You Have to Know His Mercy to Show His Mercy

Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
September 17, 2017
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 8:00 AM; Holy Trinity, Tabor – 10:00 AM

Focus:              You have to know His mercy to show His mercy.
Function:        Know His mercy.


pope francis confession

To the servant, mercy was shown.
But by him, it was not known.
And because it was not known
To another, it could not be shown.
And because it could not be shown
In the end, the only thing to be known
Was pain and torture, which was shown

The debt he owed was massive.

In the time of Jesus, the main currency was the denarii. A denarii was a day’s wage. If one worked six days a week and rested on the Sabbath, there would be 312 working days in a year, so a person could earn 312 denarii per year.

A talent was six thousand denarii. If one worked 312 days per year, every year, it would take him 19 years to bring in one talent. A working man of that time would bring in his first talent after working for half of his lifetime.

This servant owed a “myriad of talents.”

A myriad was ten thousand.

Sixty million days’ wages.

It would take him 5,000 lifetimes to earn the amount needed to cover his debt. And that was before he provided for the needs of his family.

He owed a massive debt that he had absolutely no hope of paying.

And payment day came.

Payment day came, and he pleaded with the Master, “Please, give me some time! Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full!”

Be patient with me?!

Five thousand lifetimes! The servant owed ten thousand talents. The most he could hope to pay back was two!

Yet, the master did something incredible. He forgave the entire debt.

To the servant, mercy was shown.
But by him, it was not known.

It was not known because he did not accept the forgiveness of the debt. The Master looked upon him with pity, but like so many of us, he didn’t want pity. He wanted to pay back what he owed even though it was impossible. He wanted to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He accepted not mercy but an extension on an unpayable loan.

Rather than looking with amazement and profound gratitude on the incredible gift he has just been given, he runs to the couch and digs through the cushions, looking for enough change to make the next payment on his mansion.

He spurns the gift of the Master.

He chokes the servant who owes him 100 denarii – a debt that can be repaid within the year – and demands that it be paid back in full immediately.

To the servant, mercy was shown.
But by him, it was not known
And because it was not known
To another, it could not be shown.
And because it could not be shown
In the end, the only thing to be known
Was pain and torture, which was shown

Brothers and sisters, like that servant, you and I owe a massive debt. It is a debt that we have no hope of repaying.

God has given us everything we have. He has given us life. He has given us our family and friends. He has given us our health. He has given us our skills, talents, food, water, and freedom. We can never repay him for what we have been given. All we have is gift.

In the words of Psalm 49:
For no man can buy his own ransom,
Or pay a price to God for his life.
The ransom of his soul is beyond him.
He cannot buy life without end,
Nor avoid coming to the grave.

In spite of the gift we have been given, we added to the debt we already owed God. We sinned against him. We spurned the gifts we’ve been given. With the first sin, death entered the world.

Paul tells us in the Letter to the Romans that:
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a).

Death entered the world, and we owed a debt that could not be paid. But God himself paid it for us. He sent his Son in to the world to pay the debt that we ourselves could not pay. That’s the Good News of the Gospel!  Yes, the wages of sin is death, but that’s only the first half of the sentence.  The verse from Romans continues:

The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Christ has set us free. Christ has paid the debt. It is a double gift. First, the gift of life and everything we have and are. Second, redemption of the gift which we spurned with our sins.

Do we accept the gift we’ve been given?

Do we accept the mercy offered by God every day?

Or, like the servant in today’s Gospel, do we spurn the gift, foolishly trying to pay back a debt that we are unable to repay, frantically trying to take care of it ourselves rather than accepting the gift we’ve been given?

All that God asks of us is to be merciful with each other as he has been merciful to us. But until we know the mercy that he has shown us, we will not be able to show it to others.

You have to know His mercy to show His mercy.

Do you know His mercy?

How long has it been since you’ve been to Confession?

You have to know His mercy to show His mercy.

Realize the magnitude of the gift that is offered to you, and accept it. Accept it, and you will be amazed how easy it becomes to forgive others their faults, when you realize how much you yourself have been forgiven.

To you, his servant, mercy is shown.
If by you, it could only be known…
To another, how easily it could be shown!
And if it could be shown
In the end, the only thing to be known
Is the gift of eternal life, which will be shown.

