Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sloth - Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Lent

In the Gospel today, we hear of a couple tragedies and how Jesus responds to the disciples worries about those tragedies. In that day and age, it was commonly held that if someone died in a tragedy, it was because that person was an evil person. Jesus knew that His disciples held this wrong but common belief and He corrects them of this by saying, in essence, “You need to take a look at your own souls.”

They were focused on the bad, they were judging souls, and in that obsession about the things of the world, the disciples were forgetting about what they, personally, had to do.

We are all tempted by this. When something happens in the news cycle or at work or at school, it is easy to hone in on that and become frustrated and melancholy-- even to the point of forgetting about heaven and that I have responsibilities to keep if I'm going to make it.
This neglect or complacency concerning our soul is called the sin of sloth.

*          *          *

(For the Sundays in Lent, in this Year of Mercy, I am preaching on the Seven Deadly Sins).

Sloth is not laziness. Rather, it is a "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good" (Aquinas, ST II-II.35.1). It involves a wrong way of thinking that focuses on the bad, the tragic, the heavy, the passing of The World, and in so doing loses sight of the good, the beautiful, the adventure of life, and its joy. Sloth refuses to do good because doing good seems too difficult and what difference would it make?

The slothful person is slothful precisely “because he doesn’t think there is anything worth getting up for” (Fr. Longenecker). The slothful person, therefore, will complain of boredom and will lack creativity.

Whereas gluttony brings about a flabbiness of the body, sloth is a flabbiness of the soul, precisely because it doesn't spiritually exercise.

It must be noted that sloth is not clinical depression, although sloth can contribute to it.

Sloth is a spiritual illness. It is faint-hearted and easily wearied by responsibilities and obligations. A slothful person has a “sluggishness about the commandments” (Aquinas, ST. II-II.35.4). This is mostly due to the fact that sloth doesn’t see much value in friendship with God or really believe in it (Hütter)—and so it dismisses the fact Jesus said, “You are my friends if you keep my commandments” (Jn 15:14). The Commandments and Jesus' friendship are burdens and a source of a weary sadness.

As a result, the slothful person will flee from the Commandments and God’s Friendship and thus avoid the rigors of prayer and time in the spiritual life. In order to rationalize this, the slothful person will have to deny that there are any objective moral realities in the world and, in doing so, will have to invent his own way of moral living. Of course, he is too lazy to do much inventing, so he will simply do as he pleases, rationalizing it by saying “it’s not a big deal” or “it doesn’t really matter” or, even, “God understands.”

This laziness will eventually become resentful of having to pray and sacrifice and having to do one's duty. It doesn't see the value in carrying the Cross or how love shows its true colors precisely when it is difficult. Commitment is not in the slothful person's lexicon.

It will become resentful of those who tell him to do as much and to love in such ways. This resentment becomes outright contempt when such duty conflicts with the slothful person’s worldview—a worldview, it is worth noting, that they have likely developed as the result of their (or their parents’) slothful approach to understanding the faith, avoiding the accompanying rigors that studying the faith necessarily demands. This is our culture writ large.

*          *          *

How does Jesus respond to this? He says:

I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!

We need to repent of that creeping sluggishness that refuses to do what is good and true and right. We need to repent that we have focused too much on the fleeting world and not enough on the eternal God.

Part of that means that we have to stop sabotaging our friendship with God and the joy that comes with it.

What I mean by that is: sometimes we choose, intentionally or unintentionally, to do things that directly undercut our joy; we choose things that make us spiritually flabby and which make it harder to choose spiritual things in the future.

For example: If you’re always listening to sad, melancholic music, you’re not gonna be happy. You’ve gotta choose to listen to something joyful. Something that raises you mind and soul to God. And the same goes for news-media: many of us need to take a fast from the news this Lent and choose to have our mind and souls raised to God.

Likewise, if we’re spending long hours sitting at home or at work, refusing to go outside and get a fresh breath of air and exercise and a new perspective, then you’re not going to be happy. You’re going to get in a rut. Or throw pity parties. Go for a walk and ask our Blessed Mother to go with you.

Finally, procrastination. If we’re always procrastinating—from delaying our time of prayer or confession or whatever that one thing that we really know that we need to do—if we put those things off, then we’re going to become anxious under that heavy burden, and that’s going to wear you out and you’re not going to be happy. Choosing God and doing so promptly will lead to your joy!

