I pulled a great prank on my parishioners today at Mass. Several people told me it needs to be on my blog, so here it is!
I like to ask you three questions. Please answer them in your mind as best and honestly as possible: number one – why are you here? number two – what are you doing? and number three -where you going?
First why are you here? Why are you on the earth at this moment in time? Different people might answer that in different ways. Some people might say “well I’m just a step in the chain reaction that began with the Big Bang, and once the Big Bang began one thing started affecting another and now it’s just my turn to be here. So if we follow that through then were nothing more than cosmic dust left over from the Big Bang with no rhyme or reason and no specific purpose for being here at this time. Others might say – as a teenager once said to another upon whom he showed up on a rather unexpected, “Where did you come from?” He answered, “well, my mother and father loved each other very, very much!” In that case we can say we’re simply the result of a conjugal act. Perhaps we might be able to say if we knew that mom and dad had planned to conceive a child at that point that we were at least willed into being by our parents, but if not, then we were just a byproduct of a conjugal act, maybe even an “oops!” Neither of those gives you much sense of personal value today. There is a third answer which of course is the Christian answer: why are you here? because God has willed it. He wants you here at this moment in time. None of us here is an accident to God; every one of us is here on this earth at this moment because God wants us here. That gives me value! That helps me know that I have a reason for existing, that if I don’t seem to matter to anybody else in the world, I matter to God and God wants me here.
Number two: what are you doing? What is your purpose for existing? Why you get up in the morning and get dressed and go to work or to school or whatever it is that you go each and every day? What’s the reason behind it? Some people never think it through. A lot of people have no answer to that question. “Well I just do it because that’s what we do. That’s what we’re trained to do and we just do our thing.” For many people it simply survival, just like animals in the wild who, whenever they wake up, they go to hunt and find their food and keep themselves from being some other animal’s food. So every day is just a struggle for survival – “eat or be eaten!” Of course that doesn’t give us much comfort. Then there’s the Lord’s message to us. The Christian answer to “what am I doing here?” is that I am here because God wants me here and God made me in his image and likeness. You are the only person just like yourself that God has ever made, and God is showing himself to the world through you in a way he has never done before; you have a way of showing God to the world that only you can do! In whatever you do each and every day you are called to radiate the face of Christ, to be the very face of Jesus to everyone you meet, so that the world by knowing you can know God, and the world will be a better place because you are in it! If you live your life each and every day remembering what you are doing – being Christ in the world even if it’s only in the simple gifts I have, in my limited ability to meet other people and interact with them, then whatever I do, whether it’s big-time or little, I do it to show the face of Christ to people. That gives me tremendous meaning! That gives a sense of worth to every day because every new day is an opportunity for me to show God to the world once again in a way that only I can do. It’s not anything I can pat myself on the back for, but that has been given to me by God the day I was created, and that gives the automatic answer to question number three, “where are you going?” What is the purpose of your life? Sadly, for many people, the ultimate goal again is just like everyday – survival, just trying to make sure we don’t get swallowed up before eventually something takes our lives, and that’s pretty dismal! When you think about it, when that happens our lives are no different from a bunch of prairie dogs running around frantically yelping a call to the others to try to find food and get into our holes quickly when a wolf or predator comes to try to grab us as a meal. We’re spending all of our time only trying to survive and avoid being swallowed up by the cruel cold world around us. That leads many people to live simply for pleasure, simply for hedonism, just to enjoy each and every day. In the beginning perhaps maybe that can feel good, but after a while it becomes pretty empty. We need more than just little pleasures.
For other people their goal is to make it big. Maybe they want to go to top. They want to be able to make something big of themselves so they can go to their high school reunion and show all those people who thought they were good for nothing what they became, and then of course they do go to their high school reunion and find out that all the people they thought were going to be impressed by them are more successful than they are, and they become rather depressed because they failed to achieve their goal. Their goal was too dependent upon other people and being better than what other people have done, and of course when they find other people also doing well, instead of being happy for them, they get annoyed.
Some people only want to move up the corporate ladder, to be number one, to become president or CEO or whatever it may be and they never do. Their goals are forever unaccomplished. Or perhaps they do get there and something happens and everybody is publicly embarrassed in the news and they need a scapegoat, and so the Board of Directors decides the CEO is the best to go, and all of their happiness – everything they worked for – is gone, just like that! For other people it’s to have that retirement home: doing everything possible to save money so when I retire I can buy myself a beautiful home on the shore and just sit and look at the sea every day and listen to the sound of the sea creatures. And they do, and that beautiful home gets wiped out in a hurricane! How many people set goals for themselves that never happen, that are either unrealistic or they don’t do anything to make those goals happen, and sometimes what we think is going to be so important turns out not to be very important at all. Maybe they dream of a huge mansion, and when they get it, they find out that it hasn’t made them happy; in fact, it’s just more rooms to clean! Our lives are filled with stories of people who claim they got everything they wanted and are still unhappy. It’s not a rare moment that somebody gets everything they wanted on this earth and quickly discover they have nothing!
