Euromaidan and loving our enemies

MT 5:38-48

I usually avoid talking about political and civil conflicts, particularly in homilies. Frankly, I usually do not know enough about what is happening so I don't want to sound more foolish than I normally do. Also, there is always a risk of oversimplifying a complex situation, labeling one side as good and the other as bad. Today I am going to make an exception. In the past week, events in Ukraine have caught the world’s attention. As many of you will know, since November there have been mass, anti-government protests. At times the government has brutally responded to the protests with violence. Though most protesters have been peaceful, some have chosen to respond with more violence. As a result, approximately 100 protesters and 15 officers have been killed. Many hundreds have been wounded.
Source: Lystopad
There are a two reasons why I want to talk about the conflict in Ukraine today:
  1. In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks to us about conflicts and how we should respond to our enemy. He stresses the importance of responding to injustice and violence in a non-violent way. Jesus also gives us the difficult teaching that we should love our enemy and pray for them. Today’s gospel obviously sheds a lot of light on what is happening in Ukraine. In fact, it has been very interesting to notice that the Church, both Catholic and Orthodox, has played an important role in trying to mediate the conflict. The Church, including bishops and priests, have stood alongside protesters against a government which seems to have real problems needing to be fixed. While doing this, however, the Church has stressed the need of the protesters to behave in a non-violent way and even to love their enemy in the conflict. They are challenging both sides to follow Jesus’ teaching in the gospel.
  2. By looking at the more extreme case in the Ukraine and how Jesus’ teaching applies there, I hope that we can learn how best to proceed in the smaller conflicts of life that we find ourselves. We all have “enemies”, people who have hurt us and against whom we harbor some hard feelings.
Source: Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/
First, we need to realize that responding to aggression or injustice with non-violence takes a lot of courage and strength. In the back of our mind we associate Jesus' command to turn the other cheek with weakness and passivity. If someone hurts us, we usually want to retaliate and hurt them back, to take “an eye for an eye”. We can think that fighting back is the stronger thing to do.  Recently I was struck by a picture (see it here) I saw from the protests in the Ukraine. This picture showed a priest who was also a protester. His face and physique are impressive - he looks like he would be at home in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. He wears an expression that is at the same time resolute and exhausted. He looked battle-worn. He carries a gas mask and a ski mask to protect himself from teargas. With his right hand he carries a large metal shield. In his left hand he carries a crucifix. When I saw this picture I thought, “that is what non-violent resistance looks like”. Turning the other cheek does not mean that we let ourselves be doormats. This priests was standing up against injustice courageously. He was not responding with violence, either physical or verbal. His presence sent a clear message: what the government is doing is wrong and will not be tolerated; we might have to suffer, but we will not back down. Acting this way takes great courage and strength.

Non-violent resistance is effective because it unmasks evil, letting people see the injustice for what it is. Have you ever tried investigating the genesis and history of a particular way? It can be extremely difficult to put your finger on the cause of the conflict and see who actually started it. A new injustice is usually just a response to an old one. A new war is usually just a continuation of an old war. Ultimately, violence breeds more violence. As Gandhi famously said, “an eye for an eye only makes the world go blind”. It seems that the protesters in Ukraine are having success. Their cause has caught the attention of the world and as a result the government has begun to meet their demands. Why have they succeeded? I think it is the peaceful protests which have made the difference. If the protesters were all violent, then their cause would not have been taken seriously. What caught the world’s attention was the brutal way in which the government responded to the protests. When the government started to open fire on unarmed civilians the world took notice and thought, maybe there is something to the claims of the protesters. Maybe the government is in fact corrupt and oppressive. The non-violent resistance unmasked the injustice and evil that was there, putting it on display for all to see, thereby provoking a national and international outcry.

