Sunday, May 19, 2019

2019/05/19 - Accused of being a Christian

"This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another."

Before Mass:  For the homily today, we’re concentrating on the Gospel, and I have a little homework for everybody here before Mass.  In the next 30 seconds before we announce the opening song, answer this question:  If somebody wanted you to PROVE that you’re a Christian, what would you say?  If somebody wanted you to PROVE you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, how would you do it?

Not long ago, a country was taken over by a group dead-set against Christianity.  They ordered every Christian to be put to death.  As you can imagine, panic ensued.  Thousands of people were executed in public, setting an example for others.  The choice was clear… give up Christianity or die.  Many people gave up their faith – most weren’t really believers anyway – they just came to church because they felt like they had to.  Others tried to keep practicing – but they couldn’t go to their churches anymore, so they’d meet in someone’s house.  They developed a secret password so that when someone knocked on the door, the Christians would know they were legit.

Before going on with the story - Think about this question:  if the government was rounding up all the Christians here, what would be their criteria?  How would they recognize the Christians?  It's not like we all walk around with a cross on our forehead or something!  (except maybe Ash Wednesday).  Look around you… are the people around you Christians?  What sets you and them apart from the rest of society?

Bob was a faithful churchgoer.  One night, he had attempted to sneak into the church to retrieve some chalices and such for use in their home-church.  However, the new government had spies watching the building and he was quickly arrested and drug off to prison.  He was stuck in a cell with a hundred other people accused of being Christian.  One by one they were led before the court to be officially charged.

As expected, he was charged with being a Christian.  What he didn’t realize was he would be given 5 days to build a defense for himself – and at the same time the government would build their case against him.

This was a dilemma for Bob – on one hand, he knew that he couldn’t deny he was Christian – but he was very tempted since he didn’t want to be executed. 

The day came for the trial – and the prosecutor brought forth all sorts of evidence:
    -  His bible, which was obviously used
    -  A stack of rosaries they had confiscated from his house.
    -  Pictures of him going into church
Then he spent the better part of an hour reviewing how Bob spent his time:
    - How much time he spent on work
    - What he did in his free time – which mainly centered around hanging out with buddies or hunting
    - They looked at how much time he spent with his wife and kids
    - They interviewed people from his workplace to learn what kind of person he was.

He wasn’t sure what all of that had to do with anything.  All of that evidence so far was ‘circumstantial’, so he actually had some hope at this point – until the next few pieces of evidence were presented.
    - They had a picture of him receiving communion on the tongue -  his heart sank – surely that was the nail in his coffin
    - They found his Facebook account where he had posted a couple thousand anti-abortion posts.  Again his heart sank – surely that was proof that he was Christian.
    - The last piece of evidence was a picture of Bob in front of the altar with a crucifix around his neck.  What more evidence do you need?

You could have heard a pin drop as The prosecutor finished and sat down. 

Then, without even waiting to hear the defense, the judge hammered his gavel and declared, ‘Not Guilty’!

What?!  Bob felt a mixture of confusion and relief – but also anger – what do you mean I’m not Christian?!

The judge continued – all the evidence given was circumstantial.  Anybody can go through the motions of being a Christian, but there was no evidence given to show this man actually LIVED like a Christian.  All the evidence points to a self-centered person.  This man never let his Christianity actually change him to be more Loving… therefore, he is not a Christian.

Step down, next case.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

2019/05/12 - Good Shepherd

“My Sheep hear my voice - I know them and they follow me.”
Why do the sheep follow Jesus?  Why do you and I (the sheep) follow Jesus? 
I have a two-part story to try to answer that question.

When Fr. Eugene went to the Holy Land a couple years ago, he was acting as a sort-of tour guide for part of the group.  Just outside of Jerusalem, the bus had to stop to allow a flock of sheep to cross the road.  Fr. Eugene was waiting for this moment and he spoke up so the tour group could hear him.  He said, “Did you notice where the shepherd is?”  Everybody craned their necks out the windows of the bus to watch – and they noticed the shepherd was IN FRONT of the sheep.  Fr. pointed out that the shepherd had a certain unique call which the sheep knew – somehow each sheep knew which shepherd they belonged to – and eagerly followed them. 

He went on to point out that this is what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel when he called himself the Good Shepherd and said – my sheep know me and follow me.  Everyone was rightly impressed that Fr. Eugene knew so much – and seeing this with their own eyes made the Gospel just 'come alive' for them.  Sure enough, three flocks passed them that day and each time they could see the shepherd with his staff leading the flock.

Why do the sheep follow instead of running off?  The sheep depend on the Good Shepherd.  They follow him because they trust him.  He lives with them day and night.  He sleeps with them.  Walks with them.  Leads them to verdant pastures to eat.  He guides them to restful waters; directs them and protects them.  He knows each of them personally. 

But how did the sheep learn to follow their shepherd?  Think about that – when a baby lamb is born, how do they learn which shepherd to follow?  Most likely, they follow their mother… and therefore, they follow whoever their mother follows. 
That’s something to think about on Mother’s Day, since for many of us, our mother played a huge role in introducing us to Jesus.

We may have been introduced to Jesus – But are we following him?  If we follow the Good Shepherd, He will lead us to eternal life… says so right there in the Gospel.
But many of us get distracted – - we get culled from the flock and have lost our contact with the Good Shepherd.  We keep following the rest of the flock – wherever the culture takes us – but one day we look up and realize we’re no longer following the Shepherd… instead we’re being pushed along by the culture. 

What’s the consequence of that?  I’ll finish our story to see where it leads us….
The next morning, again they were travelling out of the city, and once again they had to stop for a flock of sheep to cross.  Everyone looked out excitedly, hoping to get a glance of the good shepherd – but something wasn’t right with this flock.  The sheep weren't following anyone.  This flock was being driven instead, being pushed  along by a man with a staff and a dog. 

Everyone started asking Fr. Eugene why they weren’t following the shepherd…. But he couldn’t explain it.  Since they were parked, he decided to hop off the bus and talk to the shepherd. 

“Why, sir, are you driving these sheep rather than leading them?”  “I have been telling these people that a Good Shepherd leads his sheep.”

“You are quite right, Father,” replies the man.  “The good shepherd does lead his sheep.  But you see; I'm not the shepherd.  I am the butcher.”