A few people have asked for my homily notes from last Sunday. I am reproducing a condensed version here. Please be sure to also check the bulletin for the special Fourth of July Mass schedule. Have a blessed week and good holiday!
“As we enter this time after Pentecost, the Gospels return prominently to the teachings and the parables of Christ. Christ resumes, within the Liturgy, His role as a teacher in the Gospel.
As I reflected upon this, I thought back to my own time as a teacher and as a student. When I first started teaching, my mentor told me and said that if I did anything, I needed to keep the horses disciplined in the barnyard. Eventually, I could let them out, but they had to be trained in discipline first and know that I meant business. In other words, I had to go in strict and precise on the rules; if I were wishy-washy, then I would be walked all over.
Well, I ignored his advice. I decided that rapport was more important and that a priest couldn’t come off as strict or mean in today’s world. I lost and learned my lesson very quickly. As I thought back on some of the most influential teachers in my life, and even my seminary priests, it was not the ones who tried to be friendly that were the most instrumental. Rather, it was the tough ones, that ones who pushed, who insisted on discipline, the ones I didn’t like even as I knew under their discipline was from deep care and concern. Not discipline for the sake of discipline, but for my good and education. And for the priests who formed me, my future parishioners’ salvation.
Christ was much like this in His teaching. It wasn’t until nearly the very end that He even called His apostles friends. Before this, it wasn’t unusual for Him to call them devils and satans. There are plenty of stories and parables from the Gospels that we like. I am sure each of us, right now, could think of their favorite part of the Gospels. There are, however, plenty of challenging teachings in the Gospel as well. Things that the Jews 2,000 years ago found challenging, and things we find challenging today. We are tempted to overlook those hard passages. But if we do, then we risk missing the entirety of what Christ hoped for with us because He has given us a discipline not for discipline’s sake, but for our salvation. He never once wavered from His mission. Even as the crowds were leaving Him.
We each have the choice. We can leave Christ and His teachings, like the crowds in John 6, preferring to hear only what we want. Or we can be like the Apostles. After the crowds departed, Jesus, probably with some sadness in His heart, asked the Apostles if they were going to leave too. May we respond with the response of Apostles: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”
Christ has since sent these same Apostles, who have sent the bishops and priests into the world to convey these same teachings. For 2,000 years, some have done that well after the example of Christ, the teacher. Others haven’t done that so well and preferred their own Gospel, preferred to be liked.
But the Gospel we must preach is the Gospel that has been given to us. With all of its beautiful and heart moving parts, and also all of its challenges and discipline. Because in the end, it was the challenges and discipline, in any area, that pushes people to become better and to receive the beauty.
On this Sunday following the Feast of the Sacred Heart, may we each pray for our priests. That they may model themselves after Christ and never waver. Always telling the truth in charity and leading people towards the beautiful. We each need to be challenged; that is the only way we grow, even in the Spiritual Life. And the teachings of Christ, in their entirety, give us everything we need. Challenge, goodness, and beauty.
When the Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney, was first arriving in Ars to become its pastor. A deep fog set over the city, and the Cure couldn’t see the town. He ran into a little boy who asked him what he was looking for. St. John Vianney said, “If you show me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to Heaven.” This is the goal of every priest, as a sanctifier and as a teacher, to show people the way to Heaven. And the Sacraments, with the beauty and challenges of the Gospel, is that way. Because they are from Christ, and He alone has the words of eternal life.”