Homilies by Fr. Alan Phillip

5th sunday of Lent, 2018 (B) Very, Very Grateful
Recent Homilies:
ߦ   14th Sunday (B) The Deepest Principle of Human Nature
ߦ   13th Sunday (B) How To Handle Ridicule
ߦ   11th Sunday (B) The Creation of Fathers
ߦ   Funeral Homily, June 7th, 2018

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We gather together at Mass to give thanks for the really big things:

    We give thanks that that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.

    We give thanks that Jesus died on the cross to save us.

    We give thanks for the Holy Eucharist.

     But Mass is also the time to give thanks for all the ordinary gifts we have received this past week: e.g. for all the good meals we ate, all the things we learned, the fun we had, the love we shared, for our health.

     Mostly it’s normal stuff.  But sometimes it is something personally very important that we want to say thanks for.  And I want to share with you what I am very, very grateful for this past week.

     I decided to take a short spring break and drive out to the desert for a couple of days.  I went to a place called the Valley of Fire, a Nevada state park, about thirty miles east of Las Vegas, just above eastern Lake Meade.   A beautiful park.  I highly recommend it to you. 

     One of the things I wanted to see in the park was the fire wave, a rock formation with stunning colors.  So I parked my car and walked to the site.  The sign said .6 miles, a short distance.  I didn’t take along any water.  I didn’t take my cell phone.  After taking a few pictures, I headed back to my car.  Unfortunately I didn’t end up on the exact same path that I walked on earlier.  But I was heading in the right direction, I thought, and I figured I would reach the main path or road soon. 

     After about an hour of walking I still hadn’t reached the road.  I started getting a little concerned.  But I came across a path that dirt bikes use.  I could see the tire tracks.  So I decided to follow those tracks, figuring they would lead me out.  At one point, I stopped and cried for help.  But I could hear no one around and no traffic noise.  My cry was not heard.  A strange feeling.  So I walked on and prayed very hard for help.

     After following those tracks for the next three hours, the tracks were fading.  Then they ended.  It was getting dark.  Very dark.  I couldn’t see where I was walking.  So the only thing I could do is stop right there for the night.  It was about 8:30 PM.

     When I started out in the afternoon it was about 75 degrees.  So I didn’t have a sweater.  Just my shirt, a pair of old pants, my wide-rimed straw hat.   

     My concern now was the temperature and possible rain.  I sat down on the ground and tired to keep warm.  I pulled up my shirt collar over my ears and started breathing into my shirt to keep warm.  Well, I don’t think it got below 60.  And it didn’t rain.  So I just sat there for the next ten hours waiting for the dawn.

     It was the longest ten hours in my life.  And perhaps one of the most prayerful ten hours of my life.  The ground was of gravel.  And with my body having minor shakes because of the cold, I was not able to sleep.

     Fortunately, before the sun went down, in the far away distance, I saw some lights, car lights, and that gave me hope that I could head in that direction in the morning and get help.

     About 6:30 AM the long-awaited dawn came.  I started walking.  After a while, in the far distance I could see Interstate #15.  So I walked and walked some more.  I arrived at the interstate about 9:30 AM.  Of course there was a barbed wire fence there and I had to maneuver through it.  When I reached at the edge of the highway, I tired to hitchhike.  But no one was going to stop while doing 75 miles an hour.  So I waited for a police car to spot me. 

     Around 10:00 AM the police arrived. My first request?  Water!  I was really thirsty.  The police took me back to my car.  I drove back to my motel, showered, had dinner at Denny’s next door, and slept like a baby that night.  I stand before you very grateful to God that I am alive.

    What are the lessons that I learned?  I am still trying to put it all together. But here are a few reflections:

When in the desert, don’t ever go off the path.  You can really get lost!  

Corollary: When following the Lord, don’t go off the path.  You can really get lost!

Stay in shape.  You never know what demands will be made of your body. 

Know that every normal day is beautiful, very beautiful.  Every breath is beautiful, very beautiful. Yes, appreciate each moment of life.

Do you have aggravations?  Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is too precious. Keep your eye on what is important.

Light gives us hope

Dawn gives us a new beginning.

Water is so important for life.

We need one another.

     If it were 40 degrees and rain that night in the desert, I don’t think I would have made it.  But because it was about 60 degrees and no rain, I figured that the Lord still wants me around on this earth.  Maybe he wants another book out of me.  I hope one reason he wants me around is to continue to serve at Assumption parish.

     In my book, The Ten Things You Must Do Before You Die, I mentioned something my father used to say to me.  When I was a kid I’d work alongside my dad.  Sometimes I would do something dumb, like hit my thumb with a hammer.  My dad would say, “You must be twins.  One guy couldn’t be so stupid.”  And we’d laugh.  He helped my laugh at myself, and not sweat the small stuff.

     I can picture my father looking down upon me now and saying,  “Son, you must be triplets!  Now, laugh it off.  And continue to trust in the Lord.”

    You can be sure that, for the rest of my life, I will be very, very grateful that I survived this past week.  Please join me this day in giving thanks for all God’s blessings.


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