*          *          *

C.S. Lewis, while riding a train that was most uncomfortable, had an insight about joy. While riding that train, Lewis felt a faint breeze on his face and realized that he had a choice: to revel in the breeze or to ignore it and so curse the misery. He realized that joy is like a faint wind that brushes your cheeks and which is easy to ignore, unless you choose—choose—to stop and delight in it. But this means first, that you have to seize the invitation to climb aboard the train, comfortable or not; else, in the sadness of sloth, complain that everyone else is on it and joyful and why am I not? (cf. C. S. Lewis, Present Concerns, 52-53)

Let us conclude.  The deadly sin of sloth is a choice. It is, ultimately, a choice to live in a small, melancholic world. The slothful person sees how small a road is, but has forgotten that it leads to Rome. He feels the weight of the duties of life, but has forgotten the lightness of a budding flower. His focus has become so narrow on the things of the world that he no longer thinks about the grand things of the world: like the Himalayas and, above them, the moon and the Milky Way, and the vastness too great to measure—a vastness which is, sadly, still smaller than the great distance between him and the person sitting next to him.

If only the slothful would “break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which [their] own little plot is always being played, … [they] would find [themselves] under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers” (Chesterton, Orthodoxy), the strangest and the most splendid of which is God, Jesus Christ, who came as our savior and friend so that we “may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gluttony and Lust - Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Lent

+ It may seem odd to have the glorious moment of the Transfiguration squared with the second week of Lent. It is a truly remarkable moment: Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain and, there, Jesus becomes radiant, His divinity shining forth—even His clothing is brilliant. It is a moment where Jesus reveals His glory.

But why does He do this? Why is it important for Lent?

It is here that Jesus will immediately turn and begin His journey to Jerusalem where He will suffer on the Cross, die, and be raised on the third day. The Transfiguration, therefore, was to be the moment where Jesus, giving His Apostles this vision of glory, would strengthen them so as to give them reason to stay close to Him during the fear and suffering of the crucifixion-- even though they would not.

The Transfiguration would also be a lesson in things to come: there would be the glorious Resurrection after the Cross—a resurrection that we too would participate in: we too will radiate this heavenly glory, if only we embrace the Cross. (The Cross being not only the sign of a life of sacrifice, but firstly the place of God's Mercy!)

This is one of the oddities of our Catholic faith: we believe that Jesus not only came to redeem us, but to fill us with His glory—the very “stuff” of God, the radiance of His divine life, “heaven and earth are full of [His] glory.” Jesus came not only to save us, but to transfigure us, to raise us by His grace to supernatural heights!

*          *          *

Paul takes this theme of glory and shows a contrast: He says there are some whose glory is not in the glory of God, but whose “glory is in their ‘shame.’” What does this mean? It means that there are some whose lives don’t radiate God’s glory, but rather a shamefulness that has resulted from choosing other gods.

For example, Paul says there are some whose “God is their stomach.”

What does this mean?

It means that there are some who choose to make their life’s pursuit the fulfillment of their lower appetites. They try to fill their desires with lower pleasures, but, like the stomach which always becomes empty, they are never satisfied. They always want more. Because their “God is their stomach,” they never see God as the fulfillment of all their desires, they never embrace the rough wood of the Cross and, because of that, they never enter His glory. Their glory is their shame; their end is destruction.

It is particularly timely, therefore, to delve into two of the deadly sins that most clearly correspond with Paul’s words: namely, gluttony and lust. Let’s take them individually here.

*          *          *

Gluttony refers not only to an immoderate eating of food, but to drink and all the other things that we try to compensate for our lack of God—like becoming fat on current events, for example.

When it is focused on food, gluttony leads—physically—to a slowness and even to ill-health. We literally can’t run races. And not only physically, but spiritually, we become slow. Our mind and spirit become dull, which make it difficult to pray and to be virtuous. We no longer fight the good fight nor run the race of faith.

This is one of the deadly sins. It kills us. In other words, it is mortal.

In terms of drink, this includes getting drunk. Why is getting drunk “mortal”? Because we are made for glory, for being fully alive and having the full possession of our faculties (and our vehicles)—but getting drunk turns us into beasts. And it’s not just the partiers on the weekends, its housewives during the day, or a person who comes home after work to have “just a couple” to take the edge off. That’s going to the bottle for help instead of going to God—and it quickly leads to the slavery of alcoholism. It is not man fully alive. Drunkenness is a mortal sin and must be confessed.

