Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mary rescues Advent

4th Sunday of Advent Year B
Christ the King Topeka
21 December 2014
Daily Readings

Father, are you ready for Christmas?  I do not like this question.  I do not like it at all.  I react violently when I hear this question, because the question fills me with guilt.  I am a priest of Jesus Christ.  I have one job, and one job only, to get ready for Christmas, and for the life of me, I can't get ready.  I can't stay focused on the one most important thing.  So don't ask me if I'm ready for Christmas, unless you're trying to turn me into the grinch.  I do not like the question. Advent has been a mess again this year.  It has not been a season of quiet and prayerful anticipation.  I do not have a perfect Christmas meditation put together yet.  I haven't even begun shopping yet.  I've never heard so many confessions!  Advent has been the opposite of what it's designed to be - it has been noisy and busy and schizophrenic.  It feels like a lot of the Christmas celebrations have already happened.  I'm not only not ready, I'm half confused.  Say an Amen if you're with me!

I'm scared, dear friends, that this Christmas could go by without a lot changing in my heart.  My one job is to be ready for that moment when I receive the Eucharist on Christmas Eve, to allow my Lord Jesus to be born in a new area of my heart that I have never let him touch before!  That's my one job, and I'm afraid of not being ready.  I'm afraid that this will not be my best or most perfect Christmas, that I will approach that sacred mome

nt with as much distraction and doubt as readiness and faith.  What is more, I'm scared that if this year is not my best and most perfect Christmas, when I truly allow the Lord to be born anew in my heart, then will such a Christmas ever happen.

Don't get me wrong.  It has been an amazing Advent, and the Christmas promise is bright.  But I want to have the Christmas of all Christmases, don't you?  I really don't want to celebrate another Christmas without knowing it will be the best yet.  I don't like treading water.  I don't want my best Christmas to be behind me - I want it to be staring me in the face.  But I'm afraid I may never get there.

Again, to have a perfect Christmas is to have prepared deep within us, in a new place, a worthy space for the Lord to be born.  David wanted this for the Lord - he offered in the first reading to build a house worthy for the Lord to dwell in.  Yet the Lord reminded David that He couldn't possibly build such a house.  The only one who could build a house worthy of the Lord is the Lord himself.

This is what we see happening within Mary.  The Lord promised David he would build his own house, and this house was ultimately the womb of Mary.  There's nothing we can do, you see, to have a perfect Advent. There is no checklist to complete that would convince the Lord we are ready for Him to be born within us.  The Lord himself has to build the house, from deep within us, and Mary teaches us how Advent is really done.

As we see in the Annunciation, Mary can rescue an imperfect Advent.  She can even save us from a terrible one.  We are not ready for Christmas, nor could we ever be ready, but She is ready, and that is all that matters.  We only need to entrust ourselves to her, and we will be ready too.  What is more, Mary is more excited for this Christmas than she was for the first Christmas, for that same Holy Spirit that once overshadowed her, wants to give birth to our Lord not just in one place, in Bethlehem, but in millions of places, wherever He can find an echo of Mary's great Magnificat - let it be done to me according to your word.  Mary expects this Christmas to be the best yet, and so should we.

Jesus is so madly in love with us, this year more than ever.  Mary is more ready than ever, begging us to surrender to Jesus' being born deep within us, where we have never given permission for Him to be born before.  All of our Advent preparations distill in these final days into the only words that really matter - let it be done to me according to your word.  Lord, build your sanctuary within me, and then come, Lord Jesus, come.  Come and be born in those places where I have lost hope of ever changing.

The perfect Christmas can only happen if we follow the pattern of Mary.  She alone can make us ready.  So it really doesn't matter if Father is ready for Christmas.  It doesn't matter if you're ready.  It only matters that  She is ready.  We will never have a better Christmas than Mary, so entrusting ourselves to Her is the surest path to our best Christmas.  Only she can lead us to a perfect Christmas. Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

hope does not disappoint

3rd Sunday of Advent B
Gaudete Sunday
14 December 2014
Christ the King Topeka

A rose vestment is optional for Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent.  Rejoicing is not!  A distinctive mark of any Christian is joy!  It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  If we are not joyful people, then we are not living our faith correctly.  We are to be known always and everywhere for our joy, but especially as we turn the corner on this Pink Sunday toward the full celebration of the Christmas mystery!  Sure, this is a time of frenzied activity - shopping days and preparations, unless you're a guy, in which case you surely haven't even started yet.  But our deepest emotion right now, indicated by the distinctive color rose on Gaudete Sunday, is joy!  Our deepest spiritual attitude is joy, because our Lord is near!

