Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rocky Mountain High...

So, I have this week in between trips to Saint Meinrad for different "continuing formation" programs and I really thought that I'd have some free time to take care of some odds and ends.  That is not happening, though, and so it's Tuesday night and I am publishing my Sunday homily... from last Sunday :-/

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and I hope that your Lent has been fruitful so far.  May God continue to bless your prayer and your work!


Homily: 2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

I would guess that most of us here have had the experience of being on vacation where everything has been working out just perfect.  Flights were on time, there was no traffic, the hotel was actually better than what the pictures in the advertisement showed it to be; the weather was perfect and you had just the right amount of time to do all of the things that you had set out to do without rushing through anything, which left you with just enough down time to relish all that you’ve enjoyed.  It’s the kind of vacation that makes you think to yourself, “Man, I wish that we could just stay here forever.”

For me, it was a trip to Rome two years ago where I most experienced this feeling.  I was traveling with a group of seminarians on a study tour through Rome and some of the surrounding areas.  It was January, but the weather was all but perfect: Mostly sunny and about mid-60’s each day, which was just about perfect for walking through the city and seeing all of the sights.  Ancient ruins, the great Basilicas and holy places, an audience with the Pope, some of my closest friends from the seminary, and, of course, incredible pastas and wine every night.  You can probably imagine how much I desired to return home.  In fact, I remember very clearly telling Fr. Denis, the rector of our seminary who was leading the trip, “You better hope that the weather turns bad before we have to leave, because if it doesn’t there’s no way that I’m going back to Indiana in January.  I’ll stay here and join a band of gypsies if I have to.”  Of course what I was saying was “It is good that we are here.  I wish that we could stay here forever.”

Thus, I certainly wouldn’t blame Peter for his response to his experience on the mountain that we heard in today’s Gospel reading.  You could imagine what it was like living in Israel in ancient times.  There was no indoor plumbing or modern sewage system.  There were no street cleaners or washing machines.  For the most part, people walked around pretty dirty and for them that was normal.  Thus, when Peter, James and John got a glimpse of the glory of God when Jesus was transfigured before them, and when they saw Moses and Elijah—the two great prophets of the Hebrew people—standing there with Jesus, it’s no surprise that Peter blurts out (even in his fear) “Lord, it is good that we are here.  Let’s set up some tents and stay here.”

That’s a natural tendency for us, isn’t it?  That once we’ve experienced an escape from the messiness of our daily lives we think it easier to throw all of that away and grasp onto what is in front of us: an experience of beauty, closeness with others, and joy.  But soon, however, we realize that the experience that is in front of us cannot be contained and we find that what we thought was an escape was nothing more than a temporary reprieve.
Peter, James and John get that awakening.  Peter wanted to build tents and stay on the mountain, but, as the Scriptures tell us, “he did not know what he was talking about.”  This was an experience of Jesus, the Son of God, as someone wholly different from him—as someone completely beyond his grasp—yet Peter wanted to stuff him into a tent so as to keep that experience for himself and the other two.

Christ, for his part, wouldn’t allow that.  Just as after his resurrection, when Mary Magdalene met him in the garden outside of the tomb, Jesus told her “Stop holding onto me.  I have not yet ascended to my Father”; and when he told his disciples at his Ascension into heaven “Do not be sad, for I must go up so that I can send the Spirit to you,” so here Christ does not allow the apostles to hold onto the experience of his glory, but rather he directs them back down the mountain to take that experience to others.  In other words, these experiences were meant to be permanent—at least, not in this world, anyway—but rather catalysts propelling them into the world to proclaim Christ’s glory.

