Sermon Notes – Choose Life

“Choose Life”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

June 15-16, 2019

Scripture: John 16: 12-15

The other day, a young man who is working on his masters’ degree stopped by my office to ask me some questions about the Catholic faith. This happens from time to time, but this guy asked me an interesting question. He wanted to know what the Catholic Church has to offer Stanly County. I told him that the beauty of the Catholic faith is that we have the fullness and splendor of truth and the means for salvation. We are blessed. You can look it up in the Catachism. In 2000 years, that has never changed. Small changes have occurred such as the Kleenex hats that women wore at one time, but the teachings of Christ remain.

Unfortunately, many people don’t like the truth, but that doesn’t change it. When Christ told the rich young man he should give his belongings to the poor in order to gain eternal life, the man walked away because he couldn’t handle the truth (Matthew 19:16-22). Did Christ change His mind and call the man back? No. When He told the crowd in Capernaum that they must eat His body and drink His blood so that they could live forever, many of His disciples abandoned Him (John 6:54-66). Did Christ change His mind then? No. Because, the truth is the truth. So, when given the choice, choose life!

God is love, and His nature is love. He offers us salvation and precise ways in which to achieve it. We should be grateful, because we didn’t have to earn it…Christ paid that price for us on the cross. It’s a gift from Him. Do we deserve it? No, but, He gave it to us because He loves us. When we make mistakes, we are called to get up and try again. God loves even the most grievous among us. I visit prison inmates regularly…God loves them too. Some of those felons won’t be leaving prison until they die. Recently, I was talking to two young ladies and I told them that the only person who can drive Christ from your heart is you through sin. It can be hard to keep His commandments. I know, because I think a lot about me, and sometimes what I want is not what He wants for me. But, if we follow His commandments, we can live in His Love. You have probably heard the phrase “What would Jesus do?” The answer is do whatever He tells you.

There is nothing wrong with the Catholic faith. The problem lies in how we practice it. Faith, hope, and charity were infused into us at our baptism and are replenished through the sacraments. But, faith, unless applied, is useless. How do we apply our faith? By being generous to others who are less fortunate. Our generosity is the body of Christ in action.

We are not a small group. There is us and about one billion other Catholics. So, we are not alone, and we pray for one another. We are part of the body of Christ….a community of one. In contrast, Protestant religions are very divided and often consist of a small group of people in a building. In Statesville, there used to be two First Baptist churches…one white and one black. But, our faith is not determined by the color of our skin or our nationalities. We are all Catholic…not Spanish Catholic, French Catholic, or Irish Catholic.

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you put your faith in to action by being generous to others who are less fortunate?

Sermon Notes – Put Your Love Into Action

“Put Your Love Into Action”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

May 25-26, 2019

Scripture: John 14: 23-29

23) Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. 24) Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. 25) “I have told you this while I am with you. 26) The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. 27) Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. 28) You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29) And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.

While meditating today, I thought about the lyrics from “My Fair Lady.” During one scene, Eliza Doolittle tells Professor Higgins that she is sick of his words and that if he is in love, he must show her; otherwise, he is wasting her time. You see, the word “love” is a verb, and it implies action. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). In other words, if you love Him, you must show Him. Your love is expressed in action and it will draw you close to God. Is it always easy? No, sometimes it will be difficult and unpleasant.

Priests take three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. Want to know which one is the most difficult to keep? Obedience is by far the most difficult. A good example is the difficulty our first parents, Adam and Eve, had obeying the only rule they had: they were not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, else they would die. But, we want what we want when we want it. It’s all about us. Love, instead, always thinks about others first. Saint Augustine said that work itself is love: “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”

People sometimes tell me that they are Catholic, they believe in God, and they love Him, but they don’t go to church. Really? Is it so difficult to spend less than one hour a week to show your love and gratitude to Him who suffered and died for our sins so that we might have eternal life? Is that love? Nah…that is not love.

The goodness of soldiers and their love for one another is abundant. How do they show it? Well, during long road marches, if a soldier is struggling with their heavy back packs, other soldiers shoulder and carry the packs for them. When a soldier falls, the others pick the soldier up and carry him or her. When we lose soldiers, it is our hands that take them to their graves. This is love by doing.

Father’s Afterthoughts…

Monday is Memorial Day. It bothers me greatly that people don’t observe the day respectfully by honoring soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom. Instead, it is a day for “White Sales” and barbecues. How sad. Nobody loves a soldier until the enemy is at the gates.

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you put your love into action?

