WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?

Hi everyone, here's my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT - March 1, 2015.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030115.cfm.  Thanks as always for stopping by to read, comment and sharing this post on Twitter, Facebook and reddit.  Appreciate your support and interest.  God Bless - Fr. Jim


HOMILY:


One of my best friends growing up was this guy who lived down the street from me named Kevin. We were in Little League together - we got in trouble (actually, lots of trouble) together - and on the other extreme, we were altar boys together (and come to think of it, sometimes got in trouble there too). One of the things Kevin liked to do was to play "War." That’s where we’d be building forts in the woods, waiting to attack our enemy - (who was usually some unsuspecting neighbor of ours who happened to be walking by). Looking back, I can see how that was one of many signs that Kevin wanted to be a United States Marine. Another sign would be how every Halloween he would dress in fatigues and camo paint his face - not because he couldn’t afford a costume, but because that’s all he wanted to dress up as – he wanted to be a Marine.

In High school, this quest continued for him - he joined a High School ROTC program - and was really into it. His folks weren’t as excited about it though. During his sophomore year they decided to move down to Virginia - for a lot of reasons - but I think one of the reasons was that they had hoped a different environment, away from some of Kevin’s "military buddies" (not me...) might help shake some of this desire out of him.

It didn’t work. In fact, not long after he graduated, without talking to his parents, he went to the Recruitment office one day, and enlisted. He called me to tell me that he would be leaving for Parris Island for Boot Camp in a few weeks. I wasn’t surprised - and was happy for him – even as his mother continued to cry in the background... Happy because he was fulfilling his dream.

It wasn’t until about 6 or 8 weeks later that I got my one and only letter from Kevin writing to me from Boot Camp. I still have the letter somewhere. In it, he talked about how awful, how much he hated it - Hated boot camp - the lack of sleep, the hours of repetitious mundane tasks, the yelling of the D.I.’s. It sounded like his dream had become a nightmare. He sounded sad, even a bit scared in his letter as he wrote the words "Jim, I keep asking myself ‘What have I gotten myself into...’"

What have I gotten myself into.

I kind of think that’s what Peter, James and John felt and thought in today’s Gospel. Look at what happens in the passage we heard today. They’ve been following Jesus for some time now. They had a concept in their minds of who Jesus was. Here Jesus takes the three of them up this high mountain by themselves. He’s "transfigured" before them - his face shines like the sun, his clothes become whiter than anything Tide or any other bleach could hope to make them. Moses and Elijah, two major figures who had been dead for centuries appear. Moses was the personification of "The Law" (remember Moses was given the 10 commandments to give to the People Israel) and Elijah represents "The Prophets" (the messengers of God to His people). So they see these two men speaking with Jesus and they take a step back - as the Voice of God the Father is heard "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." It’s clear - Jesus is now taking their place - fulfilling the roles they had held. The three go from excitement at first "Let’s build tents and never leave!" to being so scared - the Gospel says they were "terrified" so much so Jesus "hardly knew what to say." I wonder if they were thinking:

"What have I gotten myself into."

Because this changes everything for them. They had been with Jesus for a while now. They had heard him preach; they saw and experienced some of his miracles and healings; they had responded to his invitation to leave everything behind and to come and follow Him. But now as they were on this Mount, as they heard the voice of God, any semblance of a doubt about who Jesus is was gone. They knew who he was "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, LISTEN TO HIM." There’s no wiggle room around that. Jesus isn’t some flash in a pan. Jesus isn’t some guy that they’re just going to get bored with one day and move on from. Jesus is God’s Beloved son.

Why would that be something to scare the three of them? As the Gospel says after all these sights, and sounds and feelings they are left with Jesus alone. It was cool up until now to hang with Jesus, to hear him preach some great words - do some impressive things - but, now they realized that was only the beginning of their relationship with Him. This would change their lives even more than following him to this point had done. What was going to happen next? As they are leaving he’s warning them of his own Passion and Death... There’s scary things on the horizon. What have I gotten myself into?

Is it different for us? We come to Church and (hopefully) it feels good - we’re happy to be here. It’s good that we like being apart of this community; it’s a good thing to want to get involved in things - but all of that is not enough. We hear God’s voice saying to each of us "This is my beloved Son - Listen to Him" things change. Because that puts a path out for all of us. It’s only in submitting our will to God’s will - letting go of the things that block God, enduring the difficulties of doing all of that and truly focusing on Jesus that God can transfigure us - God can transforms us into the beautiful beings he had in his heart and mind from the very beginning. Because that’s the other part: When we listen and follow Jesus – God looks at each of us and says we are His Beloved Sons and Daughters too.

My friend Kevin, ultimately got through boot camp, graduated from Parris Island, and became the Marine he had always dreamed he would become. Seeing him on his Graduation day, after that experience, I never brought up that letter he wrote - never asked how he got through his "what have I gotten myself into" moment (Marine’s aren’t known for wanting to probe their "feelings") Just seeing him, I could tell he had gotten through it, and was a stronger Man, a stronger Marine for it.

For the three apostles, we hear that Jesus came to them in that moment of fear, he remains with them and leads them with him down the mountain. And they keep following Him. They would mess up, many, many times- and every time, Jesus would draw them closer to himself in forgiving them over and over. And after Jesus had ascended and gifted them with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - they would continue to spread His word to the world around them in ways they could never have imagined they’d be able to that day they first did this Mountain climb with Jesus.

What about us? Have you found yourself in the spot where you are asking yourself, "What did I get myself into?" When you first entered this college and was getting into the routine, did you feel that way? Jesus has called you to be here and you answered the call. As you know, that doesn't mean a smooth ride. It means you are being obedient to Him because you love Him.

As we come here to hear His Word and receive His Body and Blood - are we just telling Him things – are we asking for things – or are we Listening to him? What is he saying to you in your heart of hearts? God always has us on a path of change because He will not leave us as we are now. He has a better plan. What is he asking you to change? What difficult thing, what sin, what temptation seems to be holding you back from a deeper relationship with Him? Your relationship with Him is of the utmost importance. Nothing else measures up to that. Is God calling you to go somewhere that makes you feel uncomfortable? More than likely, we are a bit scared thinking about those things and we may wonder to ourselves "what have I gotten myself into?" God the Father’s voice confidently reminds us "This is my beloved son. Listen to Him."

