Message: By witnessing to our faith, we will have spiritual children..
This Lent we are talking about First Things. Last week we focused on prayer, this week children. Before talking about children, I'll summarize what we learned about prayer.
Prayer is a personal relationship with Jesus. In the Disciple Makers Index Survey, over 80% of St. Mary of the Valley parishioners indicate you have had a personal encounter with Jesus and that you are striving to make the relationship with Jesus the most important in your life. That's wonderful new but at the same time many of you are having a problem. You are not living that relationship by a daily prayer time. And when it comes to devotions, such as Scripture reading, the rosary or prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, only 23%. We can do better. This Lent I want to help you move from an experience of Jesus to living that experience by disciplined daily prayer.
So that's what we've seen so far about prayer. Today I want to give a strong motivation to pray daily: By disciplined prayer, you will see this fruit: children. God wants you and me to have children. Yes, physical children for some and they are a great blessing. But God wants you to have an even greater blessing - spiritual children.
The first reading is about physical and spiritual children. God tells Abraham to "look at the sky and count the stars if you can." Then God add, "Just so, shall your descendants be." This comes as a surprise because Abraham and his wife Sarah seem doomed to a childless, barren marriage. Abraham, however, places his trust in God - and he has a multitude. You and I by our baptism and our faith count ourselves spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham. Do you remember the song, "Father Abraham, had many sons"?
God wants us to have children. Venerable Fulton Sheen - the great television preacher - used to say that when we arrive at the Judgment, God will ask this question, "Where are your children?" That is, "Where are your converts?"
In order to have spiritual children, to bring others to God we need to witness to our faith. On the Disciples Makers survey you were asked to respond to this statement: "In the past year I shared my personal witness story with another person." 22% of you indicated that you witness on a weekly or even daily basis. Another 50% say you shared your personal witness story once or twice in the past year. About a quarter have never done so.
Perhaps our parish is not doing a great job helping you share your witness story. On the survey item "My parish equips me to have conversations about my faith with family and friends by teaching me how to share my personal witness story" only 27% strongly agreed. Another 33% agreed which sounds good, but when they explained to us how to interpret survey results they said we should count "agree" as "tepid" or "lukewarm." Well, we've got a way to go.
On the 29th of February we have Listening Session on parish priorities and goals: What is God's plan for St. Mary of the Valley. Please come. I am convinced God wants us to be a community that helps one another live the relationship with Jesus and to witness, to call others to that relationship.
As Catholics we tend to fear witnessing. Maybe we are afraid someone will make fun of us or reject us. Those things can happen, but I think about the verse in today's Psalm, "of you my heart speaks." Everyone's heart speaks of God. We all have a longing nothing in this world can satisfy. Our hearts are restless until they rest in the One who made us. In addition to that longing, we have a sense of right and wrong. Even atheists. Although they reject God and his commandments, they will vehemently deny they are immoral. In fact, they will say they are more moral than Christians. You see, all of us have a sense of right and wrong - of a Lawgiver who will judge us. Our hearts speak of God.
When we witness to others, God is already at work in their hearts. We do ask him for the right moment to witness. In the Gospel, after they have the overwhelming experience of seeing Jesus transfigured, they don't run out and start telling everyone. Perhaps surprisingly, the Gospel says they "did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen."
There's a right time and place to witness. If you pray daily, the Lord will open up the right moment to share your personal witness story. I'll be giving some practical ideas next week. For today, remember that God wants you and me to have children. By witnessing to our faith, we will have spiritual children. God is at work. "Of you my heart speaks." Amen.
From Archives (Year C homilies for 2nd Sunday of Lent):
Homilies for Second Sunday of Lent ("Transfiguration Sunday")
Other Sunday Homilies
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru