I want to talk about CPR today. Normally with CPR, we think of (I had to look this up) cardiopulmonary resuscitation when you resuscitate somebody. But today, I want to talk about spiritual CPR and how we need to have spiritual CPR done to us in different parts of our lives. The acronym for CPR that I want to use today is, first of all, Commit, C for commit. P is perplexed when we become perplexed by God or perplexed in our faith, and then R is recommitted. So, Commit, Perplexed, Recommit.
I want to talk about the first reading and commitment. We have Joshua, who is trying to work with his people who have gone to idols. They have strayed away from the Lord, and he gets to this point in his life where he tries to commit so strongly that he says, “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the river or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.”
Then he says this compelling line, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Notice, he makes a commitment not only for himself but for his household.
I was with a family recently to baptize their child, and when I got back to their home, we were in the kitchen, and they have a plaque in their kitchen that says, “As for me and my household, we will serve margaritas.” I laughed, but I said to her, “Alright, that is funny, but I want to see a sign on your front door that says, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” She said, “I am going to start looking right now. We are either going to make a sign or buy a sign, and we are going to put it on our door that says, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We need to commit ourselves to the Lord and not only ourselves but our household. You, who are parents, grandparents, have hopefully made that decision and if you have not, commit yourself to serve the Lord. Not only you, but you have authority over your household. You may think that you do not at times, but you are given that authority to commit yourself and your household to the Lord.
When we think about committing ourselves to Christ, I realize that some of you may not have had that opportunity. We have our initiation sacraments often pretty young in our lives. You were baptized as infants, so many of you did not have that commitment at that point. You received Communion in second grade. Some of you may have committed yourself at that point, but I imagine that some of you might have been too young. Then we receive Confirmation when we are confirmed fully in our faith. So, we often go through the motions, and we really have not ever committed ourselves to the Lord.
I have been pretty blessed as a priest because I had opportunities to do that. I want to give you a couple of illustrations because they might help you think about your own life and ways that you can commit yourself to the Lord.
It all began with me when I was thinking about entering the seminary. I had thought about entering the priesthood since I was in second grade. I received my First Holy Communion, and my Godmother came up to me, and she looked at me, and she said, “You look like you would be a great priest one day.” Do you know what I did? I went like this because I did not want to be a priest. I wanted to be married, have a family, and have a fun life, and I did not think a priesthood was fun. It is, by the way. I remember I carried that with me my whole life, but I never acted on it. It did not come until my last year in college, and it was a Friday night, and I was with my friends, and we were getting ready to go to the flats and party and drink and do all the things that I did in my high school years. I get a call from my brother, my older brother, and he was actually going to make a retreat at the seminary, and he called me and said, “Hey, I think you should come with me Friday night at 7 o’clock,” and I remember thinking I probably should do that. So, I walked out to my backyard to take a moment to pray, and I remember the sun was setting, and I looked up at the sky, and it was beautiful, and a memory came to my mind. When I was born, I was born with a blockage in my throat, and my parents and Godparents came: I was in an incubator, and they laid hands on me. As they were laying hands on me, my Godmother said to my parents, “Michael is a gift from God, and with any gift, you have to be willing to give him back to God.” So, my parents prayed over me and surrendered me, and gave me to God. The next morning, they went to do surgery, and as they did the pre-op x-ray, the blockage was gone, and the doctor himself said, “It is a miracle. I do not know how else that could be explained.” So, as I am praying in my backyard, this memory comes to my mind, “Michael is a gift from God, and you have to be willing to give him back to Him.” At that moment, I thought, “Alright, I can give myself to God.” So, I went on this retreat at the seminary, and during the retreat, I was starting to feel more and more that this was my call. I remember saying to God, “I have to give up a lot to do this, so if this is what you want me to do, I need you to make it clear.” So, I went to the courtyard, and there was a statue of Mary, and before the Blessed Mother, I asked God, “Please give me a sign. Make this clear for me.” Now, I am a little bit slow on the uptake with God sometimes. So, the wind started to blow through the courtyard, and I felt it come across me, and I really felt the Holy Spirit, but then I said to God, “That is not going to do it. You have to do a little better than that if I am going to give up my life for you.” Then I remember this strong wind blew across me. There was just a vortex of wind in that courtyard. It blew so strong that the hairs on my arms and back started to stand up straight, and I fell, and I took a deep breath, and I felt the Holy Spirit and I said, “OK, I will enter the seminary.”