What do you believe about listening and obeying what Jesus tells you? In your soul, the Holy Spirit confirms what it is you need to do. Following that voice will enable you to stand strong on your faith. Becoming fearless in Jesus is the goal for you. There is true freedom in walking boldly to His throne and journeying in confidence knowing He directs your path. Basically, Jesus knows what you have gotten yourself into and He is standing close helping you through. He will never leave you.

50 SHADES OF TEMPTATION

Hi everyone - here's my homily for FEBRUARY 22, 2015 - THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT.  The readings for today's Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022215.cfm.  As always, thanks for reading; your feedback and comments; and for  sharing this blog on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and elsewhere on the web.  God Bless you on your Lenten journey, Fr Jim

HOMILY:
 
As rough as winter has been for us here in the New York area, and despite the rivalry that often exists between NY and Boston - in this instance they most definitely win. In the competition of "who has had the harsher winter," they have definitely seen one of the worst, if not historic of seasons. I'm not sure how accurate the reports are but I think they've gotten 90 inches of snow..and I know I heard this (but again this may be an exaggeration) that since Christmas they've only had 9 days of school?? This extreme weather is definitely getting to the people living there:


Last week, after yet another blizzard hit, one Boston resident spent a great deal of time and effort digging his car out of the snow on the street and clearing the spot for himself. Before he left for work, he put a "space saver" there – you know, to hold his spot. When he returned he found the "space saver" was moved and someone parked their car in it. The guy decided to take all of the snow – at least a foot if not more that he had removed and "put it back" on the car. Complete with pictures of the car now re-shovelled with snow - the story went viral on the Internet - on NBC's Today Show, and all kinds of news sites - with some laughing, calling it awesome, absolutely hilarious.

Interestingly the man who had posted the story on Craigs list "Rants and Raves" section – after feeling somewhat vindicated and justified at his actions (I can’t read you his exact feelings about the guy who parked in his car – I try to keep my homilies at least PG rated here) – and winning praise from strangers all over the world soon pulled the post off of Craigs list. Reporters who were able to track him down since the post was "screen grabbed" (just a friendly reminder, everything you post online never goes away) and they said that the man insisted on remaining anonymous.

Last week there was some other news. The movie "50 shades of grey" - the highly controversial and pornographic movie (that is trying to be passed off as a main stream movie) was released breaking all kinds of box office records. In the avalanche of hype and media attention leading up to its release; one commentator, from Britain, summed up a lot of little interviews and stories all together in one neat paragraph. She wrote:

I’ve been following the Fifty Shades press tour with mounting delight, because every single person involved seems to hate it. The author hates the director. The romantic leads hate each other. All of them hate the original fans. And in a variety of increasingly creative ways, they have independently and politely requested we don’t see the film, ever…. Most interviews with [the male lead actor] Jamie Dornan have included quotes about how uncomfortable he was with the sex scenes. Most interviews with [the female lead actress] Dakota Johnson have included a quote about how fans of the book are probably going to hate it. [As well as this profoundly revealing quote:] "I don’t want my family to see the movie, because it’s inappropriate. Or my brothers’ friends… Also there’s part of me that’s like: I don’t want anyone to see this movie," she told Glamour [magazine]. "Just kidding..."

What hit me just hearing and seeing both of these stories was that in both instances – people decided to do some pretty extreme things and make them public: A guy at 12:00 midnight was so ticked off –he spent time re-shoveling snow on top of a car, taking pictures of it, posting it on Craig’s list before going to bed. Everyone involved in this film "50 shades of grey" knew from the very beginning that there was something wrong with it. The actors, directors, producers knew going into it, knew that this isn’t ever going to be an inspirational film, a classic piece of cinema, something that will win any award, receive any acclaim (in fact many reviews have ripped it to shreds) The motivation for making this film: greed. "Sex sells" they say (and by the box office receipts, their correct). Both the "angry shoveler" and those involved in that film in hindsight are all expressing that they don’t feel particularly proud of what they’ve done. In fact they’re feeling something called shame.

Sadly our culture seems to be celebrating both examples. Having the crew of NBC Today Show kind of laughing and highlighting your angry tirade on national television – Having headlines saying "Grey topples Christ" (referring to the fact that the premiere of 50 shades of Grey broke a previous February box office record held by the premiere of The Passion of the Christ). Yet, in both cases, the Boston man has yet to come forward and accept his notoriety and the filmmakers, while enjoying their financial success, stories continue to come out of continued infighting that has caused delays towards making a sequel.

Temptation.

We can all relate to it:
the feelings of being tempted to doing something;
the thing in our gut that tells us this isn’t right…
the failures we’ve suffered in giving into temptation; and that feeling of shame after.  
The desire to make excuses for it or justify it I only did that once; I’ve seen people do worse… look they had it coming…


Every year on the first Sunday of Lent, we hear an account of Jesus’ being tempted in the desert. In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus is driven out into the desert for forty days. He’s going on retreat. He’s leaving the world behind to clarify in his heart and his mind what it is that the Heavenly Father has sent Him to do. And as He enters into this time where he wishes to be united with His Heavenly Father, what happens? He’s tempted by the devil! Imagine that, even Jesus had temptations! While the accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke give more detail than this account, we don’t really need too many details. Just reading the words that Jesus was "tempted by Satan" says it all.

He didn’t have his friends, there were no apostles or disciples to rely on... He didn’t even have the help of his family, his Blessed Mother Mary at that time. The Gospel simply says that He relied on; he "leaned on" angels who helped him to keep faithful to His Heavenly Father who had sent Him to earth with this Mission to save humanity.

For you and I as we begin this season of Lent, we often start this time of "spiritual renewal" with a hope, a desire to grow closer to Jesus Christ. We look at the state of our lives, the choices, decisions we’ve made in our lives and start to consider how can I make some changes? How can I deal with some of the mistakes and failures I’ve made? How can I be rid of the shame I feel from those missteps? We set out from Ash Wednesday with great intentions. Yet, quickly our motivation starts to wane. Our attention gets diverted. And the temptation to just let go of our hopes, our desires to grow closer to Jesus Christ are replaced with everyday tasks, unnecessary distractions and even a sense of despair as we start believing the lie "I’m never going to really be able to change."

