3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

In the first reading today, from the book of Nehemiah, the Hebrew people are returning to the city of Jerusalem. The city has been devastated by invaders and it’s in ruins. Think about the people who live along the Meramec River who are trying to rebuild their lives after the devastating floods. Everything is gone and now they have to rebuild.

 

Nehemiah, who was a priest, has called the people together, men, women, and children old enough to understand. He’s reading to them from the Torah, the first books of what we now call the Old Testament. You might say it’s kind of a pep rally. Nehemiah wants to motivate the people for the huge task that lays before them. The job seems almost impossible. I imagine it was a lot like Monsignor Hessoun speaking to the parishioners here at Saint John Nepomuk after the tornado of 1896 destroyed their beautiful church. The people needed inspiration.

 

So, here’s Nehemiah, speaking to the people. He stands on a wooden platform that’s been built for the occasion, and he reads to them from the Holy scrolls. Notice that he spoke from dawn until noon, about six hours. Think about that! In our world, if mass runs much more than 45 minutes, people start looking at their watches.

 

But the Hebrew people weren’t watching the time. They weren’t in a hurry. They were listening to the words of the Torah. It’s their history; their story. How did they respond? They wept! They shouted, “Amen! Amen!” It must have been quite a moment.

 

The Jews, God’s chosen people, needed to be reminded of who they were. Are we that different? Don’t we need to be reminded of who we are? Isn’t that one of the reasons we come to mass every week? As Christians, these stories are our stories. But, I imagine that if I invited you to come and listen to six hours of scripture readings, I might be here by myself. In our modern age we’ve been conditioned to experience the world in sound bites. We may have around-the-clock news coverage on television and on the Internet, but most of us are lucky to sit through a half hour evening newscast, and that includes sports and weather and eight minutes of commercials. We always seem to be in a rush.

 

When was the last time you wept in church? Maybe at a wedding or funeral, but the typical mass usually doesn’t cause people to break out in tears unless the homily is really bad (or long). But as Bishop Robert Barron says, “If we stop hearing the stories we forget who we are; who we are as Catholics.”

 

As Catholics, we have a wonderful heritage.

But in the last fifty years the Church has tried to become more mainstream, more transparent, and I think we’ve lost something. Take a look at this church. We have a lot of visitors and they usually can’t get over how beautiful it is. They don’t build churches like this anymore. So-called “modern churches” look more like gymnasiums than places of worship. We’re very blessed to have the privilege of worshipping in a traditional, CATHOLIC church.

 

Of course God lives in the more modern places, but this chapel is our heritage. It’s our history. It’s a place our ancestors gave their time, talent, and treasure to build, not once, but twice. When we come here we’re reminded of the thousands of people who have worshipped here before us, and the statues and windows remind us of all the saintly men and women who built our Catholic faith over the centuries.

 

What does the future hold? Who knows? I do know that things have to change. Look around at all the empty seats. That’s a trend, not just at our chapel, but throughout the Catholic Church and other churches too. So many people just don’t see the need to worship the God who created them. We’re surrounded by sin. This weekend marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. MILLIONS of innocent children have been murdered in their mother’s wombs. And, according to a recent poll, 50 PERCENT of Americans think that’s OK.

 

We’re shocked and scandalized when a child loses her life from a stray bullet in a shoot-out in our city, and we should be outraged, but when thousands of kids lose their lives in a single day at the hands of the abortionists, half of us think it’s a “women’s health” issue. It’s just a choice. And even those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life don’t do anything to make the killing stop. We shake our heads and say it’s a shame, but other than this one weekend a year, it’s not even on our radar screens. Come this November, many of us will vote to elect pro-abortion politicians, even though we know better.

 

In the second reading, Paul talks about the body having many parts and how no one part is more important than any other. When one part of the body hurts, the whole body suffers. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jew or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”

 

John Henry Newman said that the Church “is not an organization. It’s an organism.” That pretty much sums up the message today. Don’t ignore your history. Don’t be afraid to speak out when our faith is under attack. Don’t remain silent while our future is taken away from us in the abortion mills. Choose carefully when it’s time to vote.

