June 23, 1996--St. Mary, English, 9:30, Spanish, noon

Good to be back in St. Mary's. Was here w/ Frs Coyne & Holland from 81 to 87 before going down to Peru.

Do not be afraid to wittness to Jesus before men. In fact, he say, if you deny before before others I will deny you before my Father. Hard words. When we think of giving testimony to Jesus what usually comes to our minds are Jehovah Witnesses going door to door. But you know, they actually get very few converts that way. Most come from own family, friends, co-workers. The most effective way of testifying to Jesus is with a peer, over a cup of coffee, often in an unguarded moment, to say for example, "What has really helped me thru this time is prayer, my belief in God." That's the kind of testimony that will draw someone to Jesus and his Church.

And our actions speak louder than words. How we treat other people, how we spend our money and our spare time. There are 168 hours in a week, but if your friends know your most important hour is at Mass worshipping God, that is a powerful testimony. Particularly in the summer.

What often keeps us back from testifying to Jesus is fear. Someone might laugh at me, make fun of me. Call me a hypocrite. Don't be afraid of that. Jesus says, what is whispered in secret will one day be shouted from the rooftops. I've been a priest almost 25 years and heard plenty of confessions; I can tell you everybody has secrets, awful ones. That includes you and me. We just haven't made the 6 o'clock news. Someday we will. Jesus assures of that. Dont' be afraid about what folks say about you. they don't know the half of it.

But there is someone we should fear. He who can cast us body and soul into hell. Today we tend to downplay the doctine of eternal punishnest, but that was a constant theme of Jesus teaching. In fact the majority of references to hell are not found in St Paul or the book or Revelation, but from the lips of Jesus. And he uses scary images--everlasting flames, the worm that never dies.

To fear God, his judgement is not just for so called 'simple folks." A prominent doctor who performed thousands of abortions at some point realized he was killing human beings. He gave up his abortion practice, joined the human life movement and in the process went from being an atheist to a believer in God. And now he is joining the Catholic church. When asked why he is becoming a Catholic, Dr. Nathanson replied, "I do not want to spend forever in hell. I want the forgiveness of my sins and that I will have in the Catholic Church thru baptism and confession."

Our greatest hope is what we hear today in the second reading. When we were lost because of our sins, Christ took our punishment upon himself. Where sin abou ded, grace has abounded even more.

Last week at our priest days, Fr Ray Carey gave us a powerful example of this forgiveness or free grace. A sister who was dying of an unusual form of cancer agree to participate in an experimental treatment program. It involved daily injections of a powerful drug. When the doctor got to her room, he was carrying a tray of syringes, each one carefully marked with a patient's name. In a moment of distraction he picked up the syringe meant for the next patient--a man 100 lbs heavier than the sister. When he injected it into the sister's arm, he immediately realized the dose he had given her was fatal. And when the sister and her friends saw his expression they knew the aweful truth. The sister grabbed the doctor by the shoulders and said, "I absolve you for what you've done. You must continue your work and not be crushed by guilt." then she turned to her friends, "I forbid you to bring a case against this doctor or the hospital." Within two hours she died.

What that sister did for the young doctor, Jesus has done for each one of us. Jesus does not want us to be burdened by guilt. As a missionary seven years among the poorest people of Peru I have sometimes been accused of playing on people's guilt to get them to give to the missions. I don't deny that entirely. However, I believe the strongest motive to give, whether to parish, the Archidocese or the missions is a grateful heart. we've got a lot of reasons to be grateful. Sometimes when I hear young people complaining about how tough life is for them, I try to remind them of that. There are people in southern peru who would trade places tomorrow. We've been bless, even spoiled materially. But what we really need to be thankful for are our spiritual blessings, for Jesus and belonging to his Church. With all its sins, with all its sins. She is the chanel of God's life.