Apocalypse and Toilet Seats

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov 17, 2019)

Malachi 3:19-20a                            

2 Thessalonians 3:7-12

Psalm 98:5-6,7-8,9                                   

Luke 21:5-19

I realize that humans are very curious. So let’s get this out of the way now… I’m sure many of you saw me walking around up here like a pirate on a peg leg. It’s hard to hide that I’m wearing a medical boot on my right foot. When someone is seen wearing one of these boots, the natural question to follow is usually, “What happened?” Was it from CrossFit? No. Did you trip on a toy that one of your kids left out? Nope. Did you injure it while you were a referee at a recent soccer game? Not quite. Did you hurt it while tackling a robber that was trying to steal your wife’s purse? Unfortunately, not even close.

I fell off a toilet. Before the jokes get even worse, to clarify, I was changing a light bulb while standing on a toilet. You know… that silly light bulb that is above the toilet that a 5’7” man can’t reach because it’s a 9’ ceiling. To make it worse, I actually put a small step stool on the toilet seat so I could reach the light. Yup… I did that… and I’ve done it many, many times before. But this time, apparently, the seat did that little “shift” thing which immediately caused every muscle in my body to react like I just heard my favorite break dancing song straight out of the 1980’s. But instead of break dancing, I broke a bone in my foot.

Between Deacon Richard’s shoulder and my foot, Deacon Bruce is the only healthy deacon left standing! But I’ll be fine. Bones heal. Life moves on. It’s not the end of the world.

Speaking of the end of the world, let’s turn our attention to today’s Gospel from Luke (See what I did there? Wasn’t that a smooth transition?). This is one of those passages in the New Testament where Jesus alludes to the “end times.” We hear that nations will rise against nation. Earthquakes, famines and plagues will occur. Wars and insurrections will erupt. Seizing and persecutions will be wide spread.

Sometimes, when we look at the current state of our own society, it’s hard not to wonder if we are indeed in the end times right now. Well, we are not alone. People have been thinking they are living in the end times pretty much since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. When I looked up a list of dates predicted for apocalyptic events on Wikipedia, it had around 200 entries. All of them wrong (obviously since we are still here having this discussion!).

When we focus on all of the negativity around us, it tends to foster a sense of helplessness. We want to just throw our hands up and say, “What’s the point of even trying?” I mean come on… I tried to change a stinking light bulb and broke my foot! Did I mention it was a LED light? I was trying to be more efficient and environmentally friendly since it uses less electric and is supposed to last 20 years. But now I can’t exercise like I want. I get funny looks hobbling around Wal-Mart and at my office. My ankle aches from the lack of movement caused by the boot. Plus my back is hurting because I’m walking off kilter! Negative, negative, negative, blah, blah, BLAH!

But you know what this experience does allow? It forces me to slow down a little. Spend more time in prayer and less time in the gym. It makes me rely on others for help, which can be very humbling. It is an icebreaker for people who I don’t know very well but ask me what happened. And it allows me to better understand how these lovely boots really do affect people’s low back. This has made me a better Chiropractor for future patients who will also experience wearing one of these. It forces me to let go of the control I mistakenly think I have on my life.

And that is a main point that comes across at the end of today’s passage from Luke. 90% of the passage is Jesus talking about the chaos that will happen in the world before the end. And like I said, we tend to focus on the negative stuff. But the main point to focus on is not in the details of the chaos… not in the unavoidable evil that some people will spread… not in trying to “read the signs” that the end in near…

Shift your focus instead to the final two lines spoken by Jesus in today’s Gospel, “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Nothing… and I mean nothing… should be able to destroy our faith in Jesus Christ. Granted, there will be times in our lives that our faith will be shaken. There will be times when our faith will be tested. But faith can never be “taken” from us. The only way we can get rid of our faith is if we abandon it by our own choice.

But if our faith teaches and we truly believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God and will welcome his faithful followers into eternity with Him… what could this world possibly throw our way to make us want to abandon our faith?

That’s the message Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel. No matter how rough life gets, hold fast to our faith. Persevere in the face of evil to secure our eternal life.

Remember, we may get shaken, we may be tested, we even may fall off of a toilet… but if we persevere to the end in faith… God will never give up on us.

