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11.26.17: Bring forth the Kingdom!

Homily from the 5:30 p.m., 7:30, 9, 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. Masses at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Crown Point, Ind.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

These past few weeks, we’ve been challenged in our Gospel readings to look at how we’re using what God has given us – our talents, our gifts, our strengths – to build up the kingdom of God and today the rubber meets the road. Today, Jesus gives us a foretaste of what the kingdom that awaits us will look like. And the road map to meeting Christ at his throne? It’s going to entail a series of encounters:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.

Friends, in everything we do during our time on this earth, we make a choice.

Feed them or pretend they don't exist?

Welcome them or shun them?

Care for them or look the other way?

When we choose to be on the right side of these invitations, to live lives of virtue, to serve our neighbors, we’re heeding Christ’s call that whatever we do for the the least of our sisters and brothers, we do for Him.

When we accept our discipleship and live truly as members of this great human family, when we use the gifts and charisms we’ve been given with pure generosity, we act in persona Christi, in the person of Christ and in doing so, we build up the kingdom of God here on earth. And it’s in preparation for what we’ll hear on that last day our feet touch the ground.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Accepting the call to live your discipleship happens for us at different points in life. But there’s always a starting point, and for me it happened my senior year in high school. I was sitting in the family pew, two from the back on the left side. Father Jon had just finished his homily and suddenly there was the distinct feeling of wicker thrust in the back of my head. I turn around. It’s my Uncle Stas. “Come here a minute,” he says in his best 83-year-old whisper which is not a whisper by any definition of the word. As the congregation begins the creed, he pushes the collection basket into my chest. “You’re the usher. This side. Center.” I took my place.

As I was leaving Mass that day, Uncle Stas handed me a bulletin and said, “Pick me up, next Sunday, 10:15.” I told him I’d be there. There was no arguing with Stanley, he wouldn’t have been able to hear the argument.

So, for the next seven years, like clockwork, we’d get to 11 O’clock Mass at 10:15. He’d prop himself up against the wall in the vestibule, and I’d watch how every single person who walked through those doors gravitated toward him, a smile always on his face, his hand outstretched, and a welcoming word always said.

It took me a while to realize it, but that day he smacked me in the back of the head with a collection basket, it wasn’t about grooming his replacement. He wasn’t stepping aside. He wanted to share something he loved. He wanted me to find the joy he had known for so long.

When he died, before his obituary listed his family, it listed his service to his country in World War II, and his 60 years of service as an usher at Assumption. It was his ministry, his service, his joy. It was how he built up the kingdom during his dash.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

These past four weeks, we’ve been focusing on how to better recognize your talents, your gifts, your strengths – not things we acquire through study or practice, but those blessings from God our Father, given to us at the foundation of the world.

Praise God, many of you are taking advantage of our Stengths Finders initiative, but there are other ways God shows us our strengths, talents and abilities. For 25 of us this past summer, it was in immersing ourselves in the world of another, taking notice of what was stirring in our hearts in Guatemala. Just last week, it was the powerful experience of NCYC for 35 of our high schoolers who, once they opened themselves to the Spirit, started to see their world in a different light.

God has amazing things planned for each and every one of us gathered here this day. And, while those plans are going to look different, they’re also going to have something in common, because they’re all aimed at building up the kingdom – the kingdom on earth and the kingdom to come.

What we’ve been talking about these past few weeks, it’s about renewal. It’s about living our call to be missionary disciples, in our praying, serving and sharing. That’s how we’re going to build up the kingdom at St. Mary’s, but more importantly AS St. Mary’s.

How do we know we’re using our God-given strengths to build up the kingdom? In her book “Forming Intentional Disciples,” Sherry Weddell states that there are three major signs. First, there’s an unmistakable inner experience of peace, energy and joy when you are using the gift. It energizes you! Secondly, you’re going to see uncommonly successful results in what you’re trying to accomplish. And thirdly, either directly or indirectly, other people are going to recognize these gifts you have.

16 years ago, my uncle saw something, and I just thought he was telling me I needed to do more. He wasn’t. He was inviting me to BE more.

Friends, at some point, we all have to take a leap of faith. Maybe this is the time for you. Believe that you are loved. Believe that you have been blessed in ways no one else on this earth has ever been blessed. Believe that God has given you limitless potential for joy and happiness. Consider this your invitation to BE more.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

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