 

Know your faith and live your faith. When the time comes for our final judgment, we all want to hear the words from Luke’s Gospel that we heard just two weeks ago on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord; “You are my beloved son (or daughter); with you I am well pleased.”

Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist. We’ve heard the story lots of times. John’s baptizing at the river and Jesus gets in line along with everyone else. But, why? He was the Son of God. He came down from heaven and would soon go back. Why did He need to baptized? And why do we commemorate it today?

 

First, the answer is that He didn’t need it. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but you and I needed Him to be baptized. Saint Maximus of Turin, one of the Church Fathers, wrote “Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy.”

 

If you remember your grade school science you know that water evaporates, forms clouds, and returns to earth. The cycle repeats itself over and over. The wind blows the clouds so that the water that evaporates in one place comes down somewhere else. Eventually every drop of water on earth is connected to every other drop. When Jesus made the water of the Jordan holy, he made all water holy.

 

Obviously Jesus thought baptism was very important. In John’s Gospel He said, “Unless a man is reborn in water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” In Matthew’s Gospel he tells the Apostles, “Go, make disciples of all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is our response to Christ.

Jesus died and rose from the dead to defeat death, to save all of us from our sins. But what He does today makes it possible for us individually to be one of his people. Baptism is the beginning of our journey of faith. Jesus’ seemingly unnecessary decision to be baptized by John, someone “not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals”, is actually the beginning of OUR journey of faith.

 

So, why do we celebrate Jesus’ baptism today? Today is officially the end of the Christmas season. Over the last few weeks we’ve celebrated Advent, the time to prepare for Christ’s coming. Then we celebrated His birth on Christmas and the Feast of the Holy Family on the following weekend.

 

On January 1 we celebrated Mary, the Mother of God followed by the feast of the Epiphany last weekend. We end this holy season by remembering the great gift Jesus gave us; the gift of baptism. In it’s own way, this feast is extremely important and it’s appropriate that we celebrate it at the end of the Christmas season.

 

This year there’s a very short time between Christmas and Lent. Ash Wednesday is February 10, just a month away. But it’s a long month. The days are short. The weather’s not so great. It’s easy to get discouraged and to forget the blessings of the season that ends today.   But the feast we celebrate today reminds us that this isn’t the end. It’s the beginning of our life in Christ.

 

Chances are most of us were baptized as infants. Our parents and godparents stood in for us in making our baptismal promises. But those promises, promises we made to God, are just as valid today as they were on our baptismal day.

 

As baptized Christians we reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises. That’s what Satan does. He makes us empty promises. “Do this and this will happen.” But we should know by now that his promises aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on. And we, or our parents speaking on our behalf, promise to reject those promises. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Today, in lieu of the Creed, I’ve asked Father to lead us in renewing these promises.

 

Let’s let today be a reminder that we’re all part of God’s family, His children and brothers and sisters of His Son. We share baptism with Jesus. Water didn’t make Him holy. He made the water holy and by doing that, He made us holy.

 

After Jesus had been baptized heaven opened up and a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son and with you I am well pleased.” I don’t know about you, but when I meet God face to face, I hope to hear those same words.

 

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Today we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Some of the special days in our calendar are called “feasts” and some are “solemnities”. What’s the difference? A solemnity is ranked much higher than a mere feast. According to Catholic Answers, “a solemnity is the highest ranking feast. These commemorate an event in the life of Jesus, Mary or the Apostles central to the Christian faith. The celebration of mass on a Solemnity includes proper readings, the singing of the Gloria and the recitation of the creed.”

 

There are a lot of rules regarding solemnities that you really don’t need to know, but the main thing you do need to know is that part about commemorating an event in the lives of Jesus, Mary, or the Apostles that’s central to our faith. So, why is this celebration, just one week after Christmas, central to the faith?

 

It’s the day that the shepherds came to Bethlehem to see the Baby Jesus. Notice that the shepherds “went in haste”. In 2016 we don’t have a lot of contact with shepherds. We don’t know much about them. But one thing we do know is that the don’t go anywhere “in haste”. They spend their days hanging out with sheep, not known to be speedy animals. Shepherd is a pretty low-key job. But here we have them hurrying to Bethlehem to see this little baby. Something important was going on here.

