Archive for the ‘4th Sunday’ Category

Let Jesus Be the Center of Your Life – Deacon Patrick Conway 2-1-2015

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

1. Relationships. We human beings are wired for relationships with other human beings. From the first moment of our creation we are connected to another human being, and that connection brings us life, and without it, we will perish. When we are little, we will physically shrivel up and die without these nurturing relationships. And when we are grown up, if we don’t maintain these relationships, we will shrivel up and die emotionally and spiritually.

2. In other words, we have to work at it. These sustaining relationships take desire, time and effort. We have to spend time with others, we have to put forth effort, and we have to give love.

3. If this is true for our human relationships, it is also true with the most important relationship in our lives. As essential to our survival are our relationships with other human beings, there is another relationship that is even more essential. This is our relationship with God. In order to fully thrive as human beings, to be all we can be, we have to be in a nurturing, sustaining, and deeply personal relationship with God.

4. This is nothing new. Our saints have taught us this and have lived it in their own lives from the very beginning. They show us that a nurturing, sustaining and deeply personal relationship with God is maintained through prayer and sacraments. And the key is prayer, because without prayer we just go through sacramental motions and never really benefit from all the grace of our sacraments.

5. Like our human relationships, our relationship with God takes time, effort and desire. We have to have the desire to be with God and we have to make the effort to be with God and we have to spend the time with God. This is what prayer is. Prayer is not reciting prayers. Prayer is talking to God, listening to God, and being with God. It is having a personal relationship with God.

6. How do we do this? Well, as I said, we have to set aside time to be with God. Quality time, as we say. And that takes effort, as we all know. How much time? How much time do we have for the things that are really important, for the things that are essential? And how much time to we give to things that aren’t that important, the things that aren’t essential? We have to be honest with ourselves and with God about this. Jesus and the saints show us that time for quality prayer is possible, even for the busiest of people, and most of them were very busy and very much in demand, especially Jesus.

7. And I want to focus on Jesus here, because he is not only our role model for prayer, he is the focus of our prayer as Christians. Certainly we pray the Our Father as Jesus himself taught us, and we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we do so as we say, “…through him, with him and in him…” through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. Jesus tells us that no one comes to the Father except through him, and he also tells us that he sends us the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the center of our faith. It is called “Christianity” after all. If we want to know God, we must know Jesus. God the Father loved us so much that he sent his Son Jesus into the world so that all who believe in him might not shrivel up and die, but would have life forever. At the last supper when Jesus was talking about God the Father, Philip said, “Jesus, show us the Father.” Jesus said, “Have you been with me so long and you still don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

8. In other words, Jesus is God made visible. And he was made visible so that we would look at him! God tells us, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him!” We need look no further nor anywhere else. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. If we want to know God personally, we have to know Jesus personally. This is God’s plan.

9. That’s what I mean when I say that Jesus must be the focus of our prayer. We can imagine all kinds of things about the Father and about the Holy Spirit, but Jesus we can actually see. We first of all see him in his life on earth as recorded in the scriptures. We have to spend prayer time with Christ in the scriptures. St. Jerome, one of the greatest Biblical scholars of all time, said, “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” He wasn’t saying that we all have to become scripture scholars like him, but rather that we all have to come to know the Christ of the scriptures. And that we all can do.

10. Here’s what the saints teach us about praying with Jesus in the scriptures. Pick a passage from one of the Gospels that is about Jesus, something he did or something he said, and focus on that in your prayer time. Before you begin, ask God to bless your prayer time, ask God to help you to focus on Jesus, ask for the grace to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more intensely, and to follow him more closely. Then slowly read the scripture, and see what is going on in the passage. Take today’s Gospel for example. Jesus and his disciples come to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus goes to the synagogue and taught the people, and they were all astonished at him. Then he cast an unclean spirit out of a man, and everyone was amazed. Then spend some time imagining what all that was like. Imagine you’re one of the disciples and you witness everything in the passage. What is Jesus doing, what is Jesus saying, how does all this make you feel, and does it make you think of things in your own life? (This is where the Holy Spirit comes in and teaches us in prayer, but our focus is still on Jesus.) Then, as you conclude your time of prayer with Jesus, ask Jesus to give you what you know you need to be more like him. I promise you, if you do this on a regular basis, you will come to know Jesus more intimately, and in knowing him, you will love him more intensely, and you will follow him and serve him more closely.

