Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral 9/11/16
Ex 3:27-11, 13-14 1 Timothy1:12-17 Luke 15: 1-32
Praised Be Jesus Christ. Good Morning.
This past Thursday I attended the funeral Mass for Drew Banks,
a 48 year-old husband and father of three.
When I was teaching at Thomas More College,
I was introduced to a student named Andrew Banks.
He promptly told me that it was just “Drew.”
I remember very distinctly my first meeting Drew,
and had reconnected with him several times over the years.
I had learned that his mother was a college classmate of mine.
I consider him “my favorite student at TMC whom I never taught,”
for he was never in any of my classes.
In my college teaching, there were few opportunities
for me to get to know students who were not in my classes.
I also have a “favorite student that I never taught”
at the high school level from my days
at Newport Central Catholic High School.
At the funeral, Fr. Daniel Vogelpohl,
the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, delivered the homily.
He spoke about the meaning of life, about how in this life,
we are preparing for the next life
which requires that we be connected to God and others
in this life.
Bishop Foys was also present and, in his remarks
at the final commendation, he reiterated
the importance of the meaning of this life.
Today’s readings are all about God’s mercy and
they provide for us a kaleidoscope of avenues
for the development in a homily on that topic.
By now you should have heard a number of homilies
on God’s mercy.
But , I choose to take the approach of how today’s Gospel
helps us to understand the meaning of our lives.
Christ's parables always teach us something about God,
but they also teach us something about ourselves.
They also give us an answer
to the most difficult and urgent question
that the human family has had to face
in every generation: What is the meaning of our lives?
What gives meaning to our lives?
First, the parable of the lost sheep:
When a sheep is lost and separated from the flock,
it is helpless and vulnerable.
It needs the flock and the shepherd to protect and guide it.
So also, every human person is created
to find meaning and fulfillment in communion with God,
the Shepherd, and with others in the flock
- thus the two great commandments
of loving God and loving our neighbor.
We were not created to be isolated, self-sufficient islands;
we are meant to depend on God and others
as we pursue happiness.
Second, the parable of the lost coin:
The lost coin is completely without value
unless it is possessed by its owner,
unless it is part of the household's economy.
Even if it had been a gold piece worth 1000 day's wages,
it would be completely worthless if it stayed buried
in the dust under the sofa;
there it would be of absolutely no use to anyone.
Likewise, our actions and efforts in life only have real value
when they are connected to the mission of the Church,
the mission of building up Christ's Kingdom.
Outside of the Kingdom we can do things
and have adventures that appear exciting,
but they lack the eternal value
that they are meant to have,
just like the coin that was lost.
Both parables reiterate the same lesson:
our lives can only find meaning and fulfillment
through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ.
AND, if we are to find fulfillment in our lives through Christ,
with Christ and in Christ, we must know Christ.
In July, 2007 a group of Christian sociologists
published the results of a study that they had been conducting
over a five-year period called,
"The Obstacles to Growth Survey."
It was conducted on 20,009 Christians
with ages ranging from 15 to 88
- the majority of whom came from the United States.
The survey found that on average,
more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world
say they "often" or "always" rush from task to task.
About 6 in 10 Christians say that it's "often" or "always" true
that "the busy-ness of life gets in their way
of developing a relationship with God."
The authors of the study concluded that the accelerated pace
and activity level of the modern day is distracting us from God.
Here was their line of reasoning:
Christians are assimilating to a culture of
busyness, hurry and overload;
God is being pushed aside in Christians' lives.
And the better we become at adapting to this busyness
the greater is the deterioration of our relationship with God.
Thus we become more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions
about living life just for ourselves, not God, not others.
It is possible to ascribe too much weight to sociological studies,
but this one certainly harmonizes with
the experience of the two sons in the final parable.
Something made them so self-centered and distracted
that they were never able to get to know their father.
Certainly the younger son was too busy
being concerned about his future wealth,
about how he would fund his wasteful lifestyle.
Maybe the older son was too busy trying to build up his image
of what he thought would be the ideal son.
At least, the survey can give us food for thought.
If the meaning of our lives is through, with and in Christ,
AND, if in order to make that true,
we must get to know Christ better,
then we must set our priorities for the week.
What enables us to mature as human beings and as Christians
is staying close to the Shepherd.
That means having a healthy prayer life
and being true to the voice of conscience,
which is one of our Shepherd's favorite ways to guide us.
Maybe some of us have been slacking off in our prayer life
or ignoring our conscience.
Today, let's ask our Lord's forgiveness and make a fresh start.
One very good way of praying AND growing closer to the God
is through praying with Sacred Scripture.
Here is a procedure you can easily follow:
Try every day to open your Bible and read a passage.
Ask yourself what verse or phrase struck you in that passage.
Read the passage again to confirm your choice of verse or phrase.
Meditate on that verse or phrase,
and ask yourself “How does this apply to me.”
Finish by determining just how that phrase or verse
should cause you to take some action for yourself
or for those around you.
This last part is where the conscience comes in.
What decision does my conscience prompt me to make?
This is how we find greater meaning in our lives.
To better enable us to fulfill our mission in life
we must stay plugged into the Church's mission.
All of this means we must know what the Church teaches,
and appreciate what the Church offers her children.
Sacred Scripture certainly contains the essence
of the Chruch’s mission.
Maybe we should look into the many writings of Pope Francis.
I especially liked the book entitled “The Name of God is Mercy.”
Maybe we should take time to look through the Catechism
for a clearer view of some of the elements of our faith.
The sacraments might be a good place to start.
It is our responsibility to not let ourselves get lost under the sofa
or to wander far afield,
now that God has sent his Son, the Good Shepherd, to search us out.
After we pray the Prayers of the Faithful in just a few minutes,
we make our offerings to God,
Let's put in the collection basket more than just dollars and cents.
Let's also put in that basket a promise to renew our effort
to live life the way Christ wants us to live it.
If we make that decision, Christ himself will help us
to follow through with it.
After all, that's what a Good Shepherds does.
This homily was constructed using elements found at: https://www.epriest.com/homily_packs/build/42