January 22, 2023
There are many good things to do. We may feel pulled in many directions. How can we simplify our life? St. Paul gives an example of focus.
- God doesn’t ask us to do everything.
- We must discern His particular will for us.
- That permits us to focus on what He is actually asking of us.
- Here are some examples from St. Paul, and from my own life.
- How can you practice this in your life?
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
There are so many things that you could do, or should do, or want to do, or other people want you to do. But we can’t do everything. And it’s hard often to decide what we should do. Last week, we were talking about discerning God’s will, God’s general will, which is to love Him and to love others. And God’s specific will for each one of us, because each one of us has a specific mission. And so how do we discern that, like in a body, where each member of the body, as I said, there’s no generic parts of the body, each part of the body has a specific function. And so, God also has a specific mission for each one of us. So, we need to have clarity about what is my mission, my specific mission, a clarity on what I should focus on. There’s an old proverb that the man who chases two rabbits, gets neither. When we’re trying to do too much, we don’t do anything effectively. And so today, I wanted to focus on focus, focus on what the Lord is, how to know what the Lord is asking each one of us. And we have the example, the reason I’m thinking that today is because of St. Paul, in the second reading today. And so, I want to look at; St. Paul gives us three examples of this focus. And I’ll share also a few examples from my own life and invite you to think how it applies to your life. So, the three examples we had that I want to focus on today from St. Paul, is focus on what is the ministry that God is asking him because there’s all sorts of good ministries, what is the ministry that he’s being asked? And secondly, what message he should preach? And third, how he should preach it. So the first one is, what is the mission? What is the ministry, God is asking of him? And he says, “I am thankful that I baptized, none of you, except Crispus and Gaius.” So that’s a curious expression. I’m thankful that I baptized none of you. “Lest any should say that you were baptized and my name for the Lord did not send me to baptize.” So that’s striking. But there’s so many people who baptized, because remember that this St. Paul’s going on to mission and to the so many people to be baptized. But he said, “The Lord did not send me to baptize.” And St. Paul knows well, the importance of baptism. Many of our greatest texts on baptism come from him. So, what’s he talking about? He says, “The Lord didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.” He’s not saying baptism is not important. He knows it’s extremely important. But it’s not his mission. His mission, he says, is to preach the gospel. And so, St. Paul is discerning among many good things, because when he’s going into missionary land, there’s so much that needs to be done. But the Lord’s did not ask him to do everything. St. Paul has discerned what the Lord is asking him to do. And that’s very, very important. For myself, this is a very important passage. Because for myself and for our little Mission of Divine Mercy, there’s so much that I would like to do and so many good things that people ask us to do or tell us about. And I mean, just to take some examples, I would like to be doing baptisms. Baptism is a beautiful sacrament, such a grace or weddings so important to be able to, weddings are such a great moment, Holy moment in a person’s life. Also, friends with a lot of people like us to do house blessings, I wish we could wish we had time for it or other. A number of ministries that I was able to do in my early years of a priest. I said that practically the first ministry I was doing was prison ministry, working in a prison there in Laredo, and also the detention center. They’re also doing missionary work in rural Mexico. And hospital ministry I think also another extremely important ministry and pro-life ministry so much to be done. I was able to be involved in the Operation Rescue many years ago and just as mother’s mentioning, tomorrow is that day of recalling that the tragedy of abortion in our country, so much to be done in these areas, and I hope maybe someday when our little Mission at Divine Mercy, God willing is a lot bigger, we can be once again, more involved in that. But I’ve sensed as also as my health and my energy diminishes, and it clarifies the particular mission, the specific mission of the Mission at Divine Mercy, and the need for us to focus on that. For instance, that’s one of the reasons that we do our Encounters with Jesus, that particular ministry He has given specifically to us, and that He wants us to be focused on. And so, it’s been a gradual journey for us and for myself to discern among so many good things. What is the priority that the Lord wants me to focus on and us to focus on. And so, that’s an opportunity for you to ask yourself, what, among so many good things, because there’s a danger sometimes as a generous Christian, that you want to get involved in so many different things. And you can’t do everything. And so, what is the Lord Himself asking you to do? So that’s the first thing of Paul’s ministry, asking him to focus on what is his ministry? It’s preaching not baptizing. But this is the second point, what should he preach? Because there’s a lot of different things to preach about. So, what should he preach? And his answer is kind of surprising. He says, “When I came to you, brethren, I decided to know nothing among you accept Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” You see how focused he is. He’s, I forget how long I think was over a year, wasn’t a real long time, but it for him, that extended time with the Corinthians, there was so much to talk about. But he didn’t say I tried to tell you everything. He said, to focus on, he said, he even says he has to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. So, Jesus Christ crucified, was the focus of his preaching. