Can a Selfie Get Me To Heaven?

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (October 11, 2015)

Wisdom 7:7-11

Psalm 90:12-17

Hebrews 4:12-13

Mark 10:17-30

We live in a very technologically advanced society. The advancements in the last 150 years have been astonishing in many areas of life. For example, there are now robotic arms that a surgeon can control remotely to perform the most detailed of operations. This is a far cry from the operating room tents during the Civil War. Where one computer used to fill up an entire room, we now have computers that fit in our hands. The days of the horse drawn carriages are over. Now we can go from 0-60 mph in a matter of seconds. We went from watching the corn grow to watching Netflix. Alexander Graham Bell made the first clear speech phone call on March 10, 1876. Now we have wireless cell phones that have cameras, wifi and ability to send text messages. And everyone seems to be “connected” through the Internet and different forms of social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

We don’t even need film anymore for our cameras since most things are now digital. Which makes it easy for posting things on social media! We can just take out our fancy smart phones and take a “selfie”….

selfie

…or even an “usie” (apparently this is what you call a group selfie).

 

selfie 3

selfie 2

Then we post it to Facebook or Instagram, sit back and see how many “likes” and comments we get.

These things can be good fun and can make our lives more convenient at times. But the question is, do they really matter in life? Or in other words, do they help or hinder our journey to be closer to God? I believe this is the question that Jesus is trying to get us to consider in today’s Gospel from Mark. In it, we hear about a man, who apparently had a lot of wealth, approach Jesus and ask Him the question we should all be focusing on….”What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus refers him first to the 10 Commandments. Do not commit adultery, steal, lie or defraud and also make sure you honor your father and mother. The man eagerly replies that he has been following these rules his entire life. Jesus then gives him a challenge, “Sell what you have and give it to the poor…then come, follow me.” The rich man turned away and left sad. We are left with the impression that the man choose his material goods over eternal life.

My sisters and brothers… Jesus Christ is giving this same challenge to each one of you. I personally don’t think he wants us to deliberately be poor. But I do believe he wants us to put God before all of our material things. And if those things get in the way of God, get rid of them! If we keep putting more value on material things than on God, we’ll continue to have a messed up society where life is not valued.

In his book, “The Rhythm of Life,” Matthew Kelly had this to say about the status of our society:

“We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less common sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too little. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and lie too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, but not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice; we write more, but learn less; plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait; we have higher incomes, but lower morals; more food, but less appeasement; more acquaintances, but fewer friends; more effort, but less success. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure and less fun; more kinds of food and less nutrition. These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are the days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the show window, and nothing in the stockroom. Indeed it is all true.”

For far too long, we’ve put other things ahead of God and wonder why the world is so messed up. Too often these things have added convenience but also unneeded distractions to our lives. We’ve forgotten how to relax and enjoy the simple things in life. And unfortunately, we have gotten so indoctrinated with our “modernized” culture that we are now afraid to let go of our conveniences. We are afraid to let go of our “stuff” and focus on what really matters in life… being a devout Christian that isn’t afraid to live out your faith on your journey to heaven. I’m not sure who said it but, think of it this way… if you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Our Father in heaven will be the judge of that question at the moment of your physical death. He’s not going to ask you how much money you had, what kind of car your drove or how many likes you got on Facebook. He’ll judge you by the love you have for His Son and by how you expressed that love in your actions.

So, you want to know how to inherit eternal life?

Remove anything that hinders your path to heaven and put God first!

Planting Seeds

I joined the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 1999 after going through RCIA in Ohio. I distinctly remember Deacon Tom, who taught the RCIA classes, say something that stuck with me for 13 years now. He said that if we really enjoyed learning about the Catholic faith, we needed to make sure to pay it back someday. He was encouraging us to keep learning about Catholicism and help others do the same after the Easter Vigil. He told us not to become “luke warm” Catholics but to volunteer and get involved. Deacon Tom was the first one to plant a seed that would eventually lead me to becoming a Catholic Deacon 13 years later.

Shortly after that Easter Vigil, Angie and I moved off to Iowa for a few years to attend college. We got busy with school, work and the birth of two of our boys. Church was not a high priority on the list because life was too busy. We didn’t get very involved in our local church because we knew we’d only be there a few years. We had our struggles in Iowa as well. The cost of Chiropractic College, being newly married and then being young parents can really put a toll on a young couple.

