8th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Mar 3, 2019
Father, “I went to Catholic Schools for twelve years.” People will state that to me in conversation from time to time. I’m happy to know it because I never had the advantage of a Catholic primary school education. Sometimes people will tell me that their college or even graduate school educations were also from Catholic institutions. I’m happy to hear their pride in having benefited from instruction from some of the Church’s renown teaching orders like the Jesuits, Sisters of Mercy, Dominicans and Franciscans. I’m a public-school boy. My undergraduate study was at a public university too. My first day of Catholic education was my first day in seminary. I’m happy to hear of their pride in their Catholic education.
Sometimes though I detect something else. At times when people tell me of their many years of Catholic education, I feel they are really telling me, “Father since I went to Catholic schools, I know all there is to know about God and Jesus.” They seem to be claiming that since they passed all their religion classes and were part of a religious environment for so long, they don’t really have anything more to learn about their faith. Some people will actually claim that since they spent all that time in Catholic Schools, they don’t have to come to Mass. They did their time. If they do come to Mass, they feel it is just to punch a ticket and get on with the really important parts of life. They don’t see any need to continue to grow in relationship with Jesus. All too often they are Catholics who know a great deal about Jesus but they never took the time to know Jesus. They don’t have any kind of a relationship with Him. They see no need to listen to and learn from Jesus.
Jesus faced the same problem in his own day. The gospels tell us that Jesus constantly had to challenge the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees in their belief that they knew all there was to know about God already and had nothing to learn from Him.
Over the last three weeks the Gospel passages we have been reading here at Mass have come from the Luke’s recounting of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. It is very similar to the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s gospel. Luke’s is shorter. Rather than being delivered to a large crowd here Jesus is speaking only to his disciples. The objective of the sermon was to outline for the apostles the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. He wants them to know that his main objective during his ministry would be for them to not only get to know about Jesus but to get to know Jesus. His objective was to establish a relationship with the apostles so that after the resurrection they could help all people to get to know Jesus too.
Two weeks ago, we heard how Jesus began his Sermon on the Plain by sharing with the disciples some beatitudes and also a list of woes. They were guidelines for some behaviors they needed to follow and some they needed to avoid. Last week Jesus instructed the disciples that if they were to get to know him, they had to go past just following the Golden Rule. They had to go beyond just not doing onto others what they didn’t want done to them. Jesus taught the disciples that if they were to get to know him, they would have to love even their enemies.
Today Jesus speaks about the teacher-student relationship he wants to establish with the disciples. It is a relationship where Jesus hopes to teach them to become like him. They must not only come to know his teachings but become like their teacher. Jesus tells them that he wants his disciples to be people who are trained in Jesus’ ways. The disciples are to be people who most of all avoid being hypocrites. They must be careful not to intentionally hurt others by their speech. Christians must grow in likeness to their teacher intellectually and in the fruitful deeds they perform. Faithful Christians must be people who allow themselves to be pruned and fertilized in their faith. They can’t settle for staying at the same level of faith but must be open to growth.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season. Lent is meant to be a forty-day season of retreat in preparation for Easter. Our intention needs to be to use this Lenten season to reevaluate our relationship with Jesus and let it grow.
During the Lenten Season I plan to give a series of Sunday homilies I’ve called, “From Maintenance to Mission.” It is my objective to use these homilies to help us move from being disciples who are just trudging along maintaining our faith into real missionary disciples. I want all of us to become disciples willing to share our faith with the many lost of our community to help them establish a relationship with Jesus too.
Over the years the Church has lost its focus on what should be its real objective. We’ve settled for being a sort of service agency just trying to satisfy consumer disciples who only want their desires satisfied. That was not Jesus’ objective for his disciples. In the Sermon on the Plain Jesus tells his followers that he will be training them to be missionary disciples. Disciples enthusiastic about sharing their relationship with Jesus with others.
In my Lenten series, From Maintenance to Mission, I plan to outline some of my plans to help transform Holy Redeemer Parish. With your help I plan to change our parish from a maintenance parish into a missionary one. I want to see our parish transformed from one only here to satisfy parishioners sacramental needs into one who sees its purpose as reaching out to the lost. I want to see Holy Redeemer become a parish that recognizes its call is to grow from a group of people who know about Jesus into a parish where people come to get to know Jesus. A place where the lost and the seeker can be helped to establish a real friendship with Jesus. It’s a tall order. It will take time and effort. It is an effort we must make not only for our parish but for our Church to survive and grow in this post sexual abuse scandal and increasingly secular world.
