What Is Love?

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48

Psalm 98:1-4

1 John 4:7-10

John 15:9-17

When preparing to preach at Mass, in my experience, it is very easy to just skim over the 1st and 2nd readings and even the Responsorial Psalm in order to see what the Gospel message is for the week. Very often the Gospel passages proclaimed at Mass have the “meat” of Jesus’ teachings that can really change our lives when we apply them and live them out. Today’s Gospel from John is no different. It’s message is clear and to the point. Jesus tells us, “Love one another as I love you.”

But in order to better understand this “love” that Jesus is talking about, we really need to go back to the 2nd reading today from the first Letter of Saint John. It would be a shame if we just skimmed over it because I believe it is one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament. It reads almost like a love poem. It is only 4 lines long, but profoundly powerful. So allow me to read it to you again:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10).

 So next time you tell someone that you “love” him or her… I want you to think of this passage. Because all you ever wanted to or needed to know about love, is explained in these 4 verses. Therefore, you really have to understand this passage so that you are sure that you actually mean what you say when using the word “love.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Love comes from one source… God. It’s not a man made emotion. It originates from God who is love. Therefore if you truly have love inside of you, then you have God inside of you as well. Even an atheist, one who doesn’t believe in God, in some way, knows God simply by loving others.

“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Therefore if God is love, it would make sense that someone who has absolutely no love for anyone can NOT possibly know God. I would take this even farther and say that love and hate can’t reside in the same person at the same time because of how opposite they are. You can’t on one hand tell your child, a friend or your soul mate that you “love” them but on the other hand hold a grudge or hate against someone else. One expresses the presence of God. The other expresses the absence of God. The two don’t mesh.

“In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” Here, God reveals to us what is love. God didn’t reveal love through His speech, but through His actions. God decided to show us what love looked like by sending us His Son. To live for us. To die for us. To save us. I personally couldn’t imagine standing by watching one of my children suffer a horrendous death. Even if it was for the greater good, I don’t think I would have it in me to keep going. But that’s exactly what God did. He allowed His Son to suffer out of love for us.

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Love is not in the receiving, it is in the giving. Love wasn’t “created” by us out of thanksgiving towards God… Love was “born” from God when He extended it to us through His Son. This sacrifice is the height… the pinnacle of true Love.

So now you are all experts on “love,” right?? Understanding love is the easy part. But it takes a lifetime to properly put it into motion and probably won’t be perfected until you reach heaven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try while we’re down here living in the world.

So here’s my challenge to all of you…your homework for the week. Be more aware of the level of love you are expressing towards others in your daily lives.

Meaning… if you have high levels of negativity, anger, gossip, holding tighter to those grudges, eye rolls, having to argue everything, cursing or sin in general… your love is out of balance. It means you are distancing yourself from God instead of walking towards Him.

When these things creep up, because it will happen from time to time, you need techniques to counteract them. Simply recognizing this when it’s happening is a great first step. Then try some deep breathing, meditation, prayer, read some Scripture or take a walk. Just putting a smile on your face will do wonders. And here’s the big one…go to confession. This sacrament can give you more grace and love then you’ll probably ever truly realize. It’s that important… so no more excuses! Go!!

The only way to return to love is to return to God. So when your love is low, turn to God. For He is the source of all Love. The source of all Joy.

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Be A Good Shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter (April 22, 2018)

Acts 4:8-12

Psalm 118

1 John 3:1-2

John 10:11-18

We’re all supposed to imitate Jesus, right? When preparing for this homily, I read the first line of the Gospel, stopped and then just laughed to myself. It reads, “Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd.’” Why does this make me laugh? If we’re supposed to be like Jesus, then we’re supposed to also be good shepherds. In picturing me as a shepherd, for some reason, I thought of what happens right after the final song at Mass. And I mean right after the priest has walked down the aisle and the dismissal song has ended. At that point, I usually gather up my things, tell my family to head for the van and then off we go… after genuflecting of course! Within a few minutes, I’ve said my goodbyes, given Fr. Al a hug at the door, walked outside and just start to feel the sunshine on my face when I realize… I’m all alone.

You see… my wife is still in her pew talking with her friends. Laura is running around giving out hugs to everyone she can find. Oliver is still picking up papers that dropped out of his Sunday school folder while trying to put on his jacket. Jacob has taken off outside like a bolt of lightning with his buddy (cough… Luke Coleman). And Owen and Zach are somewhere in the foyer talking with their high school friends about “teenage stuff.” So apparently I’m not a very good shepherd because I can’t even get 7 people from our church pew to our van in under 20 minutes.

