Monday, March 10, 2014

Temptation Looks, Feels, Smells, and Tastes Good

--> This is an approximation of the homily I delivered at St Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell for the first Sunday of Lent, March 9, 2014, for the 9 and 11 AM Masses. The scripture readings can be accessed at this link

One of the most popular costumes for Mardi Gras and Halloween when I was growing up was “the devil.” I am going to ask you do draw a mental picture of the devil in your mind – how many of you had a picture that included somebody scary - horns, pitchforks, tails, a goatee, maybe hooves, a cape and  some combination of red or black clothes.? Raise your hands!

Other descriptions that might come to mind are the creepy Satan in the movie the Passion of the Christ or the Barak Obama look-alike on the History Channel miniseries, the Bible. The problem is that nowhere is scripture or any other credible writing do any of these descriptions of the devil exist.   Now Deacon Paul’s belief is that if God allowed Satan to take human form in modern days, he or she would be good-looking, athletic, intelligent, wealthy, well-spoken, drive a very nice car, and have a very fine home – you know attractive. The devil and his temptations have to seem attractive to lure us in.

As people of faith, it is important to understand the nature of temptation and have a strategy for overcoming it.

The theme of today’s scripture is temptation, the only tool that the devil has. In general, Satan cannot make us do anything. Some of you may remember the comic Flip Wilson and his character Geraldine Jones. When her husband, Rev Leroy would ask why she bought her 3rd dress this week, she would say…. The devil made me do it!! The devil made me buy this dress!!!  No, the devil cannot make us do it, but he can put temptation in our way.

The story of Adam and Eve in the first reading gives at least four interesting insights into the nature of temptation.  First – temptation is something that looks attractive. The woman saw that the tree was good for food,  pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. A temptation is a trick, a deception, usually with partial truths. 

Second, temptation knows where you are weak.  Did you ever stop and think about why Satan tempted Eve first and then had Eve tempt Adam? It could be that Eve was more susceptible to Satan’s temptation and Adam was more susceptible to Eve’s.  Condensed out of the  middle of the first reading is GN 2:22 where Adam exclaims about Eve This one at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. Adam loved his wife so much that he had a weakness for whatever she asked. Maybe your weakness is your spouse, your best friend, your pride, your reputation.

Third, temptation blinds us to the consequences of the action we contemplate. We can see the consequences of other people’s temptations and behaviors, but rarely can we see our own.  Who says to themselves– “I know that doing X is going to put me in a state of mortal sin, but I am going to do it anyway because the reward is so great.”

And finally, the strongest draw of temptation is to use our God-given intelligence to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong and not be submissive to God’s will. No, God knows well that the moment you eat…you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.  I believe this is why so many Catholics believe it is OK to disagree with or totally ignore the Church’s teaching on things such as co-habitation, contraception, same sex marriage, and even abortion. They have fallen for the lie that they too can be like a god.

If the fall of Adam and Eve gives us insight into the nature of temptation and the consequences, then Jesus’ time in the desert gives us a model for overcoming temptation.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert.  What was he doing those 40 days?  He was likely not working, partying, playing X-Box or watching television.  As He was led by the Spirit, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus was immersed in prayer.

Second, notice that in the first reading, Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden, with all the food and pleasure that they could ever want.  Jesus was in the desert, fasting for forty days.  Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation, Jesus overcame it. 

Finally, as the temptations are increased – Satan offered Jesus that whole world if Jesus would worship him - what does Jesus do ? he uses three simple, but powerful words – Get away Satan.  We too, have that weapon available.

What Is Our Homework?
Now that you hopefully have a better insight into the nature of temptation, we need to identify those temptations in our own lives and determine what we can do to avoid them. I would like to suggest a way to apply the model  Jesus gives us in the Gospel to our lives.  Don’t stop doing whatever you are already doing for Lent, just consider adding what I am about to suggest.

But before we can apply it to our lives, first, we need to honestly answer this question – What tempts me? It is different for everyone. I suggest taking 5 minutes before bedtime each night during lent, and find just one area, just one, where we did wrong, where we sinned.  

