- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Michael J. Kelley at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in the District of Columbia.

Our God is full of surprises. Just imagine what it was like in our reading today [Acts 10:25-48]. Here's Peter, a Jew who decided to follow Jesus, and he goes down to the local territory and runs into Cornelius, a very powerful army leader, a commander of 100 people.

Cornelius took him to a group of people, and Peter began to preach God's word. And he was amazed, for there was a tremendous response, and Peter wondered, "How could you do this, Lord? These people are gentiles, they are not Jews." And Peter said, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality."

Peter preached God's word to all the people in this room. And he was surprised, amazed. He saw how these people even loved him for the message he preached. How could God's spirit do this? …

Our God is full of surprises. I invite you to open your mind to seeing the work of the Holy Spirit. God's spirit works sometimes in the strangest ways, and comes upon our lives when we least expect.

When you came to church today, you may have passed those people who are not here. They might have been out late at a party last night, and you might think, "God's spirit could not be with them." Remember Peter, who was surprised that God's spirit came upon the gentiles, who did not follow the law. But God's spirit can fall upon these people not in church today and their hearts can be opened. God chooses whom He will… .

Our God is full of surprises. Wherever love is present, God is there. God is there in the love between family, among friends, and when neighbors or strangers show a caring for one another… .

A week ago I was invited for a jubilee celebration. It was my 25th year in the ministry, and I really went only because I was invited. But when I was there, I was truly surprised by God's spirit.

One priest came up to me and said, "I heard you need quite a bit of money to put in air conditioning this summer." He was from a well-to-do parish in a Maryland suburb. And he said, "Here's something that can help." It was a check for $10,000.

Then, later on, another priest came over and said he'd also heard about the need. And he gave us a gift. He gave our parish $3,500. Two priests and $13,500! God works in surprising ways.

And remember, I might have not gone there. How many times do we miss opportunities to be blessed by God because we are listening to ourselves and not God's spirit.

I was talking to a priest up at Catholic University, and he told that one night down on North Capitol, right in the inner city, he got a flat tire. And he said, "Oh, no." He was a little scared, and especially when two big fellows started coming up the street. "Hey, Father, do you need some help?" they said. "We'll do it." They changed the tire in no time. He was sorry for how he felt. We have to be open to God's surprises… .

As we celebrate Memorial Day, we think of those who gave their lives for us. We should love them and remember, but this love of God is for the present as well.

In our Gospel [John 15:9-17], Jesus tells us, "As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love."

Our love should not be only for after someone is gone. You know the joke about the man who never said to his wife, "I love you." So she said to him, "You never say that to me." And he said, "I said it to you 25 years ago, and nothing's changed."

We need to hear that from each other. That is what I felt from the two priests. I felt that from those of you who wrote me letters on my 25th jubilee. "Father, we love you. Thank you." Parents, friends, families, we should say this and live this for each other, today, now. Not only once we are gone, but often.

Next week: a sermon at a Maryland church.

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