A lasting peace will only be possible if both sides are able to love their enemy. Often we think that it is impossible to love our enemy. We need to realize that love is not a feeling. It is impossible to have nice, warm thoughts about someone who has hurt you. Love is a choice. Love is willing the good for the other person. Loving your enemy means recognizing that are a human being, created and loved by God, and sincerely praying that God bless them and care for them. In the past few days since the protesters have begun making progress, I have noticed a disturbing trend: many are calling for revenge against the government. I read one interview with a man holding a baseball bat who explained what he would do to the president with that bat if he ever got a hold of him. Injustices have been committed, but how will the people of Ukraine proceed? If the protesters now seek revenge and retribution, they will only turn into oppressors themselves. There will be no peace. If they are able to follow the teaching of Jesus and love their enemies, see them as their brothers and sisters and forgive them, there is hope that a lasting peace can be found.
Source: Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/
In order to love our enemies and respond to injustices in a non-violent way, we need the help of Jesus. Jesus Himself was born into a world oppressed by the Romans. Some Jews were calling for a violent revolution. Many hoped that Jesus would be the man to lead such a revolt. Jesus chose the path of love, forgiveness and non-violence instead. He did not fight those who arrested Him. He forgave those who put Him to death. In the end, His strategy was victorious. He defeated sin and death, rising from the dead. The Roman Empire is long gone, while the community He founded continues to be a strong force transforming the world. In order to follow Jesus example, we will need His help, His grace. The priest in the picture, who was holding a crucifix in one hand, understood this. The Church leaders, who set up mobile “tent-chapels” where protesters could come and pray, understood this. On the cross Jesus taught us a great tip for how to love our enemies. Remember that He said, “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. Jesus made excuses for His enemies. It helps if we do the same. If someone hurts us, it is helpful to remind ourselves that they are probably hurting people themselves. Forgive them because they cannot help themselves, they do not know what they are doing. Loving our enemies and responding non-violently to injustices requires the help of Jesus.

Today let us pray for the people of Ukraine, that a peaceful resolution may be found to the conflict. Let us also look at a particular conflict that we are experiencing in our own life. Who has hurt us recently? Who is our enemy? Maybe a co-worker, boss, friend or family member. Remember that following Jesus’ teaching is the only thing that will bring lasting peace to our hearts and the conflict. Let us resist the urge to try to hurt them back by our words our action. Let us try to love and forgive them instead, perhaps by trying to see their own woundedness as Christ was able to do.  Jesus, help us to live this challenging but necessary call!

Commandments? Why bother?

Are you watching the Olympics? I find the athletes inspiring. In order to chase a wonderfully challenging goal, they are willing to make so many sacrifices. They follow a strict regime of diet and exercise. Even if they do not win the gold medal, they continue to push themselves to be the best that they can be. This is what gives them joy and happiness. We can readily appreciate that Olympians need to follow demanding rules - or commandments - to succeed athletically. It is not as easy, however, for us to appreciate the need for us to follow rules and commandments in order to succeed as human beings. Today Jesus speaks in the gospel about the importance of the commandments in our life. Do we recognize this? Why must we follow the commandments?
Sometimes we have difficulty appreciating what role, if any, the commandments should have in our life as followers of Jesus. When it comes to the commandments, we can often fall into two opposite mentalities, both of which fail to recognize the true importance of commandments. 
  • On the one hand, there is a certain way of thinking in the West that goes like this. Commandments? They are outdated. No one can say definitely that one way of acting is wrong for all people. Everything is relative. The Catholic Church is just full of rules. The only commandment in this way of thinking is “live and let live”. As long as you are not hurting anyone, you are acting fine. 
  • On the other hand, some people, instead of dismissing commandments, focus overly on them. These people unconsciously think that God is like a schoolteacher in the sky who has given us a big exam in which the commandments are the test questions.  The most important thing in our spiritual life is not to break the commandments. Why should we not break the commandments? Because God told us not to. 
Both these viewpoints fail to consider that the commandments might actually be there for our own good. We too can have difficulty appreciating the proper role and purpose of the commandments in our lives.

