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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It’s All About God

4th Sunday of Advent (December 24, 2007)

2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16

Psalm 89:2-3,4-5,27,29(2a)

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

I’ve got a complaint to lodge to everyone here today. I got the short end of the straw and need to get this off of my chest! First of all, I take my calling as a Deacon seriously. When I get up here to preach, I spend a lot of time preparing on what to say. It’s actually very intimidating if you think about it. Talking about “religion” can be a very volatile thing if something is said contrary to one’s personal beliefs. Meaning… it’s easy to offend someone when you preach on God’s Word. This is why I go to prayer when I start preparing for a homily. I ask God to use me as a tool. To speak through me. Not my words, but His. This is important because the homily helps “break open” the Scripture we hear at Mass and gives all of you something to contemplate over the week. That, by the way, is your weekly homework. Did you know that? You’re supposed to take what you hear in the Scriptures and the homily and allow it to challenge you throughout the week. To change you and become more “Christ-like.”

And that’s where my complaint comes into play. Fr. Al and Deacon Bruce preached the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sundays of Advent. And they did very well if I do say so myself. I’m even a little jealous that Fr. Al got to wear the rose colored vestments last week when he preached and I didn’t.

But what did I get? The 4th Sunday of Advent. Do you realize how short the 4th week of Advent is? Less than 24 hours. It ends Sunday night with the Vigil Mass for the Nativity of the Lord since Christmas is on a Monday this year. So instead of giving something to challenge you all week… I only have to challenge you for a few hours. Then you’ll forget all about what was in my homily because you’ll be too busy opening presents, eating wonderful, delicious food and sipping on wine or bourbon in your ugly Christmas sweaters!

But, like a good Deacon, I put on my big boy pants and decided to prepare this homily as best I could. And like every homily I write, I began this one with prayer and asked God what He wanted me to tell you. As I was in a deep, contemplative, prayerful state, I sat quietly and said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

And do you know what happened? A voice from the clouds whispered in my ear and said, “Dearest Deacon Brian, I’m sorry that you didn’t get to wear the rose colored vestments this year, it’s not your turn. Yes, the 4th week of Advent is super short. It happens every 7 years. Stop being so whiny. This is not about you. It’s about Me and My flock. So quit dwelling on the negatives and focus on what we will be celebrating is less than 24 hours. Now, go put on your purple vestment and preach the Word of God! But, just like the 4th week of Advent, keep it short!”

So, here goes… it’s not about us. It’s not about stroking our egos. It’s not about how awesome we are in the eyes of others. It’s all about God. Everything. God could have let us all rot down here on earth. He could have turned His back on us and said, you guys screwed up and I’m done with you. Or, He could have come down from heaven like a powerful military general with the entire army of Angels behind Him to annihilate us and start over.

But He didn’t.

Instead… as we hear in today’s Gospel from Luke, He came to us as a baby through the womb of a humble, poor, faithful woman. Why? Out of pure love to save us all.

So here is your homework to contemplate over the next few hours until we meet again to celebrate Christmas:

Let us all be a little more humble like Mary. Let us all be a little more thankful like Elizabeth who thought she was barren. And, like God, let us all be a little more loving.

Don’t Bury Your Talents

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 19, 2017) Year A

Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31

Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5(1a)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

Matthew 25:14-30

I don’t know about you, but does it seem like our community has felt the sting of death a lot over the past month or two? My mom, (parishioner) Daniel Gagnon’s brother and his father, (our church secretary) Melanie White’s father, (from our community) Jerry Broderick and just last week we received the shocking news of Leon Mayo’s sudden death. To be blunt, I’m almost afraid to answer my phone anymore for fear of hearing who died next.

Our recent encounters with death really puts into perspective just how precious and short life is on earth. That is why it is so incredibly important to listen, and I mean REALLY listen to what today’s readings are trying to motivate us to do with our lives.

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians urges them to get ready for the coming of the Lord. Now, I’m sure St. Paul here is speaking of the 2nd coming of Christ, when He will come down from Heaven… but it can also very well refer to when we will see Christ face to face immediately after our own death.

