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Priest’s Lenten advice: pull weeds, plant God in center

Lenten Scalf 1

Precious Blood Father Kevin Scalf gives his presentation on March 7 at Our Lady of Consolation as part of the four-week Lenten journey series sponsored by the Merrillville cluster of Catholic parishes. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


by Anthony D. Alonzo

Northwest Indiana Catholic


        MERRILLVILLE – God likes the world with you in it, and he wants to be present at the center of every person’s journey, Precious Blood Father Kevin Scalf told an audience at a Lenten gathering.

        At a part of a four-week lenten journey mission sponsored by the Merrillville cluster of Catholic parishes hosted March 7 at Our Lady of Consolation, Father Scalf went further, saying Jesus Christ is present among, before and between us, working as an emollient, soothing over difficult interpersonal interactions that could be disastrous without him.

        Father Scalf, special assistant to the president for mission and ministry at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Hammond, shared the testimony of a student, who during his duties as a police officer, invites the Lord to be a part of potentially dangerous situations.

        “This officer told me, ‘I’m not the most religious person, but I incorporate something of the Lord when I go out on a call – I ask him to come stand between us,’” Father Scalf said.

        Father Scalf explained with this approach we acknowledge that “in the middle of all these things teeming about, there is something more.”

        As with the Chicago police officer, Father Scalf said the Lord’s efficacy is contingent on the person welcoming the power of God through the Holy Spirit into their lives.

        During his “No Idling in our Idoling” presentation, Father Scalf warned about idols – those things that “can block our access to God.”

        Greek and Latin etymologies of “idol” describe the concept of a “phantom,” or “resemblance.” Father Scalf continued to explain the historical context of idols, citing perhaps the most famous idol of all, the golden calf described in Exodus 32. 

        “What is it in our lives that we really love, serve, or worship the most?” Father Scalf asked. “Those things we serve the most, if we are really honest about it, are worldly things.”

        In his discussions with college students, the Precious Blood priest said the concept of a tangible idol, or false god, is an idea that is “quickly pushed aside” by many young adults. “We don’t do that anymore,” he said they tell him.

        However, listing several categories of distractions and vices, Father Scalf said there are plenty of modern-day golden calves: career climbing, power pursuits, social media mania, lack of charity, promiscuity, substance abuse, and others.

        To counter the negative influence of these would-be idols, Father Scalf said the cardinal rule is to place God in the center of our lives. Love for God and neighbor was prescribed by Jesus in response to questions raised by a member of the Pharisees. “He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mt. 22:37-40)

        No one is immune to sin, Father Scalf reminded the audience. And, like the Israelites who were wandering in the desert, modern man can also project frustrations and dreams on things they see as likeable, strong, or dazzling. These are phantom gods because unlike the one true God, they will ultimately disappoint. 

        Father Scalf echoed the words of Psalm 145, saying it is actually God who satisfies.

        He continued comparing people’s lives to a beautiful garden in which weeds can choke out nutrients and sunlight necessary for flowers and other crops. To fight back against bad influences or “the affections that can slay us,” we have to do some “serious gardening.”

        “We must go deeper because unless we get to the roots of the weeds they will only get stronger,” Fr. Scalf said of sin. “We need to have the humility to (ask) someone to help us.”

        For OLC parishioner Jason Whitaker, Fr. Scalf’s advice to invite the Lord to stand before us in difficult situations was more than a metaphor.

        “I totally imagined that police officer putting his faith in Jesus Christ, and the Lord actually going between the (quarreling) couple that is in need of the police officer’s assistance,” Whitaker said.

        Cecilia Evanseck-Pavel of Crown Point joined her sister Barb Evanseck of Gary at the Lenten Journey session.

        “(Fr. Scalf’s) speech reminded me of the movie called ‘The Shack’ where a man is having a hard time forgiving God because he lost his daughter, but God shows him how to forgive,” Barb said. “If we put something between God and us, it stops us from growing closer to him.”

        Our Lady of Consolation parishioner John S. Couwenhoven said the evening’s Lenten reflections inspired him to continue to “tidy up” his life in preparation for the joy of Easter.

        “I try to do my best everyday and have a bright outlook,” Couwenhoven said. “A lot of people I work with will say, ‘you’re always in a joyous mood.’ And I say, ‘because I have the Lord in my heart.’”


Lenten Scalf 3

At Our Lady of Consolation, guests sing on March 7 during part of the Merrillville Catholic Lenten Journey series hosted by the city's parishes. The faithful also heard a presentation by Precious Blood Father Kevin Scalf about putting God before modern-day idols. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


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