The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Pandemic! Pandemic! The End of the World!

70 years ago, when I was a little kid living in then-rural Connecticut, our dog, an adventurous German Shepherd named Clipper, liked to go next door, break into the neighbor's chicken coop and kill a few hens. My father, of course, had to pay for the damages. I remember Dad telling us that our neighbor always knew when Clipper was stalking his chickens because the hens would make a racket. They would run around in circles, clucking loudly, petrified that our predator dog would soon attack. The hens, of course, had good reason to fear Clipper. 
Clipper in Connecticut (1948)
Last week Wall Street acted a lot like those fearful hens, with one exception: their Clipper was chimerical. Indeed, most of Wall Street's fears are self-generated. Of course, the fact that those clucking the loudest are all Trump-haters could be part of the problem. Let's blame Trump for this disease originating in China.

Yes, the dreaded "deadly" virus has, in fact, reached the United States, although only in small numbers. All those infected are isolated and being treated, and none have died. 

Interestingly, though, while the politicians, media, and traders run around in circles clucking like our neighbor's frightened hens, millions of Americans will be infected by influenza and thousands of these will die. But this means nothing to those who want to create a crisis. They have discovered a new word: Pandemic! And it's always spoken with an exclamation point. Listening to them, one would think we are confronted with something akin to the Black Death that wiped out much of the medieval world. Of course, it won't. 

Certainly we should take precautions but this virus will not satisfy the great hope of radical environmentalists: the end of humanity. It, too, will pass. The markets will recover to reflect once again the strength of our economy. And in the meantime millions of human beings will find other means to enter eternity. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

Videos: Morning of Reflection - Three Women

The parish's Council of Catholic Women asked me to conduct a Morning of Reflection -- really about a one-hour series of talks -- on Saturday, 22 February 2020. For a topic I chose to speak about three women: one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and third from the Church. The women I chose were certainly not famous. Indeed, the two women from Sacred Scripture are unnamed, and the third is hardly well-known, and had her parents had their way, she might well have remained unnamed. But each of the three particularly manifested one of the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love.

I have embedded videos of each of the three parts of my reflection below. Each talk is about 20 minutes long and was followed by a few minutes of silent reflection. For obvious reasons, I have edited out the periods of silence, and just included the talks. 

If I have time I will later add the complete text of each of the three talks.

Part 1 of the Morning of Reflection focuses on the FAITH of the Widow of Zarephath, who fed the prophet Elijah, as described in 1 Kings 17. A video of Part 1 follows:


Part 2 of the Morning of Reflection focuses on the HOPE manifested by the "sinful woman" who approached Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee, bathes His feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints Him with precious nard, as described in the final verses of Luke 7. A video of Part 2 follows:

Part 3 of the Morning of Reflection focuses on the LOVE of God and neighbor shown by Blessed Margaret of Castello (1207-1320), a remarkable woman who suffered much and yet shared God's love with all whom she encountered. This year, on April 13, 2020, we will celebrate the 700th anniverary of Blessed Margaret's death at the age of 33.


Finally, I have added a video of our brief concluding prayer:

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Homily: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A

I have embedded a video of this homily below -- preached on Sunday, 23 February 2020. The complete text (more or less) follows the video.

Readings: Lev 9:1-2, 17-18; Ps 103; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48


Interesting isn’t it? In our first reading from Leviticus, Mosaic Law teaches us: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Lv 19:18]. And then in our Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus, in the midst of His Sermon on the Mount, tells us “love your enemies” [Mt 5:44]. 

Love your neighbor and love your enemy…who’s left? Actually, the great G. K. Chesterton once wrote:
"We are commanded to love our neighbors and our enemies; they are generally the same people."
There’s a lot of truth in that; and loving those we’re with every day can be a bit of a challenge.

As a Christian it’s easy for me to say, “Yes, I love that Jihadist terrorist who’s been led by others or by a hateful ideology to do such horrible things over there in Afghanistan, or Syria, or Iraq...” And it’s pretty easy to express Christian love for the murderer on death row. After all, I really don’t really know any of these people, do I? That makes them a lot easier to love.

But when you know someone well, someone who isn’t all that nice, love doesn’t come quite so easy, does it? It’s a lot easier to despise someone up close and personal, someone who has treated you abominably, one of those neighbors we turn into enemies.

When I was just a boy in suburban New York, we neighborhood kids would often play stickball and other games in our street. 

