Homily – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Homily – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Today in the Gospel we hear three separate examples of God’s great love for us. Over and over again you will hear me preach about the dignity of the human person. This is especially important in today’s society which treats people as objects to be used for personal gain or preference. We live in a society that does not regard the individual life as precious. Rather, it is considered expendable if it gets in the way of someone else’s desires. We see this in embryonic stem cell research that treats unborn human beings as objects to be used for the furthering of science. In the name of a cure for disease some people are willing to kill babies if it makes their quality of life better. We see it in our laws that permit abortion on demand. We see it especially in the terribly hideous procedure of partial birth abortion and the activist judges who strike down laws against in the name of “personal freedom”. We see it in Euthanasia where the old and the disabled are treated as objects to be discarded when society determines they are no longer “worth” keeping around. We live in a culture of death and Christian’s are doing little to stem the tide. Our Holy Father, John Paul II, has said that we stand at a turning point in Human History. It could be a Christian millennium or the culture of death can continue to grow and dominate until it enslaves or kills us all. He says that to turn the tide we need to have a new evangelization and he has called us to that task. Whether we succeed or fail depends upon the choice we make of whether or not to embrace the new evangelization.
We see very clearly God’s great desire and love for the lost sheep, for the lost coin and for the prodigal son. God did not create any of us to spend eternity apart. God wills that all be saved. From the Adolph Hitler’s and Osama Bin ladan’s of the world to the neighbor we don’t like in town. God’s love for them still stands and he wants them to return to him. No one can be forgotten or discarded. No one is not worth our effort. By virtue of our baptism we are called to holiness. We are called to be priests, prophets, and kings. Each of these relationships is a relationship with others. A priest offers sacrifice on behalf of people. A prophet goes and speaks God’s word to people and calls them to repent, and a King orders society for the common good. Each and everyone of us is called to do this by our baptism. If we are not doing these things then we are failing God. As the first reading says: We have turned aside from the way God pointed us and we are worshiping idols. To do that leads us to destruction as it was leading the Israelites to destruction until they repented.
We are also strengthened by confirmation, to explain and defend the faith. We are strengthened in a special way so we can be evangelizers, so we can share the faith. If God gives us the gift and we don’t use it for his glory then we will be judged worthless as the lazy steward who buried his talent was. To be a Christian is to be an evangelizer. It is our duty, our obligation and our privilege to share in the saving work of Christ. It is not our job to change hearts but it is our job to extend the invitation to change and offer reasons for the hope that is in us. If you found an unlimited supply of gas on sale for 25 cents/gallon, how many people would you tell. In the same way, if we value our faith, we should share it with others. You don’t lose what you have when you share your faith, you gain more.
The call of the Gospel is clear and if you read our Bishop’s column in this month’s Bishop’s bulletin you would see he is calling us to do the same. He says that “every pastor must examine his conscience, mindful that everyone has the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ, and see how he can develop an evangelizing faith community through teaching, preaching and pastoral leadership.” But it isn’t the pastor’s job to do all the work. It is his job to call help the community to develop as well as to evangelize. In fact the Bishop is clear that the job belongs to the parish. He says it is “The first priority of every parish pastoral council to make sure that their parish is an evangelizing parish.”
But again the burden doesn’t fall on the pastoral council. It falls on the parish. We need to be evangelizing parishes. We are not called to be stagnant but to grow. We are called to share the truths of the Catholic faith with others. Each and everyone of us has that call.
This is one of the reasons I have been speaking to the pastoral council’s about the need to form an evangelization committee in each parish. If we are to be true Christians we must be working toward the spread of the kingdom. It is an essential duty and privilege of all Christians but it is also vitally important in small parishes. In order to keep our smaller parishes open we must be working to spread the Gospel to all people living in our parish boundaries. One of the questions the Bishop asks a parish when they are considered for closing is “Do you have an evangelization committee.” If a parish isn’t willing to be what a parish is called to be then they really don’t have a right to be open as a parish.
Evangelization isn’t always going door to door but it includes that as well. It can be as simple as inviting someone to return to Church, or having a parish potluck and inviting people to come. It can and should include offering sacrifices for the salvation of others. There are countless ways if we are willing to make it a priority in our lives.
We are called by God to be holy and to evangelize. To be holy is the Love of God and to evangelize is the Love of neighbor. It is not an option for a faithful Christian. If we fail in this then we fail in our baptismal and conformational calls. If we do not turn out to others then we turn in on ourselves.
We will be looking at forming evangelization committees in the parishes in the near future. As our Bishop says, becoming and evangelizing parish has to be a first priority of parish pastoral councils. From there we will seek out others to help us in the work of evangelization. It is here we will need to make individual choices. Do we seek to be evangelists and do we seek to make our parishes evangelizing parishes? The choice to be an evangelist is a choice to be what God called us or to refuse. Our spiritual life or death depends upon it. The choice to be an evangelizing parish is a choice to be what a parish is supposed to be or to refuse. The life or death of our parishes depends upon it. I invite you to join us when the time comes and I invite you to pray for the evangelization of our communities until then. If your faith is a blessing to you then we should be willing to share it. If it is not then we should be willing to share it with you. In the end our life depends upon it. As the scripture says “I put before you life and death. Choose life.” The choice is yours. Choose well.

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