Grenades and Prayer

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 20, 2019)

Exodus 17:8-13

2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

Psalm 121:1-8

Luke 18:1-8

Kyle Carpenter was born October 19, 1989 in Jackson, Mississippi. At the age of 19, he enlisted in the Marines and later was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On November 21, 2010 he was a sentry on a rooftop providing cover for the rest of the squad down below. It was just he and his best friend on the roof standing watch. A Taliban fighter threw a hand grenade up on the roof and it landed between Kyle and his buddy. Instinctively, Kyle jumped towards the grenade in an attempt to shield his friend from the blast. When the grenade detonated, Kyle’s body absorbed the brunt of the blast, severely wounding him, but saving the life of his fellow Marine. 

5 weeks later, Kyle woke up in a hospital bed wondering where he was and why there were Christmas decorations in his hospital room. He had no memory of what had happened the past few weeks. The doctors told him he had a minimum of 2 years before he would be somewhat put back together. Over the next three years, he would undergo a total of 41 surgeries and was declared dead a total of five times.

Rather than laying in the hospital bed feeling sorry for himself, Kyle decided to set some goals. His first goal was to sit up in bed. Next was to be able to move and sit on the side of the bed with his feet dangling to the floor. After that he wanted to be able to stand up on his own. The next goal would be to take one step… just one. And all of this was to get to his ultimate goal of being able to walk again. Little goals. One day at a time.

Do you realize how much persistence this takes? Kyle had every right to just lie there on that hospital bed and quit. But apparently Marines are pretty stubborn and don’t like to be defeated. Well… not only did Kyle learn to walk again; in 2012 he entered and completed the Marine Corp Marathon.

One word keeps coming to mind. Persistence.

After all the surgeries and physical therapy, he was finally discharged from Walter Reed Hospital. It happened to be on a Friday. The following Monday, he enrolled in college and graduated 4 years later.

Persistence.

In June 2014, the President of the United States awarded Kyle Carpenter the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the youngest living recipient of the military’s highest award for valor.

Persistence.

And to cap it all off, he is now a published author. His book titled, “You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For” was officially released this past week.

Persistence.

In an interview with Kyle, he was asked about his experience from the time the grenade changed his life forever to the present. He recited this quote, “The smallest of steps eventually completes the grandest of journeys.”

I came across Kyle’s story shortly after I read today’s Gospel reading. As I was praying on the theme for this homily, I kept coming back to that word… persistence.

Persistence is defined as having a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

Very often in the Gospels, Jesus talks in parables to try and get his audience to think, rather than just be told what to believe. Some of the parables are open to interpretation and some of them are hard to understand. Today’s parable… not so vague.

The opening line tells us all we need to know. It reads, “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” Without this intro, the parable almost seems like the widow got justice only because she annoyed the judge.

However, since we have such a blunt intro to the parable, it’s very obvious that Jesus is telling his disciples how important it is to be persistent in their prayer life… no matter how long it takes God to answer them… to not become weary. This is especially important to remember when it appears that God is not answering our prayers in the way we would like.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but Kyle Carpenter probably wouldn’t have written a book, become a motivational speaker or inspired so many people with his amazing recovery if it wouldn’t have been for his act of bravery on the rooftop in Afghanistan. I’m going to make a huge assumption that Kyle, like most of us, prayed at some point to have a successful life, one with meaning and purpose. But I guarantee his prayer did NOT involve a grenade detonating next to him. The struggles he went through to get to this point have redefined his life dramatically. And when listening to him in an interview, he has no regrets.

Could you imagine if our prayer life had that much persistence? To pray without ceasing, no matter the outcome or our current situation? To pray with our whole heart, knowing with 100% faith, that God hears us and will answer us in His time and in His way. To know that no matter the struggles that lie ahead, if we are persistent in our faith, we will reach our grandest of journeys… our ultimate goal… unification with God in heaven.

So pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray with the eyes of faith and know that God is listening. Know that He will answer your prayer in His time and in His way. We just have to keep the faith and be persistent in prayer… knowing that struggles lie ahead. But with faith and prayer, we too can handle any grenade that life throws our way.

A Conversation With God

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sept 22, 2019)

Amos 8:4-7

Psalm 113:1-2,4-6,7-8

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Luke 16:1-13

Prayer. Prayer is our direct line communication with God. It is something that is available to all of us… everyday… at any time… in any place. There’s no fancy formula to remember. No secret password. No hidden key. To begin prayer, all we have to do is simply… decide… decide to begin. Just begin talking to God as you would a close friend. There are many good and useful memorized prayers that we’ve been taught, but prayer can simply be a casual conversation with God.

