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.

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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.

Be A Beggar

2nd Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday (April 27, 2014)

Acts 2:42-47

Psalm 118

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

It only seems fitting that as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday today, we focus on the significance of what happened in today’s Gospel reading from John. I’m not talking about Thomas, the poor guy makes one mistake and he is labeled for eternity as “Doubting Thomas.”

doubting thomas

No, I’m talking about the significance of Jesus breathing on the disciples and how that relates to God’s never-ending mercy. Where else in the bible did God’s breath do something truly incredible? When He breathed life into Adam, the first human. And now God again breathes His Spirit onto the disciples. This should be a clue for us to pay attention here! Right before Jesus breathed on them he said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” How did the Father send Jesus? With all divine authority including the ability to forgive sins (cf Mark 2:5-12). Now in John’s Gospel, Jesus is giving this authority to the disciples (cf John 20:21-23).

sending

But let’s be specific as to what authority Jesus is giving to the disciples at this moment. It’s in the very next line, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The only way for the disciples to have known which sins to forgive and which to retain is if the sins were orally spoken. This is why from the early church, confession was said out loud. Now why in the world would Jesus entrust the ability to forgive sins to His disciples? It is out of mercy! While Christ walked the earth, only He could forgive sins. But His time to ascend to His Father was near and He wanted us to be able to still receive His divine mercy though His forgiveness via one of His priests (cf James 5:14-16).

This is of the utmost importance because mortal sin kills the soul just like poison kills the body. You can have perfect physical health while your spiritual health is on the verge of death. Confession is spiritual medicine for us. It cleanses us. And if you’ve ever tried to convince yourself that your sins “aren’t that bad,” take some time meditating on a crucifix. God’s love put Christ on the cross for even the smallest sin we commit. Pope Francis said in his Easter homily that in the cross we see, “The immensity of God’s mercy that does not treat us as our sins deserve, but according to His mercy.”

francis good friday

Pope Francis

Why then are we so afraid and embarrassed of going to confession if our souls can be restored to a state of grace through it? Think about it for a second. A priest is ordained to help bring the love of God to the people. He is bound by the seal of confession to never be able to speak a word of what is said in the confessional to anyone….ever. And if he does, he will lose his ability to be a priest. He will be permanently fired from the priesthood. Furthermore, he’s heard it all before and probably worse. So get over yourself! Your sins aren’t so bad that he’s willing to lose his job by posting them on Facebook!

Plus, the words of absolution are so extremely powerful. For those that don’t know this terminology, this is the prayer the priest says at the end of the confession. It is probably the most beautiful Catholic prayer I’ve ever heard – “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Don’t let pride keep you from hearing these words. Hearing these words on a regular basis will change your life because your soul will be constantly filled with God’s grace and love. Beg for His mercy in the confessional. We should all strive to be beggars before the Lord.

I want to close with a true story I heard from the well known Catholic author Scott Hahn. A priest was over in Rome attending a conference at the Vatican. He was walking to a local church for his evening prayers. There were many beggars on the church steps, which is common in Rome.

beggars

He thought he recognized one of them and asked him, “Do I know you?” “Yes, we went to seminary together,” was the reply. “What happened?” asked the priest. “I crashed and burned, leave me alone.” The priest realized he was running late to the last conference and simply said, “I’ll pray for you” as he walked away from the beggar. At the very end of the conference, each person in attendance got to go up and briefly meet the pope; at that time it was John Paul II. This priest went up and told the pope about what had happened with the beggar he just met. After the meeting the priest went back to try and locate the beggar. Thankfully he was still on the church steps where the priest last spoke with him. “I’m so glad I found you. I spoke to the pope about you and he has invited us to dinner!” The beggar was in disbelief and said, “I can’t go. I don’t have nice clothes and I’m dirty.” “You don’t understand, you are my ticket to dinner. If I don’t bring you, I’m not getting in! You can shower at my hotel and I have clothes you can wear.” So they got cleaned up and together they went to St. Peter’s. They were led to the dining hall by the Swiss Guards where John Paul II was already seated at the table.

John Paul II

Pope St. John Paul II

Towards the end of the meal, John Paul made a motion with his hands and suddenly one of the other men asked everyone to leave the room except the priest’s beggar friend. The priest stood in the hallway with everyone else for about 10 minutes wondering what in the world was going on inside between John Paul II and his friend. Then the doors opened, everyone sat down and finished with dessert. They all said their good byes and left St. Peter’s. “What happened in there?” the priest asked. “You’ll never believe me if I told you.” “Try me.” “When everyone left, the Holy Father asked me to hear his confession.” “Well, what did you say?” asked the priest. “I told him that I’m just a beggar.” “So am I,” replied John Paul II. So as the Bishop of Rome, he reinstated the beggar so that he was back in good standings with the church. After John Paul confessed to the priest, the former beggar then asked the Pope to hear his confession as well. John Paul then gave the reinstated priest his first assignment…to go back to the streets and minister to the other beggars. This man’s life was restored, physically and spiritually, through the sacrament of reconciliation.

