Ascension Sunday 2022: Even Better

Today’s homily is for The Ascension of the Lord, May 29, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

There is a popular song by country music artist, Garth Brooks, that I enjoy quite a lot, and has probably done more for my understanding of prayer than many years of education. You might know the song, “Unanswered Prayers.” The chorus is, “Just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean that he don’t care, some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted, but God gave me what I needed instead. Maybe you know what I’m saying. There are times when it’s a good thing I’m not in charge, because God’s plan is just that much better than mine–and he’s always just blowing me away. 

Today’s Gospel is one of those times for the apostles. It would have made no sense to them that it is better that he go. Of course, they wanted Jesus to stay! If you let any one of the disciples decide, they would have kept Jesus right there with them–but Jesus’ impact would be greatly reduced. 

They thought the best thing Jesus could do was to restore the Kingdom of Israel, Jesus, says, “I’m not just going to restore the kingdom of Israel, I’m going to restore the whole world by giving to the race of men, the very power of God. He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We always think small, but God thinks big. 

Jesus didn’t just want to hang out with them for a few more years, Jesus was going to send them the promise of the Father. His plan was to “clothe them with the power from on high.” They just wanted some new sandals, maybe, he says, “You’re getting a whole new wardrobe,” but to get that Spirit from God, Jesus had to leave them. 

I think life is like that sometimes. We have to let go, if we are going to receive. Too many times our hands are just too full of stuff to take hold of the gifts that God has prepared for us. I remember when my son, Mark, was just two years old. He was getting ready to walk down two steps to the garage. I put out my hand so he could take it. He looked at his right hand, and Thomas the train was in that hand. He looked at his left hand and Percy was in that one. He looked at my hand, his hand, his other hand, and he let go of Percy to grab my hand. Smart kid.

What an important lesson as this Easter season comes to an end. Our generous Lord wants to fill us with his Spirit and clothe us with power, but if we’re already full of the world, and our wardrobe is already too full; if we’re unwilling to empty ourselves, and unwilling to let go, we will not be able to receive the amazing gifts that God wants us to have. If we cling too tightly to our small minded wants, we will never reach for the power and lasting joy that God has prepared for us. Do not be afraid to let go. Let it go, God has the more for which our heart truly longs.

3rd S. Easter 2022: Choose Wisely

Today’s homily is for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

As we enter into our 3rd week of Easter, in the Gospel we see the Apostles’ encounter with Jesus, and we see in the Acts of the Apostles the opposition to the Apostles’ message that Jesus has in fact risen from the dead. Peter and the apostles tell the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. We are witnesses of these things.” 

As an administrator I do a lot of investigations into student conduct, I can’t tell you how important it is to me to get eyewitness testimony! A parent calls the school very upset about what happened at school. I am very quick to say, “Ma’am/Sir I wasn’t there…and with respect, neither were you. We’re getting second-hand information. Give me some time, I’ll talk with the teacher about what she saw, and I’ll get some student witnesses from both friend and foe, to figure out what really happened. Then I’ll call you back to follow up. I wasn’t there, but let me listen to people who were.” That’s smart right?

I wasn’t there when Jesus told Peter that he is the Rock and upon that rock he would build his church, and I wasn’t there at the Last Supper when Jesus said, “Take and eat, this is my body.” And I wasn’t there when Jesus breathed upon the apostles and said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them. And I wasn’t there when Jesus ate a meal with the disciples after he rose from the dead and said to Peter, “Do you love more than these? Feed my sheep.” But the apostles were, and they have given testimony to these incredible events that they witnessed with their own eyes. The Greek work for “witness” is mártyras, it’s where we get our word martyr–because the disciples went to their death giving witness to what they saw. They said, “We must obey God rather than men,” even to death. 

 And other people didn’t want to believe it, because to believe it would radically change their way of doing things–and so they rejected the truth of eyewitness accounts–and some even had them killed. The question before us today, what will we do? Will we believe it? Will we believe that Jesus performed great miracles, healing people and feeding thousands with a few pieces of bread? Will we believe that Jesus gave Peter his own authority to govern the apostles and the community of faith? Will we believe that through the Apostles and their successors ordinary bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ? And will we believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? 

To give your “yes” to these articles of faith, to accept the truth of the Gospel accounts is to place confidence not in what we saw, because we were not there, it requires us to place our confidence in what they saw, what they experienced, and what they gave their life for, and that will demand of us a radical change in the way we live our life–it has implications. God is real. God visited his people. God created a church. God created a hierarchy of leadership in that church, who not only have his power to forgive sins, but makes him present in the Eucharist, and fills us with his spirit through the bath of rebirth. And all of this makes us people of the resurrection. We are reborn. We are made new, clean, and right with God again. 

Don’t think for a second that after all of that, God isn’t calling us to his service in some way, the question is how is God calling us? And when we go forth into the world proclaiming Christ crucified and risen to the world, will we obey God, or the teachings of men? Choose wisely.

2nd S. Easter 2022: Be Divine

Today’s homily is for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 24, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

John’s Gospel tells us quite plainly, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” This is not a history book nor a science book, this was not written to teach us how the heavens go, it was written to teach us how to go to heaven; the very path to eternal life, the salvation of our soul. In God’s merciful love, his son paid a debt of sin that he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. And in God’s merciful love he inspired the sacred authors to write the roadmap of salvation. We don’t know of any other way that a person might be saved except through the waters of Baptism. 

What a wonderful gift these Scriptures are to us, that preserve the life and teaching of God’s people, Jesus, and the apostles, whom our Lord bound together by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and charged with continuing His work of healing and forgiving sins. 

Make no mistake, the sacred scriptures are quite clear, Jesus came to earth and planned to stay with us until the end of time, and He has—not in his flesh—but in the flesh of his ministers by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just soak that up for a second. Jesus is here guarding and guiding his Church. That was John’s vision. He saw Jesus sitting in the midst of seven golden lamp stands that represent the seven churches of Asia Minor, the candle being the bishop,  Christ’s light in a world of darkness. In god’s merciful love he remains among us protecting and guiding the Church. 

And our bishop has ordained the ministerial priesthood and deacons to be his help in making Jesus a visible reality in the community of faith and in the world. What an honorable vocation, what an exceptional calling. Tragic to have such a shortage of men willing to be his voice, his eyes, his hands and heart. Jesus still sits amidst his Churches—not just in Asia Minor, but throughout the whole world, on every continent. That’s why we must support missions and missionaries—that Christ might be in every country and every community. In God’s merciful love he sends out men and women to share the good news. 

Jesus said to the apostles, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” And the Apostles courageously went forth, and in Acts we heard, “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles.” The sick and those possessed by demons carried into the streets in the hope that the first Pope’s shadow might fall upon them and they might be healed. What a sight. The mission and ministry continues still to this day. The harvest is abundant, but the laborers few. I’m asking for a few things today—first, pray for vocations to the priestly, religious, and diaconal life—not just today, but everyday. Make it a part of your morning or evening prayer, or at meals. Secondly, read the Bible–get one if you don’t have one. If you are a Christian who has not read the story of Jesus’ earthly life from beginning to end, then you need to. Thirdly, support our parish, our diocese, our ministers, and the bishop who makes Christ present to us. With words of affirmation, with service, in financial generosity, or with a card that says thank you for letting Christ the teacher, healer, and servant live among us through your life. And finally, be merciful. Give someone a break–even when they don’t deserve it. Allow God’s Divine Mercy to flow through you to others. Be Divine.