stop obsessing about smaller details such as these.

But perhaps we can all stand to demonstrate this characteristic a little more when it comes to developing our relationship with God and with one another.

After all, are we not called to live more like Jesus, the model of perfection? Perhaps three coats of sealing applied to our driveway in efforts to cover the surface entirely and cleanly were akin to our need to return to confession regularly, erasing our faults so that we may once again be renewed with God.

May all of us feel empowered and invited to seek healing and forgiveness for our sins through confession, in order that we may grow even closer to God and our neighbor with each passing day.

Who knew the road to Heaven would be paved with asphalt?

The Mighty Ant

Being a teacher, I am very fortunate to enjoy two months of holidays each year throughout the summer. While still attending to commitments such as home maintenance and lawn upkeep, such time off also affords great opportunity for relaxation.

Spending time with friends over dinner, going out to watch a movie or catching a baseball game on TV and the occasional round of golf are all pastimes that provide me with plenty of joy. Yet, the activity I love and appreciate the most is spending time with my family.

My wife and I are blessed with two young boys, and our son Isaac and I have quickly come to identify going to the park as one of our favorite things to do. In fact, it’s practically become a daily ritual for us to head over to the nearby park or splash pad.

Whether alone or surrounded by other kids and their parents, it’s so wonderful to see the smile on Isaac’s face when he swings in the air or slips down a slide.

As many children can be, Isaac is very curious and active in his exploration of all things new. He will often notice something random and seemingly insignificant, and delve into his knack for discovery of something fascinating.

During a recent visit to the park, he was drawn to the fine grains of sand underneath a playground structure.

As I knelt down beside him to demonstrate sand sifting through my fingers, we observed a tiny ant climbing along the surface. As Isaac expressed his innocent awe, I dropped some sand on the ant to cover him.

Within a couple of seconds, the ant resurfaced and continued his march. Again, I dumped a handful of sand on the ant. Much to Isaac’s amazement, the ant showed determination and emerged out of the sand, continuing on his way.

It was then that I was reminded we are all like the ant. All too often, we face adversity of one kind or another, falling down in pain and in times of great weakness.

Whether it be such struggles as family issues or problems related to school or personal friendships, stumbles can often lead to us being knocked down into a great pit of despair.

When discussing very difficult subjects or unpleasant experiences and situations in today’s society – particularly when involving youth – it is very tempting for us to give up and turn away from God. However, such challenging moments offer extremely rewarding Mighty Antopportunity in opening ourselves to Him.

During times of trial, our faith calls us to be relentless in our perseverance. Jesus’ gospel message affirms this, assuring us that “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Now, I realize an ant fighting through a pile of sand dumped on him cannot be equated to a student wrestling with her parents’ divorce, or a high school football player seeing his dreams of playing at university come to a crashing halt due to a career-ending injury.

While facing a battle of its own, the ant’s struggle is dwarfed by that of a teenager needing to work three part-time jobs while attending school, in order to fund her post-secondary tuition.

That said, I will often quote author Timothy Pina when telling my students in class, “If God sees you to it, He will see you through it.”

If a minuscule insect can refuse to quit and thereby overcome virtually insurmountable odds, then why should we as humans not adopt the same attitude?

St. Paul reminds us that God’s grace manifests itself particularly in our pains and frustrations, revealing His perfect power in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In other words, while we may appear to be down, with God on our side, we are never done.

Recognizing God’s presence can only occur if we are open to it, however – if we say to Him, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9)

Daily prayer invites God to reveal His will for us, while centering us on His direction during our times of difficulty.

Whether it is the rosary, being present in holy adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or any other time spent communicating with God, it is activity such as prayer that can provide the courage and clarity we seek and require to master our life hurdles.

We can therefore draw strength from the Lord, who carries us through darkness into light – from struggle to success. While this path likely may not be short or easy, we can rest confident that, much like the ant buried in sand at the park, we will overcome.

And with such an approach during hardships, we can not only be more like marching ants but, maybe one day, like marching saints.

What’s in a Sundae?

On a hot summer day, I often like to enjoy a popsicle or an ice cream sandwich to keep cool. Sometimes, I’ll even throw a bunch of different fruits and milk together into the blender to create a delicious smoothie. I’ll admit, though, what I prefer most is a big bowl of ice cream.

