Bottom line: St. Paul tells us to seek what is above. I invite you to join me in doing that. Together we can reach our goal: heaven, eternal union with the Risen Jesus in the Communion of Saints.
Some of you know that this year I have an unmerited claim to fame: I seem to look a lot like our new Archbishop, Peter Sartain. As you can imagine, it has worked to my advantage – I get a lot more respect from people who either mistake me for the archbishop or who aren’t quite sure. On the other hand, it seems to work against Archbishop Sartain. Our bulletin has a picture of Sister Barbara shaking her finger at him – I can only assume she thought she was talking to me!
Anyway…a Blessed Easter to all of you. Easter comes very late this year – although for those who can make it until 2038, Easter will come even later: April 25. Personally, by that date I am hoping to celebrate the Resurrection face to face.
My greatest desire is heaven – and I want you to be with me there. I heard about a priest who took a very active approach to getting people to heaven. He actually went out to the taverns to looking for lost sheep. Once he entered a tavern and five guys were sitting around a table. He announced: “All of you who want to go to heaven, stand against the wall.” Four of the guys got up and formed a line. The priest looked at the fifth man, still seated at the table. He asked, “What’s the matter. Don’t you want to go to heaven?”
The man looked at the priest and said, “I do, Father, but I thought you were forming a group to leave right now!”
Well, I do want to help bring you to heaven. This morning St. Paul says, “seek what is above.” You know, one of the good things in our culture is that so many people desire “spirituality.” We sense that there is something more to live than getting ahead, acquiring more toys. Across the board, people say they want spirituality.
The desire for spirituality is good, but it can be a little tricky. It can be like desiring to get into better condition. Almost all of want that, especially as summer gets near. The problem is putting the desire into action.
I once lived with a small group of priests and we all recognized we needed more exercise. We pooled our resources and bought some exercise equipment. We started out good, but soon other things got in the way. Eventually the equipment wound up in a garage sale!
Something similar can happen with spirituality. It is not enough to think about it. A person has to put into practice. It requires things like Sunday Mass, daily prayer and examination of conscience. We have a program at St. Mary’s – and I want to be your coach.
I know I am not the most dynamic preacher in Monroe, but if you come each Sunday you will hear powerful Scripture readings and prayers that have stood the test of time. Above all, you will meet Jesus – the same Jesus who died for you on the cross and rose on Easter morning. That same Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist.
Sometimes people stay away because they feel a distaste for “organized religion.” A friend of mine gives this response: “I also don’t like organized religion,” he says, “That’s why I’m a Catholic!” He has a point.
If by “religion” you mean a man-made scheme to make sense of things, we are not a religion. As we see this Sunday, we are not the ones who take the initiative. God does. We are the Body of Christ, made by Him. The Church exists because of Jesus’ Resurrection.
And about being organized, I’ve been a priest forty years – and I have seen a lot more disorganization than organization! I confess that I have contributed my share to the chaos. Each morning I pray that God bring something good out of the chaos. He did it on Easter morning when he confronted the ultimate disorder – death. He can do the same in the disorder of our lives, our families and our church. So, once again, if you don’t like organized religion, welcome to the Catholic Church. Come to St. Mary of the Valley. But, most important, come to Jesus.
I said I want to be your coach. That is true – I am your spiritual father. At the same time I want to assure you that in the spiritual life, all of us are beginners. Just as a good physical fitness program always goes back to the basics of nutrition, breathing and exercise, so the spiritual life returns to the basics. We are going to do that in a few moments by renewing our baptism vows. You will notice that the response to each question is, “I do.” It has to be a personal response, a commitment from you.
St. Paul tells us to seek what is above. I invite you to join me in doing that. Together we can reach our goal: heaven, eternal union with the Risen Jesus in the Communion of Saints. Amen.