Never, Never, Never Give Up
The Father's mercy is infinite and far-reaching. He never gives up on us, and we are called to follow His example by never giving up on ourselves or anyone else.
The Father allows us to sink deeper and deeper into the depravity of sin and even hit rock bottom, so that we'll stop and see sin for what it is. This is actually an act of mercy.
As Christians, one of the greatest mercies that a parent can give their children is to lead their children into the saving relationship with Jesus and His Church.
To be Christians means that we are called to imitate our Heavenly Father by never giving up on anyone, no matter how hopeless it may seem. Instead, we continue to pray for them, to fast, to offer sacrifices for them, to give them a good example and to gently invite and even challenge them to return to the Lord, because the Father's mercy is infinite and far-reaching.
Monsignor’s Homily Notes
24th Sunday in OT (C)
Christ the King Parish, Milwaukie (2019)
Many historians consider Winston Churchill the greatest orator of the twentieth century. During dark years he rallied the British nation - and free people everywhere - to stand against Nazi tyranny and barbarism when it seemed like victory against them was impossible. It is said, however, that he gave his most famous speech not during World War II, but afterwards. At a commencement ceremony, a speaker gave Churchill a long-winded introduction. Churchill walked to the podium and spoke softly, but firmly: “Never, never, never, never, never give up.” He then returned to his chair and sat down. There was a stunned silence, then one person brought his hands together. Immediately the entire crowd stood and started applauding and cheering wildly. The words were few but everyone knew the sacrifice and suffering contained in those words. There may be some exaggeration in this story, but it does sum up the spirit of Winston Churchill. (Fr Phil Bloom) His brief speech gives us a key to enter into the written Word of God we just heard.
Moses had every reason to give up on the Israelites. At the command of God, Moses had worked miracles and led the Israelites through parting the Red Sea. But as soon as he was out of sight, they turned quickly away from the living God to worship Baal, to worship as they wanted, not as the Lord wanted. Moses, nevertheless, continued to intercede for them - and they got a second, and a third, and a fourth, and many other chances. The Lord was training His people in His mercy. We heard in the Psalm, God is always ready to show mercy. He never gives up on us.
We see that clearly in the Gospel. Jesus tells three consecutive parables. St. Ambrose, that great early Church Father, wrote that the three primary figures in the parables: the Shepherd, the woman and the father are symbolic of Jesus, the Church and God the Father respectively. Jesus teaches that He the Savior is seeking, His Church is seeking and God the Father is seeking out what is lost and never give up until the sheep, the coin and the sons are found.
But if we’re honest, we sometimes do not want to be found. This is a profound mystery. St. Paul calls it the “mystery of iniquity”. Why do we find delight in evil and not in the good? Why do we so easily choose sin and so reluctantly choose good? We think that sin will make us happy, thrill us, fulfill us. As long as we have our inheritance and no consequences, we pursue our own life of dissipation and sink deeper and deeper into the depravity of sin. To hit rock bottom when the inheritance runs out, in an act of mercy on the Father’s part, that He will allow us to reap some of the consequences of sin so that we’ll stop and recognize sin for what it is. Sin is death. It was when the younger son was feeding the pigs that he began to choose differently. But it wasn’t just the awareness of his misery that changed the younger son, it was a memory: the memory of the goodness of his father.
We can be ashamed and try to hide from God like our first parents. We think that He might hurt us, throw us away, chastise us. Jesus’ parables indicate that this is untrue. The truth is that the Father is constantly on the search for us. He is eager to lavish His mercy and love on us when we return to Him. Yes, such love hurts because it’s humbling; the humility of the Father offends our pride.
Today we have heard the most famous convert ever from his own lips: a Pharisee named Saul from Tarsus. Before Christ came into his life, St. Paul writes that he engaged in some miserable behavior: arrogance, persecution and blasphemy. The worse thing he did was to take part in the murder an innocent man, St. Stephen, the first deacon. In spite of that crime, the Lord did not give up on Paul. And by Paul’s conversion he taught the Church one of her most important lessons: That Divine Mercy is more powerful than sin, and that this mercy can turn our greatest enemies into our greatest apostles. What the Father asks of us is to acknowledge and confess our sins to Him (especially in the Sacrament of Confession), like St. Paul, like the younger son, and to get up and return to Him asking for His help.
The greatest mercy parents can do is lead their children to the saving relationship with Jesus in His Church. Parents love their children and desire their lives to flourish. The only true flourishing of your child’s life is if they know, love and serve Jesus in this life so that they can be with Him forever in the next. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if your children become get on that elite sports team or get accepted into a prestigious university, if in the end they don’t follow Jesus and go to Heaven. Knowing, serving and loving Jesus is ultimately more important than feeding them and giving them shelter. Most of us have children or family members that are away from the Faith, and that hurts. It hurts when the ones we love so much are far away from the Lord and His love. That’s how important it is and this is why we are offering at the parish these catechetical programs and that is the mission of our school. Statistics show that the more involved parents are in their children’s formation in the Faith, the more likely they will practice that faith as adults. We’ve lost more than 2 generations using a model that didn’t have parents as the primary educators, task left to others. That clearly has not worked so we shouldn’t keep doing it. Good coach always changes strategy when behind in the game.
I want all our families to be engaged with “A Family of Faith” program. Excellent material and will really have a beneficial effect on your family life. One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. Parents, you already teach your children so many things, so you don’t have to be afraid, even if you don’t know the Faith that well. The materials are excellent and we have help.
Have your children in our parish school and in our middle school and high school youth groups. Every HS student who is not yet confirmed should be enrolled in our confirmation program, which is designed for significant parent involvement. Our homes and families need to be and to become places of prayer, places where Jesus and His teachings as well as the big questions of life are discussed.
Also, be involved in the parish. Volunteer for something so that at least some of your life is spent here at the parish besides Sunday Mass. [example of seeing a mother and daughter work on a parish flower bed together.]
To be Christian means to never be a quitter, and to imitate our heavenly Father, the Father of mercies. We never give up on anyone, not those in our families, nor even ourselves no matter how helpless, depraved or lost we may be. St. Augustine, “While there is breath, there is hope.” St. Theresa of Avila, “Patient love attains all things.” Even if our children are far from the Lord, we continue to pray for them, to fast and make sacrifices for them, to give a good example to them, to gently invite and even challenge them to return to the Lord. The Father’s mercy is infinite and far reaching. [Story of visit to ICU last night for young man dying from drug overdose. He died reconciled to Jesus.] Never, never, never, never, never give up.