When they got there, they told Mary and Joseph what the angels had told them. Luke says, “All who heard their story were amazed!” What was so amazing? Well, the story itself was pretty outrageous. But the fact that the angels had delivered this message to these sheep herders, the absolute lowest rung on the social ladder was even more amazing. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

 

Then Luke tells us that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary was the central player in the greatest event in the history of the world. Everything that had happened to her in the last nine months had to be pretty overwhelming. She wasn’t an educated girl. She was a young girl from a small town whose life had been turned upside-down and I’m sure she spent many hours reflecting on what had happened.

 

She knew from the time that Gabriel had visited her that she was going to give birth to the Messiah. The angel had also visited Joseph and told him what was to come. On Christmas night Mary gave birth to the Son of God. She knew it. Joseph knew it. So what makes the visit of the shepherds an event “central to our Christian faith”? What makes it a “solemnity”? Why do we have to go to mass on New Years Eve (day)?

 

I think it goes back to the shepherds. Over the centuries, God has chosen the most surprising people to deliver His message. Look around at the statues of the saints in our chapel. There are a couple of kings, and Saint Michael, the Archangel. But for the most part they were ordinary people. Yet God chose them to be His messengers. The first in this long line of ordinary messengers were those shepherds.

 

Why didn’t the angels appear to somebody important; somebody with some influence; somebody who didn’t smell like a sheep? The most obvious answer is because the shepherds lived a quiet life. They were available to hear the message. They listened. Then, when they had received the message they went “in haste” to Bethlehem. It may have been the first time in their lives that they hurried anywhere.

 

If the shepherds were the first New Testament messengers, and if all these saints were messengers, then who are His messengers today? Take a look at the person sitting next to you. Better yet, take a look in the mirror. That’s where you’ll find His twenty-first century messengers. It’s you and me. We’re called to spread the Good News of the Gospel in this place and time. And, like the shepherds, we’d better hurry! There’s no time to waste!

 

If we’re not just as amazed by this story as the people who heard it first-hand from the shepherds, then we haven’t been paying attention. In the first reading the Lord told Moses to bless Aaron and his sons saying, “The lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”

 

“Let His face shine upon you.” Nobody had ever seen God’s face. How could the Lord let his face shine upon them? That’s what this solemnity is all about. Now God has a face! It’s the face of a little baby lying in a manger. And the shepherds couldn’t wait to see it. This is what the world’s been waiting for for centuries. It’s an event that’s central to our faith.

 

The all-powerful God has chosen to show Himself to us in the form of a little baby. Halleluia!

 

On this day when we celebrate this awesome event, and on a day when we celebrate the changing of the secular calendar to a new year, we should keep in mind our neighbors who are suffering greatly from the recent rains and the catastrophic flooding. Please keep them in your prayers and, do what you can to help them. We will be taking up a second collection today and at both masses this weekend to help our neighbors. Please be generous, as you always are.

 

Feast of the Holy Family

 

Isn’t it remarkable that in just a few hours we’ve jumped from the Birth of Christ to His being twelve years old?   But the Church thinks it’s important that, in light of Jesus’ birth, we reflect on the importance of our families.

 

You know, Jesus didn’t have to be born into a human family. He could have just appeared as an adult. He could have ridden into town on a magnificent white horse surrounded by an army of angels. He was God. He could do that. In fact, that’s what many people expected. But that wasn’t His plan.

 

Jesus had to be born into a family. He had to experience what our lives are like. He also had to be an example to all of us of how we should behave. In the first reading, from the book of Sirach, the author tells us “God sets a father in honor over his children’ a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” He goes on to tell us that “whoever honors his father atones for his sins.”

 

That seems reasonable, and as a parent, I think it’s good advice. Sirach also tells us that a son should take care of his father when he gets old, even if his mind fails. I especially like that part.

 

We really don’t know all that much about Jesus’ growing up, but as a Holy Family, we have to believe that Jesus knew and followed Sirach’s teaching. I imagine it was a little touchy for Joseph to exercise authority over his Son who also happened to be God, but the Scriptures don’t give us any of the details about that, and it may be just as well.

 

Then we have today’s Gospel. Jesus is twelve. Anyone here who’s ever been a parent of a twelve-year-old knows they can be a little difficult to handle. They’re almost teen-agers but they’re still kids. They definitely think they know more than their parents, and in Jesus’ case that was probably true, while Mom and Dad still think of them as children.

