Lenten Mission 2017-Week 1 On Holiness

Monday, March 6th, 2017

The following sermon was preached on the weekend of March 4th and 5th as part of the month long Parish Mission, “OLMC Calls You To Holiness” at Our Lady of Mount Carmel by our pastor, Fr. Dan O’Neill, O.Carm.

On Holiness: 1st Sunday in Lent, March 4th and 5th, 2017

Welcome to our parish Mission 2017. I have told you many times that I have been a pastor in 3 different parishes prior to coming here 2 years ago.

What I have not mentioned much, is that I was on the Carmelite Mission Band for 6 years from 1975 to 1981. The format of our mission was the format we are using here. We will preach the same Mission Homily at all Masses on 4 successive Sundays. Why? Because then we will have a captive audience, namely all those who attend weekend Masses.   In this case -that would be you.

So, you will be having 4 different preachers thru the month of March – all familiar to OLMC because they are Fr. Emmett and myself and our 2 very able deacons – Lex and Michael

Therefore you will not have the novelty of a new voice. But I do hope that you will appreciate the effort. I invite you to focus, to tune in, at least for a few minutes each Sunday on our common theme, our parish invitation to a holier life and a richer experience of God.

We are inviting you to step up to the bar of OLMC and taste the new wine of an enhanced relationship with the God who loves you

One tactic of the Mission in the good old days was to start with a story, or something that would warm up the congregation.

So I want to tell you the story about the kid who went to confession to a priest who was a big fan of Notre Dame football. (tell it)

Enough of the pre game stretching exercises. Let’s get to it.

If you have ever been to a funeral that I have celebrated since I have joined our parish, you might well have heard me quote the following poem. I use it often to summarize a person’s life. I use most frequently when a person dies too soon, not having a full swing at the pitch of life.

It was written by Raymond Carver, an American short story writer who died at the age of 50 of lung cancer. It is called Last Fragment and it goes like this:

“Did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?       I did. And what was that?  To call myself beloved and feel myself beloved on this earth.”


Some among us are grand parents and parents of grown children. Some among us are not parents at all and some among us have never been married to any body.

Which ever category you are in, I repeat Carver’s question: Did you get what you wanted from this life…. even so?

I submit that most everyone here has some experience with the mystery of love.

I would argue that every single one of us has had some glimmer of love, present, or past, or maybe even long past. It warms your heart and brings a dollop of joy to the memory book of your life.

I am urging you now to retrieve those images in your mind’s eye and thank God for those persons, whomever, and whenever, they touched your life.

I am not unaware that there are myriads of issues also associated with the loving relationships of life. Some loves have ended unhappily, some were abusive, some were fleeting, some required the Christian virtue of patience or long suffering. Each person has a story to tell, but isn’t it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

I start with the great mystery of love because that is obviously what Carver’s insight in his Last Fragment is mostly about. The path of holiness is mostly about managing and navigating the loving relationships that define the core of human life.

But now may I ask the question a second time and phrase it like this.

Here you are sitting in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church. Many have the habit of doing this for much of your life. Many here are lifers –life long Catholics, myself included, who have been doing this for most of our lives.

Some are returnees, after having stopped out for a while. Some are children, who are dragged, or nagged, into coming. And a few are searchers… checking all this out to see what Catholic Christianity has to offer.

So I re-state the Carver question this way. Are you getting what you want from OUR CHURCH even so?

What might it be, that you want? Community, I hope. Friendship, I hope. Forgiveness for past sins, I hope. Spiritual comfort, I hope.

But most of all, I hope that you are finding in this Catholic community, peace of mind and soul. By that I mean, the deepest interior peace of self acceptance that comes with knowing you are a beloved child of God. Yes. Even tho, our world has 7 billion occupants at this moment. You are one of those whom God knows by name. and loves individually and personally. Obviously, only God could do such a mammoth thing.

If you are not yet finding that peace that surpasses all understanding, you are not yet getting all that our faith, flawed as it is, offers.

So, that is actually what this mission here at OLMC is hoping to accomplish. We are calling you to listen – listen to the soft interior voice of God whispering in your depths. We are calling you to repentence, if there is any unfinished business in your heart that holds you back or bogs you down from a peaceful presence here in church and on the communion line.

We are calling you to forgive your self and forgive your families for the disappointments.

We are asking you to forgive our church for its many sins.

And specifically, we are all calling you to the Sacrament of Reconciliation on March 28, if you have anything that still needs to be offloaded, forgiven, and healed between you

and God.

Think of our parish Mission as toll booth 18 on the New Jersey turnpike. Many in Tenafly are savvy travellors and have EZ Pass. That is the communion line in this church. Hopefully you appreciate your easy access to the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. And hopefully you are paying full and fervent attention every time you drive this welcome line.

But there is also a toll booth at exit 18 where you can actually stop and pay your dues. That toll booth is located at the back of church and is also open for any one who needs the turnpike anew. So the next time you ride the turnpike, look at it that way, your path to holiness and the blessings of life.

Maybe sometime this Lent you should actually decide to forgo the Express lane and use the cash line just to remind yourself that it is Lent and that you are blessed.

We are calling this month long Mission: Your invitation to Holiness. But we are actually calling you to happiness and to the peacefulness and to wholeness.

Dear church of our Lady of Mt. Carmel, have a blessed Lent!

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