After reading the rest of the Gospel passage, I then realized that herding your family from church in an orderly fashion might not necessarily be what Jesus is meaning when he talks to us about the “good shepherd.” So in order to better understand what we are to learn from this Gospel passage from John, let us first look to Ezekiel 34 in the Old Testament. It reads:

1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”

In this passage from Ezekiel, God is upset with many of the leaders of the church. They were being very selfish by putting their needs above the people. This led many of God’s people to have a weak faith or to completely leave the faith behind. Reading this in light of today’s Gospel passage, we can now see that Jesus didn’t just randomly refer to himself as the “Good Shepherd” because it sounded good. No, he’s letting the people know that He is not like the shepherds they have read about in Ezekiel. He is not going to lead them astray or cause them to scatter. He is going to feed them with the Bread of Life and ultimately… He’s going to lay down His life for them.

Now remember… we’re supposed to be imitators of Christ which means that we are supposed to also be Good Shepherds. How does that look in our day-to-day lives? Very simply… we put the needs of others above our own. Instead of holding grudges… we hold out a helping hand. We turn the other cheek and help each other heal and move on. We spread the Gospel rather than gossip. We put a smile on our face and go out into the world and actually act like we are Christians.

You see… a good shepherd doesn’t motivate the flock by herding them. A good shepherd leads the flock by example. People want someone to inspire them… To motivate and encourage them to be better. They don’t need more negativity. The world throws plenty of that at us on a daily basis already.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He laid down His life for us, the flock, so that we can have a chance to spend eternity with His Father in heaven. We too can help out the flock by taking His lead. By helping others. By putting the needs of others above our own.

Be a Good Shepherd. Inspire someone. Put yourself out there and enjoy the life that God envisioned specifically for you.

Stop wondering around aimlessly like a lost sheep. Follow Christ. Our Good Shepherd.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 21, 2017)

Acts 8:5-8,14-17

Psalm 66:1-3,4-5,6-7,16,20

1 Peter 3:15-18

John 14:15-21

Actions speak louder than words. How many times have we heard this phrase before? It is an absolute truth in my opinion. If you say one thing, but your actions prove otherwise, you are living a lie. It’s that simple.

Another word that comes to mind is “integrity.” My definition of integrity is: doing the right thing, even when no body else is around to see it. For example, if you are at Walmart and see a man unknowingly drop his wallet in the parking lot… and you pick the wallet up but keep it for yourself because no one else saw it… you lack integrity.

This is one of the basic Christian teachings that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel from John. “Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you say you are a Christian, you should do the things I tell you to do.” Actions speak louder than words.

Being a Christian can be a struggle… I get it. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Some of the teachings from Jesus are… let’s just call them, “challenging.” Why? Because many of our Christian beliefs go against the grain of the world. But that doesn’t make them impossible to follow or at least try.

Jesus himself knew that we would struggle in this area after he ascended to Heaven. That is the very reason he promised to give us an Advocate to be with us always. This Advocate is the third person of the Trinity, better known as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is who guides us and strengthens us in our day-to-day lives. He’s the one who we should be relying on to help us when we have to choose between doing right or doing wrong in any given situation. And the more we choose to do right, the more He will strengthen us.

Just like an athlete training for the Olympics. If they train and eat right faithfully, they’ll perform at their best come game time. But if they cheat on their training regiment and on their diet over and over again, they will fail miserably when it really counts.

So too with us. If we consistently live out our faith in word and action, those ethical and moral challenges we will face later won’t see some overwhelming. But if we continue to choose poorly in little things, we’ll fail miserably when we are really challenged.

Hopefully I haven’t scared you by now. I’m sure there’s at least one person out there saying, “Yup, I fail daily with little things. My integrity stinks. I’m doomed.” Well chin up buttercup! Go to confession and get a fresh start. That’s the great thing about our faith. We serve a merciful God who LOVES giving us a fresh start because He is overflowing with his divine mercy. We just have to ask for forgiveness and try again. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

Love God. Learn your faith. Live out that faith. Ask the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance. It’s really that straightforward. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father.” So please, let us all show Jesus how much we love Him by learning and living out our faith more and more each day.

Recognize. Trust. Try.

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday – April 23, 2017)

Acts 2:42-47

Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

For Lent this year, I tried to do something a little different. A priest that I go to for spiritual direction challenged me to focus on 3 areas for Lent: Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.

