21 August 2017

What to Do with the Time that is Given to Us

Solemnity of St. Pius X
This has been, in many ways, a tough year for us at St. Pius X.  But what immediately comes to my mind when I think of our challenges is a scene in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings” when Frodo and Gandalf are sitting in the dwarf mine of Moria, waiting to see which way they should go.  Frodo says, “I wish none of this had happened.”  Gandalf responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Let me be clear: while I have certainly regretted some of the struggles that we have gone though, as a church and as a diocese, over the past year, I have never regretted becoming your pastor.  And I hope that, even if you have not relished some of the adjustments that have been made since I became your pastor, you do not regret being members of this parish.  But our challenge, as St. Pius X parish, is not the struggles themselves, and the difficult time that our parish and city and diocese are experiencing.  Our challenge is what to do with the time that is given to us.  
This Gospel that we heard is one of my favorites.  The apostles had seen the risen Christ many times, but then He must’ve spent some time away, because they seem to despair again, like in the upper room before they saw Jesus.  So Peter decides to go fishing, and the other apostles go with him.  But, as always in the Gospels, Peter can’t catch anything until Jesus, who mysteriously appears on the shore, tells them to cast their nets to the other side, and they catch 153 large fish.  Peter recognizes Jesus, and with his usual impetuosity, jumps in and swims to shore.  After eating the fish, Jesus takes Peter aside, and asks him the three questions about where St. Peter’s heart is.  
That must have been hard for St. Peter to be asked if he truly loved Jesus.  When someone you love asks you if you really care about him or her, doesn’t that hurt?  And Jesus asks three times, which for Peter had to remind him of the three times he had denied Jesus.  Peter looked back at the past 50 days and didn’t have a lot to show for it.
Right after the last verse, Jesus then prophesies for Peter how he will die, and then Jesus invites Peter to follow Him.  But things don’t always go well for Peter.  He will later be rebuked by St. Paul for not being consistent with welcoming Greeks into Christianity.  And even at the end of his life, as the persecution of Nero is closing in on him, St. Peter, by tradition, will try to flee martyrdom.  But Jesus reveals Himself to Peter walking back to Rome.  St. Peter asks Him, “Domine, quo vadis?” “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus tells Peter He is going to Rome to be crucified a second time.  Peter then repents of being scared of dying for Jesus, and returns to Rome, to be crucified upside-down.  
St. Pius X himself lived in turbulent times: he only became pope after the clear-and-out favorite was vetoed; during his pontificate a group of theologians tried to undo perennial Church teachings; revolutions against governments in Europe and Asia started to develop, which led to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which ballooned into World War I, shortly before St. Pius X died.  How many times must he have wondered why he lived in such times?  But instead of simply bemoaning the bad, he worked to promote the good.
And as we celebrate our parish patron, that is our opportunity as well: to decide what we will do with the time we have been given.  God wanted each of us to live right now.  He wanted you to be a part of this parish, and He wanted me to be your pastor.  And He wanted this because we have what it takes to follow His will and strengthen our parish and school to help it survive and thrive in the future.  Yes, the world may seem very dark right now, and not just our little corner of it, but indeed the whole world seems to be teetering on the edge of darkness.  But God is the sun who can put an end to the darkness of night and usher in the light of day.  
In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo still had difficult times ahead of him: battles to survive, getting lost, getting captured, and even making it to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring (which, spoiler alert, he cannot even bring himself to do).  Frodo becomes estranged from the group of his friends, and even at one point sends his best friend, Samwise Gamgee, away.  But, after all that (spoiler alert) the One Ring is finally destroyed, and the darkness is defeated.  Frodo regains his friends and no longer has to carry the burden of the One Ring.
It is up to us to decide what we will do with the time we have been given.  Will we follow where God leads us in being faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church?  Will we take opportunities to talk to others about Jesus, and invite them to start or deepen their relationship with Christ and the Church He founded?  Will we fight against the powers of darkness who seek to divide this parish and keep it focused on itself rather than love of God and love of neighbor?  
Or do we simply want to keep the status quo?  Do we want to give in to our self-centered culture which only pursues its own desires, no matter what Christ and His Church says?  Are we content simply to keep our faith to ourselves and not share it with others?  If we are for these last approaches, for giving up because the battle is hard, then we will contribute to the weakening and perhaps even eventual dying of our parish.  But, if we are willing to be transformed by the grace of Christ and continue to spread the Gospel, then we won’t be a victim of our difficult times, but a victor in Christ.  

Today I recommit myself, through the intercession of Pope St. Pius X, to working as hard as I can to do the things that will help this parish grow by being faithful to who we are as Catholics: followers of Jesus, transformed by the Sacraments, faithful to His Church, that joyfully spread the Gospel.  Will you join me in this fellowship?  Will you do what you can with the time that is given you?