Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Speaking the Truth in Love

In this week’s Scripture readings at Mass, a few verses jump out: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:4); “When the people…heard this, they were all filled with fury” (Luke 4:28); “Love is patient, love is kind….it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4,6).

These three passages, one each from the three readings, summarize the Pro-Life movement.

First, the Lord God tells the prophet Jeremiah that he was divinely selected even before his conception to be a great prophet in Israel. Contained within this declaration is the clear message that God forms people in the womb, therefore, they are not merely “a clump of cells” that can be discarded like a loose piece of knee cartilage, but unique precious human beings.

The pro-life verses in Scripture are, of course, not the only evidence that pre-born life is sacred. In the 46 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, modern science has made remarkable discoveries: children in the womb have heartbeats and brainwaves; they feel pain; they smile, frown, sleep, and get the hiccups; they suck their thumbs.

Here are two sincere questions for pro-choice people: If it’s not alive, why is it growing? And if it’s not a human being, what kind of being is it?

When you ask these questions, you’ll most likely get the same reaction Jesus got in this week’s gospel reading: “When the people…heard this, they were all filled with fury.”

Nothing infuriates pro-choicers more than directing the conversation away from their important, yes, but secondary issues—the right to privacy, personal autonomy, decisions between a woman and her doctor—and putting the focus instead on the primary issue: is a human life being destroyed or not?

The fury that arises when people take a stand for the sanctity of life is probably why, after attending Mass regularly for over three decades, I rarely hear anything about abortion during homilies.

I have, however, read many articles where priests explain if they ever gave a strong pro-life homily, half the congregation would walk out in a huff and the other half would write nasty letters to the archbishop criticizing the priest for being “divisive.”

Well, I guess it’s a real risk to speak the truth. Jesus demonstrated this when His truthful criticism of the people’s unwillingness to accept the words of a prophet caused them to be “filled with fury” and attempt to kill Him. Later on, fury over Jesus’ truthful words DID result in His death.

Our third notable Scripture passage this week, from St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, offers a guideline for dealing with difficult issues: “Love is patient, love is kind….it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”

The key to presenting an uncomfortable and often divisive message is love. If our motivation is to win the argument or condemn those with a different viewpoint, it is unlikely any minds or hearts will be changed. But if our motivation is love—a love for God, a love for the truth, and a sincere love for those who disagree with us—then the truth of God just might sink in and transform someone’s heart.

Success is not guaranteed, obviously. Jesus spoke the truth with love and kindness and they still wanted to kill Him. But in the grand scheme of things, as Mother Teresa pointed out, we’re not called to be successful, we’re called to be faithful.

Whether it’s proclaiming pro-life homilies at Mass, or discussing uncomfortable issues with family members and co-workers, we must rejoice with the truth. Yes, we might cause a little tension or ruffle a few feathers. But that’s what we have to do, because that’s what the Lord commands us to do.

Friday, January 25, 2019

New Plans to Improve Customer Service

Inside a swanky conference room at the corporate offices of Big Bucks Bank, Inc. — the company that issues the well-known SLISA, DisasterCard, and Crapital One credit cards — an executive vice president is conducting a training session for mid-level managers. He begins the meeting by declaring, “It has come to our attention that there are major problems with our customer service telephone help line. Therefore, we will be instituting new procedures to improve performance.

“First,” he continues, “far too many of our customer service agents speak English as their primary language. This cannot continue. So, beginning today, the HR Department is launching a major hiring push so that at least 80% of all phone operators will be natives of nations with severe accents, such as India, Croatia, Alabama, and Boston.”

Two junior managers glance at each other with furrowed brows, which send the silent message: “Hmm, that doesn’t make sense.”

The executive explains the second major procedural change. “Next, we will make sure that every single time our customer service people get on the line with a customer, they require the customer to recite their account number, full name and address, last four digits of their social security number, and the correct answer to a previously selected personal security question. By the way, my favorite security question is: ‘What was your first pet’s mother’s maiden name?’ That always confuses them!”

Most of the people in the conference room furiously take notes, but the two junior managers once again glance at each other and ever so slightly shrug their shoulders.

