Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
30 June 2002
Scriptual Reference: 2 Kings 4:8-11,14-16a; Psalm 89:2-3,16-19; Romans 6:3-4,8-11; Matthew 10:37-42

       The other day I was reading the paper, and I came across an interesting article. The headline read, "No doesn't mean 'no' to kids." "Youths who buy into advertising hound parents repeatedly for products, study finds." Kids from age 12 to 17 were polled on advertising and 'nagging.' The study reported that 55% of kids said they can get their parents to give in if they nag them long enough.

       Today in the gospel, Jesus makes several very strong statements. "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." Jesus almost seems to be nagging us with his repetitive nature. Jesus must have known well before the study reported in the Star that nagging is effective. He is trying to make an important point: Jesus says very plainly that he is to be loved above all things and above all people. And, Jesus tends to use extreme language to get his point across. He does not mean for us to turn our backs on our children and to forget about elderly parents. Followers of Jesus do not abandon their families or their familial obligations. But it does mean that we as his disciples don't always get our way. We don't always get what we want when we want it. When Jesus is first priority, we must remain open to following his will. We must be open to change and set aside other priorities like material wealth or job status. Jesus makes it clear to us today: for us to be worthy of him, he must be loved before all else.

       There was a movie that received a lot of attention at last year's academy awards. "Gosford Park" was an elegant movie about the changing ways of British aristocracy in early 20th century England. As all of the richie-riches gathered together, they brought their servants with them. The head maid at the Manor House insisted that the visiting servants maintain an old custom. Rather than being acknowledged by their given names, they would be referred to by the names of their employers. So, if a servant worked for a Mrs. Smith, she would be called Miss Smith, even though her name really was Miss Jones. This custom, as you might imagine, was not very well liked by most of the servants. This custom seemed to rob the servants of their human dignity. It was a demeaning practice that robbed them of their individuality.

       In today's gospel, Jesus emphasizes the notion of receiving. A prophet should be received as a prophet. A righteous man should be received as a righteous man. And, whoever receives Jesus receives the one who sent him. In other words, as opposed to the custom of the manor house in Gosford Park, we should receive people for who they are. This means acknowledging the presence of God's spirit in each human person. For those in our lives who don't demonstrate God's love for us as fully as they could, it means accepting them where they are at, and encouraging them to take one step forward. This means that we must recognize that each person has a lesson for us, and message to give to us that can help us to grow in our faith. We must receive others in as such they are messengers of Jesus.

       Since being at St. Malachy, I have been very involved with the Family Life and Social Concerns Commission, which has a particular mission of assisting our social justice ministries in the parish. I have been very involved in the work of St. Vincent de Paul, an organization that helps the local poor. I have worked along with the Knights of Columbus as they strive to assist others in need, especially people with developmental disabilities. Our Haiti missions are another example of how our parishioners strive to assist those in need. Listen to an excerpt of a letter written by one of our parishioners active in the Haiti medical mission:

It is clear to me that many of our parishioners understand the words of Jesus in the gospel today: "whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple-amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

       Most of you are aware by now that I am leaving St. Malachy this week and moving to Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Terre Haute. This has been a good time for me to reflect on the lessons that I have learned during my first two years of priesthood here at St. Malachy. As a priest, I have learned that vibrancy in a parish is directly related to the generosity and the good works of the people in the parish. St. Malachy is truly alive because of the many people who offer their time, talent and treasure so generously. This parish is full of happy people because this parish is full of self-giving people. As a Christian, I have learned how to receive others as they are, accepting them where they are, and then encouraging them to take one step forward. That's what God does for us, and that's what all of you have done for me. You accepted me as a newly ordained priest, and trusted me with yourselves, all the while encouraging me to grow and mature in positive and loving ways. As a human person, I have learned again that I must love Jesus Christ above all else. It is not an easy time to be a priest in our world or in our country, and I need Jesus in order to persevere in this way of life. And I have come to know him better through all of you. As I have looked out at this congregation week after week, I have seen the face of Jesus. In your kind and affirming words, I hear the voice of Jesus prompting me forward in this way of life. Because of your love for me, I have felt more deeply the love of Jesus. The ministry that you have provided for me, I sense, far outweighs the ministry that I have been blessed to provide for you. And I pray that in my life, and in my priesthood, sinful as I am, you have see the face of Jesus as well.

       Jesus says in the gospel today that whoever loves father or mother, son our daughter more than him is not worthy of him. During these past two years, you and I have shared much laughter, and we have even shed tears together. During these past two years, you have become my mothers and fathers, you have become my sons and daughters. We have supported and loved one another. But now, Jesus is calling me to follow him to serve the people of Terre Haute, in a parish consecrated to his Sacred Heart. As much as I love you, I am being asked to move on from this place and to minister to other communities. I do that with some sadness for the times we have shared in the past, and I do that with some excitement for what the future holds. So, today, we say farewell and we say good-bye. We need not fear our farewell or be disheartened by our good-byes. After all, if we love Jesus above all else, if he stands at the center of our lives, then really, we won't be apart. We will be connected and united in his love. Indeed, if we love Jesus Christ above all else, then no matter where we are, in Brownsburg, in Terre Haute, in heaven or on earth, we will always be together. So we can say with confidence and hope, "Farewell, good-bye, see you real soon." +

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