The commandments, in fact, exists to help promote our happiness and fulfillment as human beings. To understand this, let us look at an analogy. Those of you who own a car know that there are certain things you need to do to a car in order that it works well. For example, when the tank is empty you need to fill it with gasoline. If you fill the tank with something else, say milk for example, what will happen? Obviously the car is going to break down. How do we know how to care for the car so that it runs well, whether the issue be what to put in the tank, how to change the oil or how to check tire pressure? The answer is the user’s manual that we find in the glove compartment. Who writes the user’s manual? The manufacturer of the car. Since they made the car, they know how to best keep it running. Like the car, some things will help for us “run well” as human beings, some will not. Some behaviors will contribute to our fulfillment and happiness. Other behaviors will cause us to break-down. Like a car, we too have a user’s manual given to us by our owner: the commandments. God cares that we live happy and fulfilled lives. In giving us the commandments, God is saying to us, “please do not do this action, you will hurt yourself and others!” The commandments themselves are not the most important thing. Obtaining happiness and fulfillment with God in this life and the next is our ultimate goal or destination. The commandments are like the signposts which point us in the right direction and keep us on track. The commandments exist to help us live happy and fulfilling lives.  

Jesus reveals fully how to live well as human beings. We could say that Jesus has given us the definitive user’s manual for human happiness and fulfillment. He can do this because He is literally our manufacturer. Some of you may remember the book The Da Vinci Code. This incredibly popular book was later made into a movie starring Tom Hanks. Though this book is a work of fiction, it makes many controversial statements about Christianity and the Catholic Church which it tries to pass off as fact. As a result, many people have become confused or misled by the book. One of the main claims of the Da Vinci Code was that Jesus never claimed to be divine. It was only the Church that declared that Jesus was God at a council 300 years after the death of Jesus. Today’s gospel shows that this claim is nonsense.  We hear Jesus saying several times “you have heard it said … but I say to you”. For example, “you have heard it said you shall not commit adultery, but I say to you everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. This is extremely significant. Jewish teachers would only ever explain the laws and commandments, they would never make new ones. Where had the people of Israel “heard it said you shall not commit adultery”? They heard it in the ten commandments, which was given to them by God. Only God could give the commandments. In speaking in this way, Jesus is showing that He understands that He is divine. Sorry, Da Vinci Code. As God, the maker of us all, Jesus can give us the most up-to-date user’s manual. He shows us fully how to live a fulfilling life.

In the Gospel, Jesus shows us that true happiness comes when we address the roots of our sinful behavior. Gardeners will be familiar with this principle. When they see weeds growing in their garden, they are faced with two options. They can either rip off the weed above the ground or else they can go under the soil and rip of the weed at its root. If they take the first option, the weed will just keep growing back time and time again. Ripping the weed out at the root takes more effort but it is worth it because that weed will never grow back again. In the gospel, Jesus is inviting us to do the same. Sometimes sin only becomes an issue for us when we have broken one of the commandments. When this happens we repent, but if we do not go after the problem at its roots, the sin will keep coming back. This will ultimately keep us unhappy and unfulfilled. Jesus invites us to tackle our sins at the roots:
“You have heard that it was said … You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.
“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
We need to pay attention to the small things before it grows into something much more serious. We have a tendency to think or say things like “oh, what I did wasn't such a big deal, it's not like I killed someone” or “it was only a white lie”. Sometimes small actions or attitudes are signs that a fire is about to erupt. Jesus shows us that we will never find true happiness if all we do is try to put out the fires of our moral life. In order to be happy we need to address the roots of our sinful behavior.

To be successful, Olympic athletes need to pay attention to the small details of their life: what they eat is weighed to ensure proper nutrition, their training schedule is followed rigidly and their skills are analyzed to the finest detail. Athletes gladly pay attention to these details because they want to be the absolute best that they can be. Today Jesus invites us to do the same. Let us be the best we can be, the happiest we can be, the most fulfilled we can be, by choosing to pay attention to the details of our morals lives. We should not be scrupulous; we just need to remember that both good and bad behaviors start small. We need to encourage the good and eliminate the bad. Today, ask yourself a question: is there some behavior that you would like to rip out at the roots before it grows to seriously affect your happiness?

The thing with

The popularity of seems to be waning. Nevertheless, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the trend, particularly some interesting things it can tell us about human nature.
What is it? is a social networking site in which users can ask each other questions, usually anonymously(more here). As of August 2013, the site boasted 70 million registered users.