I also wish to sound the alarm in regards to heroin. In my short years as a priest, I have noticed the explosion of drug use in our local community. Every year, I have had to bury a young person who died because of heroin. This past year, I buried three. I plead with you, even to tears, and with the families as well: heroin and its entry drug, marijuana, are destroying our young and our families! (And please don’t tell me that marijuana is not an entry drug. Every young person I have buried started with it). The physical and spiritual effects of drug use are disastrous. We all probably know someone who has been affected by this. Let us bring about more awareness here, and pray.

And let us remember: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They will be satisfied.”

Ultimately, the solution to sins of gluttony will be the grace of faith, expressed by entering into the suffering of self-denial found by embracing the Cross which is sacrifice and Mercy. We must say no to some things—we can’t have all the things. We need to exercise. Fast once in a while. Practice temperance. And go to confession for mercy. You’ll start to become fully alive and enter the glory of God. Cross, then glory.

*          *          *

Let us turn to the ugly cousin of gluttony: that is, lust. Lust follows along the same lines: to try to the fill God-sized hole in our hearts with something that is less than God-sized.

Lust begins by an improper way of seeing. It sees only with the eyes and the passions, but not with the heart. It turns people into objects and forgets their dignity as children of God.

Our Lord Himself said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, they shall see God.”

Of course, our world says that it’s ok to lust, to satisfy our animal passions and appetites. But that’s simply saying that we are slaves to them—and I am no slave!

Lust translates into impatience. Since it is enslaved to the passions, it cannot wait— it cannot be patient. Well, love is patient. Patience, it is worth noting, comes from “patior,” which means “I suffer.” Lust and its impatience is literally an unwillingness to suffer for love, an unwillingness to embrace the Cross for glory.

Because of its connection to love and seeing, lust can easy devolve into a spiritual blindness that easily overlooks and may even deny the faith. As it focuses so much on the flesh and not on the God that dwells in us, lust is a close relative of idolatry.

Physically, it can lead to disease and to the neglect of one’s work and family—and even to their destruction.

Here, I would like to sound the alarm again, but on a new drug. Depending on which study you see, anywhere between 60-77% of men watch porn on a regular basis—and it’s not just the men, either; the rates in women are rapidly catching up. It’s a billion dollar industry that has become mainstream, so much so that the average age that our kids are exposed to this stuff is age 9. This is destroying our families and our communities.

Lust is one of the seven deadly sins and consenting to it and/or acting upon it, as in the case of pornography, is mortal. Going to confession is required before receiving Holy Communion.

The solution to sins of lust is chastity. Chastity is not celibacy. Chastity is that self-mastery that seeks to live a clean life, a pure life, and to see another as a person, as a child of God, and not as a piece of meat. Chastity embraces, with love, the patience of the Cross, expressed through little mortifications: waking up early so as to pray; turning the shower knob to cold for the duration of a Hail Mary once in a while; going outside and fasting from the computer; praying for those who are enslaved; and going to confession to learn from Jesus, the Master, and to receive His Mercy.

*          *          *

Let us conclude. Glory comes through the Cross. No Cross, no glory. Indeed, Paul goes so far as to say that those whose god is their stomach are “enemies of the Cross”!

We are made for more. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are made for glory.

Let us pray, therefore, that during this penitential and holy season of Lent in this Year of Mercy, that we may be strengthened by God’s grace, purified of our sins by His Mercy, and radically conformed to His Cross so as to be transfigured in glory. May we live no longer as the beasts, but as the glorious God, Jesus Christ!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pride - Homily for the 1st Sunday in Lent

We are now in that holy season of Lent, a season of repentance and sacrifice and of growth. At the same time, we are also within the Year of Mercy. Put them together and we have a remarkable moment of grace. 

When we talk about the Year of Mercy, we must note that it is not simply the Year of Forgiveness. Mercy has a deeper meaning than that. For example, not only does God forgive us, but he enters into our very lives, even experiencing the temptations that we experience. He didn’t have to do that. But He did. That’s mercy. 

For the next few weeks of Lent, I want to preach about how Jesus enters into our lives to free us and raise us up from the Seven Deadly sins. Since this is the Year of Mercy, it is helpful to consider why we need mercy. 

*          *          * 

So, we begin: St. Augustine notes that at the heart of every sin is pride. We sin because we think we need it or it’s going to make us happy or because, well, why not? Don’t I deserve happiness? 

