PASTOR’S CORNER


July 15th Sunday Homily

      Poor Amos. There he was minding his own business when suddenly God calls on him to Go prophesy “to my people Israel”. The priest in Bethel was reading Amos the riot act and also telling Amos to “go”, back to where he came from. The priest was furious with Amos for telling his people that they needed to repent. Did you notice it was a capital “G” go and not a little “g” go? When God says “Go” he means Go! I think we all have responded like Amos. “Who me”? Amos says: “I am just a shepherd, and on the side I trim Sycamore trees. What do I know about prophesying”? Like Amos, we say: “Who me? I’m just a farmer, a factory worker, a teacher or housewife. What do we know about prophesying”? And yet, our Go begins with a capital “G”. Like Amos, it probably wasn’t in our plans to Go.

        In the Marine Corps, anything beyond the scope of normal activity requires a plan. The standard Marine Corps plan is called a five paragraph order. The five paragraph order can be used in any type of operational plan. It can be used to seize ground from enemies or to control vehicle and pedestrian traffic at an air show for example. The five paragraph order is based on the acronym SMEAC.

Situation  A simple naming of the plan. As in the example mentioned it could be: Removing enemy personnel from wherever or, Air Show safety.
Mission – provides a clear and concise statement of what the unit must accomplish. It answers the who, what, when, where, how and why of the order.
Execution – contains the information on how to conduct the operation. Names tasks that each individual is responsible to accomplish.
Administration and Logistics – This is known as the three B’s ( Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids).

Command and Signal: Command-identifies the chain of command and their location before, during, and after the operation. Signal – gives signal instructions for the operation such as frequencies, and call signs.Right about now you’re probably asking yourself: Where in the world are you going with this Deacon Ken? Let me just tell you.If we revisit the first reading with Amos, and the Gospel with the Twelve, they read like a five paragraph order.

Situation- GO be disciples go prophesy, go heal and expel demons.
Mission- Who: Those who need to hear the word.Those who need God’s healing love.
         What: Spread the love of God
         When: Right now! 
         Where: Bethel, Wherever you go! How: By using words and actions.
         Why: Because they were chosen and called by God to do these things.
Execution: Preach repentance to all you meet. Whatever place does not welcome you
or listen to you, leave there! 
Administration and Logistics: Take: God’s Authority, Walking stick, Sandals. Don’t
take: Food, money or second tunic.
Command and Signal: God is in charge. Pray.

       Today, God is challenging us and asking us: “What does your five paragraph order of discipleship look like? Is it complete and full, or is it blank and useless? We are chosen and called by God before the foundation of the world to be His disciples. As Saint Paul tells us in the letter to the Ephesians, God calls us for the praise and glory of His grace that he granted us, his beloved.

         In Jesus, the Twelve had the best teacher EVER to teach them the obligations of a disciple. God hasn’t abandoned us to stumble down the path of discipleship. Sometimes, along the way, we may have to shake the dust off our feet and leave those behind who choose not to listen. God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us on our journey. He gives us the Eucharist for strength of mind and body. God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the called. It’s not about our plan, it’s about His, God has chosen us, and has told us to go. Will you go?

Deacon Ken Stewart

MAKE A GOOD CHOICE

         That Christ the Son of God could have spread his Gospel of peace and love, his message of eternal salvation, to the whole world without human help need not be proved. He could, for instance, have written the Gospel in the sky over each country in its own language. He could have gone to every part of the earth, after his resurrection, and taught his doctrine to all peoples, confirming his words with extraordinary miracles. Yet he chose the weaker but the more human way of evangelizing men he sent their own fellowman to bring them the message. This choice showed his divine love and understanding of weak human nature, much better and much more effectively than the use of any of the supernatural means which he could have employed.

           God, and Christ is God, gave man the gift that we call freewill. Man is able to choose between alternatives. God wants man to choose heaven as his eternal home, but he wants him to choose it without compulsion or coercion. He will have volunteers in heaven not conscripts. The man who chooses heaven must choose the means for going there. If you choose a holiday resort for your summer vacation, you must buy travel tickets, book a hotel and save up the expenses necessary for the holiday. By appointing mortal men to bring the news of salvation, the news of heaven, and the means of getting there to all of us, Christ has given us the chance of exercising our freewill and therefore of meriting heaven. Refusal to accept would hardly be possible if Christ informed us miraculously or taught us in person. If some extraordinary individual could persist in refusing, his refusal would be utterly inexcusable.

