Saturday, May 19, 2018

2018/05/20 - Pentecost - It's Happening.

Just about everybody has one of these nowadays (hold up smartphone)… we all hold in our hands more computing power than was available in the whole world 60 years ago.  This little device has changed the world – literally – not too many years ago, if you wanted to research something, you had to get an encyclopedia.  Now – the library of the world is available through this device.  If you wanted to listen to music, you had to carry a stack of heavy black phonographs and a record player – now – every song ever recorded can be downloaded and listened to anywhere.  This has a camera on it that rivals the big 35mm cameras.  There are apps for just about anything:  navigation, work-outs, guitar tuner, level, on-line banking… and so much more.  All that in one little black box… Not to mention the fact that you can actually use this to talk to someone – although even that is becoming less common – instead – you just TEXT someone. 

It’s happening.  This phone is changing the world.

But – this little device is only as good as the battery inside of it!  Without power, it’s just a paperweight.  Eventually though, you gotta have one of these… a power cord…something to connect you to the power source.
Let’s pretend for a minute that this phone is the Church.  When Jesus was here, he wanted to change the world – and to do that, he  gave us this thing…the Church.  He gave it to us with a purpose:  to change the world!  And if you look back over the centuries, you can see that this device (The Church) continues to change the world. 
But it was a rough start – the twelve dudes he left in charge were scared to death – and they had good reason to be.  People were out to destroy this church before it ever got turned on.  If the Apostles had stepped out into the streets to spread the good news, they likely would have been afraid to speak up – they likely would have said things like, ‘who am I to force MY beliefs on somebody else’? 
The Church never would have been very useful, because the Good News never would have been spoken to anyone.  The Church was like a phone without a battery… lifeless – talking to nobody.  The Church was silent and useless UNTIL -  it got recharged….  The Church was stuck in a room upstairs somewhere, cowering.  Until – IT happened.
How do we know IT happened?
Because IT made a noise like a strong driving wind – IT lit up the place like tongues of fire – and most importantly – IT propelled the church OUT of the upper room and into the world to tell everyone about Jesus.  We don’t hear it in today’s reading, but right after this reading, Peter gave a sermon that was so powerful, 3000 people were baptized.  3000…in one day… obviously, SOMETHING was happening.  What did he say that was so powerful?  You can actually read it yourself in Act chapter 2.
What was IT that happened, that propelled that lifeless, cowering Church to go OUT into the world!?  Power!  Not just any batteries – DIVINE BATTERIES…Supernatural, supercharged power:  The Holy Spirit.
St. John Paul II said,  the “Holy Spirit Enlivens and Animates Church”
I like that word ANIMATE – it means to bring to life – this is a weird analogy, but think of it like Dr. Frankenstein as he shocks Frankenstein into life… one moment, he was a lifeless collection of body parts and the next, he was up and moving and talking.  IT’S ALIVE!!!  I know that’s a bad analogy – but THAT IS THE CHURCH!  …A lifeless collection of body parts until – shazam! – shocked into life- ‘animated’ by the Holy Spirit.
Maybe a better analogy would be a lifeguard doing cpr on someone who drowned… God reached down to breath life into the Church.  The breath he breathed into the Church is the Holy Spirit.
It was the Holy Spirit that ANIMATED the church – giving it not only LIFE, but the will and courage to share the joy that Jesus had given them.  Once they plugged into the power source, they sprang to life.
You and I can plug into that same power source!  Imagine if when your phone is going dead, all you had to do was close your eyes and think real hard about electricity – and that would re-charge your phone instantly!  That would be GREAT  - we wouldn’t need this little cord.  We could go anywhere – as far from civilization as we care to go – and never worry about being away from our power source.
Well – with the Holy Spirit – that’s all it takes.  “Come Holy Spirit”… a simple prayer, and we are plugged-in to the very source of supernatural power.  The same power that raised the dead, healed the blind, forgave sins, and brought the Church to life is IN US!!!  This Spirit animates US – it drives US out the doors of this church building to share the joy we’ve found in Jesus.  We’re no longer cowering or embarrassed about our faith.  The world IS WAITING for the joy you and I are sent to share.  We have to believe that.  3000 people in one day?  It just took one sermon.  Imagine if every one of US got animated. 
The Holy Spirit continues to animate the Church – in fact, I’m told that in Africa, on average 3000 people come into the Christian faith EVERY DAY!  Think about that – a Pentecost EVERY DAY.  The Spirit is still at work.
Look at This community of Faith – we are ALIVE!  VIBRANT!  Great things are happening!
Did you know we now have two young men from St. Isidore entering the Seminary this Fall? 
Did you know we already have had like 10 priests ordained from this parish?   Three are still alive.
Did you know we have had MANY nuns from our parish - at least 7 are still living. 
Did you know we have two Discipleship groups:  one aimed at college and young adults – and the other for anyone!? 
Did you know that other parishes look up to OUR kids because they are more well-formed in their faith than other kids?! 
We have a great pastor, two great church buildings, a community of volunteers…
This parish is ALIVE!  The Spirit continues to animate us – to propel us into the world to fulfill our purpose:  to share the joy we’ve found… to change the world.  If you don’t personally feel animated, maybe you should check your power cord.  Plug yourself in and hold on, because…  IT is happening.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

