My colleague and close friend, Fr. Rich Toohey, rightly makes fun of me for using over-the-top illustrations in my preaching and teaching. The poor guy should know. We’ve worked together at numerous youth ministry events through the years, and he’s been forced to listen to more of my homilies than anyone should. But so as not to disappoint the good Fr. Toohey, allow me to use another one of those uber-expressive examples here.
So imagine this: You are on your way out of the house to pick up a cappuccino at your favorite coffee haunt, when you notice that the upper floor of your home is on fire. I mean, really on fire. Flames are bursting through the roof and licking the clouds. This is not good. After all, your autographed photo of the Turtleman is hanging on your bedroom wall. Fire is not going to be kind to that photo. The Turtleman needs to be saved.
But . . . and here comes the crazy, over-the-top illustration . . . you really are thirsting for that cappuccino. Mmmm, coffee. And the coupon you have for $.30 off the regular price expires today. If you fail to make it to the coffee shop because you’re dealing with a house fire, that coupon will be wasted. Can’t let that happen. So you think to yourself, maybe the fire won’t spread too much if I go really, really quickly to pick up the cappuccino first. Then, with cup in hand, I can come back and deal with the fire. Sounds like a plan.
Now, I know a lot of you out there really do like your caffeinated coffee goodness. Rumor has it that I drink the occasional cup myself. But there is no way – unless we’ve completely lost our marbles – that we’re going to let our house burn while we visit with the barista. Emergencies, house fires included, have to be dealt with immediately. There simply is no time to waste.
And that is our point here.
For way too many of the young people in our diocese, the Catholic Faith is becoming completely divorced from their lives. They go to school, but not to church. They practice athletics, but not prayer. They recite “One Direction” lyrics, but not the creed. They think about their friends, but not about Jesus. In other words, their spiritual house is on fire. Flames are leaping through the roof. Immortal souls are in horrible danger. And yet . . . sadly . . . me and you are slow to rush in to save them.
Please, let’s not wait any longer! We can begin right now to douse the flames and rescue souls. How? By praying every single day for the conversion of hearts. By begging our Lord and his Mother to foster the new Evangelization among our families. By offering fasting and mortification for individual souls. By encouraging young people to participate in Church activities. By going to daily Mass for the intention of young hearts. By ensuring that our own lives are in conformity with God and his commandments.
This is no time for hand-wringing or for lamenting how much better things once were. This is the time to turn to Jesus with faith, trust and confidence. You and me cannot change hearts by our own power, but united to Christ on the cross, wonders can be worked. Do we fear for the young people in our lives? Do we want them to know the love and peace we’ve found in Jesus? Do we long for them to experience the healing and consolation that only God can provide? Do we want them to know the joy of being saved? Then today is the day to put out the fires which threaten their souls. Before we go the coffee shop . . . before we do anything else . . . let’s offer a prayer for our young people. God, you know, can take it from there.
Be assured of my prayers,