We are all beggars that have been adopted by God’s love. He wants to heal our souls through the sacrament of reconciliation. We just need to be humble enough to walk into that confessional. Remember, it’s not an interrogation. It’s God trying to pour His love and mercy into us.

In the words of Pope John XXIII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

J23

Pope St. John XXIII

The sacrament of reconciliation can and will do this. It can take your fears, your frustrations and your failures and turn them into new hope. So for the sake of your eternal salvation, go to confession often. Be a beggar before the Lord and allow God’s loving mercy to bathe new life into your soul!

 

(Much of this homily was inspired by a talk I heard on a CD by Scott Hahn titled, “The Healing Power of Confession” published by Lighthouse Catholic Media.)

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

6th Sunday of Easter (May 5, 2013)

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29

Ps 67:2-3, 5-6, 8

Rev 21:10-14, 22-23

John 14:23-29

This weekend at St. Andrew’s we are honoring the graduating high school seniors. They have worked very hard to get where they are and it is only fitting to acknowledge their achievement. I’m sure this is also a time for the parents of these students to be a little anxious about their child moving out to start a new job or going off to college. The parents may have already started asking themselves questions like…will my child make good choices on their own, will they eat well or just live off of pizza and junk food, what about the parties where alcohol or drugs are present, do they even know how to wash their own clothes and OF COURSE… will they stay strong in their faith and go to church without anyone being there to drag them out of bed?

St. Andrew's 2013 graduating high school seniors pictured with myself

St. Andrew’s 2013 graduating high school seniors pictured with myself

That last question about going to church made me think back to my freshman year of college. First understand I was not Catholic then, did not have a strong faith and therefore did not go to church hardly at all my freshman year. I was, however, dating a Catholic girl at the time. During Lent I would often suggest that we go out to grab a cheeseburger on Fridays just to see if she remembered that she wasn’t supposed to be eating meat since it was a Friday of Lent. cheeseburgerIf she forgot, I would conveniently wait until she had a mouth full of her delicious, juicy cheeseburger before asking her, “So, how’s that MEAT taste on this beautiful Friday of Lent?” Hey, don’t judge me…it was fun!! And yes I’ve been to confession since then and even ended up marrying that girl (I love you honey!). Funny that I joined the Catholic Church about 3 years later and eventually became a Catholic Deacon. So you see, there is hope for anyone!

Another time that sticks out in my mind from that same year was when my roommate and I were sitting in our dorm room working on homework while our door was open. Two guys walked in, introduced themselves and we started having some harmless small talk. They said they were out trying to meet some of the other freshman and seemed nice enough. Then they broke out a pamphlet and asked me if I had accepted Jesus into my life yet.  Queue the awkward silence as I tried to think of an answer to give them so they would leave and I could get back to my studies. Just so you know, that answer doesn’t exist. I knew if I said no, they would try to sell me on their version of Christianity. I also knew if I said yes, they would try to convert me to their version of Christianity. So I gave the typical, “Welllll, yea…of course I know Jesus” answer. I didn’t think telling the “trick a Catholic into eating a cheeseburger on a Friday during Lent” story was appropriate, but thankfully, I suddenly “remembered” that I had to leave to go to my next class. So I excused myself and left my roommate to deal with them. That was the last time we left the dorm room door open.door-

In a sense, these things also happened back in the early church. We hear about such an event in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. A portion of the Christian converts came from a Jewish background while some came from a Gentile, or non-Jewish background. Some with the Jewish roots were trying to sell their version of Christianity to the Gentile converts. They were claiming that the Mosaic practice of circumcision still must be followed if you were a “real Christian” and therefore saved. So representatives went to the Apostles and elders and asked them to settle the debate. The Apostles listened, prayed and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide them to settle the matter.

That is my advice to the graduating seniors, their parents and actually everyone who is ever faced with a situation in need of some assistance and guidance or if someone confronts you about your faith. We all too often forget to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance or to ask one of our elders for suggestions to help us. This is especially important for our young Catholics who are leaving the nest for the first time as they graduate from High School very soon. Temptations are out there…we can’t change that. Someone with a big juicy cheeseburger on a Friday of Lent is just waiting for you to let your guard down. Plus there will always be someone out there trying to tell you that your faith is wrong or unimportant. Hopefully this thought won’t completely freak everyone out and make you want to become a hermit, never leaving your house again. But if it does intimidate you…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid!”

Jesus-and-Holy-Spirit

We hear in the Gospel of John that our Father in heaven has sent us the Holy Spirit to be with us. He is the keeper of peace and the source of knowledge. However, we need to constantly pray to Him and ask for His guidance. We also need to follow His teachings. Jesus Himself tells us, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my word.” So when in doubt, turn to God’s Word and the Church teachings in a state of prayer to guide you in life. We need to do this because God calls us to be better and not worry about following the latest trends of the world just to be fashionable. This doesn’t mean we won’t ever make mistakes in life.  When we fall, God calls us to get back up, dust ourselves, repent and try again. We need to learn from our mistakes and always strive to live better today compared to yesterday.

So open yourselves up and allow the peace of the Holy Spirit to run through your veins so that He will strengthen you in your time of need to do what is good and right…

come holy spirit copy