SATURDAY HOMILY: How Am I Living This Year of Faith
We can learn a lesson from the busy apostles in today's Gospel. After their experience of ministering in Jesus' name, they gather with Him to report with great jubilation "all they had done and taught." It would be good for us to take a moment to examine our consciences and ask the question, "What do I have to report to Jesus about what I have "done and taught" thus far in this Year of Faith.
Reading the Gospels, one can almost feel the enthusiasm of the "Twelve" as they "went off and preached repentance ... drove out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them." (Thursday's Gospel). There are exactly "twelve" apostles because they are, like the twelve patriarchs of Israel, the new Patriarchs, the "Priests-Fathers" of the New Israel, the Church. Their joy and exuberance at being sent out by Jesus is reminiscent of that of the newly ordained priests upon whose hands the residue of Holy Chrism is still fresh.
All of us, however, regardless of what our particular vocation in the Church may be are sharers in the one priesthood of Christ. We are called, therefore, just like those first followers of Jesus, to be joyful messengers of the Gospel. I once heard someone say that the secret of joy is contained in the letters of the word itself, J-O-Y. "J" is for Jesus. He comes first. "O" is for others. They come next. Finally, "Y" stands for you. You come last and so long as you keep this order straight you will know true joy.
In other words, I will never become an attractive and effective messenger of Christ until I become forgetful of self and begin to put the needs of others before my own. Jesus Himself is the model and teacher par excellence of this radical self-giving. The Gospels show how unreservedly He gave Himself to the multitudes that came to Him looking for help, healing, light and strength. He would not allow anything, not even legitimate human needs like nourishment and rest, keep Him from tending to their needs.
Today's Gospel tells us how after a time of intense apostolic activity, Jesus takes the apostles aside for a little R & R. But when they arrive at the appointed place and Jesus sees the large numbers of people who had hurried on foot to meet them, "His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things."
Commenting on the above verse from today's Gospel, St. Josemaria once said: "Jesus is moved by hunger and sorrow, but what moves him most is ignorance." (Christ is Passing By, 109). Long ago, the prophet Hosea pronounced this divine lament, "My people perish for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6)
In his Apostolic Letter for the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict quotes St. Paul and says: "Caritas Christi urget nos" (2 Cor 5:14): it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize." (Porta Fidei, 7) The word caritas or "charity" is usually associated with writing a check to a worthy cause or supporting a humanitarian effort of some sort. This is, needless to say, praiseworthy and good.
But Pope Benedict XVI tells us that charity means something much more:
'It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the "ministry of the word". There is no action more beneficial - and therefore more charitable - towards one's neighbor than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person." (Lenten Message 2013, Benedict XVI).
So we ask ourselves: What have I done to spread the doctrine of Christ to others, to my family, co-workers, colleagues and friends? What have I done to prepare myself to be a more knowledgeable Catholic? How much time have I spent in prayer so that I may be a more winsome bearer of the Good News of Christ? What prayers and sacrifices have I made for those I am trying to reach during this Year of Faith?
Ash Wednesday and the Holy Season of Lent are right around the corner. If we began the Year of Faith with great gusto but have faltered somewhat since, now is the time to begin again. If we have been dragging our feet all along, there is no better time than now to dive headlong into this special year of grace while there is still time.
May Holy Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, keep our feet from stumbling.
Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is Pastor of Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach, California.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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