Like other sites such as Twitter and Facebook, is not in itself good or bad. It is a tool and as such can be used for either purpose. This said, seems to pose some risks. The questions asked on the site range from basic questions (what is your favorite color?) to more personal questions (what do you think about X in our class? who do you have a crush on?). The very format of the site puts pressure on people to answer the questions, regardless of how intimate they are. Unsurprisingly, this was often a recipe for disaster. In fact, the site at times facilitated cyberbullying.

What can we learn from The very popularity of shows that within each of us there is a desire to know and be known by others. This desire can certainly get distorted (ex. gossip, bullying), but the desire itself is good. What makes troublesome is that it expects people to reveal their thoughts/desires/dreams to anonymous people. In fact, it seems to violate what I think is a law of human interactions:
Revelation is proportional to relationship.
If our relationship with someone is superficial, we will not share much about ourselves with them. The deeper our relationship is with someone the more we reveal to that person about ourselves. Likewise, the more we share with someone our hopes, dreams and opinions, the deeper our relationship with that person grows. The problem with is that it demands personal revelation where no relationship is possible because the questioner is anonymous. When I think of, I am reminded of Jesus' warning:
Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)

Since we have have been made in the image of God, it is not surprising that for God too the principle that "revelation is proportional to relationship" holds. We see this in two ways:

  1. Within the Trinity: the three Persons of the Trinity share a perfect relationship. As such, their revelation and communication with each other is perfect. As Jesus said: "All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." (Matthew 11:27).
  2. The Trinity working in the world: Over time, God has gradually and progressively revealed Himself to humanity. He has done this not to satisfy our curiosity but so that we would respond to what He has revealed about Himself and chose to enter into a relationship with Him. The greater the revelation, the greater the relationship requested. Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of God to the world. In Him we see the true face of God. This revelation is meant to provoke a choice: will we enter into a personal relationship with Him or not?
What's the point? We need to be aware that we all have a desire to know and be known by others. This desire is good. We should remember, however, that we should only reveal ourselves to others according to the depth of our relationship and as a way to grow the relationship. When this doesn't happen, people can get hurt. We need to be strive to grow in good, healthy relationships so that we can more and more reflect the One in whose image we have been created.
Holy Trinity, Andrei Rublev (1360-1430)

Can't preach the Resurrection with Good Friday faces

MT 5:13-16

Everything I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.
There is a lot of truth in this expression. The gospel of today, in which Jesus calls us to be salt of the earth and light of the world, reminds me of my time in Kindergarten. One day, my class stood up in front of the rest of the school and sang “This Little Light of Mine” while holding in our hands small torches that we had made out of Styrofoam cups with paper flames glued to the top. Many of you will remember the lyrics to the song:
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine.Hide it under a bushel? Oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.Jesus gave me the light, I’m gonna let it shine.

In Kindergarten I learned the important lesson that Jesus wants us to have a real positive effect on those we come in contact with. Christ calls us to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The two images of light and salt would have been very meaningful for those who heard Jesus’ words some 2000 years ago. At that time, salt was a necessary part of life and a valuable commodity. In addition to flavoring foods, salt was used to preserve food in a time before refrigerators. Then as now, light is something of fundamental importance. Light dispels darkness and it it helps us to see; when light takes the form of a flame it keep us warm.  When Jesus tells us to be the salt of the earth, He expects that through our words and actions we season the world with love, justice and all that is good. Like salt we are also meant to be a preservative. We are called to preserves truth in the world, the truth about who God is and who we have been created to be as human beings. When Jesus tells us to be the light of the world, He is asking us to dispel from the world all the darkness caused by sin, hatred, violence and greed by bringing the light of joy, goodness, faith and hope. Being salt of the earth and light of the world means that as Christians we are called to transform everything around us for the better.

The best way to transform the world is one person at a time. Maybe you have heard this joke. 
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Jesus’ call to reach and transform the entire world can be very intimidating. We need to remember that this transformation starts one encounter at a time. Mother Teresa exemplified this principle.She is remembered for her vast worldwide network to help the poor. Interestingly, she never went out trying to eradicate global poverty. What she did do was strive to bring the love, care and kindness of Jesus to one person at a time. She would often say,
Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.
If you have ever had the opportunity to see video showing Mother Teresa in action you will notice the remarkable attention she paid to however she happened to be with, rich or poor. When she was speaking to someone, she listened as though there was no one else in the world. She showed such care and interest in the person through they way she looked at them, touched them and smiled at them. She was salt and light to one person at a time. Do we do the same? Think about it. Are the people that you encounter and speak with during the day left happier and more full of hope and joy after having spent time with you? Are family members, coworkers and friends better off for having been in your presence? We are called to transform the world one person at a time.