So, for example: in the Garden of Eden, the devil appealed to pride in order to tempt Adam and Eve. Don’t you want to become like gods? he said. 

It’s a very subtle temptation. (Of course we want to become like Gods!) Well then, take the apple and eat it. Don’t think about whether it is actually right or wrong. Don’t really think about God here. I mean, you’re an important person. You’re an adult. You’re independent, right? You can think for yourself…. 

(Ahem, even though the devil is really doing the thinking for them.) 

So, notice: the devil is not so brazen as to start off the conversation by saying that we don’t need God. That would be too stark. Instead, he is subtle and he subtly appeals to our pride: Aren’t you important? 

*          *          * 

Pride is like a balloon that is inflated. As the balloon is inflated, the balloon becomes larger and larger, but its skin becomes weaker and weaker. All it takes is for one little word of correction, one little thorn of humiliation, and the prideful person pops into an explosion of emotion, usually anger, then typically turns to gluttony and drunkenness or the other sins and eventually doubt. The doubt crystallizes and becomes indifference. 

Pride eventually crosses its arms and says, “I don’t need a savior. I have no sins. I don’t need to go to confession. I’m OK.” 

Because to admit otherwise would be humiliating. 

For example, just this morning at Monsignor’s 8:45 Mass, I was scheduled to come and help with Holy Communion. But I totally lost track of the time. (Liverpool vs. Aston Villa—what can I say?). So it’s 9:30 when I realize that I am totally late. I run over to church and they are in the Lamb of God. I put on my white surplice and my stole and I have to walk up the center aisle and everybody sees that I’m late. 

It was humiliating. 

And on the day that I talk about pride. Go figure. 

It’s humiliating to face our weakness, to admit that we don’t have it all together. When we are sick in the body, for example, it’s humbling.  We realize who we are: that we are dependent on others, that we are mortal. That, ultimately, we need a savior. 

That’s Lent, right? Just five days into it, we’ve made a mess of things. I mean, did anyone else eat bacon on Friday? Am I the only one?… That’s humbling. I have come to realize that Lent is not simply a self-improvement plan that I do independently from God. Lent is a time when I realize how dependent I am on him. I see my spiritual sickness and I realize that, without Him, I can do nothing. 

*          *          * 

It is important, then, to highlight the differences between the prideful person and the humble person. 

The prideful person, cannot take it when things don’t go their way. They easily become grumpy and irritable and discouraged; whereas the humble person is hopeful and joyful. Humility is the ability to laugh.

The prideful person is narcissistic and easily becomes greedy, gluttonous, lustful, and envious. They are worried about comforts, achievements, and their reputation. They don’t trust God, so they rarely pray. Instead, they are focused on their own comings and goings, and become anxious and restless, almost to the point of becoming neurotic. They are busy. They are the modern-day slaves. 

The humble person, on the other hand, is peaceful and versatile and can live happily whether rich or poor; in sickness or in health. They know they are weak, so they are not scandalized when they fall into sin or when their Lenten fasts disintegrate within five days—Indeed, they know well how much they need the mercy of the all-powerful God.

After all, Jesus himself became familiar with our weaknesses. That is the Mercy of God: that Jesus enters into the Desert of our lives and our weaknesses and the temptations we endure. Jesus, who could have been prideful and shown His power, remains humble and so shows His power. It is the Cross: the powerful humility of the victorious, liberating Cross!

Humility. That is our strongest weapon. The devil knows nothing of humility. The devil thinks it is weakness and foolishness. And because he knows nothing of humility, the devil knows of no way to defend against it.

Humility is the strongest weapon we have against the devil.

*          *          * 

And so, a final thought: this past year, I had the privilege of being at the bedside of a man who was dying. He a good and peaceful man. Of all the people that I’ve sent to our Lord for their eternal reward, I was most certain I was sending him to heaven. 

But do you know what his last words were? “Father, I hope I have a good judgment.”

In his final hour, he was still hoping for mercy. And he would receive it. For by his humility, the devil would be rendered weak. Through humility, the man would receive God’s mercy.

Brothers and sisters, pride is the surest way to hell; humility is the surest way to heaven.

Let us therefore offer that powerful and vulnerable prayer: "Lord, make me humble!"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This is Lent - Homily for Ash Wednesday (2016)

You are a sinner.

You have not loved well.

You haven’t even kept all of the commandments.

You do not deserve heaven.

You deserve hell.

