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Good to Great: Easter Vigil Homily 2023

You may know that I like bookstores. Every city I travel to, including New York City, I find that I spend an inordinate amount of time in them with no goal except to look around. I browse the shelves to see what seems to be the newest, the most popular, and the staff picks, but also what are the “good old faithful” ones that keep showing themselves and may even seem to be somewhat timeless.

Recently, on my browse, I came across again, one of those good old faithful ones … one that I read a long time ago, you may have heard of it or even read it yourself … that book entitled Good to Great written by influential management professor Jim Collins. It’s not new, it was released in 2001.

It is the story of how effective leaders can take a business that is already doing well and take it to the next level. I believe that is a dream for most of us.

· To not only do something that is good in quality but to do something that is exceptional.

· To not only be good at something but to be great at something as well.

That is a topic that gets my attention because I happen to believe that if we have the choice of building a good church or a great church, a good business or a great business, a good marriage or a great marriage then we would all choose doing something great, yes?

Reflecting on that book summarizes what we have celebrated here in these last days, and more importantly what we celebrate tonight … learning to move from good to great.

We heard clearly in the Sacred Scriptures from the book of Genesis that God created the heavens and the earth with the capstone of creation being man and woman … and God saw that it was good.

We started at good … but in reflecting on the life of Jesus, we are challenged to become great … to live our best lives … to use what we have been given not only to reach our best potential, but to contribute, a meaningful contribution with our time here on this earth … and not just to coast or float along day after day.

In his research, Collins found that successes resulted from three main factors:

1. disciplined people

2. disciplined thought

3. disciplined action

The word discipline comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple. It seems to me that for us to get from good to great, the challenge is that we need to be all in, pupils of the Lord, A students, who are willing to form our thoughts and direct our actions in conformity to his.

To discipline our thoughts, we might:

1) Lead with questions, not answers – seeking to know more about Jesus whose resurrection we celebrate today, and not presume to have all the answers about God and faith.

2) Engage in dialogue and debate - that is, learn to better talk to and listen to one another with civility, especially those who are different from us.

3) Reflect on issues and failings without blame – that is work harder to respect and care for one another, even those who seem not to measure up to our standards, finding peace in the fact that God created them and sees them as good too.

To discipline our actions, we need to let go the idea that we are “better than everyone else” and fully embrace that every single one of us has been gifted by our God with personal empowerment, not only to get to know the Lord better but with the ability each in our own way to share that faith story with others as well.

While we might be tempted to think that it’s not something we can accomplish, we only must look to the Lord for his example. The Scriptures are filled with guidelines for us to make that big step from good to great:

* if you really want to be something then you must become nothing.

* If you want to go up in life then you must learn to come down.

* If you want more of God then there must be less of you.

This is the model we find in the lifestyle of Jesus. Paul said that Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The Bible makes it clear that Jesus came “down” into the world and not only did He come down, he came down from the very top.

* He was God, yet he became man and would suffer from much pain on the cross.

* He owned everything, yet while here on earth, He had no place to lay his head

* He was the King of Kings but He became a servant

* He was dead, but now he lives.

And the list goes on and on.

Tonight, our ritual will bring others, our brothers and sisters, our friends, to a deeper knowledge of Christ, in Baptism, in Confirmation and in receiving the Eucharist for the very first time … a ritual that is as old as the Church itself.

While we congratulate them and we encourage them, the greatest gift we can give to them is to be the greatest role models of faith for them inside this Church and outside too.

As we celebrate this night, while basking in the joy of Easter, let’s pledge to our God and to one another, that we will do our best to move from good to great in faith … not only today, but every day we have on this earth.

Happy Easter!


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