And when will that be? Well that’s a very good question. The answer is simple. We have no idea!

I love the analogy St. Paul uses about labor pains in his letter to drive home this point. Ask a pregnant woman when she’s going to start having contractions. You’ll probably get a funny look from her because she really doesn’t know exactly when it will happen. But it will happen… that’s unavoidable. And praise God that I’m a man, because when that first real contraction hit my wife with our first born, and she felt that pain… things got serious, real quick… there was no turning back… there was no escape… that baby was coming out.

So to with death. 99% of us won’t know when we are going to die. This is why St. Paul tells us to stay alert and sober. We need to be ready for when Christ returns or when we die and will stand before God on our judgment day. But when you pair St. Paul’s letter we just heard with today’s Gospel from Matthew, merely standing around alert and sober is just the bare minimum. We need to do more, which is where the parable we hear from Jesus today is so vitally important.

To put it simply, the parable tells us a man is going away on a trip. He calls his three servants and entrusts them with all of his money. Since they are his servants, the man knows what each of them is capable of doing with that money. He probably even has more confidence in them then they do of themselves. The man goes away but eventually comes back. Two of the servants used their abilities to increase the man’s money. The third man, out of fear, didn’t do a darn thing with the money entrusted to him. He instead buried the money, which infuriated the man… so much so that he had the third servant thrown outside into the darkness.

Now, interestingly enough, the money in this parable is referred to as “talents.” A “talent” in Jesus’ day, was a monetary unit of high value. When I read this parable, I couldn’t help but exchange the monetary definition of talent with a different definition of the word talent, which is: a natural aptitude or skill.

Now… using this definition for the word “talent,” a natural aptitude or skill, let’s look once again at this parable.

God created you. He entrusted each and every one of you with a special talent to use for His glory. He already knows what you are capable of and has more confidence in you than you do. He is your biggest fan. He is your biggest ally. But, out of love, He’s not going to force you to do a single thing that you don’t want to do. That’s called free will. However, even though He can’t control you, He is watching over all of you. He’s gazing on you through the eyes of a loving parent. He wants you to discover the talents he entrusted to you when He created you. He wants to watch your life unfold before His eyes as you discover and reveal your love for Him through your actions. He knows that some of you can handle more, so He’s given you more talents. He knows that some of you can only handle a little, so He’s given you fewer talents. But know this… He loves each of you and wants you to use those talents so that you will be able to live life to the fullest.

But, unfortunately, some of you are too scared. For whatever reason, you’ve buried your talents. You, brothers and sisters, are not living to your full potential. You are missing out on the grace and love of God that he freely offers you each and every day. And if you continue to bury the talents entrusted to you by God, you and those around you will NOT experience the true love that God so desperately wants you to feel.

Don’t be imprisoned by doubt, lack of self-confidence or fear. As St. John Paul II famously said the day he was elected Pope, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.”

The recent deaths felt by our local community remind us that life is short and unpredictable. Today’s readings remind us to prepare ourselves and to use our God-given talents for the glory of God daily so that we will be ready when our judgment day comes… whenever that may be.

So don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.

Live in fear no more!

Go out, TODAY, and spread the love of God by using your talents to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth until the day God calls you home.

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!

Patience With God

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 16, 2016)

Exodus 17:8-13

Psalm 121:1-8

2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

Luke 18:1-8

Imagine you are standing at the checkout counter at Wal-Mart patiently waiting for your turn. Your sweet, innocent little child is standing right next to you. The child then turns their head and gazes at all of the delicious, sugar loaded, chocolate covered heavenly treats right at their eye level. The loving child gently turns their head towards you and says, “Hey dad, can I have a candy bar? Dad, just one? Can I have some candy? Dad? Are you listening? I want a candy bar? Can I get one? Please? Pretty please? I’ll be good the rest of the day. Can I have some candy Dad?” To which you reply, “NO.” “Why not dad? Just one? Please can I have a candy bar? Come on…. It’s just one candy bar!” “FINE! But don’t tell your mother!”

