Sunday, November 5, 2017

To Save a Thousand Souls...

31st Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Good Shepherd (Frankfort)
Vocations Awareness Week

What if your life is meant to be as significant as Mother Theresa or John Paul II?  Think about it for a minute…don’t doubt, or say that can’t be me… Mother Theresa and John Paul both thought that at times in their life…but that didn’t stop them.  Think about it… what if your life is meant to have as much of an impact, either across the world like theirs or in our little corner of the world here – what if your life is meant for a Great Adventure?

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Wouldn’t that be something?  Wouldn’t it be something if God created you for a purpose?  Wouldn’t it be something if your destiny was to make life better for those around you – to be a part of helping someone else find meaning in their life?  Wouldn’t it be something if God’s plan to save a hungry person from starvation, or bring hope to someone who was completely without hope…wouldn’t it be something if God’s plan to save the soul of countless others included you?  If you knew that to be true…what would you do?

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It’s hard to ask questions like this in our world today – a world where we’ve been conditioned to ask different questions.  Our world teaches us that to be great, we much achieve wealth and status to make a difference; that the only thing that matters is what we want to do, what we think will make us happy.  The world teaches us this from the very beginning – from our earliest ages.  “What do you want to do when you grow up?”  That’s the question we’ve been asked when we were younger…and that’s mostly what we think about, even as we grow older, isn’t it?  What do I want to do Friday night?  Where do I want to go to college?  What kind of job do I want to have?  Will I make enough money?  Will I have a big house and a nice car?

But Jesus asks a different question of those who follow Him, doesn’t He?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the greatest – the most significant – the most amazing – the most successful – the greatest among us are the ones who live their lives trying to serve others!  What if real happiness isn’t tied up in chasing after what I want to do…but rather in finding out who God wants me to be?

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It is estimated that the life of a priest over the course of a long and happy ministry significantly impacts the lives of more than a thousand people.  Celebrating their moments of greatest happiness, comforting them in their moments of greatest sorrow, helping to build their faith…helping connect them to God and the Church.  And the same can absolutely be said of the hundreds of religious sisters and brothers throughout the country.  One author says it this way…the life of a priest or religious generally cooperates with God in this world To Save a Thousand Souls  Imagine.  It’s not some crazy outlandish idea…when you think about it.  What if your life was meant To Save a Thousand Souls…

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All across the country this weekend, priests and deacons are kicking off National Vocations Awareness week.  We’re all trying to help one another ask the most important question:  what plan does God have for me?  How has God imagined that I can be a part changing the world around me and changing the lives of those around me now and for eternity?  For many of us, that answer becomes clear when we fall in love and get married.  Raise your hands if you’re married.  … … … Praise God for your holy vocation!  That means that, from the beginning of time, God has called you to a life lived for the purpose of leading and guiding a family, helping your spouse become holy and – with Jesus – bringing them and your children to heaven.  Marriage is a holy vocation when we’re certain that is God’s call for us.  We don’t “pick” marriage from the choices available to us…not if we’re seeking a holy marriage.  We discern it…by asking God: How do I fit into your plan? 

For some of us – most of us perhaps – the answer to that question is marriage. Praise God for holy marriages!  But for some of us, that answer is different.  The problem is, these days we’re not asking the right question.  Take a moment now…ask yourself…ask God…How do I fit into your plan?

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Friends – I’ll be honest with you.  We need holy marriages these days.  To build the Kingdom of God, we need holy marriages.  But we also need priests and deacons, we need religious sisters and brothers.  And God continues to call them – but that call is becoming harder and harder to hear.  We struggle even to ask the right question, because the world around us has encouraged us to focus on ourselves and our own desires.  I want to ask you today to focus on something different.  What is God asking from you?  Because – you see – that’s the key to real happiness in this life.  I had it all – career – house – car – love – success – family.  I had it all…and I thought I was happy.  But then I started to ask God a different question…and discovered that there was more!  Living life as a complete “Yes” to God’s plan for us is a life like no other – it’s a Great Adventure!  It takes us beyond our wildest dreams!  It leads to a happiness and fulfillment I couldn’t have imagined was even possible.  That’s what I want for you…but more importantly, that’s what God wants for you. 

There are some here at this Mass that God is calling to consider priesthood or religious life.  If you think about it for just a moment, you know who I’m talking about.  Maybe it’s you…  We want to help them – we want to help you – listen for God’s voice – for God’s call.  If you would, take a few moments now and consider this question:  Could God be calling you to the Great Adventure of priesthood or religious life?  If so…fill out the front side of the card you received coming in to Church.  We’ll send you some information that can help you hear God speak.  And think about this, too…you know each other well.  You can see the heart of a servant in those around you.  You know who God seems to be working with in a special way…  Maybe they’re being called to the Great Adventure of priesthood or religious life.  On the back of the card, you can provide the name and whatever other information you know to help us get in touch with them and help them.