 

You Need a Watchman

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
September 9-10, 2017
Sacred Heart, EGF – 5:30 PM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 8:00 AM; Holy Trinity, Tabor – 10:00 AM

Focus:              You need a watchman.
Function:        Who’s your watchman?


spiritual-watchman

I have appointed you watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.

The watchman had a heavy responsibility. He was stationed on the highest part of a city to warn the citizens of an approaching enemy.  From his perspective, the watchman had a clearer view than others.  He could see what they could not see, and so it was his job to warn them of the danger that they could not see coming.

The capital sin is pride. Pride was the original sin that led Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  They thought they could be like God himself.  They were wrong.  Pride is a blinding sin.  It causes us to fail to see the faults in ourselves – faults that others can clearly see.  And so, like the house of Israel, we need a watchman.

You need a watchman.

You need a watchman who will sound the alarm when he sees you walking into danger.

You need a watchman who will warn you when you veer off of the narrow path that leads to eternal life and begin to walk down the wide road that leads to destruction.

You need a watchman with the courage and the clarity of Paul Revere, a watchman who will not remain enclosed in the fortress of his own self-preservation, a watchman who will ride through the darkened streets of your conscience, shining the lantern of truth to enlighten your mind and heart to the approaching of the enemy that you cannot see.

Brothers and sisters, you need a watchman.

You need a watchman who will hold you accountable to living the Christian life.

You need a watchman with the courage to challenge you when you need to be challenged.

You need a watchman…in other words, you need a good friend. St. Basil the Great said it well: For in this way especially does a friend differ from a flatterer: the flatterer speaks to give pleasure, but the friend refrains from nothing, even that which causes pain.

You need a watchman.

Who is your watchman?

Do you have one?

Do you listen to him? Do you heed his warning?  Or do you deafen the ears of your heart to the cry of his voice?

In the Gospel, Jesus gives us the way in which we are to sound the alarm. He gives us the teaching on fraternal correction, on how to correct a brother or sister.  He shows us how to be a good watchman.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.

Being a watchman takes courage. If you really want to grow in the Christian life, choose someone you trust and share your heart with them.  Let them in on your struggles.  Ask them to hold you accountable.  Appoint him as your watchman, and watch your friendship deepen as you grown in holiness together.

Be a watchman for others. But know your motivation.  Your only motivation must be love. Love does no evil to the neighbor, hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. There is an easy way to check your motivation.  If you enjoy being a watchman for others and pointing out their faults, then your motivation is not love – it is pride – and you are not the right person to be their watchman.  If it pains you to think about telling another person about the danger you see them in, but it weighs heavily on your heart, then you are probably the right person to tell them.  Perhaps the Lord is appointing you as their watchman.  Tell them with love.  We always tell the truth with love.  Love wills the good of the other and requires sacrifice of us.  Tell them with love and leave the decision to them.  The watchman sounded the alarm but it was up to the citizens to act.

Brothers and sisters, you need a watchman. We are called to be watchmen for each other.

Who is your watchman?

Who are you watching out for?

 

 

Chaplain’s Conference – At the Beginning

the Beginning

Sacred Heart Catholic School
Chaplain’s Conference – High School
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Here we are at the beginning of a new school year. Day 3. The nerves are starting to wear off as we settle in. We are figuring out the routine. We are learning the schedule. Students are learning their teachers and teachers are learning their students.

We stand just inside the doorway of this new school year. We stand at the beginning. I would like to reflect a bit this morning on the importance of beginnings. I think that beginnings offer us a unique opportunity, an opportunity that can be easily lost in the hustle and bustle of the school day if we don’t pay attention. Beginnings, especially this beginning of a new school year, offer us an opportunity to pause, to look at where we are now, and to look at where we are going.

What is in store for you this year? How will you have changed by the end of this school year? How will you have grown, or not grown? How will you be different?

Who do you desire to be at the end of this school year? Perhaps more importantly, who does God desire you to be?

I know who God desires you to be.

He desires you to be a saint.
He desires you to be young men and young women of integrity, men and women of character, men and women of virtue.
He wants to set you free from the sins that enslave you.
He wants you to flourish.
He wants you to be joyful.
He wants you to be bold and confident. He wants you to be a leader. He wants you to know what your life is about.
He wants you to learn to love more deeply.
He wants you to live your life to the full.

