Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Decision (The REAL Decision)

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

All of us are so excited about next Sunday.  We’ve been waiting so long for Sunday the 25th to finally come.  It seemed so far off just a month ago, but it is finally here.  Of course, I’m talking about the season opener for the Miami Heat and the quest to redeem LeBron James.  I joke of course, but I bring up LeBron James because last season he was saddled with an ill-fated television program he did where he told the world that he was “moving his talents to South Beach.”  This program was dramatically called “The Decision.”  Much hype and much media attention went toward the announcement of where a basketball player, yes a player, would play his game.  So much attention.  So much drama.  So much, well, nonsense. Let me list of a few more important life altering decisions that probably merit exclusive one hour television coverage:  when a young man or woman decides to serve their country and enroll in our armed services, when a young person decides to be a missionary or a relief worker in Africa, when a young man decides to leave the world behind and become a priest, when a young Virgin decides to become the mother of the Son of God.

There were no cameras present when Gabriel appeared to Mary.  There was no big headline the next morning.  Yet the decision that Mary made altered the course of human history.  All she did was say yes to God.  This was THE decision!  Our lives would be so simple if we always said yes to God.  Of course, none of us were born without sin like the Virgin Mary who was able to give an unconditional yes to God.  This young girl from Nazareth fulfilled the promise that God had made to David centuries before when he promised that his house would endure forever.  A simple yes was all it took to put into motion God’s greatest masterpiece and the redemption of humanity.  But we resist giving a simple yes to God.  It conflicts with our agendas, our way of life, and may cause us to radically change.  Mary knew what saying yes meant.  She knew it would be a difficult journey, but ultimately God would favor the one the angel calls “full of grace.” 

Even after saying yes to God, Mary would not have it easy.  She had to travel while VERY pregnant from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  According to Google Earth, that’s a 90 mile journey on the back of a donkey.  She had to give birth in the worse of conditions in a cold stable.  According to the Weather Channel, it’s going to be 41 degrees in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.  Even after her son’s birth, she had to flee with her husband and child to Egypt when Herod was killing the Holy Innocents.  She had to bury her husband.  And worse of all, she had to witness the brutal murder and crucifixion of her only Son.  Mary’s life wasn’t easy after she said yes, but it was sure full of grace.  Why?  Because it was filled with the presence of Jesus throughout her life:  the presence of the Divine.  This is what Jesus is offering us this Advent.  All we have to do is say yes like Mary.  Her yes was transformative because it not only changed her life but our lives as well. 

But no, we resist giving Christ an unconditional yes like his mother did.  We resist turning our lives completely over to him because the world will not let us.  The world lures us, seduces us, and tempts us with so many things that run contrary to God.  These are juicy little sins that come wrapped up like beautiful little presents that were gift wrapped at Macy’s.  We can’t surrender to the Lord like Mary did because we are still slaves to sin.  We are enslaved by vices and addictions.  We are seduced by drugs, alcohol, sex, money, fame, and power.  I believe I just described the life of the Kardashians.  And therein lies the problem.  We are seduced by people who claim to be celebrities even though they have no discernible talent, and our children seek to emulate them and consider them role models.  They watch their every move.  They comment about their latest fashion choices, boyfriend choices, and marital choices.  This is the trash the world has to offer us, and our young people are hypnotized by it.  If we claim to be Christians, if we claim to be followers of Christ, then we must reject this secular world that has no need for God and abandon ourselves to Jesus like Mary did.  We face decisions every day.  These decision may not be as transformative as Mary’s, but they are decisions between good and evil, grace or sin, living a life filled with God or living a life filled with sin.

It pains me when I watch our young people who were raised in good Catholic homes, went to good Catholic schools, and went to Mass every Sunday, turn their back on Christ because they have no need for him.  To use a Christmas analogy:  they have no room at the inn for Jesus.  They prefer living “party lives”.  They prefer temporary pleasures, worldly addictions, and believe that our faith has become antiquated.  So many young people that were raised Catholic, and many still call themselves Catholics, live lives of contradiction because the world tells them that whatever makes them feel good, whatever makes them happy, whatever brings them pleasure is okay.  Well it’s my mission as a priest, ordained to preach the truth to tell you my dear young friend, that it’s not part of God’s plan for you to be doing drugs.  It’s not part of God’s plan to “hook up” and have sexual relations before marriage with anybody who is willing and able.  It’s not part of God’s plan for you to get ridiculously drunk at every party just because everyone else is.  It’s not part of God’s plan for you to be living with your boyfriend or girlfriend before you get married just to see “if it works out” or because it is economically expedient.  Our young people are basically living lives of debauchery, and I sometimes wonder:  when is it enough?

God wants you to live happy lives.  God wants you to even have fun.  But you want happiness?  You want fulfillment?  You want a life that is full of peace?  Say yes to Jesus just like Mary did.  It is not the popular decision.  It may bring you ridicule, it may alienate you from so-called friends, but it will bring you a peace that you could not possibly imagine and it WILL make you happy.  In a few days we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  He wants to save us from ourselves.  He wants so badly to dwell in our hearts, but do we have room for Jesus this Christmas?  Mary’s heart was sinless, so she had more than enough room:  she gave him her entire heart.  This is why Jesus gave us his Mother as a model of faith.  We have so much junk stored up in our hearts, so much guilt, so much regret, so much filth, that even if He tried Jesus couldn’t possibly co-exist in our heart that is enslaved with the things of this world.  That is why we have one week of Advent left.  We have one week to empty our hearts for Christ (which is what confession is for) and create a suitable dwelling place for him this Christmas.  Tonight, my dear young people, the Lord is calling upon you, just as he called upon Mary, to make a very important decision.  Will you continue to be seduced and enslaved by the world or will you say yes to him?  For Mary and Joseph, saying yes to Jesus meant devoting their entire lives to him, putting him first in their lives, and despite hardship, they were rewarded with his Divine Presence all their days.  God has a plan for you just like he had for Mary.  Stop resisting it.  Free yourself from the world so you may have true freedom to live a joy-filled life with your Savior.  There may not be cameras or bright lights on you, but you have an important decision to make.  What will it be?  Will you say yes to Christ this Christmas?