After moving to Kentucky from Iowa, we started attending St. Andrew’s. It was here that more seeds were planted. Fr. Joe was the first priest I got to know on a personal level. He encouraged me to help teach the high school formation class. When a new pre-marriage program was starting at the diocese, Fr. Joe suggested Angie and I to become trained instructors. It was at St. Andrew’s that I became an extraordinary minister of holy communion and a lector. Angie and I felt at home here and really enjoyed getting involved in the parish. The problem was that with each thing I volunteered to do, I felt called to do more. It was then that Deacon Abbey mentioned something to me about becoming a Deacon. I immediately blew him off. Apparently the Holy Spirit was working in me because I kept coming back to that word…Deacon. Who am I to be a Deacon?!?! So I asked a few people in the parish that I highly respected what they thought about me becoming a Deacon. Each one of them encouraged me to pursue it. More seeds.

I often wondered why I struggled so much early in my Catholic journey. The only answer that made sense was that it was leading me to June 2, 2012. That is the day I will be (God-willing) ordained a permanent deacon. Even as I write that line, I am filled with emotion that I cannot describe. I’m not big into public confessions but just know I’ve had my share of struggles in the years following that Easter Vigil in 1999. I truly believe that God allowed me to go through that journey so that I would one day be able to help others through similar struggles. Deacons are ordained to serve the Church by serving others. I am truly humbled by the opportunity God has put in my life to serve His Church as a deacon. It would not have occurred though without the many seeds that were planted by others. That is why I encourage each and every one of you to plant seeds. If you think someone would make a good priest, deacon, monk, nun, etc. don’t be afraid to tell them! You never know what kind of fruit the seed you plant may bring.

The soon-to-be Deacons, their wives and Bishop Ronald Gainer on retreat about one month before ordination.

Please continue to pray with and for me and for the other 22 men being ordained as deacons on June 2, 2012 at the Cathedral of Christ the King during the 10:30am Mass. Consider this your invitation from me to attend! It is truly an awesome sight to see all of the clergy in our diocese come together with the Bishop for such a celebration. I especially encourage you to attend if you have ever considered holy orders a possibility in your future! I look forward to serving the St. Andrew’s community for many years to come.

Looking Back At My Ordination Day

It was a packed house. Friends and family from all over crowded into the Cathedral to witness the ordination of 23 men to the diaconate. Three of those men would, God willing, go on to become priests. Twenty of those men would be ordained as permanent deacons. Angie and my youngest son (Jacob) were anxiously waiting in their pew while my two older boys were dressed in red cassocks waiting to process in with all the deacon candidates, deacons and priests of the Lexington Diocese along with Bishop Gainer. The incense was lit, the church choir started up and off we went. The procession itself was a sight to see. To see all of the ordained clergy of our diocese come together for such a blessed event was powerful. It was a three-hour Mass but all I could think about was those five years of formal classes were behind me. Where in the world did the time go? Now all of a sudden I was kneeling before the bishop in front of the altar at the Cathedral of Christ the King. Bishop Gainer laid his hands on my head in an ancient rite that dates back to the time of the Apostles.

           “…so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.” (Acts 6:5-6)

These men were the first deacons of the church. I was nearly moved to tears as I felt Bishop Gainer’s hands upon my head. God had chosen me to that same group we read about in the Book of Acts. Ordained to serve the church and the community but also ready to lay down my life for the church. This example is given to us also from the Book of Acts. St. Stephen (the first deacon of the church) was also the first martyr of the church (Acts 7:60). This is what was going through my mind as I arose from my knees after Bishop Gainer laid his hands on my head. Humble, obedient service to God and His church. I really didn’t “feel” different, but I knew that I “was” different. No more excuses, God now gave me a mission to serve His church as a deacon.

I encourage all of you to ask God to give you guidance when discerning your vocation in life. This could be to religious life (priest, monk, nun, deacon), married or single life. God has a purpose for each and every one of us. The hard part is to remain humble, obedient and quiet long enough to listen for the Holy Spirit to move you in the right direction. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation. It involves talking AND listening. Listen for His answer and be ready to follow it even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. God’s plan is so much easier when you join Him rather than resist Him!

God’s Blessings,

Deacon Brian