He loves you infinitely, and he wants you to know of his love for you.
He loves the person sitting next to you infinitely, and he wants you to love them with His heart.
He even loves the person you can’t stand – your enemy – infinitely. And he calls you to love even them, especially them, with His heart.

He desires for you to learn to love, to truly love, because love is of God, and it is love to which we are called. Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice, just like sin is a choice. To love is to will the good of another. To love is to choose the good of another. You can love someone even if you don’t like someone because you can choose the good of the other person even if you don’t like them.

You are called to love. You are called to love with the Heart of God. You are called to love with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ under whose Lordship we place this school!

Brothers and sisters, that starts here. That starts now. That starts today. At the beginning.

If we do not choose to practice love of God and love of neighbor here, now, today and every day this year, how can we expect to learn it? How can we expect to get where we are going?

The road to Heaven, the road to sainthood, is paved with your choices, your daily choices, your hourly choices, the choices of each moment, to live the great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

Here at Sacred Heart, you are given the means to do this. You are given everything you need. You are presented with opportunities every day to practice loving God and loving each other.

Here at the beginning of this school year, I would offer a couple of suggestions if you would take up the challenge to become men and women who love deeply and live fully.

First: pray.

You are given ample opportunities here to pray. You have Mass on Friday. You have a prayer period every day. You are given opportunities to lead prayer in your classrooms. Learn to pray.

Prayer is a relationship. If you are going to learn to love God and to love others with the heart of God, you must learn to pray. You must encounter the living God. This requires something of you. You have to give yourself to prayer. You must give yourself fully to prayer and seek to praise God, to thank God, to ask God for what you and for what others need with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. You cannot learn to pray if you simply stand on the sidelines with everyone else. You have to get in the game. So often we end up just going through the motions. Going through the motions, or just “being here” while prayer is going on, is not prayer. It is a waste of your time.

In the Mass, the priest says “Lift up your hearts.” We respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.” When I was in the seminary, our rector would command us to do this: “Lift up your hearts!” We would exclaim “We lift them up to the Lord!” That command would always snap me out of my lukewarmness and cause my heart to surge. Prayer requires that of us. It requires energy, it requires strength, it requires you to choose to give yourself over to it. It requires you to choose to say the words, to speak up with enthusiasm, and to mean what you say.

Brothers and sisters, in our celebrations together this year, as we pray together, I challenge you to “lift up your hearts!” I dare you to turn your prayer into true worship. Say the words with vigor and with enthusiasm, and mean what you say. Think about what you say. Be bold! Lift up your hearts and voices and sing the songs of praise to God. Think about the words you sing and mean what you sing. Give yourself over to prayer and your heart will learn to love more deeply. Give yourself over to prayer with all of the strength at your command and it will stretch your heart so that it can contain the love of God Himself, a love that you can then pour out to others.

Pray.

Pray together in the Church. Pray together in your classrooms. Pray alone in the Chapel.

Ask your friends and classmates to pray for you. Ask them to pray with you. Pray in your own words – in a heart-to-heart conversation with God. This is risky. It will be awkward at first. But if you practice it regularly you will see friendships deepen – your friendship with God and your friendships with each other. Take the risk. Your love will deepen.

As we strive to love, we will fail at times. We will fall. We will sin. When that happens, acknowledge it and repent – turn away from it – and turn toward the Lord’s mercy in the confessional. Regular confession is something that will greatly help you grow in your ability to pray and to love God and each other more deeply. There is more joy over one sinner who repents than over 99 people who have no need of repentance. How often do you go to confession? I challenge you to be bold and go regularly. Once a year is the bare minimum. Once a month is a good rule of thumb. When your conscience pricks you, when you have sin weighing you down and getting in the way of your prayer and your relationship with God, come to the confessional. God’s mercy awaits you.

This year, you will have three opportunities every week for confession. A priest will be available to hear confessions during the Prayer Period on Tuesday mornings when Adoration is taking place. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, a priest will be available in the chapel during the lunch periods. Fr. Paul Kuhn of Holy Family, Fr. Kyle Metzger of St. Michael’s and I will take turns covering these periods. We are available to hear confessions or for spiritual direction or counsel. We are available to teach you how to pray. If you want to speak to a priest about what is going on in your heart, come and talk to us. We are here for you.

