Homily: 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
When I was a kid back in Joliet, I remember hearing recordings of Bishop Joseph Imesh during mass. When he had a message that he wanted to get to everyone he would sometimes make a recording and send it out to the parishes to play during the Sunday masses. Now, I am just old enough to remember Saint Mary Nativity church before its latest renovation and I remember that one of the upgrades that they made in that renovation was to add a sound system with the capacity to play recorded materials like cassette tapes. (Kids, if you don’t know what a cassette tape is, ask your parents about it after mass.)
To be honest, I really had no clue who the Bishop was and why he got to have a recording of himself played in the middle of mass, but I do remember thinking that he must have been pretty important for Fr. Stalzer to give up some of his preaching time so we could hear it. What it did help me realize, however, is that, as Catholics, we are all connected.
I had heard in the past that one of the complaints about older Catholics is that they couldn’t see beyond the walls of their parish church: that they were too “parochial” and not “universal” enough. Recent studies have shown that younger Catholics have trended the other direction, giving little attention to their local parish and identifying, rather, with the universal Church and the Pope. (If you’ve ever heard of a little thing called “World Youth Day” then you know what I’m talking about.) What gets lost in either case is the fact that we are a part of a diocese, which is under the pastoral care of a bishop, who is a successor to the Apostles, and that our mission as a parish is wholly bound up in the mission of our diocese, which is the mission of our bishop to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to north-central Indiana; and, through that mission, to support the bigger mission of the universal Church.
A way that we show our support for that mission is through our stewardship both at a parish level—sharing our time, talent, and treasure to support the many ministries in our local community—at the diocesan level (which we do by participating in the Fruitful Harvest campaign), and by our support of the missions—work being done in places where the Gospel still hasn’t been heard by everyone—by clergy and laity who, therefore, have little resources with which to work.
Monsignor Jerome, the Rector of the Cathedral in the Diocese of Saint Thomas and the Vicar General of the Diocese was here this weekend to speak to us about the ongoing needs of their still relatively young diocese on the Virgin Islands. Monsignor had to leave early this afternoon to fly to Washington D.C. to meet his bishop, Bishop Bevard, as they are scheduled to meet with the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre tomorrow. He was disappointed that he could not address you all directly here at this Mass, but I promised him that I would do my best to share his thoughts with you here this evening as he seeks your continued support.
Monsignor limited his thoughts to two points. First: to say thanks. You’ll recall that, last September, two category 5 hurricanes swept through the Carribean, directly hitting a number of U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Monsignor spoke of the great damage that was done (not least of which, the roof of his rectory was destroyed…), but also of how the people of the dioceses in the United States (and our diocese, in particular) responded to provide funds to help supply them with food (as resources and supplies were thin) and the capacity to begin to rebuild. For this he, on behalf of Bishop Bevard and all the people of the Virgin Islands, is extremely grateful.
Second: he asks for further help. While some supply lines have stabilized, Monsignor says that they are still in need of relief help. The reason? Instead of running their soup kitchens 5 days a week, as they were before the hurricanes, they are now running them 7 days a week so that some folks can have just even one meal a day. Along with that, there are still many folks who, when they come for their meal, speak about other needs and, Monsignor relates, they cannot not help them. Finally, one year removed, their Bishop, Bishop Bevard, is just now beginning to permit parishes to spend money on recovering buildings. Up until now, Bishop Bevard has focused on supplying the needs of the people in their diocese. Therefore, in spite of his great thankfulness, Monsignor Jerome needs to ask for our continued financial support so that the work of rebuilding may continue and the Church on the Virgin Islands may continue to grow.
In our second reading today, the Apostle James tells us of how order is disrupted by selfishness and jealousy. And in our Gospel reading, we hear Jesus’ famous instruction to his disciples: that those who wish to be acknowledged as greatest among them must be the servants of everyone. One only needs to look around at society to see that we are becoming increasingly disordered, and at the television election ads to see that jealousy and selfish ambition are alive and well. By responding to the needs both of those close to us, here in Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, and of those far away, like the people still recovering on the Virgin Islands, we overcome selfishness and jealousy and make ourselves the servants of all: like little children in the eyes of God who have found his favor and, thus, will receive the full riches of his kingdom.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, please be generous in supporting the needs of Bishop Bevard, Monsignor Jerome, and the people of the diocese of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Your gift will not only be an act of service to those in need, but will also be an act of thanksgiving for the many blessings that you have received from God; and will prepare you to receive the fullness of blessedness: life eternal with God in heaven.
Given at Saint Mary’s Cathedral: Lafayette, IN – September 23, 2018