This is the image that came to mind after reading today’s Gospel from Luke. In it, there is a dishonest judge that doesn’t really care about God or people in general. We then hear that a widow wants him to render a just decision against someone who did her wrong. The judge only decides to render his decision due to the lady’s annoyingly persistent pestering of him. He didn’t give a decision based on it being the right thing to do. No, he did it to get her to be quiet and leave him alone. Now, in my candy analogy, I’m NOT saying that anyone who gives their child a candy bar in the check out aisle of Wal-Mart is doing it to simply quiet their kid, I’m just saying…. Well, come to think of it, I am guilty of doing that in the past!

My point is this…. I think too often we act like the kid in the check out aisle or the lady in today’s Gospel when we are praying to God. We tell God what we want in our prayers and sometimes have the tendency to get impatient or annoyed when He doesn’t answer us immediately. Are we doing this because we think we know better then God or is it in hopes that God will get annoyed with us and grant us our prayer just to keep us quiet?

And that’s the problem. God is not a genie that is granting us 3 wishes. Oh how I wish He were sometimes! No. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. He knows what is going to happen to each and every one of us. So when we offer up our prayers, we need to do it in faith that God hears us and has everything under control. And if we don’t get that $1 million lottery ticket, that new job or our sick friend that we’ve been praying for dies… know that there is some greater good to come of the situation no matter how dire it appears.

We get anxious and upset though because we can’t see the entire picture like the way God sees it. We live in the here and now. God lives in the infinite.

I have a priest friend that has been helping me through some recent struggles. He helped me realize that I get very anxious and upset when I focus on what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next month. You see… I’m trying to figure out how things are going to end, rather then focus on the here and now. He very clearly pointed out to me that in the “Our Father” we pray, “give us TODAY our DAILY bread.” Not our weekly or monthly bread. We are asking Him to give us the strength and the grace to get through TODAY. One day at a time.

So, you want to pay off a debt? Don’t ask, “How am I going to pay off this $5,000 credit card bill?” Instead think, “What expense can I cut out today which will free up some of my money.”

Want a better marriage? Don’t ask, “Where can I take my spouse so we can have a great vacation next year.” Instead think, “What little thing can I do today to show my spouse that they are the love of my life?”

You see, when we work on the here and now… the good days add up and eventually you’ll have a good week. Good weeks lead to a good month. And before you know it, you realize that God has been there all along, giving you the grace to get through your life one day at a time. What may have seemed impossible, paying off the debt, improving your marriage, suddenly then becomes possible…. All with the grace of God.

And when things don’t go smooth… when your have 4 good days then suddenly things fall apart on the 5th day… look to see what God could be saying to you in that moment. See what went wrong. Learn from it and make the next day better.

Thankfully, God doesn’t get annoyed with our prayers the way the dishonest judge got annoyed with the women in today’s Gospel. God can and will outlast us. So if we keep sending up the same prayer over and over again with no immediate answer, maybe it’s time to shift our thinking. Maybe God’s plan is bigger then our immediate need which, I realize, can be incredibly hard to accept sometimes.

So remember this… God made each and every one of you with a purpose. He wants you all to be loved and to return to Him after your mortal death. Your life here is temporary. Your life with Him is eternal. Trust that God has your best interests in the palms of His hands. Trust that God hears your prayers and is answering them in the way that they need to be answered according to His plans… not yours.

Focus on today.

Turn the anxieties of “tomorrow” over to Him.

Breathe, pray, keep focused…

and most importantly,

be patient with yourself and with God.

Put Down Your Smart Phone

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 17, 2016)

Genesis 18:1-10a

Psalm 15:2-5

Colossians 1:24-28

Luke 10:38-42

I recently heard on the radio that, on average, people touch their phone between 2,000-3,000 times per day. Adults between the ages of 35-49 watch on average 33 hours of television each week. One article I found claimed that children average 13 hours of video games each week. My point? We live in a very busy world filled with distractions. In the above statements, I didn’t even mention the hours people spend each week at work or at school.

