As members of the Mystical Body of Christ we all like to be uplifted by great deeds and saintly actions. We look to each other for reinforcement and strengthening by our works for the Lord. Especially on this 8th anniversary of our Vesper group I wanted to inspire you. But, sadly we also fail; we let Jesus and each other down. If our individual sins damage our relationship with God and each other – our selfish actions, which might not be sinful, nonetheless weaken His mystical body and each other. Tonight, I ask for your forgiveness in being a cause for this weakness.
There is this new series on cable TV titled ‘Satisfaction’. It is about a married couple who are unfaithful to each other – it makes infidelity very glamorous. This past Friday afternoon, while being bombarded with the commercial trailers for this show I started to get angry with the station and with those who decided to create this debauchery. That I thought their actions were despicable was justifiable – it was a show that made cheating very enticing and as such it was a temptation to sin. But my disgust and judgment of the people who created it was wrong; after all who am I to judge – that same Friday night I put Jesus out from this church and into the night.
I came to preside over our Friday Night Holy Hour and then stay for our All-night Vigil for the Sanctification of Families. When I got to church I was wondering if anyone would even show up, it was the 4th of July – sure enough there wasn’t anyone there – except one person. There, in the dark, was a homeless man. He was just sitting there with a shopping bag next to him, probably holding all his possessions. He was sitting quietly, either dozing or praying, probably a little of both. By the time Holy Hour started there were 5 others there, including our Pastor; but by the time the Holy Hour was done and I was returning to continue the Vigil it was just Father and the Homeless man leaning over sleeping.
As Father was leaving I told him that I was nervous about spending the night alone with this man and that I was thinking of cancelling the Vigil. I did. About an hour later no one had come to the vigil so I went to the man and told him I was leaving. He said he was waiting for the priest and was disappointed when I told him he had already left. He said he wanted some clean socks. Though I didn’t have socks I did give him some granola bars, listened to him for about 10 minutes – then walked him out. He was pleasant enough; then as he walked into the darkness I knew that I had just asked Jesus to leave the church.
I failed in my ministry as a Catholic. St. Francis embraced and kissed a leper, I told the leper to get out. I can’t help but feel sadden by my less than Christian action.Isaiah tells us:
‘Share your bread with the hungry,
and take the poor and homeless into your own house.
Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your holiness will go before you.’
I wanted to come this evening and congratulate each of us for 8 years of Sunday Vespers, I wanted to pat us on the back. But, instead God tapped me on the shoulder and held a mirror to my actions and let me see what St. James meant: ‘What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
The mirror showed me how I failed – how I put ‘me’ first and Christ second. How my faith died. But, we deal with a Lord who returned from the dead, and He returns within us as well – when we have a fallen like this, to build us even stronger.
Brothers and sisters, may my failure bring me to a better understanding of my calling and my weaknesses. May my failure reinforce in me that being a disciple is a constant activity; that I should look for Jesus in everyone and not count the personal cost in helping Him in others. And, may my failure, in some small way, help each of you as well.