Where are we going? Of course God ultimately has one thing in store for us: he is calling us to his glory in his kingdom. God wants us to be with him so that we when we pass through this earth when we can sit and bask on the glory of the face of Christ. Sometimes we dismiss that all too quickly; we look for all the earthly things and we forget about the heavenly things. If it sounds like I’m praising myself in what I am about to write, please forgive me as that’s not my intention, but I can tell you that as a priest that I know great happiness and peace following God every day. How many people if they found out their life were ending might lament that they didn’t accomplish all the things on their bucket list. I can honestly say that if I were to find out that my life was ending tomorrow I have done what I wanted to do, that I have already reached everything that I have wanted in my life. My purpose in living is not to reach a personal goal of anything I want to accomplish in this life but just to continue each and every day doing what God has asked me to do. You may know that Pope Francis is not keen on making monsignors. Someone asked me if I was disappointed and I responded, “Who cares? I don’t like the color magenta anyway!” Twenty-four years ago I got the only title I ever wanted, the title of “father”, and since then I have just been doing what God asks of me. I’m not perfect and I am not trying to make myself out to be a saint. I have my sins and my shortcomings and my failures, but my life is not an ambitious goal to try to do something for myself but trying my best to do what God wants me to do each and every day, to be his face to everyone I meet, so that when I die I can enter his kingdom and gaze upon Christ forever. Has given me a peace each and every day that I would wish on anyone of you, that I would hope that all of you could know, and when we realize that we are here because God wants us here, that we are called to radiate his face to everyone we meet, and are going to the glory of his kingdom, that gives us all the meaning our lives could ever desire! When you have Jesus, who could ask for anything more? May Jesus Christ be praised!
Here’s the final installment of our Catholic Basics Refresher Course.
Here is the video from session three of our Catholic Basics refresher Course. The battery ran out toward the end, but it’s only missing about a minute or two.
One of the greatest contributions of our founding fathers in their creation of the United States was that Americans would always be free to express our opinions publicly without being penalized for doing so. So important was this notion that it was enshrined as one of our fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights. In 21st-century America, however, it is now apparent that freedom of speech, once guaranteed by the First Amendment, will no longer be tolerated.
Last week Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted “omg” and “horrible” after seeing Michael Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his male partner on national TV Saturday evening. In retaliation, the Miami Dolphins fined Jones, suspended him, and barred him from participating in any team activities until he underwent sensitivity training. One may not agree with Jones’ tweet, but whatever happened to his right to free speech? It is a dangerous development when certain individuals can choose to play thought police and decide to regulate what opinions others may hold. The Dolphins could easily have said, “While we respect Jones’ right to his opinion, his opinion does not represent those of the Miami Dolphins.” That would have been far more appropriate. Instead, they sent out a message that those who don’t believe what they do are to be punished and their thoughts are to be forcibly changed until they conform to their own. Is this the United States of America or a totalitarian dictatorship? Fanatical extremists punish others for not sharing their beliefs, not Americans who cherish freedom.
All Americans should cringe at the very serious precedent that the Dolphins have set. Those in favor of gay marriage may at the moment find great joy in the way Jones was punished for his statements, but what would happen if the growing trend toward acceptance of gay marriage should suddenly reverse itself? Suppose down the line people start defending traditional marriage more and more, and it becomes once again unacceptable to embrace gay marriage. Will someone who tweets that he’s in favor of gay marriage be willing to be fined, be publicly forced to apologize for his statements, and be sent for sensitivity training until he accepts traditional marriage? And how about other issues? Are we now all to be afraid to tweet, post, or say anything for fear that there will be retribution by someone above us simply because our opinions differ from theirs? I hope everyone sees the very serious danger this development poses to American society. It in fact erodes the very fabric of the Constitution and our American experiment in liberty. When Americans cannot express their opinions freely without punishment, the United States has ceased to be the land of the free.
When Tim Tebow would bow down for a moment of thanks to God after a play that went well, critics all over the place slammed him, and all sorts of negative comments were made about him and his public expression of faith. If Michael Sam has the right to his public expression of love for another man, does not Tim Tebow have the right to public expression of his love for the man Jesus? Or should Tebow’s critics now be fined, suspended, and sent for sensitivity training until they accept and agree with his belief in Jesus? If Don Jones is to be reprimanded, then so must anyone who publicly criticized Tim Tebow. You can’t have it both ways.
We as Americans have always treasured the right to disagree with others, and our toleration of differences and our respect for others’ opinions is one of the concepts that has made America strong and free. Take away that cherished American right and we will no longer be “the land of the free” but “the home of the enslaved.”
One of my blog followers made a request of me. He said that, since he does not live in the New York area and cannot physically attend my Catholic Basics Refresher Sessions, could I video them and post the videos on my blog. I am happy to oblige! Sorry I don’t have session one recorded, as the request was made after it was completed. I had to break the session up in several segments in order to get them to upload. They are a little dark because of the projector. Next week I’ll see if I can correct that with better lighting!
It may take a few minutes for the video to start running. But please be patient! It will eventually run!
From Friday May 9 – Friday, May 30th, I will be offering a refresher course on Catholic basics at 7:30 PM each Friday night in St. Ann’s Chapel. This is intended for regularly practicing Catholics to brush up on our fundamental beliefs, for those who have been away from their faith but would like to explore coming back, for those interested in becoming Catholic, and for anyone curious about Catholic beliefs. There is no fee to attend, no registration, and no commitment; it is open to everyone. If you live nearby Yonkers, come join us for these four sessions on the Fridays of May from May 9th-30th at 7:30 PM in St. Ann’s Chapel.