Almsgiving – I decided to go through my very cluttered, very full bedroom closet and clean it out. Clothes that I haven’t worn in a long time were donated to Good Will. I managed to throw away three bags of junk and donate 2 large bags of clothes. This exercise made me realize that I have plenty of “stuff” and it’s good to help others. Plus, if you need help organizing your closet, see me after Mass for some suggestions because I am now an expert!

Fasting – It may sound odd, but I decided to fast from negative speech. I fully realize that this is something I should probably always do, but I must admit that I tend to be more negative than positive. So every time I said something negative, I would stop and prayer an Our Father in my head. That first week… was rough. Let’s just say that I probably said enough Our Father prayers for a lifetime. This exercise made me realize that I actually can change bad behaviors. Plus, I feel like I have become more of an encourager rather than a discourager. Who would you rather be around?

Prayer – For this, I decided to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for one week and then start on a book titled, “33 Days To Merciful Love – A Do It Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy” by Michael Gaitley. It speaks of God’s loving mercy as seen through the eyes of St. Therese of Lisieux. It’s a great book that takes 34 days to read. You simply read a short, daily reflection for 33 days and then consecrate your heart to God’s Divine Mercy and Love on day 34 by praying the prayer given in the book. I timed this so that my consecration day would be Sunday, April 23, which just so happens to be Divine Mercy Sunday (today). This exercise helped remind me that God’s loving mercy is really… really abundant and so very easy to receive. However, we tend to makes things more complicated.

So let’s go back to the beginning and try to figure out how to uncomplicate God’s Divine Mercy. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. Simply put, God said to Adam and Eve, “Here’s paradise. Make it your home. Do what you want. What is mine is yours. Just don’t eat from that one tree.” We know that God did this to protect Adam and Eve. But the sly serpent came along and told a well-crafted lie. And rather than trusting God, Adam and Eve trusted the serpent. This was the beginning of our trust issues with God.

This lack of trust can even be seen in today’s Gospel with the Disciple Thomas. Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands… I will not believe.” Jesus told them He was coming back. But Thomas didn’t trust since he didn’t see it for himself. So from to the Garden to the Upper Room to the here and now, we still have trust issues with God.

How then can we try to solve this trust issue with God? The first step is to recognize that there is a problem. Recognize that we aren’t perfect and we have a tendency towards sin. This is probably one of the hardest things to do because each sin, each wound in our soul is a reminder of the original sin, which was caused by not trusting God in the first place.

Once we can recognize we have a trust issue with God, the next step is to trust Him anyway! Trust Him that in spite of our shortcomings, He will still love us. Even when we can’t see Him standing in front of us, like Thomas in today’s Gospel, we have to trust that he’s still there with open arms. Furthermore, when we sin and seek His love and forgiveness in the confessional, even with that one sin that we seem to do over and over again, we still have to trust that His love and mercy is bigger than our fallen nature.

And finally, after recognizing our faults, after trusting that God is in control and has abundant mercy and love for each of us, there’s only one thing left to do… try. Keep trying to do better. Try to make this day better than yesterday.

There is a short paragraph in the book I read that sums this up perfectly. To keep trying “means we have to keep striving to grow in holiness. For instance, it means going to Mass and Confession regularly, taking time to pray, and doing the little things with great love. It means forgiving those who have hurt us. It means being sorry for our sins, making a firm resolution not to sin again, and never making a ‘truce’ with sin. It means not settling for complacency or mediocrity or the attitude that says, ‘Well, that’s just who I am.’ In other words, it means striving to be faithful to examining our consciences every day. Also, it means not giving in to discouragement or, God forbid, despair. It means that if we fall into discouragement or despair, we’ll make an effort to get right back up, right back to trusting in God’s mercy. It means trying to remember and keep before our eyes the infinite mercy of God who never tires of forgiving. It means striving to never tire of asking God for forgiveness.” (“33 Days to Merciful Love” by Michael Gaitley, page 119).

Recognize. Trust. Try. This is the formula that allowed St. Therese of Lisieux to grow in holiness. She realized that you don’t need to do great things to attain God’s great love. You simply need to do little things with great love.

So trust God.

Try to live out your faith and recognize that God’s love and mercy is abundant.

He is offering it to you freely.

You simply need to ask Him and He will fill your soul with His Divine Mercy!

