A couple times a week, I’ll sit down with a cup of coffee and take a look at what’s been posted on Facebook... and honestly, I usually get into a bad mood when I look at Facebook – seems like it has become the battleground for liberals vs conservatives. So much slander, half-truths, and outright lies. Everyone is slamming each other. Everyone is sharing this story or that opinion or trying to defame someone.
So I was really pleased to see this post on there this morning, and it made me throw away the homily I had prepared and write a new one. Let me share it with you:
Last night the Jeeps played Paoli at home and I just wanted to give a shout out to one of their players...#12!! I don't know who this kid was and I don't even remember his name but I was very impressed with his behavior on the court!! A loose ball flew into our crowd and hit a lady and he walked over to make sure she was okay, then on several occasions I saw him walk over to one of our players on the floor and help them up...you don't see the opposing teams players do that very often!! He was a great ball player and I just thought his attitude needed to be recognized!! So if any of my Paoli friends or family know him...please give him a pat on the back from me!
Wow –it was like a light in the darkness… if there wasn’t so much negativity out there, this might not have caught my attention. But the fact that we don’t see this often enough tells me we need to be the ones to change our culture. Two things impress me about this post: first – the young man’s actions were obviously a great example to all of us for how we should treat one another. Second – I think the parishioner who posted this deserves a pat on the back for NOTICING the young man and for POINTING IT OUT so we can ALL be inspired by his actions.
Can you see how the readings relate to this? First the Gospel: What was John the Baptist’s purpose? He told us, “the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel”. John knew his purpose in life… it was to point out Jesus.
In the first reading: Isaiah said that God “formed me as his servant from the womb”. And also God told him, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah knew his purpose…to point to God.
Paul also knew his purpose – He was “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” – plus – he has something to say about who WE are: “to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy”.
I propose to you today that every one of those purposes is also OUR purpose.
> We are servants of God like Isaiah… called to do His will.
> God will make US a light to the nations… meaning we will point out to the world what God has done.
> We are called to be holy – which means ‘set apart’. We are in the world, but we’re here to CHANGE the world…to bring God’s presence to everyone.
> We are called to be apostles… betcha never thought of yourself as an apostle
We ARE apostles… which literally means – “one who has been sent on a mission”. What is our mission? There are a lot of answers to that, but let me offer two which directly relate to our readings:
We are called to point out Jesus and we are called to BE JESUS.
First – just like John pointed out Jesus, WE can point him out when we recognize Him. Like the facebook post I mentioned, this parishioner pointed out someone who showed Love. Where there is Love, there is God. If we point it out when we see it, we start to change the culture. By telling others about it, WE become a ray of light in the darkness. We become that light to the nations.
Second - Like the young man in the Facebook post, we can BE Jesus every time we show love and respect to one another. We have a great example right here in our parish: one of our religious education teachers – well I’ll tell you her name even though it will embarrass her: Kim Butler has challenged her students to create a “lollipop moment” for someone each week. I admit I hadn’t heard of a lollipop moment, so I had to learn… Let me briefly explain: There is an inspirational speaker Drew Dudley who tells the story of a young lady who is leaving home for the first time to go to college and she is scared… so scared she is ready to leave on registration day… but just then Drew came out with a crazy hat on and was passing out lollipops to everyone and just trying to make everyone feel welcome. He came to this young lady and could tell she was scared – and he handed a lollipop to the young man next to her in line and says, “you need to give some candy to this beautiful woman in front of you”. Then he turned to her parents and said – look – your daughter’s first day away from home and she’s ALREADY taking candy from a stranger! It was just what was needed to break the tension and make everyone laugh. Four years later, that young lady went back to Drew and explained how that moment had changed her life. She had been ready to give up on college, but now she was close to graduating. She had wanted to go back home to her comfortable, familiar life, but she stuck around and made new friends (and was still dating that young man who was in line with her). And what’s really interesting is that Drew couldn’t even remember that incident. He had done something to change this woman’s life, but for him, it was just one thing of the million things he did in his life.
You and I have the chance to do that. We can lift people UP with the smallest of actions: a smile, a sincere “how are you doing?”, maybe passing along an inspiring scripture verse or and encouraging word to someone on a text message, or maybe we can hand a lollipop to someone just to make them feel more comfortable. If you and I can get into the habit of doing this, we’ll do it without even thinking about it… we’ll change people’s lives and not even remember that we did it. Can Christians really change the world – uh- yeah!
The other thing we can do is to TELL others when THEY have done something that changed OUR lives. Can you imagine how Drew felt when he found out that what he did was so impactful on this young lady? How did that make him feel? Do you think it made him want to do that even more?
He uses the term “lollipop moment” to describe this, but I like to call these “Grace moments”, because when we do something nice for someone, they get to feel the Grace of God – and we also get to feel good about it – which is the Grace of God. The more Grace we give, the more we get back.
When we do this, we are BEING JESUS in the world.
What’s our purpose? You and I are Apostles, Sent by God to Be Jesus and point out Jesus to the world.