Sermon Notes – Maximizing the Minimum

“Maximizing the Minimum“

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

February 20 – 21, 2021

Gospel:  Mark 1: 12-15

How can you love God more?  How can you experience more of His love?  The answer is really very simple.  By loving yourself less.  God is love Himself.  He has no need of our love and is totally self-sufficient.  But, God wants to give us His love.  Unfortunately, God, being the perfection of all virtues, including politeness and courtesy, won’t break into our souls.  We have to open our souls up to Him.  If our souls are closed off by self-centeredness, He cannot come in.  He wants to give us His immense love and to fill our souls completely with Himself. 

We can grow in the love of God by taking on little penances and pious practices.  Doing so will help, but two things are important.  They have to be small, and they have to be practical.  Too often, people say they will grow in the love of God by doing a lot of grandiose things.  But, it’s impractical, because they won’t do it.  Instead, take little steps.  The first step to take is to realize that we need to improve.  That’s actually a big step, because many people are satisfied with maximizing the minimums.  “Father, I go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.”  “I go to confession once a year.”  “I don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent.”  “I obey the Ten Commandments.”  “I don’t rob banks.”  Okay.  But, there’s a lot more in the book our Lord tells us to do.  You know that, right?  We tend to maximize the minimums.  “Father, I am good.”  Well, I don’t know about that.  The Lord said not to call anybody “good.”  We are called to be perfect.  That’s in the black part of the Bible, not the white part.  Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.  “I’m here at Mass.”  You are physically here but is your mind?  Look! Squirrel.  Distraction during prayer is normal; just come back to it. 

Giving yourself totally over to God, to overcome self-centeredness is what we always must work toward.  Our first parents disobeyed God, and we continue to do the same thing.  “I won’t let God in until I need Him.”  “I will only go to church if the Mass is in English, or Spanish, or Latin, and only if it’s at 12:00 on my day off, if I’m not too tired, or if it’s over by 5:30 because I have dinner reservations somewhere.” We use all these stipulations, and the Church has unfortunately bought into to it.  “I will only go to confession if there are reconciliation rooms.”  So, parishes have spent thousands of dollars creating reconciliation rooms.  Come on!  I hear confessions…I wish I heard a lot more. 

We must take up our cross every day and follow Him. The ego is a terrible thing and destroys people.  In any 12 Step program, you must have ego deflation at depth. Where did they get that I wonder.  From the Catholic Church?  Go figure.  How do we overcome our ego and self-centeredness?  By doing little things. “I need to pray more.”  Well, then pray more.  Say the rosary.  By the time you get to Coy’s laundry mat or to the court house, you have plenty of time to say a decade of the rosary. There are five stop lights, so you have plenty of time to say it.  You have to sit there anyway.  You can’t zip right through the traffic lights, although they made it less likely to be caught when they have moved the police station.  My point is that you have plenty of time to do little things.  “I want to lose weight and to eat better.”  Then do it, one step at a time.    

God has no limit on His love.  We are the ones who limit His love with our self-centeredness.  We determine our salvation.  God says, “I will give you the way to salvation if you let Me into your soul.”  We say, “I’ll get back to you.  Thank you very much.  Appreciate the offer.”  We want to cling to ourselves.  One of my good friends who recently passed away, a judge, used to say, “I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.”  I deserve to speed, because I’m important.  I have business to attend to.  That would be me.  However, I should mention that a lot of cops are not Catholic.  We want what we want when we want it.  That’s what we all have to fight…our self-centeredness.  “You can’t tell me what to do. “I deserve this.”  That kind of thinking shuts God out.

We have to be humble.  In fact, we are commanded to be humble.  The 4th and 5th Commandments command us to obey our physicians and caregivers.   You don’t go to your physician’s office and say, “Oh, what the heck do they know.”  Doctors are very intelligent, so listen to them and do what they tell you.  That’s humility.  “I don’t want a colonoscopy.”  That’s humility, especially when I had mine. I know everyone in that department.  I work there.  I knew them all.  Having a colonoscopy is not a side of me they wanted to see, but what the heck…if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  As Saint Therese de Lisieux said, when you are humble, you are small and safe.  As long as you continue doing small acts of penance, day after day, you are growing in God’s love and opening the door to your soul so that He can come in.  God will not force his way in.  He does not need our love.  God is self-sufficient.  But, He wants to give His love to us, because that is His nature.  We are the ones with selfish self-centeredness and close the door on love.  But, if we focus on the little things, we will grow spiritually and gradually open the door more and more to allow the love of our good Lord into our souls.

The Law of Physics says that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  If our souls are full of ourselves, God cannot get in.  God isn’t going to push us aside. He isn’t going to make us love Him.  We have to decide to love Him by renouncing ourselves and our attachment to things.  You will discover that once you become detached from things, you will have far more joy and pleasures than you ever could have imagined.  Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas both said that if there is any labor involved, love is no labor at all.  It’s all a joy.  Each sacrifice is a joy.  Each sacrifice makes a way for greater enjoyment and greater love.  It creates a way for a greater union with the Almighty and, therefore, a greater union with one another.  So, we are the ones who determine how much we will love.  The secret of loving God and experiencing His love is really easy.  We just have to love ourselves a heck of a lot less.

How will you apply this message to your life?  Are you maximizing the minimum?  Will you fight to overcome self-centeredness and make room for God in your heart and soul?