Its true, we’re not like Jesus Christ during his time in the desert. One blessed difference is that we have Him to lean on as we embrace this lenten journey. But that’s one of the key factors – we have to choose to focus on Him. Because if not, this somewhat jaded, cyncical world around us will try to discourage us at every choice, every decision, every opportunity we have to make whether we will follow Christ or go along with what the "other guys on the team" are doing – Satan will whisper lies to us making us doubt we’ll be able to resist what everyone else is doing, so why even try.

It’s true, the story of some guy who comes home and discovers someone parking in his not resorting to dumping 12 + inches of snow back in retaliation won’t go viral. The actors and film makers who passed on being any way involved in "50 Shades of Grey" might be a footnote in a Wikipedia account on the history of this film. But the point is, when confronted by whatever temptation: big or small; whether it comes to us in a barely audible whisper or if it’s something that confronts us face to face; whether it’s something extraordinary or a daily temptation that is all too familiar – the choice, the decision we make: to give into Satan’s cunning, clever attacks or not – isn’t about what the world thinks of those choices. It’s much bigger than that, it reveals what is in our heart. Sometimes we can be blinded by the "ways out" when our focus is on the temptation. Our natural self allows the temptation to remain in our mind for a while rather than making the choice to cast it out. The casting out process takes inner strength … a decision made … the Holy Spirit is in us so that we can do that … we have the power, but we need to plug into it for it to become active.
shoveled out parking spot and him

The loving message that the Lord offers us as we engage in this battle is to remember – no matter how many times we struggle, or even the many times we fail – He is victorious. He is victorious in withstanding the temptations in the desert. He continues to reject temptations, even when they lead to the Cross and His passion and death. And in His resurrection, he has ultimately defeated the tempter: Satan, for all time.

May we recognize how Jesus meets us in our vulnerability, in our moments of weakness where we feel tempted to give into whatever lie that Satan is putting before us. In those moments, we have Jesus himself that we can rely on to minister to us. Are we willing to withstand the ridicule of the world to live only for him? Are we willing to admit we're weak, but have confidence in His strength to complete us? Are we willing to work past our shame and guilt and let the Holy Spirit guide us to better things, things more worthy of His temple, which we believe our bodies are? Let us continue this great season of Lent that we began so earnestly on Wednesday, and let God's love for us strengthen us and lift us up and fill us with the gift of hope, of a new life in Him, a gift that He so desperately wishes for us to receive.

MAKING SURE ASH WEDNESDAY ISN'T GROUNDHOG DAY

Hi everyone - here's my homily for ASH WEDNESDAY - February 18, 2015.  Thanks as always for reading; sharing it on facebook, twitter, reddit and other social-media sites; and all your feedbacks and comments.  Have a Blessed Lent!  Fr Jim

HOMILY:

A few years back, a group of about 75 members from Newman Catholic here at MSU and I were on a bus to Orlando Florida for a FOCUS conference over Christmas break. I underestimated how rough 24 hours on a bus was going to be – even with the luxury of having TV’s with DVD players. You would think that would make the ride more bearable. But then one of our members insisted - and because he was an Eboard Officer demanded - that we watch "Transformers II."  Which was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen (this "fan" argued that’s because I had missed the first Transformers. After patiently (or as patiently as I can) watching that thing, I claimed the right to pick the next flick. Which was one of my favorite films of all-time. Groundhog Day.

I hated that when I looked it up, I realized that came out in 1993 - some of you weren’t even born yet (another thing I hated realizing) In the 21 years since it’s initial release, the film has grown in critics estimation with it landing on a bunch of different lists ranking the best American Films of all time.

It stars comedian Bill Murray who plays this arrogant, condescending, self-centered weatherman named Phil Connors... who is sent to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities.  He grudgingly files his report about the groundhog seeing his shadow and predicting 6 more weeks of snow (such a bizarre legend), the crew packs up their gear into the van, and they attempt to leave.  But a blizzard hits, which forces them to stay an additional night. 

When Phil wakes up the next morning right away he recognizes something’s "off."  The same exact song comes on the clock radio ("I got you babe") he encounters the same people at the exact same spots that he had the day earlier having the same chit-chat conversations.  He soon realizes that he’s reliving the exact same day - Groundhog day - and he’s the only person in the whole world that realizes he’s stuck in this time loop. 

The first time it happens he kind of brushes it off as maybe he must be dreaming and is kind of in disbelief. But when it happens a second time, and a third time - he begins to realize he is trapped in Groundhog Day.  Life just keeps repeating itself over and over and over again with everything being exactly the same as it was the last time. 

He goes through an emotional roller-coaster.  One day he just binges eating and drinking whatever he wants.  Another day he realizes that he’s learning people’s secrets - so he’ll go up to a woman he’s attracted too and ask her a bunch of questions so that he can immediately sweep her off her feet the next "Groundhog Day" and she has no idea how he seems to know everything about her.   He’ll move to despair and anger and hopelessness as the day repeats over and over again as he’s imprisoned in the endless Groundhog Day.

Only in time, after suffering through the repetition: dealing with his own self-absorption which continues to get in the way of him changing — slowly,  he drops his defenses. He begins to use his knowledge of how the day will unfold to help people.   For example, knowing that a child will always fall from a tree at a certain time, he makes it a point to be there and catch the child every time. Knowing that a man will choke on his meal, he is always at a nearby table in the restaurant to save him.  When Phil ultimately goes about the difficult work of changing himself:  becoming a sensitive, caring individual- that ultimately this "spell" trapping him in the loop of Ground Hog Days finally ends and he makes it to February 3rd.

I couldn’t help but think about that movie (maybe the weather has something to do with it) and what we’re celebrating here today.  If we’re not careful, Ash Wednesday and this season of Lent can become "Groundhog Day" for all of us – we can find ourselves in a similar "loop" - simply repeating the same thing over and over again – coming together for this ritual of putting ashes on our heads; hearing the same scripture readings we did last year; following these lenten practices of giving something up, refraining from eating meat today and on Fridays. Some people even look forward to giving up the same things each year – "Off Facebook for 40 days" - giving up deserts and making this almost like the Lenten Diet to drop a few pounds in time for Easter - which aren’t bad things. But Lent is more than an opportunity to lose some weight or give ourselves a well-needed "virtual" time out.