Now is the time to intensify our spiritual preparation for Christmas.  We can do this by imagining what my heart would be like, how my life would be different, and what state our poor world would be if Christ had not come.  What if we lived without Christmas?  We might pretend we would have invented Christmas . .but is that true?  What if the world had not welcomed the light who is able to break through the evil and darkness of

our world.  If the world had not received the gift of the only one, who once created the entire universe out of nothing, alone has the power to remake our world from the inside out, what would be our future?  If the Lord had not traveled into our world, would we  have long since stopped traveling to see each other.  If He had not come as the greatest gift the world could hope for, would we have stopped giving to each other?  If He had not chosen to draw close to us, would we have given up on trying to be close to each other.  Jesus is the reason and hope of this holy season.  He is the ground of our traveling, our giving, our drawing together in vulnerability and love.  He is the hope of the world.  He is coming!  Rejoice, then!  Again I say rejoice!  The Lord is near!

Our readings for the third Sunday of Advent are not only full of joy, they also speak of hope!  Alongside joy, hope is the distinctive mark of a Christian.  Hope is that theological virtue, directly poured into our hearts by the Lord so that we can live in expectation.  Hope alone convicts us that convicts us that a tiny, helpless, poor baby born in the darkest hour of the darkest night in the middle of nowhere, is leading to the redemption of the world from the inside out, beginning with me.  Hope is that virtue that sees in the mystery of Bethlehem the small yet perfect beginning of the building of the Kingdom of God that cannot be destroyed like the first creation was, but a kingdom that can only grow stronger and larger and then will last forever.

Hope is different than optimism.  I'm optimistic about a lot of things.  Essentially, I expect things to go well, and to catch some breaks.  Yet hope, which is proper to a Christian, is distinct from optimism.  Optimism persists through some adversity, expecting the good to outweigh the bad in the long term, and that everything will turn out fine.  I'm optimistic, for example, that KU will come back and win even if they're playing badly or are behind in the game.  Pessimistic people are the opposite.  Yet optimism is not the same as hope.  Hope is able to grow where optimism has to admit defeat. As we learn from the mystery of Christmas, hope is born precisely where defeat seems final.  In entering the world in such a small way, Jesus shows his desire to visit our world precisely where all seems lost.  He visits places where darkness, sin, brokenness, pain, despair, loneliness, vulnerability, poverty, and yes, even death have had their say.  Only he can visit these places and redeem them.  A favorite way for me to say this is that only Jesus can visit you and love your and forgive you where you cannot know or love or change yourself.  

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of Jesus, the Lord of all the universe, becoming smaller and smaller, until we have no defenses left that are impenetrable to him.  Our deepest rejoicing and hope then, come from knowing that this Christmas I have prepared a highway for Jesus to be born in a new place within me where I've never let him visit me before.  He makes all things new, including those parts of me that I have lost hope of ever changing.  Jesus is coming to heal us and redeem us from the inside out, to break down our defenses as only a baby can.  He makes himself smaller than ever this Christmas, so that He can reach a new place within us.  It is this pattern of his visitation that eventually will redeem the entire world, but He wishes this Christmas to begin with my heart

Are you ready for such a visit this Christmas from the Lord?  Are you prepared for the best Christmas you've ever had.  Will you allow him to visit a new place within you, and make you new from the inside out?  Is the hope of Christmas real for you?  If so, rejoice!  Again, I say to you rejoice!  The Lord is near!

Monday, December 8, 2014

grace goes first

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
8 December 2014
Christ the King Church Topeka
Daily Readings

Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with you.   A strange greeting indeed.  The strangest of greetings.  Mary was troubled by it.  For what the angel was saying was somethings absolutely incomparable if not impossible.  Let's break these simple words open.

Hail Mary!  The angel is giving Mary praise, not vice versa.  This is strange.  An angel is telling this simple girl that she is more glorious and praiseworthy than the angels.  Now there are some beautiful people in the world, but has anyone ever been praised as higher and more beautiful than the angels?  Mary was.

Full of grace!  Excuse me . . this little girl is full of God's power?  This tiny young insignificant girl is full of God's perfections, full of God's life, full of God's love.  Again, this had been said of no human person, nor of any angel, that they were full of grace.  But it was said of Mary.  Wow. Unreal.