When you die and come before God for your judgment, these are the words with which the devil will accuse you. And, to some extent, the devil is right: we are sinners, we haven’t loved well, we don’t deserve heaven.

The ashes that we are receiving today tell us that. They are ashes, ashes from the palms, palms that we swung about last year as we praised God with our lips, but which have become dry and empty and are now burned. The ashes represent our love: we’ve loved ourselves and our own comfort; we have pursued the things of the world that pass away and become ashes. We’ve chosen ashes. And we have become like them.

They are placed in the very spot where we once received the oil of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation; in the very spot where we, every Sunday at the Gospel, say “Glory to you, O Lord.” The contrast is stark: ashes on the spot of the glory, reminding us that we have gloried not in God; ashes on the spot of the oil, reminding us that we have sacrificed the gifts of the Holy Spirit and His oil of gladness for the ashes of worldly trappings and passing comfort.

I know: this homily does not feel good. We are admitting that we need a Savior.

And so the ashes are signed in the Cross—“in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”—asking God to save us by that same Cross and the One who carried it so as to gain us mercy and eternal life in heaven.

To that prayer for mercy, Jesus gives us answer: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel!”

In other words: if you want to be saved, if you want to be freed from your sins and to go to heaven—if you want that new Life, then you are going to have to turn around and choose differently.

This is the fight. And it’s for our souls.

You’re going to feel that fight when you feel the grumble in your stomach. You’re going to feel the fight when you smell that bacon and the devil is going to say “choose the comfort, it’s not that big of a deal—and don’t you smell the bacon?”

And you are going to have a decision to make. The decision is about who and what you love.

Lent, therefore, is not going to be simply about employing a “self-improvement plan” for us to lose weight or become more efficient in our day-to-day work. Sure, we look to become the “best versions of ourselves,” but that’s not the entire point of Lent. (If you’re looking for a self-improvement plan, go talk to Dr. Phil).

Lent is about loving God again.

It’s about realizing how enslaved we’ve become to things that are not God.

It’s about fighting for love again by entering into the fray of sacrifice and prayer and almsgiving.

It’s about “mourning and weeping” for our sins—and even praying for that gift of tears which we call compunction.

It’s about doing our very best to show God our love … and failing miserably.

Yes, you heard me correctly: Lent is going to be about failing miserably—about you reaching that third week of doing the difficult, of choosing the nails and thorns of love… But then denying Jesus for a few pieces of silver, of comfort, of selfish, selfish self-love.

And in that moment, you’re going to be brought to your knees and you’re going to lift your arms to the heavens and say, “Lord, I cannot do this by myself! Lord, help me! I’m so bad at love!”

And it will be then that you will realize that you can’t get to heaven on your own—even though you have been trying to do it all by yourself. That’s how we have been living, right? Trying to do it all by our self-- All. The. Time.

But you can’t. You need a Savior.

You can’t “create yourself anew” with some “self-improvement” plan.

You need a Savior. And His mercy. And His grace.

Which means that you’re going to have to be humbled and made little. And come to Him saying so. You’re a Peter who denies; a Judas who leaves early; a Thomas who doubts….  A thief on the Cross.

But, Jesus, remember me......

This is Lent. It begins with ashes.

May it end with Jesus looking at you in love and saying, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Into the Deep - Homily for the 5th Sunday in OT


“Cast your nets into the deep.”

“Not into the shallow, but into the deep, Peter.”

And Peter could have said, “Lord, I have done this before—even last night—and we caught nothing! And, Lord, don’t you know about the deep? It’s dangerous out there! And there’s no fish out there anyway. They are in the shallow, not the deep…”

Peter could have simply dismissed this Jesus. Who was this Jesus anyway? Peter didn’t know who He was. And it was simply another morning anyway, another morning at work. And here comes this teacher whom he has never met before. And this Jesus is jumping in the boat?

But Jesus asks. And Peter responds with generosity.

Jesus sees something in Peter. He loves Peter. And Jesus is going to do something in Peter beyond Peter’s wildest dreams. Jesus sees the potential in Peter and is calling him to a new life, to no longer catch fish, but men. Peter, in this moment when he generously welcomes Jesus into the boat and even more generously casts into the deep—even though he has done it before—in this moment, Peter embarks on an incredible journey of faith. The trajectory of his life changes.

Could Peter have ever imagined that he would someday walk on water? He is going to witness miracles and someday he is going to perform his own. Peter is going to be anointed with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and preach to 4,000 people—and he will have been a fisher of men. And he is going to go to Rome as the first Pope and be crucified upside-down and become a martyr and a saint.