Prayer is something that should be our “go to” default in times of stress, in times of trial, even in times of celebration. But all too often, we tend to ignore this form of communication with God. And then when we get overwhelmed, stressed beyond our capacity, or even start to fall into depression… it is in these moments that we often ask the questions, “Where is God?” and “Why has He abandoned me?”

So let me ask you. How’s your prayer life these days? This is a question that we should reflect on often. It’s important to consider because, if our prayer life is suffering, other areas in our lives tend to suffer as well. So if we are stressed, uncertain, afraid, mad or just frustrated… I ask you… have you spoken with God about it yet? Or are you still trying to do it on your own?

Today we hear St. Paul in his letter to Timothy say, “First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone.” Why? Paul tells us, “That we may lead a quiet and tranquil life.” I’m not sure about you, but I would LOVE to live a quiet and tranquil life. But like most people, I tend to get overwhelmed with life, which often pushes my prayer life farther and farther out of my daily routine.

I’m a husband, a father of 5 kids, I work full time, I have obligations here at church as a Deacon and in my spare time, I get yelled at and get accused of being blind as a High School soccer referee. These things are not bad, but they take up a lot of time and have the capacity to add to my stress levels. Then guess what? My prayer life gets ignored. It’s easier and takes less brainpower to veg out watching Netflix or scroll through social media than to tell God about the stress I’m trying to ignore. But I’ve personally seen in my life that the more “grrrrrr-vibe” that I’m putting off has a close correlation with how little time I’ve given to God in prayer. It’s like a teeter-totter on a playground.

So if we want to live a life with more quiet and tranquility, we need to make room for dialogue with God a daily priority. If we keep a strong prayer life, it tends to open our eyes more to see God acting in our lives more frequently. It also allows us to better deal with rough situations because we can offer up our sufferings to God, knowing that He hears us and is with us through the good and the bad.

Remember, the days we spend here on earth are temporary compared to the eternity that awaits us after death. We can try to ignore and avoid talking with God now, but we can’t avoid that conversation with God on our judgment day when we stand face to face with Him. That would be an awkward conversation, wouldn’t it???

God: “Hey, nice to finally meet you. I’m God… the creator of the universe. I actually formed you in the womb. I was hoping we would have talked more often during the past 84 years. But it’s whatever. I don’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. Let’s have a chat.”

Don’t be that person.

Make prayer a priority. All the time. Everyday. Decide to do it now.

Pray.

(There were several other things going on at Mass this weekend so a shorter homily was requested by my pastor.)

The Good Samaritan “Bluegrass Kentucky Edition”

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 14, 2019)

Deuteronomy 30:10-14                   

Psalm 69:14,17,30-31,33-34,36,37

Colossians 1:15-20                                  

Luke 10:25-37

Knowing the back-story can make all the difference. If we don’t know all of the details, the points being made in a story do not have the same “wow factor” for the audience. Today’s Gospel reading from Luke about the Good Samaritan is one that we have heard many times before. It’s a familiar story and I’m guessing all of us could summarize it or retell it in our own words.

A guy is traveling on the road. He gets beat up by robbers and left for dead. Two men see him on the ground and choose to ignore him. But a third guy sees him and helps him. We obviously see that the 3rd guy (who happened to be a Samaritan) is the one we’re supposed to imitate. After all, this is where we get the phrase “Good Samaritan.”

However, the problem is this parable was told roughly 2,000 years ago. What really makes this story so amazing is all of the details that we may not recognize. We miss them because we weren’t raised in the same culture of the people living in the lands that Jesus traveled.

So I reached out to Pope Francis and asked him if it was ok for me to modernize this parable a little. He was ok with it but challenged me to make it very relatable to the people specifically in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. “Know your audience” were his parting words to me. So here is my attempt at the parable of the “Good Samaritan, Bluegrass Kentucky Edition.”

