07/16/2017 - "COME TO ME"

 “COME TO ME!”

Last Sunday in His Holy Gospel, Jesus extended to us a very simple and easy to understand invitation, and yet if we responded to Him, that which He promised us was amazing and overwhelming! Now, there are many ways we can approach our Lord’s invitation but the themes of Holy Mass and the readings encourage us to do so through the lens of GROWTH and JOY. In the collect, the opening prayer of Holy Mass, the Bride of Jesus asked the Father to fill our hearts with holy joy and in the first reading, Zechariah exhorted us to rejoice on account of  the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise and presence!

 BISHOP SHEEN’S PRINCIPLE

Growth is an essential element of life! Bishop Sheen taught very clearly that there is no “STOP!” button in life; there is no “STAYING THE SAME”; either we are ascending or we are descending. By ascending, we mean growing, growing closer to Jesus, and becoming more like Him. By descending, we mean growing further and further from our Lord and becoming less and less like Him. Here at St. Louise, we have embraced the reality that how we live our life is important, it has great value for how we live our life during our earthly pilgrimage and gives us an indication of how we shall live eternally. If we spend our life on earth growing closer to Jesus, our eternal life will be a continuation of that: paradise! If we spend our earthly life growing further and further from Jesus, our eternal life will be a continuation of that: hell. Let me share with you my initial experience of growth. I was in my early twenties and my initial experience of growth is that it sucked! It was hard. It was difficult. It was challenging. I desired so much to become a man, and a man of integrity; and yet the challenges that I faced seemed insurmountable at times. I began to experience being hurt, betrayed, and abandoned by others. I experienced great frustration as I saw my expectations of life continually come crushing to the ground. And so, I began to dig trenches in life, I began to build a bunker, and I drew lots of lines in the sand: if that person does or says that again, I’m done with them. Well, they would cross my line and then I would be done with them. I experienced my social and familial life growing smaller and smaller and myself becoming more and more isolated. In the midst of all this, I would experience Jesus tugging at me. He was inviting me to stop digging trenches and to come forth from my bunker. I became angry: why do I have to be the one that has to keep growing! Why can’t they be the ones to grow! After a while, I rebelled. I told the Lord that I was done. He was just going to have to accept me the way I was. I was going to stay the same. Well . . . when we do that in life, we experience the truth of Bishop Sheen’s teaching. You can’t stay the same. You will become less patient, less understanding, less generous, less forgiving, and less loving. I praise and thank Jesus that He did not leave me in the bunker! Frequent confession and frequent reception of His Body and Blood softened my heart so that I repented of my rebellion and asked His mercy and healing.

 “HO ANCORA MOLTO DA IMPARARE”

Then, in my early thirties, the first year of my priesthood, I had the grace to live a year with Cardinal Augustin Mayer, osb. He was 94 years old and had broken his shoulder. I was to spend a year assisting him as he recovered from his surgery. Some of the first words I heard out of his mouth are those Italian words that served as the title of the homily. It was the day of his 94th birthday and I heard him say: “Ho ancora molto da imparare!” that is “I still have much to learn!” Those words blew me away. Here is this holy Cardinal, he’s 94 years old, and he is acknowledging that he still has much to learn. Wow! I realized that it was okay not to have all the answers in life and that it was actually beautiful to always be open to grow and to learn. So, where are you at in life? Have you hit the “STOP” button? Have you dug trenches and built bunkers? Or have you been ascending, holding the hand of Jesus. No matter where you are at in life, Jesus draws near to you through His Gospel and He extends to you a very simple invitation: “COME TO ME!” Come to me! That’s it! That is the Gospel! The Son of God calls you by name to come unto Himself, to be with Him! His command is not: get your life together; but, come to me and you will find rest! Come to me, and I will heal your deepest wounds and answer the deepest cries that come forth from your heart! And if you respond to Jesus, draw near to Him, stand before Him and hear the sweetness of His voice, He promises that you will live your life in communion with Him. You can bring Him everything: relationships, work, finances, health, joys and sorrows, and He will teach you. You will learn from Him. You will experience continuous growth and therefore an ever deepening joy!

AN INVITATION FROM YOUR PASTOR

The Alpha experience is one of the most gentle and yet firm hands that our Lord extends to you. Alpha is not about judging or condemning you, or showing you how wrong you have been. Alpha will bring you to a safe place where you will stand in the presence of Jesus: you will come to know and experience that He is truly alive and truly loves you! Alpha just might inspire you to crack the window of your bunker, and if you do, I promise you will experience a gentle and beautiful breeze flowing over your life and warmth and a light filling your soul!

Whatever your plans are for this week, let’s remember to keep each other in prayer.

In Jesus and Mary,

Fr. Michael