Is there any greater force in the world than a good example? We fail to fully appreciate, how much our lives, and our good works, matter! We have tremendous power to make the world a better place, and a decision to use that power or not! I am reminded of Antoine with whom I had a conversation a few years back. I and several of my parishioners were standing on the corner in a part of San Francisco known for higher crime. We carried signs proclaiming God’s Love and forgiveness, and were present to talk and pray with all who were interested. Antoine recognized me, because he had been working a construction project by my home, and we’d say “Hi” each day. I asked him what he was doing, and he shared that he’d just come from a music studio where he’d been recording a few songs. Half joking, I shared with him; “I’m a songwriter too, want to hear the lyrics of my latest song”. He gave an ear as I shared a lyric for a song I was working on, about how it can be so difficult growing up among the bad influence of “The Streets”. He responded, Father, it is not about what is happening in the streets, it’s what goes on in the homes! He then shared several graphic stories about the abuse he’s suffered, and the crime he was taught to support while growing up in his house. Because of that upbringing, Antoine had been filled with anger, self-hate, and involved in a life of crime. However, the Antoine I was talking to, and had known for a few months now, was filled with joy, working several jobs, and doing well. I asked him, “It seems like you’ve been able to turn your life around despite all you shared, how did that happen?” He said; “Arthur Ashe came to our neighborhood, to the Boys and Girls Club, and played tennis with us. I played with him for ten minutes.” He said, “Kid you’re a natural”. Antoine shared, that is all he needed, for someone famous to see something good in him! That gave him the self-confidence to believe he could change his life, and from that day, he turned his life around! Wow, ten minutes is all it took, to change a life! (Arthur Ashe probably has no idea that his ten minutes made such a big difference!)
The Gospel this Sunday (5th Sunday in Ordinary Time) tell us: “You are the Light of the World…Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Jesus is reminding us of the power, and necessity of good works, and of our good example. But in the second reading, St. Paul reminds us, that ultimately it is not our good works that light up the world, but God’s power that is released through our good works. He says “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (J1 Cor 2:3-5) St. Paul, and the early disciples speak often of how when they did good works, and when they proclaimed the Word of God, the Holy Spirit acted with power to move people’s hearts and show them the love of God. (See Acts 10:44, and 2:37-41, 3:1-16, 4:1-12, 33. Why not read the entire book of the Acts of the Apostles again, or for the first time? It is a short and exciting book!) This power of God to move hearts is not only the testimony of the early Church, but it is still what happens in ministry today! In retreats when we pray over people, during the Mass, in prayer groups, and at other times it often happens; that someone experiences God’s Word, God’s presence, Gods’ Love and it changes their heart, and their lives! As a friar, I am privileged to preach the Gospel, to minister in the Church, and see God’s Power often touching people’s hearts, and drawing them to Himself, giving them the self-confidence, and a supernatural experience of His Love and forgiveness (like Antoine needed) to change their lives for the better. God does this! He uses our ministry as an instrument to miraculously and powerfully touch the hearts of others! It’s an awesome experience each time it happens! I’ve now ministered as a Friar for 24 years and a priest for 18 years, I’ve seen many miracles; people who’ve died, were shown either heaven or hell, and sent back to testify, and given more time to change their lives. I’ve seen healings of illnesses, demons cast out by the power of God, I have heard testimonies of people who have been visited by Angles, Saints, Mary and Jesus! But the greatest miracle, is still when God’s Love touches a human heart, often through someone’s human ministry, and that person knows God is real, God loves them, and they change their lives for the better.
Our Lives do Matter. We are the light of the world when the Light of Christ lives in us, and we make the decision to give of ourselves in love, then we become the instrument of God’s Power touching and transforming a human heart. It is a privilege to live as a friar, and with other friars, together seeking to allow Christ’s Light to shine in the world by proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed. Perhaps this life is for you? Come and See more about what a life as a friar might be like. Our next come and see is February 17 – 19. Click here for more details.