The Lord is with you.  Of all the places the Lord could be. of all the places he ever was or ever will be, the angel says that the Lord is with this girl.  The Lord of all the universe loves being with this girl.  Improbable. Mind-boggling.  Amazing.   What a greeting.  What a greeting indeed!  Hail Mary.  Full of Grace.  The Lord is with you!

 Mind you, all this is said about Mary before she is told by the angel she will be the mother of Jesus. This is said about her before she is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, before she conceives Jesus.  Mary's greeting is indeed strange - Gabriel does not say that Mary from this point on you will be full of grace, for you have found favor with God.  No, the angel says that you are already full of grace, you have already found favor with God.  The Gospel for the Immaculate Conception narrates the Annunication, and understandably so, because there is no conceivable human narration of Mary's conception in the womb of Anne.  But the focus of the Feast is not so much on the Annunication, but on what happened before.  The focus is on the strangest and most beautiful of greetings that happened before the Annunication.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception shows that God chose Mary in a way that only he could choose her, at the moment of her conception.  Nobody else knew her or could choose her at that moment.  Only God.  Not even Joachim and Anne, her parents, knew Mary or could begin loving her at that point.  Only God could see her and know her and love her. And of course this is precisely the point of the Feast.  Mary the pinnacle of God's creation, is the definition and pattern of what it means to be a human person.  We learn how to become a person most of all through her, because we are more like her than Jesus.  Mary became a person at the moment of her conception.  We become persons when we are known and protected and loved, and God alone can know us and protect us and love us in ways and in places where no one else can.  Our personhood is grounded only in God, and the Immaculate Conception reminds us that that personhood begins at Conception.

Our Lady always teaches us something about Jesus too.  She always reflects his light.  The Immaculate Conception teaches us that Jesus chooses us before we can ever choose him.  Mary as we hear in the Gospel, chooses God with all that she is, but this is not nearly as important as His choosing her, from the moment of her conception.  The Lord falls in love with our lowliness, and his grace is the ground of our dignity and freedom.  We can do nothing apart from Him, who chooses us and knows us and loves at our weakest and smallest point, where only He can.  Mary shows us how totally and madly Jesus falls in love with us, and then begs permission to enhance our freedom by acting in us, and with us and through us.  What Mary was from her Immaculate Conception we her children hope to become as we grow in the grace of baptism, when Jesus fell irreovocably in love with each of us.

In the incomparably beautiful mystery of the Immaculate Conception, Mary shows that Jesus was already accomplishing his works in her.  Mary teaches us how to respond to God's invitation, by surrendering to God's will which is so much bigger and better than anything she could imagine.  Yet Mary teaches us something more, for when she says 'let it be done to me according to your word' she gives a foretaste of the surrender of Her son, who says Lord not my will, but yours be done.  Mysteriously, it was Jesus speaking and working through his most perfect instrument, his mother, that unleashed the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that was His own conception.  In Mary, Jesus is all in all.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

you're in the way!

2nd Sunday of Advent B
Christ the King Church Topeka
7 December 2014
Daily Readings

Hey you!  You're in Jesus' way!  John the Baptist, the greatest and craziest and loudest of all the prophets who ever lived, gives us to it straight, as only the best prophet should!  Hey you!  You're in the way.  You're the problem.  Your ego.  Your plans.  Your stuff.  Your sins.  It's all in the way.  You're in the way.  I'm in the way.  We're all in the way.

John the Baptist is a ruthless Advent prophet, screaming and eating locusts and wearing camel's hair to get our attention, to break through our complacency, because he has an incomparable message.  John proclaims not just a word from God - he proclaims THE WORD - Jesus himself - after which no other word need be or will ever be spoken.  John introduces not just another godlike person, but THE PERSON after whom no on else will be sent, the final person who alone can re-create the world form the inside out.  John prophesies not just an important moment in human history, but THE MOMENT that is greater than all others - greater than the big bang that created everything out of nothing, greater than anything that has ever happened before or will ever happen again - greater than the moment of our own conception, our own birth, or our own death.  The moment of all moments was at hand - Jesus Christ, God Himself, greater than all the universes combined, was coming into our world as a tiny, poor and helpless little baby!  You wonder why John the Baptist seems completely crazy screaming like an idiot in the middle of nowhere - it is because his message is the most important and urgent message God gave any prophet ever to speak.  Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.