Sermon Notes – Confirmation and First Communion

“Confirmation and First Communion”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

May 18-19, 2019

Scripture: John 13:31-35

31) When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32) If God has been glorified in him God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33) Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34) I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35) By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Sacraments are Christ’s own gifts that provide us with His grace. The Sacraments build upon each other; for example, as children, we grow spiritually through our baptism, confirmation, penance, and first communion. The first time we saw Jesus was at our baptism which is when we became children of God and began preparing to receive the other Sacraments. Confirmation unites us closer to Him, because as we learn more about our faith, we understand just how much God loves us. His love enables us to bear our crosses and to profess our faith to others. You are a witness in the world by showing others how you bear your crosses. But, you must have fortitude (courage), because you will suffer for the faith. People will insult you….even so, you must carry your cross and bear the insults with grace. The Sacrament of First Communion strengthens us as we receive Christ’s body and blood. Holy Communion unites us even closer to Him.

Next month, I celebrate 35 years as a priest. Am I the same? No. I have less hair and more weight. When I eat carrots, am I happy? No. Are carrots good for me? Yes. We all got polio shots when we were young. Did I understand what the shot did? No. Did the shot help me? Yes. It is the same when we do God’s work…we may not feel good doing it, we may not understand it, and it may be hard, but it’s good for us.

Will you feel different next week now that you have been confirmed or received First Communion? Yes. Does that mean you will be happier? No. I have asked married couples if they are as happy today as they were on their wedding day. They say “No”…It is better, because they have grown in love…but, it’s different. Confirmation and First Communion are not stopping places in your Catholic life. You should grow in faith; otherwise, it becomes dusty and moldy. To grow in your faith and love for God, practice the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Do good and avoid evil. God gives us the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. We will need those gifts in times of trouble. But His gifts are not overpowering….YOU must choose to use them.

Parents are the primary teachers of the faith. They are fulfilling their duties by bringing you up in the Catholic faith. Thank your parents, grandparents, and teachers. They have helped bring you to this day. Finally, pray a prayer of thanksgiving. Sadly, it is rarely said.

Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits and blessings which you have given me, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for me. Merciful Friend, Brother and Redeemer, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Saint Richard of Chichester (1198-1253)

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you use the gifts He has given us to grow in faith and love?

Sermon Notes – It’s Your Choice

“It’s Your Choice”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

May 11 – 12, 2019

Scripture: John 20: 27-30

27) My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28) I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. 29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. 30) *The Father and I are one.”

Who has more power than God? You know the answer….You do! You are the only one who can say “No” to Him. Even Satan cannot make that decision for you. Nobody but you can leave God’s protective embrace. Adam & Eve chose to leave Him. We have the same free will to choose.

There are two kinds of Will: Directive and Permissive. Directive Will refers to the laws of physics. For example, an object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it. Permissive Will refers to that which God allows to happen. For example, God allows sinful behavior, even though He does not desire it.

Jesus said we would not be comfortable following Him. Instead, He said “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23–24). This teaching is hard, because we want what we want when we want it. It’s even more difficult because of our refusal to love. God is love, but His love is not forced…it cannot and will not force itself on anyone.

The disciples left Christ alone on several occasions…during His Passion being one. Another occasion was after He had fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. When the people wanted to hear more, Christ told them that He is the Bread of Life and that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. This shocked some of the disciples and they chose to leave Him. Jesus asked those who remained if they also wanted to leave, and Peter replied, “Lord, to whom should we go?” (John 6: 54-57).

So many of my family and college classmates have left the church. They either didn’t like what the priest said or what he did. They say that they are more comfortable where they are. But, you know what? It’s not about your comfort. More importantly, none of the other faiths have the truth…only the Catholic Church has that.

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you choose Christ or will you leave Him”

Sermon Notes – You Need a Surgeon…

“You Need a Surgeon…Not a Dermatologist”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

April 27-28, 2019

Scripture: John 20: 19-31

19) On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20) When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.* The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21) [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22) And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23) Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” 24) Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25) So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26) Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28) Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29) Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” 30) Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. 31)But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Some of the questions we often hear from non-Catholics are “Where does it say in the bible that we must confess our sins to a priest? Why can’t I go straight to God to confess my sins and ask Him for forgiveness?” Well, for the same reason when you have appendicitis, it’s best to see a surgeon rather than a dermatologist. In John 20:22-23, the Lord gave His apostles the Holy Spirit and said “the sins you forgive are forgiven.” So, for a good spiritual diagnosis and prescription, go to a priest for confession. He will know whether you have Perfect or Imperfect Contrition. Our contrition is perfect when we are sorry for our sins because we love God and sin offends Him. Our contrition is imperfect when we are sorry for our sins because we fear God’s punishment. During confession, a priest can help you understand which one you have and recommend ways to break or avoid bad habits.

