My friends, even a cursory look at this Sunday’s Scriptures, gives us a clear picture that we are being asked to reflect carefully on our lives, who we have been, and what we have been about during this last Church Year, soon coming to an end—in fact, next week with the Feast of Jesus, the Christ, our Brother, and Friend. Many of us have known of this feast, in the past as, Christ the King—one that I have suggested that we move away from as Jesus never claimed to be a “king.” More on that next week.
I have always appreciated this time of year, in its physical and spiritual aspects. For us living in the Midwest, specifically in Minnesota, this time of year calls us to “putting to bed” outside plants, securing our homes for the onslaught of colder temperatures that living here demands of us.
Colder temps and less light in our days move us indoors more, “looking for light” in other ways. I will just let you imagine for yourselves, what brings “light” into your lives when outdoor light is less. For me, it allows more time to be creative, as in getting back to “painting” as art, something that I have taken up in the last several years. And for each of you, there is no doubt something that you enjoy doing when you are freed from many of the outdoor activities that take up our lives in the warmer months.
In a spiritual sense, this time of year, as I indicated at the beginning of this homily, calls us to assess our personal lives, how and if we have been faithful in our Christian journeys, in somewhat of a consistent way, both, “when convenient and when inconvenient,” as Paul says in another place.
The Scriptures for this week have a bit of “urgency” about striving, as I always say here, “to be our best selves,” but there is the “realization,” in Jesus, who lived our human life, that this isn’t always easy.
Jesus, in Luke’s gospel selection today, lets us know, in no uncertain terms, this reality. “All will hate you because of me…[but] have patient endurance”— [I will be with you.] It seems that Jesus is letting us know that the important thing is that we keep trying! So, this time in our Church Year gives us the opportunity to, “take a look and see where change is perhaps needed.
Earlier I stated that today’s Scriptures do call us to a bit of “urgency”—our God does keep wanting and expecting us to be about “justice” in our world, as the psalmist says today, even if we don’t always do it perfectly. The prophet Malachi lays out this urgency— “the day is coming …when all the proud and evildoers will be stubble.”
Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians basically says, and I paraphrase, “present [your] selves as an example for [others] to imitate.” Additionally, he tells them, “to be disciplined” [in their lives]. It might be good for each of us in these last days of the Church Year, as we assess, how we are doing in, “our walk with Jesus,” to imagine if we would be proud to have others “imitate our actions in the world.”
The words of the Alleluia verse for today might be a good reflection as we prepare for a new Church Year soon— “I chose you from the world to go and bear fruit that will last.”
A good friend of mine and Robert’s over the years, Jim Fitzpatrick, died three years ago at this time Jim had been an active priest in our diocese for 10 years before needing to leave that ministry and go on to spend the remainder of his almost 50 years of life, in what the Church hierarchy would call, “inactive” ministry with his wife, Karen. The funny thing is that even though he ceased his “active” ministry as a diocesan priest, his life was anything but, “inactive.” He and Karen were great supporters of women being ordained and could be found at many women’s ordinations, just one activity for justice that kept them both “active.”
One of the things I loved most about him, when he was my teacher in Old Testament my first year of high school, was his enthusiasm—we might say, “his fire for life!” In fact, he was always saying, “C’mon, catch fire,” when we as students were less-than-interested.
At his funeral, another of his students, a School Sister of Notre Dame, Sister Catherine Bertrand, who gave the homily, shared that the gospel used that day was Jim’s favorite—that of the Transfiguration, because it is the only place in Scripture, he told her, where it says, “It is good for us to be here.” I personally have always loved this passage too, and it does speak so well of what Jim was about in his life and what we are all to be about in our lives. Think what it would mean if even on occasion we thought in our daily lives, “it is [indeed] good to be here.” How might all that we do then, change?
Our mission as Jesus’ followers is to get out into our world, do our piece as that is made known to us, and basically, “catch fire” as my friend Jim always encouraged in his students.
When we claim to follow our brother Jesus, it should be obvious to our world, that this is what we are about—making a difference, as he did! Another prophet, not truly appreciated in his lifetime, Teilhard de Chardin had this to say: “Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”
So my friends, as we reflect on this past year, who and what we have been in our world, and if we haven’t yet “caught fire,” perhaps plan on doing so in the next year.