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!

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!

Cut It Off

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 27, 2015)

Numbers 11:25-29

Psalm 19:8,10,12-14

James 5:1-6

Mark 9:43,45,47-48

If everyone could do me a favor and hold their hands up and keep their eyes open… It appears to me that everyone has both of their hands and both of their eyes. So why in the world does Jesus say in today’s Gospel reading that, “If you hand causes you to sin, cut it off” and “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck if out.” Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that everyone in here, including myself, has used our hands or our eyes to sin at some point in our lives. But as I said just a minute ago, everyone in here has both of their hands and both of their eyes. So what’s the deal?

Before I answer that, I want to tell you a story about a young girl named Catherine. She was the youngest of 25 children, many of which died at a young age. At the age of 6, she experienced a vision of Jesus, seated in all His glory with the Apostles Peter, Paul and John. It was believed that this vision helped her at a young age decide on her vocation. A year later, Catherine made a secret vow to give her entire life to God.

By the age of 12, Catherine’s mother insisted that she pay more attention to her physical appearance in hopes to attract the attention of a future husband. To please her mother, Catherine started to wear bright dresses and jewels that were what all the young girls wore in those days. However, remembering her secret vow to give her entire life to God, Catherine repented of her vanity and declared that she would never marry. And when her parents insisted that she pursue marriage, Catherine cut off the attribute that was considered to be her most beautiful and prized possession…her long, golden-brown hair. For those who have never heard this story before, it is about St. Catherine of Sienna, one of the great mystics and a Doctor of the Church.

st catherine

St. Catherine of Sienna

Now, before all of your ladies go out and chop off your hair, realize this: beauty is not a sin…having long hair is not a sin…pursuing marriage is meant to be a good thing. St. Catherine did not become a saint because she cut off her hair or remained single. She became a saint because, in her short life, she clearly and consistently surrendered her life to Christ. She tried to cut out anything that interfered with her journey to God. And as a passionate young girl, that meant her hair.

So let’s get back to today’s Gospel reading from St. Mark. Is Jesus asking us to literally cut off our own body parts in order to avoid sin? Honestly, I don’t know. But think of all the ways we use our bodies to sin: our brains for evil thoughts, our tongues for gossip, our hands for fighting, our hearts for hate, our eyes for lust, our feet for walking past those who need our help, plus the other body parts that I won’t mention in the company of young children. If we were to cut off anything that causes us to sin, we wouldn’t have a body left!

cut it off

Now, I do know that God’s original plan for our bodies was for good. I also recall that, according to 1 Corinthians 6:19, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.” So logically, it appears that we are not to take this Gospel passage literally, but try to figure out what Jesus is convening to us with such graphic imagery.

So here’s the message that I believe Jesus is trying to convey to us with urgency– do whatever it takes to get to heaven. Sin cuts you off from heaven…so you need to cut sin out of your life. If your brain causes you to sin due to evil thoughts, try filling your mind with prayers instead. If your tongue causes you to sin by gossiping, try using your tongue to confess your sins in the sacrament of reconciliation instead. If your hands cause you to sin by fighting, instead try extending your hand for a handshake or give a hug to someone who needs it. If your heart is filled with hate, ask God to remove the hardness of your heart and fill it instead with love. If your eyes cause you to sin on the Internet, buy a filter that limits what sites you can look up. If someone needs help, stop walking past and help them.

This is not something that can easily be changed in one day. This is a continual journey from now until your physical death. We all slip up from time to time. The glory of it all is that with each new day, we get a new chance. Remember, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. A lot of what that future holds is out of your control. But how you handle what the future throws your way, now that IS something you can control.

So like St. Catherine of Sienna, whether you live a long or short life, make sure that each day you try to cut out sin by clearly and consistently surrendering your life to Christ. After all, he surrendered His life for you!