Nevertheless, I believe that this experience of Christ’s transfiguration can be a model for us during Lent.  Every year, the Church sets aside this time to be for us a “retreat” of sorts.  During Lent we are called to take a serious look at our lives to see where we’ve been falling short in following the way that Jesus laid out for us.  Even more so, however, we are being called by Jesus to this “mountaintop experience.”  Through fasting and abstinence we leave off the messiness of our daily lives so as to follow Christ up the mountain.  Thus detached from the world, we are freed to see him as he truly is in prayer.  Having experienced Jesus as he truly is, we then come down the mountain—renewed and energized—to take this experience to our neighbors by witnessing what we’ve experienced both in words and in acts of love.

It starts with detachment.  My brothers and sisters, we must learn to detach ourselves from the things of this world, otherwise we’ll never even make it up the mountain to experience Christ in a profound way.  One way we do that, of course (I mean, aside from our fasting and abstinence), is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Through it we commit ourselves not only to leaving off our sinful ways, which bind us to the world, but we step forward to encounter Christ in an intimate way, reconciling our hearts to his.  My dear friends, if you have not celebrated this sacrament yet during Lent, I hope that you will make a commitment today to do so soon.  Second only to an encounter with Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the best place for you to experience that deep, personal encounter with Christ in the person of the priest, to feel his love for you, and to receive his healing forgiveness that has the power to free you from whatever binds you to this world.

My brothers and sisters, if you’ve been afraid of returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or if you’ve just been apathetic about it, now is the time to face your fear or apathy and to follow Jesus’ call to meet him on the mountain, where he desires to reveal to you his glory and to hear, not only the words of the Father regarding him—“This is my chosen Son”—but also the words of the Father regarding yourselves: “You are my chosen son… you are my chosen daughter… and I love you.”  If we can know that, my dear friends, then we won’t need the mountain any longer and on Easter Sunday we’ll rush down it proclaiming the joy that we celebrate even now: He is risen!

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – February 23rd & 24th, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Remember... just let go

Happy First Sunday of Lent!  I hope that everybody's Lent has gotten off to a good start.  This last week felt weird to me, but probably because of all the chaos (in my mind) of getting ready for Ash Wednesday and the start of this holy season.

Saturday night, I was able to participate in the Destination Jesus retreat (our diocesan youth retreat) and finally was able to hear some of the incredible ways that God works on the hearts of these young people during this retreat as I heard confessions.  We need to pray for and support our youth!  What a great blessing to be a small part of that experience.

This coming week, I'm heading back "home" to Saint Meinrad for their 'baby-priest' workshop.  Basically, it's an opportunity to review how the first months of priesthood have gone and to get coaching for how to recognize problems now and head them off before they become problems for us in the future.  For me, it will be a welcome opportunity to return to the Hill and catch up with some of my classmates and other friends from the seminary.  I hope that it will also be a good opportunity to take some of these ideas that have been floating around in my head and plan for making them happen.  Stay tuned!

Enjoy the homily.  It's sunny out and I'm going for a walk outside :)