Another question I’m sometimes asked is “Isn’t it good enough to get a general absolution?” Well, you still need to go to Confession afterward and as soon as possible. During my 35+ years in the priesthood, I have given a general absolution only once and that was when I was giving a Mass to soldiers in Iraq, and we began taking incoming fire.

We must preach penance for the remission of sin. We also must preach God’s love …and the mercy manifested in it. But, you cannot talk about that which you’ve never experienced. This isn’t something that can be learned by reading books; instead, it comes from firsthand experience. Priests need to be able to make it real for people. They must have the fire of God burning in their bellies that comes only from knowing and loving Him. Otherwise, priests lose credibility, and people won’t believe what they say.

As you may know, I volunteer as a hospital chaplain at the Veterans Hospital in Salisbury. The nurses often call me when they know patients are close to death. Why do they call me? Because they know that, through God’s grace, I always come so that I can show those nearing death God’s love and mercy. But, priests are not the only ones called to do this. You also have that responsibility.

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you share your firsthand experience of God’s love and mercy with those who need to hear your story?

Sermon Notes – He is Risen

“He is Risen”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

April 20-21, 2019

Scripture: John 20: 1-9

1) On the first day of the week, a Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 2) So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 3) So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4) They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5) he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6) When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7) and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8) Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9) For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

God created humans with both a body and a soul. After we have fulfilled our work on earth and suffered the burdens of old age, we will close our eyes and our bodies will die. We were never meant to die; God created us to enjoy eternal life with Him. But, thanks to our original parents, we all will experience death. However, the body does not wish to die even though it participated as we committed the sin of gluttony by eating and drinking too much. Nevertheless, we will pass, or transition, from this life to the next and go before God. Our bodies will be perfected, because nothing is imperfect in God’s presence.

It is natural to fear death. But, our fear of death is lessened as we draw closer to the Lord. The more you fall in love with God and trust Him, the easier the thought of death becomes. Satan, the father of lies, tells us that death is miserable. He also promises us joy, but never delivers. These are all lies. We tend to believe the worse, because it’s so hard to believe the truth… that God has an overwhelming love for us…that He is merciful and will forgive our sins.

We know what will happen when we die…what waits on the other side. There will be no pain, no sorrow, no suffering…only perfect joy. Peter, James, and John observed the transfiguration of the Lord while He spoke to Moses and Elijah and as the veil of humanity was lowered. (Matthew 17:1-4). We, like them, will also see God face-to-face. Some will stay long enough for just a cup of coffee and others will spend eternity with Him.

I once met a man in Hospice who had been married for 75 years. When the man died, his wife said “He left me.” I told her that her husband had just left for work and that he was preparing a new place for her. Cooperate with the Lord so that you can be with Him in the next life. Sometimes, we feel abandoned by God. But, He never has and never will leave us; instead, He keeps circling and hoping we will reach out to Him. Our Lord is listening and waiting. He said that He is preparing a place for us and that we know the way (John 14:2-4). From the cross, He has given us the means to join him.

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you draw close to God so that the fear of death is lessened and you can spend eternity with Him?

Sermon Notes – The Coronation

“The Coronation”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

April 13 – 14, 2019

Scripture: Luke 22: 14-26; 56

14) When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. 15) He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, 16) for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17) Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18) for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19) *Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” 20) And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.The Betrayal Foretold. 21) “And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; 22) for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.” 23) And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.The Role of the Disciples. 24) Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. 25) He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; 26) but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. 56) When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.”

When something happens in England with the royal family, we are all fascinated and glued to our televisions. There’s lots of pageantry especially at royal weddings. It’s the same here. At the beginning of the Passion, we are watching the coronation of the Lord which was 33 years in the making. We are proclaiming Christ is King

.Look upon the crucifix and the crown of thorns and you see the cost of sin. You also see the sign of the eternal love He has for us. We should have a crucifix in our homes and offices. In fact, put one everywhere as a constant reminder. And, when you see the crucifix at unexpected times, smile and know that you are greatly loved. Remember His words: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw you to Me, and you will be with me in paradise.” (John 12:32)

While at a conference in Maggie Valley, I saw lots of dream catchers but not a crucifix. Why not a crucifix? Because it might offend people. Well, if they are offended by that, they need to be offended. People are afraid of offending Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus…even atheists. But, it’s okay to offend Christ by putting Him up on the cross. Put simply – deny the cross and you deny your faith. When we see a crucifix, He is calling to us. So, stop the tug of war with Him and answer! The Lord will always be on the cross…He will never come down from it. The crucifix brings us the graces we need for salvation. Who in their right mind would be offended by that? So, don’t shy away from the crucifix, and don’t be ashamed of it. Instead, display it prominently so that when people see it He can call to them and they will know they are loved.

