St. Paul, in today’s second reading, gives us marching orders. His words mandate us to a life of service to Christ: ‘I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.’ For those of us who accept Christianity in its entirety these words are not shocking or ominous; we know that, as followers of Christ, we have no other choice – or rather we have only two choiceswith our lives.
1. Follow Christ who is our center, or
2. Go another way; away from Christ and become mired in confusion, despair, loneliness.
Pope Francis in a homily on September 7th said that ‘If Jesus is not at the center, “other things are”’ (1). We can’t allow other things to take the place of Jesus in our lives; today’s Collect (Opening Prayer) is a petition to have just that,
Almighty ever-living God,
grant that we may always conform our will to yours
and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.
But as St. Paul proclaims and the Collect asks God for help with – it more than just interior change that we will be judged on; we are called to go to society and bring Jesus back into the public life of society if it is to thrive and help its members realize their true dignity and worth.
In the past decade we have witnessed a rapid disintegration of civility in this country. In politics, entertainment, business – in every aspect of life; the respect and concern given to each other has devolved into indifference, isolation and disinterest. This leads mankind to view each other, when our paths do cross, with annoyance, irritation, antagonism. We look at the other not with the dignity of a child of God but with the lenses of utilitarianism. And of course, deep down we start to look at ourselves with those same lenses – a grayness sets into our souls.
However, with Jesus at the center, we bring back the light, we feel the warmth of worth. When, by our words and actions, we proclaim the word we start to heal the malady of modernity. The grayness of life, that is so pervasive, fades and life becomes colorful. Father Barron, in his new series on the new evangelization tells a story about a tour through Germany; as they left northern Germany and entered Bavaria in the south, their guide mentions they will notice how much happier and brighter the region is and its people are. The guide also mentions that they are passing from predominately protestant and modern Germany into the mostly Catholic and traditional Germany. Bavaria is known for its strong Catholic faith, its Marian devotion; society there is very centered on Jesus.
What is the word that we must proclaim, what message is to be witnessed to? ‘Christ risen from the dead’! This is the Good News, the Evangelium. This is the reason for our hope, for our joy. This is the central message of Holy Mother Church. Our God has defeated death for us, has paid the ransom for our sins; has turned the monologue of man trying to reach up to God on his own terms back to a dialog of love where God and man reach to each other, and man reaches out to fellow man. We preach the meaning of fellowship, of love.
But the biggest hurdle to this plan of healing is that we need to start; plain and simple, we need to begin. Each of us needs to take that step and start proclaiming ‘Christ risen from the dead!’ ‘Be not afraid’ Blessed John Paul the Great told us – and this is true. For with us at every moment is God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are never alone, we are always and forever a team: you, me and God. No matter what situation we find ourselves in we should be joyful, knowing our Lord’s opinion of our worth and His love for us; and we can if we only open ourselves up to it every day. This why constant, consistent prayer is so important – it keeps us in the loving dialog with God and prevents the prince of the world from gaining a foothold in our life.
Every day, for years, I recite in my prayers the following:
‘Lord may my vocation burn ever brighter in my heart,
may I grow to love you more each day
and conform more and more to your will.’
As we see in today’s Collect the Church herself asks the same.
At the end of Mass we are dismissed with: ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.’ – let’s do just that. May Christ be at the center of our lives. May we all respond to St. Paul’s charge and bring God to society and society to God. Let’s push back the grayness of modernity and bring the color of Christ to our world.
(1) L’osseratore Romano 9/11/13 english edition pg.10