Suddenly, the executive vice president says, “Mr. Wilson. Mr. Phelps. Is there a problem?”

The two junior managers sit bolt upright in their chairs and nervously mutter, “No sir. No problem at all.”

The vice president says icily, “Then I suggest you start taking notes, gentlemen. OK, now where was I? Oh yes, procedure number two. Not only will our customer service agents ask for full personal information when they first speak to a customer, they also will require all this information every time they get back on the line after being on hold, however briefly. Our research indicates most customers will complain after the third time, so our people need to be prepared to say, ‘Sorry, but it’s for security purposes so no one gets unauthorized access to your account.’”

The two young managers, like everyone else, nod their heads in agreement. But one of them, Mr. Wilson, writes on his note pad “THIS IS CRAZY!!”

The executive vice president takes a deep breath and says, “Now, for the final new procedure, my personal favorite: whenever a customer service call reaches the one-hour mark, our computerized phone system will automatically disconnect the call, forcing the customer to call back and start all over again! Isn’t that terrific?!”

The other junior manager, Mr. Phelps, raises his hand. “Sir, I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. You said our goal is to improve performance. How can these new procedures possible do that?”

The executive shakes his head and says, “I guess some people are just not management material. Let me explain, Mr. Phelps. Scientific research has determined when a typical account holder has a horrible experience with a customer service telephone help line, once their frustration subsides, they become too terrified to switch to a different service provider, fearful of starting from scratch with new account numbers, new personal security questions, etc. So, the bottom line is: the more painful we make the process, the more likely they remain loyal customers! As you know, cable TV companies have been doing this for years.”

Mr. Phelps replies with awe, “That’s pure genius, sir. No wonder we’re known as the company that cares.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Power of The Spirit Available to All

In this week’s gospel reading, the Bible explains that Jesus returned to the Galilee region filled with “the power of the Spirit.”

When Jesus arrived at his boyhood hometown of Nazareth, He went into the local synagogue, stood up in front of the congregation, and read a passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…”

As Jesus finished reading the rest of the verses, he rolled up the scroll and announced, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The power of the Spirit—which theologians later realized was none other than the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit—was absolutely essential for Jesus to complete His mission. Without the Holy Spirit as a supernatural bridge between Heaven and earth, Jesus would have been cut off from His Father. He would have been left with nothing but His earthly, natural abilities, which means He would have been unable to perform miracles and, most importantly, unable to rise from the dead Himself on that first Easter morning.

The same is true for us. If we don’t tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, we’re left with nothing but our earthly, natural abilities, which means that we, too, will be unable to perform miracles and, most importantly, will be unable to rise from the dead at the Final Judgment.

Why are you looking at me like that? You don’t think we’re able to perform miracles? Of course we are. I’ve seen it happen. Miracles definitely happen. As far as the rising from the dead thing, well, Jesus promised us it can and will happen, so for now, I’m trusting in His word.

Granted, the miracles I’ve witnessed are a little less spectacular than the ones Jesus performed. I’ve never seen a leper instantly cured, nor a crippled man instantly able to walk, nor a dead guy come to life again. But don’t forget, Jesus is the miracle expert.

Although a little less spectacular, the miracles I’ve witnessed are nonetheless bona fide supernatural occurrences. There are no natural explanations for them. For example, I know a guy whose insatiable craving for alcohol miraculously disappeared when he asked Jesus to come into his heart. One day he couldn’t live without getting drunk, and the next day the idea of having a drink repulsed him. A definite miracle. (By the way, I see this guy quite often—every time I look in the mirror.)

We are very fortunate to be living in this age of grace. Unlike Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit does not make brief and sporadic appearances. He is present for all of us all the time. We are able, just like Jesus, to be filled with “the power of the Spirit,” and to declare confidently that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

Far too many people, however, think the idea of being “filled with the Spirit” is a little too weird and spooky. It doesn’t fit with our modern, scientific view of the world, so they steer clear of it.

What a shame. That’s like pushing your car down the street because you don’t understand that turning the key will allow the motor to do the pushing. When you fire up the engine, you have a lot more power and a lot less frustration.