Now there was one neighbor…I suppose I can use her name now since she long ago went to her eternal reward. It was Mrs. Counts, whose front yard happened to be our right field. It was surrounded by a hedge, and the only break in the hedge was the gate that led to her front walk.

Now Mrs. Counts was very, very old, probably about sixty. And whenever a ball would go over that hedge, we’d open the gate and run into her yard to retrieve it. The gate squeaked, and that would bring her to the front door, from which she would scream at us for daring to hit a ball onto her lawn. We, of course, retaliated as only children can, by taunting her, calling her names. 

It was not a good relationship.

To the children of the neighborhood, Mrs. Counts was more than a neighbor; she was the enemy. We neither liked nor loved her. She was a grumpy old woman, and we were equally grumpy little brats. 

Trivial events you may argue, and yet through them, we all demonstrated a singular lack of charity. Of course, at that age, it’s unlikely we children had made a connection between our judgment of Mrs. Counts and the Sermon on the Mount.

Indeed, it would be decades, in a different neighborhood, this one on Cape Cod, before I made that connection.

One summer afternoon a soccer ball flew over the fence into our yard and rolled onto a patch of Lilies of the Valley. In an instant our neighbor’s two grandsons jumped the fence and ran through the flowers, trampling as they went, to retrieve the ball.  I stood there in the yard, watching them, and was about to let them have it with both barrels of indignation, when suddenly I thought, Heavens! I’ve become Mrs. Counts!

And so, I simply waved to them; and oblivious to their path of minor destruction, they said, “Hi!” jumped the fence, and were gone.

Yes, every so often, I do what is right in God’s eyes. Every so often I am slapped on one cheek and actually turn the other. You see, brothers and sisters, we are all called by Jesus, by the Gospel, and every so often we experience the tension arising from our imperfect lives.

The world, of course, tells us to ignore that tension, to fight violence with violence, to respond to evil with evil. But deep down we know it’s all just a mask to cover our selfishness, to hide our self-righteousness.

We're tempted to stand out in our battles with evil, to win, to shine; whereas Jesus instructs us to offer no resistance to one who is evil. Forget about man's justice, He tells us. Don't worry about just compensation. We are instead called to overwhelm the wrongdoer with incredible generosity. 

Is that even possible? 

Well, yes, it is. For that’s exactly what Jesus did -- this incredible act of redemption in which he spread His arms wide on the Cross. He offered no resistance and seemed to allow evil to triumph. This remarkable act, this self-sacrificial act of redemption gives us a glimpse into God's holiness, the holiness He wants us to imitate and attain.
"Take up your cross," Jesus tells us, "Do as I do." 
"Love your enemies…pray for those who persecute you.”
"I do not seek revenge, and neither should you."
"Forgive...seventy times seven times."
We hear all this and are almost overwhelmed, but then Jesus adds another:
"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Mt 5:48]
And to that, we reply, in all honesty, "How can we be perfect, Lord? Perfection is what You are, imperfection is what we are."

Strictly speaking it’s impossible, for even the most faithful of us, to achieve the perfection of God. We know this and we sense the distance, the infinite distance, between God and us. 

Still the command is there: Be perfect!

But it’s not the perfection of God’s infinite power, love, and wisdom, the unapproachable divine perfection, to which God calls us. 

No, He calls us to the perfection of the Beatitudes: to be poor in spirit; to hunger and thirst for righteousness, for justice; to seek meekness and purity of heart; to be merciful, a peacemaker… These are all attainable, for the Father gives us His Son, who shows the way. He became one of us to remind us what is possible in our own lives. Piling gift upon gift, Father and Son also give us the Holy Spirit, the giver of grace.

Addressing this very thing, St. Cyprian of Carthage, an early Church Father and martyr, wrote:
“We do not have to toil and sweat to achieve our own perfection…to obtain the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is freely given by God, always available for us to use.”
Come to me, Jesus pleads, and you will receive an abundance of grace. I will help you on this remarkable journey of conversion.

On Wednesday, as we begin our Lenten journey, Jesus will tell us how to begin:

“Repent,” he commands, “and believe in the Gospel” [Mk 1:15], for with God repentance always brings forgiveness and is just a moment away through Reconciliation.

Recall the words of today’s Psalm:
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” [Ps 103:10,12]
Yes, God forgives, but we must forgive in turn.