Love One Another

5th Sunday of Easter (April 24, 2016)

Acts 14:21-27

Psalm 145:8-13

Revelation 21:1-5

John 13:31-35

I want to paint a picture of our modern society with the help of popular Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly. In one of his books he writes,

“We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers. We spend more, but have less. We buy more and enjoy it less. We have bigger houses, but smaller families. We have more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less common sense. More knowledge, but less judgment. More experts, yet more problems. More medicines, but less health. We drink too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch too much TV, and pray too little. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We have higher incomes, but lower morals. We have learned how to make a living, but not how to live life. We have added years to life, but not life to years. We have been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet our new neighbor. We have conquered outer space, but not inner space. We have done larger things, but not better things. We have cleaned up the air, but are constantly polluting our souls. We plan more, but accomplish less. We have learned to rush, but not to wait. We have more food, but less fulfillment. More kinds of food, but less nutrition. More acquaintances, but fewer friends. There is greater world peace, but more domestic warfare. We have more leisure in our life, but less enjoyment of life. These are days of two incomes and fancier houses, but more broken homes. Our culture is becoming increasingly too busy, too noisy, and it’s pace too fast.

I personally think this description is eerily accurate. So my question is…WHY? What is going on with us that we have allowed society to get this way? I believe our society has gotten so off base because too many people have allowed themselves to follow their own path oblivious to God’s plan for their lives. I’m saying that we are a people in need of direction because without direction, we tend to wonder around like lost sheep. We are in need of a shepherd.

Last week, we heard from John’s Gospel that Jesus is the Good Sheppard. This week that Good Sheppard tells us what to do. Jesus tells us, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

And just how much did Jesus love us? All the way to the cross! He also, however, showed us His love in many other ways. For example, when Jesus encountered a woman caught in adultery, He calmly spoke with her in such a way that allowed her to see her sin and then told her to go and sin no more. When Jesus saw the moneychangers in the temple taking advantage of the poor, He furiously flipped over their tables to grab their attention. These two examples show us that there are different degrees of love and even Jesus got frustrated. After all, people can be frustrating at times, right? Anyone who deals with the public can attest to this! But Jesus did what needed to be done and He said what needed to be said in those situations. Why? Because He cared about their souls. He wanted them to return to God’s path.

Now, sometimes, when we hear this verse commanding us to “love one another,” our politically correct culture has a tendency to want to twist it. For example, when we try to correct someone on a topic of faith and morals or explain the “why” behind Church teachings to someone who disagrees with the teaching, we’re told we aren’t being “loving” or we’re “judging.” “You Christians, always judging and putting down others!” Anyone ever hear that line? Makes me want to gag and roll my eyes every time. Now granted, there’s a right and a wrong way to handle very delicate situations and we need to deal with people in the most loving way possible. But you know, sometimes we need to get in there and flip a few tables over just like Jesus did in the temple! Sometimes we need to stretch our comfort zones and put ourselves out there in order to share our faith with others. After all, if we are to love one another as Jesus Christ loves us, we should want our friends and family to end up in Heaven, right? Therefore, we need to be willing to lay down our lives for those we love because someone’s soul… their salvation… is more important than our comfort level.

You know… contrary to popular belief, there ARE absolute truths. You want to get out of your comfort level? Talk about absolute truth! Tell people they are responsible for their actions. Tell them hell is real. Do this, not out of fear and hate, but out of love. Love compels us to want others to be “better” in the eyes of God. So what’s holding us back? I do want to stress and remind you that we need to make an honest attempt to talk about our faith in a loving way. Better yet, we need to be examples to others by actually living out our faith and pray that people will be influenced by our actions… so much… that they will “go and sin no more.”

On the other hand, if we keep shying away from teaching the Truth and Love of Jesus Christ, we’re going to keep living in the culture described by Matthew Kelly when I first began this homily. We need to be the change the world so desperately needs.

And how do we do that? By changing our focus. By changing our direction. By imitating the love shown to us by Jesus Christ. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has opened the gates of heaven and allowed us the opportunity to have eternal life.

That, my friends, is True Love. That is the message Jesus Himself has commissioned all of us to spread to every corner of the world. So if you’re not doing it already, I challenge you to get off our hind end, get out there and start loving one another as Jesus loves us!

Come Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday (May 24, 2015)

Acts 2:1-11

Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34

1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 15:26-27; 16:12-15

When I was a kid, I always loved celebrating holidays like Christmas, Easter, Halloween and my birthday. Admittedly it was because they involved me getting presents and candy which is probably why I never cared much about Groundhog’s Day. The problems was, the closer I got to the actual day, the more excited I got, which made time go even slower. I could see the days getting marked off on the calendar, but it would seem to take forever to get there.