This Christmas can be nothing less, my friends, than our allowing ourselves to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.  John the Baptist calls out in a huge way any of us who are planning to make this Christmas something manageable for ourselves.  The scriptures tell us just the opposite.  They say that the person who you are right now is the person you will always be . .there is no time for tinkering with self-improvement . . we either allow ourselves to be visited by Jesus this Christmas, whose coming can only mean radical self-conversion and a baptism by fire, or nothing happens.  It is either him or us - it can't be both, and there is no compromise.  The Lord is not someone that we can fit into our already busy lives, like we might fit a new workout plan, a new investment strategy, or the perfect gift at the perfect price.  The Lord's coming is not another special offer like the thousands of false advertisements and cheap fixes that we are offered at every turn.

No, making room for him, and truly repenting of our sins, means that our life is no longer about us.  We either make room for him in Advent, or we don't.  There is no happy medium. For the Lord's coming is the most dramatic moment in human history, and He baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, and whatever is not worthy or ready for Him, will be like chaff that is burned.

Repentance then, is key to the prophecy of John.  We will not welcome Christ this Christmas if our lives are already full of pride and stuff.  If Christ is to move in, then everything else has to move out. Our gift-giving  during Christmas, then, must not be a distraction or replacement for welcoming Christ, but must be an expression of making room for him.  We give away all that we have and are this Christmas, being generous beyond our imagination, in order that we might be able to receive a true treasure, Jesus Himself, with empty and clean hearts when we come to receive the Eucharist on Christmas Eve.  Our practices of giving away our stuff and money in this holy season, along with a good confession, are the sure spiritual practices that help us to get ready.

John the Baptist chews us out real good.  And we need it.  I'm in the way.  My ego.  My plans.  My stuff.  My sins.  I'm the problem.  I'm in the way.  I need repentance, allowing myself to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, or this Christmas will bring nothing new at all.  Amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

in need

1st Sunday of Advent B
30 November 2014
Christ the King Parish Topeka
Daily Readings

Come, Lord Jesus come!  God get down here.  God do something!  God come closer! The prayer from the prophet Isaiah from our first reading is daring God to be who he says he would be - the savior of his people!  It is a bold prayer!  It is a prayer so different than our usual prayer to God - God keep your distance.  God give me more time to work on myself and my projects.  The prayer from Isaiah, the prayer of Advent, is so different; in fact, it's quite the opposite.  It's not a test of God . .but it's a prayer of desperation.  It's the prayer of a people no longer satisfied with tinkering with self-improvement.  It is the prayer of Advent . . the prayer of a people who know they need a savior.  God get down here!  Now!  Look at us!  You said you would help us!  I dare you to come closer!  Lord, we need you!

How often do we tell God how much we need him?  Speaking for myself, not very often.  In fact, it's the last prayer I say.  I might as a last resort ask God for his mercy, to forgive my many offenses.  But then I quickly return to trying to fix myself.  I'm embarrassed I had to ask for help, and instead of leaning into God's mercy I pray I'll need less in the future.  I ask God for time and distance so I can return to my prideful self-reliance, returning to my hope that I will need God as little as possible.

The prayer of Advent is much better, and it's quite the opposite.  Advent is not being terrified of God coming closer to be our savior.  It is being terrified instead that God might not come, that he might keep his distance and I will be trapped forever in the terror and slavery of my own limitations.  For I am addicted to sin myself, and I am part of a dysfunctional human family who will never choose to always love.  I need a savior.  You need a savior.  We all need a savior.  Someone who is like us, but who can break in with power and perfection from the outside.  It's nice to have someone who's willing to join us in jail, but better to have someone who can actually break us out.  Our deepest need is not for a guru who can tell us how to fix ourselves, for such gurus are not the ultimate solution, they are also a part of the problem.  No, we uniquely need a savior.  One who comes to heal us not with a plan, but with a heart.  One who comes not with a prescription, but with a relationship.  One who alone can heal us and perfect us where we cannot love or change ourselves.  We need someone who can be as close to us as we are to ourselves, one like us in all things but sin, but one who is outside the dysfunction and addiction that is our helpless human condition. I need a savior.  You need a savior.  We need a savior.

In Advent, we change the way we think.  We admit that what is terrifying for us is not that He is coming, but that He may not come.  What is slavery is not that the Lord takes over our lives, but that he leaves us to our own devices.  What is equally scary is that he is coming, but that we will probably miss him.  We celebrate the first Sunday of Advent at a time in the north when the days are getting shorter.   There is less daylight to see things.  We get sleepy earlier and tend to think the day ends sooner.  The busy-ness and anxieties of life, and our own sins, can equally make us drowsy to the Lord's coming.  Advent urges us that the darker it becomes, the more eager we are to keep vigil, to stay awake, to look for the Lord's coming and for a light that shatters the darkness.  In Advent we admit that when the Lord came into our world at the darkest hour of the darkest night, only those very few with the purest of faith saw him.  Yet that lowly, inconspicuous manger scene was the most dramatic of human moments!  We enter Advent knowing we must dramatically change if this Christmas is to be any different than those that have passed.