In a few moments, as we prepare to receive the Real Presence of our Lord in Holy Communion, we will join together with Fr. Cromwell and pray the Our Father. And as we pray those words given to us by the Son, we make a kind of bargain with the Father, don’t we?
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” [Mt 6:12].
Let’s use this moment today to tell the Father that we have indeed forgiven all those neighbors, all those enemies, and all those neighborly enemies who have offended us.

I forgave grumpy Mrs. Counts years ago. I pray only that she forgave me.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Stuff That Bothers Me

I really shouldn't be bothered by so much "little" stuff that, in the overall scheme of things (i.e., God's plan for salvation), means little, if anything. But I just can't help it. It's all so interesting, sometimes amusing, but too often just sad and discouraging. And, yes, I will get political once again. Here are a few examples:

Today's NYSE Dive. What I have to say here will no doubt upset a few folks, but I really don't care. During my 75 years I've known quite a few Wall Street types and at the risk of gross generalization I have found most to be little more than hand-wringing wimps who rarely think past the next day's impending crisis. As my dad used to say, for many of these folks, long-range planning is no more than "What do we do after lunch?" Toss a scare at them and watch them panic. 

Today is a beautiful example. The Dow plummeted more than 1,000 points this morning, although I expect it will rise somewhat before the day's end. And it's all because of the virus out of a China, or so they tell us. Personally, I think they're also panicked about commie Bernie's surge in the polls. Many of these wimps are the same never-Trumpers who for three years have done everything in their power to make things difficult for the President. Now they might well have to choose between Bernie and Trump, which even for these cowards is really no choice. And so, two nasty little bugs have apparently got them all running scared. 

Interestingly, the companies most affected are those who decided long ago that they didn't mind dealing with a nation run by totalitarian murderers. I can recall several CEOs telling me that by "doing business" with the Chinese, American firms would show the communists the benefits of a democratic, free-market economy. I thought they were fools then, and I still think so today. One would assume that a CEO, who likely has at least a passing affinity for power, would realize that for totalitarians power is the only thing that matters. The communist leaders of China aren't "in business" to create a wonderful life for their people; far from it. Indeed their early and continued mismanagement of the virus as a public health crisis typifies their love for the people of the People's Republic." 

China's communist leaders realized that a planned economy couldn't compete outside it borders, so they allowed "private" companies to form and compete in the global marketplace. This and the theft of technology are the primary means the communists have used to finance their expanding military and their growing international influence. But every single Chinese company is under the communist thumb; make no mistake about it. China has actually evolved from the communism of Mao to what is really just another form of fascism in which the government "manages" the nation's private industry for its own purposes.

The Iowa Democrat Caucuses. How unfortunate for the Democrat Party. The party's national and state leadership used an app designed and managed by folks who are politically connected with the Clintons, Obamas, and other Democrats. This, of course, is exactly what corrupt governments do. Corrupt governments don't spend taxpayer money on the most competent, cost-effective providers of products and services. Instead, they give business to those who are "connected", those who funnel money and other goodies into their political campaigns. The result? Too often, incompetence and sheer chaos. It reminds me of Vice President Biden and the millions his son reaped from the Ukraine and China for expertise Hunter Biden completely lacked. And have you forgotten the famous Obama healthcare app, the one that cost billions to develop? It turned out to be littered with bugs and plagued by access problems, despite being the most expensive app in history. Should the Democrats win in November, this is just the sort of incompetence and corruption we can expect.

CNN and Diversity. Did you notice how upset a CNN anchor was because the team the president put together to address the coronavirus problem did not meet his standards of diversity? This, of course, is just another example of the Iowa Caucus syndrome. Instead of examining the competencies of those assigned to the task force, CNN looks only at their sex and race.

Forgotten Warriors. We've all watched the commercials and many Americans are making monthly contributions to organizations such as Wounded Warriors and Tunnel2Towers. These and similar organizations were established to provide assistance and family aid to military personnel and first responders who have been wounded or have sacrificed their lives in defense of our freedom and our society. I cannot comment on the efficacy of these organizations because I have little first-hand knowledge, other than what I have heard from others and seen in the commercials. But their work, which I can only assume has helped many deserving people, is not my concern here. What bothers me is the very fact that these organizations must exist. Our governments -- federal, state, and local -- send military personnel, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and others into harms way every day. And yet, as a people we abandon them and their families when they suffer horrendous wounds or lose their lives in our defense. Congress established a multi-billion dollar fund to compensate the innocent victims of the 911 terrorist attacks, a fund that paid out an average of $2 million to each affected family. I have no problem whatsoever with that, but just compare it to what the family of a service member can expect if he or she is killed in action:
  • $250,000 from Servicemen's Group Life Insurance, premiums paid for by the serviceman, unless declined.
  • Death gratuity of $6,000
  • Up to $6,900 for burial expenses
  • Family rent-free government housing for 180 days
  • Payment of member's unused leave (vacation)
  • Dependency and indemnity compensation of $948 monthly for the un-remarried spouse, plus $247 for each child
  • Other benefits include temporary healthcare coverage and commissary and exchange access. 
Adding it all up, the Department of Defense estimates than an un-remarried surviving spouse (age 30) would receive about $500,000 over the next 50 years of her life, an average of $10,000 annually. As for those wounded in combat, we eventually turn them over to the Veterans Administration, and we're all aware of the quality of healthcare it provides. As a wounded Afghanistan survivor once told me, "The one thing the VA does well is run the national cemeteries." 

