We Shouldn’t Fear A Hard Message

'Lost and Found' by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. http://www.GregOlsen.com
“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. http://www.GregOlsen.com

November 20, 2022

May 16, 2021

Listen to audio Hear the audio and see video of this homily

Reading 1 – Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Reading 2 – Ephesians 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Mark 16:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

So, Mattias, I know you’re not going to pay any attention to be, but I spent time building this up for you.

It’s a great day for the little guy down here who is paying absolutely zero attention to me. But it’s a great day because his mom and dad and his godparents are here to ask Father Pat to bring him into the family. And, of course, at Confirmation he will get to make that request.

Even though he’s not going to pay any attention to me, there are things that are very important because of the fact that this is the day that the Lord ascends to His Father. And He ascends to His Father because He has to for us to have what takes place next week at Pentecost – that gift that’s being sent to us.

And I love the way that the readings are laid out today. From the Acts, its all the Apostles and how Jesus has been getting them ready, right? And then, of course, the Letter to the Ephesians is all about the “Holy Ones”. Who are the Holy Ones? You – Me – all of us are the Holy Ones. And then, of course, as always, its for all of us.

And so, I want to take you back a moment to when the women came to the tomb and they found that stone had been rolled away. And they walk in, and what do they see? They see a man dressed in all white. And what does this man ask the ladies? “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” Because Jesus had risen. Jesus had risen and then He began to work for 40 days with the Apostles before he ascends into Heaven. 40 days – does that sound familiar? Jesus began His ministry with 40 days in the desert. He ends His ministry 40 days again, teaching the Apostles all they would need to know. And then He Ascends!

And that’s the Gospel of Luke. And so, we come today, and we hear The Acts of the Apostles open up with what? That same story of Him ascending into Heaven. And He shows them that He is who He is by doing all kinds of works and showing His scars and everything else.

But at the end of the 40 days, what happens? They all circle around Him – all of His Apostles are circled around Him, and then He’s lifted up into Heaven. And they just sit there, or stand there, looking up, kind of dumbfounded, like you see me normally. It is such a wonderful thing.

And then what happens? Two men, dressed in all white – sound familiar – two men-dressed in all white ask the men, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up into the Heavens?” Jesus is up – He’s gone – and He will return in the same way.

Before He ascends, they ask Him, “Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Jerusalem?” And He tells them, because He’s exasperated (He’s always exasperated with His Apostles. They’re always thinking about now. What about now? What’s going to happen?) And so, He tells them, “Stop worrying about that. That’s for the Father to worry about. Not for you. All you need to do is do exactly what I trained you to do. You are here to do the works that I have trained you for.

Of course, we go to Ephesians, right? And in Ephesians, the first thing Paul talks about is the grace that is bestowed upon us. Anybody remember what grace is? Grace is that gift – its an unearned gift of God’s love. Nothing we can do to make God love us more. Nothing we can do to make God love us less. And there is no hole that we can dig so deep that God can’t come and get us.  And he talks about how Jesus ascends. And He ascends, he takes prisoners, but He gives gifts to man. He says some of them will be apostles, some of them evangelists. Some of them will be preachers, pastors, and teachers.

All of us have gifts. We may not know what those gifts are because we haven’t tried to nurture those gifts. But we can discern those gifts through a great gift, and that is prayer. Take time to pray every day, and just ask God [turning to Fr Pat he asks, “Do we agree – 5 minutes – would that be good?”  Fr Pat nods yes.] Five minutes of your day. Just pray to God to show you what He wants of you. But there’s a conviction there. I felt very convicted, because whenever we go to the Gospel, Jesus opens up and He says, “You know, I’m going to be leaving very, very, shortly and I want you to understand, whenever you go out and preach the Gospel to every living creature, I want you to understand that there are responsibilities. There are consequences for choices. And so, for those who believe and are baptized, He says, “You will be saved. But for those who do not believe, you will be condemned.”

It’s not something that we like to hear. I mean, my preference would always be that there’s no responsibility, there’s no consequences for my actions. But that’s not what Jesus says. There are consequences. And that’s a hard lesson, because some were gifted to be pastors, some teachers. As I stand here today, I am a teacher. That’s the gift that I have – to stand here before you, and hopefully explain to you, because all that those gifts are supposed to do is to prepare the Holy Ones. Again, who are the Holy Ones? All of us!  To prepare the Holy Ones for their ministry.

And, if we’re not doing that, I would rather preach and tell you that, yeah, there’s consequences. That yes, Jesus says that if we don’t believe, if we don’t show that we believe, we don’t practice our belief, then we’ll be condemned. As I stand here today and I talk to you, I want to apologize for all of the times that I have missed the opportunity to tell you what Jesus is saying because I wanted to soften the blow a little bit.

We are hemorrhaging Catholics because I think sometimes, certainly I, don’t preach the way that I should preach. I don’t preach as hard as I should preach. And so, that’s on me. I would rather you stop out here, and be angry with me, than to lose you completely. So, be angry with me. I can take the heat. I’m good with that.

But I do believe that there are some very gifted people sitting here right now. I believe young Mattias will become a very gifted young man as long as we continue to teach him. Father (Pat) said that you two [pointing to Mateus’ parents] were going to be his greatest teachers. His god parents are supposed to be helping you. Raise him in the ways of the Church, so that whenever it comes time for him to go to Confirmation, he will gladly stand up and say, “Yes, I am Catholic. I want to be Catholic.

2 thoughts on “We Shouldn’t Fear A Hard Message

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