We should not ignore the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke about Him at length. And Jesus said the coming of the Holy Spirit would be a “gift” (Acts 1:4). We should accept this gift from our Creator with joy and thanksgiving. The Holy Spirit is available to all believers who sincerely ask Him to dwell in their hearts. What an amazing blessing!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Old Videotape Causes TV Nostalgia

Back when VCRs became popular in the 1980s, I was like a kid in a candy store. The idea that I could videotape a show on TV when I wasn’t home and then watch it at my convenience was, in my mind, the greatest invention since glazed crullers. Every day I would study the TV Guide and set the VCR to record a movie, sporting event, sitcom, documentary, infomercial, farm report, test pattern, or other exciting program. Then I would put a label on the tape, carefully noting exactly what entertainment extravaganza was contained therein.

Every time I went near a retail store, I would stop by and purchase another 10-pack of blank VHS tapes. I kept this up for many years and by the mid-1990s I had a massive library of recorded TV programs. There was only one problem: between all the time I devoted to planning and recording shows, plus the time I spent dealing with the other things of life — such as work, sleep, raising kids, mowing the driveway, shoveling the lawn, etc. — there was no time left to actually watch any of the tapes I recorded.

After about a decade it finally dawned on me that I was wasting my time. From that point on, I only bothered to record really monumental events, such as the final game of the World Series if the Red Sox won, plus any episode of “Maury” that promises to disclose who the real father is. (Ha, I’m kidding. EVERY episode of “Maury” follows that format — which means every episode needs to be recorded and archived at the Smithsonian, so future generations will understand why our civilization collapsed.)

Anyway, while doing a major basement clean-up a couple years ago, I threw out most of the old videotapes. But I did save a few. And just recently I sat down to watch an old tape from what turned out to be 1988. At first, I wasn’t sure of the year. The tape was a Red Sox game, and I had a feeling it was still the 1980s because Roger Clemens was slim and Jim Rice was in the lineup. (What? You don’t memorize Red Sox minutiae? What are you wasting your precious brain cells on, the names and birth dates of your kids?)

The most interesting thing about the videotape turned out to be the commercials. I realized the baseball game occurred in 1988 when an ad between innings offered a “sneak peek” at the new ‘89 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. (Also, the game announcer provided a hint when he said, “The Red Sox hope to stay healthy down the stretch and win the 1988 pennant.”)

I found myself fast-forwarding through the game action (even after three decades I can only take so much of seeing Bob Stanley give up back-to-back doubles) so I could watch, and laugh at, the commercials. Although the decade of the 1980s should receive some kind of fashion award — simply for not being the 1970s — the hair and clothing were kind of interesting. Especially the hair.

All the men in the commercials had high, poofy hair, which clearly had been carefully brushed and blow-dried for at least two hours. I suspect any global warming we are experiencing now was caused, not by SUVs and coal-fired power plants, but by men using hair dryers in the 1980s.

The eyeglasses were even funnier. The lenses were so huge back then, it looked like everyone had a couple of bay windows perched on his or her nose.

I wish I hadn’t thrown out my collection of tapes. Despite the funny fashions, it was more interesting than anything on TV today — except, of course, for the next paternity test episode of “Maury.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Wedding Miracle Is Sign of Divinity

This week’s gospel reading is the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine. This episode is found only in John’s gospel. There are many other events which appear only in John’s gospel but not in the other three (for example, the “Word became flesh” prologue, meeting Nicodemus at night, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, the woman caught in adultery, and raising Lazarus from the dead, to name a few).

Many people wonder why John’s gospel is so different in style and content compared to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It sometimes seems as if John was writing about a completely different person.

There are a couple of important reasons why John’s gospel is so different. First, it was written at least two or three decades after the other three gospels. By the time John wrote, detailed accounts of Jesus’ life were already in circulation. There was no reason to repeat certain well-known events, especially Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

Secondly, to understand John’s gospel, we must keep in mind his primary objective, the reason he bothered writing at all. John spells it out toward the end: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you might come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

John wrote so people would believe in Jesus, and as a result, receive eternal life. It is a goal which is short and sweet and to the point, and unquestionably the most important consideration in the whole history of the universe. (What, you think there are other things MORE important that eternal life? Really? Name one other thing in your life today that still will be critically important 10,000 years from now—or 10,000 billion years from now. It can’t be done.)