That's enough. I have to prepare a homily for a committal service tomorrow, for the widow of a Korean War veteran.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Homily: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

I've embedded a video of this homily here. The complete text follows the video.

Readings: Is 58:7-10; Ps 128:1-5; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16

I remember, as a child, hearing my father once describe a friend of our family as "the salt of the earth." At the time I had no idea what my father meant. But I knew, by the way he said it, that it was a compliment. Years later, when our friend died quite suddenly, I recalled my father's words; and thinking about this man's life, I came to understand how fitting a description it was.

He had his own successful accounting business, and although he was both intelligent and capable, he seemed to have few worldly ambitions. He rejected any suggestion of expanding his business, for that would keep him from doing more important things. He was certainly not poor, but he lived simply. 

He and his wife raised their three children to love God and neighbor, and to reject the rampant materialism that has consumed so many in our society. They spent most of their free time, and much of their money, helping others, few of whom shared their faith. A neighbor would lose his job, and the next morning would find a plain envelope containing $200 in his mailbox. That was a lot of money back in the 50s and would often see a family through a month or more of hard times.

When you were with him, no matter your age, he gave you his complete attention, and you knew that he truly cared about you and what you were saying. That was a unique experience for most children. 

And his calmness. I can never recall his getting angry, or even raising his voice. People would say amazingly stupid things in his presence, and he would just smile. Oh, he would stand up for his beliefs and never backed away from the give and take of a good argument. But he always argued lovingly and with a sense of humor. An argument with him never turned into a quarrel. I came to realize that he simply loved people, for to him, every person was a beautiful creation of God; and so, every person was to be honored and loved.

"The salt of the earth…" [Mt 5:13] He took the gift of life that God had given him and seasoned that life and the lives of others with another gift, the gift of faith. His was an active faith, for He spent his life putting into practice the Word of God in today's first reading from Isaiah:
"If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech, if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday" [Is 58:9-10].
You see, our friend was a Jew who took the Word of God very seriously. "I'm just one of God's workers," he used to say. Even though he wasn't a Christian, as a believing Jew, he knew that God's workers must do God's work. But what is God's work?

Well, Jesus answered that question when He told us:
"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent" [Jn 6:29]
I suppose, then, the question for us Catholics today is, how do we put this faith of ours into practice? How do we respond to the gifts we have received, the gifts of life and faith, both given freely by God. Life doesn’t belong to us, because it doesn't come from us. It comes from God, Who gives life out of love. And so, it carries with it certain obligations: to love the Giver and to respect the lives of others.

In the Creed, which we will pray together just moments from now, we give the Holy Spirit a title: “the Lord and Giver of Life.” Yes, indeed, God is the giver, the only giver of life, His gift of love. This is core reason why abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are all inherently evil. By rejecting the gift of life, such acts reject the very love of God. And so, they reject God Himself, the Lord and Giver of life.

In the same way, we mustn’t assume that the gift of faith is in any way our doing. As St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, our faith doesn't "rest on human wisdom but on the power of God" [1 Cor 2:5]. 

Jesus calls us, as receivers of that gift, to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world."

In today's Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus spoke, not just to the apostles, for this was the Sermon on the Mount. No, He spoke to the entire crowd that had assembled. Jesus spoke to all of us; and He tells us that...
"your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" [Mt 5:16].
In other words, simply being a believer isn't enough. We must put our faith into action. Or, as St. James reminds us, "faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead [Jas 2:17]. And when the light of our faith doesn't shine forth, when we hide it -- as Jesus put it -- "under a bushel basket" [Mt 5:15], then our faith is dead.

