05 February 2018

Last Week on Mass at St. Pius X...

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
One of the great things about being the only priest in a parish is that you always know what was preached the week before.  When I was in East Lansing, I was one of three priests, and we had 8 Masses each weekend at two sites during the school year (7 during the summer months).  So one week I might have the Saturday evening Mass at St. Thomas and the 8 & 10 a.m. Masses at St. John Student Center, and then the following week I might have the 9 & 11 a.m. Masses at St. Thomas, and the following week I might have the 12, 5, & 7 p.m. Masses at St. John.  It was hard to be consistent in preaching, as each priest would often pick up on a different aspect of the readings.
But you’re stuck with only me, and I know that, if you came to Mass here last week, you heard about obedience and how we need to be obedient to God in all things.  But that obedience applies to us in a special way about what we heard in the second reading and the Gospel (we’ll not dwell on the Debbie Downer first reading from Job this week).  And that obedience comes to each of us to preach the Gospel.
In the Gospel, Jesus takes a little time off to pray, to recharge His batteries, to have time with His Father so that His ministry might be fruitful.  But not long after, the disciples find Jesus and tell Him that everyone is looking for Him.  Jesus then says, “‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.’”  Jesus’ mission is to preach the good news, the Gospel.  In obedience to the Father, He goes beyond His home village to preach that God is fulfilling His promise, and God is freeing the people from their oppressors, not so much the Romans, but the oppression of Satan and sin.
God also gives St. Paul the mission to preach, and St. Paul takes it very seriously.  He calls it an obligation imposed on him by God, “and woe…if I do not preach it!”  St. Paul does everything he can to spread the message.  To the weak he becomes weak to win them over.  He becomes all things to all so that at least some of them may be saved.  And his only recompense is having a share in the Gospel.  
We have also received this mandate to preach the Gospel.  You might not remember it, but it happened at your baptism.  And will happen tonight/happened last night at Jack’s baptism.  After the triple pouring of water, I anoint the child with Sacred Chrism, perfumed oil that has been consecrated by Bishop Boyea.  The second half of the prayer says: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”  Being anointed as a Prophet means that we are specially chosen to proclaim God’s Word, just like the prophets in the Old Testament and St. John the Baptist (but you don’t have to wear camel hair and eat locusts and honey).  And at the end of the rite I touch the ears and the mouth of the newly baptized child and say, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.  May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”  In these two ways the Church clearly shows how we are mandated, like St. Paul, to preach the Gospel.
But what is the core of the Gospel?  Do we know what the good news is?  I can give you the basics right now in three points, and certainly there is more that can be fleshed out, but here it is: 1) We are sinners and were separated from God by sin; 2) Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, and came to pay the penalty for sin for us by dying on the cross; 3) Jesus rose from the dead, destroying death and offering new life to those who believe in and follow Him.  Again, there is more to the Gospel than just those three points, but those three points are the heart of the Gospel.
So do we take our mandate seriously?  Are we obedient to God as being evangelizers, those who spread the good news?  Do we recognize, as St. Paul did, that an obligation to spread the Gospel has been imposed on us, and woe to us if we do not preach it?  And we can’t say that it all happens by our actions.  It was popular to quote St. Francis of Assisi with the saying, “Preach the Gospel always; use words if necessary.”  The problem is that he never said that.  And certainly St. Francis did not live that way, as he was constantly talking about Jesus, even to the Sultan in Egypt.  
Does this mean that we have to leave our jobs and do nothing but talk about Jesus?  No.  In fact, Vatican II reminded us that the laity, you, are called to sanctify, to make holy, the temporal order.  You’re supposed to talk about Jesus and live as a disciple of Jesus in your job.  You don’t have to be pushy (in fact, that tends to turn people off to the Gospel), but can still help others see by your life and your words what a difference being Catholic makes in your life.  Sometimes you’ll get asked questions you to which you have no answer.  That’s ok; it’s better to be honest and not have an answer than try to make one up and be fake.  The key is that we’re trying.

I certainly try to take my obligation to preach the Gospel seriously.  My eternal judgment will be partially based on how well I preached the Gospel, and if I watered it down to avoid conflict and thus betrayed the truth.  But we all were mandated in baptism to preach the Gospel in our daily lives.  Woe to all of us if we do not preach it!