Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
It is still early in the process of preparing next weekend’s homily since it is only Monday, but I’m working on my homilies which I will give at all the Masses this weekend for Parish Life Weekend. I am certain that your happiness, your sense of being fulfilled, even your salvation depends upon your and your family’s involvement in the life of the Church. Use Parish Life Weekend as a time of grace to be fulfilled.
I have never known a single person who has gotten involved, really involved, in ministry who hasn’t said that it changed their life.
So I begin my homily preparation for next weekend asking the question, “Why is that? How can there be so many people even just in our small sphere of experience who have left the Church, who have decided they were unfulfilled, who feel empty?”
It is because most people today live life on the level of emotion only. They have never actually, really, done anything about it. They have never looked real poverty (and I don’t mean lack of money) right in the eyes of another human being and realized that God was asking them to unleash the power of grace that is within them to do something to alleviate that suffering, or to make injustice right, or to empower another to hope. Our world is a place where, too often, self absorption has shut out the possibility of change, transformation, grace, conversion.
Today I want to tell you that our faith is not a feeling. Faith is a gift you received in Baptism, a supernatural virtue that God gave you so that you could look at the world with the eyes of Christ, as a member of that Mystical Body. “I’ve lost my faith” is such a common statement today… but that is, actually, impossible. It is a gift that God gave you. But as long as you let it remain on the shallow level of feelings it will never grow roots. You will wake up one morning and feel that it is gone, a feeling that has no more value than feeling good about having it. To activate faith in your life you must do something about it. You must act. You must be involved in God’s work of grace and renewal in his creation, an ambassador of his Word, a true disciple. Faith is trust that God is here, and sends us out to do something about the rest of the world that is waiting to know that trust in God for themselves.
Today I want to tell you that hope is not a feeling, either. Hope is another theological virtue, a supernatural virtue (these are things that we would never come up with on our own) like faith that you received in Baptism, so that you can confront the apparent despair of the world with the eyes of Christ, as a member of that Mystical Body. “I have lost hope” is another common misunderstanding. You can’t lose hope, it is in your heart sacramentally by God’s design. It is a gift that God gave you. Hope is a little different, it seems to me that you learn to know hope by the example of others who teach us to shine like stars in the sometimes nighttime of everyday life. Saints who endured great suffering or people who held onto God in the most difficult times of persecution, turmoil, impossible odds, make us strong, and help us to see a way forward in hope when our nature tells us to despair. You can’t lose hope because it is a gift God gave you. But you can make it real through serving others. When we give hope to others, we know it is real in ourselves.
Finally, love, the third gift you can’t lose, is the most obvious. The reason that so many marriages have failed in our world is because love is still mistaken for a feeling. Love is a commitment. The theological virtue of love (charity) might feel good (one would hope so, certainly in marriage) or it might be terribly difficult and painful. Consider how parents might suffer for their children, or a friend might give up his life to save his friend. This virtue received in Baptism as we are incorporated into that Mystical Body of Christ is totally above our nature, to love as Jesus loves, from the Cross. Love is sacrifice, and though it might not make us happy in the moment, its realization will be the deepest joy you will ever know. But again, it will never be realized in your life unless you act.
Confirmation is the time Jesus Christ asks all of us who received these gifts to put them into action with the power of his Holy Spirit. We have time to make it happen.
Our Parish Life Weekend is your opportunity. Find what you are looking for in loving service to God and others. Allow your prize to be outside yourself, giving as Christ gives. Time in prayer, talents in service, supporting the work of God through his Church. Offer God your love.
God bless you.