To achieve his goal of bringing people to faith in Jesus and the eternal life that results from that faith, John emphasized what he called “signs,” or miracles, performed by Jesus. Only someone with the supernatural power of God is capable of giving eternal life. John wanted his readers to know without a doubt that Jesus has that kind of power.

The wedding feast was a small celebration in a tiny town in a tiny country. But when they ran out of wine too soon, the Creator of the Universe stepped forward and transformed approximately 150 gallons of water into the best wine anyone had ever tasted. The party was saved and the father of the bride was not embarrassed. It was a simple little backwater episode that almost seems out of place in the majestic Scriptures.

However, John concludes this brief passage by explaining the momentous meaning of the event: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs…and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”

John’s purpose in writing this story is clear. It is to demonstrate Jesus’ divinity by describing the miracle He performed so people will put their faith in Him.

So, this week’s gospel is much more than a simple little story of embarrassment averted in an obscure town. It was the first of Jesus’ signs, the clear messages that proved He was divine and possessed supernatural powers. This little story of a little party points to the big story that we celebrated a few weeks ago: God has come to save His people. This is indeed the Good News.

And don’t forget: 10,000 billion years is a long time (and it’s only the first DAY of Eternity). Whatever you do, don’t miss out on eternal life. Put your faith in Jesus right now. You’ll never regret it.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Why Didn’t I Think of That?

Over the past few months I’ve been collecting clever sayings that I receive in emails or see on the Internet. I file these items under the heading: “I wish I thought of that.”

I’d like to share a few of these ideas with you, and I want to make it clear that I am not the author of these sayings. A few years ago, I was alerted to the fact that someone in a different state had copied a major portion of one of my weekly humor columns and incorporated it, word for word, into his own published article. When I contacted this person and reminded him that plagiarism is a rather ugly concept, he sheepishly replied, “Oh, I saw it online and there was no name listed, so I thought it was anonymous.”

Well, these sayings also are anonymous, but there is one person in the world who I know for sure DID NOT write them: me. However, the parenthetical smart-aleck comments are all mine.

  • “There is a fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness.’” (I’m thinking: fishing, golf, motorcycles, and social media — especially a certain Tweeter who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.)
  • “People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.” (Which is why whenever JW’s come to the door, I cut them off by launching into an impassioned soliloquy about my devotion to the Red Sox, and within five minutes they’re sprinting away muttering, “What a religious nut!”) 
  • “You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.” (Been there, done that, and over 30 years later my face still turns red at the mere thought of what I said to a certain very unpregnant lady.)
  • “There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.” (I can think of a number of gray-haired Baby Boomers who need to grasp this idea.) 
  • “The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above-average drivers.” (Which is why I am not surprised that there is at least one accident tying up rush hour traffic on I-84 every single day. What stuns me — especially considering that most drivers these days have the attention span of a cocker spaniel puppy — is the remarkable fact that there are not hundreds of accidents on I-84 every single day.) 
The following thoughts are courtesy of an anonymous email titled, “Men Are Just Happier People.” Although I’m a man, I still wish I had thought of these reasons why men have it much easier than women.

  • You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. 
  • You can wear NO shirt to a water park. 
  • Car mechanics tell you the truth.

  • Chocolate is just another snack. 
  • The world is your urinal. 
  • You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. 
  • A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
  • You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. 
  • If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.

  • Your underwear is $7.95 for a five-pack.

  • Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. 
  • Wrinkles add character. 
  • You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache. 
  • You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24th in 25 minutes. 
If you know who authored these sayings, let me know. I’d like to give credit where credit is due.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Young Adults Who Leave the Church

In recent years I’ve grown close to a group of friends from church. Because we’re middle-aged folks, we talk a lot about very serious subjects, such as bifocals, bunions, and blood pressure. No, I’m kidding, we’re not painfully boring ALL the time. Once in a while we discuss a topic about which we feel very passionate: our adult children who rarely go to church anymore. It seems that many other people our age also find this to be a really big problem. Why don’t our adult kids go to church? And what can we do about it?