There are folks in this Church today who God is calling To Save a Thousand Souls.  Maybe it’s you.  Maybe it’s someone you know.  Please share that information with us, and place your card in with the offering in a few minutes.  Our greatest happiness in this life is found in knowing and doing God’s will for our lives – it’s a life like no other – it’s the Great Adventure!  Who is God calling?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What About the Servants?

28 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul - Danville

What about the servants?

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I’ve prayed with this parable hundreds of times.  It is packed with insight.  Insight about the king:  all he wants is for everyone to enjoy the feast, but time and again the invited guests shrug off his kindness and friendship.  They’re too busy, too focused on their own priorities to enjoy the king’s hospitality.  That’ll preach – I’ve preached it before: look what happens when we set our priorities higher than the king’s; the king sends destruction upon us and our city.  Whatever that means, I don’t want it.  There are insights about those who receive the invitation and are willing to come:  we don’t have to be worthy to come to the feast, as long as we’re willing to receive the invitation and say yes, we get to go to the feast!  That’ll preach – I’ve preached it before.  We don’t have to be smart, holy, or have it all figured out – all we have to do is come when we’re invited.  Will you come?  Insights about the difference between being worthy and being prepared:  we do have to come wearing our love of God and our trust in Christ and the Sacraments.  That’ll preach – I’ve preached it before.  We don’t have to be worthy, but we do have to be prepared – wrapped up in our trust of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, relying on His grace in the sacraments, or we’ll be thrown out.  Getting dressed for the feast is to wrap ourselves in Christ, His love, His discipline and obedience, accepting of and conforming ourselves to His teaching and God’s plan. 

Mmmm…good…very good, Dr. Carter – as one of my professors used to say.

But what about the servants?

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What do the servants in this Gospel tell us about being a family of joyful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ?  We’re supposed to get busy summoning the invited guests to the banquet.  Hmm…have we done that this week?  Go…tell those invited…all is ready…  What’s that look like?  Who are the invited guests? 

Some of you have been members of this parish for years.  Who used to be in youth group with you, but you haven’t seen at Mass for ages?  Who was Confirmed with you – received their First Communion with you – are they among us now?  Surely the Catholics we grew up with who have wandered away are among the invited guests we should be summoning to the feast each week.  I know it looks like we decided to remodel the dining room on Thanksgiving day in here…but in all the ways that really matter, “everything is ready, come to the feast.”  Among your family and friends, who has wandered far from the saving embrace of Holy Mother Church and the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacraments?  Who are you thinking of right now?  When was the last time you offered to bring them to Mass with you?  Surely that’s at least part of what it means to be a joyful missionary disciple of Jesus Christ

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What do the servants in this Gospel tell us about being a family of joyful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ?  We need to be about the Master’s business summoning the invited guests and absolutely everyone else to the feast.  “Invite to the feast whomever you find…the bad and the good alike…”  There are no qualifications for the invitation the servants are called to spread.  Race, color, nationality, sexuality, success, background – invite to the feast whomever you find.  Intelligence, personality, likability, profession – invite to the feast whomever you find.  Married, divorced, divorced and remarried – invite to the feast whomever you find.  Criminal, madman, liar, lunatic, leper, outcast, offensively smelly or just as offensively clean and proper and ridiculously polished – invite to the feast whomever you find. 

What do we learn from the servants?  That joyful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Eucharist and strengthened by the Sacraments who are eager to live for the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls must be busy summoning everyone to the feast!  Those who have been invited – former Catholics, lapsed Catholics, fallen away Catholics – and everyone else!  “Go out therefore into the main roads, and invite to the feast whomever you find…the good and the bad alike.”  Sounds an awful lot like something we’ve been saying for a while:  whoever you are, however you are, you are welcome here!  In the middle of our construction, and dirt and mess – you are welcome here.  All of them – all of you – are welcome here!

Oh – there’s work to when they come to the feast.  Guests can’t be caught without being wrapped in a saving love of Jesus that knows, accepts, and freely – freely – conforms their life to the discipline and teaching of the Church.  We love one another through that – walk with one another as we get there – serve one another while the Holy Spirit works beyond our obstinance, fear, pride, and hubris, and convicts us to be transformed from the ways and thinking of this dying world to be through, with, and in Christ Jesus.  Yes – there’s work to be done once the guests arrive to clothe them in the wedding garment…but if we get too caught up in that before they even make it inside the door we’ve messed it all up.

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Joyful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ go about summoning people to the feast.  All the people.  Calling the wayward back home and seeking out all the rest.  Whoever you are, however you are, you are welcome here!  And if you can hear the sound of my voice on our new speakers today – you are called to be heralds of this good news!  Who did you invite to Mass this weekend?  Who will you invite next weekend?  Are you doing that?  How are you doing that?  Will you do that? 

“All things are ready – come to the feast!”