As you listen to these words, you might be thinking, Hey, I'm no missionary, and I'm certainly no evangelist. I'm just an average person, who probably does as many bad things as good. And I'm definitely not the salt of the earth or the light of the world.

Well, listen again to what St. Paul tells the Corinthians in today's 2nd reading.
"I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom…" [1 Cor 2:3-4]
You see, Paul was both ill and depressed. He knew he wasn't very impressive to look at, and he knew he didn't preach particularly well. He had arrived in Corinth after a not very successful visit to Athens, and no doubt felt both weak and incompetent. And yet, through this very realization of his weakness, Paul saw the truth: that the Holy Spirit's presence shines forth with blinding brightness within the humiliating context of our weakness. In other words, the power of God is magnified by our weakness.

Paul had once thought much more off himself. Earlier in his life, as Saul, the Pharisee and the persecutor of Christians, he had been so strong, so sure of himself, and so completely wrong. Now, as Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, he possesses the truth, but at the same time he sees himself for what he truly is, a weak man with open hands and a vulnerable heart. You see, Paul, through his conversion, had learned humility; he had come to the realization of who he really was with respect to and in the presence of our God.

But it’s always through our weakness that God manifests His power. Just as Mary, a teenaged Jewish girl from a poor family in the forgettable village of Nazareth, could say, “My soul magnifies the Lord…” [Lk 1:46] Yes indeed, just like Mary, through our weakness God’s greatness will shine forth for all the world to see.

You see, brothers and sisters, Jesus has placed His gospel in our weak hands and its proclamation depends on us. This message, the Good News of Jesus Christ, can be seen and heard only when we put it into practice in our lives, in our relationships with others…when we share God’s Presence. It’s a Presence that begins right here with the Eucharist and continues as we leave this church today filled with the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

And remember, God's presence in you and me shines forth in the most ordinary things: 

In the selfless love one finds in a truly Christian home.

In the patience and kindness displayed by those who care for the elderly, the sick, the dying, the imprisoned.

In hundreds of simple acts of service to others, acts that enable Christ to be known, so that His light, His glory, will shine through you for all to see…always for His glory, not ours.

God used St. Paul, in his weakness, to begin the conversion of a godless empire. In the same way, God will use you and me, in our weakness, to convert a troubled and sinful world…if only we will let him.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Homily: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (26 Jan 2020)

I have embedded a video of this homily below. The complete text follows the video:

Readings: Is 8:23-9:3; Ps 27; 1 Cor 1:10-13,17; Mt 4:12-23

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Mt 4:17]
With these words Jesus began His public ministry. Has anyone ever directed these words at you? In confession I’ve never had a priest say, “Repent, deacon, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And in all those retreats I’ve made no retreat master ever began a reflection by standing tall at the podium, pointing at us and saying, “Repent, sinners, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I suppose these words, this command, seem just a bit…well, harsh – you know, not in keeping with people’s expectations these days.

Mark, in his Gospel, has Jesus saying, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” [Mk 1:15]. Another translation offers slightly different terms: “Be converted and accept the Gospel.” But notice, regardless of the translation, Jesus tells us that we must first repent and be converted. That’s right, before we learn about the kingdom, before we accept the good news of the Gospel, Jesus tells us to repent, to be converted.

You see, without conversion, without repentance, the Gospel really makes no sense. after all, the Gospel tells us to do all kinds of things that the world rejects.
“Love your neighbor as yourself…” [Mk 12:31]
Well, now, wait minute, shouldn’t I love myself a wee bit more? I mean, think of the effect on my self-esteem if I have to think so highly of others. Then there’s that other one: 
"Love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength.” [Mk 12:30]
Not much room in there for anything else. But does God expect us to take that literally? Am I supposed to put “Love God” at the beginning of every to-do list and back-burner everything else?

And what about all those other Sermon-on-the-Mount things…you know, being meek and poor in spirit, being merciful and pure of heart, thirsting for righteousness, no anger, no lust, forgive your enemies – all those counter-intuitive things. That’s no way to enjoy life or get ahead in the world.

Yes, the Gospel just doesn’t make much sense at all…unless…unless we are converted. Only then, only after we’ve changed, only after we’ve invited God into our lives and our hearts, only after we accept our sinfulness and repent, only then can we accept the Good News as Good News. Once we respond to God’s call to conversion, and realize God’s greatness and overwhelming love for us, then we can accept the Gospel with the unbounded joy its message deserves.