2018/05/06 - Get In the Game

When Jerry was just starting school, he and his buddy Steve would run out to the playground at recess every day to watch the older kids playing kickball.  Y’all know what kickball is? – do they still play it?  The way they would pick their teams was like – two of the best players would be ‘captains’, and they would go back and forth picking their team from all the kids standing around.  Naturally, they’d pick the best players first and then the mediocre players and work their way down.  Well, Jerry wanted so much to be able to play, but he and Steve were so small that they never got picked to be on a team.  Every day, they would sit on the curb and watch and dream of the day they got to play.

The second year, Steve grew almost a foot and looked like a fifth grader, - so he actually got picked to be on a team!  Turns out, he was really good at kicking the ball – so the team captains started picking him to play every day.  Jerry wished he could play, but again, he would just sit and watch.

Until one day, one of the normal team captains was sick, so Steve got to be captain.  Guess who his first pick was…. Jerry.  Jerry didn’t even realize it… he was already sitting on the curb to watch when Steve came over and shouted  – Get in the game!  You’ve been chosen!

Jerry was so excited.  He knew what to do, because he’d been watching for so long – but it turns out, he wasn’t very good at kicking yet…you know, he’d never gotten to practice.  The other kids started to make fun of him and call him names – but Steve stepped in front of the group and said – “He’s my friend, leave him alone”.  And that was that.

Jerry felt so proud to have Steve as a friend who would stand up for him – and really proud that he had CHOSEN him as a friend.  He asked Steve – what did I ever do to make you want to be my friend?  Steve said, nothing…  you don’t EARN friendship – you just ARE my friend.

Jesus said today, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you”.   Jesus wants you to be His friend – to be on His team.

What did you do to make Jesus want to be your friend?  Nothing.  Before you did anything at all, Jesus had already chosen you to be on his team.  Think about that….
You may feel like all your life, you’ve had to try real hard to be good, just to get Jesus to like you so you would be worthy of being on His team – but, he already chose you as His friend.  We’re not good to make Jesus love us – we’re good BECAUSE Jesus loves us.

There’s a word in today’s Gospel that really bugs me – it’s a big and complicated word, but at first glance, it appears to change one of our most basic understandings of Jesus.  The word I’m talking about is ‘if’.

Jesus says, “ You are my friends if you do what I command you.”   It sure SOUNDS like Jesus is  setting conditions …  Like – if you don’t do what I tell you to do, I won’t be your friend!  Anybody else read it that way??  Is he like the bully at school who says, I’ll be your friend, IF you give me all of your lunch money.  Is THAT a friend who only likes you if you do what they tell you to do?  Not at all!   And that’s why it bugs me, because we all KNOW that Jesus loves unconditionally –there is nothing we can do to earn Jesus’ love - so how can we make sense of this statement?  

Well, that  word ‘if’  can be used another of way…
Let me give you a couple of examples – like if I say:  “If I have a fever, I am sick.” Having a fever is not a condition for being sick – but the fever is PROOF that I’m sick – the fever makes it OBVIOUS that I’m sick.  Do you see the difference?  It’s not a ‘condition’ – it’s proof.  Here’s another example:  “if the water is boiling, it is hot”.  Again, boiling is not a requirement to be hot – but If I see steam rolling off the top of the pan of water, It’s OBVIOUS that it is boiling hot.  Do you see the difference?

So when Jesus says, you are my friends if you do what I command you – he’s actually saying – if you do what I’ve told you to do, you will make it OBVIOUS to the world that you are my friends.  When you Love one another, that will be PROOF that you’re my friends.

Jesus is the kind of friend who will stand up for you – when the devil is picking on you – calling you names, tempting you to be bad - Jesus will step in front and say, “He’s my friend, leave him alone”.  In fact, that’s what he did 2000 years ago when he was nailed to that cross – he was standing up for you and me.  A true friend, Jesus said, will give his life for his friends.  Obviously, we can’t have a better friend than Jesus.  Jesus wants us to get in the game - to join him in His mission - The readings make it very clear that Jesus’ mission was all about Love - and OUR part of that mission is to ‘Love one another’.  That’s your job… Love one another.  Think about that when you receive communion:   we are receiving His Love so that we can go out and SPREAD his love.

For those making your first communion today – it’s like you’ve been sitting on the curb for your whole life –watching the big kids play.  You’ve only been coming up for a blessing – but you won’t do that anymore.  Today, Jesus is stepping up and shouting at you, “Get in the game!  You’ve been chosen!”