God Feeds Us

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 26, 2015)

2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-11,15-16,17-18

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 6:1-15

Today’s first reading, the Psalm and the Gospel from John all have the same theme: We are hungry…God feeds us. Obviously this can be referencing actual food, but it can also speak to our spiritual hunger that only God can satisfy. With that theme in mind, I want to tell you about a youth retreat I attended with some of the high school students from St. Andrew’s and St. William’s a few weeks ago at St. Catharine’s College in Springfield, KY called Ignite Your Torch. It was a four-day event and was attended by over 300 high school youth and between 20-30 priests and religious all wearing clerics or full habits. And before you picture a bunch of boring old men or mean nuns carrying rulers right out of the 1950’s, realize that most of the priests and sisters were young. Let me tell you…you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed cassock and habit wearing priests take on high school boys in a game of dodge ball. It was epic!

Many of the priests, religious and some laity gave various Catholic related talks of which the students were allowed to pick and choose which one they wanted to hear. There were over 30 different talks to choose from throughout the conference. One of the talks I attended was by Sr. Maria Francesca, a very young Dominican sister. Her talk was called, “Souls on Fire.” She discussed how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and did it with such love and enthusiasm that I could have listened to her all day long. I also listened to Br. Matthias, a Carmelite with a big ‘ol beard, give a talk called, “Prayer that ROCKS your world.” He told us about St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer life and also explained the significance of wearing the Brown Scapular (my personal favorite devotion as you may remember from my last homily). Br. Matthias said that every time we kiss Mary’s Brown Scapular, it was like we were kissing Mary’s face. How beautiful! Fr. Benedict, another Dominican, gave a talk explaining how to withdraw from the distractions of the world and enter into the sacred shrine of the soul to be alone with God. It was high quality Catholic teaching presented in a way that engaged teenagers. I know from experience that this is not an easy task! The retreat was intensely faith filled and truly rekindled the fire of my faith. I can only imagine the impact it will have shaping the young faith of the students that attended.

There were a few very specific events that occurred during Ignite Your Torch that touched my faith on a very deep level. I wanted to share with you one that happened Friday night during Eucharistic adoration. Traditionally, Eucharistic adoration consists of having the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar in a monstrance while people sit or kneel in silent prayer. This is how we do it at St. Andrew’s every Wednesday in our day chapel. The adoration at Ignite was very different. Instead of leaving the Eucharist on the altar, Fr. Tony (a Fathers of Mercy priest) walked around to each of the 300+ people kneeling and, one by one, blessed them with the Eucharist. It was intense to kneel down before our Lord in the Eucharist, look up and receive His blessing. For that brief moment in time, it was a very personal, intimate moment with our Lord.

Because there were so many people, it took awhile to get to everyone so people had the opportunity to go to confession or pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy while waiting. I didn’t go to confession in the beginning because the lines were filling up and I wanted to allow time for the kids to go. So during this time of waiting I did my normal prayers, I asked God to help me with a few issues and also to keep watch over some people I knew who were struggling in their lives. However, I had a deep sense of stirring in my soul that I couldn’t figure out. So I just kneeled and waited all the while wrestling with an uneasiness that I couldn’t pinpoint. It was then that Fr. Tony stood in front of me holding our Eucharistic Lord. I lifted my eyes upwards and gazed at the Eucharist as I received Christ’s blessing. It took all of a few seconds and then Fr. Tony moved on to the next person.

During the blessing I was fine. But as soon as it was over I couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak. It seemed like forever but probably didn’t last more then 10 seconds. On the outside, I experienced a type of paralysis but on the inside, I experienced pure joy and love. It was as if I was one with the Trinity. As Fr. Benedict explained in his talk earlier, I was able to enter the sacred shrine of my soul to be alone with God. Shortly after, I bent forward and started weeping. I wept because as soon as I experienced that intense love from God, He helped me see clear as day where I have not shown that kind of love to others. Specifically, God pointed out to me a sin that I’ve been clinging onto for a long time now. That was the stirring in my soul that I couldn’t figure out earlier. I continued to pray and cry in thanksgiving to God. I then pulled out my brown scapular and, as Br. Matthias described so beautifully, kiss the face of Mary. That 15-20 minute window was one of the most emotionally intense moments I’ve ever experienced while praying.