In the first reading, the Jewish prophet Joel proclaimed to us - Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.   St. Paul pleads with us in the Second Reading:  Brothers and sisters... we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God... NOW is an acceptable time... NOW is the day of salvation.

Even though these words are thousands of years old. 
Even if they’ve kind of flown over our heads in years past and we’ve kind of mindlessly made our way through Ash Wednesday and Lent in previous years, Jesus meets us here and now - in the present.  We’re not to buy into that lie that it’s the same old thing, every year.

Something drew you here today. 
In some way, the Holy Spirit touched each of our hearts to break from our busy, busy lives to be here.  These ashes are meant to remind us that without God’s breath of life, this is all we would be, a pile of ashes.  It’s His amazing, lavish, mysterious love that we even exist.  And everyone of us - from me as your priest to everyone gathered here - in receiving these ashes, we recognize that we don’t always live our life with a reciprocal love.  In fact, we may have eclipsed God from our daily lives at times.  Perhaps that’s become a pattern, a routine in your life as well.

As the ashes are put on our head we’re called to Turn away from Sin and be faithful to the Gospel.  And even though we’ve heard them over and over; year after year.  They invite us to recognize that we don’t have to keep doing that same thing.   We can take this opportunity to really change, to begin a new. 

+ Maybe this Lent I’ll finally go to confession, because it’s been a really long time. 

+ Maybe this Lent I’m going to start getting back into the habit of going to Mass every Sunday. 

+ Maybe this Lent I’m going to join a bible study or participate in some community service to help others. 

+ Maybe this Lent, I’m going to reach out to someone I’ve been angry with or haven’t resolved a fight I’ve had with.

Its up to us to make sure Ash Wednesday doesn’t become like "Groundhog Day" - an annual, recurring, loop. What is the something new, something different that Jesus Christ is calling you to today?   How does he want you to come to meet Him and Know Him in a new way.  Pope Francis in his Lenten Message very beautifully said:    


God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. ‘We love because he first has loved us.’
He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart.
He knows us by name,
He cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him.
He is interested in each of us;
His love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us.

Think how mind blowing that is... God - He is interested in us. He is not indifferent to us. In a particular, specific and individual way Jesus is inviting you and I to go deeper within ourselves and make the next 6 weeks a time to break our destructive patterns. 


To be reconciled to God and one another.
To Free ourselves of being trapped with self-focused thoughts and truly live as the liberated sons and daughters of God He calls us to be. What would that mean for you? Would you, like Bill Murray’s character Phil, do something different - become someone different?  Would you draw closer to Jesus Christ who is already close and waiting for us?  

Let us turn towards Him, with love.  
Let us wake up from our recurring nightmare, from the sameness of our sins, and ask the Author of originality what wonderful thing, what amazing person we can become, through His grace.  While Lent may be a time to deny ourselves the little luxuries, the ‘extras’ that crowd our life and consume our time, Lent is also a time to indulge in one-on-one time with the Lord, with peaceful meditation, with talking to Him, openly and honestly, about who we are and who we yet might become, once transformed through His love.  

Today is Ash Wednesday.... I can promise you, the calendar will not stop - it will be followed by the 40 days of Lent, the Easter Season, then Ordinary Time and Christmas and another Ash Wednesday... another Lent.  May this one always stand out in your memories as the one where you - where I - finally let go of our fears and self-doubt, our worries about tomorrow and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. May we truly hear St. Paul’s words "NOW is a very acceptable time... NOW is the day of Salvation..." and trust that Jesus and His love will always be with us, always be enough for us, more than enough.  Trust that no matter what tomorrow may bring, His love can change us, can make us new, will make us His. 

TO BE NOTICED... TO BE LOVED

Hi everyone, thanks for stopping by.  Here's my homily for the SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - Feb 15, 2015.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/021515.cfm.  I appreciate your sharing this blog on twitter, facebook, reddit and everywhere else it seems to pop up -- as well as your feedback and comments.  My prayers and best wishes for everyone as we enter into the holy season of Lent this Ash Wednesday (for those here at MSU our Mass schedule is 12:15, 3:00, 5:30 & 8:15 pm in the Student Center Ballroom with confessions before and after all the Masses - more info at www.MSUNEWMAN.com)  God Bless!  Fr Jim

HOMILY:


So I was trying to find this article or where I had read this story some years ago – it’s hard to believe in this Google world that you can’t "find" something – but after spending way too much time on that search, I gave up searching for where I read this story:

After Mass one Sunday afternoon in the city, a group of friends went to have lunch at a restaurant - some local diner. As they were sitting there, talking to each other, catching up on their weeks, enjoying their meals, they noticed a man sitting alone at a nearby table. He was an older man, he was looking a little ragged. He had finished a simple sandwich and a cup of coffee. They could see he had this anxious look as he had the bill in front of him and was frantically searching his pockets for enough dollars and change to pay for his meal. They could see that he was becoming increasingly nervous – it was obvious he wasn’t going to have enough to cover the check.

One of the friends who had gathered for the lunch got up as if to go to the restroom, and as he passed the man’s table, he leaned down, pretending like he found a $10 bill on the floor. He did it so naturally that when he offered the bill to the distracted man, the man’s whole body language changed. He started saying "Thank you – thank you so much, I was sure I had enough to cover the bill." The poor man was beaming. The friends at the table were so deeply moved by what they witnessed. Not the gift of a $10 donation, but the gift of great gentleness, great care and respect given to the man – something more valuable than the $10.

To be noticed... To be loved...

That’s what’s at the heart of tonight’s Gospel. This leper comes forward to Jesus. Think about it - we don’t even know the man’s name. And in this day and age, we don’t hear much about the disease (even though there are people who still suffer from it around the world) Leprosy is a bacterial infection of the skin, which can eventually paralyze someone and ultimately kill them. It is repulsive on many levels: people’s body parts literally decay in plain sight; there is a horrible stench associated with it; and (as if all that weren't bad enough) it is highly contagious. That's why lepers were separated from the rest of the community, and even required to wear a bell to announce there presence - so people could run away from them.

Because of all this, people afflicted with leprosy not only suffered physical pain - but imagine how alone they felt, how isolated from the rest of the world they were. The suffering in their bodies was matched by the suffering in their souls.