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of other important things to talk about. But that is the key point that he was called to focus on. And, I think for myself, you know, as I preach, and some of you have suffered through my preaching for many years, and so we’re in a very different situation now that the Church was in through most of its history. For through a lot of the history of the Church, almost the only possibility that people had to hear teaching was through the local priest. Sometimes there might be a few books, but books were very hard to come by very, very expensive. But now, we all have access to more information than we could that we would ever have time to read. Or watch, if we prefer videos, like the internet makes so much accessible. And you can hear from so many experts who know so much more about all these different topics than I do. And so, what is my role? My role is to just say, turn on your computer and go surf the internet. No, that’s not my role. What is my role? My role is the mission, what is the special mission, He’s given us at the Mission of Divine Mercy? What is our specific message, or specific charism or mission, that’s what I need to focus on. And what you know, just like in the body, the parts of the body, not only do they have a specific function, but they also have what they need for that function. You know, for instance, the eye has what it needs to be an instrument of seeing, and the ear has what it needs to be an instrument of hearing, and the feet for walking, and so forth. So, when God gives us a mission, He also gives us the graces for that particular mission. That’s the great thing about finding your mission, because there’s a lot of things that you don’t have the grace for, but you do have the grace for doing what God has asked you to do. And so that’s the grace has given us the grace of the Mission of Divine Mercy. And which is the grace. I think it’s not just for us. It’s for this time, I think that the Lord has given us a grace for the service of the needs of the Church of this time of history, and a critical time that the Church is going through, to trust to have hope and faith in God’s action. When we’re in situations which man cannot fix, God calls us to hope in His own action. And He wants us to have the faith, the trust, the abandonment to Him, that permit Him to act. And so those are the type of tools that I come back to, over and over again, because in the little time we have for our little weekly homily, it’s not a whole lot of time. And so, I have to be focused on what is the particular message that the Lord wants us to share here at the Mission at Divine Mercy. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of other important things. But we can’t do all that. And also, you will have access to, you know, so much good teaching through the Church documents, to the saints, to great prophetic messages, like the messages that Jesus gave to Saint Faustina and also, to Catholic teaching on so many moral issues today. So, that’s how I’ve sensed that as a plan to myself. But it’s also an opportunity for you, for each one of you to say, is there a particular part of the gospel, is a particular part of Jesus life that He’s asking me to focus on? And so, the final point, so St. Paul is preaching, and he knows what he’s supposed to preach about. So, he knows the subject that he’s supposed to preach about. But how is he supposed to preach it? How is he supposed to communicate it? So, let’s listen to what he says. “Christ sent me to preach the gospel. And not with eloquent wisdom,” the Greeks loved eloquent wisdom, that was what really impressed them. If there was someone who was a very eloquent speaker, a very dynamic, impressive speaker that was what they’d love to hear. So, St. Paul is talking to the Greeks. But he says, That’s not the way God wanted me to preach, not with eloquent wisdom. Why? Because isn’t a good to preach with eloquent wisdom because to impress people, he says, no, why not? Why shouldn’t he? He says, “lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Because remember, that’s what he said, that’s what he needed to preach, Jesus Christ crucified. And so, he had to preach it in a way which didn’t empty the cross of Christ of its power. So he goes on to say, “when I came to you, brethren, I did not come here, I did not come proclaiming Jesus’ testimony of God,” and this is good to be reflected on, on this Sunday of the Word of God, St. Paul service, St Paul is one of the greatest servants of the Word of God, much of the Word of God that we have, is through him. “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God, in lofty words, or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you, in weakness, and in much fear and trembling.” That doesn’t sound like a great, a great description of a missionary right? I was among you in weakness, and fear and trembling. And makes me feel good, right when I’m preaching, but St. Paul said, I was among you in weakness, and fear and trembling. “And my speech and my message, were not implausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith may not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” So, he sensed that he was not called to use human techniques of speaking and marketing and persuasion, which are very, can be very powerful. But he was called to rely on the action of the Holy Spirit. And what is the great, greatest work of the power of the Holy Spirit, even more than external miracles, even more than healing bodies? It’s changing hearts, spiritual transformation. And that’s what St. Paul was called to be, a minister of conversion and spiritual transformation. The Holy Spirit working in hearts. And I think it is so St. Paul’s saying that he wasn’t called to these human techniques, but to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, working through his own weakness and suffering. And one way, one thing that makes me think of this is our little Encounter with Jesus retreats because we have the Encounter with Jesus retreat, our retreats that we developed are actually, we felt inspired from the Lord, but that they had actually began way back in 1994, when I was still in Monterey. But a lot of retreats use a lot