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!


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).


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.


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.”


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.)