For this man suffering from Leprosy in the Gospel, we don’t know how long it had been since someone shook this guy’s hand, patted him on the back, put an arm around his waist, hugged him, touched his cheek, wiped a tear from his eye, or kissed him... The truth is, all those things were merely a memory as he lived in the leper colony in his cave.

Until he met Jesus and cried out to him: "IF YOU WISH, YOU CAN MAKE ME CLEAN." Not - can you do this for me? – Not I’ve heard about you, you’re the miracle guy, right, can you help a leper out? In his heart and soul he recognizes that in Jesus all things are possible. That Jesus desires our wholeness, our healing, our connectedness. He recognizes that Jesus can heal him, can clean him, can restore him...

In that moment, Jesus’ healing more than miraculously restores this man’s physical health. That truly is an amazing gift - but the deeper thing, the longer lasting thing, the thing that will change the lepers perspective, change his life:

To be noticed... To be loved.

Whether it’s the guy at the diner in NYC or the leper in Galilee 2,000 years ago - yes, they are both very extreme and different examples. But what unites both men, is that sense of aloneness, shame, isolation. More than likely, we can search our own memories and remember times where we can relate. Times where you felt alone, felt unloved. Moments of despair and isolation. Overwhelmed with a darkness and a despair convincing you there’s nothing that will lift it. Perhaps you’re going through one of those times right now. If that’s the case - then thank God you’re here. Because then you’re like the leper - believing in some corner of that darkened room in your heart those words "If you wish, you can make me clean." He does... He desires it. He can do it. He will do it. If we remain open, vulnerable, trusting to His presence and activity in our lives.

But we’re also meant to recognize we’re not always the leper in the story. St. Theresa of Avila once said very beautifully:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

Do we recognize the "lepers" if they are in our sight or are they part of the background that we may not notice because of our schedule or priorities? Sometimes the healing is in the seeing. Choosing to make an effort to notice those who are hurting will in turn bring healing to our souls that may have intentionally or unintentionally distanced ourselves from them. Who needs healing more? Us or them?

Who are the "lepers" - the "unclean" among us? Who are those looking for healing? Who is it that is looking to be noticed, to be loved? Who is it wallowing in the darkness of sin, the painful isolation of sickness or disease? Who is it that the Lord is putting on our hearts right now who we know, we know that are hurting in some way that we are equipped right now in some real way to bring some healing, some relief, some love and compassion to?

Will we answer the call or turn away? Who is it that is waiting for an invitation to come to meet Christ - someone you can invite to come with you to Mass - someone who’s been away from Church and simply needs someone to show them care, show them authentic friendship to invite them...

Maybe it’s a classmate, a colleague, a relative... maybe its someone not that we’re not too close to or think about that much but that the Holy Spirit is raising in your mind right now. There’s someone he’s trying to utilize each and everyone of us to bring the power of His love, His life, His light into the deepest, darkest recesses of their souls. Not to solve all their problems. And definitely not to enable them and keep them in their same places of suffering. Rather to proclaim to them that they are noticed - that they are loved - with a true, authentic love. They "the lepers" of the world are crying out to you and I - if you wish, you can make it clean. Do we?

TURNING OFF PAIN - ENDING SUFFERING

Hi everyone, here's my homily for the FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - FEBRUARY 8, 2015.  The readings for the day can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020815.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading, your feedback and comments, and all the shares on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit.  Appreciate your support.  Have a great week - God Bless, Fr Jim

HOMILY:

Back in November, there was a rather intriguing headline floating around on a whole bunch of news-websites on the internet: "Scientists have discovered the ‘off-switch’ for pain." It’s too bad they don’t have a stat-counter on the bottom to reveal exactly how many people clicked on that headline, because you have to imagine that had to have caught a lot of people’s attention. One of the headlines linked the story to a scientific periodical which, if you’re like me, after you read the first few lines and saw the words "neuropathic" or "chemotheraputic agents" – you were a bit lost. Thankfully another newspaper was able to dumb it down and explain it a little easier:

"Researchers found that blocking a pathway in rodents counteracts chronic nerve pain. By activating the particular pain receptor ... pain that develops slowly from nerve damage could be prevented or reversed." (The Independent - Nov 27, 2014)

Obviously the leap from something working in rodents to human beings is a rather large one to make. Much more research will need to be done to determine if this theory is valid for us. But the possibility has excited a great number of people. The thought that people suffering from illnesses, diseases, or accidents resulting in life-changing disabilities could be relieved of pain - without needing to use drugs (which can come with all kinds of side-effects or lead to addictions) simply by blocking a "receptor" in the brain and the spinal cord – that could be a game-changer. You have to imagine this would be something that would have universal appeal: to be relieved of all suffering. The idea that there’s some type of plug or something within ourselves that if it’s just unplugged (I don’t know how they would go about blocking this receptor thing - is it a pill, is it an operation - whatever…) – that people who are fighting cancer, or victims of horrific accidents would be relieved of some of the most debilitating parts of that struggle, that would indeed be a massive step forward in terms of human progress - probably ranking up there with the discovery of antibiotics, and vaccines (didn’t mean to swerve into that latest controversy)

But the headline seemed to have that "too-good-to-be-true" vibe for me. While there’s great promise and potential with this discovery - and not to be cyncical - but the reality is there will never truly be an ‘off switch’ for all pain. Namely, the pain that come from the non-physical, non-biological aspects of human beings which make us more than just animals. The areas that make us self-aware; that make us prone to deeper things that make life more meaningful, but at the same time vulnerable as well. The pains that affect the heart, and the soul (which can result in a lot of physical pain as well) there’s no ‘off switch’ for that.

All the research in the world isn’t going to identify the true way to stop the pain people feel from losing someone they love; or the pain they experience when they’re rejected by someone they trusted; or the wounds of anger and not being able to forgive (or even wanting to consider forgiving) someone who hurt us... We can try (and often times many of us do attempt) to anesthetize ourselves from those pains - with a variety of things that at least momentarily can distract us - but sadly, inevitably, they fall short.

