Father Peter Fitzgibbons
“ Felon Approved “
May 7 – 8, 2022
Gospel: John 10: 27-30
I can say this for the first time in two years: This sermon is felon approved. I took it on the road the other day to the local prison – what I call Felon University or FU. You will be happy to hear that the usual crowd is still there. We also had a couple of new people. It was a little confusing at first because they only let inmates who are Catholic in for the Mass. Technically, they can’t do that but with COVID they’ve gone a bit crazy. Now, everybody likes to go to church because it is air conditioned there. The living and sleeping quarters in prison are not. Hey – nobody asked you to commit a felony in North Carolina. You don’t like it? Don’t commit a felony. So, this one guy came in and the guard looked in the records and saw that his religion is Christian. The inmate said, “No, I’m Catholic.” The guard said, “It says right here that you are Christian.” The inmate said, “I was born a Catholic and for over 20 years at Central Prison I was a Catholic.” Sweet! Aren’t we lucky to have you! Some of the others were newcomers, so I told them a little bit about myself. I told them I had worked with paratroopers and special operations and that if they had a sin I hadn’t heard before, I’d pay them for the privilege to hear it. “Oh, you don’t understand, Father.” Yeah, I do. Been there and done that. Got a t-shirt.
One thing I learned as a young soldier and abided by my whole career is that when you are out and about, when you are going from here to there, doing the sneak and peek, you always watch the guy ahead of you. War movies portray soldiers wandering all over the place and not paying attention. That’s just not true. We made sure that we walked in the same footsteps as the guy ahead of us. We walked in their exact same steps or something very unpleasant might happen . . . something similar to the old Army song, “You’re Coming Home in a Body Bag.” So, you made sure to walk in their footsteps because it was safe.
In the Gospel, our Lord said, “Follow Me.” Follow Him in His footsteps. If we do what He did, we will get exactly what He got. During the heights of our self-esteem, we think that we are the only ones who have or ever will have our problems. And that’s not true. Look at the writings of the saints. We are not unique. Billions of people have done this before with God’s help. There is help with all our crosses and temptations. The Church has given us her teachings to help us stay the course. We also have 2,000 years of the saints’ histories who bore the same crosses that we do and even greater ones. They walked in the same steps as Christ. When they didn’t, bad things happened to them because they thought they knew better. When they tidied up and got back to walking in the same steps as Christ, they were safe. Nobody is safe outside of God’s direction. He gave us the means and compass directions for exactly where we are going and where satan can’t touch us. So, if we go to Hell, we are self-made men and women. Satan sits on the sidelines saying, “Hey, you’re missing a lot of fun out here. . .the water is fine!” Ah, no. “I don’t know why you’re putting up with all that stuff; everybody goes to Heaven.” Yes. . . some go for a cup of coffee and others get to stay for eternity. Because of our fallen nature, sometimes more often than we’d like to say, we toy with the illusion of how much fun we might be missing. You aren’t. The real fun is inside.
Satan tempts us with false happiness. Then the Four Horsemen come carrying with them the guilt, fear, shame, and remorse that comes as a result of sin. Satan is always on the sidelines. And as soon as you leave our Lord’s marked footprints, guess what happens. Your soul goes BOOM! Do what Christ tells you to do. Stay in His footsteps. Try not to listen to the distractions. Don’t look for an easier path. When you look around you may see some steps that have strayed off the path and a BIG hole. Whoa, that had to hurt!
One thing I’ve heard about Special Forces is that they have what’s called the “Q” course. It’s a land navigation course that is really tough. You have to find a lot of places in the dark and everything else. You never know when it ends. You never know when you are finished. . . sometimes not until you turn the corner. I heard one guy say that a couple of soldiers were just 100 yards away from the endpoint, and they gave up. They were 100 yards away from finishing the Special Forces Q course, and they gave up. We never know when the end comes, and we go to heaven. Keep walking in His steps. Don’t be distracted from what’s going on around us . . . that’s none of our concern. Follow Christ where He leads you. That promise has always worked.
We have a joy that nobody can take from us. We are strengthened against temptation by the Sacraments and by the sufferings and praises of the saints in Heaven. Nobody can snatch this joy from our hands. The devil can’t. It’s on us. Nobody can make us do anything. I always love it when people say, “I left the Church because of blah blah blah. They made me leave.” Nobody made you leave. “There are sinners in the Church.” Yeah. I’m one of them. Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. People make mistakes. We are all struggling with our crosses. No one makes you leave the Church. That’s just an excuse for your own bad behavior. No one makes you do anything unless they have a gun to your head and even then, it’s a choice. No one can snatch us out of God’s hands except us and that’s when we become like our first parents . . . we want to be God and will not serve.
How will you apply this message to your life?
Father’s Afterthoughts . . .
One time when I was overseas and had to go from Point A to Point B, I was walking and paying close attention to the footsteps. Suddenly, I came to a place where there were no more footsteps. Houston, we have a problem. Back up boy. Back up all the way. . . very slowly.
You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to AnnunciationCatholicAlbemarle.com, clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” and then “Sermon Notes.” Sermon notes can also be found on the Church Facebook page by searching for “Facebook Our Lady of the Annunciation Albemarle”