HOMILY – JUNE 26
We’ve been getting lots of lessons during this liturgical year about our prophetic ministry as disciples of Christ – our call to teach the world the things that we are always being taught by Christ himself. The Scriptures today are pretty dramatic, literally showing, in the case of Elijah and Elisha, the passing on of the prophetic mantle. That mantle, and even more importantly, the mantle of Christ, is passed down to us today as members of his Body and Bride, the Church.
“Wait!” you say. “I didn’t sign up for this! It’s the job of the Pope and the bishops and the preachers to pass on the faith. THEY are the Magisterium, the teaching authority, not me!” And that’s true, to a point. They are responsible for keeping the teaching of Christ clean and authentic, neither adding nor subtracting essentials. But why teach if the content is not going to be used and passed on even further? How many times have you heard people complain, “All those hours I spent studying trigonometry, or French literature, or Oriental history in school, and I’VE NEVER USED IT!!” Well, if you listen to the Scriptures, if you pay some attention to homilies and sermons, if you listen to Catholic radio and watch Catholic TV, if you read some good instructive Catholic literature during the week, you will find PLENTY to use, every day, and PLENTY to pass on. That’s how you figure into the prophetic ministry of Christ and his Church. The Pope and the bishops and the priests are not at your workplace, at your school, or living in your neighborhood. YOU are, and it’s your job to take what you’ve gained from Christ and pass it on in the most effective way.
Most of us LIVE our prophecy, our teaching, even more than passing it on by speaking and writing. What people see us doing will often make a far bigger impression on them than anything we say. But we should not rule out the very real possibility that we might well be called on to explain our faith and the teachings of Christ and the Church at any moment. We need to call on the Holy Spirit in our daily prayer and ask for the grace to be prepared to witness, however that might come about. You might be playing cards or out bowling when you hear someone come out with some untruth about the Scriptures, or about Catholic teaching. You don’t have to go into fighting mode. And don’t begin by saying, “I’m sorry, but . . .” You should never be sorry about speaking the truth. You’re not there to attack. You’re there by God’s grace to calmly explain THE TRUTH in the midst of people who need to hear it.
A few years ago, I was stunned when I mentioned to a friend that I had had a tough baby funeral, but that the couple had been prepared for the baby’s death because the ultrasound had picked up some potentially fatal problems. “Why didn’t they abort?” my CATHOLIC friend asked. I was stunned, but I remember just continuing, “Why, you can’t abort the child! That’s a precious human being, a unique creation of God. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s moral. They love their daughter very much, and she will always be their first and oldest child.” It was my friend’s turn to be stunned. He sat there with a look on his face that said, “Wow! He really BELIEVES this, he’s not just saying it because the Church tells him to!” We’re still friends. He knows where I stand, and I hope that since that brief conversation it’s a little easier for him to stand there, too.
Jesus in the Gospel shows that there is a sense of urgency about our prophetic mission: “Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and keeps looking back isn’t worthy of me!” We are sinners, imperfect prophets. I think of the many chances I’ve passed up to boldly but gently proclaim the truth of Christ when I very easily COULD have. I can only rely on the mercy of God to magnify the benefit of the times that perhaps I HAVE been of some use as his prophet. We really can waste no time. We do not have a prophetic mission in order to benefit ourselves. It’s to help save the souls of the people in whose midst we live. God has placed them in our care, if even for a moment. For them, it may well be a matter of eternal life or eternal death. Wouldn’t it be a joy, my friends, to be welcomed to our heavenly home by many other members of the Communion of Saints who can greet us with, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you?” Let’s pray that with God’s grace, we may always live as the very best version of ourselves, and thus help pave the way home for many others.
LEARNING ABOUT THE MASS – JUNE 12
READERS: THIS PARAGRAPH IS TO BE DELIVERED TO THE CONGREGATION RIGHT AFTER YOUR GREETING, BUT BEFORE THE INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S MASS.
After the priest, the lector, and the servers pay their reverence to the reserved Sacrament, they go up to the altar. The priest kisses the altar, showing reverence on several different levels. There is the obvious gesture toward the altar itself, the mensa or table on which Christ’s Saving Sacrifice will be re-presented for us in this time and place. Gone are the bloody animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant. We who have been baptized into Christ are both privileged and obliged to participate in the one Sacrifice in his Paschal Mystery, expressed at the Last Supper AND on the Cross AND in his rising from the grave. We could not be present for those events in history; so Christ makes our participation in them possible for us here and now, in a very graphic way. The solid rock of our altar here at SS. Peter & Paul speaks to us of the Rock which is Christ, on whom we can always rely as an anchor and a point of reference in our lives.
The priest is also showing affection to the altar because for us, it represents Christ himself. So this greeting is given to Christ on behalf of all the believers present, and of all who through our prayers take part in this celebration of our Covenant with God. As one of our Easter prefaces notes, Christ reveals himself here as the priest, the altar, and the Lamb of sacrifice.
Finally, the priest kisses the altar because it contains the relics of great members of the Communion of Saints, who truly gather with us here; as in the Eucharist earth meets heaven for a few moments of earthly time. In the early days of Christianity, the Mass was frequently offered in the catacombs on the tombs of martyrs. Here, we honor these relics embedded in the altar – in CHRIST –, which remind us that the liturgy truly connects us in time and in space with the whole Church in every place and time.