These heavy thoughts came to mind reading and reflecting on these readings tonight. Especially in the first reading tonight. Poor old Job. Just to remind ourselves, we’re picking things up here in Chapter 7 of his story. At this point he has experienced catastrophic losses of wealth, health, family and friends – all rather suddenly. His so-called friends are trying to debate with him and convince Job that he must have done something to spark God’s wrath - that all of his woes have to be the result of some sin. Job rejects that premise - he knows in his heart, that his conscience is clear. But he’s sure sounding pretty beat up tonight. The first words we heard : "Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery....I have been assigned months of misery... troubled nights have been alloted to me...I shall not see happiness again." Job’s story puzzles readers for a whole bunch of reasons. But most especially is that (spoiler alert) Job will never curse God for what has happened to him, he remains faithful in spite of his misery. Even when he gets the opportunity to speak to God directly, God’s answers to his questions are far from answers. And Job continues to praise and bless God.

Then in the Gospel tonight... we hear about Simon-Peter’s mother-in law (yep, you heard that, St. Peter was a married guy...topic for another day) who is suffering from a fever - which in the ancient world was a serious thing that more often than not meant someone was dying. Jesus instantly heals St Peter’s mother in law. And we read in the very next paragraph He cures many townspeople as the Gospel describes it "who were sick with various diseases." Jesus is able to miraculously heal their pain at that moment. But those physical cures are not forever. Jesus leaves the town. And at some point Simon-Peter’s mother, and everyone else who had experienced these variety of miracles would be prone to suffering, endure illnesses, experience death - would be in pain again.

We tend to forget that’s a fate Jesus himself would share. Jesus too would be in pain as he witnessed other people’s pain. Throughout the Gospels we see instances of how his heart is moved with compassion when someone is experiencing loss, or pain, or misery. Jesus wept. Ultimately, He would experience every aspect of human suffering, unimaginable pain in mind, body, spirit and heart - on the cross. And while we can’t even imagine what that particular kind of pain felt like, we know that - as horrific as it was - it was for a purpose.

Does our pain also have a purpose? That’s one of the toughest questions people of faith are left to struggle with. When we look at the crucifix, we can almost romanticize it. We can see it as beautiful - which it is for us, the beneficiaries of that act of love. But when we’re in the midst of suffering ourselves, understandably, it’s not quite so pretty.  

A few weeks ago, when Pope Francis was in the Philippines, with hundreds of thousands of people who were touched by the devastation of the typhoons last year, a 12 year old asked the Pope, "Why so much suffering?" And he basically admitted in tears he didn’t have an easy answer for her or for any of us. Some time earlier, he explained, "Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light..."

So for people of faith, we see that pain in this life isn't the end. It may seem like the end, it may feel like the end, but it is not the ‘end’ for us - that is, it is not the end of our story, nor is it an end in itself. Suffering and pain, if united to Christ’s redemptive suffering, can, ultimately strengthen us, preparing us for our work here on earth and - in ways we do not see and cannot imagine - somehow ‘prepares’ us for our ultimate union with God in heaven. It's hard to imagine what eternal life will be like. It’s especially hard to imagine what any kind of life would be like without pain. A life in which we are completely healed and not just for the moment, but forever.

For now, we are called - sometimes through pain but always with love - to follow Jesus. Because in the end, for Job, for St. Peter’s mother in law, for everyone who's experienced a miracle cure - the deeper, more important miracle wasn’t just these instances where their pain was relieved, but the strengthening of their faith, the confidence that came from experiencing God in the midst of their pain - and being called to follow Christ, who suffered not just so he could share our human condition fully, but, rather, by rising from the dead, could overcome all suffering and pain and call us to follow him, to experience a New Life with Him, no matter what we go through in life.

To Follow Him when we mourn;
Follow Him when we weep;
Follow Him when we feel alone and abandoned;
Follow Him when we are in agony
Follow Him when we realize our attempts to alleviate pain fall short
Follow Him, knowing that He hasn’t ceased reaching out to us, hasn’t abandoned us…

He is the God who sees and loves me, who sees and loves you. He knows every detail of our pain. He knows the meaning behind it, a meaning that, for most of us, we will never understand in this life. And he knows the frustration that goes along with that - we feel we could shoulder our burdens if only, if only we could understand, here and now, why?

Why did I fail that test?
Why did he break up with me?
Why did I lose her friendship? His trust? 
Why did I lose a parent? Why am I so alone? Why? Why?

Christ is with us in our suffering, and Christ is with us in our asking those why’s. We imagine we would be happier if we knew, if we could see all things, like Him. And, perhaps, it would bring us a moment of peace, if we could see all the puzzle pieces, all the threads in the fabric fitting together seamlessly, to say, yes, I see it. It all has a purpose. It all has a meaning. I know that now.

But, perhaps for us, the bigger message is lost in all our asking. Christ is with us, in our suffering.

He’s with us.

That’s the important part, that’s the part we can hold onto. We may never know - man may never know, even if he can, somehow, amazingly, rid humanity of physical suffering, man may never know why his mind, his heart, his soul aches with such exquisite, such unbearable pain, a pain that dwarfs and makes physical suffering seem like nothing. We may never understand that. I may never understand that.

But I know my God, my friend is by my side, no matter my limitations, no matter how little I see of his plan or the part I play in it. I have Christ, absolutely, no matter what. So do you.

And that, in itself, is the end of suffering.

 

"THE SADDEST THING IN LIFE IS WASTED TALENT"

Hi everyone - here’s my homily for February 1, 2015 - Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020115.cfm Thanks as always for reading, sharing and your feedback. Have a great week - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:



How many of you have heard of the movie "A Bronx Tale?"

It’s a bit of an older film being released back in 1993 and I’m not sure if it ranks as a "Classic" film to anyone other than Italian Americans like myself. It starred Robert De Niro and a man by the name of Chazz Palminteri. A couple of years ago, when I was on Lino Rulli’s "Catholic Guy Show" he had Mr Palminteri in as a guest. He was coming to talk about a new film he was in that was opening soon. But Lino, was really huge fan of "A Bronx Tale." He had seen it numerous times (to the point of having lines and scenes memorized), so he really was more excited to have the opportunity to talk about "A Bronx Tale." Funny - I don’t even know what the new film it was Mr Palminteri was promoting. (Not sure if Mr Palminteri would think so)

Because most actors promoting a new film wouldn’t be too eager to talk about a film they made 16 years earlier. But in all honesty, Palminteri lit up as he talked about "A Bronx Tale." Probably because, (which I didn’t realize until that interview) Palminteri wrote "A Bronx Tale." Most if it is based on his own life. The story is of a kid growing up in the 1960's with, basically, two father figures - his natural father and a mob boss - each competing for the opportunity to impact the kid's growth and development. Before it was a film, "A Bronx Tale" was a play, which was also written by Palminteri. In the interview, he said that he was offered great deals by different film studios for the rights to the play - but he refused all of them and went with a less lucrative deal because he wanted to write the screenplay and play one of the main characters.

