This text is the original script for the sermon. As with all my preaching, the spoken version will differ. Apologies for the typos. -FrR
The people behind the ACT test have recently been doing something rather odd. Since the beginning, if a student takes the test and improves, their old score is thrown out. If they take the test and do worse, it’s very possible that their old scores will be considered the result of cheating and the new, lower score will be kept… It’s a scary thing!
In light of this new madness, our school guidance counselor Mrs. Gahagan has coined a wonderful phrase: If you’re not going to take the test, don’t take the test…
All the best advice is simple advice. If you’re not going to commit, don’t commit. Don’t buy that gym membership or the that magazine subscription or that tutoring contract unless you’re willing to commit to it!
It’s not just about wasting money, it’s about personal integrity. Because the most important thing in our lives is an all or nothing commitment and our personal integrity is going to play a major role in where we spend eternity.
The only really compelling argument against infant baptism is that we’re signing our kids up for a commitment without their consent. But, to whom much is given, much will be expected. So we have to be ready to be real, 100% all-in Catholics in order to make sure they live up to the commitment that we’ve given them!
There’s never a single moment in the Gospels where Jesus tells His followers to be inspired by Him. There’s never a moment where Jesus tells them to keep on doing what they’re doing. He insists that their core priorities change and the most fundamental level if they are to follow Him. Even if they’re still going to be shepherds and weavers and bakers, they’re whole life should now be about glorifying God, living in a holy way and sharing the Gospel.
Just look at the people in the Gospel who hear Jesus command them to follow Him. One needs to go bury his father. Another needs to say goodbye to his family. To both of them, Jesus tells them where their first priority has to be. Certainly Jesus isn’t telling us not to do right by our families - physically and spiritually. That’s the Fourth Commandment after all. But He is saying that following God has to have priority over EVERYTHING. Over Job, over friends, over LSU football, over security, over comfort, over likeability, over social standing and even over family. If God is second to ANY aspect of our lives, then we are worshiping idols.
If, though, we prioritize the Lord over all things, then - because of the way God created us in love - all these other things will not only fall into place - they’re thrive!
It is an act of supreme trust to give to our Lord every aspect of our lives, holding nothing back. And it’s tough. And that kind of love and courage requires prayer. It requires regular fasting. It requires the openness of heart that comes from works of mercy. It requires a frequent confession and a regular, worthy Holy Communion. But without that total act of trust, we risk our eternal salvation and we endanger the eternal salvation of those we love. Like Mrs. Gahagan says, if you’re not going to take the test, don’t take the test! If we’re not going to do it right, don’t do it.
Someone told me last year that I make Catholicism hard to live. The kind of Faith that I preach is tough. I don’t know if they meant it as a compliment or not, but as I say farewell, I’m thankful for nothing so much as that statement.
Our nation, our world and our community have become spiritually obese on the easy life that our wealth affords and that too many of our clergy refuse to challenge. We live is a world where high-speed internet is considered a fundamental human right and where obvious, biblical teaching is considered controversial. And just like physical obesity builds on itself unless it is actively combatted by healthy eating and adequate activity, so spiritual obesity cannot be overcome without acknowledging the problem, making a plan and changing our lifestyles.
Our faith is hard. It’s difficult to hear Jesus say that anyone who isn’t 100% IN is “unfit for the kingdom of God.” Better to hear it now, though, than when we’re standing at giant pearly gates.
My hope as I go is that there a saint in the making here. I know their are priests-to-be here. I know there are young women called to the religious life. I know their are future holy husbands and wives. But my real hope is that our next American saint is here and it inspired to put his or her hand to the plow without looking back!