I think there are two types of people in this world and two types of people in our faith: Bare-minimum type people and above-and-beyond type people. There are people who like to do the bare minimum, and then there are people that you meet that love to do above and beyond. I would like for all of us all to think about this for ourselves during this homily. Which type of person are we? Are we a bare minimum type of person when it comes to loving God and loving our neighbor, or are we the type of person that loves to go above and beyond?
Now we hear in the Gospel reading that the scholar of the law is a bare-minimum type of person. This is the indicator right here. He says, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” What is the bare minimum I can do and still get to heaven? That is what he asked Jesus. Jesus responds, obviously, to go to scripture to find your answer.
We hear from the passage, “You shall love the Lord your God with all our heart, all your mind, all your strength and all your self.” Does that sound like a bare-minimum type of love? No. Loving God with all your heart is above and beyond, loving God above and beyond.
That is what I would like to reflect on today. How do we do that with God? How do we love him above and beyond, and how do we love our neighbor above and beyond because the tendency is to want to do the bare minimum.
Mother Teresa came to this country once, and she was in New York City. A reporter was interviewing her. The reporter was asking her questions, and then the reporter just stopped, and said to Mother Teresa, “Mother, I feel so sorry for you. I feel so sorry for you and the people of Calcutta.”
Mother Teresa looked at the reporter, as only Mother Teresa could do, and said, “I feel sorry for you people.” The reporter looked stunned, and said, “What do you mean?” Mother Teresa said, “I feel sorry for you people in America because you have a poverty greater than any poverty I have seen anywhere in the world. You don’t know God, and you don’t love him with all your heart and your mind and your soul.”
So, it is with that premise that I would like to start this homily. As I mentioned before I am a priest of an institute called Voluntas Dei. Voluntas Dei means “the will of God.” It is a secular institute. There are two types of institutes: secular and religious.
Examples of religious orders are the Franciscans and Dominicans. Those are religious. This is secular, so that means it is for people like you and me: Diocesan priests, people in the pews, single and married. It is ultimately an institute to help us do God’s will and love Him with all of our heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbor as our self.
I know Father likes to do things in sets of three. I picked up that hint already. What I am going to do is to first introduce you to the spirituality of Voluntas Dei. The spirituality of Voluntas Dei is actually called “the three fives.” They are very simple. Now kids and young adults here, I will give ten bucks to anybody who can remember the three fives at the end of Mass. The first one that comes up to me and remembers them gets ten bucks, alright?
I want this to be an examination for ourselves to determine if we love God with all our heart, mind and soul and our neighbor as our self, or are we doing the bare minimum. So, here is the first of the three fives. Ready?
- Meditation every single day. We take time to meditate and contemplate. Taking some time for daily meditation and contemplation.
- Reading scripture and the lives of the saints. Spending some time every day doing some spiritual reading of scripture and the lives of the saints.
- Celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives. Celebrating Eucharist on Sundays and daily if we can.
- Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Trying at any moment throughout our day just to go before the Blessed Sacrament and spend some time with God.
- Devotion to our Blessed Mother. Praying the Rosary or having some kind of devotion to our Blessed Mother.
Those five really set the foundation every day of having this spiritual daily rhythm of loving God with all of our heart, mind and soul. Now I just want you to think about that for yourself. Do you do those five things every day? Are we at the bare minimum with loving God, or do we go above and beyond with loving God?
Now the second five have to do with other people – looking outward in our world.
The next two I will tell you are the most challenging of Voluntas Dei. Are you ready for them?
- Having the presence of God. When we encounter other people, we experience the presence of God. When things happen during our day, we are aware that God is present in everything that we do.
- Having an absence of criticism.
- Having an absence of complaint. So, no criticism and no complaint. Parents wouldn’t you love your children to learn these three fives? Absence of criticism and absence of complaint.
- We are ultimately to be people of service and availability, so if anybody needs us at any time, we make ourselves available to them.
- We are called to be peacemakers. Our world, country, and families are so divided. We are called to be peacemakers.
The second set of five really helps us to love our neighbor as our self. And finally, the third set of five goes with that as well. The third set of five is just five acts of service. During the day, we are supposed to do five things throughout the day that are really considered an act of service and, in some way, we could be of service to our brothers and sister.
That is the spirituality of Voluntas Dei. Ultimately, the charism is to help everybody do the will of God in our lives.
Mother Teresa also believed that we could have in our lives a call within the call. So, we are called to be either single or married or priests or religious, but she also believed that we would have a call within a call. Her call was to serve the poor, especially in Calcutta, so she left her religious community to go and serve the poor in Calcutta.
About six years ago, I received a call-within-a-call from God. I felt he was asking me to focus on this spiritual poverty that Mother Teresa is talking about. So, I began developing apps, writing books, and doing a lot of social media and online presence to really try to help people learn how to connect with God the Father and to have that personal relationship and pray with him. The ministry I have is called the Prodigal Father. It is about helping people come to know God the Father’s love for them.
I say this because each and every one of you has a call-within-a-call. Have you discovered that yet? Do you know what God is calling you to particularly in this world that nobody else can do but you? He wants to fulfill something in you that is so unique and so beautiful. Ultimately, that is what Voluntas Dei is here for. We are here to help people come to know the will of God in their lives and to live out that call-within-a-call.
Basically, when I joined, I had all these questions. Am I able to focus on this full time? Should I stay in the parish and do this? I had all these questions and with every question the director of the institute just looked at me and said to me, “Michael, we are here to help you do God’s will. Can we help you with that?” I thought, “Yes! I would love someone to help me with that.” That’s the premise of the institute.
We are here to help you do God’s will in your life. So, if you are interested in that I would love for you to be a part of us. That is the first part of loving God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.
The second part, really briefly, and why I am here today, is to answer the questions of how do we love our neighbor and who is our neighbor? We hear the passage of the Good Samaritan today.
Today I am here to actually raise money for our institute over in Africa. The Institute in Ethiopia actually has two purposes. They have discerned that they want to focus on helping the elderly who are homeless. They provide health care and hospice care to the homeless who are elderly.
This also applies to you because this is St. Charles Borromeo. In this parish, your saint is the patron saint of seminarians. That is the other part. There are seminarians that are interested in joining Voluntas Dei, and we would like to help them fund their education to and formation to become priests.
So, those are two things we will be doing a second collection for at the end of Mass.
I do this all in the context that we should just look at ourselves and really ask ourselves a question. Are we a bare-minimum type of person or are we above and beyond? What I am hoping is that today might just spark a little desire in you to be that above and beyond and to want to give your whole life to God.
I thank you in advance for anything you can do to support the work of Voluntas Dei. You do not have to do anything, but even a few coins would help. I love that we hear in the Gospel that he took two silver coins, gave them to the innkeeper, and said take care of it. That is all I am asking for you to do. Just a few coins to send over to Ethiopia to take care of the people that need it. But, maybe you’ll feel called to even give above and beyond.
My dear brothers and sisters, we come here before our Lord today to renew ourselves in this Eucharist. My hope and my prayer is that none of us may be a bare-minimum type of Catholic or person. Instead, I hope that we truly want to go above and beyond, to give our lives to Jesus, to find that call-within-a-call, to love God with all of our hearts and our neighbor as our self.