Something I used to think as a teenager, and something I have already heard several times as a priest, is this: “I could never confess this sin to a priest” or “I could never confess my sins to this priest – he’d think badly of me.” This is a lie from the Evil One to keep you enslaved to your sins. Brothers and sisters, you cannot free yourself from your sins. Only Christ can free you from your sins. Turn to Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He has given real power to the words of his priests, power to forgive your sins in His name. You will find mercy, not condemnation. I promise you that.

Pray.

Second: Study.

Work hard at your studies. Apply yourself to your studies. Pay attention in class. Ask questions. Strive to learn. St. Thomas Aquinas once described the approach to theology, which is the study of God, as “faith seeking understanding.” That’s a great way to approach our learning. We know that the truth is out there. The truth is in here. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus Christ is the truth – truth is a person. Seek to understand the truth because the truth is real. Ask questions not for the sake of challenging or for winning an argument, but ask questions for the sake of deepening your understanding. If you find yourself disagreeing with something you are learning, ask questions and try to understand what your teacher is saying. Ask someone else to help you understand. Learn to seek the truth, to seek Jesus Christ, with your minds and hearts and not just with your emotions. I hope that you experience Sacred Heart as a place where you can ask honest questions. What you are learning matters to your life. It makes a difference in your life.

Study.

Finally: Serve.

Throughout the coming year, you will have many opportunities to serve. Seek them out. Look for opportunities to serve each other. Volunteer when volunteers are needed. Volunteer before you are asked! If you see a need, look for a way to fulfill the need.

When a teacher asks for someone to volunteer to lead prayer in class, step up and volunteer.
When people are needed to assist in the cafeteria or to serve at Mass, step up and serve.
Serve not out of a need to fill your commitment hours, but serve out of gratitude to God for all that He has given you.

Love manifests itself in service. Learn to serve with joy and you will learn to love with joy.

Serve your teachers. Serve your classmates. Serve your teammates. Serve each other.

Saint John Paul II once said that man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. You will not find yourself until you make a gift of yourself. Jesus said, “He who loses his life for my sake will find it.” You will find true joy and true happiness when you learn to serve others out of love.

This is great training for your future vocation. What type of husband and father do you desire to be? What type of wife and mother do you desire to be? What type of priest or religious do you desire to be? Do you desire to be the type of person who gives, who is selfless, who loves, who makes life easier for his family by bearing their burdens? Or do you desire to be the person who takes, who waits to be served, who places a heavy burden on his family? Your vocation as a husband, father, wife, mother, priest, or religious is not about you. It is about others. Your vocation is about giving your life in service to others, ultimately to help them to get to Heaven.

Your training for that starts here, now, today…at the beginning. 

Brothers and sisters, the choices you make today, at the beginning, will form you into the person you will be tomorrow. Laurie Hernandez said it well: Your future doesn’t start ten years from now, 10 months from now, 10 days from now, or 10 minutes from now. It starts today.

It starts today. It starts now. At the beginning.

God Gave You Everything You Have

Homily for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
September 3, 2017

Sacred Heart, EGF – 8:00 AM; 10:00 AM

Focus:        God gave you everything you have.
Function:  Give out of gratitude for what you’ve been given.


stewardshipEvery so often, it’s good for us to stop and take an inventory of what God has given us, as well as how we’re using what he’s given us.

And what has God given us?

He has given us everything.
He has given us life.
He has given us our families and friends.
He has given us gifts and talents.
He has given us time to develop and use those gifts and talents.
He has given us treasure.

Everything that we have is a gift from God. And the gifts we have been given are not for ourselves alone, but to be used in service to God and to others. They have been given to us so that we may give them away. They have been given to us to be used for building up the Kingdom.

Every so often, it’s good for a disciple to stop and take stock of his stewardship. Stewardship is a matter of the heart. A good steward realizes what he owns is not his own but has been put into his care by another. Everything we have is a gift. A good steward realizes this and gives back to God out of gratitude for what he has been given.

Stewardship is a matter of the heart. Test your heart. What’s your attitude toward your time, your talents, and your treasure? Do you find yourself saying “This is mine” or “this is owed to me”? Do you find yourself asking “What’s in it for me?”

