Sermon Notes – June 26, 2022 – “Stop Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic”

“Stop Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

Gospel: Luke 9:51-62

Church has always been an instrument of change.  We like change.  And we want change.  But the trouble is that people keep changing the wrong things.  For the past 60 years, we have changed everything.  We have gutted the churches.  We have changed the architecture and the decorations.  We have changed the language.  We’ve changed this and we’ve changed that.  And you know what?  It hasn’t worked out so well.  It is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  They always seem to want to change the doctrine.  “Change this and I will be your follower.”  The Church wants to change.  But the Church is Christ as the Book of Acts tells us.   So, you cannot say, “I love God but not the Church.”  You cannot separate the two.  He wants us to change. 

What did our Lord say?   “If you wish to be My follower, deny your very self.  Take up your cross every day and follow Me.”  Deny your very self.  Renounce your whole self.  Unfortunately, we may hear at the end of the day, “God made me this way!”   Well, yes and no.  God has a directive will and a permissive will.  His directive will is what keeps the planets in orbit and maintains the Law of Physics and Aerodynamics.  If lift is not greater than drag, there will not be a happy outcome.  God also has a permissive will which allows people to have free will.   So, if you say, “God made me this way,” keep in mind that our first parents played a role when they committed the original sin.  They are the ones who screwed up the system.  We were never meant to live like this.  Granted, Oakboro is a paradise, but I have heard that Eden in the presence of God is just a little bit better than Oakboro and Aquadale too.  

But we don’t have to be like this.  God took our fallen human natures and made it a means for our salvation.  He gave us all our crosses.  You can see one of mine.  I am good looking, but my family has no money.  It’s terrible!  I have struggled with that all my life.  God gave us our crosses so that we will come to Him in love, for redemption, and as a means of salvation for others.  “God made me this way, so I want an excuse for doing whatever I want to do.”   They want what they want when they want it.  So that means we should give every diabetic chocolate cake every day?   It’s like giving alcohol to an alcoholic.  “Oh, I have alcoholism – it runs in the family – it’s genetic.”  Okay, Doctor House.  Thank you for the medical school lesson.  But that doesn’t give you permission to keep pouring drinks down your throat, does it?  You cannot blame God for that.  “God made me this way!”  He allowed it but what will you do with it?  Will you come to Him for peace? 

In the Gospel, people gave conditions to our Good Lord.  “I’ll follow You if You change certain things.”  Throughout the Gospel, people left Him.  They didn’t want marriage, sacrifice, or the Holy Eucharist.  “Nope.  I’m out of here.  If you change it, I’ll come back.”  Our Lord didn’t say, “Just kidding!  Come on back.  I’ll change.”  Salvation is not a democracy.  You don’t get to choose.   In the Catholic Church, some people believe they can pick one belief from Column A, one from Column B, and another from Column C.   Nope.   We must renounce our very self.  Put everything, even our crosses, at His disposal to use for a means of salvation.   People will witness the saving power of God in allowing the crosses that we have and show them how He has worked with us in forgiving our sins. 

I was thinking about my brother priests some of whom say, “Oh, I could do the job you do at the VA.”   In some small sense they could, but in other ways they couldn’t.  I had this one man come in who wanted to talk to a priest who was a veteran.  So, he comes in and he has all these graduate level books on prayer and spirituality.  I was impressed.  He said that he belonged to this prayer group and that prayer group and was doing this and that.  He wanted to know what else I would suggest he do.  I said, “They tell me your wife just died.  Did you love her?”  Yes.  “Do you miss her?”  Yes.  “What branch of service were you in?”  Army.  “So was I.  Were you in Vietnam?”   Yes, I was in Vietnam.   “What did you do – what was your MOS (Military Occupation Specialty)?”  I was a medic.   So, I said “Doc, how many soldiers did you save?”  I don’t know.  “I believe that – I really do.  How many did you lose?”  And he knew every one of those he lost and saw their faces every day.   This man was really suffering.  His wife had died, and she was the one who had helped him keep it together after Vietnam.  She had been his crutch and now that it was taken away from him, he had to face what happened in Vietnam as well as the loss of his wife.  No other priest in the diocese could talk to this man unless they had been where I had.  So, God has used my little trips overseas and all the fun I had while there so that I can talk to soldiers. 

God can use whatever crosses you have.  Renounce your very self to help others.  I don’t like my crosses all the time.  I really don’t.  I can be a little whiner at any time.  But that’s a wonderful thing because it makes me small, and I have to rely on God’s grace.  And in the words of Saint Therese of Liseux, “When I am small, I am safe.”  

How will you apply this message to your life?___________________________________

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