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.

Why Are You A Christian?

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 6, 2016)

2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

Psalm 17:1,5-6,8,15

2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

Luke 20:27-38

I attended a youth retreat this past summer and heard a talk from a Fathers of Mercy priest here in Kentucky. If you’ve ever seen a priest wearing a black cassock and a HUGE crucifix on their chest, (picture a crucifix you normally see on someone’s wall at home!) there’s a good chance he is a Fathers of Mercy priest. He said he often gets asked why they wear such a large crucifix around their neck? His answer was simple, “If you’re going to wear one… go BIG!”

During his talk, he posed a question to the crowd, which has stuck with me. He asked, “Why are you a Christian?” People raised their hands and gave answers like: Jesus, serving others, Eucharist, etc. He said those are all good things, but they are not the best answer. Then he said, “There’s only one reason that you can give that ultimately answers the question, ‘why are you a Christian?’ What is it?” And I’m sitting there thinking to myself, “This is so easy, I’m a Catholic Deacon for crying out loud. The answer is obviously…. It’s ummmm, uhhh… well I have no idea where he’s going with this!” So I just sat there… in awkward silence avoiding making eye contact with him as I waited for an explanation.

He went on to say that there’s one event in the life of Jesus Christ that had such a powerful effect on His followers and other witnesses that it altered the course of history. One event that caused devout Jews to leave their strong traditions and follow a new way. One event that was so incredible that Christians willingly died for their newly found faith. One event that is the answer to why we are here today, over 2,000 years after Christ’s death, worshiping together in this Church. So what in the world is that event and ultimately the answer to the priest’s persistent question, “Why are you a Christian?” Answer = the Resurrection.

Why? Because without the resurrection… Jesus Christ is a liar and a fraud. Without the resurrection… Jesus Christ is just an ordinary man. Without the resurrection… Christianity would have been just another fad religion that would have died out with the death of it’s leader. You see… the resurrection is a core belief that gives Christians the courage to go out and spread the Good News!

Seriously, think about it. Imagine you’re an Apostle following Jesus. You hear Him over and over speak of how he was going to conquer death, rise again and go to His Father in heaven. You’re nodding your head as you’re listening but in the back of your mind… it also sounds a little like crazy talk. You then watch Jesus die a horrible, torturous death on the cross. You then wait. Pretend that was the end of the story. Suddenly a Roman solider puts a sword to your throat and asks you if you were a follower of Jesus. “Who me? Sorry you must be mistaken. I’m just going to walk away now and live my life in peace with my head still attached to my body. Good bye!”

BUT… if Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and NOW that Roman solider asks you if you are a follow of Christ… I’d be like, “String me up, cut off my head, I’m not denying Christ, I’m ready for heaven!!” And that’s what happened. The Apostles, with the exception of John, were all martyred because they witnessed the resurrection and could not deny it.

You see… we hear in today’s Gospel that God is not God of the dead, but of the living. The resurrection proved this and started a ripple effect in history that continues to this day through the Holy Spirit and His Church. This should be a cause of great joy for us. Why? Because Jesus didn’t lie about the resurrection. So why would He have lied about anything else He taught? And in case your New Testament studies are a little rusty, here’s the gist of His teaching: God’s Son came down to earth in the form of a baby; Jesus taught by word and example a new way to live; He died a horrible death to pay a debt we couldn’t fulfill; He conquered death and rose to His Father in heaven; and here’s the VERY good news – His death has opened heaven to all who believe in Him.

The resurrection gives us new life. It is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. We can’t be wasting this gift by living a life of sin. We need to ask God to give us the grace and perseverance to live for Him… one day at a time. And when we fall, the resurrection should give us the strength to get back up and take the next step forward… back on God’s path.

Remember, through the resurrection, Jesus proved He was who He said He was. If we are to call ourselves Christians, we too should be able to prove who we say we are through our words and our actions.

May the resurrection of Christ give us the strength to live out our faith each and every day!

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.

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