It’s Game Time

First Sunday of Lent (February 14, 2016)

Deuteronomy 26:4-10

Psalm 91:1-2,10-15

Romans 10:8-13

Luke 4:1-13

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.” This was the opening line of what is considered one of the greatest speeches in sports history. Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, gave a speech in the locker room right before USA faced the Soviet Union in the medal round at Lake Placid.

Herb Brooks

Herb Brooks

Let me set the scene for you as to why this speech is relevant for us today and how this underdog story gives us hope. At that time in history, the Soviet Union was considered to have the best hockey team in the world. They won the Olympic gold medal in 1964, 68, 72 and 76. This happened at the height of the Cold War where the Soviets were spreading communion and invading satellite countries bordering the Soviet Union. Our country had a deep dislike for the Soviets and everything they stood for at that time. This meant that all hockey fans in this country HATED the Soviet hockey team with a passion. First, because they represented communism and second, because nobody could beat them. And now, the Soviets were playing hockey on American soil… Lake Placid, New York.

On the other hand, the US hockey team was a young group of players from various college teams whom never played together as a unit before training for that Olympics. They were the new guys, with a new coach heading into the lion’s den of Olympic hockey dominated by the Soviets. Somehow, this scrappy, young American hockey team fought their way to the medal round. All the while, the Soviets crushed every team they faced. This David and Goliath match up wasn’t even for the gold medal. It was a game to determine who would go on to play for gold..

1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team

1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team

So in the locker room just before the historic game, with a country united behind a bunch of college athletes, Herb Brooks gave this speech, “Great moments are born from great opportunity, and that’s what you have here tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game; if we played them ten times, they might win nine. But not this game, not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down because we can. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players – every one of you, and you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Forget them! (I cleaned it up here!) This is your time. Now go out there and take it!” Team USA won that game and won the gold medal that year. In that speech, Brooks gave his team the power for a victory, which inspired a nation.

So here we are, the First Sunday of Lent. Lent is our 40 day journey dedicated to prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for Easter. It’s a time we put an extra effort to make sacrifices and turn away from sin. It’s a time we should be focusing on helping others and spending less time pampering ourselves. If we take this journey seriously, it should be challenging. Today’s Gospel shows us just how challenging it can be.

This Gospel reading from Luke is our underdog story. Jesus Christ is our coach. The devil is our competition. This passage from Luke is our motivational speech for Lent, leading up to the victory of Easter Sunday. Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. He felt emotions that we feel. He journeyed through the desert and was tempted by the devil just like we are tempted.

Lent is a great opportunity for us to mirror Jesus’ journey through the desert. And that’s what you’ve got here today ladies and gentlemen. That’s what you’ve earned here today. This Lent. You could go through 10 Lents, and 9 of them may not change your life. But not this Lent. Not these 40 days. Today, we walk with Jesus through the desert. Today He is our strength and we shut the devil down because we can. Today, we are the greatest collection of Christians, ready to turn our lives around and change the world. You were born to be alive in Christ. Every one of you. You were meant to journey through this Lent. This is your time. The devil’s time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what the devil wants us to do through all of his temptations. Forget him! This is your time. Now go out into the desert and come out on the other side a champion! By His example, Jesus gave us the power for a victory, now it’s up to us to inspire the world! It’s game time…

March For Life 2016

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 31, 2016)

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19

Psalm 71:1-6,15,17

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Luke 4:21-30

More than six months of preparation. Over $3,500 in fundraising money received. My bags were packed. Our youth group trip was set. I was ready to go to bed because we had to be in Lexington at 6am the next morning to get on the bus. We were heading to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2016 March For Life events to stand up for the lives destroyed through abortion. For those unaware with March For Life, it’s the largest Pro-Life demonstration in the world held on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision from the Supreme Court that legalized abortion in the United States. This is an incredible opportunity for our youth to participate in. We were all very excited. And then I got the text from David Coleman telling me the bus company had cancelled our trip due to the blizzard predicted to hit Washington that same weekend. I guess I hadn’t realized how excited I was to go on that trip until I noticed how angry I got after getting that heartbreaking text. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do except unpack my bags, vent to Fr. Al on the phone and pour a glass of bourbon.

I was also frustrated because, whenever I go on one of these trips, I always incorporate it into my next homily. So here I am, without an inspiring story for my homily. And ohhhhhh buddy…. It was going to be an awesome one too! I’m talking awe-inspiring, Amen shouting, hands-in-the-air-preaching awesome! I mean… did you hear these readings today? The Church picked these readings for this weekend, not me. They would have fit PERFECTLY with a March For Life experience. The first reading from Jeremiah is one of the most commonly referenced Pro-Life scripture passages out there. The second reading talks about the importance of love. COME ON! It was a perfect set up! Follow me through these readings so you can feel my pain…

From Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” That verse is about as Pro-Life as it gets! The passage continues with strong military-like language such as: gird, stand, command, crushed, fortified city, pillar of iron, wall of brass. God is speaking as if Jeremiah were being prepared for war. How cool would it have been to use this strong imagery and compare it with the +600,000 people going to the battlegrounds of March For Life in Washington? A battle that God is begging all of us to partake in. To stand up for all of His sons and daughters that can’t stand up for themselves. To try and sway people to a culture of Life rather than a culture of death. A culture that promotes abortion, violence, pornography and pushing aside those that gets in your way. I’m telling you, that homily would have sent cold chills down your spine! But unfortunately, the blizzard screwed up my plans and my homily.

march for life2

So frantically looking for inspiration for my fast approaching preaching weekend, and being snowed in at home for a few days, I did what everyone does… I turned to Facebook! It was there that I came across an article discussing March For Life and Mother Teresa. I never had the honor of hearing Mother Teresa speak at an event, but I knew she had a way of speaking the truth with love but also with brutal honestly. This is not an easy task!

mother-teresa

This article described a keynote address she made at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. In her address Mother Theresa said, “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts… Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

mother-teresa2

Now, today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, “But I shall show you a still more excellent way.” LOVE. If I do not have love, I am nothing. If I do not have love, I gain nothing. Love never fails. Mother Teresa, in her saintly way, gave me the inspiration I was seeking to convey to you today. She lovingly and directly incorporated today’s 1st and 2nd readings into a battle cry for all of those who attend March For Life year after year.

Unfortunately, when we speak the truth on a hot button topic such as abortion, we risk getting push back from today’s culture that promotes relativism over the existence of absolute truth. But take heart, as we hear in today’s Gospel, even Jesus got push back when He spoke the truth. They tried to throw Jesus off a hill in resentment of the truth that He spoke!

However, we must not let this push back prevent us from faithfully living out our Catholic beliefs. Instead, we must let it inspire us to keep on fighting! God is on our side so we must be BOLD. During her speech, Mother Teresa begged anyone contemplating abortion to consider adoption. She went so far as to tell people to bring their baby to her and she’d personally find an adoptive family for their child. By 1994, the children’s home in Calcutta alone had saved over 3,000 children from abortion by doing just that. This is what being bold looks like!

So here’s the challenge we all face today. First, we have to separate what the world teaches from what Jesus Christ and His Church teaches. Unfortunately, these don’t always agree. Then we need to actively practice these Christian teachings through our actions. Finally, if we are being true to our faith, we need to follow Jesus’ example and be willing to be thrown off a hill…. literally or figuratively… for our beliefs. Only then will we be able to change the culture. Only then will we see less abortion, violence, pornography and the like.

We must be willing to love and give until it hurts if we want to positively influence our world.

With God’s help, I pray that YOU will be the change our world so desperately needs.