Saturday, July 14, 2018

2018/07/15 - Nothing but a Walking Stick

Before Mass:
I’ve got some GOOD news and some GREAT news!  You know how twice a year, we have our Youth Appeal where one or two of our youth get up here and ask for your support to send them to all sorts of special learning opportunities?  Well the good news is Today is not that day… we’re not asking for money!  The GREAT news is that today is when you get some return on your investment!

We had 19 parishioners at CHWC in Kansas City all week.  We had 29 students and several adults at Rock Your Faith – the middle school retreat at St. Joe.  And we had 120 youth plus a bunch of adults helping at our VBS for four days.  That means including volunteers, we had over 200 people from the parish actively involved this week in Faith activities for our young folks.  I did a random sample of our students asking what kind of things they learned this week, and I’d like to share just a few with you:

VBS:  we learned everyone has a Mission.  We’re all called by God to do SOMEthing.  (which really fits with the homily today)
RYF: You can be mad at God but God still loves you. We are called to be Saints.  Like Saint John Bosco who sacrificed himself for others – we’re called to do the same.
CHWC:  We echo Jesus’ love when we serve others.  God gives us what we need when we need it – not necessarily when we want it.  The story of the two lakes. If you stay in your comfort zone, it is like a stagnant lake, warm, full of algae and bad stuff grows. If you get out of your comfort zone, it is like a cold, mountain lake where the water is clear and water flows through it and passes your faith on.
You’ll hear even more in the homily today. 
Now – a note to our youth – you know how excited you were coming back from your events?  Some of you experienced Mass like never before.  I want to give you permission – in fact – I beg you – bring that experience back to this parish.  Don’t be the stagnant lake and keep it to yourself… Let US feel the joy that you experienced.  You are not the same as you were when you left here last week – we NEED you to help all of US to have a new experience at Mass.  Pray along, sing along, get engaged in the Liturgy.
OK – very quickly – I need to quickly give you some back-story on the first reading.  You may remember that the country of Israel was broken into two a long time before Jesus came – the north was called Israel and the south was called Judah.  That’s important because Amos, in that first reading is FROM the south kingdom, but God called him to be a prophet to the NORTH kingdom.  He had been a ‘dresser of sycamores’ which was a type of fig tree… so he was a farmer, called to be a prophet.  Does that remind you of anybody else we know?  (Fr. Eugene)

Take nothing with you but a walking stick…  you can just see the look on the Apostle’s face when Jesus said that.  They’d be like, “you mean I can’t take my iphone so I can stay connected with all the people that I’m important to?”.  You mean I can’t take a suitcase full of clothes so I can wear the perfect thing at just the right time to impress people?   You mean I can’t take a backpack full of my favorite food so I don’t risk getting hungry?

A walking stick… a walking stick… what is Jesus thinking sending us out with NOTHING?!?!?!

Actually – a walking stick is NOT ‘nothing’.  It gives you something to lean on as you start getting tired.  It gives you a tool to remove cobwebs and snakes from the path.  It gives you a pole that could be used to build a makeshift shelter from the sun.  It could be used as a weapon,… just in case you come across some teenage mutant ninja turtles.  ;)

Yeah – a walking stick DOES have some purpose – but what Jesus is really saying is – lower your expectations of what you really ‘need’ to take along.  You don’t need ANYthing.  If you have nothing but a stick to lean on, you’ve got all you need…. How can that be?
Notice, he sent them out two by two…. So not only do you have a stick, you have a buddy!  And Jesus said at another point, wherever two are gathered in His name, He is there with them…. Aha!  So even though they’re sent out with ‘nothing’ – they have Jesus with them, and what else could they possibly need?
Part of being sent out was to build the Apostles’ faith – they needed to EXPERIENCE the fact that God would provide for them in order that they PERSONALLY would have a witness of how great God is!  God will give us what we need when we need it – but – if we fill our backpacks with all the stuff we could possibly need, we never give God the CHANCE to fill our needs.  As long as WE stay in control, God is NOT in control… so we gotta leave it all behind
Our young people left it all behind for a week – and they are no longer the same people who came to church with us last Sunday.  Their experience changed them.  I’ve asked two of our older ones to come forward right now to share just a two minute story that highlights their experience.  They have a LOT more to share, but I’ve asked them to tell a specific story which actually fits nicely into our homily today.
(stories different depending on who comes to Mass... here are two examples)
Story 1:  There was this woman at the lowest point of her life. She was on drugs, she was an alcoholic, could not hold a job, and was not financially stable. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, she found out she was pregnant. She had nowhere to go and was considering aborting the baby. With no support system or any way to have this baby and give him a good life, she turned to her brother for help asking him if he would want her baby. Her brother was married, and him and his wife had been trying to have a baby for 10 years but never could. Of course he said he would love to, but he needed to ask his wife first. His wife is what changed everything and gave the woman hope. She said she would take in the woman and her baby and let them live in their house if she quit drinking and doing drugs. 2 months into the agreement, the woman was clean off of the drugs and alcohol. Now she has been off of drugs for 30 years. 5 years after having the first child, she had another baby of her own and was financially stable. Then she went back to school to become a financial planner which she always had a gift for but never knew it. Then she found God and became a teacher at a college for adults who are going to college now when then couldn’t before. 8 years ago she stood by her son and watched him become a priest. That priest was Father Ed from Virginia. He was the first child in the story and he was sharing this story with us. He would not be here without his mom having hope from her brother and his wife. It is important to give hope to others. 
Story 2: One group went to a man named Mike’s house. His daughter has aspergers disease. She’s 34 years old, has no social skills, and doesn’t talk to anyone but her dad Mike. She gets all of her information from reading books, which she does every day. The Hope Builders, which is the organization that was in charge of what needed to be done at the site, had been to the house to repair it four times before this group of Catholic Heart Work Campers came to work on the house. She never made any contact with any of the helpers, she didn’t even come out of the house. But this group of kids bonded with her, and talked to her about her favorite books. Once they broke through the first barrier she had up, she began to help improve the house by painting and holding ladders. She made connections with multiple campers, and really cane out of her shell. Before the group left she asked for contact information from the kids she had bonded with, and they will now be keeping in touch.
WOW - obviously they were changed by this week's experience!
Can you see how those fit in with the readings?

Amos was pulled out of his comfort zone as a fig farmer and sent by God to the Northern kingdom.
Fr. Eugene was pulled out of HIS comfort zone as a pig farmer and sent by God to Northern Dubois County.
200 of our parishioners went outside their normal routine this week to give God the chance to act in their hearts… and they were changed because of it.
What's the lesson for the rest of us?  Is MY faith strong enough to step out of my routine –will I go with Jesus  to a deserted place – to go wherever God sends me to make a difference in somebody’s life?  That’s when God can really make a difference in OUR lives… and all we need is a walking stick.

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