I can sense this happening with the Apostles and Pentecost, which is the Feast we celebrate this weekend. Imagine…the Apostles walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry. They witnessed the miracles and heard the parables first hand. Then they watched him get tortured and crucified. The agony they felt, as their Saviour lay dead in a tomb, must have been unimaginable. However, their grief was turned into absolute joy at His resurrection, which confirmed that Jesus was who He said He was…God’s Son.

And now, just before His ascension, Jesus makes the promise that He will be sending the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide the Apostles in all truth. And just like that, Jesus ascends and the wait for the Spirit begins. The problem is, unlike the holidays I mentioned earlier, the Apostles didn’t know when the Spirit would be coming. So they waited and they waited and they waited some more. With each passing day, I could imagine they would grow a little more anxious. Possibly even start to doubt their faith. And with each day without the promised Holy Spirit, it may even have felt like time was standing still.

There have been times in my life when I’ve had this same feeling, especially when my plans don’t seem to be going as I think they should. I have felt at times a sense of abandonment from God and, in those times, it felt like time stood still. I have since learned to combat these feelings by listening to good Christian music. It keeps my heart and mind focused on my faith in God and not my faith in the “world.” One of the songs I’ve been listening to a lot lately is from a newer group called I Am They. Their song titled, “Amen” has been a source of strength for me this past month. The opening verse goes like this:

“I have no words to say. Don’t know what I should pray. God I need you. Oh Lord, my faith is tired. And tears fill up my eyes. But I will trust you. Whatever comes my way, you have taught me to say…Amen, let Your kingdom come. Amen, let Your will be done. And through the rise and fall, You’re God above it all. Amen.”

How many times has your faith been pushed to the edge? Have you ever felt abandoned and alone? Imagine a parent who loses their child in a car crash, a wife hearing of her husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis or someone having to file bankruptcy on a family business because after years of blood, sweat and tears they just couldn’t make the ends meet anymore. I could go on and on with examples but the point here is that we all have experienced times in our lives when we have felt like God was a distant figure.

Life is chalked full of ups and downs. In those down times, it’s so easy to feel abandoned and allow your faith to grow weak. If you stay there, your life will be empty and without joy. But if you constantly strive to be open to God’s Love and His Spirit, even in those dark times, good things can happen. Like me listening to that song, we all need to cling onto those little things that will help keep us open to the Spirit and our minds focused on God.

That’s what happened to the Apostles in the upper room on Pentecost. They were scared and alone. But they clung onto Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit was coming. And when it did come, the entire world shook! Scripture tells us the Spirit descended like a strong wind that definitely got everyone’s attention. The Holy Spirit then empowered the disciples to begin their mission, which was to boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. They were no longer frightened. Peter himself went out of the upper room immediately to address the crowd and apparently gave one heck of a sermon because, according to Scripture, 3000 people were baptized after hearing the Good News on Pentecost.

The Apostles were so strengthened in their faith that, with the exception of St. John, they were all eventually killed for that faith. Where they were once hiding and afraid, now they live on as martyrs in heaven.

The same Holy Spirit that descended on and strengthened the Apostles at Pentecost is the same Holy Spirit that is guiding you right now. And here’s the thing, if you are fully open to Him, He WILL strengthen you and lead you like no other one can. He WILL give you the gifts you need to keep moving forward, so that you can spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world just like the Apostles did.

And when things don’t seem to be going as planned, rather than distancing yourself from God, pause for a moment, and ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your faith and keep you focused on God.

No matter what you are going through in life…if you don’t know what to pray, if your faith is tired, if tears fill up your eyes…trust in God…trust in His Son…trust that the Holy Spirit WILL guide you to the truth…Be afraid no more! With strength and confidence from the Holy Spirit, let us all be a little bolder as we proclaim Jesus Christ to the world!

**Below is the song from I Am They that I referenced in my homily. The ENTIRE album is awesome and I highly recommend you getting it!

Happy Birthday

Pentecost (June 8, 2014)

Acts 2:1-11

Psalm 104

1 Cor 12:3b-7,12-13

John 20:19-23

I love birthday parties. To be clear, I love attending birthday parties that I don’t have to plan. I get to hang out with friends, eat good food, play games and over indulge in cake. cakeAnd as a bonus, my wife Angie doesn’t like cake icing so she scraps it off and gives it to me. That is the secret to our successful 15-year marriage! A newer trend that I’ve noticed is where the party guests get a gift bag before they leave. So not only do we get cake, but now even the party guests get a gift! And I’ve seen some of the extravagant gift bags you parents have given out at parties my kids have attended. They are pretty impressive. I only wish I was a kid so I could get one too!

