2nd Sunday of Easter

Note:  This is a homily I gave today at Saint John Nepomuk Chapel in Saint Louis.  One of the topics is our local Annual Catholic Appeal.  If you’re reading this outside of this archdiocese, you might be tempted to move on.  But, go ahead and read it substituting your favorite local charity.  I hope you’ll benefit from my thoughts.

Thomas, Thomas, Thomas.  What must it feel like to have your name used in a negative way for thousands of years.   Even today, when someone doesn’t believe something we call him or her a doubting Thomas.

And how must Jesus have felt knowing that in spite of all the teaching, in spite of all the miracles, one of His most trusted friends won’t believe in His resurrection unless he gets to put his fingers in the nail holes and put his hand into Jesus’ side.  He gives an idea of how He feels when He says to Thomas, “Have you come   to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  It’s called “faith”; a belief in something that can’t be proven.

You and I are here today because we have faith.  We have faith in God and in His Son.  We especially have faith in God’s mercy.  The word “mercy” is scattered all through today’s mass, starting with Father’s opening prayer.  That’s because today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Divine Mercy.  You know, it’s the only thing that makes it possible for you and me to even consider getting to heaven.

You may think that there are no sinners in heaven.  If that were true, it would be a pretty lonely place.  Jesus and Mary would be pretty tired of talking just to each other for the last 2,000 years.   We all sin.  We can’t help it.  It’s in our nature.  Thankfully a merciful God has given us a way to have our sins forgiven.  It’s called “confession”; or the Sacrament of Penance.  It’s something that a lot of us seem to avoid.

Here’s the thing.   The Church tells us that we have to receive the sacrament once a year.  Being human, a lot of think that that’s what we should do.  “The Church says once a year.  Once a year it is.”  That’s not the point.  You go to confession when you need to go to confession.  My dentist wants to see me every six months.  But if I get a toothache after only three months, you’d better believe I’m not going to wait another ninety days.

The same goes for confession.  If you need to go, then go.  If you’ve committed a sin or two and it’s bothering you, get rid of it!  Confess it and you know that it’s been forgiven.  That’s Divine Mercy.  That’s what we celebrate today.  God doesn’t want to be alone.  He wants every one of us to join Him in heaven when the time comes for us to leave this world.

[pause]

You know we can never outdo God in mercy, but He wants us to share His mercy by showing mercy to others.  There are a lot of ways we can do that.  We’re called to love our neighbor and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  A lot of us do volunteer work either through the Church or on our own, sharing our time, talent, and treasure with those who are in need.

Today is the beginning of the Annual Catholic Appeal in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.  Unless you just joined the Church in the last year, you know what the ACA is all about.  It’s our easiest and most painless way to help others.

I’m not going to quote you a lot of statistics on how the money is used.  I will tell you  that the goal of the ACA for 2011 is $12,000,000.00  That’s a lot of money but it has to do a lot of work.  There is an ACA video that you should see.  Rather than show it to you today, which would mean buying a DVD player and a big screen TV, I’ve posted it on the parish web site, which is listed near the top of the bulletin.  Watch it before you prayerfully decide how much you want to help this year.

I realize that the economy is tough right now.  Gas is hovering around $4.00 a gallon with predictions that it will hit $5.00 before the end of the year.  That hurts you and me, but imagine how it hurts the agencies of the ACA.  Schools have busses.  Senior services have busses.  Food pantries often deliver food.  Money will be taken away from basic services to cover the increase in auto expenses unless all of us give a little bit more.

That’s what we’re asking from you; a little bit more.  A 10% increase, if you can afford it, will help offset the loss of someone who might be unemployed right now and is forced to give less.

If you’ve not made a pledge to the ACA in a while, or maybe have never contributed, this would be a good time to get involved again.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, but maybe you’re experienced some of that Divine Mercy I was talking about.  A gift to the ACA would be a good way to show your gratitude.

Don’t get me wrong.  You can’t buy God’s mercy.  He gives it free and freely.  But it never hurts to send Him a thank you note.  We’ve got one for you and its already got your name on it.  All you have to do is fill in an amount.

Look, I hate to ask you to be more generous than you already are.  I also know that you don’t particularly care to listen to me asking.  Sometimes we both just have to offer it up.  But I’d like to say one more thing.  Rather, I’d like to read you something that Archbishop has said.  It’s from his “Seven Signs of a Vibrant Parish.”  He writes, “A community that is only focused on its own needs is not evangelizing.  It is not living the Gospel or witnessing to the saving power of Jesus Christ.  Our [faith communities] must be about mission, not maintenance.  If our focus is not outward—on carrying out the Great Commission we have been given to baptize, teach, sanctify and serve—then we fail the vibrancy test and should probably shut our doors—no matter how many people are in our pews or how much money we have in the bank.”

Two things he said jump out at me.  First, we must be about mission, not maintenance.  He seems to be talking directly to us here at Saint John’s.  We can’t afford to just maintain.  If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward.  We’re failing the thousands of men and women who went before us at this beautiful church.

The other thing that jumped out at me were the words “close our doors.”  Nobody is threatening to close our doors.  I wouldn’t be here if that were the case.  I want this community to be here for our children and our children’s children.  But just the phrase gives me the heebie-jeebies.  We’ll be here as long as we’re a vibrant community.  The ACA is very visible, very tangible evidence of our vitality.

Please pray about your pledge to the ACA.  Consider how generous God has been to you before you decide how generous you want to be for him.  On this Divine Mercy Sunday, show mercy to our brothers and sisters whose needs are so great.

One last thing.  Please remember in your prayers our brothers and sisters in north Saint Louis County and in our southern states who have suffered such big losses to storms and tornadoes.  Here in Saint Louis, we were spared loss of life but the people in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia weren’t so blessed.  The death toll there is over 300 with more than 400 missing.  My son and his family live in Huntsville, AL.  They’re fine.  In fact they’re staying at my house because the entire northern third of their state is without power and will be for several more days.  We never know just how our lives may change without warning.

So, we thank God for the good things in our lives and pray for those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.  We  trust in God’s Divine Mercy in this life and at the end of this life.

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