Bottom line: What, then, should we do? Start today: twenty minutes of prayer at least, build a family and take a step.
Today different groups of people ask John the Baptist, "What should we do?" I am not John the Baptist (for sure, you have noticed) but people have asked me a similar question: "Father, is there any way I can help? Just tell me what you need. I would be glad to help any way way I can."
I appreciate such generosity. At times I have a very specific need, but this Sunday I want to be like John: Say something that will apply to each of you. So what should we do? I have three requests.
The first request will come as no surprise. What I ask each of you to do is pray. Do you remember when I asked you to give at least 20 minutes a day for prayer? How many of you are doing that? (No need for a show of hands.) Twenty minutes - preferably at the beginning of your day: Find a quiet spot with your Bible, prayer book, a crucifix or a sacred image. Speak your gratitude to God and ask for help and guidance. The 20 minutes might grow into 30 or an hour. Most of us have no trouble finding that amount of time if there is a good program on TV. Perhaps the prayer will lead to daily Mass. Whatever happens, it will affect the rest of the day.
The discipline of daily prayer leads to the second request. I ask each of you to do this: Build a family. In two weeks we will see that Jesus spent 90% of his earthly life with his extended family: Joseph and Mary and all the "brothers and sisters" - what the Hispanics call "Primos hermanos," brother cousins.
If you follow Jesus' example and take up this challenge to build a family, you find yourself in the front lines of a war. The great spiritual battle of our age centers on the family. Satan has launched an all-out assault on marriage and family. To engage this battle you must put on the armor of God. I already mentioned prayer which is our essential weapon, but the armor of God also includes study - especially of the Bible - and virtues such as humility, patience, forgiveness, chastity and endurance.
One day we will each stand individually before God's judgment, but we do not come to God alone. We come to Him as part of a family. Sometimes young couples will tell me they are unsure about baptizing their children. They are unsure of their faith. I let them know that I appreciate their honesty, but also remind them that they are not alone. They are part of a bigger family that wants to support them. Those young families are precious to us. They have the most important job in our society and in our Church.
That leads to the third request. Our basic work here below is to build families. That is the great spiritual battle. That war will not be won in a day or even a year, but there is something we each need to do today: Take a step. Take a step in your parish which is a family of families. You do have something to give. Last month we had Stewardship. Many indicated an interest in being part of a parish ministry. I appreciate that - and remind you that if you have not yet taken a step, you don't need to wait till next November.
Take a step today. When you pray, thank God for the time, abilities and resources that he placed in your hands. And ask him what way you can use them right here at St. Mary of the Valley. So much is happening in these last ten days before Christmas - music, liturgies, help for the needy and plans for the new year. I am not asking you to add one more thing to your packed schedule, but to reflect on your priorities - ask God where you can best use the precious gifts he has given you.
So, what should we do? Pray, build a family, take a step. Maybe you thought I was going to invite you to some exotic place - like the Peru highlands or the Monroe prison! Well, someday you might go with me to those spots, but let me say this. If you go Peru or to the prison, you will find the same challenges that you face every day.
You will notice that when the people asked John, "What should we do?", he did not give exotic advice. He mentioned ordinary things: Share what you have, tell the truth, be consistent - live by the same rules that expect others to follow. Be grateful for what you've got - stop comparing yourself to others. These are very ordinary words of advice. You can find them in all the great teachers. The problem is living them. That's why we need the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
What, then, should we do? Don't wait for the New Year. Start today: twenty minutes of prayer at least, build a family and take a step. If you do this, God will lift that anxiety for your heart and give you what St. Paul describes: "the peace of God that surpasses all understanding." Amen.
From Archives (Homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year C):
Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
(new, professional website)