Now, we can apply the model that Jesus gave us. First is prayer.  Each night take that one thing to prayer, ask for God’s help with that one thing. It does not need to be a complicated formula.  Dear Jesus, today I failed at X.  Y and Z tempted me.  Help me tomorrow to avoid and overcome.

Second is fasting. By fasting we gain control over bodily appetites instead of our bodily appetites controlling us. Fasting helps us with discipline.  Whatever fast you may do, whether it is skipping meals, giving up certain foods – instead of just “getting through it” like many of us do, let it remind us of those temptations that we are trying to overcome.

Finally, we may have to shout, if not with our words, with our actions – Get away Satan.  Accept that we may have to do something radical to overcome the occasion of sin.  We may need to completely avoid those people, places, activities or things that cause us to fall into sin.  That is not always easy.   Are we ready to give up those things that seem important to us now for the sake of our immortal souls?  If you struggle with pornography, you may need to give away your computer. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is temptation, then maybe it is time to break up. If drinking is causing you problems, it may mean an end to the party life.

Temptation is never going away. If it arrived dressed in a red devil’s cape, with horns and a pitchfork, we might deal with it better than we do. But temptation looks, feels, smells, and taste so very good.  When temptations come to us we have a choice; either to follow them like Adam and Eve or overcome them like Jesus did in the Gospel. Which will you choose?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Your Faith Is Not Private: Evil Happens When We Hide Our Light Under A Bushel Basket

This is an approximation of the homily I delivered at St Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell at the 4:00 PM Mass on Saturday Feb 8 and  at the 11 AM Mass on Sunday Feb 9, 2014.  The readings for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A can be found by clicking here.

Tuesday I was driving home from work late. My wife Pam had warned me that there might be some fog and asked me to be careful.  The drive seemed fine.  After about a ½ of a mile on to the Twin Span Bridge, all of a sudden it was so dark, and the fog was so thick that I could not see the railings.  I could neither see the lights of the cars behind me nor the taillights of the cars that I knew were ahead of me. I was afraid to drive on for fear of hitting something ahead and I was afraid to slow down for fear of being hit from behind   As I came down the hump of the high rise portion, in front of me, I see of all the crazy things, 3 street sweeping trucks cleaning the shoulders of the twin spans.  They had these huge blinking arrows on them warning oncoming traffic to get over.  My first thought was – of all the stupidest things- cleaning the twin span in the middle of the worst fog ever. My second thought was – thank you God for sending these trucks to light my way.  I safely followed the light of the street sweepers off the Twin Spans until the fog lifted enough so that I could drive the rest of the way home at a fairly normal speed.

And in a way, as Christians, we are called to be like those street sweepers – lighting the way for those trapped in darkness so that they can find their way home.

Our culture has become obsessed with privacy.  From the doctor’s office to the credit card company, we are becoming overwhelmed with privacy. And with this privacy mindset, we tend to think of religion as private, something for ourselves.  Our religion should bring us peace and comfort, but it is not there for US, it is there for us to bring it to others.  Our faith unshared and unproclaimed is like lighting a lamp and putting it under a bushel basket; it is useless.

During the Baptism ceremony, someone, usually the father or godfather, lights the child's candle from the Easter candle. Then the priest or deacon says:

Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He is to walk always as a child of the light. May he keep the flame of faith alive in his heart.

As a Christian, what does it mean to be a light of the world? IF you missed that message, you might have been snoozing during the Liturgy of the Word. Every scripture reading today proclaims the answer - the light of Christ is seen in this dark world by our good deeds.  From the first reading we know that these good deeds include our social interaction with others (remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech”) and works of justice and mercy (Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them)

The responsorial psalm echoes the message of justice and charity as we sing T he just man is a light in darkness to the upright.  From the second reading we know that good deeds include speaking the truth with courage

Finally, the Gospel concludes that we have both a right and a duty to behave in just ways both in our private dealings with people and in public life. So that others can recognize this good, see that it comes from God, and glorify God accordingly.

What makes it possible for darkness to take over the world? How does evil thrive?  It is when Christians decide to keep their faith private. Lets look at 3 examples:

Russia was predominantly Christian (Russian Orthodox) when Joseph Stalin took over. Between 1932 -39 Stalin had between 7and 20 million people killed?  How?  When Hitler came to power in Germany, the country was 94% Christian. 94%!!  54% Protestant and 40% Catholic. The estimates that I have seen are that, excluding war causalities, Hitler and his regime were responsible for the deaths of between 11 and 21 million civilians. How is that possible? In a Christian nation? I admit, the answers are complicated, but without the cooperation of the Christian people, these murderous regimes would not have been possible.

