21st Sunday; Resurrection, Ellicott City; St. Augustine, Elkridge
Resurrection, Ellicott City (8/20); St. Augustine, Elkridge (8/21)
A. Resurrection: It is a joy to offer Mass here at Resurrection Parish, alas for the first time. If my memory is correct, I was scheduled to do so previously but, unfortunately, I had to change my schedule at the last minute. So, here I am at last in my never-ending quest to offer Sunday Mass at all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Baltimore! I am especially happy to join with you this afternoon in expressing our common and warmest thanks to your pastor, Msgr. Deitzenbach, for his devoted and loving serving to this parish community.
B. St. Augustine: It is a joy to return to St. Augustine’s to offer Holy Mass and to join with you in expressing our common and deepest thanks to Fr. Williamson for his devoted and loving service to your parish family! On this occasion, we will bless the new columbaria, even as we remember lovingly and prayerfully all those in this parish family who have died, who have gone before us in faith – may the rest in peace. We remember as well all of our deceased loved ones, family members and friends: may they also enjoy the joy of seeing God face to face with all the saints.
II. Pope Francis and Today’s Readings
A. It has been three and a half years since Pope Francis was elected and what an impact he has had on the Church and on the world. Certainly he is having an impact on the Archdiocese of Baltimore as together we reflect upon our relationship with the Lord and one another and as we consider how well we are fulfilling the mission which the Lord has entrusted to the Church – this is the mission of spreading the Gospel – not merely as a set of ideas but as a way of life capable of waking up the world.
B. By word and example Pope Francis has given us two points to ponder as we go about the work of continually revitalizing and renewing the Church. The first is to ask about the depth of our relationship with Lord and one another. The second is our readiness as individuals and as a parish family to go on mission, to go in search of those who left the faith, those who seeking truth, meaning and love, those who are poor, vulnerable, and wounded in our throw-away culture.
C. Reflecting often on these two guideposts, I couldn’t help but notice how clearly they emerge in today’s Scripture readings. Let’s look at today’s readings in light of Pope Francis’ guidance and in light of what it is we are called to do here at Resurrection Parish and throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
III. Encounter with the Lord
A. As you may remember, I asked that a survey be conducted in the Archdiocese. Thankfully it was not about hot-button political issues but rather about our faith and our attachment to Christ, the Church, and its mission. One question was about the centrality of relationship with the Lord Jesus: Is our relationship with the Lord the most central, the most important relationship in our lives? Less than half answered that it was … perhaps because they thought it smacked of fundamentalism or perhaps because many really do need to encounter the Lord all over again or perhaps for the very first time.
B. There is no doubt that the Lord is present to us and present in many ways. The Lord is with us in Word and Sacrament. The Lord is with us in the ministry of priests and when we are gathered to pray. The Lord is with us in the poor and needy and comes us in moments of quiet prayer and reflection. Yet sometimes we might prefer a more casual relationship with the Lord and may even keep the Lord at arm’s length and why? Perhaps it’s because we’ve heard the Lord say to us that we will enter eternal life only through the “narrow gate” and that if we would really be his disciples we will also be disciplined. No wonder we sometimes hesitate. No wonder we hold back.
C. Yet this is precisely what Pope Francis urges us to do: to open our hearts to the Lord— not merely because he is a wise teacher or a source of help in time of trouble… More than that, the Holy Father is urging us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to fall deeply in love with the Lord Jesus as the be all and end of our lives, the one who loves us more than we love ourselves. Yes, the Lord is present to us in many ways – most deeply and most personally in the Eucharist – but always the question is this: are we present to the Lord? Do we open our hearts to Christ? Do we seek to live in his presence?
D. In allowing ourselves to encounter the Lord at a deeply personal level, we also give the Lord permission to discipline us – the way loving parents discipline their sons and daughters. In a word, we allow the Lord in his love and mercy to remove from our lives whatever it is that prevents us from loving him and loving our neighbor with that pure, generous, virtuous self-giving love born of the Gospel. Or to use the language of the language of [tonight’s] [today’s] Gospel, we should trust the Lord’s love enough that we will enter through the narrow gate: not the wide doors of peer pressure, not the loading dock of drugs and pornography, not the portico of materialism and excessive concern for oneself. No, Jesus is the narrow gate for he loves us in a way that the world cannot love us: he loves us so much that he wants for us not what is common but what is best.
IV. Missionary Disciples / Parishes
A. Once this dawns us, we look at our lives very differently. We are no longer be content to regard our faith as purely private but instead we want to share with those around us the joy of the Gospel. We put ourselves on the path to become not merely disciples but indeed, missionary disciples who are willing, ready, and able to share the faith with friends and neighbors who no longer practice it and with those who are searching for meaning, truth, and love in their lives. In spite of obstacles, we will share the joy of the Gospel both by word and by example and especially by our love and care for those in our community most in need.
B. This is how Isaiah’s prophecy and Jesus’ teaching will come to pass in time and place: as more and more of us commit to becoming missionary disciples, the truth, the goodness, the love, and glory of God will spread in our community and perhaps as never before, the parish will welcome those who will come from every direction to take part in the Eucharistic table. Then when we knock at the door, the Lord will open it for us, and say to us: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:34).
C. As I fulfill my ministry among you, I fervently pray and spend my waking hours seeking to bring about in this Archdiocese the vision of Pope Francis, the prophecy of Isaiah, and the words of Jesus now and in the years to come! May God bless us and keep us always in his love!