Imagine someone were to go to the doctor and attempt to tell the doctor everything that is wrong with him and every cure that the doctor needs to give him in order to be well again. I think we can all realize that this would be a big mistake. We go to the doctor precisely because we don’t know medicine as well as he does, and we want him to use his expertise to show us how to be as healthy as we can be. Suppose you got angry because the doctor would not give you the medicine you are convinced would be good for you and decided never to go to the doctor again. Whom would you be hurting? You’d only be hurting yourself. The same thing is true of God. Sometimes we make the mistake of going to God with a predetermined diagnosis for what we need in life and if God says no or doesn’t grant us what we’re looking for we decide we’re not going to worship him anymore. But whom are we hurting? Only ourselves! Sometimes it’s helpful for us to step back and look at exactly what God wants to do for us.
Take, for example, the gospel parable Jesus tells about the man who had a great harvest and decided to build extra barns and store all of his goods there. He then says he can relax and take it easy because now he has everything stored for the rest of his life, and Jesus says of him “you fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you, and to whom will all these piled up goods go?” Jesus is showing us something critical for our lives in this little parable. Why did he call the man a fool? It was not because the man had a good harvest and had done well and was wealthy. The problem was that the man thought that as long as he had money in the bank he was good to go and he needed nothing else. And that’s why Jesus said called him a fool because he said that very night he would die and what good would all of that saved up grain do for him? So the Lord is not saying that we should not pray for the goods of earth but that we should not make them our priority. Certainly the Lord’s prayer teaches us to pray “give us this day our daily bread”, and it’s certainly fine if we’re financially strapped or somebody is ill and we pray for healing for more money whatever the situation may be, but our primary focus must always be getting to heaven. We call Jesus our Savior. But from what did he come to save us? from poverty? No! He was born and laid in a manger. To save us from ill health? No! He was in terribly poor health as he hung on the cross and eventually died. To save us from lack of popularity? No! His friends all abandoned him. To save us from false judgment? No! He was falsely accused of being the devil himself and when he was crucified those who killed him thought they were doing the will of God. No, Jesus came to save us from sin. But sometimes sin seems to be the last thing we worry about and maybe we don’t even worry about it at all! Sometimes I even hear people joking about sin, making fun of it as if it’s an antiquated notion that we’ve wisely outgrown. Nothing could be further from the truth! Sin is indeed something very deadly. Remember that Original Sin, Adam and Eve turning against God and deciding they could choose for themselves what’s right and wrong and not have to listen to God, is what brought all the evil into the world from which we suffer each and every day. And more importantly Original Sin closed the gates of heaven to us. You and I could try to be perfect and maybe we could live without committing any sin, but even with that we could not get to heaven and we would be condemned to hell for all eternity, because heaven was close to us thanks to the sin of Adam and Eve. There was no human being who could do anything about it, because in order to adequately pay the price – the ransom – for sin one would have to be perfect, and since there was no perfect human being, there was not a single human being who could change anything. We were doomed! Only God – the perfect one – could save us, and that’s what he did: by taking on flesh, suffering and dying on the cross, and rising from the dead. When he rose from the dead he destroyed the power of death and now turned death around completely, so that it is no longer our entrance into condemnation – into hell – but is now our entrance into salvation – into heaven! Jesus now teaches us through the Church how to follow him, to avoid sin, and stay on the path to heaven, to avoid all the pitfalls of this earth which is Satan still trying to lead us back into his clutches. Yet again, sometimes we just don’t seem to care about that and we approach God with the answer already in our minds of what God has to allow us to do. This becomes especially a problem when something that God teaches us through the Scriptures or the Church we don’t want to accept. Instead of accepting it, we either invoke the opinion of society and decide, “well, society accepts it now and so must the Church” or we give ourselves an excuse as to why that teaching doesn’t apply to us. Sometimes people even go further by demanding of God and of the Church that he change things that he’s teaching are sinful and that are harmful to us and tell us it’s good for us, and if the Church won’t tell us what we want to hear, then we search out a denomination of Christianity that will do so. But is that really helping at all?
Going back to our example of the doctor, imagine if someone decided they want to be perfectly healthy except they don’t want to have to exercise or eat properly. They go to the doctor and tell the doctor they want to be able to sleep as much as they want sit on the couch and eat all the rich and fatty foods they want and still be healthy. Obviously the doctor tells the person he cannot do that, that if he wants to be healthy he has to exercise and eat properly. But the person doesn’t like that so he says, “Fine! I’ll find another doctor will tell me it’s okay to do so! And maybe he comes across a doctor who has very few patients – for obvious reasons, that he’s a bad doctor – but this doctor, eager to keep patients, tells him whatever he wants to hear. “Sure! It’s perfectly fine for you to sit on the couch all day eat all the potato chips and junk food you want, and don’t worry about exercising; you’ll still be perfectly healthy!” The patient says to himself, “Great! I finally found a doctor who sees the truth, a doctor who understands my needs and my feelings. This is exactly what I was looking for!” Well, what happens to that person when he follows this doctor’s advice? You know the answer: he gets very sick! The same is true of Christians who look for denominations of Christianity that will tell them that whatever they want to believe is fine just as long as they stay with them, or with Christians who turn to God and say, “Hey God, if you don’t give me what I want I’m not going to church anymore!” Well they’re not hurting God, they’re only hurting themselves!”
