Sunday, September 16, 2012


   Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time   B 

A Sunday School teacher asked her young students
to each share with the class one thing they knew about Jesus.
Bobby said, “Jesus was born in a manger.”
Susie said, “Jesus died on a cross.”
And then little Johnny said, “Jesus has a red pickup truck.”
Confused, the teacher asked, “And where did you learn that, Johnny?”
“From my Daddy,” he said. 
“The other day we were on the highway
when a red truck pulled out in front of us and my daddy yelled,
“Jesus, I wish you’d learn how to drive!”

Who do people say that I am?

Word was getting around about Jesus.
His miracles were drawing attention.
It was becoming harder for him 
to move about quietly.
Who do people say that I am?
Jesus is not taking an opinion poll here.
He’s not particularly concerned
about his reputation—
about whether people like him 
or approve of his message.
Who do people say that I am?
Jesus wants to know,
“Do they understand me?  
Do they ‘get’ it?
Or are they just going along with the crowd—
just coming out for a show?”

How about today?
Who do people say that Jesus is?
My friend’s son—when just a tike—
stood up on the pew during the homily at Mass and shouted,
“Don’t say that, Father!  That’s a bad word!”
The priest had simply spoken the name of Jesus.
How many young people today only know Jesus Christ as a cuss?
How many people take his holy name in vain…
…but don’t really know him?
We’ve reached a moment in history
when even decent, church-going Catholics—
not to mention all those we see only occasionally—
are rapidly losing touch with the One
who’s the very reason for our being here,
who’s at the heart of all we do and are.

I’m sure—by now—you’re catching on:
this isn’t a “feel good” homily;
it’s a rallying cry!

So…what do we do?

For the Church Universal,
our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
has declared a Year of Faith beginning October 11,
marking the fiftieth anniversary of the opening session
of the Second Vatican Council.
There are parts of the world—
Europe and the Americas, especially—
which were once essentially Christian,
but in which the faith is now dying out.
Many people today are Catholic in culture or name only.
The Pope is calling us to a “new evangelization”:
to be missionaries in our own backyards;
to stir back into flame the sparks of faith which have grown cold.

In the Diocese of Ogdensburg,
this Sunday marks the start of the 2012 Bishop’s Fund Appeal.
Yes, it is a fundraiser, and a crucial one
for many important programs across the North Country.
But it’s also a way for us Catholics in the region
to unite in a common cause—
to, quite literally, put our money where our mouth is
when it comes to sharing our faith.
It takes resources to do the work of the Church,
and we all need to work together.
Last year, just 372 households from our parishes
contributed to the Bishop’s Fund—less than eighteen percent.
I encourage all of our members to make a gift this year—
no matter how big or small.
If you did not receive information in the mail,
offering envelopes are available in the pews.
On behalf of the young people at Camp Guggenheim,
our seminarians training for the priesthood,
the poor, the sick, and the hungry aided by the Good Samaritan Fund,
and the tens of thousands of others who benefit from the Bishop’s Fund,
I thank you for your generosity.

Right here in the Malone Catholic Parishes,
we celebrate our fourth annual Holy Harvest Festival today.
As the seasons change,
we rejoice in the crops gathered in from local fields and gardens.
I do hope many of you will come and take part.
But more importantly,
there’s a holy harvest of souls out there that’s ripe for the picking.
By my best calculations,
our weekly Mass attendance has increased in the last year.
But even then, only about 20% of our registered parishioners
regularly come to church.
That’s not taking into account
the many Catholics who aren’t on our books,
or our many neighbors who are without a spiritual home,
who have yet to get to know Jesus.
Of course, if we expect a great harvest of souls,
we must first tend and cultivate our own.
Fr. Tom and I are now working on plans
for how our parishes will observe the upcoming Year of Faith;
watch for details in the months ahead.
But you don’t have to wait around for a special program
to start spreading the Good News.
We can’t expect others to know Jesus
if we—all of us!—don’t first get to know him better
and then make him better known.
Give a face to your faith,
and let your family and your coworkers,
your fellow students and your neighbors know
what a difference Christ makes in your life.

Who do people say that I am?  Who do you say that I am?

Being a Christian, being a Catholic,
means more than being “on the books,”
more than showing up at key moments,
even more than regularly coming to Mass.
Faith—true faith—requires taking action,
requires practice of what is preached.
That’s a challenge, since what we preach
isn’t all that popular these days.
Jesus knew well that he would be rejected and suffer.
And we, the Church—his Body and his Bride—
know well that we, too, will be rejected and suffer.
To follow Christ is to walk the way of his cross.
But the cross is not the end of the story.
The Son of Man will be killed, Jesus foretells,
and rise after three days.
And so we must be resolute, must not be deterred,
even when the going is tough,
even when the results are not yet as we’d hoped.
We as individual disciples, we as a Church,
must risk our lives in order to save them—
to think as God does, and not as worldly people do.
Our success cannot be measured in numbers—
whether people or dollars;
it is only measured in faithfulness.

A man recently wrote of his deceased father,
who’d been raised in the Church
but claimed in his later years to be an atheist.
And yet whenever he was working on something
and would hurt himself or was having great difficultly,
he’d holler, “Jesus Christ!”
“Gee, Dad,” his son would tease, “you say you don’t believe in God,
but you’re always calling out to him when you’re in trouble!”

We know that faith without works is dead.
So let’s put our faith to work!  
There’s plenty of work to do.

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