If you think Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany are long ago and far away, lets look a little closer to home. All nine justices of the 1973 Supreme Court who ruled on the Roe V Wade case were --- drum roll----Christians.  3 Presbyterians, 3 Episcopalians, 1 Catholic, 1 Methodist and 1 Lutheran. 7 of the 9 decided to keep their faith private.  Of the 9, only William Rehnquist, the Lutheran and Byron White, an Episcopalian, dissented from the opinion. Even the lone Catholic, William Brennan cooperated with evil.  The result of that has been 57 million babies murdered in the United States since 1973. How is this possible in a supposedly Christian nation?

What makes it possible for darkness to take over the world?  It is when Christians, those just like you and I, stand on the sidelines and watch the world go by. It is when Christians hide their light under a bushel basket.

What is our homework?

Light is what makes it possible people us to see. No light, no vision. To be the light of the earth means to show people where they are to go.  We don’t have blinking arrows on us like the street sweepers did for me on the twin spans. The light we have is the light of Christ.  We have a duty to let it be seen. Today, each and every one of us must begin to live our faith in public.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Just Do It

Just Do It is a trademark of the shoe company Nike, and one of the core components of Nike's brand. It might also be something to keep in mind when you have a friend  or relative who is in trouble, hurting, facing a death in the family, a serious illness, unemployment or some other major life struggle.

How often have you heard or said the following words or some variation thereof - "If there is anything that I can do for you, don't hesitate to call?"  For the number of times this offer has been given or received, think about how many times someone has taken it up?

As someone who has been on the giving and receiving end of this offer numerous times,  I can probably count on one hand the number of times where the offer has actually been accepted?  Why?  Pride maybe.  And maybe because we are really not sure what "if there is anything that I can do" really means. How much can I ask? Are they sincere or just being nice? Am I going to owe them?

If someone says to me, “Let me know if I can do anything to help,” I have to go back and ask them a favor, each time  I need help.  I suddenly feel like a beggar.

Someone going through a struggle has the same needs that they always did, plus the burden of the struggle. Their garbage still needs to be taken out, the grass still needs cutting, the weeds need pulling, the laundry needs washing, groceries need to be purchased and meals need to be prepared.  With any major illness, even if there is good medical insurance in place, the deductibles and co-payments are likely to run in the thousands.

So, what is the alternative to saying "if there is anything I can do to help,,,?"  Stop offering. Figure out what their real needs are and help alleviate the burden. Every case is different. Figure it out. And then just do it.   And not for the moment, but for the long run.  What am I suggesting? Something radical.
  • Show up at the hospital and hold their hand while their love one passes on to eternal life. Yes, hospitals are yukky places. Get over it.
  • Take care of their gardening and lawn care. 
  • Bring their children to a park for the afternoon
  • Send someone over to clean their house. 
  • Raise funds to pay their medical bills.
  • Have meals sent in of food that they actually like and can eat, not that which is convenient for you to prepare.
  • Provide free legal assistance
  • Help with kids' tuition
  •  Provide a shoulder for them to cry on.
  •  Take their dogs for a daily walk or to the vet.
  • Wash their cars.
  • Help take their children to school.
  • Do their laundry
  • Let them know that you are praying for them and do so every day
  • Paint their house.  
  • Whatever it takes.
You get the idea, I am sure. And do as much of it as you can anonymously.  After all, is the offer to help to make you feel better or is an honest offer to help?  Just asking.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Am A Liberal Conservative Environmentalist Patriot Marriage Equality Promoter

This post is more of a rant. Our contemporary society has hijacked a number of words and terms to mean – well to mean whatever they want. Words that had specific meanings, now have different meanings, and are used as pejorative labels for people who disagree with my point of view.   If I don't agree with your position, I will come up with a label that puts you in a category in an attempt to make you look ignorant and wrong.

It is not just the political right or the political left who have hijacked words and terms, it is almost everyone who has a particular agenda or axe to grind.