11. You know, some evangelical Christians don’t think that Catholics are Christians. I think it’s because they don’t see Catholics having a personal relationship with Jesus. Now part of me gets very defensive and I want to say to them, “How could you not see that Jesus is what Catholicism is all about? Look at our sacraments, especially the Eucharist. They’re all about Jesus. And look at our saints. They’re all about Jesus.” But another part of me knows that there’s all too much truth in their perspective. I too see too many of us Catholics not really knowing Jesus, at least not in the way that we can know him, and love him and serve him.

12. Christ is truly the heart of Catholicism. He’s the heart of Christianity. And Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship, a deeply personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, and through Christ, with Christ and in Christ, a relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ always comes to us in Holy Communion, and he always wants holy communion with us. If you’ve drifted away from him, come back to him. If you’ve never known him, believe that he knows you, and that he knocks at the door of your heart. Open your heart to him, invite him in, and he will come and fill your life with his life and love. Wherever you’re at today, come to Christ. Do not delay, come to Christ today!

You can count on me, God!” Deacon Patrick Conway 12-21-2014

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

1. It’s four days away from Christmas Eve, and millions of children all over the world have made their gift wishes known to Santa Claus. Some have seen him in person and sat on his lap, others have written him letters. Some have even sent him emails! I saw at least a dozen websites where you can send Santa an email and he’ll send you one back.
2. It’s fun to play the wish fulfillment game, but we have to be careful to remember that it’s just a game. Real life isn’t that way, and real spirituality isn’t that way either. To treat other people as if they exist only to give us what we want is to treat them as less than human. And to treat God as if he exists only to fulfill our wishes is to treat him as less than God.
3. Let me give you an example that illustrates what I’m talking about. What if I decided that I wanted to work for Microsoft? I’d send Bill Gates an email and say, hey Bill, I want to work for you, so give me a job. I’d like to work out some ideas that I have for some new Windows apps. I want to get paid $100 an hour plus benefits. And, Bill, I really don’t want to move to Seattle and all that rain, so I’d just like to work out of my home, and I’d like to work as much or as little as I want each week.
4. Let’s just say that Bill Gates actually reads my email and responds. Is he going to say, “Sure, Patrick, whatever you want!”? Probably not! At best he might invite me to apply for a job that’s available and see if my skills match what they’re looking for. If they did, they’d make me a job offer that included how much and where they want me to work and what they are willing to pay me.
5. That’s because Microsoft has a vision and a plan for fulfilling that vision, and they’re really only looking for people who are willing to serve that plan. Why would they be interested in anyone else? It’s naïve to think that it’s all about me and what I want. If I go to work for them, I’ll be serving that master.
6. Sometimes we treat God like Santa Claus, as if he exists only to give us what we want. But (and I hate to say this) God is actually a little more like Microsoft. Like Bill Gates, God has a kingdom, a vision and a plan for fulfilling that vision, and he’s looking for people who are willing to serve his kingdom, vision and plan. But all too often our vision is way too small and self-centered. We tell God what we want, then when he doesn’t give it to us, we think that he doesn’t care for us or that he doesn’t really exist. So we go off on our own, making plans and choices to fulfill our vision for our life. And we wonder why things don’t work out the way we wanted them to, and why getting what we want doesn’t always make us truly happy and fulfilled.
7. Today’s Gospel shows us the way life is supposed to work, the way things really are. God sends the angel Gabriel to Mary and tells her, “God has a plan to save the human race from its stupidity and sins, and, Mary, you have an essential part in that plan. Here’s what your part is.” Mary asks a respectful question, “How is this going to happen?”, but she doesn’t question God’s plan, as outlandish and impossible as it sounds, not does she try to negotiate an alternative plan, and she doesn’t even mention what she wants out of life. She simply says, “You know I serve God’s kingdom, vision and plan, so God can count on me.”