Homily: 1st Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

Back almost ten years ago now, when I was in the throes of my ‘reversion’ to the Catholic faith, I remember feeling very guilty.  For the first time in my life, I recognized that religion wasn’t just something that you ‘do’, but that it was about a relationship… that it was about the relationship between God and his creation: most especially, with us.  I felt guilty because I recognized that I had been ignoring that relationship.
As a result, during those first months I threw myself into prayer, fervently asking God what it was that he wanted me to do with my life.  When those prayers eventually led to the consideration of a vocation to the priesthood, I found myself at an impasse.  I had never considered the priesthood and so I didn’t know what to think about it.  “But,” I thought, “this is so radically different from anything that I’ve considered before; so, if I did it, I’m sure that I would be doing what God wanted and not what I wanted.”  I clearly remember making this prayer: “God, I’ve been living my life my own way for twenty-five years, why shouldn’t I do this for you?”
Soon, however, I learned that feeling like you owe God something is a poor reason to enter the seminary.  Thus, I put the discernment away for a while.  A few years later, when I was blindsided by the notion that I wasn’t yet doing what God wanted me to do with my life, I once again threw myself into prayer.  This time, however, I felt more fearful of damaging the relationship that I had built than guilty for having ignored it.  And so I turned to fasting in an attempt to disinterest myself from anything that could distract me from knowing God’s will.  Eventually, I heard again the call to the priesthood and this time I was sure that it was love, not guilt that motivated me, so I responded and entered the seminary.
I continued many of my habits of fasting after entering the seminary.  What I found there, however, was that my fasting was becoming a barrier: first to my relationships with my fellow seminarians, and eventually to my relationship with God.  Right fasting is the kind that turns our focus away from ourselves and back towards God and others.  I had become focused on myself and my need to maintain these fasts; and so to turn my focus back towards God and others, I actually had to learn how to “fast from fasting.”  I needed to remember the relationship, and not just the relation.  In order to do so, I needed to detach myself from trying to control it through fasting.
Remembrance and detachment are two themes that we find in our Scripture readings today.  In our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is instructing the people about making the annual offering of the first fruits of the harvest to God.  What we hear is not the details about the offering itself (for example, how much is to be offered and when), but rather we hear what the Israelites are instructed to say after they’ve made their offering.  It is a statement meant to remind them of why they have brought their offering to the altar.
First, it’s a remembrance of where they came from.  Jacob was a small tribe of only seventy-odd persons when they went down to Egypt.  Yet God made them grow and prosper during that time.  Second, it is a remembrance of how God heard their calls for help when Pharaoh oppressed them with slavery, delivering them from Egypt with mighty signs and wonders.  Third, it is a remembrance of how God led them through the desert and into the fruitful land in which they live, the first fruits from which they have come to offer him.  In other words, it’s a remembrance that it was God who was in control the whole time and that he took care of them, and so their offering is one of thanksgiving for his grace and mercy that continues to care for them today.
In the Gospel, Jesus’ forty days in the desert produces in him a deep sense of detachment.  In the greatest understatement of all time, the Gospel tells us that, after forty days of not eating, Jesus emerged from the desert and that “he was hungry.”  Duh!  Actually, what the author might have been emphasizing was that he was “weak with hunger.”  The devil seeing this probably thought to himself, “Now is my chance!” and so he tempts him.  Jesus, having detached himself not only from his desires for food and drink, but also from his instincts for survival, and having placed all his trust for survival in his Father, was not fazed by the devil’s temptations.  Jesus knew that his Father was in control, because he had just experienced it for forty days; thus, he could not be moved to betray him now, even though he was physically weak from lack of nourishment.  His fasting produced detachment and thus solidified his relationship with his Father, who cared for him.
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  This, my brothers and sisters, is our task during Lent: to remember our right relationship with God and with others.  We do this primarily through the three Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  Fasting, I would argue, is primary: for when we fast, we remind ourselves of the punishment due to us because of our sins and thus acknowledge that God is God and we are not.  Fasting also has the effect of detaching ourselves from our disordered desires for the things of this world: desires that place a barrier between us and God, as well as those around us.  A natural result of this detachment is that we are more available for prayer and have more resources to share with others who are in need, thus facilitating our prayer and almsgiving.  Finally, fasting helps us to remember to place our trust in the fact that God is in control and that he cares for us and so will provide to us whatever it is that we truly need.
And so, my brothers and sisters, on this first Sunday of Lent, let’s take a look at what we are doing this Lent in order to see where our disciplines are pointing us and let’s ask ourselves these questions: Are our disciplines motivated by guilt and the hope that God will pleased with them and so not ask too much of us?  Or are our disciplines about conversion: that is, about letting go of our control and turning back to God, remembering that his care alone is enough for us?
If you find yourself (as I often do) more in the first group than in the second group, don’t worry.  We still have about 36 days left to work it all out (which is plenty of time!).  And what a good work that it is.  I promise you that if you do it well, on Easter Sunday you will have forgotten that you are hungry, because you will have remembered God’s love and mercy as you celebrate his glory.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – February, 17th, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Las cosas que nunca se dicen católicos

Time to break out your translating skills!  I preached in English this morning, but I didn't have anything written down.  That wasn't going to fly so much for Spanish, so I wrote it out.  Thus, all you get is my homily in Spanish for el miercoles de las cenizas.  Disfruta!


