A sermon on Mark 13:33-37
By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church
St. Benignus Catholic Church
St. Mary Queen of Heaven
and Holy Trinity Catholic Church
The Merriam Webster Dictionary has just come out with the most important word for 2023. The most important word is what most Americans are thinking about, writing about, and trying to live by. And the word is (drum roll)...AUTHENTIC.
You will hear people say "authentic cuisine" or "authentic voice" or "authentic self." Authentic means "not false" "being real" "true to one's own self" "made or done the same way as the original."
Authenticity is so important today because the line between "fake" and "real" is being blurred. Look at what is happening today. With the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence), one doesn't know if a picture is real or fake. Kids in school are using AI to write papers and do homework assignments. AI can even write sermons. I confess. For the last two years, I have been stealing sermons from "Father Google."
What scares me are the "Deepfake" videos on the net. That's when AI can create convincingly fake images of a completely fake event. If you see a video of me refusing a second helping of spaghetti and meat balls, that's a deep fake for sure.
The Church gives you Advent, a time to watch for Jesus who is coming back, a time to prepare for His arrival. Jesus says in Mark 13:33-34 "Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work."
What is the work God wants you to do? It is this. God calls you to work at "authentic Christian living." Be a real Christian, not a fake. A fake Christian goes to church but that's where his Christianity stops. He doesn't bring Jesus into his everyday living. A real Christian goes to Church where his Christian living begins anew when the service ends.
When I was a young priest only a few years ago (deepfake), I actually saw an argument in the church parking lot because one guy's car blocked in the car of another guy who left Mass early. Someone was not paying attention to Jesus that day.
This incident illustrates the trap that sometimes Christians fall into. I call it "performance Christianity." That's when you perform the rituals like going to church, or for Catholics, praying the Rosary, making Novenas and doing Eucharistic adoration. These prayers are good, but if it doesn't turn my heart to live like Jesus (conversion) then it loses the reason for why I do them.
Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:1, “Watch out! Don’t perform your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven." Jesus calls you to "authentic Christianity" where your prayers are not just words but make you more like Jesus. Prayer helps you to see Jesus as your true treasure. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be." (Mark 6:21.)
Authentic means to "conform to the original." In authentic Christian living, we strive to conform our mind, our hearts, our souls to Jesus, the first Christian. God said, "And do not conform to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good." (Romans 12:2.)
The theologian who had the greatest influence on my Christian living was my grandmother, Frances. She was 5 feet 4 inches, wore a silk flowered dress and her hair in a bun. She could not read or write. But when she prayed her Rosary or went to Mass, her love for Jesus was so real it moved me to love Him, too.
After her husband, Stash, died at 63, Baba said with a Polish accent for the next 19 years, "I pray to God I die and be with Jesus." That was her response to everything. I can still hear her say, "I pray to God I die and be with Jesus" every time I wished her "Merry Christmas."
To her, the joy of Christmas was nothing compared to the real Jesus in Heaven. One day when I repeated her line, she corrected me, "You cannot die yet. Go be a priest." And I obeyed.
I pray we all have a blessed Advent. We have much work to do.