As the night was winding down, I knew I had to go to confession. I mean, when God clearly points out your sin, you better pay attention and act immediately! But I knew if I didn’t go to confession right then, I’d make up an excuse and not get around to it for a while. So I looked around and saw a priest in the corner of the room with a smile on his face and nobody in line. I approached him…sat down…and began, ”Forgive me father for I have sinned.” That night, I was able to go to confession and rid my soul of a sin that was eating at me for years.

Remember the theme from today’s reading? My soul hungered for healing…God fed me.

You know, it’s easy to hear today’s Gospel reading about the multiplication of loaves and say, “Yup, that’s a pretty cool miracle. Jesus sure fed a lot of people.” But what we need to do it really mediate on it’s meaning.

We are sinners. We ache for love. We have a void in our souls. If we turn that over to God in faithful prayer, God can heal us. God will love us. God will fill the void in our souls.

Not just a little bit…He will multiple it so that we are satisfied. This is not just for some people…God’s love is infinite and extends to ALL of us. But we have to do our part. We have to be willing to ask for help and forgiveness. We have to spend time in prayer to enter the sacred shrine of our souls. We have to remain faithful to God no matter what trials we are facing.

If we do this, God will answer all our needs…He will satisfy our hunger. He will feed us with the only food that satisfies…the Bread of Life…His Son…Jesus Christ.

Live In The Light

4th Sunday of Lent (March 15, 2015)

2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23

Psalm 137:1-6

Ephesians 2:4-10

John 3:14-21

Since this is Lent, I’ve been reflecting a lot about sinfulness and repentance. I’m trying really hard to live a life that is holier and learn from my past mistakes. In order to do that, I realize that I have to first acknowledge my past sins so I can try to avoid doing them again. So, if it’s ok with you, I need to get something out in the open. So bear with me as I proceed with a little “public confession” session with everyone here today.

I was either in 7th or 8th grade and was at a friend’s house for a sleepover. There were probably around 8 or so of us there, we all played together on the same baseball team. He lived out in the county and his closest neighbor was probably ½ mile away. We were bored and we were teenagers, which is never a good combination. Someone may have brought up the idea that it would be fun to toilet paper a house. For those unaware of this, it’s when you take perfectly good toilet paper and throw it as to make streamers on someone’s house and in their trees. None of us could drive so, you guessed it, we decided to TP the closest neighbor’s house. Did I mention we were bored teenagers? We at least had enough common sense to wait until dark to lessen our chances of getting caught. So after nightfall, dressed in black and with ninja-quiet-like skills, we snuck over to the neighbor’s house with armfuls of toilet paper. Because it was dark I didn’t see a low hanging tree branch and ended up running right into it leaving a nice cut across my right cheek. We turned the neighbor’s trees and bushes into a winter wonderland made out of toilet paper and got away with it. I’m not proud of my actions and hope you, my church family, can forgive me for my past transgressions against my neighbor.

TP

I believe this story speaks to today’s Gospel passage. In it we hear that, “the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” We didn’t toilet paper the neighbor’s house when the sun was out because we didn’t want to get caught. We knew that what we were doing was wrong, so we tried to hide in the darkness. Isn’t this the root of deciding what is sinful and what is not? If you are on the internet but you have to keep looking over your shoulder to make sure nobody can see what you’re looking at, chances are you looking at the wrong site. If your parents don’t approve of an outfit because it’s too revealing and immodest so you only wear it when they’re not around, chances are it’s the wrong outfit. If you only live your faith on Sunday’s because you know that’s when you’ll see your priest, but then push your faith to the back burner the other 6 days of the week, chances are you’re not living a life for Christ.

