Sunday, November 30, 2014

Not a Part of It

After the anticpated Mass, a parishioner slipped a few bucks in my pocket and said, "Put this in the CD donation box and ease your conscience..."
     First Sunday of Advent   B 

My best find on Black Friday
was not in a store, but in a church.
My dad almost always goes
to the 7:00am daily Mass 
at St. Peter’s in Plattsburgh
and, since I was home, 
I though it’d be nice to go with him.
After I’d concelebrated the Mass 
and gone to confession,
I was walking out of church
right past the rack 
of Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs—
much like the racks we have 
in each of our churches.
(I like to see if there’s anything new 
that we ought to order for here.)
And one of the CDs there caught my eye:
of Duluth, Minnesota.
This wasn’t only the best find of the day:
it was also the best deal…
...because I took the CD without leaving a donation.
(Sorry, Msgr. Duprey! 
Maybe I already need to go to confession again…)

While talking about Baptism to a group of college students,
Fr. Mike made a few points that we all ought to consider
at the beginning of this Advent season.
In the last few minutes of his talk,
he asked a question that keeps ringing in my head:
In the last seven days, have you lived any differently
than you would have if you weren’t a child of God—
if you’d never been baptized?

It’s only one question…
…but it’s just about the best examination of conscience
I’ve ever heard anywhere!

Fr. Mike points out that most of us look at our faith
a lot like we look at the IRS.
We treat Jesus like the big taxman in the sky.
“I’ll pay what I’m supposed to…
…but don’t ask for a penny more.
And if I can find a few loopholes…even better!”
No one ever says to the IRS, “Here’s my account number. 
Just take whatever you need!”
We don’t say it to the taxman…
…and we often fail to say it to Jesus.
We try to give Jesus just enough…
…but that’s not what Jesus asks for,
that’s not what Jesus wants: he wants it all.

My personal relationship with Jesus Christ
can’t just be another "thing" in my life—
one more item on a long, long list,
fighting to get a piece of my time and attention.
We’re very busy people!
Too busy, I’d say, and getting busier all the time.
Consider all the many things
that occupy your day and your week:
spouse, kids, parents, friends, house, job, school, sports,
health, hobbies, Church, car, bills, volunteering…
...and on and on.
My relationship with Jesus 
can’t just be one of the many things I do.
It’s not even enough to put it at the top of the list.
Jesus needs to be at the very center of everything.
He needs to be the Lord of my entire life—
not a part of my life, but the heart of my life.

Modern technology comes with many blessings.
But smartphones have a particular pitfall
that I see again and again:
they tempt us to lead very distracted lives.
We’re always trying to do a few things at once:
answer a call, read a text, respond to email,
look up something on the net—
all while not being fully present to the moment we’re living
or the other person who’s right there in front of us
(maybe on their smartphone, too).
All the hustle and bustle of this so-called “holiday season”
only increases our high level of distraction.
How desperately we need Advent—
to hear Jesus say, Be watchful!  Be alert!

What real difference does it make in my life
that I am a Catholic?  that I am a Christian? 
that I’m a follower of Jesus?
Can my life be distinguished at all
from the lives of people who aren’t?
In the last seven days, have I lived any differently
because Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, and rose
than if he hadn’t?
In the last seven days, have I lived any differently
because I’m waiting for Jesus Christ to come again
than if I weren’t?
In the last seven days, have I lived any differently
because I have met Jesus Christ,
and he has touched and transformed me?

Our first reading on this first Sunday of Advent
is a plea for God’s help:
We’ve made a mess of things!  We’ve gotten off track!
Lord, come and save us!
In Advent, we’re reminded of our deep need for God.
Left to our own devices, we tend to lose our way.
But the Lord does not leave us on our own.
“God is faithful,” St. Paul reminds us.
God once came in human flesh in times past.
We await his future coming in glory.
And in the meantime, he keeps on coming to us:
in the sacraments, in the scriptures,
in serving the needs of one another—
even in a CD stolen from another church.
But we need to be watchful.
Despite so many distractions,we need to stay awake and alert.

Don’t let Jesus become just another part of your life;
make him the very heart of your life.
Jesus isn't only "the reason for the season";
he's come to make a difference in everything.

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