Called to Live Anew.

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Anew – Life Anew in Christ is exhibited especially when we live to know, love, and serve the Lord and when call people to also know, love, and serve the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

Today we enter the final half-week of this Pre-Lenten season. This season is specifically designed so we might prepare ourselves for the rigors of the Lenten season to begin in just three days. Between now and Easter we endeavor and strive at the vast changes we need in our lives.

St. Paul reminds the Church at Corinth, and us, that we have been made new, we have put on the eternal, the incorruptible. The definition of life anew. He reminds us that we are not to be those hypocrites Jesus warns against, but rather those who bear good fruit, producers of good.

In baptism we were consecrated to the Lord and that makes us different, new. We have entered the Kingdom and its life. We have victoryTherefore, we must be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord. As such, we must live as the Kingdom people we are now, not the people we were then.

Being fully devoted to the work of the Lord means calling ourselves to necessary repentance, to fasting, prayer, and charity. Being fully devoted to the Lord means constantly reaching for the next rung on the ladder to heaven and helping others up the ladder.

By growing in this new life, we show our beauty – our attractiveness – to those who do not know the Lord. Between our Kingdom life example and the gentleness of our words we call others into the Kingdom life.

Last night’s Grand Ole Opry introduced a group appearing for the first time, We The Kingdom. It was a great example of people, family and friends, living out their faith in Jesus Christ publicly, with joy, and celebration. So, we should be We The Kingdom for indeed that is what we are – as we live out our life anew in Jesus Christ publicly, with joy, and celebration. As they sang, calling others to meet Jesus by their artistic example, so must we by the means and opportunities that are in our paths.

Imagine a community of people where others are welcome without criticism and judgment, where words and music are sweet balm for the hurting, where the inhabitants are steadfast, devoted to the work of the Lord, where each person helps the other to climb the ladder to heaven. Yes, that place is here because we are the Kingdom and we grow evermore as we endeavor and strive at the changes we need in our lives – living anew each day, and welcoming others to the same.

Called to Live Anew.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.”

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

What better way to connect with the word anew than to enter this new season in our Church life, the Season of Septuagesima, Pre-Lent.

This Pre-Lenten season is one in which we prepare ourselves for the rigors of the Lenten season because it is between now and Easter that we endeavor and strive at the vast changes we need in our lives. To live anew we set to the hard work that is a re-valuing of our priorities, and the doing of God’s work.

Let us start with the one beatitude that is very hard for most of us: Accepting the fact that we will be hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced as evil because we proclaim the name of Jesus. We know it happens to those who follow and speak Jesus’ teachings, because those teachings call worldly people to repentance and change. Who really wants to change and live anew anyway? We know it can and will happen to us as we live anew and call people to know, love, and serve the Lord and His Holy Church

We all want to be liked, we all want to be fabulous, funny, accepted, spectacular, and spoken well of. But there is a cost. The cost is the truth of God’s word and our place in the Kingdom. So, we set out in this season and the season ahead to re-value what is important and to live the way we must – not should – but must. Life anew.

If we are to live lives anew, things must change in us. We each have those inner issues we need to overcome. We each have attitudes, really bad-i-tudes, that must be rooted out and replaced with Jesus’ beatitudes. We must weigh the cost of silence versus the loss of souls on the scale of eternity and do all we can to speak about our God, our faith, and our Church and how they hold forever promise for each person we encounter.

Knowing we live in the Kingdom of God we must be willing to accept polite and not so polite no’s when we invite people to meet Jesus, to join us in fellowship. We must be willing to speak truth in the face of worldly values so that hearts might be converted, and people might be saved.

So let us start now, living anew in each encounter and invite others to that same new life for Jesus’ sake no matter the outcome. If we do, we hold onto our forever promise and await the day we rejoice and leap for joy as we accept Jesus’ great reward in heaven. 

Called to Live Anew

“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

We have certainty in the gospel. We know the things we are to share – love that conquers all things and the gifts of the Kingdom life to the unexpected in unexpected ways.

You can imagine the unexpectedness of Isaiah ‘s encounter with God as he was pulled into the heavenly court to meet God face-to-face. Isaiah well knew that no one could survive such an encounter and live. Isaiah literally says: “Woe is me, I am doomed!” Yet the God of the unexpected did something – well unexpected. 

God cleansed and freed Isaiah from his unclean lips and his life in and among a people of uncleanliness – sin. God freed Isaiah from certain death. Then God sent Isaiah to proclaim His word to the people. To do all necessary to draw the people back to God.

Likewise, Jesus caused Simon and the other fishermen with him to face something unexpected, a great catch and an even greater call to evangelize the people, to make the promise of the Kingdom life known. They then did something equally unexpected – they left everything behind – their life’s work, investments, all they had to follow Jesus.

St. Paul fully realized the unexpectedness of his call. He calls himself least of the Apostles, realizing and acknowledging his sins – the very persecution of the Church and how he had been forgiven. 

 All of these lessons point to our call to live anew and to speak to others of our God, to spread the gospel, to make Jesus known.

Like Isaiah, we must recognize that the Lord God has cleansed us for the work we are to do and has sent us forth to proclaim His word. As with Paul, we have been set free from wrongdoing to be apostles in our world, to make the truth of the gospel known. Like Simon and the other fisherman, we are called to get up and go, to set aside those things we might otherwise feel important and focus our efforts on the Kingdom of God.

Today we gather in the grand tradition of our Ecclesial-democratic establishment, to reflect on the work of the year gone by and to set our eyes forward. We are, like Paul, to hand on to others as of first importance what we also received: that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried; and that he was raised on the third day. Let us set out and preach the gospel we have been given for the benefit of those who Jesus has also called. Those who would not know Him without us.

Called to live anew!