Often we are not salt and light to those that we encounter. In the Gospel warns us against hiding our light or from becoming salt that has lost its saltiness, something that is good for nothing and thrown away. What does it look like when we Christians lose our saltiness? Christians who have lost their saltiness are a drain on people that they encounter. They have become pessimistic, cynical, sad and lacking in conviction. They are not pleasant to be around. In his speeches and writings, Pope Francis is known for some unique turns of phrase. Pope Francis explained recently that Christians who had lost their saltiness turn into “sourpusses” (Evangelii Gaudium, 85). As followers of Jesus we have been entrusted with the Good News that Jesus has died for our sins and has risen from the dead so that we can one day live forever with Him. This news should fill us with joy and affect the way that we behave. Certainly, we cannot be upbeat all the time, that is not realistic. That said, if Christians are habitual sourpusses, pessimistic and lacking in zeal there is something wrong. As the expression goes,
We cannot preach the Resurrection with Good Friday faces.
Often we are not salt and light to those that we encounter.
The good news is that we can regain our saltiness once we have lost it. We can make our light brighter if it has become dimmed. The secret to doing this is by remembering where we got this light from in the first place. This is something I learned in Kindergarten:
Jesus gave me the light, I’m gonna let it shine.
Jesus is the light of the world. As Christians, we are called to carry His light to others. This fact is symbolized in a powerful way during the rite of baptism. After anyone is baptized, they are given a lighted candle and told to “receive the light of Christ” and to “keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts”. It is very significant that the candle is lit from the Paschal Candle. This is the candle that it blessed at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. The Paschal candle is a special symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. In order to brighten our light if it is dimmed or regain our saltiness, we need to return to the source: the resurrection of Jesus. Often the disappointments and struggles of life can get us down and defeated. We can turn into sourpusses without even being aware of it. We need to remind ourselves of the simple fact that because of of His resurrection Jesus has conquered everything: sin, hatred, greed and death itself. We need to remind ourselves that the war is already won. As Pope Francis said:
Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents.(Evangelii Gaudium, 85)
When we consciously remind ourselves of Jesus’ resurrection, we can restore our saltiness when it has been lost and brighten our light if it has become dim.
When we talk about being salt of the earth and light of the world, we must resist the temptation to think abstractly. God has put concrete people in our lives that we are called to impact in a positive way: family, friends, co-workers. In our encounters with these people, are we bringing them joy and peace? Whenever we find that our we are losing our saltiness or that our light has become dimmed let us remind ourselves of a powerful truth we learned in Kindergarten: our light comes from Jesus Christ who has Risen from the dead and conquered death.  Christianity is about Good News. Let us not be sourpusses but a light to others that can shine, shine, shine.

Keep calm and go to the Vocation Live-in

Fellas, if you are interested in the priesthood or the consecrated life, I encourage you to go to this:

Vocation Live-in
February 14 - 16
Seminary of Christ the King, Mission, BC
For more information call: 604.826.8715

At this weekend you will get the chance to learn more about the priesthood and what it is like being a seminarian by following their life for a weekend. It lasts from Friday night till Sunday after lunch. You will pray, eat and play sports together with the seminarians. This weekend is for those interested in becoming a priest.

The key word here is interested. By going to this weekend you are not announcing to the world: "I am going to become a priest 100%!!" Keep calm... don't put that kind of pressure on yourself. By going you are simply saying that you are interested and open to the idea. Maybe you will become a priest, maybe not. The reality is that most people who go to a Live-in (or enter the seminary for that matter) do not go on to become a priest. I do think, however, that the experience benefits them in whatever life they choose. I went to my first Live-in when I was in Gr. 9, but didn't enter the seminary for another 10 years. 