It is important for everyone to come every Sunday of Lent and listen to our plans to become a missionary parish. Make plans to insure you and your family are in attendance every Sunday this Lent. Plan to invite family members, friends, and neighbors whom you believe would benefit from hearing our message to join you here at Mass. Invite those who would benefit from hearing how God is calling them to move from being a Christian who knows a lot about Jesus to becoming a Christian who knows Jesus. Don’t be discouraged if those you invite come up with an excise not to come the first time you ask. Gently, keep inviting them. They will come.
In today’s gospel Jesus invites his disciples to open their hearts to a relationship with him. How do we do that? We begin by practicing self-abandonment. We recognize that life isn’t all about me and my desires. Disciples answer the call to get to know Jesus by making their relationship with the triune God the center of their lives. Something we work at through prayer.
Our relationship with God grows through love not only of our neighbor but our enemy. As people striving to get to know Jesus, we come to believe we are called not to be ordinary people but extraordinary ones. People who by our love stick out in a crowd and don’t blend into the world. We become missionary disciples by being people who embrace our relationship with the Body of Christ. We recognize that as Christians we are called to be counter-cultural. We don’t embrace this world but embrace a kingdom that respects life from conception to natural death. We are members of a kingdom of love, mercy and forgiveness. We show others that we have come to know Jesus by the words we speak, the good deeds we do and the love we share.
For the Lenten Season Holy Redeemer has developed a program to help you begin the process of deepening your relationship with God. A plan for you to become a missionary disciple. To help you in your prayer life we have provided copies of the Lenten issue of the magazine “The Word Among Us”. If you haven’t already taken a copy help yourself to one today. They are on the table at the back of the church. If you would like to take a copy for a friend or family member you feel would benefit from it please help yourself too. I would much rather have the books get into the hands of someone who would benefit than have them here again next week.
Last week the bulletin had a flyer encouraging parishioners to sign up for Dynamic Catholic’s, Best Lent Ever. It is an online program of daily reflections that I have found helpful in past years. I’m sure you would find it worthwhile for your prayer life this Lent. Just go to the DynamicCatholic website and follow the prompts to sign up.
On the Friday’s of Lent the parish will be conducting the Stations of the Cross devotion. We will be reciting them at 4:30 PM in the afternoon. Recitation of the Stations usually take about half an hour. Each week we hope to have members of different parish groups and ministries lead a version of the Stations that reflect on the theme of their work. Following the Stations, we are providing a simple supper of soup, bread and beverages. After the meal you are invited to a showing of an excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s video presentation, Priest, Prophet, King. Each presentation is about twenty to thirty minutes. It will help you know more about Jesus so that you can get to know Jesus. Come for all or for whatever part of the presentation you feel will help your prayer life this Lent.
Fasting is another way to get to know Jesus. It is the second of the Lenten disciplines. Many Catholics give up certain foods, drink or other habits for the Lenten season. That is good and commendable. This Lent maybe try to give up a vice that stands in the way of your having a closer relationship with Jesus. Maybe as today’s gospel points out we could give up being judgmental, quick to find fault or being a hypocrite. Make what you give up this Lent something you don’t intend to take up again once Lent is over.
Each parish household received in the mail last week a Lenten folder. The folder asks us to contribute 25c a day as almsgiving for Lent. These funds will be collected at the end of Lent and sent to Food for the Poor to build a sturdy house in Haiti. Last year the parish raised $4,000 through the Lenten folders. That was a little more than the $3,600 cost of one house. It would be great to raise enough for two houses this year.
Use your Lent this year to not only get to know about Jesus but to get to know Jesus. During his public ministry Jesus promised to give everyone who sincerely tried to get to know him the gift of every lasting life. He promised a share in his resurrection, the resurrection we will rejoice in on Easter Sunday, to everyone who tried to imitate his sharing of God’s love, forgiveness and mercy as missionary disciples.
In a few minutes we will begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Our faithful all-powerful God will again give us the gift of the Real Presence of Jesus in Communion. Communion is God’s gift of grace so that we can have the desire to really grow into a relationship with Jesus and become missionary disciples.