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to http://annunciationcatholicalbemarle.com/ and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” and then “Sermon Notes.  From a cell phone, click on “Blog” then “Menu” and then “Categories” (located at the end of the page).  There is also a search box if you are looking for a specific topic.


Sermon Notes – Stump the Chump

“Stump the Chump“

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

February 13-14, 2021

Gospel:  Mark 1: 40-45

On occasion, as I go about my day, I have people come up and say, “Father, may I ask you a question?” Sure!  Sometimes, people have very good questions.  Now, these questions generally fall into one of two categories.  The first category includes the faithful who are seeking understanding.  This happened on Tuesday when someone asked me, “Father, why do we call you father?  I never really knew why.”  The first good reason is my mother told me to, and if you don’t obey her, you know what happens.  The second reason is scriptural.  Paul said in his epistle: “I am your spiritual father.  I beget you in Christ. I baptized you and gave you spiritual life.”   Then, there is this other group of people who try to see if I’m the village idiot.  I’m not, but I qualify for the top ten.   I call this game “stump the chump.”   “Father, where does it say in scripture that we are supposed to kneel?”  Well, that’s easy enough… Matthew 27, Psalm 95, Romans 14, and Revelation just to name a few.  I mean, come on!  Really?   I’m not the brightest bulb on the circuit, but that’s an easy one.  They are trying to get me to prove that Catholicism is wrong.  That or try to convert me.  I already know I’m not going to convince them to become Catholic.  “Have you ever heard about the precious blood?”   You know…I believe I have.  I stayed awake that day at seminary.  These are all “gotcha questions. 

How do you tell people about Christ? The best way to evangelize is not by giving someone a bunch of information.  They could get that online or look in the Catechism of the Catholic Church…it’s all in there.  So, how do you tell people about Christ?  Do we tell them to read the book?   Well, the book doesn’t contain everything about Jesus Christ.  The book is a “what” not a “Who.”  But, we can pass on the “Who” to people by telling them what Jesus has done for us.  If giving people a book brought people to Christ, we could give everyone a copy of the Catechism and fill the church with converts.  But that doesn’t happen.  If that worked, we could all read a medical book and be the epitome of health.  We have to tell people what’s in the book and bring it to real life.  We have to tell them about God’s grace and what He has done in our lives. Today’s gospel shows us how to evangelize.  Jesus cured that leper from a death sentence.  He went away and could not stop telling people how Jesus had restored his life.  Like the leper, we also have to tell people what God has done for us. 

We see proof of God’s love so often that sometimes we become immune to it and ungrateful.  Each time you go to Mass, you receive the Most Precious Body and Blood just like the apostles did at the Last Supper.  You can come to church during the day and speak to our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament as one person speaks to another.  But, because we have become so accustomed to the gift of His love, we forget to be thankful.  I’m thankful for a lot of things.  I’m thankful for indoor plumbing.  I’m thankful for clean clothes.  I’m thankful that McDonalds is open 24-7.  I’m thankful about not having to go outside in a rain storm to take a shower.  That’s nice and a big change.  I’m thankful for many things even those that are unpleasant like the COVID test.  I get it every week, so I don’t want to hear any whining.  “Oh!  That’s terrible!”  Well, thank God we have that test.  “But why, Father?”  We could have the Chinese test instead.  Come on!   We are also grateful for the geniuses who have worked tirelessly night and day to develop these tests and vaccines so that we can maintain our health and delay what will eventually come. 

God has given us our life, and when we lose it by sin, He gives it back to us.  This is how we tell people about the truth and meaning of our faith.  Not in an obnoxious way, but by telling them what the Lord has done in our lives and the great gift He has given us…the gift of Himself.  Not that we deserve it, but because He loves us.  He brought me back to life through my baptism.  He feeds me the Precious Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  When my soul is dead with sin, and I may lose Heaven if those sins are not forgiven, He gives my life back to me through the Sacrament of Penance.  He forgives and He forgets.  My soul is washed in His blood. 

The Blessed Mother was the first to be washed in His blood.  She was standing beneath the cross and was spattered with it.  When they took Him down from the cross and laid Him on her lap, she was covered with His blood.  Once you are dead, your blood stops coagulating. So, Mary was covered with the blood of Christ.  “Why do you honor Mary?”  She was the first human being to be covered in the Precious Blood.  She was also the first to receive a miracle.  Remember the wedding at Cana?  That was a direct intercession of God.  “Son, they have no more wine.”  Boom.  And, there was wine.

This is how we tell people about our faith.  We don’t use obnoxious evangelization techniques when we talk to them.  We just tell them about what God has done for us.  But, we keep trying to reinvent the wheel.  If we do it differently, will things be better?  No.  We do what works.  What happened when God performed His miracles?  The recipients of those miracles told others.  And, what happened?  Look at the last line in today’s Gospel.  Jesus went to deserted places, but people kept coming to Him from all sides.

How will you apply this message to your life?  Are you grateful for His love or have you become immune to it?  Will you tell others what God has done in your life?

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to http://annunciationcatholicalbemarle.com/ and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” and then “Sermon Notes.  From a cell phone, click on “Blog” then “Menu” and then “Categories” (located at the end of the page).  There is also a search box if you are looking for a specific topic.