The Seminary of Christ the King has both a Minor Seminary (grades 8 - 12) and a Major Seminary (college students studying Philosophy or Theology). After university I studied philosophy for a couple of years at the Seminary of Christ the King and it was a awesome experience for me. I really appreciated the balance between prayer, study, community life and sports. It was challenging, but very enriching. Plus the location is beautiful:
Knowing what vocation God is calling you to can be difficult. In this video Fr. Robert Barron gives some very good advice for how we can better know whether God is calling us to be a priest. The principles hold for any vocation.

I leave you with this prayer from Blessed John Henry Newman. It expresses well the feelings of excitement, uncertainty and fear that we can experience when we try to discover what kind of life Jesus is calling us to. The prayer reminds us of the importance of trusting God. He loves us and has great plans for us.
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am. I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.
Blessed John Henry Newman (1801 - 1890)

I am with Bill Nye on this one

Oh boy, this is happening...
More information can be found here.

Some headlines covering this event are pretty frustrating: Bible! Science! Who will win the great debate? (here). Umm... can't both win? I think this type of debate is unfortunate because it suggests that:
  1. You cannot be a Christian and agree with evolution at the same time
  2. Evolution somehow disproves the existence of God
The YOUCAT has a great discussion on this topic which I have included in full below.

In short, we can agree with evolution as long as we don't support evolutionism, "which views man as the random product of biological processes"(YOUCAT #42). Though we believe in a Creator we cannot go along with creationism, which "naively take biblical data literally (for example, to calculate the earth’s age, they cite the six days of work in Genesis 1)" (YOUCAT #42).

So, I am with Bill Nye on this one (as long as he isn't advocating evolutionism...). Plus his bow tie is awesome.

Here's what the YOUCAT has to say...

YOUCAT #42 Can someone accept the theory of evolution and still believe in the Creator?

Yes. Although it is a different kind of knowledge, faith is open to the findings and hypotheses of the sciences.

Theology has no scientific competence, and natural science has no theological competence. Natural science cannot dogmatically rule out the possibility that there are purposeful processes in creation; conversely, faith cannot define specifically how these processes take place in the course of nature’s development. A Christian can accept the theory of evolution as a helpful explanatory model, provided he does not fall into the heresy of evolutionism, which views man as the random product of biological processes. Evolution presupposes the existence of something that can develop. The theory says nothing about where this “something” came from. Furthermore, questions about the being, essence, dignity, mission, meaning, and wherefore of the world of man cannot be answered in biological terms. Just as “evolutionism” oversteps a boundary on the one side, so does Creationism on the other. Creationists naively take biblical data literally (for example, to calculate the earth’s age, they cite the six days of work in Genesis 1).

Creationism: (from Lation creatio = making, producing): the idea that God himself by his direct action created the world all at once, as if the book of Genesis were an eyewitness account.

Why we should advertise the Consecrated Life

credit: pkeleher

LK 2:22-32

Today close to 100 million people will watch the Super Bowl. Though many do watch because they enjoy football, I think that a good number secretly watch it only for the commercials. Super Bowl ads are among the most creative and pricey around. Like all advertising, however, it tries to convince you that if you purchase a product your life will be changed for the better. Today I would like to do a little advertising of my own. I do not want to advertise a product, but a way of life.  In addition to being the day of the Super Bowl, today is also the World Day for Consecrated Life. Today we pray in a special way for all those who living a consecrated life: religious sisters, brother and priests. We also pray that many young people will choose to enter this way of life.

We do not advertise Consecrated Life enough in the Church because it doesn't seem like a normal way to spend one’s life. We don’t do enough to encourage young people to consider becoming a religious priest, brother or sister. I do not want to play favorites here and suggest that one vocation is better than another. All vocations are good and beautiful: married life, religious life, priesthood and single life. The best vocation for you personally is the one that God is calling you to. That said, for various reasons, everyone considers getting married. Young people, however, will rarely consider becoming a religious sister or brother or priest unless they are encouraged to do so. This, unfortunately, is rarely done. I recently heard a priest describing an experience he had while speaking with a large group in a parish. During their conversation, some parishioners complained about the fact that the number of Masses in their parish had recently been reduced because there were not enough priests. Others remarked that they were sad because when they were growing up they used to see many religious sisters, in school, for example, and now there seemed to be so few. In response to these concerns, the priests asked the people to put up their hands if they had a son or daughter who was between the age of 18 - 25. Many hands went up. Next he asked them if they had ever encouraged their son or daughter to become a priest or religious sister or brother. Hardly a hand went up. The priest said, “so you see want more priests and religious, but you will not encourage your children to become one? Why not? After a time of silence, one woman in the front yelled out, “because, Father, my children are normal!” We do not do enough in the Church to encourage young people to become religious sister, brother or priest because it does not seem like a normal way to live.