An ordinary fisherman at an ordinary day of work, who meets Jesus, and his life is never the same. Peter had no idea.

Cast into the deep, Peter, and your life will never be the same!

*          *          *

That’s the theme of this morning’s readings. Isaiah, called by God, and Isaiah responding: “Here I am, send me!” And Paul: telling us about his conversion story and how he was not worthy to be called: I persecuted Christians; I was the least worthy! And then Peter—and notice: when Peter responds, John and James quickly follow. (That’s usually how it goes: when one person responds to Jesus, there are always others that follow—like dominoes, one after the other)

*          *          *

I saw this happen in my own life this week. This past week was Catholic Schools Week. And on the last day of the week, in the last hour of that day, we invite the eighth graders to take over the school as the teachers, as the principal too, and the staff, the janitors, and… the priests.

We had three young boys who became our priests. They were dressed in black shirts, slightly unbuttoned at the top so as to show the white shirt underneath—like a collar. And they came to the church and we prayed daytime prayer together. And we dressed them in our cassocks—mine, Father Chrismer’s,… and one of the boys was shorter, so we dressed him in Monsignor’s….  And we went to the confessional and we showed them the chair where the priest sits and we invited them to try it out. And the light-switch that turns on the red light. We even taught them the words of absolution and showed them how to bless.

After that, we gave them the aspergillum with which to sprinkle people and we went to the school. As we were doing this, one of the "nurses" came to us and said, “Fathers, we need your help. Someone is sick and we need you to anoint them.” So I sent one of the boys to take care of them, like a priest.

At the end of the day, we invited them to give the final blessing. Each of them opened their hands in prayer and then extended their hands to make the sign of the cross in blessing. And as they did that, I saw one of them really praying; another was really into the blessing; another was simply trying to figure it all out.

And I saw something in them. And they have no idea.

They have no idea if they cast their nets into the deep, the amazing trajectory of their life… the miracles that they will see…

*          *          *

In my own life, I never imagined that I would be up here, preaching to so many at the largest parish; that I would be holding Jesus in my hands as bread and wine are changed into God; that I would be immersed in your lives and in so many of the most important parts of your lives: at the baptism of your children and grandchildren, at their first communion, at confession, at their marriages, at the moments when the marriage needs our help, at your homes for dinner, at the hospital when we are sick and dying, at the funeral, … and so many moments in-between.

How many miracles I have experienced!—and I’m only five years in.

My Lord saw me. He saw my potential. And He called me to “cast out into the deep.” This changed my life.

And not just for me. But for you, too. He calls each and every one of us. Perhaps not to the priesthood, but to be great saints! He sees the potential in you. He loves you! And he tells each and every one of us to cast into the deep: into that place that is uncomfortable, into that place where you don’t think there is any possibility of a catch. Go out to that place where you are vulnerable…. But did you see the catch? It was superabundant. Peter’s boat nearly sunk, it was so generous!

And you might say, “Well, Father, I’m in my 80s. Life has passed me. I have no more potential.” Well, in football terms: if a team has been losing all the way to the fourth quarter, but then pulls out the victory in the last two minutes—we call that a comeback. And those are the greatest games—those are the ones that we remember most: the ones where it seems like all hope is lost, but the victory is won! So you are in the final two minutes—there is still time!

Our Lord sees the potential in you to be a great saint!

All that you have to do is have your heart open to have Jesus come into the boat of your soul. And be generous to His call to cast out into the deep.

*          *          *

[That was the end of the script. But I felt compelled to practice what I just preached. So, at Mass, this next part was off the cuff: I invited any young man or boy who has had a thought about priesthood to come forward… (“Don’t worry, we’re not going to ordain you now. That will happen after Mass.”)

At two Masses, I had a total of 23 come forward, ranging in ages from 1st grade to 25 years old. I told them I was proud of them, I blessed them, and I asked everyone to offer the Hail Mary for them. I then told them to be generous—it may lead you to the priesthood, it may not—but be generous.

Finally, I invited us to consider offering our Lenten sacrifices for them and for any of the boys who did not come forward because they didn’t yet have the courage. I invite us to be generous this Lent, to cast out into the deep, not the shallow.

I see the potential in this parish. We have 8 seminarians; I see the potential for 30. Indeed, I see the potential for many great saints! Do you see it too?]

A 9-minute documentary on a priest...