 

So they take Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover. When it’s time to go home, Jesus decides to stay. It’s a whole day before Mary and Joseph realize that He’s missing. In a panic they rush back to Jerusalem trying to find Him. AND IT TAKES THREE DAYS! Can you imagine losing your child for a total of four days??? What a nightmare! Poor Mary and Joseph. Not only have they lost their only child, they’ve lost the SON OF GOD! For a devout Jewish couple, their fear must have been unbearable.

 

But, then they find Him and Mary says something that seems very mother-like. “Why have you done this to us?” Not, “Oh thank God, we found you”, but “Why have you done this to us?”

 

Jesus’ answer about being in His Father’s house must have been very painful to them, especially to Joseph. Jesus’ actions in the Gospel seem very contrary to what Sirach tells us in the first reading. Apparently, even for the Son-of-God, twelve was a difficult year. Every kid, whether it was 2,000 years ago, or today, has a tough transition to go through. Jesus, being who He was, still must have had a hard time growing up sometimes. This feast of the Holy Family shows us that every family has its issues.

 

Is there anyone here who hasn’t seen the movie “A Christmas Story”? It’s one of my all-time favorites and it runs on cable continuously Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Every year I watch it at least once, usually more than once. I love it because it reminds me so much of my own childhood, even though I never had a Daisy BB Gun. (My mother told me, “You’ll shoot your eye out”.) I also didn’t have a little brother. But the family dynamic, the atmosphere in northern Indiana, and all the rituals that surround Christmas are so similar to north Saint Louis in the fifties that I can’t help but relate.

 

There’s absolutely nothing religious about this movie. In fact, the producers seem to have gone out of their way to exclude religion. There’s never a Nativity Scene. Jesus’ name never comes up. It’s a strictly secular story that just happens to take place at Christmas time. But the Parker family fits Sirach’s model perfectly. The father is the head of the house. The mother has authority over Ralphie and Randy which is confirmed by “The Old Man”. The boys respect both their parents, even whey they’re trying to get away with something.

 

In the movie Ralphie is nine years old, not quite as old as Jesus in today’s Gospel, but nine-year-olds have their issues too. His reaction to the leg lamp is priceless, exactly what you would expect from someone his age.

 

There seems to be a similar message in this movie and in today’s readings. Every family, even the Holy Family, has its problems. Like they say, “kids will be kids” even if the kid is the Son of God. Parents aren’t perfect, even the Blessed Mother and Joseph. Things don’t always turn out the way we plan them. The humanity displayed by the Holy Family gives all of us hope.

 

Coming so soon after Christmas, this feast shows us that ecstasy can turn into disaster in the blink of an eye. One day we’re celebrating the birth of Christ, the next day He’s gone missing. Isn’t that what our lives are like sometimes? The Holy Family handled this catastrophe and went on with their lives, just like we have to. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are role models just like all these saints that are depicted here in our chapel. We study their lives to learn how to live our own.

 

Now that all the chaos of the secular Christmas celebration is past, we have the Holy Christmas season to relax and reflect. The Christmas decorations will remain in church for a while to give us time to reflect of Jesus birth without the distractions that get in our way leading up to Christmas. Let’s let the Holy Family be our example and our guide. “Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in His ways.”

Saint Andrew

Today is the feast day of Saint Andrew, Apostle and martyr.  I was surprised when I did a Google search for Andrew that one of the results was a blog post that I wrote on his feast in 2011.  It actually wasn’t bad!  It makes me wonder if my ability to put words together on a page (or screen) isn’t less than it once was.  Old age isn’t for sissies!

Anyway, I thought it might be worth while, on this first Monday of Advent, to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit Saint Andrew.

A quick word-association:  What do you think of when you hear Saint Andrew‘s name.  Hopefully you think “Apostle” or “martyr”, buy if you’re like me you probably think “Simon’s brother”.  Even the Ordo, the Church’s book of daily prayers, mass readings, and other helpful stuff for clergy says “Andrew, + 1st c.; brother of Simon Peter“.

