Homily at the Portsmouth Abbey School

Twenty-sixth Sunday in OT C
AMos 6:1A, 4-7; Psalm. 146; 1 TiMothy 6:11-16; LuKe 16:19-31

Even if I just met you, even though I know nothing about you yet, even though I don’t know your history, your fears, doubts, and concerns, I know an undeniable fact about you—you want to be loved, you want trusting friendship, kindness, and happiness. You’re looking for gentle guidance, meaning and purpose to your life. you want to know why you are here, where you are going, what to do to be happy, what the meaning of all this is. You want real answers and honesty.

I know one person who can give you these. His name is Jesus Christ. He cared about you more than anyone else in your life. he has what you’re looking for, and is the answer to all your questions. And he is here tonight.

Here are 3 things he wants you to do to make sure that these deep yearnings are satisfied.
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The first one is found in the first reading. Don’t be complacent! “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”
Complacent refers to those who live in their little world and care about themselves and no one else— my video game, my phone, my friends, me me me. Nothing bothers them. Dishes? Not my problem. Mow the lawn? I don’t care. New students? I don’t care. Bullying? It’s not me. Need help with homework? I did mine. The complacent think everyone is here for them and they are here for no one. It’s always their way. Selfish! Don’t be like that.
Complacent people are rated very low in God’s radar. It’s about them the Lord says: they will be miserable. Ouch!!!

Find something you would die for and be committed to it. Each day is filled with unimaginable potential. Start looking now! In the meantime, love people. Don’t be weird. Be joyful. Go to confession often. Come to Mass even when you don’t have to. Read good books. Talk to grownups –. Look people in the eyes and respond clearly when they speak to you. Ask good questions and answer thoughtfully.
True meaning and lasting happiness are found only when you completely give yourselves to others as gift. We find ourselves truly only when we give ourselves completely. That’s the great paradox of the Christian life.

The second is found in the gospel. Don’t be indifferent! The rich man in the gospel is in Hell. He is there not because he was rich, dressed in purple garments, ate sumptuous food, owned a fine house, car, held powerful position, popular and good looking.
He was there because he did not care. He only lived for himself. As you walk thru campus/in class/ at home/ at recreation, there will be plenty of opportunities to care for someone in need. Help someone. Don’t ever go to bed without helping someone every single day. That’s what it means to be cool.

As pope Francis has reminded us at the WYD, “The times we live in do not call for young people to be ‘couch potatoes’, or to choose a sofa-happiness spending hours playing video games or in front of a computer screen”.
“Don’t opt for ‘early retirement’. Don’t ‘throw in the towel or act defeated’ before the game begins.
Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history, because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark”.

Do you want to leave a mark?

Then don’t be indifferent. Indifferent makes you blind, numb, and complacent.
Do what St. Paul suggests in the second reading. And that’s my last point. “Pursue justice, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”.
Let me tell you— everybody loves a patient, gentle, respectful, hardworking, disciplined, prayerful, joyful, humble, friendly, and devoted person.
Everyone wants to befriend a charming, welcoming, grateful, appreciative, thoughtful, helpful person who is generous with their time, manner, words and smile.
Nobody wants to be around a grumpy, grumbling, moody, angry, dirty, impure, and difficult person.

Just look around you— who has the most friends? Is it not the most kind, gentle, helpful, prayerful, faithful, loving person? Yes or yes? Is it not the student who is hardworking, disciplined, smiles often, rarely gets angry who is most admired by both teacher and students? Yes or yes?
So if you want the best for yourself, love. Love deeply. Be charitable toward all. This is the road to sainthood.

You guys know St. Therese of Lisieux, right? When she was your age, she asked the same fundamental questions that you guys are asking: what to do to be happy, loved, friendly, faithful, accepted?
It dawned on her that it is not by being selfish, grumpy, careless, unfriendly, and difficult.

She realized it’s by loving others that she becomes loved, it’s by sitting with those are sad that’s she becomes happy; it’s by accepting others that she’s accepted; it’s by helping those in need that she finds true joy; it’s by asking thoughtful questions that she finds real answers. She did these and she became a saint.
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I know you guys want these; I can see it in your eyes; I can hear it in your voice. I can feel it in your behavior. Don’t be afraid to take the risk growing closer to Christ. By doing so, you might just become a saint. Amen

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Letter to those Returning to School

As September looms around, I have to keep reminding myself that there is no going back to school for me this year; it is the very first time ever that I will not have to attend classes. I wish I could say I don’t miss it. I hope teaching two days a week at St. Augustine school in Providence brings as much joy as being a student did.

lllBe committed and disciplined. A new day is dawned in the life of a student when he recognizes that even if he doesn’t have the highest IQ, a photographic memory or special talented, he can still be seated among the best. With discipline and commitment, studying can be truly enjoyable. In fact, they are the master key that opens all doors. Mastering them makes one a virtuous learner. All right thinking individual urges the cultivation of virtue — “good habit of the mind, by which we live rightly, of which no one can make bad use, which God works in us….” (ST I-II, Q. 55, art 4). Aristotle urged striving for excellence. St. Paul exhorts us to think only about ”whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). All the saints, all successful historical figures and all meaningful accomplishments have taken discipline and commitment. Choose a specific time to do your studies. Commit to it wholeheartedly. Practice makes perfect. Practice allows us to master a skill until it becomes second nature to us.

jjjLearn to fall in love with learning. Let me make this point through an example. Take Itzhak Perlman, a Jewish composer who won 15 Grammy and four Emmy awards. He is said to be a genius performer and a “god” of music. It is reported that he has practiced daily for nine hours. One day, he put on an extraordinary performance at a concert in Vienna; afterward people came to greet and congratulate him. One member of the audience who was wowed by his performance said to him: “I would give my entire life to be as great as you are.” Perlman responded: “I have.” He has given up everything to follow this one dream. Today, he is on top of the world. How did he get to be so great? He hungered to be good at it.

Do you think the Olympic champions we admire watching on TV get to be so great without being hungry for greatness? Do you think they practiced only when they felt like it? Do you think they ever take the minimalist attitude i.e. “what is the least I can do to be an Olympic champion?” Was it easy for them to wake up every morning, eat the right food, and go to bed at a certain time regularly? When they go out there, did their body always cooperate? Absolutely not! Yet, they keep the faith; they fight the good fight; they push themselves to the maximum of the ability; they invest their heart, mind, and soul to achieve what they believe in. A few years later, they amaze us with their skills and their arts. They are now famous. They won the prize. The prize of a successful school year is not prepared in the spring; it is prepared at the beginning of the school year.

It’s never too late to become hungry for knowledge. Get lost in your studies and you will find joy in them. Be passionate and you can be the next great composer of our future, the next great light of hope for the whole world to see. You are made for greatness so don’t aim low; be hungry for learning and continue to learn until you are satisfied.