Sunday, May 7, 2017


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I came that you may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

One Sunday, several years ago, I was standing out in front of the Bellarmine University chapel waiting for students to arrive for Mass, something I have done in rain and shine for practically every Sunday for the last 47 years wherever I have been assigned, including here. I had been in a bad space in my head for several weeks over the damnable “abuse scandal” that had surfaced in our church. I was alone and my mind was involved in one of those “negative mind chatter” episodes that I seemed to revert to when things get quiet and I am worried about something. 

What brought me out of it was the sound of a girl, one of our choir members, singing to herself as she bounced down the steps to the chapel. When I inquired about the source of her happiness, she said, “Look around you! It’s Easter! The whole message of Easter is that there is nothing to worry about! Everything is going to turn out OK!” 

It was exactly what I needed to hear! I have given hundreds of homilies with that very message and yet, I had temporarily forgotten it! It was a moment of grace, an eye-opener, a jerking back to reality! I still remember her words and smile to myself when things seem to be going downhill!

I came that (you) may have life and have it in abundance.

This beautiful line from today’s gospel is only one of many passages that say the same thing. It is this very gospel – the one according to John - that tells us of Jesus’ very first miracle, the multiplication of wine at the marriage feast of Cana! The miracles of Jesus are not just events to help the people who were there originally, they are “signs” to us of what God wants for us as well. According to scholars, the water he turned into wine amounted to about 163 gallons! That a lot of wine! Wine symbolizes the celebratory part of life! The message of that miracle is that God’s wants us to have the best and plenty of it, life in abundance! In another place it says, “Give and gifts will be given you: full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will they be poured into your lap.” 

All week, I have been reminded that I do have a great life, a life of remarkable abundance! That student helped me wake up to the fact that I was seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full. She helped me count my blessings and remember that things are ultimately going to turn out OK! A few years ago, I came across a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson offering similar wisdom. Emerson wrote “Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always, sings.” 

I do have an abundant life! Let me count the ways!

(1) In spite of being very sad and embarrassed by the news that even some priests have been part of the awful scourge of sexual abuse, my faith remains unshaken. My faith has never been in my own goodness or in any other weak human being. My faith is solidly in God’s goodness, a faith that gives me great peace when I fail and, yes, even when others around me fail. This faith is undeserved and unearned gift from God. In spite of the fact that I am a flawed human being, I know for a fact that God loves me without condition. I know that He is an intimate partner in the adventure of my spiritual and personal growth. I have nothing to fear. My life is truly a life of abundance.

(2) I love my vocation. I’m no Mother Teresa, but I know I have been able to do a lot of good as a priest. To prove it, I have boxes of letters from people who have told me so. To be a priest, I have had to “give up” a few things, but believe me, what I have given up is radically small compared to what I have gained. I have never seriously thought about doing anything else. I have served several great faith communities over 47 years: St. John Vianney here in Louisville, St. Mildred in Somerset, St. Peter in Monticello, Good Shepherd in Whitley City, Holy Name of Mary in Lebanon, this Cathedral of the Assumption, the Vocation Office, Bellarmine University and St. Meinrad Seminary. I can also look at my column in The Record over the last 15 years, the hundred plus priest retreat in nine countries that I have led and now my volunteer work down in the islands. I have been blessed by all of these communities and ministries. My life is truly a life of abundance.

(3) I have friends all over the world, all over this country, all over this state and all over this city, people who love me, people to whom I can turn at a moment’s notice. My life is truly a life of abundance.

(4) I have had opportunities that many people only dream about: the opportunity to have a great education, the opportunity to mingle with people from all walks of life, the opportunity to travel, the opportunity to be there at the great moments of people’s lives: birth, marriage, sickness, tragedy and death, the opportunity to preach the gospel and to say mass and to help people unburden themselves of sin and guilt. My life is truly a life of abundance. 
(5) I have my health. I own my own home and car and I have more food to eat than I need. I have a great family. We are close. We have a great time when we get together. My life is truly a life of abundance. 
(6) I belong to a brotherhood of great priests that go all the way back in an unbroken line for 2,000 years to the apostles, a brotherhood of priests who are working all over the world as we speak: black, yellow, red, brown, white and every shade in between! Some of our group are saints, some are martyrs, some are heroes, some are public sinners and most of us are somewhere in between. We may lose everything else, but we are priests forever! Even if we are unfaithful to God, God can never be unfaithful to us. If we screw up, we may be stripped of our titles, our parishes and our freedom to function, but no one can strip us of our priesthood! God gave it to us for life! My life is truly a life of abundance.

I came that (you) may have life and have it in abundance.

What is the secret to receiving a life of abundance? As I look at the abundance in my own life, I know for a fact that it is not something I earned or something I deserve, but something that is a total gift from God. Abundance comes from hearing your call and answering it with all the gusto you can muster – whether it is marriage, priesthood or the single life. We all have a call from God to carry on some part of his work in the world. If we hear that call and answer it, an abundance of happiness and peace of mind will be ours. If we are out of rhythm with our calls, we will be unhappy without knowing why, driven to look for love in all the wrong places. We will be going against who we are, who God so lovingly created us to be. We will end up with a dry and parched desert of a life. 

I have spoken to enough young adult in the last few years to notice a pattern. Most are happy, I hope, but quite a few have not found their nitch! They have been career counseled, rather than vocation directed. They have ended up in careers and jobs they hate because they fell for the line that if you get into something that pays a lot of money, you can buy happiness. If they had been encouraged to listen to their hearts, where all vocations come from, they might have been doing what they love, as well as having all they need! 

How about you? Are you aware of the abundance you have, the abundance that only God can give? Do you know the difference between a job, a career and a vocation? Do you know in your heart of hearts who you are and what God is calling you to be? Do you listen to your own heart or do you listen to all those powerful voices around you telling you to go this way and that? Do you spend enough quality time with God to even hear his whispering voice in your heart of hearts? It is only there that you will recognize the abundance that you already enjoy. It is only there that you will discover the path to even greater abundance.

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