Just hearing that you might think "here’s another actor with a huge ego," but as he talked, you could tell that wasn’t it. That became most evident as Palminteri discussed one of the most famous quotes from the movie. In one of the most dramatic scenes (which I won’t spoil for you), the Father is almost trying to impart to his son these words – The saddest thing in life is wasted talent. Palminteri movingly recalled how his own father had written those words on a piece of paper and had taped it on his mirror when he was growing up, so he would see them every day and never forget them. Now that he’s a father himself, he tries to impress those same words on his kids' hearts and minds. If you’ve ever seen the film, you can see that, in many ways, those words inspired Palminteri to write the play and the film

It became obvious that Mr. Palminteri is so protective of this story because the words mean something to him. They are important words. They are words passed down from one who loved him to ones he now loves. These aren’t merely lines an actor needed to memorize; they came from his heart and soul. And just hearing him say that line live in studio, you could hear that reality.

Think about it – when someone speaks words that mean something - that are genuine, that are sincere, that come from a person’s heart and soul - you can tell. You get a sense of their authenticity. We probably can think of a number of illustrations of that reality. For example, people say, "I love you" all the time - but you can tell the difference between a celebrity saying those words to their fans on Oscar night, and a Mother and Father saying those same words to their child.

Of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark is the shortest. Not because Mark doesn’t have a lot to say - but because he focuses so precisely on some very memorable aspects of Jesus' character.

Three weeks ago, we heard Jesus ask, "What do you want?" Last week, Jesus inaugurated God’s Kingdom by saying, This is the time of fulfillment - The Reign of God is at Hand - Repent - Believe the good News. In today’s Gospel, what’s astonishing to the people isn’t so much the words Jesus speaks but how Jesus speaks, how he teaches. He’s not just a man reading the words of the prophets who went before him. He’s not someone who is simply delivering a message. He is in fact the message... The Gospel describes the crowd as being amazed that He’s teaching as one who has authority. These holy words - these divine encounters of the scriptures that Jesus draws upon as he teaches, take on a deeper meaning coming from him. Why?

Because they are His story. They are His words. They originated from Him. And so Jesus speaks with the genuineness, sincerity, and understanding of one who has authority.

His authority is so evident - so effective - so obvious, that even his enemy - the one who wishes to defeat and destroy Jesus (Satan) obeys his word. We heard in that Gospel passage how a demon had basically captured a man’s soul - tormenting him - enslaving him; and yet, with one rebuke from Jesus, the demon comes out of the man who is instantly healed and restored.

As Christians, each one of us is granted authority by God to speak in his name. We are called by Jesus to go out and to preach and teach and heal. To care for others and to show them God’s love. That’s not accomplished simply in repeating or memorizing scripture passages like we’re reciting a spell or something. That only becomes possible when His words become our words. When they come from our hearts and souls. When we realize these are words that were passed down by one who Loves us – who wants us to love one another as well.

Jesus entrusts us with His words and His story. We have the power, the authority, the duty to make Jesus’ name, his Presence, his activity alive today. How deeply that takes root today depends on how serious we take this call. He in fact has gifted us with the ability, the means, the opportunities to do just that. Our Lord has great expectations of us. Jesus might borrow Palminteri’s line and agree that the saddest thing in life - for us, for those around us waiting to come to know and love Jesus - would be our wasting our talent - and missing this opportunity...

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BE A PRIEST?

Hi everyone, here's my homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 25, 2015 - http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012515.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading; your feedback and comments; and sharing this blog on twitter, facebook, redditt and whatever other ones I've missed.  God Bless - have a great week - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

"What made you decide to become a priest?" 

I’m often taken aback, not by the question itself, but sometimes the times and places where it’s asked.  A couple months ago I was sitting with a relative at a bank who had asked me to be a co-signer on an account of hers and to go over some other sensitive financial stuff.  The lady from the bank was going through the paperwork we needed to fill out.  Asked the usual questions - name, date of birth, social security number, occupation.  When I said "Roman Catholic Priest" she said "Oh, wow... really? Can I ask you something - what made you decide to become a priest." I’m not sure what people expect in those types of scenarios - if they think it’s like a cliffs notes 30 second story variation of a story the Old Testament, one day Moses sees a burning bush, hears the voice of God, that forever changes his life - that then is responded with "Wow, that’s really cool... so I’m going to need you to sign these papers here."  Usually in those situations I simply and truthfully answer – it was something that was really in my mind and my heart - for as long as I can remember.  Which is very true. I can tell you stories that are vivid memories many years later:

- Like in Kindergarten when our Pastor had made a house visit on a Sunday afternoon when we weren’t home and left a note for us... At the end of the note, he said "make sure you keep bringing little Jimmie to Mass every Sunday."  To a 5 year old, the youngest of 3 boys, it blew my mind that that priest who was all the way up there in this big church filled with so many people knew who I was and cared about me. That impacted me greatly. I can see how God was able to use Fr. Whelan to teach me about His love for me in that same way at such a ripe young age.

- Like in Second Grade as we were preparing for First Holy Communion and I started to learn what the Eucharist was - really Jesus’ body and blood - and the importance of Mass, how I really, really wanted to be an altar server, just so I could be up closer to everything that was going on (plus they got to wear cool outfits, and it seemed better than fighting with my two brothers throughout Mass and avoiding the weekly contest "who was going to get in trouble for misbehaving at Mass this week") When my Mom took me to Msgr. Flusk after Mass one Sunday and asked how I could become an altar server he said "I’m sorry Jim will have to wait till he’s in 4th Grade." I remember my parents being disappointed, thinking this would deflate my interest in Mass, in the Church. But very out of character for me then, I simply accepted that and really didn’t talk about it again till the beginning of 4th grade when I said "Now I can be an altar boy" - which surprised my parents as they said "You’re still interested in doing that?"

