Sunday, July 08, 2012

14th Sunday - homily

I get a kick out of the description of St. Mark in today's Gospel about Jesus' ministry in his native place, presumably Nazareth.  He makes it seem that the Lord had an off-day, writing that "he was not able to perform any mighty deed there"...oh, well, that is "apart from curing a few sick people"...! Sound like mighty deeds to me! On the few days that the Lord has cured sick people through my hands as a priest, I called home! Big news! What happened on an off-day for the Lord would be one of the biggest days for me and most priests!

It's not that Jesus was off that day at Nazareth; he never has an off-day.  It's that the people of his hometown were off.  They didn't believe in him.  They saw him as human only. They didn't "know that a prophet has been among them" as God prophesied through Ezekiel in the first reading.  They saw him as one of them, "a carpenter, the son of Mary". Anyone who has ever tried to preach or teach the Gospel to their own family understands this reaction; they see us as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and cousins, not as prophets who carry a divine message.

We believe that Jesus of Nazareth is a prophet.  He is the ultimate prophet.  All of the Old Testament prophets lead to him with John the Baptist being the greatest, pointing to Jesus as the Christ. Like the Nazarenes, we are astonished at his teachings.  But, unlike them, we believe that his teaching authority is divine.  He speaks for God.  He is God! We believe that he is fully human and fully divine.

The challenge for us is to believe that Christ continues to teach through the Church.  The challenge for Catholics is to believe that prophets are among us in the persons of the bishops.  They have the same teaching authority as Christ! In fact, he gave it to them.  He receives his authority from the Father and he hands it over to them, specifically in Matthew 16, Matthew 18, and John 20.  In Luke 10, the Lord says to the first bishops (Apostles), "whenever they hear you, they hear me".

Do we believe that when we hear the Pope and the bishops teach on faith and morals that we are hearing Jesus? To be Catholic means to believe that.  To be Catholic means to believe that the bishops have a divine authority to teach doctrine...they teach for Heaven (Mt 18:18)! And yet, many Catholics hear them as the people of Nazareth heard Jesus: on a human level only.

Specifically regarding the HHS mandate, many Catholics view the bishops' authority on a human level only, saying that the bishops are being partisan and have ginned up the "religious liberty" charge. If these were true, then why be Catholic? If our bishops just present their own opinions on faith and morals or are just political figures at heart, then we shouldn't follow their teachings as following the teachings of Christ. But, if their teaching authority is from Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit - which it is- then we follow them on matters of faith and morals as we would follow Christ.  We believe that when we hear them on doctrine, we hear Him.

Finally, brothers and sisters, Christ will be in our midst in a few moments as he was to the people of Nazareth. He looks a little different to us in the Eucharist as he did to them, but it's the same Christ.  Let us receive Him with faith so that He can perform mighty deeds within us.  This can happen tonight! May the Lord be amazed at our faith -not our lack of faith - and may He perform mighty deeds for us at this Mass.

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