Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 2-3, 2013.
The first homily at my home parish of Christ the King in Webster, SD. I was asked to briefly share my journey to the Deaconate.
Readings: Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9
What is your most important goal in life?
For some, our response might be, “What goals? I’ve never really thought about goals.” For those of you who are students, your most important goal right now might be to pass that test next week. For those of us that work, it might be to learn a new skill so we can get a pay raise. For the farmers, it might be to plant the right crop this year.
When I was in high school, I had a goal to continue my education, specifically to attend Vo-Tech school. But in my senior year, with encouragement from others, I re-examined my plans and changed my goal and ended up going to college. It was at college where I met my wife Nancy and then our goals included getting married, starting a family, and living the rest of our lives together.
Two weeks after graduating from college, we achieved our first goal and were married. It was a couple of years later we started our family with the birth of our daughter Cathy, followed by the birth of our son Matt. Nancy & I became active in our parish, we taught Bible School and Faith Formation. I became a lector. I thought we were doing pretty well in our spiritual life. We were able to take many vacations, most often camping, and most often to the Black Hills. It was our enjoyment of the Black Hills that we eventually set another goal of someday living in the Black Hills.
In 2001, that opportunity developed. So in August, we packed up and moved. But two months later, during a Mass being said in my Mom’s hospital room, just as we were receiving communion, Mom took her last breath. That experience was a conversion moment for me. Once again I started re-examining my life. I started working on my prayer life. I became a Eucharistic Minister in my new parish. I took a bible study course. And after much encouragement from others, I started the Lay Ministry Program.
On October 29, 2005, while doing Evening Prayer, Psalm 116 came up. In that Psalm, verses 14 and 18 are identical. “My vows to the Lord I will fulfil before all his people.” It was at that moment, that I experience my equivalent to Moses’ “Burning Bush” experience. God gave me a vision of the next 30 or so years of my life. During that vision, God asked me to become a Deacon. But I did not say yes.
Almost three years later, on September 8, 2008, the day the Church celebrates the nativity or birth of Mary, I was praying Morning Prayer. But I was struggling with it, I just couldn’t concentrate. I then felt a presence next to me. So I turned to my left and seated on the edge of the couch was Mary, our Blessed Mother. She didn’t say a word, only pointed across the room. So I turned to see what she was pointing at and there stood Jesus. He was making a motion with his index finger, asking me to follow him. It was at that moment I said yes, and set a new goal of becoming a Deacon. And on February 1, 2013, Bishop Robert Gruss ordained me a Permanent Deacon.
Over those years since my Mom’s death, through my prayer, study, formation and discernment, I discovered what has become my most important goal. It is to achieve eternal life in heaven with God. That should be all of our’s most important goal.
Lent is the perfect time to re-examine our lives. In today’s Gospel readings, we hear Jesus calling us to repent. We often think of repent to ask for forgiveness. But repent is a Greek work, that means to make a change, make a profound change.
So I challenge each of you, to re-examine your life. Sometime during this next week, take at least 15 minutes, but if you can do 30 or even 60 minutes, and find an area in your life you need to change. But as you are looking at your life, don’t use your standards, evaluate your life using God’s standards. Imagine you are standing before God on Judgment Day. Imagine how God is evaluating your life. What areas do you imagine God may not find pleasing?
So how can you do this? One way might be to use the Ten Commandments.
Is God more important to you than anything else?
Have you missed Sunday Mass because a football game, or hunting or finishing was more important? Is money your God?
Have you always honored your Father and Mother? Have you ever talked bad about them? Kids – do you obey them and listen to them? If you are older, when was the last time you called or visited them?
Do you always promote life?
Have you stolen anything?
Have you lied?
Have you committed adultery?
By going through this process, you may discover you need to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation? There are many opportunities to receive the sacrament. There are regularly scheduled times. There may be a communal penance service? Or you can call Father to make an appointment. And when you go, remember, the Priest is there in the personal of Jesus. Allow God to work through the priest, to cultivate the soil around your spiritual roots. Allow God to fertilize your life with His forgiveness, grace and love.
Find one thing to change this Lent and make one profound change.
And then at the end of your life, on Judgment Day, as you are standing before God, God will see all the fruit your life has produced. And God will reward you with eternal life in Heaven.