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you stop the tug of war with Christ and answer Him? Will you display the crucifix at home and at work so that you and others can be reminded of His great love?

Sermon Notes – His Greatest Gift

“His Greatest Gift”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

April 6 – 7, 2019

Scripture: John 8: 1-11

1) While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2) But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3) Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. 4) They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5) Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.* So what do you say?” 6) They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. 7) But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8) Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9) And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. 10) Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11) She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin anymore.”

Today is the First Sunday of the Passion. You may be wondering why the crucifix, statues and pictures of the Holy Family in the sanctuary have been covered. This is an ancient custom which stems from when the Lord went to Jerusalem and hid from the Pharisees. The coverings will be removed on Holy Saturday.

Of all the virtues, the primary one is justice, because without it, there can be no mercy. Experiencing God’s mercy is the greatest of His gifts. But, we must first admit that we have sinned to receive that gift. We must plead guilty. We must open our hearts and ask for God’s mercy. At the Sacrament of Confession, God forgives and forgets…He is merciful.

The Pharisees and elders committed the sin of scandal. They brought the woman who had committed adultery to Jesus. The Pharisees knew the law, but did not understand its purpose. They wanted vengeance…not justice. They needed to be reminded of God’s mercy. When Jesus bent down to write on the ground, He probably wrote the sins of the Pharisees and elders. This is the only time in scripture that Jesus wrote anything. After they left, the Lord told the woman to take up her cross and to follow Him. No matter how bad you think you are, God is always merciful. But, I have a question….it takes two people to commit adultery, so why didn’t the Pharisees bring the adulterous man to Jesus too?

Those who love God want to grow closer to Him. The closer you draw to God, the more you realize how sinful you are. All sin, both mortal and venial, hurts us because it moves us away from God. The difference between committing a mortal sin and a venial sin is whether you punch your wife or slap her. Both are bad. When you go to the emergency room, the medical staff is going to ask you what is wrong. If you aren’t sick, you don’t need a doctor and you don’t need to be at the hospital. It’s the same with church. If you think that you haven’t done anything that bad…then you don’t need to be here. And, if you are thinking that what you did wasn’t that bad, after all, you only missed one Mass, let me know how it feels when you miss just one heartbeat. Babies are the only ones here who are without sin.

The Church is holy because of what it contains…the Sacraments and the Deposit of Faith. One of my prison felons told me that he never left Christ…just the Church. But, this goes against scripture. Have you ever read the Book of Acts? Saul was trying to destroy the Church by imprisoning Christians. When Christ asked Saul why he was persecuting Him, Saul fell to his knees and was blind for three days. The Holy Church has been entrusted with teaching scripture to the faithful and helping them understand it. People complain that they don’t understand what is being said when the Mass is done in Latin. Hey, guess what…the priest is not talking to you!! The Church wants everyone to be saved…to have eternal life. Even when someone commits a grievous sin, they do not receive a severe punishment from the Church…it’s more of a slap on the back of the head. There are medicinal remedies…if you continue in your ways, you will die. There are also spiritual remedies including suspension from the church (for clerics); excommunication – the most severe punishment because you are cut off from the sacraments; and Interdiction – a temporary penalty, but you cannot receive sacraments until after reconciliation.

You don’t need to know everything in the Catechism to lead others to Him. Just tell them your story. When you evangelize, tell people what God has done for you…that He is merciful and has forgiven you. But, before you can tell anyone else about His mercy, you have to experience it first. Come experience God’s mercy before Easter and then go out and lead others to Him.

How will you apply this message to your life? Will you accept His gift of mercy by going to confession?

Sermon Notes – The Journey Home

“The Journey Home”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

March 30-31, 2019

Scripture: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

1) The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2) but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3) So to them he addressed this parable 11) Then he said, “A man had two sons, 12) and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. 13) After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. 14) When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. 15) So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. 16) And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. 17) Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. 18) I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19) I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.” 20) So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. 21) His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son. 22) But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23) Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, 24) because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. 25) Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. 26) He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. 27) The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28) He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. 29) He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. 30) But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ 31) He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. 32) But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

On April 29th, I will be going home to Rhode Island. As I get close to home, I am filled with anticipation. When the plane nears the airport, I try to identify the seven islands, buildings, and other landmarks. I’m excited about seeing my loved ones: chicken parmesan, steak fries, and Dunkin Doughnuts.