Now, let’s not forget one of the best parts of having a birthday party…the presents for the birthday boy or girl! When I was really young, I wanted a GI Joe aircraft carrier named the “USS Flagg” for my birthday. It was 7 and ½ feet long! It practically needs it’s own room in the house.

GI Joe

And if you get that behemoth of a toy, you of course need to get at least two GI Joe fighter jets, two or three helicopters and all the GI Joe soldiers to man the ship. But how boring would it be to just have the good guys? I also would need GI Joe’s archenemy, Cobra and all of the enemy boats that go with them. That way I could have a big battle. I’m sad to say, at a price tag of $100 in 1985, I never got that aircraft carrier as a birthday present. I did, however, have a friend who got one. I think I still may be a little jealous that he had gotten a gift that I always wanted but never did.

But enough about my psychologically damaging childhood let downs…let’s get back to talking about birthday parties. Today we are celebrating a very special birthday. It’s the birthday of the Church itself. We refer to this as Pentecost. The word Pentecost in Greek simply means “fiftieth” because it’s celebrated 50 days after Easter. Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven ten days earlier. St. John Paul II said, “we can speak of this event as the birth of the Church, as we speak of a person’s birth at the moment when he comes forth from his mother’s womb and ‘is manifested’ to the world.” Today marks the Church being manifested to the world in a visible way.

Pentecost

I can think of no better way to celebrate Pentecost than by having a little birthday party right here, right now and every one of you are invited (hear me out Father). We are already surrounded by good friends. We already have an exquisite banquet planned to take place at this altar very soon. We already have songs planned. We even have games ready…there’s “Stand, Sit, Kneel” (Catholic calisthenics) plus one I like to call “What’s the Response?” In case you don’t know this one, let’s give it a try:

         “the Lord be with you…”

                                             “…and with your spirit.”

See, wasn’t that fun!

with your spirit meme

Plus, remember those gifts bags I talked about earlier? We’ve even got those too! There are seven gifts in the gift bag that the Holy Spirit has prepared for each of you for attending the party: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Who wouldn’t benefit from these gifts? These are better than getting a candy bar and bouncy ball right? Possibly even better than a GI Joe aircraft carrier?

Now…the best part. The presents! What present did you bring to the party today? Seriously, what did you bring? Ok, I know some of you probably didn’t know about the party so I’ll let you off the hook for now. But I want you to seriously consider what present you are willing to give to the Church. If you’re needing an idea, here are a few suggestions: prayers – pray for Christ’s Church worldwide and for us here at St. Andrew’s. Eucharistic adoration – spend one hour each Wednesday in our chapel adoring our Eucharistic Lord. Join a committee – statistically, the same 7%-10% of people volunteer to do everything. Money – who doesn’t like getting a little cash on their birthday? Just like everyone else, the church has bills that need to be paid. Visit the homebound – some of our members can’t make it to church on Sundays so let’s go to them. Become a catechist – we need good Catholics that are willing to teach the faith to our younger generation. Regardless of the present you decide to give to the Church, as long as it’s from the heart and given out of love, the Church will be happy to receive it.

So we’ve covered the party for the most part. I personally think it’s going to be a great time and I’m glad you’re here with me to partake in the festival. But I can’t help notice one more thing. I’ve noticed that there are some empty seats out there in the pews.

empty-pews

Look around…are there some people that we perhaps forgot to invite? If we’ve got this heavenly party planned, why in the world would we not want to let others share in the fun? When was the last time you invited someone to Church? I know…there’s that scary “E” word that sends a cold shiver down the spines of Catholics everywhere. Evangelization. But isn’t that how our Church started? The Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles and gave them the strength, faith and courage to go out and build Christ’s Church. The Apostles sent out invitations to the party…probably even hand delivered them…and now there are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. And it all started with a few inspired people on fire for their faith. Why can’t we do the same?

Today we get to welcome two new people to the party. Carla and Dustin were extended an invitation by the Holy Spirit and praise God they accepted it. The same Holy Spirit that breathed new life into them at baptism will now strengthen them at confirmation so they can go out and proclaim the truths of the faith to others.

So again, on behalf of the Holy Church, thank you for coming to the party today. I hope that you keep coming back on a regular basis and next time, don’t be afraid to bring a friend.