Sunday, January 5, 2014

Homily - Epiphany - New Year's Resolutions - Pope Francis Edition

Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:2-3-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

I have a favorite TV commercial right now.  It has a funny, smart-alecky guy interviewing a bunch of kids. 

              He’s asks, “Is it better to be more reliable or less reliable? “

The kids answer in unison, “More!”

              To which he asks, “Why?”

One kid says, “So you can keep your New Year’s revolution.”

“A New Year’s revolution.  Oh no, what are you gonna do?” the guy asks.

To which the kid says, “I would have more jelly beans this year.”  

Then the smart-alecky guy says, “Oh, so it’s not much of a revolt.  Just like you eating things that are bad for you.”

The kid answers, “Yea.”

“I can deal with that,” the man says.

It’s that time a year again when we ponder whether to make or keep a New Year’s resolution. Or should we be thinking about making and keeping a New Year’s revolution?

In our world today, our cynical culture would have us acting in ways that are not in keeping with the Gospel values. 

Perhaps we should consider revolting against our culture and embrace New Year’s resolutions that are truly aligned with God’s plan for each of us.

           A popular website came up with a list of New Year’s resolutions that are quite revolutionary.  They come from the teachings of Pope Francis over the course of the past year. 

Pope Francis is known for his frank, daily advice on living the life of Christ in the modern world. 

What lessons can we learn from our new Pope?

I would like to offer these New Year’s Resolutions – Pope Francis Edition for us all to consider in the coming year.

The first resolution:

Don’t Gossip or Judge. 
We all do it.   Yes, even this deacon.  After all, we’re human.  But is it what God would have us do?  Is it what Jesus would have us do?

            Pope Francis says when we gossip, we “are doing what Judas did,” and “begin to tear the other person to pieces.”  

            “Every time we judge our brothers (and sisters) in our hearts or worse when we speak badly of them with others, we are murdering Christians… There is no such thing as innocent slander.”

            The next Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolution:  Choose the more humble purchase.

            Remember, this guy drives in a 29-year-old car instead of a brand new Mercedes limo. He rails against materialism in all forms (the urge to have the latest high tech gadget, the desire to live in a bigger home or drive a luxury car, etc., etc., etc.), saying, “Certainly possessions, money, and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want more, never satisfied.”

            Cars are necessary, he says, but buy a more humble one and dedicate the savings to helping the poor.  That’s his advice.

            He urges us all to live a “sober and essential lifestyle.”

            Another resolution to consider:  Make time for others.
            In our fast paced world, this is not an easy one.  To make time for others, we have to slow down the pace of our lives and carve out time in our busy schedules to be with or help or encourage others.

            Pope Francis does this every day when he carves time out of his busy schedule to call people who have just lost a loved one or suffered some tragedy to offer his love and prayers.  Or he does this every time he pens a handwritten letter to someone he doesn’t know. 

            It’s a part of his daily routine.  We should make it a part of ours, too… to reach out and spend time helping and encouraging others.

            I love this next Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolution:   Meet the poor “in the flesh.”

            Every Monday and Wednesday, and every other Saturday, many of our parishioners do that very thing by serving at the St. Vincent de Paul food banks in our two parishes. 

            A hundred parishioners did it on Christmas Eve Day, when they assembled and then delivered stockings for the homeless living at Everett Gospel Mission. 

Just listen to the stories of their encounters.  These stories bring tears to the eyes of many participants for what “the least of our brothers” said to them in gratitude.

            Commitment to the poor must be “person to person” and “in the flesh.”

            Sure, we have institutions that are there to help people in need, but, Pope Francis says, “They do not excuse us from our establishing personal contact with the needy.”

            Pope Francis says this MUST be “a long term commitment.”  Not just a one-time act of charity. 

            Another resolution inspired by our Pope:  Make Commitments, such as marriage (and Holy Orders).

            Don’t be afraid to say, “Forever.”  In a world riddled with crumbling marriages, Pope Francis asked young people at World Youth Day in Rio this summer to embrace “forever” commitments like marriage and Holy Orders.

            He told the young people, “I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries (there’s that word again: revolution).”  He encouraged young people “to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of true love.”

            This “true love” can extend to a young man becoming a priest or a young woman becoming a nun. 

            Who can forget one of the most poignant pictures from World Youth Day when a young boy broke through a security barrier and ran toward the Papal vehicle, jumped in and whispered in Pope Francis’ ear something that would move the Pontiff to tears?

The boy told the Pope, “I am going to be a priest.” In a tearful embrace, Pope Francis told the boy, “I’ll pray for you, please pray for me, too.” 

            As the boy walked away from the encounter, he buried his face in his hands and sobbed.

            I would encourage you to Google this moment online and see the pictures for yourself.  They will move you to tears, too. 
             Story on the boy Nathan de Brito
          Another resolution:  Make it a habit to ask the Lord. 

Make time for prayer in our daily lives and ask God for help, ask God for advice, ask God what to do about a difficult situation, and then in the stillness of your heart, listen.  You might be surprised by what you hear.

And one final Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolution:    Be happy.

Pope Francis has said a lot about a true Christian exuding great joy always.  He says joy cannot be held in, it must be let out. 

In the first major document of his Papacy, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis says this joy should always remind us of loving our neighbor.
           He actually scolds “melancholy Christian faces” as having “more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life.”

               The epiphany of all these Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolutions (oh, you knew I had to go there on this the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord), the epiphany in all these resolutions is it’s exactly what Christ did during his earthly ministry.

            Don’t Gossip or Judge
            Choose the more humble purchase
            Make time for others
              Meet the poor “in the flesh”
              Make Commitments, such as marriage (and Holy Orders)
              Make it a habit to ask the Lord
            Be happy

            The epiphany is Christ did all these things two-thousand years ago.  This is why Pope Francis rings so true in our world today. 

            Maybe there is one or two of these that ring true in your heart.  I would encourage you to have the courage to make them your New Year’s Revolution.

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