Time is running out

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 21, 2016)

Isaiah 66:18-21

Psalm 117:1,2

Hebrews 12:57,11-13

Luke 13:22-30

The clock is ticking. Time is running out. The door is closing and will soon be shut and locked… for good…

It is with this serious and urgent tone that Jesus speaks to us today through Luke’s Gospel. Jesus Christ loves you more than you could possibly ever imagine. In spite of all of our sins and shortcomings, our fears and failures, our addictions and frequent negative attitudes… He still died for YOU. Please don’t take that lightly!

Jesus suffered an unimaginable amount of pain when he was tortured and crucified. Most of the images and crucifixes we see don’t do justice for what Jesus actually went through on that Good Friday 2000 years ago. Mel Gibson’s movie, “Passion of Christ,” is probably the most accurate depiction that I’ve seen of what a scourging and crucifixion actually looked like at the hands of the Roman Empire. I personally can’t watch that movie very often because of how graphic it is. But when I do, I cringe constantly and always end up in tears.

Why then, did Jesus endure this sort of death for us? To give us life. To give us hope. To give us a chance to experience eternal love with him and our Father in heaven. And now, through His Church, Jesus gives us the opportunity to “enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus’ Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, gives us all of the resources we need to have a better relationship with God.

What, you may ask, are the resources the Church offers us? The bible, Sacred Traditions, Apostolic teachings, lives of the Saints, the Eucharist, reconciliation and forgiveness, mercy, the priesthood, baptism, marriage, confirmation, prayers, anointing, the Mass and so much more. These resources, when acted on and used properly, lead us closer and closer to the doors of heaven. They keep us focused on what’s important and strengthens our faith.

Jesus speaks to us with a sense of urgency in today’s Gospel because the gates of heaven won’t stay open forever! This is a reality that I think we fail to talk about often enough. Jesus wants us to take our faith seriously NOW and live it out NOW before it’s too late. However, we keep thinking, “Oh, I’ll get to that tomorrow” but I’m telling you, “tomorrow” is no guarantee.

And take heart, even Jesus acknowledges that this is no easy task. Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” It takes determination. It takes learning the faith (yes, even after confirmation). It takes living on God’s terms, not our own. God gave us the sacraments, the bible, Church teachings and so forth to give us the grace we need to persevere to the end. He gave us the Saints as role models to imitate and to give us hope that if they can do it, so can we.

Through the Church, Jesus has laid out for us a road map to follow. And when we don’t use this map, it’s like slamming the door on Christ. We do this out of fear or sometimes because we think we know better. But who could possibly know better then the one who created us? Please, as the saying goes, “don’t try to reinvent the wheel.” We already know what to do; now it’s just a matter of doing it and doing it faithfully.

If we follow this road map, we will be living in a house built by God. If we do it halfway or worse, ignore the map completely, then we will be living in our own self-made house apart from God. This is the warning Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel when He says, “I do not know where you are from.” It’s because the people knocking on His door, after it was too late, have been living away from God rather then in the house He designed.

So, like Jesus, I’m up here today trying to convey a sense of urgency for everyone to re-evaluate their lives (myself included!). Nobody is perfect. We all can improve something regarding the way we are living out our faith.

As a Deacon, I was ordained to serve Jesus Christ and His Church. I was commissioned to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. I undertook a mission to help Christians better understand Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation that He offers to each and every one of you. The last thing I want to hear on my judgment day is, “Hey Brian. You know… not bad. Not bad at all. You did the basics. For the most part you followed my teachings. But let me ask you this Deacon. How many times did you shy away from preaching the truth to my people? How many people were motivated by your preaching and by your example to turn away from sin and improve their lives?”

Kind of a scary thought, isn’t it??

So please, take this Gospel passage seriously. Get to know God better TODAY, not tomorrow, TODAY. Evaluate your life and improve the areas that may be lacking…before it’s too late.

I would hate for you to be locked out of the greatest gift of all…. Your Salvation!

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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