Sunday, June 28, 2020

20200628 First

Before Mass:
I have a little Holy Spirit moment to share…
Wed evening I was talking with two parishioners about what they thought the theme of today’s Gospel was… and we all agreed that the message is Keeping God first in our lives.  That’s a nice message, for sure – but what does it really look like to “put God first”?  We’ll talk about that in the homily.

Then Thursday, something cool happened… Emily randomly picked out the song “First”, by Lauren Daigle – and an hour into our practice it hit me – this song matches EXACTLY the theme of the Homily.  Coincidence?  No way… I believe the Holy Spirit worked through Emily to pick the perfect song….

If you know it-  feel free to sing along – or just sit quietly or maybe close your eyes and offer this song as your own personal prayer to enter into the theme of today’s Mass.

There’s so much we COULD talk about in the readings today, but that first line in the Gospel bugs me… “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,”  What’s he talkin’ about?  Is he saying we should love our parents ‘LESS’?  … I mean I can hear someone in the crowd saying ‘Jesus– last I checked, loving and honoring your parents is one of the 10 commandments.  Are you telling us that YOU are more important than the law that God gave us?

The simple answer is ‘Yes’… Jesus is even more important than our parents.  And that’s easy to understand when you remember that Jesus is God – and the  FIRST commandment is to put God First.  Loving your parents is like number four or five on the list – so you do the math…  That’s the simple answer, but it’s not quite like it sounds.. in fact, hopefully by the time we’re done, you’ll see a totally different perspective. 

In our human terms, we might think of it as a priority… God is top of our list.  Just like the song we sang before Mass – we want to keep God ‘First’.  What does that look like?  I mean- it sounds good and ‘churchy’ to say that God is first in my life – but ‘practically’ – what does that look like?

Jerry and Brenda have been married for several years – long enough that most couples would kind-of get stale and boring… when most husbands would be working extra hours – coming home late – and calling the wife the ‘ball and chain’…. but not Jerry and Brenda.  If you saw them at a gathering, you’d notice they just both seem to be on the same page – treating each other with respect, encouraging rather than discouraging.   I may not be explaining it well – but if you met them you’d be like – there’s something different about this couple…. I wish my marriage had something of what they have. 

If you had the nerve to ask them why they are different, at first they’d humbly reject the thought that they are any different than anyone else.  But if you press them, here are a few things they would probably tell you:  they each have a personal practice of praying daily… it’s different for each, for example,  Jerry gets up like before 4 am to pray… what a Jesus-freak.  Brenda can usually does her prayers with her morning coffee.  They attend Mass together every week – and often once during the week.  They have a Holy Hour of adoration one day each week where they normally go together and pray/read/or just sit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

They set aside one evening each week – well, almost every week – to have a date night – just the two of them.  Nothing special… sometimes it’s just pizza and a quick trip to IGA or if it’s a ‘real date’ they might go to Rural King.  It’s not WHAT they do together, it’s the fact that they DO IT TOGETHER…they set aside time just for themselves as a couple.

After all I’ve described so far, you might be surprised to know that Jerry and Brenda have three kids.  How in the world can they spend all of this time together or with God?  Aren’t they taking away from their kids this way?

Actually, no… first, they often take the kids to their holy hour of adoration.  This pays dividends as it also trains the kids to understand that silent prayer is necessary.  But – as anyone with kids knows – it’s hard for little ones to sit for that long – so Jerry or Brenda will take the kids outside to throw a Frisbee, allowing the other to have time in the chapel – then they switch so they each get their alone time with God.  They call it their Pray and Play night.

They pray meal prayers together as a family – they do some study groups together – yeah – they also watch a lot of normal TV together, but it’s balanced with time to watch some good Catholic videos like Fr. Mike Schmitz or Bishop Robert Barron.
On top of all of that, Jerry coaches a couple of sports teams; but they decided as a couple a few years ago that sports was taking too much of their time away from God – away from their date nights – and away from time as a family.  They absolutely agree that Sports are good for the kids – keeping them exercised, socialized, and they learn teamwork… but anything good can become bad when it trumps everything else on their priority list.  So they work hard to keep it in balance.

Because they spend so much effort working on their PERSONAL relationship with God and each other, they are able to love their kids even better!  How can that be?  Well, they build habits in their life to always put God first… for example – whenever they are going to have a tough conversation with someone, they first pray to the Holy Spirit to guide their words and emotions.  They use that same prayer when they need to talk with one of the kids….often taking the situation to the chapel for their Holy Hour.

Imagine yourself in that situation – one of your kids needs to be corrected – the way I see it, you have three choices:  you can ignore it… not a good idea because they need to learn good behavior.  Second option:  you could fly off the handle and start shouting or ground them … or third, you could pray to the Spirit to guide you – and usually, you’ll be amazed at the tone of the discussion.  They may still get grounded, and there may still be yelling… but much, much less. 

Beyond the family, Jerry and Brenda are both highly respected and liked by most of their co-workers – often getting into the topic of faith at work… people approach them often to ask for prayer, and that opens up the door to conversations about Jesus…. Something Jerry never would have imagined 15 years ago.

They reach out to neighbors, parishioners, and get their kids involved in delivering meals to the old lady down the street – teaching them to make time for others. 

Finally – getting back to today’s reading…they take care of their parents.  One died a few years ago and the other three are still living on their own, although age is catching up with them fast.  Jerry and Brenda go out of their way to call daily and to stop by several times per week – or take them to church – or get groceries.  It’s a lot of responsibility, but they don’t see it as a cross at all – this is just how you love your parents.

Hopefully I’ve painted enough of the picture to make my point… I’m not trying to put Jerry and Brenda on a pedestal, because really their not that different than anyone else here – but because they are very intentional about their relationship with God, all of their other relationships BENEFIT. 

Jesus isn’t telling us to love our parents LESS – but he’s telling us that when we concentrate on our relationship with Him, we become more loving… and actually love our parents MORE.  It’s not so much about putting God First - … but God must be at the center of EVERY relationship. 

Since God IS Love, Any relationship NOT centered on God is not built on Love.

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