Our God is Kind and Merciful—these are the words that have guided our Mens’ ACTS Retreat this weekend, from Thursday evening to today’s 11:30 Mass. A beautiful concise description of our God, that leads us to trust in him. Sometimes though, our work to trust in him seems difficult. That’s often because we have something to die to. So Jesus, in his love and mercy, says in today’s gospel that we must at times lose our life in order to save it. We know this and have each lived it out at times, and found out “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” (today’s 1st reading.)

I missed the gospel of “Ephphata ,” “Be opened” with you. God wants us to hear his words, and speak them plainly. It was fitting to have this gospel last weekend, when two of our parish babies were baptized at the 9:30 Mass—Malachi Ernst and Erin Hampton. Fr. Ben was here for that (our former Deacon Ben), and used this prayer based on this gospel for the baptism, that the children might hear and speak God’s words. Also Lincoln John Strothmann, a parish grandbaby, was baptized Sunday.

I was away because of a family wedding in New Hampshire, where my youngest brother and his wife and three girls have lived for some years. It was not a Catholic minister who presided, but he did a good job of listing at least the values that make a successful marriage. I was able to take it a step or two further. Giving the meal prayer at the reception, I summed up those values just stated in the ceremony into the traditional Catholic values of marriage: Permanence, Faithfulness, and Fruitful- ness; and I prayed for the couple’s ability to handle days of hurt by making a sacrifice in imitation

of Jesus, who will always bring new life. I was struck, and still am, by several young people of the wedding party who came up to me and thanked me for those words. It seems to have offered hope for difficult times. It leaves me even more convinced that our Catholic faith is essential to people of today, and that by evangelizing in our culture we really are saving people.

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