Or do you find yourself asking “What can I give? What can I do?”

During my first year of seminary, a wise priest gave us some advice that has made this come alive for me. Seminarians don’t receive a pay check. They receive a small stipend but it doesn’t cover very much. However, at Christmas time, people are very generous. This priest warned us that it can be very easy to begin to “count on” what others would give us at Christmas time – to begin to feel entitled to it or as if it were owed to me. And that sense of entitlement is dangerous to our spiritual lives because it erodes the sense of the gift.

He suggested a simple practice to keep this in check. He suggested that each year, as Christmas approached, but before we received our first gift, to decide on a percentage that we would give away to charity. Since these were gifts, the percentage might be higher than normal – say 20 or 30 percent.

I took him up on this challenge during my first year in seminary. It revealed a lot about my heart.

The first thing that it revealed was how easy it is to feel entitled. The more that I received, the harder it was to give away a higher amount. I found myself wanting to reduce the percentage that I had committed to giving. After all, people had given this money to me. It was mine, and I should be able to do with it what I want…but of course therein lies the trap of entitlement…

The second thing that it revealed was how much I wanted to depend on myself rather than on God. The amount that I was giving away was significantly higher than my monthly stipend. Shouldn’t I be able to count on this money to provide for my needs throughout the year? Except, of course, that everything I had received was a gift in the truest sense of the word, over and above what I could have expected to receive. God was the one providing for my needs by of the generosity of his people. I wanted to depend on myself while in reality I was completely dependent on him.

The third thing it revealed was the magnitude of the gift, of what I’d been given. At first, I found myself focusing on the large sum that I was giving away. Over time, I found that what I was giving away made me more grateful for what I got to keep. The amount I was giving away made me more aware of how much people had given, of how generous they had been toward me. It increased my gratitude for what I’d been given. What was even more powerful was that often after I had made the donations to charity, more checks would come and they would cover a large amount of what I’d just given away. God would not be outdone in generosity.

Every so often, it’s good for us to stop and take stock of our stewardship. God has given you everything you have. What is the attitude of your heart regarding what God has given you?

God gives you 168 hours every week. How do you use the time you’ve been given?

How many hours do you use to visit others, to encourage others, to serve others, to edify others? How many hours do you give back to God in prayer and in service to the Church and your community? How many hours do you use developing the gifts, skills, and talents that you’ve been given?

How much time do you give the Lord each week?

God has given you unique gifts and talents. What talents has He given you? Have you discovered all of them yet? I bet that some of them are still hidden…

He has given the gift of music and art to inspire and to lift the soul to God.

He has given the gift of writing – the ability to twist a phrase and tell a story to teach important life lessons and to convert hearts.

He has given the gift of listening, of empathy, of being a good conversationalist or a great encourager and there are people who long for a word of hope, who long for another to hear them.  There are people who are homebound or in nursing homes who long for your company.

He has given the gift of athletic abilities that make us stand in wonder at what human beings are capable of.

He has given the gifts of carpentry, of woodworking, of being the handy-man who can fix anything.

Do you give your talents back to God by using them to glorify him? Do you use your God-given talents to build up the Church and the community around you? How much time to you give each week using your talents for the building up of the Kingdom?

Saint John Paul II once said that man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself (Gaudium et Spes, #24). God is love. The inner life of the Trinity is a continual outpouring of love – a complete and total gift of self. We are made in the image and likeness of this God. Our lives are meant to flourish in an outpouring of love. Love wills the good of another. Love builds up. One who loves makes a sincere gift of himself to another.

Brothers and sisters, every so often it’s good for us to stop and take stock of our stewardship. Here at Sacred Heart, we are celebrating September as stewardship month. We have been given this time to evaluate the state of our hearts when it comes to everything God has given us.

God gave you everything you have.
Give to him out of gratitude for everything He’s given to you.

Give to him out of gratitude even when it hurts and your life will become a living sacrifice acceptable to God. You will find that you have more than enough. Your gratitude for what you have will increase.

Peter tried to stop Jesus from giving everything he had for us because he was thinking like human beings do and not as God does. Let us learn from Peter’s mistake.

Jesus gave everything to redeem us.
He continues to give everything he has to us in this Eucharist.

Let us give to him out of gratitude for everything he’s given for us.