Sunday, December 20, 2020



The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin named was Mary. He said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” She was greatly troubled at what was said. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you will conceive in your womb, bear a son and name him Jesus. Mary said, “I am the Lord’s handmaid. Let it be done to me according to your word.” 

Luke 1:26-38

God created us and God invites us, over and over again, during our lives to growth and change. In other words, he offers us his grace, his free unsolicited help, so that we can become all that he has called us to be. The only thing God requires of us in return for the investment he makes in us is a “yes” or “no” response of acceptance or rejection.

All of you married people said your “yes” to God, in a formal way, when you originally made your weddings vows! You have said your “yes” again and again, every year that you have renewed your vows. Most importantly, you have said your “yes” every day you got out of bed and put your feet to the floor and carried out your marriage commitments. I have done the same, in my own way, every day for fifty years since I was ordained.

God does not require that we be perfect, he only requires that we be in a serious relationship with him – that we give him our best. He knows that our best is better on some days than other days, but that’s OK as long as we keep coming back to try again. 

I define personal and spiritual suicide as the result of always saying “no” to God’s invitations to growth and change. The biggest sin is not to fail, but to never really try! I am so convinced of this dynamic that I wrote a book about it two years ago. This book is really my autobiography. I sat down and wrote about all those times I can remember being offered an opportunity to growth and change from age six to the present. I tracked the times I said “yes” and how those “yeses” have made me who I am today. That little book is entitled BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE: Choosing to Do Hard Things for Your Own Good.

As I read the story of the angel Gabriel’s message to Mary today, and thought of last Sunday’s story of the baptism of Jesus when he heard a voice from heaven, I was reminded of many similar invitations that have come to me during my own life. None of them were delivered by angels, but I believe they came from God, none the less! Whether you are aware of them or not, you have had similar invitations in your own life.

Remember those old cowboy movies? Remember the scenes when the good guys are “holed up” in a little cabin outside town, surrounded by “bad guys?” Inevitably, the “bad guys” would tie a message to a rock and throw it through the only window in the cabin. I have always thought that was a good image of the invitations that come to us from God. It’s like we are just going along comfortably doing our thing, when one day a rock comes crashing into our lives with a message attached that reads, "You have just been invited to change! Signed: God!" Once you have been through this enough times, you know how it works! You are then ready to start "throwing rocks through your own windows." You no longer wait till change comes to you, you go out to meet it. You "induce your own labors pains" of growth and change. 

A favorite “throwing rocks through my own windows” story from my autobiography, happened at the end of my tenure as your pastor. After fourteen successful years as pastor of this Cathedral, even though Archbishop Kelly told me I could stay as long as I wanted, I started to think that "it was time” to move on. I set up an appointment with Archbishop Kelly and told him I thought my time was up - that I had made my contribution. Even though I had just "caused" that change and "set it in motion," I remember sitting in my car, after I left his office, feeling like I had just committed professional suicide. In the following weeks, I felt like my niece after her husband’s funeral, when she said, “I knew who I was yesterday, but I don’t know who I am today.” My time in that painful "in between world" was shortened greatly because of all that I had learned in previous years about change. In a year or two, I found myself happily in yet another wonderful job as a staff member at Saint Meinrad Seminary.

At the end of those wonderful fourteen years at Saint Meinrad, having reached the age of seventy, I “induced labor” yet again and decided to go into retirement. Even though that transition did not go smoothly, and that "in between world" was painful, I came out of it again and arrived at a new level of excitement as a volunteer in the Caribbean Missions. I am sure the day will come when I will have to give that up too - either by circumstance or by choice! 

On this day when we remember Mary saying “yes” to God that led to the birth of our Savior, let's remember our “yeses” to God when we either got married or was ordained, let's remember the many times you said “yes” to God when you accepted a child or I took on new ministries and finally let's look forward to all the “yeses” we will make to God before that big “yes” when we have to leave this world! How will we be able to keep saying all those “yeses?” We will do it like we have always done it - with God’s help - because “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)



















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