We all want to go the heaven, our eternal home, but we don’t look forward to the trip. I’m not looking forward to the journey either. Death is unnatural. We were never meant to die, but, because of the sin of our original parents, it is something we all must face. However, as we grow in love for God, our fear of death subsides. We need to focus on the destination and anticipate seeing our Lord. Once in heaven, we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before, and we can work on those left behind so that they can join us.

Most of us don’t realize how close to death we are. We don’t know when it will come, so we need to constantly prepare ourselves. How? By going to Confession. That’s where we receive the Savior and the joy of His love. Some people are afraid to go. That is the sin of pride. Others think they will shock me. Believe me, you couldn’t tell me anything I haven’t heard before. Hearing confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn. Have you committed the sin of bestiality? Are you a Marine? A Paratrooper? Did you marry your 14-year old first cousin? No? Thinking that your sin is so grievous that nobody has ever committed it is false humility. At the other extreme are those who think they haven’t done anything wrong. Well, it is nice to meet you, Mary.

How will you apply this message to your life? Death will come for all of us…how will you prepare for yours? Will you go to Confession at least every three months or more often if needed? Will you grow in your faith and love for God so that death is no longer feared?

Sermon Notes – The Thirst of Jesus

“The Thirst of Jesus”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

March 23-24, 2019

When Jesus arrived at the well, He was weary and thirsty. A woman was also at the well drawing water even though it was the hottest part of the day. She was an adulterous and, because of her shame, avoided the other women…she was a social outcast. Jesus asked the woman for some water. The woman was a Samaritan, and she was shocked that He, a Jew, would dare speak to her. Christ already knew about the woman’s sinful and unhappy life. He pointed out to her that she had been married five times and was living with a sixth man. She had sought peace and happiness that the things of this world cannot provide. She hadn’t found anyone or anything to satisfy the deep longing of her heart until she met Jesus.

We don’t know if Christ ever received the water He had requested from her…however, His real thirst was for this woman’s salvation. Even when the apostles returned with food, He was more intent on doing God’s will than satisfying His hunger. After meeting Jesus, the woman left her water pot at the well and began spreading the gospel with great zeal. She was the first evangelist and led many to Christ. Saint Photina was martyred for her efforts.

What is the price of a soul…Catholic or not? Each person is made in the image of God. Christ died to save us all. He came for the forgotten and the marginalized. The woman at the well was a floozy…an outcast. Nobody wanted to be around her. But, Our Lord came for her too. He wanted her to enter paradise. No soul is so marred by sin that He doesn’t seek its salvation.

By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to evangelize. We are called to lead souls to Him…to seek to save what is lost. How do we approach people? Well, we don’t do it by telling them what to do…nobody likes that. We also don’t talk down to them…they will put up walls. We do what Jesus did…we tell them the truth. Tell them your story and what God’s salvation has done in your life. Sometimes, people like to play “Stump the Priest” with me. They’ll ask where things are in the bible. These folks are just evading the truth. But, our only responsibility is for making the effort…for planting the seed. The result is out of our hands.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower, was a cloistered nun in France. She once prayed fervently for a condemned prisoner who stubbornly resisted God’s love. He basically told the priest to “stuff it.” But, Saint Therese continued to pray in earnest, cloistered inside her convent, for the condemned man. Right before he was executed, the prisoner cried out for the cross and kissed the crucifix. Is that man in heaven? We do not know. The point is that we are not limited by time and place. We do not have to be face-to-face with the people we are trying to reach. Like Saint Therese, we can offer up our prayers and sacrifices for those who are lost.

While I was serving in Iraq, I took a 2-hour drive north to the town of Baja. It was a cool 136 degrees outside, and the military vehicle I was riding in did not have air conditioning. To make the trip even more fun, we encountered a sand storm on the way. But…there were souls to save….soldiers who needed God’s salvation. We cannot allow minor inconveniences prevent us from spreading His love.

Sometimes a bit of street cred helps me reach people that those without it cannot. When I’m working at the VA Hospital, I wear a 101st Air Born patch that was given to me. And, if that doesn’t work, I rely on drugs. When a patient tells me they don’t want last rites, I just wait until the drug cart has left the patient’s room. It’s amazing how a little morphine changes a patient’s outlook and response.

Priests receive training to prepare them to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons. Although they don’t like it, they go. Nobody likes going to the hospital…there’s a lot of yuck. It’s the same with prisons…nobody wants to go. However, this is exactly what we are called to do:

35) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36) naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Matthew 25:35-36

How will you apply this message to your life? God thirsts for our love and faith. He wants us to bring that faith and love to others. Will you quench His thirst by telling people your story of salvation? Will you love Him in your neighbor and in those people He places in your life?