Homilía: Miércoles de las Cenizas – Ciclo C
¡Gracias a Dios que está Cuaresma! ¡Ahora tengo una excusa para no comer dulces!  (El Domingo de Pascua) ¡Ojalá que la Cuaresma podría ser de dos semanas más!  ¡Me gustaría que pudiéramos recibir las cenizas cada día para que la gente se fijara en mí más!  Estas son declaraciones que planeo en incluir en mi primero libro titulado "Las cosas que nunca se dicen católicos".
Aquí estamos de nuevo en el comienzo de otra temporada de Cuaresma. Si eres un buen católico, ya ha comprometido a renunciar a algo. Si eres un muy buen católico, te has comprometido a renunciar a algo que sea difícil para dejar. Pero, si tú ya has pensado a sí mismo "No puedo esperar hasta la Pascua para que pueda tener esa cosa de nuevo", ya has fracasado en lograr el objetivo de la Cuaresma.
Esto es porque la Cuaresma no se trata de torturar a nosotros mismos durante cuarenta días para ver si podemos aguantar a pesar de todo sólo para volver a ser lo mismo una vez que llega Pascua.  Ciertamente, esto podría hacer que nos sintamos bien con nosotros mismos, pero se pierde el punto.  En ese caso, todo lo que estamos tratando de hacer es para impresionar a Dios con nuestros sacrificios; y déjeme decirles que nuestros sacrificios no le impresionan mucho.  El único que alguna vez le impresionó fue el sacrificio de su Hijo en la cruz.  Esto es decir que el no necesita nuestros sacrificios; sino que somos nosotros los que necesitamos para hacerlos.
En la lectura del profeta Joel, Dios nos llama a "rasgar nuestros corazones y no las vestiduras". Lo que quiere decir que no debemos hacer un espectáculo de nuestra contrición. Y en el Evangelio, Jesús nos dice que "cuando ayunamos, no debe parecer que estás ayunando, sino como si estamos sanos y bien alimentados", y que "cuando damos limosna la mano derecha no debe saber lo que la mano izquierda está haciendo", y que "cuando oramos, debemos ir a un lugar privado", ya que sólo el Padre quien debe saber lo que estamos haciendo.  Lo que esto significa para nosotros es que la Cuaresma no se trata de quién puede hacer estas cosas (la oración, el ayuno y la limosna) mejor que nadie, o sobre lo que podemos demostrar a Dios por nuestras acciones extremas, pero es más bien acerca de la eliminación de obstáculos entre nosotros y Dios.
Ya ves, nuestros pecados nos han vinculado al mundo, poniendo una barrera entre nosotros y Dios. Cuaresma, por lo tanto, es un momento especial que nos llama a arrepentirnos de nuestros pecados y desvincularnos de las cosas de este mundo por medio del ayuno, oración y limosna.  Por lo tanto, comenzamos por renunciar a algo que ponemos demasiado valor en, algo que se interpone entre nosotros y Dios.  Entonces comenzamos a orar más profundamente, porque empezamos a ver a Dios con más claridad.  Por último, nos sentimos impulsados a compartir con los demás, porque hemos aprendido que no necesitamos todo lo que tenemos para ser felices: que nuestra comunión con Dios y con los demás es suficiente.
Por lo tanto, nuestro objetivo para la Cuaresma no es tanto la "perseverancia" en nuestras disciplinas de Cuaresma como es "desprendimiento" de las cosas que nos separan de Dios. Si lo hacemos bien, no vamos tanto “respirar un suspiro de alivio” el domingo de Pascua que nuestro tiempo de penitencia ha terminado como vamos a gritar de alegría en la celebración de lo que Cristo ha hecho por nosotros.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
23º de febrero, 2013 – Miércoles de las Cenizas

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A dangerous proposition...

