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October 6, 2013

A couple invited their parish priest for Sunday dinner. While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the priest with a glass of wine in his hand, asked their son what they were having. “Goat,” the little boy replied.

“Goat,” repeated the startled man of the cloth, “Are you sure about that?” “Yep,” said the youngster. “I heard Dad say to Mom, “Today is just as good as any to have the old goat for dinner.”

Being called “an old goat” or whatever is not a main challenge of the priestly vocation. There are so many other challenges in our daily life. There are so many crises we all have to face. One family is struggling to keep the marriage together. A second family is facing chronic sickness. A third family has a child that constantly needs emotional support. A fourth family faces unemployment. A fifth family faces the death of a loved one. And, we in the face of violence, terrorism, natural disasters, ruin, misery, destruction, strife, wonder if God is aware of all our condition?

The readings of this Sunday are saying, "God is aware. Now have faith."

It sounds so simple. Have faith. It is certainly easy to say, "Have faith." But when the doctor says the condition is permanent, and the world is coming down around us, it is really so hard to have faith. Well, let me rephrase that, "It is hard to have faith amid the crises of our lives, unless faith has become our lifestyle."

One of the wonderful gifts of the priesthood is the continual exposure the priest has to people of faith. Many times I go into a home or into a hospital room where a person is dying. I'm sure you would think that this would be a terrible scene. Usually, it is not. People of faith, in the midst of tears, are most often ready to let go and trust God to care for their loved one. Many times the dying person himself or herself has such a deep faith that he or she radiates a peace in what could otherwise be a terror. And the priest realizes that he is among people whose service to the Lord is so strong, that they serve the Lord even in crises. So often I realize that these same people have spent their lives saying their prayers, performing acts of Christian charity, receiving the sacraments and living their convictions. Their faith life is so strong in their daily lives that it is their support in their times of crises. And it is easy for them to have faith because they are people of faith.

We come to Church seeking this type of faith. We ask God to help us to serve him in every aspect of our lives. We ask God to help us to raise our children to be people who joyfully serve their God. We pray that we might have a faith life that is so strong that the difficulties and crises we face will themselves become opportunities for us to place our trust in the Lord. Thanks be to God “for the righteous live by their faith.”

The problem of our time is that we are so proud of ourselves, our achievement, our technology and faith seems to be a luxury thing in our life. We are so used to finding an answer for any question just by simply pressing a button on our computer. In the back of our mind, we still believe in God but God is so abstract and so far away.

If we live that way, when something wrong happens to us, we easily fall into the hopelessness and forget that God still controls the human history and individual destiny

One day a group of eminent scientists got together and decided that humans had come a long way and no longer needed faith in the unseen God. So they picked one scientist to communicate with God by emails. Here are their emails:

Scientist: "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just retire?"

God: “Very well, but first, how about this, let's have a man-making contest."

Scientist: "OK, great!"

God: "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam: creating man from dirt."

Scientist, "Sure, no problem"

The scientist began to bend down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God appeared to him and said, "No, no, no. No cheating. You go and get your own dirt!"