A University of Kentucky basketball fan was leaving Rupp Arena on his way home from a game. He fell victim to robbers who stripped off his UK basketball jersey, beat him, stole his iPhone and left him for dead on a sidewalk in Lexington. Another fan, wearing a UK football jersey, was walking down that same sidewalk. He noticed him, but turned his body so he could scoot by him on the other side of the sidewalk and kept walking. Yet another fan, this one wearing a UK baseball jersey, also saw him. He too scooted to the side of the narrow sidewalk and almost had to step over the guy on the ground as he passed by without offering any help. Just then, walking up the sidewalk… off in the distance… a third man was approaching. This guy… was wearing… red. It was hard to miss the red jersey because everyone else in Lexington was wearing a blue jersey. This man (you guessed it) was a University of Louisville fan. The U of L fan saw the UK fan lying on the ground and his heart was moved with compassion. So he cleaned him up and took him to the closest bed and breakfast in town. He gave the front desk clerk all the cash he had and gave strict instructions to take care of the man while he recovered. He even told the clerk that if the money he left wasn’t enough to cover the final bill, to shoot him a text and he’d PayPal him the rest of the money. The U of L fan then called for an Uber and continued on his way.

Now, before any of you call Bishop John on me… I have a confession. No, I did not speak with Pope Francis. Also I am not implying that University of Louisville fans are nicer or have more compassion than University of Kentucky fans. I did this to get a point across. The point is that we need to understand the details to better appreciate the power of this parable.

First off, Jesus was telling this parable to a Jew. Any Jew of that time and region would have known that the 18-mile road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a dangerous one. Not only was it through desert like conditions, it was very isolated with very few hiding places. This road was nicknamed the, “Bloody Pass” because it was a common place to get beat up, robbed or killed.

The man who was attacked in the parable was a Jew. The priest and Levite who passed by without offering help were also Jews.

When we hear that the priest and Levite “passed by on the opposite side” of the road, we more than likely picture a wide road. However, much of this road isn’t any wider than a sidewalk. So it is very possible that the priest and Levite had to step over the man to pass by. But at the very least, there was no way they could have simply not seen the man on the ground. Even though we don’t know their motives, we know they chose to ignore the man in need.

The final bit of information we need to understand is that Samaritans and Jews did not get along at all. Actually, Jews and Samaritans hated each other.

That’s the back-story. The Jews hearing this parable told by Jesus probably had to pick their jaws up off the ground. Especially since it was a Samaritan, not a fellow Jew, who helped the injured man who would have surely died all alone on the desert road.

Remember, this parable was told in response to a Jew (a scholar of the law) asking Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The man asking, along with the priest and Levite in the parable, already had knowledge of the law. So when Jesus asked what the law said, he readily responded:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

To which Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’

Do this… Do…   Jesus didn’t say, “Know this and you will live.”

Do is a verb. It means to perform an action. Do this

But the scholar of the law pushed it further asking, “And who is my neighbor?” To which Jesus tells the parable we have been discussing (the original one, not the Bluegrass Kentucky Edition!).

Like a good teacher, and to see if the man really and truly got it, Jesus asks at the end of the parable, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” 

“The one who treated him with mercy,” was the man’s reply. Not… the one who knew the law.

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”  Go and dodo… there’s that little word again.

Loving God, loving neighbor, showing compassion, treating others with mercy. These are the things that allow us to be called Christian. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Not just to be a knower of Christ.

But to follow… it takes action.

What must I do to inherit eternal life?

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Put all of your faith in Jesus Christ…

and then put all of that love of God into action.

Now go… and do likewise… and You. Will. Live!

Live Your Faith Without Fear

3rd Sunday of Easter (May 5, 2019)

Acts 5:27-32,40-41

Psalm 30:2,4-6,11-13

Revelation 5:11-14

John 21:1-14

Something happened 2000 years ago that is beyond our ability as humans to fully understand. Through the Holy Spirit, God sent His only Son to earth. He didn’t come down on a cloud or riding on a chariot ready to lead an army like in a blockbuster movie. He came to earth as a baby, through the womb of a virgin named Mary. Jesus advanced in years and eventually began preaching about love, forgiveness, repentance and having eternal life with His Father in heaven. Throughout his travels, Jesus performed many miracles and His followers grew in number day by day. Jesus also made enemies along the way, which eventually lead to his gruesome death by crucifixion. Three days after his burial, Jesus rose from the dead… just as he claimed he would.

Stop here for a second and really ponder this. There have been other leaders and prophets before and after Jesus that have also claimed to be divine or have superhuman powers. But you know what ended their 10 seconds of fame? Death. No resurrection. Just death. Their followers saw them get killed or die and they too just faded away. 