Advent is the time of unparalleled anticipation, a time of waking up spiritually.  Like scientists who look for smaller and smaller particles to unlock the big mysteries of the universe.  Like teams that practice for countless hours to be ready for the one play that will make or break a season.  Advent is knowing that the spark that will light our spiritual lives on fire, and make new things possible, lies just ahead of us, for those who refuse to fall asleep.

This Advent stop asking God for more time and distance to tinker with your own plans.  Let go of old controls and securities.  Get over your fears of what the Lord's coming will mean for you.  Delight in a God who can overwhelm you at any time, and eventually will, but who for now delights in small surprises that come at the least expected moments for those whose hearts are awake in faith!   Don't depend upon God as a last resort.  This Advent, ask him the opposite.  Tell him how much you need him.  Ask him to come sooner.  Ask him to come closer.  And actually mean it.  Come, Lord Jesus. Come!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Worthy is this King

Solemnity of Christ the King
Christ the King Parish Topeka
22 November 2014

Because our great United States of America was founded through the toppling of a tyrant King, and we elect a president to serve us instead, talk of kingship might sound anachronistic. But it's not.  We still love kings.  When there is a king lacking, we want one.  That's how Michael Jackson becomes the King of Pop and LeBron James the King of basketball.  We love to see who dominates in their area of reality, and who has power and fame.  We love it.  What is more, we love seeing Kings fall.

But today, we are the ones who fall down before our King.  We might love toppling Kings, but today we are here to worship a King that is unstoppable and unbeatable.  Jesus is the greatest King, for having existed before the world began, He is more powerful than the Big Bang, and his kingdom alone being universal and eternal, even a nuclear weapon cannot touch it.  So we are powerless to beat Him.  But we come not merely out of submission to this King, not against our will  because we have no other choice.  No, we choose this King, we worship him with all our heart and will, because the most powerful King imaginable shows His power by standing powerless before us His beloved.  We come today in worship not to be dominated by our King, but first of all to be served by Him who loves us His subjects beyond all measure.  We come to be judged by Him not merely because we have no other option, but willingly, because our King has been found worthy to judge the world.  For before He is judge, He is the lamb that was slain.

So we worship Jesus as King not temporarily in hopes that one day He might be toppled, but begging Him to allow us to  participate in his eternal and universal Kingdom of truth and love.  We know that any other kingdom to which we belong is temporary and illusory, especially any Kingdom we would fashion for ourselves, unless it participates in the Kingship of Christ.  For more powerful than the power of the Big Bang, or the power of a nuclear weapon, is the power to lay down one's life in love.  It is sacrificial and merciful love that is the heart of God, and the ground of all reality. It is because God is love that there is something rather than nothing, that there is me instead of not me, and it is this merciful love that alone is stronger than death.

Jesus showed his ultimate power through vulnerability.  He was powerful enough to be born in the cold, in abject poverty, powerful enough to ride into his capital city not with a secret service, but on a donkey.  Powerful enough to allow himself to be judged by his enemies, and for his Kingdom to be spat upon and mocked.  The more vulnerable He became, the stronger and more sure His kingdom grew, and in the Resurrection it was confirmed that sacrificial love alone is stronger than death.

As we see clearly in today's Gospel, He is powerful enough to identify himself with the weakest of human persons, his subjects, and when He does so, His Kingdom only grows.  We will ultimately be judged as belonging to His kingdom, or not, by whether we see ourselves, and Him, in our brothers and sisters.  It is by showing charity and mercy that Jesus has been found worthy by His Father as judge of the world.  It is by the standards of charity and mercy that we will be found worthy of belonging to Him, and His eternal Kingdom . . and rightly so!  Amen!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Radical Investment of Faith

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Christ the King Parish Topeka
15 November 2014
Daily Readings

Archbishop Naumann was in town for a fundraiser for Hayden High School, and engaged in a very frank discussion with supporters of Hayden about the current condition and future fate of the high school.  Lots of things were discussed that affect Hayden, but the Archbishop cut through the conversation by stating that above all, his number one concern was whether the high school was forming real Christian disciples.  Specifically, are the young people encountering the person of Jesus Christ, the source of all learning and goodness, in a personal, life-changing way.  The Archbishop said that if they are, then everything else will take care of itself.  But if they are not, then the whole mission of the high school was pointless.  It doesn't matter how many national merit scholars or state championships are won; what matters for the long term, in God's eyes, is discipleship.  Are these young people becoming the disciples that Jesus is calling them to be?  The Archbishop said he is sick and tired of people telling him that their sons and daughters are fallen-away Catholics, that they no longer go to Church.  This is his number one concern - that our Church has to find a way to make fervent and real disciples.