          Now, Christ has earned heaven for all men and not for Christians only. He has given his Church, with all its aids and its guaranteed truth, to those who will be his followers. For them the road of the Gospel is an absolutely assured way by which they will reach heaven, if they are faithful to the rules. But there are, and there have always been, millions and millions of men and women who through no fault of their own have not heard of the Church of Christ. There are other millions who have heard of Christ and his Church, but who, because of some personal kink of pride or because of their upbringing or surroundings, have not felt able to accept the Christian way of life. God is mindful of all these millions and wants them in heaven. If their present circumstances, their lack of knowledge of the Christian truths, or personal prejudice, brought on by circumstances beyond their control, prevent them from being convinced of the necessity of becoming Christians would God exclude them from heaven? Surely not. It was because he foresaw all those who could not freely accept his Gospel to the letter and who yet want to go to heaven, that he let other human beings, who could and would be doubted, preach and propagate his Gospel. Therefore, it would be inexcusable to refuse to listen to his own word if it were written by him in the sky or preached by himself personally. But men could be excused if they doubted his human agents, for some reasons which appeared to them as valid. In other words, the merciful Christ who humiliated himself and who submitted to the death of the cross in order to open heaven for all men, found ways and means of excusing those who would elect to trudge through the fields and over the hedges rather than travel on the royal highroad that he had laid down for them.

          This is divine mercy in action. God wants every human being to be saved. There are no Jews or Gentiles in the Church; no pagans, Moslems, Jews or rationalists in heaven the citizens of heaven are all children of God. While on earth they each served him according to their lights, under their own particular banners. “The Spirit breathes where it will.” God’s mercy and love can reach into the darkest corners and produce fruit from the most unlikely and apparently most neglected of orchards.

           While we thank God from our hearts today for having been put on the road to heaven, let us remember in our prayers our fellowman, God’s other children, who are trudging along through the fields and hedges. May God continue to show his mercy and divine understanding toward them!  May they meet us at the entrance to our Father’s home where we shall be happy forever together!

        By Father Kevin who was professor of Sacred Scripture at Christ the King Seminary and St. Bonaventure University in N.Y. and later in the National Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa and as a pastoral priest in Ireland.

 

ACCEPTANCE

        What happened in Nazareth was a foretaste of the later reaction of the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the people, to Christ’s claim to be the promised Messiah. What the people of Nazareth tried to do (Lk. 4: 29-30), the religious authorities in Jerusalem succeeded in doing, because they were able to threaten the Roman governor with blackmail. Even in their wickedness and unknown to themselves, they were putting into action God’s plan for mankind. It was necessary that Christ should die so that all men could live forever with God. Christ’s death, followed by his resurrection, was the key that opened the door of eternity for the human race.

         Unfortunately for the leaders of the Jews, the good end did not justify the evil intentions and evil means which they used. It is hard to understand the irrational opposition of the Nazarites on this occasion, and of the Pharisees of Jerusalem later. The people of Nazareth had heard nothing but marvelous reports of his wonderful preaching and outstanding miracles. One would therefore expect that if they were at all reasonable, they would rejoice on having one of their fellow-citizens admired by thousands and looked upon by so many as the long-promised Messiah. Instead, they turned against him in bitter hatred and there and then decided to put an end to his career (Lk. 4: 29). Why? Because the demon of envy, a daughter of pride, laid hold of their hearts and minds. Why should a neighbor’s son, and one of a lower status than many of them a mere carpenter, be given this privilege while their sons were passed over? This could not be, their envy told them, and so they shut their minds against any proof to the contrary.

           It was the same later in the case of the Pharisees. The same vices, pride and envy, darkened their intellects and prevented them from seeing the truth. They were the religious leaders of the people, or so they thought themselves to be. If the Messiah had come they felt that he should have come through them and with their approval. This impostor Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah. Not only was he not keeping the law as strictly as they kept it, but he was friendly with sinners and tax-gatherers. Furthermore, he was talking of some faraway kingdom in heaven and not of the earthly empire which they decided the real Messiah would establish. They had not only heard of his extraordinary miracles but had seen some of those who were cured. In Bethany only a few miles from Jerusalem Lazarus had been raised to life after four days in the grave. They tried very hard to deny these miracles (see Jn.12.9: the man born blind), and they even thought of killing Lazarus to make the people forget the miracle! (Jn. 12: 11.) Thus, their pride and envy made them irrational. Nothing but the cruelest possible death of the one hated could satisfy their hatred. But that very death was Christ’s road to glory. Lifted up on the cross he drew all men to himself as he had foretold (Jn. 12: 32). Those on Calvary beheld the triumph of failure.