So thinking through this logically… If the resurrection of Jesus Christ was just a myth, His followers would have scattered and disappeared into nothingness. The names of Peter, James, John, Matthew, Bartholomew and the rest of the Apostles would have no real value to us 2000 years later.

But that’s not the story we hear in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles are standing before the Sanhedrin. This is part of the group that was directly involved with convincing the Romans to execute Jesus. The Sanhedrin is demanding the Apostles to stop teaching in the name of Jesus Christ. Remember, the Apostles saw Jesus get scourged… they saw soldiers use nails to attach Him to a wooden cross… they saw the agonizing death that Jesus experienced as He struggled to breath His last breath. They saw the horrible death of someone claiming to be the Son of God.

But you know what else they saw??? They saw a teacher conquer death and rise again. That’s when they knew that Jesus truly was the Son of God. And that is what sets Jesus apart from every other teacher, leader or prophet. Jesus didn’t stay dead. No… He conquered death and ascended into heaven to spend eternity with His Father.

And here’s the kicker. Here’s why this is important to all of us. Jesus’ death and resurrection gave all of us the opportunity to also live forever in Heaven after our earthly death.

The Apostles knew this to be true. That’s why they pretty much laughed in the face of the Sanhedrin when they were ordered to be silent. They no longer feared death. They now understood that death lasts but a moment, but God’s love lasts eternally in heaven. And they were ready and willing to die to this life so as to be with God in heaven. They refused to deny their faith or remain silent anymore.

What about you? Is your faith strong and vibrant like the Apostles? Or are you afraid to live out your faith for fear of someone telling you to be silent?

Like the Apostles, do not be afraid to follow Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid to live out your faith. Have no fear… Jesus opened the gates of heaven for all of us. And on the other side of those gates is a loving Father. A Father ready to embrace us all.

If you believe that… then live like it…

The Sign of the Cross

The Most Holy Trinity (June 16, 2019)

Proverbs 8:22-31

Romans 5:1-5

Psalm 8:4-9

John 16:12-15

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Isn’t it interesting that pretty much everyone in here just made the Sign of the Cross with me?? I didn’t tell you to do it. You just did it. Making the Sign of the Cross is almost like a “Catholic reflex.” We hear or see someone do it and we join in. It’s a natural response for us. But have you ever really considered what it means?

First off, it’s a prayer. Probably one of the shortest prayers that we commonly use. It is a prayer that reminds us of the cross of salvation and also invokes the name of the Most Holy Trinity. The Feast Day, which we celebrate today.

The Sign of the Cross is an extremely powerful prayer that should be used frequently. In the fourth century, St. Athanasius wrote, “For by the Sign of the Cross, if a man will use it, their deceptions are driven out.” He was referring to driving out demons.

In one of his sermons, St. John Vianney said, “The Sign of the Cross is the most terrible weapon against the Devil… the Church wants us to make the Sign of the Cross ourselves at every juncture of our day: when we go to bed, when we awaken during the night, when we get up, when we begin any action, and above all when we’re tempted.”

Both of these Saints are speaking about using the Sign of the Cross against demons, the Devil and temptations. This shows how much power and grace this prayer can provide us.

This prayer should be made consciously and devoutly… never carelessly… never rushed. As mentioned earlier, it is a prayer to the Holy Trinity, which is a central dogma to our Christian faith. One God, Three Persons.

We must remember that this prayer is a sign of our salvation in Jesus Christ. God the Father (touch forehead) sent us His only Son (touch stomach) to become man. Jesus Christ then offered his life on the cross (touch shoulders) to pay a debt we could not pay. His death was the one true and perfect sacrifice for the redemption of our souls… opening the gates of heaven for all of us. This short prayer should remind us of the love God has for each one of us. A love that is stronger than death.

When we look at the three persons of the Holy Trinity, there are certain characteristics that typically come to mind. The 1st person of the Trinity, God the Father, is often associated with being the creator of life. A loving Father that looks at us as His children. We hear in the Old Testament how He made certain rules to help guide His chosen people while leading them to the Promised Land.

The 2nd person of the Trinity is the Son of God, or as we like to call Him – Jesus Christ. Jesus is the loving teacher that showed us how to live. He taught us that God’s love is open to all who believe in Him and follow God’s teachings. Jesus is the one who died a horrible death to allow us the gift of eternal life.