And this, my brothers and sisters, is the ongoing struggle we have with being Christians. Jesus Christ is the light that came into the world to illuminate it. That means that the darkness that we think we’ve been hiding in is no longer actually there. All of your actions…good and bad…can be seen by Him. We can continue to fool ourselves and think that we can live with no accountability, but with Christ that is no longer the truth. We will all one day have to face our Creator in heaven and will have to answer for how we lived our short time on earth. So I’m asking you now…what are you doing with the gift of life that God gave you? If I told you that you are going to die exactly one year from today, how would you start living your life differently? Will you continue to listen to the world that proclaims, “If it feels good do it” and “there is no right or wrong” or will you start giving your life to Christ and His Church. Will you start “living in the light?”

Jezus-is-het-Licht

Many of you are aware of the persecution of Christians currently happening in the Middle East. I was sickened when I saw the news feed of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian men who were beheaded this past month by members of ISIS who also videoed the event and posted it on the internet. This is about as pure evil as it comes. Just recently, I read an interview with a Coptic priest named Fr. Anthony from Arlington, VA. He said that for Coptic Christians, “They’re not as shaken by these things as we (Americans) are, because they count every day as a gift from God.” He went on to say that “Their public faith could mean the end of their life.” Fr. Anthony said that the “differences between Egypt and the U.S. are striking and the hardship for Christians in Egypt is difficult for Americans to truly grasp. Faith for the Copts is everything, a life that they’re willing to lose for the sake of their faith.” He explained that, “for us (Americans) you can get by with a Sunday-only faith. They can’t, because every day of their life they see in front of them, the decision to follow Christ does impact the grades they get in school, it impacts which customers will come in their stores. And in some cases, their public faith is met with death.” (“Cross Roads”, Volume 25, Number 20, Feb 22, 2015 pages 3, 8).

These 21 martyrs lived their life in the light…everyday of the week. And in the end, they gave their life for Christ so that they could be with Him in heaven. A family member of one of the martyrs said in an interview, “When we saw the video we were filled with joy. They were like lions, none of them left their faith. We thank God.” I personally couldn’t bring myself to watch the video, but it was reported that the men, right before they were killed, we seen mouthing the words, “Ya Rabbi Yasou” translated, “My Lord Jesus.”

Making a decision to “live in the light” is not always comfortable. But in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”

Live in the dark or live in the light….the choice is yours…

Cut It Off

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 29, 2013)

Am 6:1, 4-7

Ps 146

1 Tim 6:11-16

Luke 16:19-31

On April 26, 2006 Aron Ralston was hiking in the Blue John Canyon in Utah. He was an avid outdoorsman and was hiking down a slot canyon by himself. These are known to narrow, but very deep. In this particular canyon there was a suspended boulder lodged between the walls, which was blocking his way. He decided to climb down deeper and go below it. Unfortunately as he was climbing down, the 800lb boulder somehow came loose, rolled back and pinned his right arm against the canyon wall. He was trapped down in a deep canyon, with little food or water and he never told his family or friends that he went on this hike.

Aron Ralston was able to take a photo of himself while trapped in the canyon.

Aron Ralston was able to take a photo of himself while trapped in the canyon.

He spent the next three days trying to lift the boulder or somehow wiggle his arm free with no luck. Aron was becoming dehydrated and delirious. On the fourth day, he realized his only way out was to amputate his arm. He spent the rest of that day practicing making different tourniquets and trying to figure out where to cut his arm using only a two inch pocket knife. Aron gave up because he came to the realization that his little knife would never be able to cut through the bones in his arm. He ran out of food and water the next day and was trying to make peace with the fact that he was going to die in that deep chasm all alone. So he took his knife and carved his name, date of birth and presumed date of death on the sandstone wall. He fell asleep, fully thinking he would never wake up. But he did wake up the next day and had an epiphany. Without going into the gory details, he figured out how to break the bones in his forearm, then took the knife and completed the amputation. Aron was able to finally free himself, climb up out of the canyon, rappel down a 65-foot sheer wall all with only one hand. By the grace of God, another family was hiking in the area and was able to contact a rescue helicopter for Aron. In total he spent 127 hours trapped, lost 40 lbs of body weight and 25% of his blood volume. He survived the ordeal, married his wife Jessica in 2009 and became a father with the birth of his son Leo in 2010. During an interview in January 2011, Aron said, “I smiled as I cut off my arm. I was grateful to be free.”

