Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Prophet?

It was a year ago this past week that I started blogging.  One can clearly see from the counter below that there've been nearly 18,000 visits to the blog since then.  What you can't see is that nearly 2,000 of those visits have been from people searching for Bart Simpson.  Whodda thunk mentioning him would open such doors for evangelization?

However you got here, thanks for visiting!

   Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time   B 

A bishop was interviewing a seminarian,
asking where he might someday like to be assigned as a priest.
The seminarian said, rather boldly,
“Oh bishop, anywhere but Smallville.”
“Well, why not there?” the bishop inquired.
“You see,” the seminarian answered, “that’s my hometown—
and we all know that ‘a prophet is never honored in his native place.’”
“Don’t worry, my friend,” the bishop replied.
“Nobody is ever going to mistake you for a prophet.”

I quite clearly remember
during my days as a student at Wadhams Hall Seminary
going on a mountain climb in the Adirondacks
with several other students and members of the faculty.
When we’d reached the summit
and were resting there on the warm rocks,
the conversation somehow turned to particular challenges in ministry.
One of the priests shared—
I can still hear it like it was yesterday:
“One of the hardest things to do as a priest
is to be priest for your family.”

And in my experience, anyway, time has proved him right.

Some of it’s just plain practical.
I have a whole bunch of cousins,
and every time I turn around another one of them is getting married,
another one of them has had a baby.
Very early in my priesthood,
I had to make it clear that I simply could not be present
for every wedding and every baptism,
since I have weddings and baptisms aplenty in the parish.
Now, they’ve never complained to my face…
…but I’ve heard it through the grapevine
how this one or that has been less than understanding of my absence.

Of course, there are deeper issues, too.
My heart breaks as I see family members and close friends
who have stopped going to Mass;
or who have moved in with a partner—or even started a family—
without the benefit of the sacrament of Marriage;
or who have adopted a way of life
openly at odds with the faith in which they were raised—
the faith to which I’ve devoted my entire life.
Without a doubt, my love and affection for them endures…
…but what should I say?  What shouldn’t I say?
How can I lovingly be their son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend…
…and also faithfully be a priest of Jesus Christ?

It’s a challenge, indeed!
And it’s one I’m not sure I always get right.

A recent exchange with a friend was a good reminder
that this isn’t only a struggle for us
who are “professionally religious.”

I’ll call him “Adam.”
I met him when he was getting ready for his wedding.
Adam wasn’t raised in a very religious household—
and hadn’t been going to Mass for many years—
but his finacée was a rather devout Catholic.
And to his credit, Adam realized
that if he was going to ask the Church to give its blessing to his marriage,
then he’d ought to become a better member of it.
To see him reconnect with his faith
was a truly wonderful thing to behold!

Now—a number of years later—Adam’s father is dying.
He wants for his dad the same thing he found for himself:
to rekindle a relationship with God,
especially in this crucial hour.
Adam freely admits: he’s not as good a Catholic as he could be.
He doesn’t always make it to Sunday Mass with his wife and daughter.
So he’s not coming at this from some position of great self-righteousness.
He just knows—firsthand—what a difference faith in Christ makes.
Adam has tried to talk his dad into a visit from a priest…
…but without any success just yet.
Needless to say, he’s pretty disappointed.
But at my urging, Adam’s praying…and hasn’t given up hope.

We might all marvel at the way missionaries travel to far distant lands
and proclaim the gospel to nonbelievers.
But it’s an even trickier thing, I think,
to share our faith with those who are closest to us.
We can see in the gospel how Jesus’ own relatives and neighbors
were at first astonished by his teaching…
…but their astonishment quickly turned to taking offense.
They thought they knew everything about him.
Maybe they also thought Jesus owed them some special favor,
since they shared a hometown and a history.
He was amazed at their lack of faith
not mad, I don’t think, but sad:
disappointed, like me and like Adam,
because he loves them so very deeply,
and wants only what’s best for them,
and knows full well what they’re missing.

The challenge that faces the Church today
here in the western world
is of reacquainting people with faith in Christ—
not people who have never known him at all,
but people who have never really known him well
and who have to come to take him for granted.
Our society has become a lot like Jesus’ native place.
We think we’ve got him all figured out…
…when, in fact, Jesus is little more than a “familiar stranger” to most.

Not because we’re any better than anybody else,
but because we love those who are near and dear to us
and because we love our faith,
let us recommit ourselves—each and every one of us—
to this critical work of the new evangelization.
With all gentleness, and with great compassion,
let us speak and act out of the courage of our convictions.
Then maybe—just maybe—we’ll be mistaken for a prophet.

1 comment:

muffin24 said...

Kneeling before thy holy sanctuary,
Witness to the unfolding mystery,
Gazing at the hands holding Thee,
White Host held so reverently.
Sound of words changing substantially
Wine and bread into Blood and Body.
Hands formed in their mother’s womb
Created in secret in a hidden world.
One day will hold their Master and Lord.
Hidden from eyes of worldly curiosity,
Quietly formed in worth and dignity.
Touch with compassion, bless with devotion,
The waiting world needing Thee.
Empty hands, blessed hands!
Anointed by God for the work He began.
Do you believe how blessed you are,
Despite imperfections of being human?
This truth shall last now and forever
In life, in death, you are His priest,
Forget that never.

Sr. Helena of Mary, O.Carm
I was exploring the website for the Carmelite Nuns for the aged and the infirmed and found this and thought you would like it and thanks for all you do Fr.