 

We  can learn a lot from Andrew.  All of us live in someone’s shadow.  Whether it be a spouse or a sibling, someone in school or someone at work, there always seems to be someone who gets more recognition, more respect than we do, at least in our own minds.  Think of Andrew.  He’s the one who brought Simon to Jesus.  Yet, Jesus always seemed to favor Simon in spite of the fact that he was constantly messing things up.  It was Simon who Jesus called “Satan”.  It was Simon who cut off the centurion’s ear.  It was Simon who denied Jesus three times.  In spite of all his failings, it was Simon who Jesus put in charge of His new church.

What about Andrew?  He did his job.  He spread the Gospel just as Jesus had called him to do.  And he suffered a martyr’s death.  Twenty centuries later we remember Andrew, but primarily as Simon Peter’s brother.

It’s appropriate that Andrew’s feast day falls within Advent.  As we pray and reflect in preparation for the celebration of the Lord’s birth we can compare Andrew’s life with our own.  Who are the Simon Peters in your life?  More important, how do you interact with them?  Are you jealous or are you glad to have them in your life?  Are they positive role models?

Like I said yesterday, God made each of us to be unique individuals.  Rather than envy someone else’s accomplishments, embrace them and learn what you can from them to make yourself a better you.  I have four grown-up children.  Each of them is a unique individual.  Each one excels in different things.  I’m sure that at one time or another they’ve all felt like they were living in one another’s shadows.  But the reality is that each one is the wind beneath the others’ wings.

Today’s challenge is to think about the people in your life who seem to get all the attention.  What can you learn from them?  More important, how can you use the gifts God has given you to be a better “you” instead of an imitation “them”.

After 2,000 years we may think of Andrew as Simon Peter’s brother, but the thing is we’re still thinking about him.

1st Sunday of Advent; Noah (not the ark)

1st Sunday of Advent

I’d like to start by being the first to wish you “Happy New Year!” Today we begin the season of Advent, the start of the church year. You have new missalettes in the pews. Last weekend we came to the end of the Lectionary, the Sacramentary, and the Book of the Gospels and now we start all over again. In the three-year cycle of readings, Year B is over and today we begin Year C. The green vestments and church decorations have been put away and replaced with the purple. The first Advent candle has been lit.

 

More important than that, today we begin the season of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. While we’re bombarded with ads for the latest and greatest “stuff” that our friends and family absolutely must have to make their lives complete, we Catholics are into a season of prayer and reflection.   Is it possible for us to live in both worlds? It is, but we have to work at it.

 

Our purple is in sharp contrast to the brightly colored lights and decorations we see all around us, but there’s a reason for that. In this oasis we call the church, we find a quiet and calm that we may not find anywhere else, except in our own hearts and minds if we take this season of prayer seriously.

 

Sometimes sources of prayer can come to us in unexpected places. Last weekend Jan and I were in a gift shop in Saint James, Missouri. There’s a little bit of irony in the fact that the town is named for a saint because I found something there that was entirely unexpected. Meet Noah. As you can see, Noah is a teddy bear. I know you can’t read what it says on his T-shirt, especially from the back of church but it says, “Prayer is a path where there is none.” That’s a pretty profound thought for a stuffed bear. It’s worth repeating. “Prayer is a path where there is none.”

 

Prayer is a place where we go when we need help. It’s a place to find peace and serenity. It’s where we go to be alone with God. It’s not a physical place. Obviously this chapel is a place of prayer and that’s why we come here. But we can pray anywhere and at any time. Maybe we have a special place set aside at home for prayer. Maybe we pray throughout the day at any time or any place. During Advent we’re encouraged to pray more often, and more deeply, than during what we call “Ordinary Time”.

 

The Son of God came to save us from our sins. Without Jesus, we have no hope. That’s what Advent and Christmas are all about. My little friend here has some pretty profound things to say, so I thought I’d let him deliver his message to you today. Here’s Noah.

 

I really can’t add much to what Noah said. One key point is this: “Life is a gift. Prayer is a thank you note.” We may have a tendency to use our prayer time telling God how to do His job. “Do this. Give me that. Not thy will, but my will be done.” But, especially during this special season, shouldn’t the emphasis be on HIS WILL? When the Apostles asked Jesus how they should pray, He gave them the prayer that we say at every mass, the prayer that we learned as little children. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

Hopefully, as we spend the next four weeks getting ready for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we’ll remember Noah’s words. “I don’t pray because it makes sense. I pray because my life doesn’t make sense without prayer.”

