5th Sunday of Lent

Why are we here?  I don’t mean why are we here in this church, or why are we in Saint Louis, MO (or wherever you are) instead of some other place.  The question is “why are we HERE?”; why are we alive?  What is our purpose?  In the thousands of years of human existence there has never been another person exactly like you or exactly like me.  No matter how much longer life exists on this planet, there will never be another person exactly you or exactly like me.  Every person is unique.  Even identical twins are different individuals.  Every person has a reason for being.

 

Jesus knew why He was here.  He says, “I am troubled now.  Yet what should I say?  ‘Father save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”  For the rest of us, it’s not necessarily that clear cut.

 

Jesus was the Son of God.  He could do lots of cool things.  He could walk on water.  He could change water into wine.  He healed the sick and raised the dead.  Most important, He knew why He was doing these things.  He knew why He was here.

 

But, you and I go through life not knowing exactly why we’re here.  I know some of you remember the old Baltimore Catechism.

Question:  Why did God make us?  Answer: God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

Question:  What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?”  Answer: To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.

 

Simple enough, but what does it mean?  It means something different to each one of us and some of us spend our entire earthly lives trying to figure it out.

 

When a priest or deacon is in formation we go through a time of discernment; a time of deciding if this is really what God calls us to do.  I have friends who are deacons who swear that God spoke to them and told them they were being called.  I wasn’t so blessed. Right up to the day or ordination I had doubts.  My tenth anniversary of ordination is coming up in a few weeks and I still have doubts.  “Is this really what God wants me to do?  Does He really want me to be a deacon?  Does He really want me to be in this place?”

 

Father Thomas Merton wrote a prayer about discernment that goes like this:

O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,


I do not see the road ahead of me,


I cannot know for certain where it will end.



Nor do I really know myself,
And that fact that I think
I am following Your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.



But I believe
That the desire to please You
Does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire
In all that I am doing.



I hope that I will never do anything
Apart from that desire to please You.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.



Therefore I will trust You always
Though I may seem to be lost
And in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
For You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me
To make my journey alone.


In John’s Gospel a voice comes down from heaven.  Some of the people present heard it as thunder.  Some said an angel had spoken to them.  John doesn’t say this but it’s very possible that some of the people didn’t hear anything at all.  God speaks to each of us in the way that we need to hear Him.  Some of us need to be smacked up side of the head.  Some of us need to be led gently.  Some of us just don’t pay enough attention and God’s message never gets through to us at all.

 

So, how do we know what it is that God wants us to do.  Simple…PRAY.  I don’t mean the kind of prayer where we spend a few minutes telling God how to do His job.  You know, “Lord, give me this.  Lord, give me that.  God, make this happen.  Lord, give me a winning lottery ticket.  Lord, give me patience.  DO IT NOW!!”

 

Believe me, God knows how to do His job.  You wouldn’t talk to your best friend that way.  Why would you talk to God that way.  When you pray it shouldn’t be a monologue.  It should be a conversation.  You have one mouth and two ears.  When you pray, you should use your ears at least twice as much as you use your mouth.

 

Some of us may not want to listen to God because we’re afraid of what we might hear.  Even Jesus says, “I am troubled now.”  He knows what His Father wants Him to do.  He knows that He’s going to be tortured and killed in just a few days.  Of course, He’s troubled.  But He also knows that’s why He was sent.  “What should I say:  ‘Father, save me from this hour?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.’”

 

Isn’t that last part what our lives are really all about.  “Father, glorify your name”?   Isn’t that what the Baltimore Catechism meant? What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?”  To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world, even though we may be troubled by what He asks us to do.  If even Jesus knew not to disobey His Father, who are we to question His will?

 

 

 

Why are we here?  I don’t mean why are we here in this church, or why are we in Saint Louis, MO (or wherever you are) instead of some other place.  The question is “why are we HERE?”; why are we alive?  What is our purpose?  In the thousands of years of human existence there has never been another person exactly like you or exactly like me.  No matter how much longer life exists on this planet, there will never be another person exactly you or exactly like me.  Every person is unique.  Even identical twins are different individuals.  Every person has a reason for being.

 

Jesus knew why He was here.  He says, “I am troubled now.  Yet what should I say?  ‘Father save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”  For the rest of us, it’s not necessarily that clear cut.

 

Jesus was the Son of God.  He could do lots of cool things.  He could walk on water.  He could change water into wine.  He healed the sick and raised the dead.  Most important, He knew why He was doing these things.  He knew why He was here.

 

But, you and I go through life not knowing exactly why we’re here.  I know some of you remember the old Baltimore Catechism.

Question:  Why did God make us?  Answer: God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

Question:  What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?”  Answer: To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.

 

Simple enough, but what does it mean?  It means something different to each one of us and some of us spend our entire earthly lives trying to figure it out.

