In his book, “Outliers”, the author Malcom Gladwell points out that people succeed at what they do not so much based on a “natural” talent, but through practice.  In fact, it is LOTS of practice, something like 10,000 hours of practice; that in reality, there is no such thing as “natural talent”, but a person who puts in the hours.

This takes dedication, commitment and focus.  It takes having a vision in front of us, a goal, and then working towards that goal.

We see this in people who play and succeed in sports.  They dedicate themselves to a discipline, a regimen of exercise, good eating habits, practice, practice and more practice.

We see this in people who have lost weight.  They have to discipline themselves to say NO to certain foods and activities, all with the goal of being healthier.

Now imagine if we put that same energy into living as Catholics!  WOW!

And that is exactly what Jesus is demanding of his disciples, of us in the gospel.  He demands that we be dedicated, disciplined, and that we practice, practice, practice.

See, we are not born Catholic or Christians, we become Catholic and Christian.  We begin this process through baptism and it ends, well, when our earthly life ends.  It is a process of commitment, discipline and of course practice, practice and more practice.

Yet, it will mean nothing unless we have a goal in front of us.  It means nothing unless we know our goal.

And this is where we can fail as Catholics.  We either forget our goal, or we truly don’t understand it, or have clearly defined it.  Athletes will define their goal clearly….super bowl victory, Master’s win, Grand Slam,

Catholics, well, we can get vague.  Case in point…Would we agree that our goal is salvation?  I think 99% of all Catholics would say this, along with 99% of all Christians.  I asked once of a “Good” Catholic, someone who attended mass every week, and was a good steward, what is salvation?  What does it mean to be saved?

Silence…

then under pressure, because I was standing there tapping my foot…the person answered, “me getting into heaven.”  Now I suspected that was going to be the answer and so I was ready to pounce!  WRONG…,or rather, not so right….

See, the goal was not ready on their lips, and was ill defined in their mind.    A condition among many of us.  And if ill defined in our minds, how can we dedicate our lives to it?  How can commit ourselves to something that is vaporous…How can we give energy to something that we really don’t know about.

Christ demands us to have a goal, to make a commitment, to be focussed; and to not let anyone or anything distract us from that goal.  Not because Christ is an egomaniac, or a masochist, or a control freak…rather of course, Christ wants us to experience salvation.  Christ loves us…and he knows how easy it is for us to lose our attention, become distract, disheartened.  When that happens, then we can become lost in life.

So we must be concrete in our plans and in our goal.  And then we must not let anything else take precedence over it: neither sports or leisure; other people’s ideas or our own ego.  Again though, how many of us can name and define this goal, the goal of participation in salvation????

Now, I word it that way, because Christ has already given us salvation, it is our choice to accept or deny it; to experience it or not.  Salvation in essence is as Jesus proclaims in the gospel of John, chapter 10:  “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Salvation is to be truly alive.

He is not just talking about life in heaven, but here and now.  Christ came so that we can wholly, fully, and truly alive today, in this world.  AND if we can be wholly, fully alive in this world, then of course we can be wholly, fully alive in heaven.  And being wholly, fully alive involves us living in harmony with God, with others and with all of Creation.  This comes from Genesis.

So it is never about “ME” and heaven…but “US” together and today.  We live well, and we live fully when we live together as community.   This is our nature, as God’s nature is to be a community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  So all our dedication, practice, commitment is living the Way Christ taught us so that we can live together.  So that there can be harmony between all of us.

Think about what Pope Frances asked of us of yesterday…pray and fast for peace.  Prayer and fasting so that we can find a better solution to resolving the violence in our lives and in the world.  This is part of our focus and our dedication as Catholics…to work for this peace.

We dedicate ourselves to the way of Christ, because God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are dedicated to us for this purpose.  A dedication that we trust and believe in, that is reinforced at every Eucharist.  God the Father sends the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, which becomes the Body and Blood of the Son of God; not through any effort on our own part, but through the effort of God.  We consume in humility, to acknowledge we need God to be Free.  We consume so that we will be free.  We consume as a sign our our commitment, our own discipline, our own practice.

That is why participation in the Mass is essential.  We cannot let anything distract us from it; NOTHING is as important as the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist..NO Sports, not even CYO sports, no shopping, no partying, NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING!

We come to the mass to be renewed sense of with our mission, and we leave hopefully with a plan.    We tell ourselves this is what I will do today, this week, to live out the way of Christ, so that I and others will live wholly, fully and completely.  I will pray so that I may be changed to help others.  I will give of the many many blessings God has provided for me, so help those who have lost all.  I will forgive others who have hurt me…I will seek forgiveness for those I have hurt.  I will work together, with all this community, to build it up, so that others may find the way to freedom, which can only come through Christ.

Will we commit?  What will each us do, to dedicate ourselves to Christ, to practice the faith..so that each of us and in fact the whole world will be transformed in Christ.  We will commit to the salvation of Christ?

or will simply go through the motions, and live a small little life?