Sunday, January 26, 2014

The News

   Third Sunday in Ordinary Time    

I once heard the advice that a preacher should prepare
“with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”
(Maybe that expression should be updated a little bit in this digital age…
…but you get the idea.)

That’s exactly how I prepared for this Sunday’s homily.

In Thursday’s edition of the Telegram,
I read a heart-wrenching but incredibly inspiring story.

In the Rochester suburb of Penfield,
eight-year-old Tyler Doohan woke up very early Monday morning
to find that a fire had started in his grandfather’s trailer
where he and eight other relatives were staying that night.
He awoke six of those relatives—including two younger children—
who all made it out to safety.
Tyler then went to get his 57-year-old grandfather—
an amputee who could only get around with crutches or a wheelchair.
But they never made it out.
Along with an uncle, Tyler and his grandfather died in the blaze;
according to the fire chief, their bodies were found only a few feet apart.

As I did in the newspaper,
I look in the Scriptures this Sunday and see heroes:
the fishermen Peter and Andrew, James and John,
who find the courage to drop everything and follow Jesus;
and next generation believers like Paul and Apollos and Chloe,
who put their very lives on the line to spread the gospel of Christ.
We look with awe at these brave men and women
from another time and place
and wonder how they found the strength
to be so totally committed to the gospel.
Our wonder, unfortunately, can become a deterrent
if our next thought is, But I could never do that…

Which is when we need to look back from the Bible to the newspaper,
and think again about Tyler.
At only eight years old, his young body wasn’t very strong.
His young mind hadn’t had a chance to get too much education.
He hadn’t gone to bed with any intention
of saving anybody else’s life.
But he woke up and recognized real danger.
And he also recognized within himself
that he had what it takes to make a real difference.
And most importantly of all:
he was willing to put it all on the line
in order to save those around him.

If Tyler could do it, then so can we!

As Isaiah prophesied, the Messiah would come
to a people walking in darkness;
a new light would arise for those who dwell in a land
overshadowed by the gloom of death.
While the prophet specifically mentions
a few obscure seaside towns in Galilee,
he could have just as easily named Malone or Chasm Falls.
We look around at the state of our community or our parish,
of our country or our Church,
and we can see plenty of gloomy shadows,
plenty of reasons to be discouraged,
plenty of darkness.
We can recognize the problems.
We might even have a few ideas about the solutions.
Yet we’re held back, time and again, by that nagging thought,
But I could never do that…

Why not?
Because if Tyler could do it, then so can we.
The work we’re talking about doing here
is, in fact, a matter of saving lives—
first for this world, and then for eternity.

This past Wednesday was the 41st anniversary
of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade,
legalizing abortion in the U.S.
The result, all these years later?
One out of every three pregnancies here in New York State
now ends in abortion.
More babies are aborted in New York City alone each year
than people it would take to fill MetLife Stadium to capacity
for the Super Bowl.

And what about our churches?
Our seating capacity is nowhere near that of a sports arena…
…but we’re also nowhere near full.
By the books, only one out of every five of our registered parishioners
is here for Mass on any given weekend.
(And we have, by far, the largest active congregation
of any denomination around!)

Can we wake up and recognize
the real darkness, the real dangers,
which overshadow our times—
dangers posed to body, mind, and spirit?
And can we recognize that we have within ourselves—
thanks to God’s grace—
all that it takes to make a real difference:
maybe not by ourselves 
to end all legal abortion immediately
or to bring back every fallen away Catholic,
but to rescue one baby, to revive one soul?
And are we—most importantly of all—
willing to put it all on the line
in order to reflect the light of Christ 
into this world’s gloom,
in order to save those around us?

If Tyler could do it, why can’t we?

The brothers Peter and Andrew, 
and the sons of Zebedee,
all dropped their nets at the call of the Lord.
Christ is still calling.
What are we waiting for?
As the newspaper readily reminds us,
we’re constantly sitting in the shadow of bad news.
So let’s get to spreading the Good News
which sheds so much light,
and in which lies the salvation of the world!

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