 

When a priest or deacon is in formation we go through a time of discernment; a time of deciding if this is really what God calls us to do.  I have friends who are deacons who swear that God spoke to them and told them they were being called.  I wasn’t so blessed. Right up to the day or ordination I had doubts.  My tenth anniversary of ordination is coming up in a few weeks and I still have doubts.  “Is this really what God wants me to do?  Does He really want me to be a deacon?  Does He really want me to be in this place?”

 

Father Thomas Merton wrote a prayer about discernment that goes like this:

O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,


I do not see the road ahead of me,


I cannot know for certain where it will end.



Nor do I really know myself,
And that fact that I think
I am following Your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.



But I believe
That the desire to please You
Does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire
In all that I am doing.



I hope that I will never do anything
Apart from that desire to please You.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.



Therefore I will trust You always
Though I may seem to be lost
And in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
For You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me
To make my journey alone.


In John’s Gospel a voice comes down from heaven.  Some of the people present heard it as thunder.  Some said an angel had spoken to them.  John doesn’t say this but it’s very possible that some of the people didn’t hear anything at all.  God speaks to each of us in the way that we need to hear Him.  Some of us need to be smacked up side of the head.  Some of us need to be led gently.  Some of us just don’t pay enough attention and God’s message never gets through to us at all.

 

So, how do we know what it is that God wants us to do.  Simple…PRAY.  I don’t mean the kind of prayer where we spend a few minutes telling God how to do His job.  You know, “Lord, give me this.  Lord, give me that.  God, make this happen.  Lord, give me a winning lottery ticket.  Lord, give me patience.  DO IT NOW!!”

 

Believe me, God knows how to do His job.  You wouldn’t talk to your best friend that way.  Why would you talk to God that way.  When you pray it shouldn’t be a monologue.  It should be a conversation.  You have one mouth and two ears.  When you pray, you should use your ears at least twice as much as you use your mouth.

 

Some of us may not want to listen to God because we’re afraid of what we might hear.  Even Jesus says, “I am troubled now.”  He knows what His Father wants Him to do.  He knows that He’s going to be tortured and killed in just a few days.  Of course, He’s troubled.  But He also knows that’s why He was sent.  “What should I say:  ‘Father, save me from this hour?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.’”

 

Isn’t that last part what our lives are really all about.  “Father, glorify your name”?   Isn’t that what the Baltimore Catechism meant? What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?”  To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world, even though we may be troubled by what He asks us to do.  If even Jesus knew not to disobey His Father, who are we to question His will?

 

 

 

 

Discernment

Just a short post today on the topic of discernment.  To paraphrase Father Thomas Merton, God never gives us the whole answer.  He reveals the truth to us in pieces, but the sum of the pieces never equals the whole because, if He told us exactly what He wants us to do, we would have no free will.  If we knew with 100% certainty that God wanted us to do a thing, we would have to do it.  After all, who can refuse God?

Lately, I’ve been trying to make a decision on a path that I believe God wants me to take.  Unfortunately, there are a number of very good reasons to decide yea or nay, one being my personal capability.  Yesterday, as I was preparing a homily on the feast of Saint John Neumann I read this on the Saint of the Day web site:

For Christ does not give a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it.

Subtle, huh?  That pretty much does away with my last concern.  I have to say that God has always provided me with enough rope to hang myself but He’s also always given me a pair of sharp scissors to cut the rope.  I’ll tell you more about my decision in a few days, but for now, I’ll just say that God speaks to all of us on a regular basis.  The problem is that we don’t always listen.

 

Be Not Afraid

Signs, signs, everywhere signs.  It’s always been my experience that God speaks to me in subtle ways.  I know people who have been spoken to clearly, but for me, not so much.  When I was in formation for the diaconate some of my classmates were told, in no uncertain terms, that they had been chosen to serve the Church as permanent deacons.  My calling came in a series of small hints that, when added up, pointed me in that direction,

Thomas Merton wrote in “No Man is an Island”, (paraphrasing because I don’t have the book in front of me) that God never gives us the whole answer to anything because, if He did, we’d have no choice but to do as He said.  He only gives us parts of an answer which aren’t quite equal to the whole.  We have to fill in the blanks.  That’s called “free will.”

In fact, I first read the book when I was discerning my vocation.  Ironically, Merton’s words filled in the blanks for me and confirmed that I was on the right path.

So, you can imagine my surprise when He spoke to me very plainly and directly in a dream the other night.  I’ve been wrestling with some personal issues for the last few weeks.  That’s part of the reason why I’ve been absent from DeaconCast recently.

Anyway, I woke up the other morning after a very vivid dream where Jesus spoke to me and said, “Be not afraid.” It was crystal clear, as if He had been in the room with me.  “Be not afraid.”

Skeptics might say that it was just a dream; my subconscious mind telling me what my conscious mind needed to hear.  But after a series of less-direct messages over the last several days, this was Jesus speaking to me.  And, in spite of Merton’s words to the contrary, I liked it.  Any time He wants to hit me upside the head and tell me what to do, I’m all ears.