As we move forward under our Archbishop’s leadership to unleash the Gospel, we will face challenges together. The transition and transformation that our Lord is asking of us will be difficult, but it is absolutely worth all our effort and good will. As more and more of us commit to follow Jesus and to joyfully bear witness to our relationship with Him, He will begin to confirm our testimony by moving with power in our midst. Hearts, lives, families and communities will be changed! Our joy will grow as more are called to enter into fellowship with us!


One of the first challenges we will face is the Lord asking us to examine the “instruction manual of life” that we follow. As I prayed in the chapel and spoke and listened to the Lord, He made it clear that this is a pivotal point for all our lives: to reflect and examine the instruction manual that guides us both in our ordinary, daily life and in extraordinary moments. This instruction manual addresses some of the most fundamental questions about what life is supposed to be, what God is supposed to do, and what we are supposed to do. For many of us, this instruction manual was composed over time in a joint effort between us and the spirit or wisdom of this world. As we experienced all kinds of different situations, relationships, hurts, sorrows, joys and betrayals, we composed rules of conduct to guide us in the future.


This instruction manual has a preface. And, it might just sound like this: “I’m alive now! I need to do everything I possibly can to stay alive. I don’t know what happens after death. In fact, I am terrified of death. Therefore, I must do everything to preserve my life.” Based upon this preface, there rise to the surface four of the most important rules or guidelines of our life. First, I must strive to accumulate more wealth and possessions. The more I have, the more secure and safe I will be. Second, what I want and desire in any given moment is my driving force. Third, my personal happiness, how I feel is the most important thing in my life. Fourth, I want others to approve of me and speak well of me.


It goes without saying, that if our instruction manual was not written in a joint effort between us and the Lord, then it is going to stand in contrast to the Gospel! In fact, those four guiding principles received a “woe” pronounced over them by our Savior, by the One who created us so that we might share and participate in His Divine and Eternal Life. Not only does our instruction manual stand in contrast to the Gospel, it reduces God’s place in our lives to simply serve and meet our needs when we ask Him to. If He doesn’t or won’t; well then, we simply move on. Another major issue with our instruction manual is the place that “other” people have. They become either obstacles or means for us to obtain what we want. We ought never to use another person as a means for us to reach our ends!


Last Sunday, the prophet Jeremiah entered this conversation and showed us the consequences of following the spirit of this world. If we seek our strength in the flesh, if we turn our heart from the Lord, our life becomes barren. We live our life in a lava waste (a desert that knows no change of season). When our life becomes the “same old, same old”, it is a clear sign that our hearts have turned from the Lord.

St. Paul boldly proclaimed the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus and showed that our Lord rose from the dead and destroyed death so that we too might rise from the dead and live with God forever. We cannot reduce Jesus to a consultant, He is a mighty Savior. Our opportunity to live forever with God does not begin when we die, it begins when we begin to follow Jesus.


Jesus, in His Gospel, reveals that all He has done for us is so that we might have a heart like our Father: a heart that is loving, merciful, kind and good. Jesus has done so much for us so that we might commit to continuing His work of salvation. He shows us that once we make that decision to be His disciple our life will be blessed by the fullness of God. Following Jesus means striving to love others as He loves us. Other people are not obstacles or means. Other people are called to know and love the Father through the way we love and serve them. Doing this, loving others as Jesus loves us, will cause us to experience our poverty. The more we become aware of how patient the Lord is with us, we will be able to be patient with others. But, when we recognize how much we need Jesus in our poverty, He assures us that we will be blessed and we will enter His Kingdom! Watching the Lord move with power in the lives of others will cause us to become hungry for more and more people coming to know and love Him. He will satisfy our hunger as others enter into communion with Him and us! Our compassion will rise to the surface. We will weep with those who are weeping. We will console them and encourage them, and in doing this, our Lord will transform our sorrow into joy. And, when we are called to speak the truth and let our light shine in the darkness, the darkness will fight back. We will experience being hated and insulted. In that suffering, we will see how we are sharing in the suffering of our Savior and this will cause us to rejoice!


Our Archbishop is leading us in this precise transformation of our lives to become more and more like the life of Jesus! It is based on the firm conviction that our Father has chosen to use our lives as a principle means of communicating His Divine and Eternal life to others. Because we learn to receive and give God’s love through our fellowship with one another, a relationship with Jesus necessarily inserts us into a vibrant relationship with one another. Our Archbishop issued an invitation to all of us to make a step to enter more fully into communion with one another. For those who live their faith experience in isolation, not knowing others and not being known, and for those who believe it is unnecessary to relate to others, he reminds all of us that we have a responsibility to encourage and build up the faith of others. Communion and fellowship with one another is not optional. Remember what our Savior said: the world will come to know Him by the way that we love one another!


Prayer partners is a simple gesture that introduces us to communion with one another. It is a gesture of turning to someone near us, sharing our names, and entrusting a prayer intention. We have had countless stories of how people’s lives have been changed. One of the clearest testimonies comes from one of our parishioners, Mary. She turned to someone near her, told her name and asked what she could pray for. The person shared that their spouse was just diagnosed with cancer. The person began to weep. Mary was able to love that person, to encourage and console them in a moment of great sorrow. At the end of Mass, the person shared that they had been away from church for a while and that they knew the Lord inspired them to come to St. Louise because of Mary! A simple gesture of telling someone your name and asking to pray for them brought about a life changing encounter with Jesus! It works!

Fr. Michael