Statistics show that young adults in the U.S. are leaving organized religion in droves. Some have become atheists or agnostics, while many others have latched on to the trendy concept of “spirituality,” the idea that as long as you feel spiritual and try to be a nice person most of the time, you don’t need any of that traditional religious stuff.

Yeah, that may sound nice, but unfortunately, it’s the exact opposite of what Jesus said. He founded His Church on the rock of St. Peter, and then when instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper, He commanded us to “Do this in remembrance of me.” So, it’s pretty clear that the Lord wants everyone to be part of His Church and receive Him in the Eucharist on a regular basis.

My friends and I privately admit that we often feel the urge to command our kids to go back to church, while adding this gentle reminder: “Don’t you know you’re going to HELL?! You’re practically sprinting there!!”

Thankfully, we only blow off steam among ourselves and don’t actually say that to our kids. If there ever was an effective technique to get young adults NOT to go to church, it’s to threaten them with eternal damnation.

Rather than arguing with our children, we instead should focus our efforts in two other directions. First, we must pray like crazy that the Lord will touch their hearts and draw them back to Him. After all, it’s really the Holy Spirit who gives people the gift of faith. We have to remember that God loves our kids even more than we do, and we have to beg Him to help them see the light.

The second thing we must do is live genuine Christian lives, free of hypocrisy and selfishness. Those same statistics show that most young adults who no longer attend church are turned off by what they perceive as the rampant hypocrisy and cold judgmentalism of organized religion.

Jesus clearly said that people would recognize His followers by their love for one another. When we truly live this way, the Gospel becomes irresistible. But when Christians behave no differently than non-believers, then the Gospel loses its attractiveness.

If we say anything at all to our kids, we should gently ask them always to seek the truth. They can’t really argue with or get offended by that request. And if they sincerely do seek the truth, they just might discover the truth they’ve been seeking has a name: Jesus, who is the way and the truth and the life.

So even though it’s painful to watch our kids drift away from the faith, there is always hope they’ll return. After all, many of my church friends, including myself, did not come to believe in Christ and start attending church until well into adulthood. God can, and quite often does, perform miracles. And if the Lord draws our children back to the faith, that will take a big load off our shoulders and free up more of our time to discuss very serious subjects, such as bifocals, bunions, and blood pressure.

Friday, January 4, 2019

People Are, Like, Not Very Truthful

A few years ago, I wrote a column about verbal tics. (No, not the kind that spread Lyme Disease.) I discussed three different verbal tics that really annoy me. The first one is the ubiquitous “y’know,” as in, “I was, y’know, wondering if you might, y’know, be able to come over here and, y’know, fix my printer again?”

The second verbal tic is the repeated use of the question “right?” at the end of every statement, as in, “So I was walking down the street, right? And then I tripped on the sidewalk, right? And then I almost spilled my coffee, right? It was so wrong, right?”

The final one, which bugs me the most, is the use of the word “like” instead of the word “said,” as in, “So I’m like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ and he’s like, ‘None of your business, pal,’ and I’m like, “Yes, it is my business, dude, since you’re trying to break into my car!’”

One of the reasons I dislike “like” so much is because I discovered that I use that word far too often myself. For example, I recently related the events of a meeting I attended to some coworkers. This is what I said: “Well, first I explained to him that it wasn’t our fault the shipment arrived late. But then he was like, ‘I don’t care whose fault it was, I ain’t paying that invoice!’ and I was like, ‘But you have to pay! You own the equipment now!’ and he was like, ‘Get out of my office!’”

When I finished speaking, my coworkers were pondering how to get our money from this cranky customer, but I was thinking to myself, “Did I use the word ‘like’ like a hundred times just now?” Then I thought, “And did I just say to myself ‘like a hundred times’ when it was only three?”