Remember that God is not here to give us the life of Riley and he is not Santa Claus, the one who gives us presents if we are good. I know I’ve said this in previous blog posts, but it’s worth repeating. God never said “come follow me and I’ll give you a bed of roses!” He never said that! In fact, he said if we want to follow him we must deny ourselves take up our cross each day and follow in his footsteps. In other words, there will be challenges as we follow the Lord in this world. There are going to be times when we have to go against the flow, where we cannot follow what society says is right and instead must remain faithful to the Lord even if it means going against what is currently socially acceptable. Jesus is not here to make our lives easy and to give us whatever we want. He came to show us the way to heaven, and we should be willing to reject anything in this world – no matter how difficult it may be for us – if it’s going to mean losing our eternal salvation.
And so my friends, when you go to God in prayer don’t go with a preconceived notion that you already know what God should do for you and figure were going to manipulate him and do anything possible to get God to give us what we want. Don’t pre-form your mind as to what you believe is right for you and then just look for the church or denomination that teaches what you want to believe, nor should you decide that that’s okay not to follow God because you don’t like what he’s saying. There’s only one thing for us to do: follow God with all of your heart. Turn to him and say, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Lord what do you want me to do?” God is not here to give us what we want but to lead us to heaven. May we never forget this truth, and may we always remember that we are only here temporarily, just passing through this world on a journey to heaven, which is our true home. May we never sacrifice the glory of heaven and our true home for any comfort or convenience or pleasure here on earth!
The image of ” I have so much more that I want to give you but your hands cannot grasp both at the same time ” is a powerful one.
I love and thank Jesus every day for dying on the cross for us, what a sacrifice of ultimate love!!!! I do know all this – and I know it’s the head vs heart issue in my life that feeds my doubts ( along with the evil one trying to confuse and destroy my faith) . God’s Word is God’s Word.
I am so grateful that He is willing to ” take a chance on me.”
(I have had Abba songs in my head since yesterday).
Thank you again for your blog.
And remember, Christ is the winner and you win when you accept Him, so “The Winner Takes it All!!!”
Thanks for the explanation and comparisons.
You summed it all up in saying “follow God with all your heart “. That should be a mantra for questioning believers. .
I am still struggling with it, but praying that God really does know my heart.
You are always in my prayers.
My pleasure Liz! I’m happy if I’m helping you!
Well, you are helping by being honest about the faith and the repercussions for those who lose their way or give up the faith.
I am seeing where I stand with my beliefs , just not sure what I am going to do still since its hard to accept it all completely. I know there a lot of people who are truly faithful followers, but I can’t be the only one with questions , doubts and fear of not going to heaven. I know God loves us and wants us to follow Him. I know the Church will never change Her teachings since they ARE the Word of God. I do still question every day why I stay in the Catholic Church but know I am not leaving.
You help by sharing your total faith with all the blog followers. I always have something to think about after you post. I would love to hear one of your sermons one day. New York is a long way from my home though.
I do thank you . God Bless you.
Hello Liz! Again I’m glad I am able to help you.
Of course you are not the only one who struggles with faith and following Jesus. Every great saint has had moments of struggle. I find that the whole struggle is trusting in God and not in ourselves. We so often stubbornly cling to things we feel we absolutely have to hold onto while the Lord is telling us “let go! I have so much more I want to give you but your hands cannot grasp both at the same time.” We fight with God for years, and then finally the day comes where we say “okay God! I give up! I’m tired of fighting you. You win! I’ll do things your way.” And once we do we discover it’s such a sweet surrender that we say, “You fool! Why didn’t you do this years ago? You could have had this peacefulness a long time ago!” To quote my favorite pop group ABBA, “how could I ever refuse? I feel like I win when I lose!”
Hi Father, if you’re looking for topics for your blog, how about the status of persons with autism in the Church. As someone perhaps on the spectrum, you might offer some valuable insights! Thanks for your always-thoughful posts!
Thanks so much for the compliment. I’m glad you enjoy my posts.
As for the status of persons with autism in the Church, I don’t exactly know how to answer that. I don’t comprehend what you mean by their “status.” I am not a doctor and have no medical knowledge of the specifics of autism other than my own personal experience dealing with autistic individuals and their families. Since we’re not talking about anything sinful, I cannot talk about it from a moral point of view because there is none. Do you mean how we should handle people with autism? If that’s what you mean, then like any illness, the priests and the people both need to be sensitive to the particular needs of autistic individuals. Sometimes they make outbursts that they cannot help, and we have to understand that the parents cannot be accused of not controlling them if their children act out at Mass. I realize that these outbursts can come suddenly and without any warning, and admittedly they can frequently be loud. We have several autistic children in our congregation, and while it can be jolting when they occur, at the same time, they cannot help it, so throwing angry glances at the parents neither serves any purpose nor is it charitable. We used to have a special Mass for people with autism and other difficulties every Sunday so that their families could feel more comfortable that they were being accepted, but the Mass died off through lack of attendance. I guess the only thing to say is that autistic children and adults have as much right to be at Mass as anyone else, and I would encourage everyone to be understanding of their particular difficulties and be welcoming and supportive of them and their families.
I hope I addressed your concern. If not, please let me know in greater detail what you mean.
Oh, Father, I am so embarassed! I had understood that you were on the autism spectrum (high-functioning) and had overcome this obstacle to become a priest. I was asking for an inside perspective. I am so sorry, this is why people should not make armchair diagnosises!!
Ha ha! Well, thanks for the laugh! I’ve been called many things over the years, but this is the first time someone has called me autistic! No hard feelings. Don’t worry! And thanks for your support.
So true .You have people who only turn to Jesus when they want something .Then turn away from him when it either comes to them or he doesn’t grant what they want. It’s not let’s make a deal with him .You have to truly follow him and trust in him.
Thanks Jean! You heard it today!!!!
Very good sermon!
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