God the Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Trinity. He is the God of love and action. It’s often been said that the Holy Spirit is the love that exists between the Father and the Son. This is the Spirit that came down on the Apostles at Pentecost to begin the work of the church after Jesus’ ascension. We hear much about the Holy Spirit in today’s Gospel from John. Jesus refers to Him as the “Spirit of Truth” because he will guide us to all truth.

All three of these persons in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are one. They are 3 separate persons, but one God. Where one is present, all three are present. So even though we often give certain characteristics to each of the persons, they are all together as one God. This is possibly one of the hardest mysteries to fully grasp with our human brains. What we are saying is that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1, not 3 (it’s new math!).

Now let us look at God as a whole, not by the separate characteristics of each person. Our God is the creator of life. He is very loving. He showed us by His example of how to live and treat others, even when we may not agree with them. He laid down His life for us so that we could be with Him for eternity in Heaven. And to help us in our daily lives, He still moves among us and encourages us with gentle nudges to act lovingly throughout our days. He is the source of truth.

This is the God we are praying to when we say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is whom we invoke in our time of despair… when we need encouragement and guidance… when we second-guess our choices… when we need the strength to get back up after falling into sin.

This is who is on our side, cheering for us, each and everyday. Do not be afraid to call on the Trinity frequently… whether in desperate times when nothing seems to be going our way or in thanksgiving for the many little blessings in our lives.

Don’t allow the Sign of the Cross to just be a mindless “Catholic Reflex.”

It is a powerful prayer to the Holy Trinity.

A prayer that helps us get through the struggles of life on our journey towards heaven.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Faith Like the Apostles

3rd Sunday of Easter (May 5, 2019)

Acts 5:27-32,40-41

Psalm 30:2,4-6,11-13

Revelation 5:11-14

John 21:1-14

Something happened 2000 years ago that is beyond our ability as humans to fully understand. Through the Holy Spirit, God sent His only Son to earth. He didn’t come down on a cloud or riding on a chariot ready to lead an army like in a blockbuster movie. He came to earth as a baby, through the womb of a virgin named Mary. Jesus advanced in years and eventually began preaching about love, forgiveness, repentance and having eternal life with His Father in heaven. Throughout his travels, Jesus performed many miracles and His followers grew in number day by day. Jesus also made enemies along the way, which eventually lead to his gruesome death by crucifixion. Three days after his burial, Jesus rose from the dead… just as he claimed he would.

Stop here for a second and really ponder this. There have been other leaders and prophets before and after Jesus that have also claimed to be divine or have superhuman powers. But you know what ended their 10 seconds of fame? Death. No resurrection. Just death. Their followers saw them get killed or die and they too just faded away. 

So thinking through this logically… If the resurrection of Jesus Christ was just a myth, His followers would have scattered and disappeared into nothingness. The names of Peter, James, John, Matthew, Bartholomew and the rest of the Apostles would have no real value to us 2000 years later.

But that’s not the story we hear in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles are standing before the Sanhedrin. This is part of the group that was directly involved with convincing the Romans to execute Jesus. The Sanhedrin is demanding the Apostles to stop teaching in the name of Jesus Christ. Remember, the Apostles saw Jesus get scourged… they saw soldiers use nails to attach Him to a wooden cross… they saw the agonizing death that Jesus experienced as He struggled to breath His last breath. They saw the horrible death of someone claiming to be the Son of God.

But you know what else they saw??? They saw a teacher conquer death and rise again. That’s when they knew that Jesus truly was the Son of God. And that is what sets Jesus apart from every other teacher, leader or prophet. Jesus didn’t stay dead. He conquered death and ascended into heaven to spend eternity with His Father.

And here’s the kicker. Here’s why this is important to all of us. Jesus’ death and resurrection gave all of us the opportunity to also live forever in Heaven after our earthly death.

The Apostles knew this to be true. That’s why they pretty much laughed in the face of the Sanhedrin when they were ordered to be silent. They no longer feared death. They now understood that death lasts but a moment, but God’s love lasts eternally in heaven. And they were ready and willing to die to this life so as to be with God in heaven. They refused to deny their faith or remain silent anymore.

What about you? Is your faith strong and vibrant like the Apostles? Or are you afraid to live out your faith for fear of someone telling you to be silent?

Like the Apostles, do not be afraid to follow Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid to live out your faith. Have no fear… Jesus opened the gates of heaven for all of us. And on the other side of those gates is a loving Father. A Father ready to embrace us all.

If you believe that… then live like it…