Monday April 14, 2008
This is a homily given by Fr. Raymond Decipeda in St. James church on April 8, 2008:
Good Morning! The very first time I gave a lecture for older people was when I was 21 years old. If I look young to you now, and I am 43 years old, you can imagine what I looked like when I was 21 years old. That was the very first time I gave a lecture. I was part of a team that gave a lecture to one hundred eighty-seven principals, assistant principals, school supervisors, and their superintendent. I was one of the lecturers, and it was a program that was going to be launched in our country. There I was, standing in front, my hands like now, if I hold a glass of water, the water will turn into ice because my hands are freezing and my heart is palpitating, and I am so nervous because I am placed right here on this spot right at this moment. I was so scared, standing in front of all these educators, some of which were as old as my mother. Some were even older than my mother. Some were as old as my grandmother. And you can imagine many of them have Masters Degrees and some of them have PhDs. and there I was still thinking of my Masters. So I stood in front and I started my lecture in this fashion. In the service of the Lord, it is not a question of whether you are good or whether you are bad. In the service of the Lord, it is not a question of whether you are capable to do the work or not. In the service of the Lord it is not even a question of whether you are holy or not. In the service of the Lord it is always a question of whether you are willing to do God’s work or not. Because even if you are holy, if your heart is not willing, then no work can ever get done. Even if you are talented, if your heart is not willing, then no work can ever get done. Even if you have all the talents in this world and you are capable of doing it, if the heart is not willing, then no work can ever get done. The visionaries were those who say the Virgin, whether it is the apparitions here in Medjugorje, or whether it is the apparitions of Fatima, or whether it is in Guadalupe, or whether it is in Lourdes, wherever apparition, or maybe La Sallet, it was always a question not of holiness, not even being talented, it is not even of intelligence, but of willingness. And if ever Our Lady has called us here to Medjugorje, it is because our hearts were willing. And that is the only measure that the Lord asks from each and every one of us – how far are we willing to walk with Him. Many would say, “Lord I believe in you. Lord, I will follow you.” That is what we find in our Gospel today. People were coming, trying to review the Gospel that came before today. People were in crowds, going towards Jesus, listening to Him. And they wanted to make Him prophet and king because Jesus was multiplying bread for all these thousands. And after He multiplied the bread for them and they had their fill, then Jesus started to teach them something more important, even more important than the bread they ate. That “anyone who eats my body and drinks my blood will have life eternal.” This is the Gospel for tomorrow – what happens. People started to walk away. If Jesus was a politician, He would have said, “Now what a minute, I was just talking in figurative language. Why don’t you come back?” It was the wrong P.R. so to speak, wrong in the public relations strategy that you are going to disgust, so to speak, your people. But Jesus did not backtrack. He said, Let those who are willing to accept my message, accept it. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood, will have life in Heaven.” And when people started to walk away, He asked Peter, “Peter, are you going to be leaving me as well?” And Peter said, “Lord, I left everything behind. Do you have any other plans? I don’t have anywhere to go. You must have some other plans.” (laughter) No – but what did Peter say, “Lord, you have the words of eternal life. I firmly believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” He didn’t know. Was he holy at that time? No, certainly not. Was he talented at that time? Certainly not. But he was willing to walk with Jesus. When we are disciples of Jesus, when we are disciples of Mary, it is always about how willing we are to take risks. Lord, will there be life insurance? (laughter) No. Lord, will there be Medicare and insurance in case I get sick? No. No liability insurance – but one thing is sure, there is insurance up there in Heaven. And you know what my dear friends, as we continue this holy sacrifice of the Mass, the Lord brought you here. How many could not be here because it is expensive to be here? How many could not be here because even if they can afford, they don’t have the good health to come here. And even if they had the good health, they don’t have the good knees that you have. How many could not come here – why, because they don’t have the time. But you are here and I am here. And why are we here? Not because we wanted to be here, but because God wanted us to be here.
Final point of reflection: the Lord never blesses a person, a community, or a nation for yourself only. When the Lord blessed Abram to be the father of many nations, it wasn’t because Abram needed a son only though, but because God wanted Abram to be a source of blessing for other people. When Joseph’s life was spared, his life was spared – why –because he had to be a blessing for other people. When Moses was called by Yahweh, he wasn’t called because he wanted to have leadership connections. God called him – why – because he was going to be a blessing for other people. And history goes through the same thing over and over again, even today. The Lord blessed each and every one of us, just by our being here. Just for us, even it - But Father, my prayers were not answered. The very fact that you are here is a blessing itself. And do you know, my dear friends, when you realize that you have been a blessing and you have been blessed, you can’t help but be a blessing for other people. And that is the Lord’s challenge for us. He challenges each and every one of us, that when we go back from wherever we came from, we become salt of the earth and the light of the world. It wasn’t only during the time of Jesus that they were looking for signs, even now, so many people are looking for signs if God truly exists. The question is, when people see us will they say, yes, God exists. When people see the way we live our lives, will they say, yes, this man is a sign from God. This woman is a sign from Mary. It is a good time for us while we are here, as we continue the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to make a valued examination and ask ourselves, “Lord, when I leave this place, will I be a sign for other people that you truly exist?” Are we willing to walk with Jesus and become signs for people who do not believe?