8. Mary is often called the first disciple, and she is certainly the role model for all disciples. What she does is so simple that it is often overlooked and undervalued. But what she does is the essence of all discipleship. She understands that God is God and she is not. She is the creature created by God to do what God made her to do. That is her understanding of reality. Everything in her life serves that basic truth. And she knows that God is good and that he loves her, and that his plan is good, so she trusts him with her happiness and fulfillment. She knows that giving herself to God’s plan for her life is going to be the smartest thing to do. With God, and only with God, will she find the happiness and fulfillment that she most deeply desires.
9. And how did that work out for her? Well, she had to endure a lot of pain, suffering and loss. But in the end, the meaning and value of her life far exceeded her wildest dreams. Her happiness is greater than any of us can imagine, and the Catholic Church declares her to be the greatest human being of all time and the greatest human dispenser of God’s gifts and graces. She’s huge!
10. And, while it worked out great for her in the end, she didn’t do it for that reason. She simply did what God had for her to do, in her time and place, to the best of her ability, and God used her mightily to fulfill his plan of blessing for the entire human race and for all of creation.
11. And this is how it can be for each one of us. Unlike Bill Gates, God actually has a job for each one of us. Each of us has an important part in God’s plan to save human beings from stupidity, sin and unnecessary suffering, and, like Mary, we’ll discover our true greatness and happiness in living out our part in our time and place to the best of our God-given ability. If we don’t know what our part is, then we need to ask God to show us. “God, I know that you love me and have a wonderful plan for my life. Please show me what it is and give me the grace to accept it with all my heart. You can count on me, God.”
12. This is what it’s all about. Because Mary accepted and lived out God’s plan for her life, we got Christmas, including Santa Claus. Most importantly, we got Jesus, who died for our sins so that we could live with God and Mary and all the saints and Gabriel and all the angels in heavenly happiness forever.
13. What will happen, then, if each one of us does what Mary did? We’ll never know, and the world will never know, unless we try. “God, I know that you love me and have a wonderful plan for my life. Please show me what it is and give me the grace to accept it with all my heart. You can count on me, God.”

Being a Disciple 5-11-2014

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

A word that comes up a lot in these post Easter Scriptures is the word Disciple – Being a Disciple of Jesus Christ. The best definition I have ever heard of what a Disciple of Jesus Christ is, “is a person who tries to follow Jesus, makes a lot of mistakes, but comes back and tries again and again.”
A person who makes this definition come alive for me was Peter, the first Pope. Picture with me Peter, Mr. Enthusiasm…the Charlie Hustle of the New Testament, jumps in with both feet, “There ain’t no mountain high enough – no valley too low – that I won’t follow you Lord. I won’t fail you – I am committed.”
A little while later Peter, Mr. Whishy Washy, “I don’t know this Jesus – you have mistaken me for another person – I’ve go to go, I am a busy person – this suffering and dying stuff is too much for me. I want to be part of a winner.”
If we explore the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles a little bit more, we meet Peter, the Cheer Leader. A sales person for God – Mr. Committed again, calling people forth to be Baptized. To make a personal commitment, “It’s worth it,” he says. He proclaims the crucified and risen Christ as the source of his strength and power.
A Disciple… a person who tries to follow Jesus, makes a lot of mistakes, but comes back and tries again and again. YOU…ME… A Disciple…2014. Yes! Maybe. No!
(Go out to people and look up to Altar Area.)
“What is this Guy talking about Lord? Me be a Disciple? No way! If he only knew about the real me. If he knew what I did last night, or what I think about that person two rows in front of me. If he knew about the conflict in my family, or the trouble in my marriage. If he knew some of my secret thoughts, or old grudges that run so deep. If he knew that I am only here because my mother is making me, or that I have a secret plan to sneak out during communion. If he only knew my doubts…if he only knew.
I close with this thought; I truly believe that our God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows how inadequate we are, how awful and hurtful we are to each other at times. God has heard every possible excuse we can make when it comes to following Him.
Today, Peter and other Disciples like him remind us that our God is very willing to work with and thru our weaknesses and inadequacies. God has given Peter and the others a second, third chance. God is willing to give us endless chances if we let it happen. God will not give up on us – let’s not give up on ourselves.
A Disciple – a person who tries to follow Jesus, makes a lot of mistakes, but comes back and tries again and again.