From the Tee Box

A Blog by Father Trey Nelson



(Monday of the First Week of Advent)

A few years ago, a young man in college at the time looked at me and asked, “do you think it’s normal to feel guilty sometimes about what you’ve been given?” His question made it clear to me that he was well aware of much of how he had been blessed: by his parents, friends, through the achievements that he had accomplished, all flowing from God. I had never been asked that question before, especially by someone so young. I simply said in reply, “ know you’re blessed. You know that your life is a gift. Just accept it as a gift and live simply, humbly...”

In part, that conversation was about our struggle with unworthiness. I recall it today in light of our Gospel reading. When the words of the Mass changed a few years ago, one of the oddest-sounding changes was the one that flows from Jesus’ encounter with the centurion. This exchange also centers, in part, around a feeling of unworthiness. We pray these words every time we celebrate Mass. It use to read, as we all know, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” Now, the words are, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”This is a prayer that acknowledges what is about to happen; namely, the intimate encounter with God in holy communion, in reception of Eucharist. Such a gift is beyond our understanding. If we stop and think about it, we may not feel worthy for the Lord to “enter under our roof and within our mind, body, and soul.” But he comes anyway. Because he loves us.

We come here to be fed. When we leave here, we are called to feed others. The question then becomes, “will I welcome others under my roof as readily as I welcome Jesus in this sacrament?”



“If nothing changes, then nothing changes.” During the month of November we traditionally remember our loved ones who have gone before us. While the experience of loss brings sadness with it, the prayers of the Catholic funeral rite are very consoling in their tone. For example, the Preface is the prayer during Mass that leads up to the “Sanctus,” or what is commonly known as the “Holy, Holy.” In the Preface for the Mass of Christian Burial, there is a line that is very comforting. These are the words: “…Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended…” “Changed but not ended…” No doubt, the loss of someone we love changes each of us. For those who have passed, they experience the ultimate change, the ultimate transformation, from life in this world to eternal life with God. It changes us as well but also challenges us. Those same words are intended to remind us that we are supposed to be about a certain type of change while we are here . While on this earth, we are called by God to allow ourselves to be transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, as much as is humanly possible, more and more each day. As the years and days of our lives pass by, as time on the clock continues to move us forward, we, at the same time, are supposed to be changing: -More and more, our choices are supposed to be good choices… -Our words, especially about others, are supposed to be charitable words… -Our mind, our body, and our spirit are supposed to be treated as a sacred gift… -And our attachment more to Christ and holiness, rather than self and worldliness… On Thursday I was asked to take on a role that I’d never taken on before. My nephew, who is in the fifth grade over at Our Lady of Mercy, asked his Mom if I could join him for grandparents day—as the grandparent! His Mom and Dad both work, and my Mom is not able to attend such events any more. It was VERY important to him that he had someone there with him. We had fun, although the other grandparents were looking at me with a curious look. One older gentleman was, like, “you got kids?” I was, like, “uh, no?” Anyway, on our way home, we passed by the neighborhood church located just around the corner from his house. It’s a Lutheran church. Each week, this church, like many churches, puts a new message up on the sign-board out front. Usually the message is 1 to 2 sentences. This week, however, the message was incredibly simple. It read, “IF NOTHING CHANGES, THEN NOTHING CHANGES.” I thought, “Wow! Truer words were never spoken,” because, as we get older, the kind of change that needs to happen in us does not automatically happen. While holiness is real and reachable, holiness does not just automatically happen. We have to want it. We have to consciously and willingly choose to pursue it. And, if we pursue it, we don’t do it because others are watching, or to gain points, or to avoid punishment. We do it, ideally, because we know it’s what we are made for. This was Jesus’ problem with the scribes and the Pharisees. The DID NOT practice what they preached. They WERE ONLY CONCERNED about how they looked to others. They HAD ABSOLUTELY NO DESIRE to change at all. They were WAY TOO COMFORTABLE and just simply DID NOT CARE. His words are for us also. What do we desire more? Jesus Christ and holiness, or ourselves and worldliness? Regardless of our age and what we think we have or have not accomplished in this life, it’s a good question to ask ourselves. But then again, if we’re not willing to answer honestly, “then nothing changes.” On All Saints night, as some of you know, we celebrated our annual candlelight memorial Mass. We called out the names of the 32 members of our Saint Jude family who had passed from us during this year. I took that opportunity to remember my loved ones who, to use the expression, “got it right.” I asked myself, “how did they do it?” What made them different from others? What made them different from me? Right away the answer came. They “got it right,” because they knew that such change must start now. Being honest, making good choices, giving from our blessings to the poor and needy, caring for our bodies, our lives, the sacred gift of our sexuality, and so on—these are not things to be put off to the last minute. “Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended…” What change do we need to work on before our time here is ended. God is a patient God, but if we are not willing to make the turn, well, “then, nothing really changes.”


Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist: Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

“When his disciples heard about it (the death of John the Baptist), they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.” (From Mark 6:17-29)

There is a slight difference between Mark’s account of John’s death, which we read today, and that of Matthew. It is this distinction that comes to mind for me now. The lectionary reading from Mark’s Gospel for today’s Mass ends as you see above. Matthew’s, on the other hand, ends with, “when Jesus had heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” (Matthew 14:13)

Jesus was the best example at showing us the need to pull away and be alone with God in silence. In this particular scene from his life, he withdraws in response to the death of someone he loved dearly, his cousin, John. There are other scenes in his life as well when we see Jesus going away to a deserted place. And, no doubt, each and every time that he does this, people go looking for him. Translation? The work will always be there waiting for us. So will the text messages, the emails, and God knows whatever else. I wish I could remember the name of the book, but a quote comes to mind for me today. I won’t get it exactly right, but it goes something like, “…there will always be something in your inbox. That’s why it’s called an inbox…”

The rhythm and balance between work and rest, between busyness and stopping is a hard one to come by, rest assured. And if it takes something tragic to stop us and draw us into the quiet, then that’s unfortunate. Jesus took time alone regularly, not just when something bad happened. That’s what we are called to also. We need it to survive. Our children need to see us embracing the quiet. There is no better gift for us to accept and no better gift for us to pass on to our children than the value of withdrawing to a deserted place to listen more intently to God’s voice.