When I really want to be creative, I’ll pull out a deep dessert bowl from the cabinet and fill it with several scoops. If that weren’t enough to concern my wife or doctor, I’ll take out a can of whipped cream from the fridge and spray some on top of my ice cream mountain. Next, I will drizzle chocolate syrup all over those white waves.

Feeling somewhat guilty or conscientious of my health, I will then scatter some chopped nuts and chunks of banana over my tasty treat, adding a cherry on top for good measure.

Yes, an ice cream sundae is a dessert I would gladly eat daily if sugar intake was not a hurdle. Alas, I tend to save it instead for special occasions or for the middle of a summer heat wave.

Recently, as I was devouring my delicious ice cream meal, it dawned on me that we humans don’t just eat sundaes in society today. We live them.

Ice Cream Sundae & GodYou see, the whole point of a sundae is to dress it and build it as much as you can, adding more and more to improve its taste. Yet, we can easily forget the key ingredient of a sundae lies simply at the bottom – the ice cream.

It doesn’t matter if it’s vanilla or Neapolitan, cookies and cream, or mint chocolate chip – ice cream is the foundation on which all other toppings will stand and without which all other toppings are weak.

Like ice cream in a sundae, God is our foundation. Only He can offer and provide the true joy and fulfillment we so desperately crave and seek in life.

Yes, our families and friends are of tremendous importance. Our jobs and hobbies hold great value also. Material possessions, too, can be extremely useful and give enjoyment in so many ways.

Yet, while sundae toppings can be desired, it is the ice cream that serves as the essential ingredient of the dessert, while any add-ons merely enhance it.

While we may enjoy the latest clothing trends or score tickets to the coolest concert, are we defined by these temporary or artificial aspects? Do we feel complete only when we have hundreds of followers on Twitter or our beach resort vacation pictures draw the approval of so many of our Facebook friends? Is our dating status or potential education or employment advancement our main motivation in life? Could we truly say our family relationships are rooted in a foundation that is deep and meaningful?

Inviting God into our lives and featuring Him at the center can only make these elements so much more real and purposeful.

Without God, all of these and so many more examples can render us empty at our core. But with Him, these elements can represent and radiate our full being.

Indeed, they are to reflect God and enrich our relationship with Him – serving as a complement, not a replacement.

Growing closer with God and having Him as our base is like any other worthwhile experience in life – it takes time and effort. How blessed we are that He offers us such an opportunity.

Just as we can prepare an ice cream sundae any day of the week, we can spend time with the Lord and celebrate with our community by attending Mass regularly – especially on Sunday.

Now, before I lace up my sneakers to run and burn off my additional calories, it should be noted that sundae was actually my second helping.

But that just goes to show that with God, we should always come back for more!

Getting Started

Hello My Name IsHello, my name is…

Perhaps you’ve seen a sticker or two with this introductory phrase on it. Certainly, if you’ve attended any workshop or conference, you’ve likely come across a registration booth with similar identification labels to help everyone feel more comfortable and familiar.

I figured this would be a simple but effective way to introduce my website and my intentions for it, and I hope you feel welcomed to visit often and regularly to be informed, amused and inspired.

As a high school Religion teacher, it’s my challenge and responsibility to help my students connect with God. Whether that connection is an introduction to God or an encouragement to continue getting to know Him more deeply, I accept this privilege seriously, with both energy and humility.

In a society growing in secularism, I feel it necessary to offer my students and their community opportunity to discover a full and meaningful relationship with the Lord. Now after many years of teaching, I’ve felt an increasing inclination to take my classroom on the road, so to speak, and it’s time I scratch this itch. So, I present to you this website.

But while the sticker above can help me introduce myself to you, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how God always seeks to present Himself to all of us.

Every day, Jesus reveals Himself to the world, wishing we would simply acknowledge and follow Him. (Matthew 4:19) So, in my teaching and now through this website, I endeavor to facilitate an opportunity for you to see God in regular life experiences.

My hope is these writings will provide you with perfect opportunity to explore and appreciate a deeper relationship with God, while feeling motivated to share His wonder with others in your daily life.

Thanks for reading and God bless,
Matt