It has been a pretty busy weekend with a lot of wonderful things!  I didn't have nearly the time I would have liked to refine my homily to really punch home the point, but I think it did ok.  Take a look below and let me know if you've had an experience like I described (especially if it involved God!).

Lent starts this week!  If you haven't started planning your Lent yet then get on it!  Nobody starts a training program without first having a plan.  Remember, it's about taking your relationship with God to the next level.  Put yourself out there and God will not disappoint!


Homily: 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C
If you’ve ever had the experience of being “blindsided”, then you’ll know that it’s an experience that you’re never likely to forget.  Now I’m not talking about being physically blindsided, like in your car or something (though I don’t doubt that such an experience would be just as hard to forget); rather, I’m talking about the experience of being blindsided in life.
Many of us, perhaps, have had the experience where we’ve been “cruising” along in life and everything seems to be going pretty well.  Then one day someone or something breaks into our lives and drops the proverbial “bomb” on us that, seemingly in an instant, changes everything.
I had such an experience about seven years ago, which led to my entering into the seminary.  I had spent a couple of years discerning on and off (mostly off, I should admit) about entering the seminary when I met a really great young woman named Bridget and we started dating.  Aside from one little glitch in the first few weeks of our relationship things were going really well between us and I was feeling happy and as if this was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Bridget’s mom didn’t live in Indiana and so it wasn’t until about five months into our relationship that I actually had the opportunity to meet her.  That really didn’t go so well for me.  Bridget’s mom (and this is to say nothing negative about her, but rather just to report the facts) saw some things that she didn’t like about me and, like any good mom would, she passed those observations onto her daughter.  These things blindsided Bridget to the point that it made her start to re-think our relationship, which, of course, then blindsided me.  In the end, after much prayer and discernment, Bridget and I realized that we were both missing something; that, in fact, I was missing something… and something big: God’s call to the priesthood.
Being “blindsided” by something in life always functions as kind of a wake-up call.  While it is almost never a pleasant experience, it almost always opens our eyes to something that we’ve been missing.  Sometimes that thing is clear right away—like when a friend tells you that the way you treated them last week really hurt them, even though in all honesty you were oblivious to the fact.  As soon as you hear this from your friend, you see right away what you had been missing.  Other times, however (like in my story above), it takes a little while to see clearly what exactly it is that we have been missing.  In either case, it is always a sobering and humbling experience that often times demands some course of action from us.
In our readings today, we see multiple examples of this.  Isaiah, the humble prophet from Israel, has a vision in which he was standing before the throne of God.  When the Seraphim cried “Holy” and the house shook, Isaiah suddenly realized how unworthy he was to be in God’s presence: that he was unclean in the sight of perfect purity.  When the Seraphim brought the coal and purified him by touching it to his lips, Isaiah realized that he had been missing something.  The vision had “blindsided” him and he now knew that he was being called by God for something.  Thus, when God called out for a messenger Isaiah responded without hesitation: “Here I am, send me!”
Saint Paul thought that he was acting righteously the more that he zealously persecuted Christians.  Of course we all know the story of how God “knocked him off of his horse” (which is a great image for us, even though the accounts in Scriptures never mention that Paul was riding a horse).  God blindsided him so hard that it literally made Saint Paul blind.  After he made his way to Damascus and met with Ananias his eyes were opened and he could see exactly what he was missing.  As a result (and as we heard today), he turned back and began to preach the very things that he had been persecuting Christians for preaching: that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he rose again, all in accord with the Scriptures.
Finally, Saint Peter’s experience is probably the most relatable of all.  As the Gospel recounts it, Peter was just going about his daily business when this teacher shows up and asks if he would take him out off of the shore a little bit so as to teach the people better.  When this teacher then suggested he cast out his nets into the deep waters, Peter found something he wasn’t expecting.  As he pulled in the super-abundant catch, his eyes were opened and he saw what he was missing about this teacher.  Like Isaiah, he immediately recognized his unworthiness.  Also like Isaiah, he was immediately purified and given his mission.
Perhaps more than a few of us have had the experience of being blindsided by God.  My guess is that even though they were probably distressing, disorientating, and frustrating experiences that in the end they turned out to very positive experiences, leading those of you who have had them to a deeper and more fulfilling experience of life.
My brothers and sisters, if you’ve never had the experience of being “blindsided” by God; or if you’ve never seriously consulted God about decisions you’ve made or directions you’ve taken in your lives, then I guarantee you that you are missing out on something in your life that is part of God’s plan for your happiness and it’s high time for you to give God a chance to show you what it is.
Therefore, I’m going to ask you all to do something a little bit dangerous.  Actually, this is great because Lent is right around the corner and this would be a perfect addition to your prayer routine for that season.  What I want you to do is, during your regular prayer time (and if you don’t have a regular prayer time, I want you to make a regular prayer time), ask God to show you what it is that you are missing about his will for your life.  Then (and this is the dangerous part), I want you to promise him that whatever it is you’ll do it.
My brothers and sisters, if you do these two things—coupled with a healthy dose of fasting and abstinence so as to build your fortitude to actually carry out what God reveals to you—I promise you that on Easter your life will look different and in a very good way.  And so as we come here today to give thanks to God for all of his gifts, let us show him our thanks by placing our trust in him, as Christ placed his trust in the Father in the garden of Gethsemane, so that we, too, might receive the same gift of glory that Christ received, the glory that he now shares with us in this holy meal.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – February 10th, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Let's take back what is ours...