But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

As you may recall, last week we discussed certainty. We considered how certainty assists us in living and bearing witness to the gospel and drawing others into the life of faith, the kingdom life which Jesus has created for us.

Today we are given entrée into the things that make up the kingdom life – the things we are to share.

St. Paul reminds of the great gift that marks our lives as Christians – that of love also translated charity. This love is far more powerful than any other gift, than any intellect. It overpowers and overcomes all things. Pick a topic – something seemingly insurmountable by human standards – and know and proclaim that Kingdom love will conquer it.  Yes, we can say that.

Last week we heard Jesus read from the Isaiah in the synagogue; speaking of the things He had come to fulfill – the great gift of freedom from captivity and poverty, from blindness and oppression. He indeed had come to conquer all by His love, to invite all to repentance and membership in the Kingdom. Unfortunately, the people of His hometown were not quite onboard with such an expansive view of love.

For context, the people in Nazareth had heard of all Jesus had done in Capernaum – the preaching, the healings, the freedom He was granting, though love, by inviting sinners and people who were quite different from themselves – for Capernaum was diverse and included Gentiles and Samaritans.

The Nazarenes did not want to hear that kind of good news, the gospel message and membership in the Kingdom needed to be more limited. Their wonder and amazement were not positive, rather it was negative – the way of love must be within established standards, and only for some.

Jesus shows them and us that the freedom and love of the Kingdom life is not for the expected, but rather the unexpected. Jesus’ quoting of two examples of God’s love and charity to ungodly pagans relates the expansive power of God’s love overcoming.

At the end of the gospel, Jesus walked away from those who closed themselves off – who were unwilling to share the Kingdom life and wished to deny it to others. In doing so, He invites us, those already in the Kingdom, to do as the Kingdom life requires, i.e., to share in love that overcomes all things and to offer the gifts of the Kingdom in unexpected ways and places, to unexpected people.

Called to live anew!

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

How do you recollect time? Most people see time as a linear progression, past, present, and future. We could draw an arrow from one moment in our lives to the next, event to event. Did you know that God sees time differently, that Jesus came to change our conception of time and even place?

That is true. Jesus’ birth marked the start of a new age – the age of the Kingdom. In His Baptism, which we celebrated last week, Jesus marked out our change – how we are to enter His place and time, the Kingdom of God.

For many Christians, the Kingdom is something afar off. We have time. If we are sinning, we can go to confession tomorrow, or next Sunday. If we need to repent and live changed lives, walking the gospel path much more closely and realistically – radically, well we can work on that. That is a false notion. We have our facts wrong. The Kingdom will not come someday but is here now. We are in it, and we are called to live changed now, immediately.

What St. Paul tells us in his writing on baptism is true. We died with Christ in our baptism and so we have been raised with Him to life anew. We are no longer living according to the world’s time and priorities, stumbling from moment to moment, place to place like the lost. Rather, we are living a changed reality in which we have great work to do, Kingdom work. We must set to it now.

Kingdom work comes down to what Jesus showed us at Cana in Galilee. It is about changed perspectives and lives anew.

The changing of water into wine isn’t just a one-off miracle. It is not just a moment along a timeline. It is rather a foreshadowing of the eternal change that comes when the wine is made His blood. It is a foretelling of the way we are changed in Jesus. 

When we share in the Eucharistic moment in a short time, the changing of bread and wine into His body and blood, we literally join with Jesus in His timeless reality. the ever-present Kingdom where we also reside. We receive abundant grace for our work.

Our Kingdom reality is where the Spirit’s gifts, given to each of us in different form and measure, are to be implemented. We are residing in God’s time and place and our mission is an imperative command to declare the Kingdom and invite others into it; to live changed. 

Blessed Be His Name!

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

How does it feel to be 101 years old? Pretty good I think, echoing Bishop Bernard’s message at our celebratory Holy Mass of Thanksgiving this past October.

Indeed, another year is dawning as we will hear in our recessional hymn. That hymn reminds us of all we must do as we enter our second centenary. We can repeat with the hymn our very heartfelt request to the Father, that the year and century ahead will be a time of working and waiting with God. A time of learning, trusting, mercies, faithfulness, graces, gladness, progress, praise, service, and training all while leaning on our Father’s breast as we anew prove His presence right here in our community.

It is a special grace that we begin our new century with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Holy Name of Jesus which fell on the first Sunday of this new year, 2022.

Anew – that is a word we will focus on in a very particular way for years to come. We together have spent the last decade in a lot of hard work building up this parish, strengthening it, readying it. Now is the time for the next great step.

We are indeed strong and ready to undertake a great mission – making the Holy Name of Jesus known once again by our evangelistic efforts.

I can recount some of what I used to encounter growing up. The Name of Jesus was well known and was respected. In fact, we understood each other often in relationship to the church or other place of worship we attended. 

For example, walking into a Synagogue, I knew what to do. The last time I walked into one and asked for a Kippah/Yarmulka, the Rabbi was surprised, perhaps not expecting that sign of respect. In my church, people who came for special events like weddings and funerals, even if they were not Catholic, knew to stand, sit, and kneel at appropriate times. That does not happen much anymore. The Name Jesus does not elicit respect, not out of disrespect or meanness, but rather out of a lack of knowledge. So, we have work to do.

We are called to the work of the first apostles and disciples. We are asked to bring the light of Jesus’ Holy Name into every corner of our world. We are to offer hope by our witness to the Holy Name of Jesus. It really is not difficult. We have the grace of God with us; that gives us confidence. Speak of and spread Jesus’ Holy Name as a personal mission. Welcome people to experience Jesus in simple discussions. Try this key: Ask people what matters to them, then discuss how God fits into that in our lives. If we do this, we will bless His Name.