I think this story, which may seem gruesome at first, is actually very inspiring. It can teach us a lot especially when viewed in light of today’s Gospel parable from Luke. Lazarus spent his time on earth with no money and hardly any food. His body was covered in sores so he obviously was in poor health. He was the poorest of the poor. lazarusLazarus spent his final days lying at the door of a very wealthy man hoping that this man would give him a scrap of food. Perhaps the rich man was too busy to intervene, didn’t want to get his hands dirty or just didn’t want to waste his time with a poor beggar. So, with no charity shown to him, Lazarus died. But what he lacked in earthly wealth, God more than made up for in Heaven. His lack of attachment to material things allowed him to let go of this world as the angels carried him up to God and Abraham in heaven. In an ironic twist, the wealthy man who ignored everyone else but his own needs also died. All of his wealth, all of his attachments to this world could not keep him out of the fiery pits of hell in the afterlife.

What happens next should be a wake up call to all of us. There is a definite separation between heaven and hell that can’t be crossed. Once you enter one, you are not permitted to venture to the other. Not even Lazarus in heaven is permitted to give a drop of water to the rich man in hell. Even more daunting is that Abraham denies the request of the rich man to warn his sinful brothers, who are still alive, to repent. Abraham’s reason is that those sinful people have everything they need to make good moral decisions, but still choose to do wrong. They still insist to separate themselves from God and cling to their own ways, which will ultimately lead them to the same fiery pit as the rich man.

lazarus chasm

Why do I say this is a wake up call? Because you never know when today or tomorrow will be your last day. You never know when that sin you insist to cling onto will be the very thing that sinks you deeper and deeper into the chasm of hell on your judgment day. Some may be out there thinking, “Oh come on. I am a decent person. It’s not like I burnt down a church or murdered someone.” It’s funny how we default to that mentality when we try to justify our own shortcomings. I’m pretty sure on our judgment day God isn’t going to ask you, “So…what did you NOT do?” “Well I’m glad you asked. I didn’t burn down a church or join a gang.” No, God is going to ask you, “What did you do for me? What did you do to the least of my people? What did you do with the gifts I entrusted to you?” As the rich man shows us in this parable, “seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy” (Pope Francis, Twitter, Sept 15). We need to identify what things are pinning us down and separating us from God right now. Sometimes we may even get so involved with the wrong things that we become delirious and don’t even realize what we’re doing is harming our souls. That is why prayerfully examining our daily lives and regularly going to the sacrament of reconciliation can be so very powerful. This is how we identify what things we need to cut out of our lives. Sometimes this can hurt. Talk to someone who went through alcohol or drug rehab and they will tell you of the pain they went through to cut out their sin. But here’s the glory of it all; the thing that makes it so beautiful in the end. If you are willing and able to deal with your sin now…if you are willing to help others instead of only focusing on yourself…you too can experience the glory of heaven after death. But waiting to start tomorrow may be too late.

Remember Aron’s quote from earlier? “I smiled as I cut my arm off. I was grateful to be free.” Ask God to help you identify your sins right now. Ask God to give you the strength to cut them off right now. Ask God to show you how you can help others right now. Jesus loves you! Allow him to set you free. Allow him to raise you out of the chasm of sin. And as you are going through the pain of cutting off your sins…as you are going through the pain of letting go of your ways and following God’s ways…smile and be grateful that you are being set free in Christ.

freedom