As I am getting older I’m learning that time is precious. We can waste money, but earn it back. We can waste food, but make more. But time wasted can’t be recovered. There is no “do over” when it comes to “yesterday.” We can try to make tomorrow better, but yesterday is spent. So we have to always be conscious of how we are spending our time.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that we need to balance the busyness of our lives and spending time with God. And quite often, we have it backwards. The story of Martha and Mary is very relevant to us today. Martha and Mary are sisters who had Jesus over to their house for a visit. During the visit, Martha was running around the house trying to make sure it was clean and everyone had enough food and drinks. Most would claim that she was being a good hostess. Meanwhile, her sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, hanging on His every word. Martha got irritated because Mary was not helping her and voiced her frustration. Jesus replies to her as follows (allow me to modernize it here), “Martha, put down your iPhone, turn off the television, walk away from the xbox controller, stop worrying about when the next soccer practice is and we have plenty of food…. I need you to take a breath, sit down and spend some time with me.” And in this case, who is “me?” None other… then the Son of God.

Now, the devil wants nothing better than for us to get so busy and distracted with worldly things, that we put God on the back burner. Smart phones, movies, video games, sports and so forth can be good things… but we need to be careful to not put these things before God.

I, like most of you, have a very busy life. I work a full time job, my wife Angie and I have 5 kids (4 of which will be playing soccer this fall), I coach and referee soccer, work with the youth group and I’m obviously a Deacon which entails a lot of behind the scenes things here at church. So I feel very fortunate that I was able to take time out of my schedule to be a chaperone, along with my wife, at the Ignite Your Torch youth retreat in Louisville last weekend. I got to “escape from the world” and surround myself with God for four days.

My wife and I along with our youth group members who attended Ignite Your Torch 2016

My wife and I along with our youth group members who attended Ignite Your Torch 2016

It. Was. Incredible. I can testify first hand that the future of our church is in good hands with our youth. These high school kids had their faith strengthened in ways that brought me to tears on more than one occasion at the retreat. The youth got to attend workshops, listen to speakers, attend daily Mass, participate in Eucharistic Adoration and interact with priests, sisters and other religious from over 15 different orders. Not to mention we saw a dodge ball game between priests and seminarians, watch a break dancing-beat boxing priest, watch nuns from Nigeria do traditional dance from their county and many, many other things you just don’t see everyday.

The guy in the middle of the circle dressed in black... yup, a break dancing priest!

The guy in the middle of the circle dressed in black… yup, a break dancing priest!

The single most moving experience for me was during Eucharistic Adoration at the school gymnasium. All of the kids kneeled down in prayer as one priest came around and gave an individual blessing with our Eucharistic Lord in the monstrance over each kid. A band was playing Christian music in the background and priests were scattered throughout the gym to hear confessions. What moved me the most was that I looked around the gym and noticed the confession lines were full. And when the kids came back from confession, they would kneel back down and wait as the monstrance was processed around to them. When it was their turn, they would then gaze up at our Eucharistic Lord from their knees and receive a blessing. Many of them were moved to tears from this encounter.

A high school student receiving a blessing

A high school student receiving a blessing

The beauty of it all was that there were no cell phones, no TV, no video games, no pressure from sports and no school…. Just time with Jesus Christ. If you ever have the opportunity to go on a spiritual retreat, please do it. It has the potential to change your life.

In reality, many of us don’t have the ability to go on a retreat or at least not that often. So I wanted to leave you with three simple things you can do to strengthen your faith and your relationship with Jesus Christ. However, there’s one caveat. All three things will require you to put down your phone, turn off the TV, unplug the video game, and step away from the busyness of the world… at least temporarily.

  1. Go to confession. Frequent confession will bring you more grace and allow you to feel God’s love in super abundance.
  2. Read the Gospels. These four books are first hand accounts of the life and teaching’s of Jesus Christ. Listen to His words and act on them.
  3. Receive the Eucharist as often as possible. Allow Him to be the food that satisfies your body and soul.

We are all meant for great things. But we can’t reach our spiritual potential if we keep putting other things before God. So, use your time wisely and don’t be afraid to step away from the world from time to time and focus on the only one that can give you lasting peace…. Jesus Christ.