Perhaps we need to redefine what we think a normal life is. Who shows us what it means to live a good, fulfilling life as a human being? Because He is truly God and truly man, Jesus shows us what it means to live a good life as a human being.

Jesus reveals that normal and fulfilling life is one in which we offer ourselves as completely to God as possible. In fact, in the Gospel we have heard describing the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, we learn just that. During Jesus’ time, when a first born son was presented in the Temple he would have to be redeemed. In order to do this, an animal was offered to God. The child could then be redeemed and handed over to his parents. Interestingly something different happens for Jesus. An offering is made but, instead of Jesus being redeemed and handed over to His parents quite the opposite occurs: Jesus is presented or offered entirely to His heavenly Father. Because of this total offering to God the Father, Jesus’ life will be indescribably fruitful for others. As Simeon predicts, Jesus will be the one to bring God’s salvation to the world. To accomplice this, Jesus will have to suffer and sacrifice much. He will be contradicted by many. In this short scene of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple we learn that to live a good and normal human life, we need to offer our life to God.
Though it requires sacrifice, the more generous we are in giving ourselves to God, the greater He can work in our life and the lives of others. The amount of good that God can work through our life is proportional to our generosity to Him. This principle is illustrated by the following story. In India there was a beggar sitting by the side of the road. Every so often a traveller would pass by and place a little rice in the bowl the beggar was holding. One day the beggar heard the king approaching with his entourage. This was the moment the beggar was waiting for. Surely the king would give him plenty of rice! The king did indeed stop before the beggar. But when he bent over towards him, this great king said something unexpected. The king said to the beggar, “give me some of your rice”. The beggar was taken aback! He reached into his bowl and gave the king one grain of rice. The great king calmly replied “is that all”? Furious, the beggar took out a second grain from his bowl and tossed it at the king. With this the king gathered up his entourage and was off. The beggar, filled with rage, greedily fingered the remaining rice grains in his bowl. It was then that he noticed that one grain felt different to the touch. When he brought it out of the bowl he noticed that it was a grain of pure gold! The beggar quickly checked the rest of his bowl. To his delight he found a second grain of gold. He had one grain of gold for each grain of rice he gave the king. As the king walked away, the beggar couldn't help thinking “why on earth did I not give the king everything?!”  We should ask ourselves the same question. Why do we not give God our King everything? The more we give of ourselves to God, the more wonderful things He can work in our life and the lives of others.

Consecrated Life is an incredible satisfying and fruitful way of life because it involves trying to offer your entire life to Jesus. Consecrated persons strive to give all their rice to the King. Just as Jesus was offered to God the Father in the Temple,  through their three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, religious men and women seek to make of themselves a total gift to God and through God they become a gift to other people, especially those most in need. Far from being an abnormal way to live, it is in fact something every normal Catholic young person should consider. Since Consecrated Life involved making your whole existence a gift to God, it is an incredibly fruitful and satisfying way of life.
Now, since any good commercial requires a testimonial from a satisfied customer, here is mine. Speaking as a priest who has had some experience also in religious life, I can testify that it is an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding way to live. It is not easy. The life is full of sacrifices and challenges. At the same time it is a wonderful and exciting way of life. It has brought me much joy and happiness. For those who are called, I think there can be no better way to spend your life. I would love it if in the Church it became a normal thing that when people are considering what to do with their life, they think about becoming a religious sister, brother or priest. Everyone should at least have the opportunity to consider if this wonderful life is for them. Let us try to make this a reality by doing a little advertising for Consecrated Life.