Saturday, January 23, 2016

Glad tidings to the poor

Third Sunday of OT Time and Talent homily,
Today we get a special insight into the ministry of Jesus.  It’s almost like we get to hear his own vision on what it is that he was going to do.  It was almost like his inaugural address.  Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah and outlines exactly what it means to be the Messiah, this is his mission. 
As Messiah, Jesus proclaims that he is full of the Spirit, he will proclaim glad tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to those who are blind, he will let the oppressed go free, indeed an acceptable time from the Lord. 
Just think about all that Jesus did on earth.  He proclaimed the gospel.  He taught his disciples the pathway to eternal life.  He healed the sick.  He gave his life as a ransom for all of us.  By his resurrection he inaugurates a new age where sickness, death, sin, and misery no longer get the last word.  Before Christ the human race was poor indeed.  Yet, he proclaims glad tidings to the poor.  God loves us so much that he did not abandon us even when we went astray.  He came to break the prison bars of death and to set the captives free.  This is Jesus’ mission, this is his message. 
That message is just as important today as ever.  I mean watch the news for 5 minutes.  It seems like our world needs the good news of Christ as much now as ever.  Watch political squabbling for 10 seconds and we realize that we need more, we need a savior.  We still need Christ to proclaim glad tidings, to set free the captives, to give sight to the spiritually blind, to proclaim that this is an acceptable time.  God has never abandoned us, he is always close to us.
So now, more than ever, the message of Christ needs to be proclaimed far and wide.  And yet, who is going to do it?  How will that message go out? 
When Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to his disciples.  After completing his mission here on earth, he handed his ministry over to the Church.  It is the task of his followers to continue the work he began.  The message still needs to go out, now more than ever.  But, it is up to us to get that message out.
When you think of “preaching the gospel” what do you envision?  I think for many people we think that this is the job of the pope, the bishops, the priests.  Yet, this is the mission of the whole Church.  One of the true blessings of the Second Vatican Council was its proclamation of an ancient truth.  Vatican II stated very clearly that holiness is the mission of every member of the Christian faithful.  Discipleship is the mission of every person.  I say this is an ancient truth because it is basically what St. Paul is telling to the Corinthians in our second reading.  How many of us may have felt like we are inadequate when it comes to preaching the good news?  I can certainly say that being a pastor is a humbling kind of experience.  I am constantly aware that I have my inadequacies and shortcomings.  But, I take great comfort in hearing St. Paul’s words.  I don’t have to do the whole thing, I just need to do my little part.  The body is not a single part, but many.  There are the great and important parts.  There are the smaller and seemingly insignificant parts.  But, without all the parts, there is no body.  We definitely need to have the pope and bishops to carry out the mission of Christ.  But, we also need the dedicated and humble ministry of each member of the faithful. 
Never for a moment should we think: this mission is too hard, this task too important, this goal too grand for me to participate.  Every one of us has a part to play.  Every one of us is needed.  We each have a task before us.  If we embrace our vocations, embrace our lives as disciples then the church can carry out its mission.  But, without all the parts, the Church will struggle to proclaim glad tidings to the poor.  Just as a body that is missing even small parts will struggle and suffer, the Church cannot carry out the mission of Christ without all of us. 
This is certainly true for the universal church, but it is also true for our Parish.  St. Jude can only carry out its mission when everyone here sees this mission as an important part of our daily lives.  There is no member of this parish who is unimportant, there is no member of this parish who doesn’t share in our mission.  We are only able to do what we do here because of the contributions of every member of the parish.
This is our 25th anniversary of Stewardship.  During the course of this year, we have been reflecting on what stewardship is all about.  Stewardship is not a program, but a way of life.  Stewardship recognizes that everything we are and everything we have are gifts that come from God.  But, he doesn’t simply give them to us for our own benefit.  Rather, he entrusts us with gifts of time, talent, and treasure so that we might use them to carry out his will.  Hopefully this year of stewardship will be a chance for us to renew our commitment to Christ.

Today, I would like to ask everyone to think and pray about how God is calling you to engage in the mission of the parish.  As a parish, we are one body.  This body will only function with the participation of every part.  I ask you to think and pray about how God is calling you to use your time and talents for the good of the Church and for the good of the parish.  We live in a world that desperately needs to hear those glad tidings.  We are living among captives who are longing for freedom.  Christ wants to reach them, but he needs your help.   Next month you will all be receiving information from the parish about renewing your commitment to the stewardship of time and talent.  If you have already been giving of your time and talent, please sign up to continue.  But, also don’t be afraid to try something new.  If you haven’t signed up for something in the past, consider this to be the year to start.  Paul said that some people are called to be apostles, prophets, and teachers.  God is still calling people to carry out his mission.  He is calling each one of us to a special task, a special mission.  We are one body in Christ.  As one body, we carry out the mission Christ sets out for us in the gospel today.  So, the words of Isaiah can be our words as well: the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, so that we might proclaim glad tidings to the poor.

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