All posts for the month July, 2024

July 14, 2024 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Indianapolis, Indiana

Amos 7: 12-15 + Psalm 85 + Ephesians 1: 3-14 + Mark 6: 7-13

Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union, and a guy from Memphis named Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sister George McGoey was teaching 8th grade at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parochial School, and I was over there in a desk looking out the window at Public School 84. It was 1956. Finally, after 68 years, I find myself standing here where I so often served Mass for Father Sahm. When I look that way or from side to side, everything looks the same, maybe a little smaller. When I look that way nothing is familiar, and I’m glad about that because change is a consistent sign of life. If this place were exactly the way it was in 1956, something would be terribly wrong. We are not here to preserve the past. Yet, it is important to know where you have come from just in case you find yourself there again which means you’re lost. The Kingdom of God is not behind us.

There is great danger in longing for the past. It is easy to sit back in this grand old place built by some of our parents and think that the job is done. The permanence of buildings like this poses a challenge to us all. The permanence of this building allows us to risk thinking that this it, this is the Church. No it isn’t. This place is the starting line. It was for me, and hope it is the same for you. This is the place where the mission begins. This is the place we come to listen for the voice of God. If you’re here, you are chosen. What we learn from this Gospel today is that Jesus does not invite or ask disciples if they will do something. They are sent, commissioned. What they are to do is not optional or a choice they make. It is about who they are, and what they do because of it.

It is obvious to anyone who learns from the Gospel that God is not interested in the best or the perfect. That group of twelve we just heard about were not really good at anything except ambition, confusion, and a remarkable ability to miss the point of nearly everything they heard. I’ve often suspected that some of them were not particularly good at fishing. If they were, they may not have left it all so easily. Nonetheless, they get sent out with all the power found in the name of Jesus Christ to do what he does. That number Mark deliberately gives us is an important detail. Mark says: “Jesus called the Twelve.” For those to whom Mark is writing at first, that number means everyone. They would think of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and know what it means. Everyone!

If there is a reason behind the long delay for the Kingdom of God to be lived and made real, if there is a reason for people to still experience isolation, loneliness, and feel cast out or abandoned, if there is a reason for lingering racism, sexism, or hostility toward those who are different from us, it is because we have not realized the implication of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are no spectators among disciples. Action and mission are their identity. They are never heard to say: “Someone should do something about that.” They know who should do something.

We might also note that the mission we are given is not just spiritual. They preach repentance and they heal. Along with the spiritual, there is a social dimension to the mission we are given. Praying for the poor and homeless is fine, but that’s not all there is. Something must be done about it in order to fulfill the command we are given.

We, the Church, are by our very nature missionary. Even though the Church possesses some permanence made obvious by this grand building, we are, nonetheless, always on pilgrimage moving forward without too much baggage, excited about the promise the future holds for this world entrusted to us when we remember who we are.

Ordinary 14

St Peter the Apostle Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

July 7, 2024 At St. Peter the Apostle Churches in Naples, FL

Ezekiel 2: 2-5 + Psalm 123 + 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 + Mark 6: 1-6

They took offence at him and some still do. I was ordained in 1968 by a Bishop who knew that “separate but equal was not.” He integrated the Catholic Schools of the Diocese. He defended priests who were jailed at sit-ins, and who marched over a bridge in Selma. He paid a high price for that. His home was not safe, he was rudely shouted at and picketers marched everywhere he went for months. He was attacked in fake Catholic publications, and I think he died of a broken heart. These days, some take offence at our Holy Father. They twist his words and meaning, they call for his resignation, they defy his authority to lead, to teach, and the call us to holiness.

This whole irrational thinking gets put before us today with an opportunity to grow, to learn, to listen, and to wonder why it is easier to be negative than positive, to look for the flaws and sins of others. That crowd in Nazareth took offense for two reasons. He was a mere worker who fixed doors and windows, built houses and made plows. What could he possibly know about anything other than saws, hammers and wood? Then they took offence because they knew Mary, his mother. It may well have been an insult, a way of calling him illegitimate. 

Whatever, they made a bad choice that day because it’s always easier to be negative than positive, or be destructive rather than creative. Just what was so offensive about Jesus, about Bishop Reed, a kind and gracious gentleman? What is so offensive about a Bishop from Argentina called by the Holy Spirit who suggests that we should not judge and reminds us that the Church should be like the Kingdom of God, a refuge for sinners, and place of hope for the lost.

A young anonymous student, a young poet proposed a way to avoid and rise above those who choose evil rather than good. He said:

I will do more than belong. I will participate.

I will do more than care, I will help

I will do more than believe. I will practice.

I will do more than be fair. I will be kind.

I will do more than live. I will grow.

I will do more than be friendly. I will be a friend.

We are called by our faith to participate in building the Kingdom and help those who show us the way. We are called to practice faith, not just mouth the words, and it means much more than going to Mass. We are reminded that kindness surpasses fairness, and that being a friend is better than just being nice, and that the only way to be alive is to grow.There is nothing kind or friendly in negative and destructive people. There is nothing Godly about them at all. They are hardly even alive because they resist a prophetic call to grow, to change, to listen to the Word of God who was then and still is in our midst. Every one of us in this place is called to be God’s prophet, and the healing, forgiving, merciful Gospel must be preached until the end of time, even to those who are unwilling to listen.