No More Excuses

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 26, 2016)

1 Kings 19:16b,19-21

Psalm 16:1-2,5,7-11

Galatians 5:1,13-18

Luke 9:51-62

No. More. Excuses! That pretty much sums up today’s Gospel reading from Luke. The words we hear Jesus speak today are a direct contradiction to the way our current society acts and believes. Our society tells us that honest answers are favorable, but not really necessary. Our society tells us that it’s almost always someone else’s fault. However, Jesus tells us to…. are you ready for it…. Stop all the nonsense, stop giving excuses, take responsibility for your own actions and follow Him.

Follow me through this for a moment. To Jesus, Jerusalem is the final destination of his earthly ministry. He is to travel there for one reason… to die for our sins. Without His death on the cross, our sins are not forgiven. Without His death on the cross, death cannot be conquered. Without His death on the cross, the gates of Heaven are closed to us. He knew this and He was not going to let anything or anyone steer Him off of this course. No excuses!

With that in mind, Jesus and His disciples were traveling to Jerusalem, a predominately Jewish city. Along the way, they wanted to stop and rest in a Samaritan village. However, the people in the village knew they were going to Jerusalem and therefore they wouldn’t show them any hospitality. This was because the Samaritans were very hostile toward the Jews. So what do the Apostles James and John ask, “Hey Jesus, they don’t like us so do you want us to call down a fire bomb on them?”

This mentality is the one that always cracks me up in our “politically correct, all loving, all inclusive and all accepting society” (I was trying to pour on the sarcasm pretty thick there in case you missed it). How many times do we read about one group of people spewing hate towards another group because of their beliefs? Marriage, abortion, guns, politics. Any of these issues can get heated very quickly and, in a group setting, often ends up with someone getting punched in the face. But what does this accomplish? NOTHING!

But what does Jesus tell James and John to do to these people who don’t like them? He tells them to move on and keep their eyes toward Jerusalem. I’m not saying these “hot button” topics shouldn’t be discussed. But if the listening party only spews hate and violence back at you, it’s going to steer you off of your course so just move on. No excuses!

After passing by the Samaritan village, we next hear of two different people wanting to join the traveling party and follow Jesus. However, both of the people want it on their terms. “Hey Jesus, I’ll follow you to the end of the world…. But let me first finish this honey-do list.” Now it may sound like Jesus is being unloving when the first person is rebuked for wanting to bury his father before following Jesus. The back-story to this is that many scripture scholars believe the potential disciple’s father is probably in good health at the moment and has no plans of dying in the near future. Awkward…

When I felt called to becoming a Catholic Deacon, imagine if I would have said, “Yes, I’ll absolutely be a Deacon…. As soon as my kids are grown, I’ve paid off my student loans, paid off my mortgage and retired from my job… THEN Jesus, THEN I’ll follow you to the end of the world.”

Now… let’s get personal and down to business. I want to challenge you today by posing two questions for your consideration. Ask yourself, “Do I love God?” and “What does He want from me?” I’ve been praying on these two questions for more years than I can remember. Sometimes I think I’ve got the answers, other times the answers seem clouded.

I mean… I know I love God. But for me personally, it’s that second question I struggle with, “What does He want from me?”

It seems that more recently I’ve finally reached an answer that feels right. So, what does God want from me? To be with Him in heaven after I die. God is the source of all love. He created me and wants me to return to him after I die. I have a feeling; call me crazy, that He wants that from you as well!

God is our creator and our judge. Contrary to popular belief, His vote is the only one that matters on our judgment day. The Bible and the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, gives us the teachings we need to follow if we call ourselves a follower of Christ. And news flash, many of these teachings are not easy. Recall last week’s Gospel reading where Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

So if I want to spend eternity with God, I better live a life that mirrors God’s love. I better start being more faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I’m just a hypocrite and I’ll have a lot of explaining to do on my judgment day.

What about you? Do you truly love God? Do you feel that He is calling you to follow Him more faithfully? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to cut through all of excuses and live out your faith to the fullest!

No.

More.

Excuses.