Is that how you respond to the Gospel? With unbounded joy? With a thirst to hear more? With a hunger you that can never be fully satisfied until you come face to face with God? Is that how you respond? If not…well, join the club, because repentance and conversion still await you. Do you sense that? Is something missing in your life? Is there an emptiness in your inner being that nothing has been able to fill?

Brothers and sisters, that’s God calling you, begging to heal you, to fill that emptiness. St. Augustine, the reluctant convert, put it best: 
“Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in Thee.”
That restlessness is a gift, almost sacramental; a sign pointing to God. Is that why we’re all here at this Mass, to satisfy the longing? Is this the choice we’ve made? Do we come together as a community of believers in thanksgiving and praise? Do we come, yearning for God’s Word and celebrating His goodness? Do we come to feast on the miraculous gift of the Eucharist from which we receive the spiritual sustenance we need to grow in the Christian life. 

Or are we here out of habit, to fulfill some sense of social or cultural obligation? “Of course I go to Mass. Isn’t that what Catholics do?” That’s a non-response, a static, unchanging, act of non-faith. We can’t respond to God’s call and grow in faith if our motivation is grounded in something worldly.
Jesus calls us to continual conversion, conversion leads to growth, and growth demands change.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
His call to conversion is unambiguous: Repent! Why? To enter His Kingdom. Yes, brothers and sisters, we’re all sinners. Sinners need forgiveness. Forgiveness needs repentance.

God invites us all. No one’s overlooked. He wants to forgive each of His children, just as He wants to rule over each of us. But unlike human rulers, God forces Himself on no one. We accept the invitation by making a choice. 

Gradually, as His ministry unfolded, Jesus revealed more and more about His Kingdom, a Kingdom extending beyond time and space, all the way to eternity – a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of love and holiness; hence the call for repentance. A Kingdom of holiness cannot admit the profane, just as a Kingdom of love must reject hatred. 

Oh, we all want to heed the call, if only it didn’t involve change. If only it didn’t place so many demands on me. If only my life weren’t going so well right now. And so we complicate God’s simple, straightforward call by cluttering it with our own issues. Yes, we want to respond…but on our terms. 

But that’s not how it works. How can we enter the Kingdom but reject the authority of the King? We can’t have it both ways. To accept the Kingdom demands conversion. Just look how the Apostles handled it. 

Jesus called Peter and Andrew and “at once they left their nets and followed Him” [Mt 4:20]. Moments later, He called James and John and, “immediately they left their boat and their father and followed Him” [Mt 4:22].

Do you detect a sense of urgency? Called by Jesus, the Apostles don’t think it over. They don’t weigh the pros and cons. They don’t hire a consultant to advise them on their career change. They acted in faith because they heard God’s call. They hadn’t yet accepted the Gospel, but they accepted Jesus, the very Word of God Himself. 

Called to conversion, these most ordinary of men immediately left everything behind and followed; and that’s all God asked of them…for now. They hadn’t a clue about what lay ahead – mercifully it was hidden from them – but they knew their old lives were gone for good. That’s what conversion is: a continual, lifelong process of leaving things behind. 

How about you and me? What does God want us to leave behind? Have we asked Him? God calls each of us in unique and individual ways. Some, like the rich young man in the Gospel, too attached to his possessions, are called to radical action: 
“Sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and come, follow me.” [Mt 19:21]
Only this would bring the happiness he sought. But he rejected Jesus’ call, and went away sad. 

Others, like the woman caught in adultery, are simply told, 
“Go and sin no more.” [Jn 8:11]
There’s nothing to fear from God’s call. He never calls us to that which we cannot do. But we must first hear and accept His call. Once we do, once we turn our lives over to His rule, He provides the grace we need to persevere.
“Be still and know that I am God.” [Ps 46:10]
These words sung by the psalmist still apply. Step away from the noise of the world and prayerfully listen to God’s call. Step away from your busy lives to be still in God’s presence. Spend some quiet time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Listen to His voice.

God calls each of us. It matters not how old or young we are. We all sense it don’t we? We shift in the pew and stare down at our hands as the Spirit beckons those very hands to abandon the nets that ensnare us, all those entanglements that keep us from answering God’s call. We experience the tension. The mystic calls it “the holy longing.”

As the gifts are carried forward, know that God is carrying a gift to you, a call that leads to eternal life. For God is calling you and me to a new way of life, to something far greater than the world can ever give. 

And because He’s a loving God, He never stops calling.