         Would that all the opposition to Christ and his teaching, caused by human pride and envy, had ended with the Nazarites and Pharisees! Far from it. Pride and envy are still rife among us. All through the twenty centuries of Christianity, there have been proud men, men high in their own esteem. Not only would they not have Christ to reign over them, but they have tried to prevent his reign over even those who are gladly and proudly his subjects. Not content with dethroning Christ in their own hearts and minds, they have devoted all their energies to abolishing him and his Church from the face of our earth. Such enemies of Christ are still among us. They are more numerous than ever today but just as their predecessors failed in the past, so will these fail today. Christ will continue to reign and his Church will continue its mission of leading to heaven all men whose minds are free from sinful pride and therefore open to the truth.

       Let us renew our loyalty to Christ today. He humbled himself so that we might be raised to the standing of sons of God. He shared our human nature with us so that we could share his divine nature. He died a cruel death on Calvary so that we could have an eternal life in heaven. We pray for light for those whose foolish pride has left them groping in darkness. Let us also ask the good God to keep us ever on the road of truth, the road of Christian humility which leads to the eternal home which Christ has won for us by his incarnation.

         By Father Kevin who was professor of Sacred Scripture at Christ the King Seminary and St. Bonaventure University in N.Y. and later in the National Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa and as a pastoral priest in Ireland Africa and as a pastoral priest in Ireland.

 

MIRACLES OF JESUS

        Today’s gospel gives us two further proofs of the divine power and the infinite mercy of our Savior. Apart from the primary purpose of proving his claim to be the promised Messiah, all his miracles had as their aim and end: the benefit of suffering human beings. He worked no miracle for the sake of astonishing people, or to satisfy idle gossip. Each one was performed in order to help someone in distress. All who were helped by his miracles of mercy had one thing in common—they were motivated by trust in his mercy and power. The leper in Matthew (8: 2) expressed the sentiments of them all: “Lord, if only you will you can cleanse me (of my leprosy).” In many cases, as for instance that of Jarius above, it was a relative or friends who showed this faith and confidence. It was always present either in the fortunate person or in the relative or friend who asked for the miracle.

         The Gospels give us only some of the many miracles our Lord worked. They give them to prove that he was what he claimed to be: the Son of God and the long-expected Savior, and also to prove his compassionate understanding and sympathy for suffering humanity.

         We must not forget, however, that the meaning of his miracles and his mission was lost on thousands of his contemporaries in Palestine, small though the country was. While great throngs followed our Lord and listened to his message and were interested in his mission, still great throngs remained at home, stolidly immersed in their worldly tasks and thoughts. They heard rumors about the man from Nazareth who was said to be the Messiah, and was supposed to be able to work miracles, but they were too practical, too sensible to listen to such rumors. Anyway, they had no interest in the Messiah, or in silly spiritual things, they were fully occupied with their financial and worldly interests.

           Has the world changed much in nineteen centuries? How many millions of nominal Christians ignore Christ and his Gospel today, millions who are too practical, too down-to-earth to waste time on such a silly thing as their eternal salvation! How many millions are spiritually sick and dying but who have not the faith, humility and confidence of Jairus, to cast themselves at the feet of Jesus and ask him to cure them? How fortunate would not people be if they would repeat the leper’s prayer: ” Lord, if only you will you can make me clean”; if they could, like the suffering woman in today’s Gospel, break through the throng of worldly pride, worldly interests and worldly associates and touch the hem of his garment; if they had the faith of Jairus; if only they could say to our Lord: come and lay your hands upon me so that I may be made well and live.”?

           Today, let us say a fervent prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of active faith which he has given us and beg of him to keep that faith ever alive in our breasts. Let us think, too, of our fellowman, our brothers in Christ, who are so busy with their worldly occupations and pleasures that they cannot find time to listen to his message. They are spiritually anemic and almost spiritually dead but cannot push their way toward Christ through the throngs of earthly, worldly barricades which they have built about themselves. Our sincere prayers can help them to overcome these obstacles; frequently and fervently let us ask God to send them his efficacious grace so that these brothers in Christ will also be with him in heaven.

            By Father Kevin who was professor of Sacred Scripture at Christ the King Seminary and St. Bonaventure University in N.Y. and later in the National Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa and as a pastoral priest in Ireland.

 

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