Ok, so I've been away in Guatemala for three weeks and I didn't have any homilies to post! (I did preach at Mass some, but nothing that I have recorded.)  Thus, this is the first from my first weekend back.  

The trip was great, by the way, (and frustrating, beautiful... many things).  I hope to post some things about it after I get settled back in.

Thanks for all of your prayers and support!  Happy reading!

Homily: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

As you all know, I spent the last three weeks in Guatemala doing some intensive work on improving my ability to speak Spanish.  Now, I had been to Guatemala once before to study Spanish back in 2009 while I was still a seminarian.  Much like I do just about anywhere I go, I fell in love with the people there and hoped one day to return.  Thus, it was a blessing to spend the past three weeks there and to have a chance to connect with some of the wonderful people I had met during my first visit.
One of the new experiences of this trip, however, was the ability to travel to the town of San Sebastian, where a good number of our Guatemalan brothers and sisters here in Logansport originally came from.  It’s a small town up in the mountains of the north-east part of Guatemala where more people speak the native dialect than Spanish.
One of the things that most impressed me about San Sebastian was the new church that they are building there.  About six years ago, the original Catholic church building was destroyed when days of heavy rain eventually unsettled its foundation, causing it to collapse.  About three years ago, however, they began building a new church.  So far they have completed much of the exterior framework (the walls, the roof, the dome, the façade, etc.) and I can tell you that it should prove to be a beautiful building when it is completed.
One of the things that shocked me, however, was the size of the Evangelical church building just down the street from the Catholic church.  I didn’t have a chance to step in to take a better look, but looking in from the street it seemed to me like it could easily hold just as many people as this church building can; and on Sunday, it appeared to be pretty full during their worship service.  I was shocked because I simply assumed that in such a small town as San Sebastian, in which they are building such a large new church, that there wouldn’t be room for another Christian community of comparable size.
At first I thought, “Well, perhaps Catholics were slow to evangelize in this area and so when the Evangelicals came, they basically evangelized those whom the Catholics hadn’t evangelized yet.”  “If so,” I thought, “then that’s a good thing, because at least these people are hearing the Gospel message.”  After talking with a couple of people, however, it seems as if it is the same situation that is happening all over Central America: that Evangelicals are going throughout these countries specifically targeting Catholics and seeking to lure them away from the practice of the Roman Catholic religion.  The fact that they are finding success is, to me, a big problem.
But this is just a microcosm of what has been happening around the world and even here in Cass County.  How many of us here have watched as our children, grandchildren, godchildren, brothers and sisters have slipped away from the Catholic Church: either to stop practicing the Catholic faith altogether or who have been lured to an Evangelical community?  A good number of us, I’m sure.  Oh, and I do mean “lured,” by the way.  Perhaps not so much here in Cass County, but it many parts of the world Evangelicals are on a mission to “convert” Catholics because they believe that what we preach is a false religion.  When Jesus was accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan, he said to them, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  My brothers and sisters, some Protestants and Evangelicals are striving to do just that: to divide God’s house and in many ways we are letting it happen.
