Saturday, December 6, 2014

How to come down from the mountain: 2nd Sunday of Advent

(Listen to this homily here).

            I haven’t slept much this week.  Tuesday night I was excited and nervous before starting up our mission.  Would people come?  Would we get a blizzard?  Would everything go well?  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights were very different—I was so pumped after a great mission I couldn’t close my eyes!
            As I was praying in Thursday night, God gave His Word to describe my experience: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly?  For all things come from you, and of your own have we given youO LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your ownnow I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.  O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.”
            I had the chance to chat with our speakers—David Walsh and Fr. Brandon—as well as our musician—Kevin Pilon—plus our priests and Bishop Sirba.  The common theme in our conversation was, isn’t ministry simple? 
Bring Jesus to people! 
Bring Jesus in Mass, Adoration and Confession and powerful experiences will occur!  We had a powerful mission because of Jesus!  And praise God.
            John the Baptist knew this well.  He was doing amazing deeds and some thought he was the Christ.  His response, “One mightier than I is coming after me.”
            For those of you who made it this week, I suspect God worked in powerful ways in your life.  For those of you who were unable to come, I bet you too will be positively influenced because our parish family was blessed with many gifts.  In a sense we lived out Isaiah’s prophecy: “Go up on to a high mountain…”
            So what now?  The reality of our Christian life is that it is filled with ups and downs and more often that not, normalcy.  Peter, James and John once climbed a mountain and saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes—then they came back down again.  Spiritual highs and consolations are God’s gifts, but it is crucial to follow them up well.  I suggest three points to keep in mind.
            First, remember the experience.  Mary was the Queen of remembering.  On a few occasions the Gospels record that she, “And she kept all these things in her heart…”  Remember the fact that God worked in your life.  Jesus came in Mass (as he does today).  Jesus forgave your sins.  Jesus came in Eucharistic adoration.  Whether you were elated and had an emotional high or didn’t feel much at all, remember that God touched you.  That is true.
            Also, continue to meditate on some of the insightful messages we were given.  David Walsh challenged us to trust Jesus, to trust the Church and to depend on others.  Fr. Brandon gave us a powerful image in asking, “What are you hunting?”  He also distinguished fun versus happiness and liking versus loving.  Finally, Bishop encouraged us to take advantage of Christ in the Scriptures and in Eucharistic Adoration.  Chew on these nuggets.  Allow your soul to digest them in order to help your faith grow strong.
            Second, keep things simple.  After a mountain top experience the fire we experience spurs us on, but it can eventually be overwhelming.  “I’m going to read the Bible four hours a day!  I’m going to get to Adoration every day for three hours!  I’m going to increase my prayer time by 1000%!”  Keep it simple.  Integrate what you were inspired by and follow through.  Do you want to pray more in Adoration?  Sign up for an hour a week.  How about Confession?  Get in monthly.  Scripture?  Take time to read from your Bible every day.  Keep things disciplined and persistent and you will grow.
            Finally, pass it on.  Share how God worked in your life, first with family and friends who share the faith with you.  Such heartfelt conversation helps you process an experience to bear fruit, and it is also edifying to others.  When people ask what you did this past week, tell them!  Tell them that you experienced Christ’s love.  As Isaiah states, “Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’”  Fear not to cry out and say to International Falls, “Here is your God!”
            One of the easiest ways to evangelize is to pass on a book or CD.  Lucky for you, we gave you a stack of them!  Put them in a stocking at Christmas.  Pass them along to a friend or child.  Explain why you liked it.  We bought these to both strengthen your faith and to pay it forward.
            Remember, keep it simple and pass it on.  These are ways to follow up on a powerful experience.
            As we continue our Advent journey towards Christmas, we make the Psalmist’s prayer our own: “Lord, let us [continue to] see your kindness and grant us your salvation.”

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