The following seven are my biggest pet peeves with respect to this concept.

1 and 2 Liberal and Conservative
These words, which need to be discussed together, are now nothing more than political flags or labels of convenience. Most liberals are not liberal and most conservatives are not conservative. We might be better off just calling them “Yellow” and “Green.” 

A traditional definition of liberal was one who opposes interference in the affairs of others: who is tolerant of dissenting attitudes and unconventional behavior. Liberals, traditionally favor keeping other people out of our lives, leaving individuals the maximum space in which to live and flourish as they choose.  Does this sound like the belief system of many that now call themselves “liberal?”

Now liberal means almost the opposite. Communities that have had overwhelmingly liberal elected officials for decades abound in nanny-state regulations, micromanaging everything from home-building to garbage collection.  Those who label themselves as liberals are usually willing to let people violate the traditional standards of the larger society but crack down on those who dare to violate liberals’ own notions and fetishes. Our academic institutions are overwhelmingly dominated by liberals. They feature speech codes that punish politically incorrect statements.

Conservative once meant holding fast to values proven to work. It meant moving forward with moderation or caution, put had no particular political meaning because it all depends on what one is trying to conserve.  As the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was on its death bed,  those who were trying to maintain the Communist system were described as “conservatives,” though they had nothing in common with two well-known conservatives of that same era, William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman.

Professor Friedman in fact considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word and proposed radical changes in things ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve System. But he is remembered today as one of the great conservatives of our time. Great, yes. But conservative? It depends on what you mean by conservative.
Now conservative is taken pejoratively to mean “narrow-minded, inflexible, unwilling to change at any cost.”

3 . Homophobic
The word homo is Latin, in the original sense of "human being", or "man" (in the gender-neutral sense). The word "human" itself is from Latin humanus, an adjective cognate to homo. 

Phobic is a word-forming element meaning "excessive or irrational fear of," from Latin -phobia and directly from Greek -phobia "panic fear of," from phobos "fear"

So, homophobic (homo + phobic) should mean literally “ a fear of human beings.”  According to the Ant-defamation League, homophobia  has been redefined as “ the hatred or fear of homosexuals - that is, lesbians and gay men - sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility.” 

In reality, if anyone, not just Phil Robertson says what has been a long-held Judeo-Christian belief, that homosexual activity is sinful, they are labeled as “homophobic.”

4. Patriot
Chamber's Twentieth Century Dictionary has the following definition of Patriot

“ pā′tri-ot one who truly loves and serves his fatherland Patriot”

This word used to be easy. Everybody loved a patriot, because a patriot loved his or her country, was willing to defend it, and supported its authority and interests. Now many take it means somebody who distrusts the government so much he is prepping for revolution.  Think the National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers.” 

One of my favorite quotes on patriotism is from Theodore Roosevelt. 

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does NOT mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country."

5. Environmentalist
An environmentalist used to be anybody who cared about the land, air or water. Hunters, fisherman, bird-watchers and Boy Scouts were considered environmentalist.  The aforementioned Teddy Roosevelt, who established the National Park System was considered one of the world’s greatest environmentalist.  Environmentalist believed what they believe because they saw a well maintained environment as best serving the needs of mankind.

Now that word is hurled like a throwing star, embroidered like a scarlet letter. Environmentalists are called “tree-huggers.”   The term ‘environmentalist’ has been a term for a long time used by ‘non-environmentalists’ to create suspicion about and pigeon-hole the ‘environmentalists’ into some leftist, radical group that is out to overthrow the government and economy while ruining all our lives on account of their protesting.

Groups such as Earth First, Greenpeace, and the Earth Liberation Front are not environmental groups in the traditional sense, as they believe that the earth is our “god” and comes before the needs of mankind.  People is these groups are anarchists, not environmentalists, regardless of what they call themselves.

6. Marriage Equality
Let me makes this crystal clear, I am 100% for Marriage Equality. Every marriage should be considered equal. What I am not for however is for every relationship to be considered a marriage.  If I choose, for example, to redefine squares as triangles, that does not make it so. A triangle is still a 3 sided figure with angles adding up to 180 degrees, even if I redefine a four-sided figure as a triangle.