The parable of the talents is about investing our faith in risky, radical ways.  Nothing is clearer in the parable than the fact that faith buried is faith lost.  Faith lived privately, or in fear, is faith that is worthless.  So often, our Church remains in maintenance mode, or yields only a portion of the fruit that the Lord is calling us to bear, because we live our faith at a minimum.  Faith has to be daring and radical - our biggest conversion is never behind us - it is always ahead of us.  Otherwise, it is not faith, it is a hedging of our bets . . a giving only insofar as it works for me and I get something back.  But Christianity - discipleship - the Gospel - and stewardship - is a zero sum game.  Either we recognize that everything is a gift from God, and all that I have belongs to him, or I'm not living faith at all.  Either I find myself giving more of my time, talent and treasure than I ever thought I would , in order to multiply the talents I have been given, and to build up God's kingdom, or I'm not living faith.  Either I'm all in, or I shouldn't be in at all.  Either I am in the business of making disciples, either I am a radical evangelizer myself, or I am slowly but surely losing what little faith I claim to have.  The parable couldn't be clearer.

I am asking the parish to pledge time, talent and treasure, and to invest in the mission the Lord has entrusted to Christ the King parish, in a formal way for the 2015 calendar year.  It has been some years since Christ the King has done a formal stewardship drive.  I am sure some of you will hate it.  But we have to push forward as a faith community, always risking more of our time, talent, and treasure in response to what we have received from God, praying desperately with our pledges that our parish will be able to bear the fruit that God has given us to bear.  This fruit will not come to pass if we simply ask people to give whatever they feel the parish is worth to them; no, every one of us, starting with myself, must be challenged and pushed to be more radical in our discipleship, and in our giving.  Everyone must give more and more, and to give priority and planning to their proportional giving to the parish.  We see the alternative in the Gospel of giving cautiously . . it is to accept a slow and steady decline in our faith.

Of course the parish has a responsibility not just to challenge you to give, but to be a good steward of what is given.  I pray that I will be a more effective leader in using the leadership gifts of the parish to be more transparent and engaging with everything that is shared with Christ the King.  Your parish and finance councils are available the next two weekends to answer your questions.  We have been blessed with a lot at Christ the King, so much is expected of us.  I hope you will agree with me that with all the good that is already done at our parish, still we are called to do more; specifically, we must find a way to make every parishioner a radical disciple and evangelizer  - our parish must be an engaging and misisonary parish - one that is not afraid of losing its young people or in simply maintaining the faith, but a parish that will not settle for anything less than producing saints and holy vocations, and a parish that is always in aggressive growth mode.

You all know that as your pastor, I love change.  Change is hard, and I've been hard on the parish in some ways, and this stewardship drive is yet another example of how much I expect out of you.  But I promise you this, as much as I am asking you to change and to do more as a parish, I pledge as your pastor to change even more myself.  In cutting my teeth as a new pastor, I have made a lot of mistakes.  I have been rash in changing some things, and have not been as patient and as vulnerable, nor a good listener, that a pastor has to be.  I have not heeded the call of Pope Francis for the shepherds of the church to first cry for and with their people, to take on the smell of the sheep in service, and to sacrifice until the people know that you love them.  I have a lot of growth to do as your pastor.  I humbly ask for your forgiveness for my own mistakes, and the ways I have hurt the parish by my own selfishness, or tried to change things only to fit me.  Of all the people in the parish, your pastor is the one who needs to give more, and to sacrifice more.  I did not come into the nicknames of Fr. Spends a lot, talks a lot, changes a lot, and is gone all the time for nothing . . I probably earned them.  As much as I am asking you to change, and to pledge in this year's stewardship drive more than you ever thought you would pledge, I pledge to you that I will lead the way in changing even more.

Christ the King parish has to bear the fruit the Lord has given us to bear.  I need your help.  Let us pray for each other, and do this together.  Amen.