Monday, February 08, 2010

5th Sunday - homily

Celebrating Mass on Super Bowl Sunday reminds me of an episode from “The Simpsons” years ago. It was Super Bowl Sunday and they show the scene at the Church as the service begins. There is one person in the congregation. The pastor seems a bit upset and says, “well, thank God at least one person came to Church and isn’t watching the big game”. Then, the one man who is there says, “oh my gosh, the big game!” , and goes running out of Church!

This year in the Church is the “year of the priest”. It began last June and will end this June. It is a year to celebrate priests and thank them for their service to us. In Washington, we have had a campaign in which people have been sending letters and cards to priests to express their appreciation, love, and support. It’s been overwhelming for us priests, but we appreciate it very much. So many people who we will never meet have been offering so many prayers and sacrifices for us all year. You all should send a note to your priests back home before June, thanking them for their service to you and your family. They have given up everything for you.

It’s important for us to realize that priests have given up everything for us. They haven’t always been priests! We think this, don’t we…that priests have always been priests…that they popped out of their mother’s wombs… as priests! Priests are normal people who live ordinary lives until they realize they have been called to live extraordinary lives. Today’s Gospel from St. Luke helps to clarify that. Some of the first priests – the Apostles – were fisherman. Again, ordinary guys trying to make a living. Then, something extraordinary happened.

They had closed up shop for the night. They hadn’t caught any fish and were cleaning up, going home. Then, our Lord comes over to them and asks them to cast the nets again. At his word, they did and then caught a huge amount of fish. Extraordinary! Incredible! Something happened to them in this scene that changed them forever. The focus here is on Christ – as it is with every vocation. But, their response is very powerful, too: “they left everything and followed him”.

They left everything and followed him. Catholic priests have been doing that for the past 2000 years. They have left family, career, hopes, dreams…everything. They have left it all to follow Jesus in serving us as priests. They have give up everything so that we might know Christ through the preaching of the Gospel…that we might receive Christ in the sacraments…that we might be saved. They have really left everything for the salvation of souls. They have given up their lives so that we might go to Heaven. Of course, this is all in imitation of Christ, the High Priest.

I remember helping out on a Confirmation retreat years ago in my parish. My pastor who was middle-aged was leading the day-long retreat for 8th graders. Here he was in his fifties talking to a bunch of thirteen year-olds. I started thinking, ‘what is this all about?’ Then it hit me, this is his life. He had given up his life to do this: to talk to these kids and adults about Jesus…to bring Jesus to others and to bring others to Jesus.

Finally, without priests, we would not have the sacraments – the sacraments of salvation – especially the Eucharist. There is a powerful and inspiring video about the priesthood called “Fishers of Men”. It’s fast-moving and hard-hitting. There are at least two great quotes from the video. One is “who will give the sacraments to the next generation?” We do need young men to become priests and give the sacraments to the next generation. God is calling men, especially here at GW to do this. Will they hear the Call and answer it? The other great quote is, “without priests, we wouldn’t have the Eucharist”. As we receive the Eucharist tonight, let us thank God for the gift of Himself in this sacrament and also the gift of the priesthood. Let us thank God for priests who have given up everything for the salvation of souls…who have left everything to bring Jesus to us and us to Jesus.

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