Sunday, December 16, 2007

All are called for "deep down conversion" as was Matt Talbot

Homily: 26th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Christensen (USA)
September 26, 2005

There was a young man by the name of Matt Talbot. He was born in the late 1800’s into a poor family in Dublin Ireland , and he began drinking when he was only twelve years old, and not long after that he was sinking deep into alcoholism. He even got to the point where he started every day with beer. His mother knew he had had a problem and prayed very hard for him. It was 1 or 2 every morning when he came home from drinking and partying, but he wasn’t happy. Deep inside he wanted to cry and shout and beg for help, but he wasn’t ready just yet. He did not have the strength to part with his addiction.

Then came his conversion. Matt was 28 years old and had been drinking for sixteen years. He knew it would take faith to quit, more faith than he had, but he knew his mother’s faith would help him to ask the Lord for courage. He walked to the seminary of the Dublin archdiocese to find a priest so he could make confession and promise to stay sober. It had been three years since his last Confession and he had been drunk every single day except that day. A kind priest helped him make his confession and he made a promise to renounce alcohol for three months.

He thought three months of sobriety would be an eternity and he knew the first three months were going to be a terrible struggle. He did not believe he could do it on his own, but he knew where he would get his strength - he would go to Mass the next morning. In fact he went to Mass every morning after that for the rest of his life. It seemed like the church was the only place in all of Dublin where he felt safe from himself, so he decided he would fight his struggle in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Having remained sober for three months he took the pledge for another three months and at the end of that he took it for a year and at the end of the year he make a lifelong promise of sobriety. He wanted to do penance to make up for his sixteen years of drinking, so he slept on boards with a block of wood for his pillow, he fasted frequently and ate only enough food to stay alive. He also gave a lot of his weekly wages to charities. He was a changed man. He had truly converted in the depths of his being, not just on the outside, and now all these years later the investigation by the Church to declare him a saint has begun.

I tell this story about Matt Talbot because it reminds me of today’s Gospel where Jesus calls us to true, deep down conversion – one like Matt Talbot had. The gospel is quite clear that mere lip service will get us nowhere. No matter how many times we say we have converted and changed our sinful attitudes and habits, until we really turn to God with all our heart and soul nothing will truly change. Until we put our words into action, we are not really living our faith as fully as we could be. Sometimes it is all too easy to tell the Lord like the man in the parable “Yes Lord, I will work in your vineyard, I will follow you,” but then do just the opposite. It’s easy for us to say “I am Catholic,” but then reject many of the Church’s teachings. It’s easy to say “I am pro-life” but do nothing about the problem, or to say that we love Jesus, but never show that love by our prayer.

So today’s challenge is this: let’s all put our words into action – it’s never too late. If even tax collectors and prostitutes can change and enter the kingdom of heaven before those who only pay lip service to their faith, then it’s never too late for us. Like John Talbot we can make a good confession and reform our sinful attitudes and actions.

Now you are probably waiting for me to give you an example of something we can all do to put our words into action, so please put your pews in their full upright position and fasten your seatbelts, cause here it comes. As Catholics we believe that every life is valuable and has dignity no matter how small. We as Catholics are pro-life. It’s easy to throw that phrase around and proclaim to those around us that we are pro-life, but when was the last time that we did something about it. For many of us, we have, and I commend you wholeheartedly. You are truly working in Gods vineyard, not just paying lip service to it. For those of us who maybe haven’t put our words into action in a while your chance is coming soon. Next Sunday at 2 in the afternoon is the annual life chain. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to put our beliefs and words into action. It’s an opportunity to publicly witness to the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death, and all you have to do is stand there and pray. There are flyers available in the back of the Church for those of you who are interested. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every member of Holy Spirit parish who was available took part in the life chain? Imagine the witness it would provide to the entire city – truly we would be doing the work of God in his vineyard.

Of course this isn’t the only way that we can put our words into action; there are plenty of other ways. Things like finally committing to living your marriage as God intends, or if you are single living a chaste life free from impurity of any kind. It’s so easy to talk the talk, but Jesus asks us to go further than that. He calls us to walk the walk, so my brothers and sisters in Christ, strap on your walking shoes, and lets start walking.
Newer site for Fr. Christensen is

We are responsible for the title of this homily, not Fr. Christensen. (JB)