I entered the seminary, and during that time, I wrestled with this still. Am I able to be a priest? Am I holy enough to be a priest? Do I want to be a priest? It seemed more and more that I had these wonderful experiences, and yes, this is what God is calling me to. Then there came a moment right before my ordination, the week before. I thought, “Alright, God again, I need you to speak clearly to me.” I remember praying in the seminary chapel, and I was asking God if this is where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing. There was this older priest, Fr. John Murphy, very tall. He had a very deep voice, and he could be intimidating. He walks over to me in the chapel, points down at my breviary, and says, “You belong here. You belong here.” That gave me the final go-ahead for the priesthood, and when I told that story to my spiritual director, he said, “If you decide to do this, put your hands to the plow and never look back.” It is a verse from scripture, “If you decide to do this, put your hands to the plow and never look back.” That is when I made my commitment, and I was ordained. I put my hands to the plow, and I have never looked back since. I love it. I am a joyful priest. I am a happy priest, and it has been a wonderful experience.
I ask you to think about that. Have you committed yourself to the Lord? If you have not, maybe this could happen right at this mass, to commit yourself to the Lord.
Married couples, a lot of you on your wedding day committed, right? You promised to love each other through good times and in bad. This is where I want to talk about the next P, which is perplexed. You promised to love each other through good times and in bad, and we hear this statement from St. Paul to the Ephesians where he says, “Wives you should be subordinate to your husbands.” Husbands, this is your chance to elbow your wives. Make sure they hear this, “Wives should be subordinate to your husbands.” But then we hear in the very next line, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” What did Christ do for the church? He offered Himself in sacrifice. He allowed Himself to be crucified and to die for the church. So, husbands, you are called to lay down your life for your bride. Wives, this is where you get to elbow your husbands and make sure they hear that.
There is a phrase in marriage, and it is used in priesthood too, “When the honeymoon is over.” You get married, you are getting engaged, you go on your honeymoon, you come back, and then at some point you look at your spouse, and you think, “What did I do? Who did I marry?” You begin to be perplexed that there is more to this person that you discovered, and the more you live your lives together, you become more and more perplexed with each other.
Then we hear in the Gospel this recommitment. So, P is Perplexed, and then R is Recommitment. But, perplexed, we can all go through that in any of our lives. Perplexed with our faith especially. Maybe there are times that you have heard a teaching from the church, and you are perplexed as to why the church teaches that. Or maybe you have been perplexed when the church shut down for almost a year. That had to be perplexing for all of you because it was perplexing to me. Maybe you have been hurt by a priest as we think about the priest scandal, or maybe you have been disillusioned and perplexed by the priesthood. All of us need times of being perplexed, and perplexed does mean to be confused, disoriented, and ultimately disillusioned, and there comes a time in our lives when that will happen to us.
This is where we transition into recommitting. In the Gospel, Jesus gives the disciples this teaching; it is right before the paragraph that you did not hear today: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have no life within you.” Some of the disciples are so perplexed that they walk away. They leave Jesus at that time, and they go back to their former ways of life. They are so perplexed that Jesus says to the disciples that remain, “Do you also want to leave?” and now that leads us to recommitment. Simon Peter answers Him and says, “Master, to whom else shall we go? Where else can I go?” and he says, “You have the words of eternal life, and we have come to believe and are convinced that you are the holy one of God.”
Sometimes in our lives, we need this spiritual CPR. We need this final recommitment, this living in the resurrection after being disillusioned or going through a night of the spirit of the night of the soul. We need a recommitment from time to time. I invite you to think about that.
Which one are you right now? Are you one who never had the opportunity to commit your life to the Lord, and if you have not, maybe this is just an invitation to commit yourself to Him? Are you perplexed? Are you confused about your faith? Are you perplexed by things that happened? Are you perplexed by people that have not come back after this time? It is OK to acknowledge that and say, “I am perplexed right now.” But then, after some time, there needs to be a recommitment. So there needs to be a recommitment to the Lord, a recommitment to your faith, a recommitment to your church. So that hopefully all of us can have that same authority that proclaims, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Commit . . . Perplexed . . . Recommit
After this homily, I want you to take a moment to think about where you are and where God may be calling you to be.