There’s a bunch of stories that I can recall that demonstrate the different ways the idea of priesthood was planted in my heart.  How it was always "on the table" of consideration whenever I thought about "What do you want to be when you grow up."  That I kept feeling drawn, attracted to it through high school and college... that different events and experiences would keep renewing my interest in being a priest, imagining myself being happy as a priest - it wasn’t incredibly shocking to my parents, or to my closest friends when they learned I was applying to enter the seminary after college, that I would get accepted by the Archdiocese of Newark and start right away. On some level, people hearing that would be satisfied that I’ve answered their question "What made you decide to become a priest." 

But honestly, what makes me feel awkward when people ask me that question, is that I realize I didn’t just decide to become a priest. I know that I’ve been called to this by Jesus Christ. A seed was planted in my heart by God when I was very young, and He watered it with many situations, and my desire to become a priest grew. I know that I would not be happy doing anything else. 


Not happy... that’s not a good word for it. Happy – if you’re ADD like me you have that annoying ‘Happy’ song in your head – Happy is feelings of pleasure... I’m happy when I have a nice cup of coffee in the morning. No it’s not that I would not be happy  doing anything else, I would never be fulfilled as a man, as a person doing anything else. I would feel that I missed the mark that God had designated for me.

That realization only came when I almost left the priesthood about 8 years ago. The ins and outs of that story aren’t really that important... My prayer life was terrible. I was frustrated with different things that were going on - things weren’t going according to my plan, how I wanted them to go, thought they should go... My prayer life was terrible... I was really jarred by the fagility of life having to go to the funerals of two men killed on 9/11 who were right around my age... oh and my prayer life was terrible. When things aren't going our way, we have a tendency to pull away from the source of what we hoped, and in this instance I pulled away from God and prayed little. I should have turned the other way and prayed more, for God is my Helper, Refresher … He had living water to give me if I would have paid attention... but I digress.

I really thought I was done with the priesthood.  I had taken a "leave of absence" - I had another career about ready to take off, I had been accepted by the FDNY to become a firefigher (another dream job growing up) I had started to tell myself – even while my prayer life continued to be terrible – that this had to have been a sign from God that this was what I was supposed to do. That this would make me happy.

This one day I had gotten the acceptance letter, all I had to do was sign it, return it and report to Randalls Island where the Academy was located on November 1. And I couldn’t sign it – something gripped me that I couldn’t explain – It wasn’t fear or panic. It really was this bizarre experience of having this pen in my hand, and almost feeling unable or prevented from signing it. I was frustrated and didn’t know what was the matter with me. I put it aside figuring it would pass in a day or two– A family crisis arose, so I ended up deferring taking the firefighter job – and then I found myself praying again. First for the family crisis. But once you start praying (or start praying again), it’s hard not to start talking about other things as well. And I started to wonder "What was up with that" - why couldn’t I sign that letter that day?

Months later, after talking with my spiritual director, and a lot of praying, it just came to me. I’m a priest. I remember it being somewhat anti-climatic to me.  I was somewhat expecting a burning bush story type ending myself... but it wasn’t anything dramatic like that. It was that Jesus had indeed called me to share in his priesthood- so the unsettledness, the restlessness, the tension that I was experiencing... The reason I couldn’t sign that letter that day was because I had heard that call, I had responded to it, and I couldn’t turn away from it.

It was precisely this Gospel story we just heard.


Jesus calling these men to come and follow him. Jesus reaching out to these very, very different personalities.  Seeing something in them that they couldn’t see themselves. Looking for their willingness, their openness, their desire to become something much more than they imagined, dreamed they would ever be. That he would utilize them in such a way that not only their lives, but the world would be forever changed by their Yes.  They would be the first ones to share the Gospel message they experiences and witnessed for themselves: of how much God loved the world, that He would send his only Son to not simply share that message, but to be that message - by laying down his life for the salvation of the world. The Kingdom of God would be established where we creatures are now called Sons and Daughters of a loving Father... which would make us brothers and sisters called to care for those who suffer.

This Gospel message would break forth from that ancient world to you and I, here today, not because Simon, Andrew, James and John... nor Fr. Whelan or Msgr. Flusk or even me - decided to become a priest. It’s because Jesus called us to do so and we responded yes to his invitation...

Perhaps you already have received the call on your life and you are heading in that direction. If you haven't, tonight’s Gospel is meant to remind us of the need to pray about it. To ask God to open your eyes to His perfect plan for you.

The reality is, my story is unique in that it’s my story... but it’s also very, very common.  I hope in your heart of hearts that you not only have heard - but that you believe, that you know - what I learned from a very young age, that even with the billions upon billions of people, that in this vast galaxy of ours, that God notices you, cares about you.  And when you come to recognize that, you realize that he has a special purpose for you.  What is it?

He’s calling some of you right here and now to do the same. There are young men he’s calling to priesthood. There are young women he’s calling to religious life.  There are many others who will be called to married life - that in the selfless, sacrificial love of a husband and wife laying down their lives for one another, they proclaim God’s love in a radically beautiful way too.  So much so that new life is born of that dynamic vocation.  And outside those life commitments, the call to discipleship -to be the best Catholic-Christian we can be in whatever state of life we find ourselves, in whatever job or career is very real as well.

Just as he calls these four in tonight’s Gospel to something, there’s specific things he has in mind for you to do.  That’s what this time of college is supposed to be about.  Not simply you answering a question "What do I want to be when I grow up" - but even more, asking God a question - "Lord, what do you want me to be?"  Praying for the desire to want what He wants; the perseverance and the courage to say yes to whatever that is and the humility to remain aware that Jesus must remain at the heart and in your heart as you move forward in pursuing what it is you’re called to. 

Because He still looks to us to be the ones to share this good news not simply by passing along words, but by our dropping our nets - leaving the things of this world and radically offering our lives in service to Him. That’s not simply the result of our deciding to do it - but hearing His Call - knowing the intimacy and specialness and uniqueness of His voice speaking to our hearts - and recognizing that in saying yes to Him , we are promised to have fullness and fulfillment in this life and the next.

For another blog post on priesthood posted this past Friday "POPE FRANCIS SHOWING THE HEART OF A PRIEST" : http://newpriestnj.com/3/post/2015/01/showing-the-heart-of-a-priest.html