 

Noah is the voice of Noah benShea, an author and motivational speaker. Learn more about him at http://noahbenshea.com.

 

 

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings are an example of why it’s good to understand the historical context of Scripture.   The stories may make sense to our 21st Century minds, but looking at society as it was in Biblical times gives them a little more meaning.

The first reading and the Gospel today deal with widows. It’s important to realize that widows in those times were usually in desperate straits. There was no Social Security. There was no life insurance. There were no pension plans. Unless they had a generous extended family, widows were among the poorest of the poor. Women didn’t work at paying jobs, so their prospects were very bleak. They had no hope.

Yet, here we have two widows, both being asked to give. In the first reading, not only is the main character of the story a poor widow, but at the time, around 900 BC, the Middle East was caught up in a draught and famine. Nobody had enough to eat, let alone this poor lady. But along comes Elijah the prophet asking her for water, something that was in short supply. But the widow does as Elijah asks. As she’s walking away, Elijah calls after her, “Please bring along a bit of bread.”

The lady explains to Elijah that she has just enough flour and oil to make one last meal for herself and her son. That’s it. That’s all there is. When they’re finished with their bread and water, they’re going to die. Imagine how hopeless she must have felt.

That’s when Elijah says something so outrageous that it would be funny if it weren’t so sad. He asks her to make him a cake! Seriously! He wants a cake??? Maybe he’d like some ice cream to go with it? But, he goes on to tell the widow that if she does as he asks, “The Jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”

 

Sure enough, she makes Elijah his cake and she and her son have enough to eat for a year. She gave the little she had, and she was blessed in return. You know, God still works that way today. God can never be outdone in generosity. If you don’t believe me, just try it.

Now, let’s look at the Gospel. The scene is very different. Mark tells us that Jesus is speaking “to the crowds,” as opposed to the scene in the Old Testament reading where there were only two people, Elijah and the widow. A lot of people are following Jesus now. When He speaks, they listen. He’s describing those synagogue officials who like to run around in long robes, letting everyone see how important they are. He says “They devour the houses of widows, and as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

This is the flip side of the first reading’s message. The first reading tells us to give and it will be returned to us many times over. The Gospel is telling us that the men who “devour the houses of widows” will receive a “very severe condemnation.”

The story continues with one of those widows coming into the temple and giving two small coins to the treasury, all she has, her whole livelihood. Jesus tells the disciples that this poor widow has put in more than “all the other contributors to the treasury.”

So, what’s the message here? The logical answer is that here’s where I tell you how important it is to give money to the Church and to other charities. Give ‘til it hurts. Give, not from your surplus, but give all you have. That’s certainly part of it. It’s called “stewardship”. God has given us what we have and it’s up to us to give back. Like the first widow, God will give back to us in much larger measure that we give to Him. But I think the message here is bigger than that. It’s about faith.

How do we grow our faith? We grow it by sharing it with others. Our faith gets bigger when we give it away.

Last Sunday we held our Goulash Festival. It was a success. We served more dinners and made more money than ever before. But that’s not what made the event successful. What made it successful was the way you all worked together, the way you represented our faith community to our visitors. Over 400 people visited us and many of them had never been here before. They enjoyed the food, but the majority of comments we got were about the atmosphere of Saint John Nepomuk.

They were impressed with how well everyone worked together and with the friendly greeting they got from you. That’s called “evangelization” even if not a single word was spoken about Jesus, or God, or Catholicism. We grow our faith by giving it away, just like the two widows in today’s readings.

The Goulash Festival only happens once a year, but we have the chance to share our faith every single day. We don’t do it by running around in long robes or taking seats of honor in the church. We do it by the little kindnesses we do for one another every day. We do it by dishing out goulash once a year, but we also do it by welcoming visitors to our chapel at every mass.

We become disciples by making disciples, and we make disciples by giving to others. In his speech to Congress, our Holy Father summed up his whole message, and Jesus’, in one statement. Live by the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.32

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