I also want to make it completely clear that I do not hate those with homosexual orientations. Every person should be treated with fairness, respect and dignity. Period. No exceptions.

Regardless if what the anti-Traditional marriage proponents believe, marriage has a natural purpose.  It is not about first and foremost pleasure or enjoyment, it is about raising children, future generations, and passing along our knowledge and culture.  This does not mean that there is not exceedingly high levels of pleasure and joy in marriages, it is just that pleasure and joy are not the driving purpose. 

 The Judeo-Christian Bible did not invent modern marriage. The Biblical definition of marriage only reflects its natural purpose.  Not only are good, monogamous, heterosexual marriages a good “moral” thing, they are good for society.

It is in a society’s best interest to promote families. Marriage is based on the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman and on the social reality that, in general, children are better off with a mother and a father. That is not to imply that single parents cannot do a good job, nor that homosexual parents cannot either. One of the main reasons why the State bestows numerous benefits on marriage is that by its very nature and design, marriage provides the normal conditions for a stable, affectionate, and moral atmosphere that is beneficial to the upbringing of children—all fruit of the mutual affection of the parents. This aids in perpetuating the nation and strengthening society, an evident interest of the State.

And now we are down, the slippery slope redefining marriage, you can be assured that anyone with any relationship is going to sue for the right to “marry.”  A federal court struck down most of Utah’s anti-polygamy laws as unconstitutional earlier this month. Yet time and again, advocates of same-sex marriage have discounted the warning that if marriage is redefined so that the sex of the spouses is irrelevant, it can be further redefined so that the number of spouses, or the family relationship of the spouses, is also irrelevant.  If marriage is only about my pleasure and desires, than what will be next? Marriage between siblings? Why not marry my mother, as long as we are both consenting adults? Marriage between species?

Unfortunately, those who protest the most about Marriage Equality are in part a reason that society is becoming more open to homosexual “marriage.”  There is a reason why the birth rate in virtually the entire western civilization has fallen below replacement levels.   Unmarried couples cohabitate at ever increasing rates,  extra-marital relations are no longer considered scandalous, both married and single heterosexual couple continue to contracept and abort. The natural purpose of marriage, giving life to and rearing of children, continuing a stable society, has almost become a joke.  

7. Hate Crimes
I hate hate crimes. The whole concept of "hate crimes" confirms my belief that we live an a society where few things make sense any longer.  Is the opposite of a "hate crime" a "love crime?"  Redefining crimes based on motives makes about as much sense as redefining marriage based on , whatever....  

Is it more of a crime to murder someone out of love or call them an epithet out of hate?   If 1 young black man kills 3 others because they are invading his drug selling territory,  it gets a little news, for a little while, then we move on.  No hate crime here.  However, should a white person who twenty years ago used a racial slur kills a black man, then the federal authorities are brought in for hate crime investigation.  

The mere existence of any hate crime statutes  infers that crimes based on race, religion, sexual preference or ethnicity are more important than those based on other things such as lust, greed or jealousy for example. Making laws to where the exact same crime against your own race, religion or nationality, versus a crime against another race, religion, or nationality is potentially worth different punishment implies that there is a difference, for example, in value between the black man killed by the black man, versus the black man killed by the white man. How, if we are equal, can the application of penalty be different depending upon who the crime was committed against. It is total and utter non-sense.
Here is just one of many examples.  First, a disclaimer. I do not care for Alec Baldwin. I do not care for his acting nor do I care for his politics. However,  Alec Baldwin was under investigation this year as a hate-crime perpatrator for insulting someone. This is ridiculous.

This is just one recent example of many that demonstrates how ridiculous “hate crime” statutes are. Apparently, Baldwin lashed out at a paparazzi photographer who was waiting in the bushes to take a picture of him walking out of a building. Alec verbally attacked the photographer, who happened to be a black guy, and called him a “crack head” and a “drug dealer” and then used, apparently, a racial slur or two. 

In a sane society, that would have considered to be an argument between two grown men.  One of them seriously invaded the others privacy, the other said some really rude things. Let’s move on. 

But in USA 2013, the NYPD announced that they were investigating the case to see if a “hate crime” occurred. Baldwin used a racial slur. He should not do that. You should not use slurs at all.  However, if Baldwin would have called the photographer something along the lines of a "worthless piece of human fecal matter" then no hate crime would be suspected.