And that’s when I realized that our culture now uses the word “like” instead of “said” to give ourselves permission to exaggerate a situation rather than be factually correct. If we tell someone, “Vinny said to me, ‘Get out of my office or I’ll hit you in the head with a pipe wrench!’” we are clearly claiming that Vinny made a genuine threat to commit a violent assault. And if it turns out he said nothing of the sort, we are guilty of slander by using a direct quotation that was never spoken.

However, if we tell someone, “Vinny was like, ‘Get out of my office or I’ll hit you in the head with a pipe wrench!’” we are adding a bogus story to make the point that Vinny was angry. And if he said nothing of the sort and it comes up again, we can just shrug and say, “You know what I meant. He was honked off.”

The word “like” is a simile, which is a figure of speech used to make a description more emphatic or vivid. The dictionary offers some examples: Crazy like a fox. Brave as a lion. Angry like a Vinny.

It seems that our culture has become similized. We’ve changed our speech patterns, using the simile “like” instead of the word “said,” so we can tell tall tales instead of telling the truth. We are now living in Western Similization.

This is often called the era of “fake news.” Media outlets are accused of distorting the truth (and often these accusations are made by people who wouldn’t recognize the truth if it bit them on the butt).

Maybe it’s time to value truthfulness and honesty once again. Y’know, if we did that, it would be, like, the best thing that ever happened, right?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Some NEW New Year’s Resolutions

Most people are not very fond of the first full week of January. It’s dark and cold, and the post-holiday letdown has kicked in. Our once gorgeous Christmas trees now lie by the curb, dry and brittle, completely naked except for a few straggling pieces of tinsel. Also, the credit card bills for December are due in the mail any day now. And when we open those credit card bills, we’re sure to exclaim, “Why did those stores in the mall FORCE me to spend so much money?!”

Yes, this time of year can be quite depressing. To add to the gloom, we also may be frustrated by the realization that we’ve already failed to keep our New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are good—in theory. As the Christmas season concludes, we likely have developed a fair number of bad habits, such as eating and drinking too much, sleeping too little, and whipping out the credit card as if our last name was Kardashian. So, as we turn the page on a brand new calendar, it seems proper to resolve to cut out some of the unhealthy habits we’ve developed.

We vow to stop drinking, to stop eating bad food, and to lose ten pounds. We vow to get to sleep by 9:30 each evening, and to join a health club and work out every day. But then reality sets in. The health club idea falls through because our credit card gets rejected when we try to buy a membership. The diet vow is broken when we realize the fridge is stuffed with leftovers from multiple holiday parties, and of course it would be a sin to throw out perfectly good lasagna, pumpkin pie, and those three glazed hams. So, we take the edge off our post-holiday blues by having an occasional snack or two or twelve.

May I suggest that instead of focusing on physical things—food and exercise and sleep—we try a different approach to New Year’s resolutions. We should try a spiritual approach and resolve to develop some good habits of the soul.

I have two suggestions that may seem a bit daunting at first, but compared to going to a health club every day and giving up our favorite food and drink, my suggestions are a piece of cake (or possibly a piece of pumpkin pie, assuming we haven’t eaten all the leftovers by now).

The first suggestion is to spend a few minutes each day reading the Bible. I know, I hear you. “It’s too confusing!” “I don’t know where to start!” “I thought Catholics weren’t allowed to read the Bible!”

Here’s a simple plan: read one chapter of a Gospel each day. It takes less than five minutes. Pick one of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or Bob—and begin with chapter one. (Yeah, I know there’s no Gospel of Bob. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

The four Gospels have a total of 89 chapters. So, it takes about three months, at a rate of four or five minutes per day, to go through all four. By April it will be time to start over again. It’s a very easy habit to develop, and it’s very rewarding.

The second suggestion also is simple: go to Confession each month. Oh please, stop whining. Confession is NOT scary. The priests are very gentle and helpful. Confession is an awesome sacrament that completely refreshes us from the inside out. And considering how we behaved at the company Christmas party (yes, everyone was watching), it’s not like we have nothing to confess. And best of all, after Confession, feel free to have a piece of pumpkin pie.