of human techniques, there’s a lot of human techniques of group dynamics, and kind of psychological techniques and very emotional music and so forth, that you can use to get human results. You know, I remember a guy who worked in a disco saying that just by manipulating the lighting in the disco’s, he can make people feel one emotion or another, feel very happy or sad, or so forth. And you know, like movies and commercials, and so forth, and music are so adept at using all these human techniques to make people feel things. So, we have all these possibilities. But we found an encounter that we were called not to be focused on human techniques, but on trying to let the Holy Spirit act. And I want to give you some examples. I mean, that’s why it’s very impressive to us at the end of an Encounter that to listen to people sharing their experiences. Because sometimes, for instance, like one person shared, we’ve often heard this people sharing their experiences. For instance, at the end, when the activity is over, and someone stays in a chapel, just the praying, and experience they had just at that moment, where of course, we’re not controlling that moment at all. But the Holy Spirit acted. What this was one person who was there was in the chapel or Saturday night at the encounter. And we talked about how Jesus truly present in the holiest place, the sacrament. And the person said, boy, if I really believed that I think I would just ran out of here, because to feel that I was in the presence of God. And then they heard a voice, and no one else in the chapel, they heard a voice say, “Well you better run now, because I am truly here.” and that they shared that experience with us. But you know, it’s surprising to us how the Holy Spirit works. We introduced a hike, because that wasn’t part of the original thing, but just can help orient people during the encounter. So, we introduced a hike, to just brother Mikael or brother Daniel, walk the people around a little bit. And at the end in silence, they’re hiking around, it’s just to show them where things are. So, they don’t get lost later. But later on, later on, at the end, it’s been surprising to us to hear so many people commenting on grace’s that they experienced just taking that little hike. There was no preaching to them about the hike or anything, I was just, we’re going to do this hike in silence and so forth. But it was not, it wasn’t us acting, it was the Holy Spirit. So much so that we’ve sometimes joke that we will just cancel the whole encounter and just take a long hike. And it will be a lot easier because the Holy Spirit seems to use that. But just a final example in the encounter, which has happened, actually, several times. Just happened recently, one of the recent encounters. This was one of the guys said, Saturday night, in the middle of night, he got out to the bathroom. And he heard a voice, he was walking by the door, and he heard a voice, he sensed that you know, the chapel was just right over there, just a few feet away so well, but I don’t want to go to the Chapel when I go to bathroom, just get back to bed. But he sensed, well, okay, I’ll just pop in there and, and then he ended up spending about an hour there in the chapel because he had such a strong experience of God at that moment. And so, we had not planned out the encounter that Saturday night, at the moment that someone gets up to go to the restroom, they’re going to have their powerful experience in the chapel, we’re going to have a some special, you know, speaker in the chapel, speak to them. That was not at all. That was all the work of the Holy Spirit. And so, I think that’s example what St. Paul is saying is not using human techniques, but letting God, letting the Holy Spirit act. And so that’s also something for us to reflect on. How does God want me to be His coworker, so that I do my part, but above all, I trust Him to do His part. I’ll give you one final example. Because when we were starting, starting, actually, I was doing this in Monterey, also Santa Maria with a large group of young people that I never met before. I was supposed to give them a little presentation. We also did this in New Braunfels, a short presentation and then gave them then we led the led them into the chapel on the kind of a very simple guided meditation, but most of it was in silence. And that’s kind of scary. Because when you have a large group of young people, you know, when you’re doing music or talk or human dynamics, you, you kind of control things more. But when it’s just in silence, you’re not controlling it. And if the Holy Spirit doesn’t act, then it’s kind of a disaster. And it was very striking to me because we did this a number of times, how often with just a simple preparation, and we lead them to the chapel, would be maybe would then we turn off the light and just have some candles that made a recollected atmosphere. And then just leave him for a little bit in silence. And afterwards, we’d ask them to write down what they experienced. And it was very impressive afterwards to hear how many had had some of them are saying this was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had in my life. I sensed God like I never sensed Him before. And this was just a little hour and a half experience that we had with them. But it was a sign of how much the Lord was acting, the Lord Himself was acting. So just to conclude, St. Paul said, “God did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. Not with eloquent words, not with eloquent wisdom, less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” So, this is an example of focus, focusing, learning to focus on what is God’s particular will for me. You can remember that little proverb, The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither. And so, the question for you today can be is there at some point the Holy Spirit is asking you to focus on maybe to let go of certain other things, but to do more, what He is asking you, God’s not asking you to do everything. Oftentimes, he’s asking us to simplify our life to be more focused, so we can be more effective and faithful to His will. Amen.
EYWORDS / PHRASES:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17