Here is another.  In August 2012, pieces of uncooked bacon were scattered at a New York field where Muslims gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan – an incident that the NYPD called in a hate crimes task force to investigate.  How can that be a hate crime?  Other than littering, what crime is it to leave bacon on the grass? Yes, I know that this is insulting to Muslims and the person who did this was a complete idiot, but does this warrant a Federal investigation? I think not.


 So, in summary, I see myself as a Marriage-equality, Liberal, Conservative, Patriot, Environmentalist. However, I am certainly not homophobic. I do not fear people.  I am more of a dominiphobic, meaning  fearer of the Lord.  Not in the “I am afraid of God sense", but more of a reverential awe.  But that is the topic of a different rant. How about you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Joyful! Joyful! What Is The Best Way To Spread The Faith?

This is am approximation of the homily delivered at the 6 PM Mass at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell, LA. December 15th, 2013.  This is the third Sunday of Advent, Year A. The readings can be found by clicking this link.

Color is the most instantaneous means for delivering and communicating messages and meanings. Color has an incredible effect on you mood, your perception, and your likes and dislikes. 

For example, yellow is perceived as cheerful and energetic, yet mellow and soft. It portrays hope, happy times and used as a way to grab one's attention. Companies that use yellow to project the feeling of cheerfulness and happy times include McDonald’s and Best Buy.

Blue is perceived as a very stable and dependable color. As with the ocean and sky that are always constant, blue inspires confidence, commitment and a sense of serenity and peace. Blue is the most used color in corporate logos. Conservative financial institutions tend to use blue to project confidence. Water bottling companies also use blue to portray freshness.

Likewise the Church uses colors in the liturgy to project a message.  Red, the color of blood and fire, is used on the feasts of martyrs or on celebrations of the Holy Spirit such as Pentecost and Confirmation.  You see violet during most of lent and advent to remind us of the need for penance. Today, the third Sunday of Advent, is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word meaning rejoice or joy.  Priests and deacons may wear Rose, to remind us that as Catholics, we are called to be a people of joy! 

My Diaconate Classmates Vested In Rose
The liturgical texts of this Third Sunday of Advent are all about the coming of the Messiah and they are collectively a great hymn of joy. In the First Reading the prophet Isaiah announces that the Messiah will come; In the Gospel Reading the Matthew tells us that the Messiah has come; And in the Second Reading the James tells us that he will come again. All the three Scripture Readings give the message of hope that fills us with joy. Joy is the theme of today.

Pope Francis’ recent letter was entitled Evangelii Gaudium . In English this means the joy of the Gospel. He sees the biggest obstacle to spreading the faith, the fact that a large number of Christians go through life looking like sad puppies.  How did the early church grow? There were no formal evangelization programs to spread the faith. The early Church spread because the love and joy that Christians had for one another and the world was constantly bubbling over. The world saw the joy and wanted to be part of it.   I would like to read to you three quotes from the Holy Father’s letter, which all of us should take the time to read.  Here is the first one…

 “Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our …. society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy’.”

In other words, I would be happy if I won the powerball, if my wife paid me more attention, if my thighs weren’t so fat, blah blah blah blah.  Later he writes…

”Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, [Christians] should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’.”

In other words, people should want to know Jesus because his followers are joyful and make it so attractive that others cannot resist. And finally …

 ”An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that ‘delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing,”  

No need to explain that.  He is right.  Looking like you have just come from a funeral is no way to spread the faith. Most of you remember the joy that you had on February 7, 2010 when after 43 years of Aints and paper bags, the Saints won the Superbowl.  How much more joyful should it be for each of us that Jesus Christ has won the victory over sin and death, and that by following him and his Church, we can have blissful life with him forever?

What Is Your Homework?
Very simple. Go do what the Holy Father is begging us to do. Get rid of the long, sour faces. Be joyful! All the time!! Without condition!  Fat thighs and all!! Go spread the Gospel by living a life of joy, joy so contagious that anyone who steps into your shadow cannot help but becoming infected.  When they ask the reason for your joy, tell them the Good News! Go show your true colors.