Follow The Star

The Epiphany of the Lord (January 5, 2020)

Isaiah 60:1-6

Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13

Matthew 2:1-12

They followed a star. The Magi left their homes, they left their family and friends, and they left what was familiar to them. They journeyed to an unknown destination using only a star as their compass. They didn’t know a lot about where the journey would take them, but they were open to taking the journey.

You know what is really interesting to consider? To the best of our understanding, the Magi didn’t have knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. They probably didn’t know who Isaiah was or about his prophesies. They simply were following a star. The only thing they knew about the star was that it signaled the birth of the newborn king of the Jews. And that was enough to motivate them to seek him out.

Interestingly, Matthew’s gospel makes no mention of people joining the Magi on their journey. I’m sure they met people along the way who inquired about where they were going. “To find the newborn King of the Jews,” sounds like a response they would have given. Yet nobody asked to tag along.

Even the chief priests and scribes with King Herod didn’t care to follow the star. Did you catch that in today’s Gospel? The Magi asked King Herod about the location of the newborn king of the Jews. Herod had no clue what they meant so he asked the chief priests and scribes to explain it to him. They readily quoted the Scriptures because, unlike the Magi, they knew the biblical prophecies. They validated that the Magi were not crazy and told them to go to Bethlehem. But they did nothing to search out the child themselves. They sat by and did nothing.

This sounds eerily similar to our modern society. There are people who are actively seeking out Jesus like the Magi. They are open to the journey and trying to cooperate with God’s plan for their lives, even though they don’t know where it will take them exactly. But they have faith it will lead them back to God.

Then there are people who hear about God, but for whatever reasons aren’t motivated enough to change their ways and follow. They simply go back to their daily lives without giving it a second thought.

Then there are the ones who claim to already know God, can quote Scripture all day long and appear on the outside to be devout. But their actions don’t match up with their faith. They are too afraid to actually take the journey.

Which one are you? We are all following something. So I guess I should be asking… whose star are you following?

One of the most beautiful sights to me is looking up on a clear night and seeing a sky filled with stars too numerous to count. Out of the billion stars in the sky, the Magi followed only one. If they had followed any other star in the sky, their journey and destination would have been dramatically altered. But when they came to the final destination marked by this particular star in the sky, they met an infant. They met a King.

Only one star leads to our King. Other stars may appear to be shinier and brighter at times. Some stars could even lead us down a path that seems more pleasurable or easier. But only one star leads us to salvation. Only one star leads us to complete and total love. Only one star leads us back to God.

We are all looking for some light in the darkness. So be careful which star you are using as your compass through life. Because some day you will reach the end of your journey and see what or whom you’ve been following. I pray you won’t regret or be disappointed when you come to that end.

If you want to avoid that disappointment, consider this:Jesus Christ is the only star with enough light to overcome the darkness. Put your faith in him. Open your hearts and fully trust the journey. Follow the star to our newborn King!

The Crazy Man in the Desert

Second Sunday of Advent (Dec 8, 2019)

Isaiah 11:1-10

Romans 15:4-9

Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17

Matthew 3:1-12

We all love a good spectacle. When two people start fighting, we tend to circle around and watch. Anytime we pass by an accident on the road, we slow down to look. If a large protest or major catastrophe occurs, it’ll end up on the news for days. Things that are out of the normal get our attention easily.

In Scripture, there are not many people that are more “out of the normal” than John the Baptist. Picture a strange man out in the desert. Rather than wearing a common robe or tunic, he is dressed in clothes made out of camel’s hair with a simple leather belt. John is usually depicted with a beard and his diet consists of wild honey and locusts (if you don’t know what that is, picture a grasshopper). I don’t have a beard, but I know guys who get teased because their food often ends up in their beard. So… picture that strange bearded man… eating sticky honey… 

When I read this passage from Matthew about John the Baptist, I can’t help but picture a rough dressed guy, with a big, burley beard that is full of grasshopper legs. Furthermore, he’s preaching and shouting at everyone to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John is very much a spectacle who attracts large crowds from the local cities. They all want to get a look at the crazy man in the desert.

John the Baptist even drew out some of the “higher ups” from the community known as the Pharisees and Sadducees. These men are very knowledgeable regarding the Mosaic Law. John greets these particular people by yelling at them. He’s calling them out for not living up to their own high standards and lack of internal repentance. He says, “You brood of vipers. Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” In other words, the crazy man in the desert is telling everyone that actions speak much louder than words. Not so crazy if you ask me….

Ever wonder what drives John to do this? To give up a “normal” life and live like this? Dressing oddly. Eating oddly. Preaching about repentance out in the desert. We don’t know a great deal about John the Baptist from Scripture. We do know he lept in his mother’s womb when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came to visit. We know that John preached about repentance of sins and baptized many in the desert including Jesus. And we know that John was later beheaded prior to the crucifixion of Jesus.

But can anyone doubt the faith of John the Baptist? Can anyone doubt that he put complete trust in Jesus when he said, “the one coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” No! The thing that drove John to do this was his complete trust and faith in God. He lived out a life that was congruent with what he preached. People believed John the Baptist, as odd as he was, because they could feel the passion in his words and see how he lived. This moved people to their own action. They repented of their sins, asked for forgiveness, were baptized in the Jordan River and then tried to live for heaven.

What about us? Can we live out our faith better? Or will we continue to ignore our sins and live out a life controlled by worldly things? I’m not asking us to wear ratty clothes, switch to a honey and locust diet and move out to the desert … but can we put down our smart phones and pick up a book? Can we spend time with our family instead of watching TV? Can we forgive someone instead of holding onto that grudge for dear life? Can we go to confession more often? I know this is hard to do and is counter-cultural, but isn’t that what we are called to do as Christians?

Let me ask it a different way: if we really and truly believe that there is a heaven and a hell… why don’t we live like it right now? Pray on that. We need to spend time looking at our own lives and see where we are pushing God aside or ignoring Him all together. There is so much joy in life if we would just turn over some of our control and put our trust in God.

But I can already hear it, “Oh Deacon Brian, you don’t get it do you?!?! Life is hard. I am struggling financially, my spouse and I rarely talk, my kids run the house when they are not destroying it, I have deadlines to meet at work, Christmas presents to buy for 27 more people, laundry to do, and have no idea what to make my family for dinner tonight. Plus, have you seen all the evil in the world? The Government takes half of my money and can’t agree on what to spend it on next. People are getting beaten up or killed all over the world. The news is nothing but violence and sad stories. And you expect me to trust in God? Life is nothing but sadness and evil so why even bother. Sometimes I wonder if there really is a heaven or hell or if God even cares about us at all.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard something like that before. And to that I say… fair enough. The world can be a big ball of gloom and doom if we choose to see it that way. But here’s something to consider:

It’s not God’s job to stop the evil in the world…. He’s there to give us the strength to get through it.

God came to earth, not as the leader of a power-hungry army, but as a baby. He did it to show us a better way. He did it to show us how to live and how to treat others with dignity and love. He broke into the world to show us that it’s ok to be odd and not let the evil stuff of the world define us or rule our lives. He showed us how to find joy if we turned our eyes toward the things of heaven and trusted Him.

So this Advent, listen to the odd man in the desert (who may or may not have grasshopper legs in his beard) and, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Refuse to be part of the brood of vipers already out there. Rather, look inwardly and get rid of sin. Repent of it and go to confession. Then ask God for the strength to get through it. Trust God and His plan for your life.Remember, If you really believe there is a heaven… prove it…live it…today…

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…