I think that, as the Catholic Church, we’ve allowed ourselves to become a little complacent.  We’ve allowed ourselves to think, “The world’s been evangelized, so I can sit back, relax and just hang out here in the Church until Christ comes back and everything should be fine.”  We’ve forgotten that the very nature of the Church is to be evangelical.  Thus, one of the things that is luring people away from the Catholic Church is that these other communities are doing what the Catholic Church has been failing to do: they are evangelizing!  Now I hope that this will not come as a shock to any of you, but we are all called to be evangelists.
Our first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that we are all called to proclaim God’s words to his people.  Sure, the words we heard were God’s words to the prophet Jeremiah at a specific place and time.  Nonetheless, they have been preserved up to this day because they are inspired by God and helpful in instructing us in following our own calls today.  And so, what does God say?  “Try to be holy and just show up to Mass and you’ll be fine”?  No!  He says “Gird up your loins; stand up and tell them what I command you”!
What God is saying to us, then, is that it is not enough for us to give a minimal effort at holiness and to fulfill the basic requirements, like showing up on Sundays.  What God is saying to us, rather, is that we must also speak his words to others, especially those closest to us, challenging them in positive ways to seek God more deeply and then to support them as they do.
Perhaps, however, we are worried that we’ll push our loved ones away or that they will turn against us.  To that, the readings for today also have an answer.  God promised Jeremiah (and, therefore, he promised us) that he “would not leave us crushed before them,” but rather that he “would make us a fortified city….”
Jesus himself did not fear the reproaches of his family or his neighbors in Nazareth.  As we heard today in the Gospel reading, Jesus preached the truth to them and they boiled over with rage against him.  God did not leave him to their rage, however.  Rather, when he was about to be thrown over the edge of the cliff, Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went away.”
Thus, we need not fear the reproaches of our families or neighbors.  If our words inspire them to rage, then so be it.  God will not leave us to be “crushed before them.”  Hopefully, however, and if we speak the truth to them with love (as Saint Paul admonishes us to do today), our words will inspire in them a fervor to seek Christ where he may most fully be found: here in this church and in the Eucharist.
If we still have fear, however, then it probably means that we ourselves need to be ignited with fervor for the faith.  If so, don’t worry, because this is the work of the Year of Faith that we have been celebrating: to become ignited ourselves so as to ignite others.  Our tasks then are the following: fervent celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday, consistent daily prayer and reading of the Scriptures, adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible, faith sharing in small groups and frequent confession.  Close attention to these tasks will ignite our fervor for the faith.  Witness, invitation and service of others, then, become the acts that will ignite that same fervor in others.
My brothers and sisters, we’ve procrastinated long enough.  Today is the day to act.  Let us respond to the Holy Father’s call and reclaim for our Church the name which has always been ours: Evangelical.  And let us be that shining light for Christ that leads our brothers and sisters—our families and our neighbors—to that communion with God that their hearts so deeply desire: the communion that we share here at this table.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – February 2nd & 3rd, 2013