Focus on Mission - Part Three

(Homily for Sixteenth Ordinary Sunday - Year C)

Message: Today we see the third and most basic step. It's what Mary did: Listen to Jesus.

These past weeks I have been giving a series of homilies titled "Focus on Mission." They deal with our basic purpose or mission. The first homily on mission dealt with gratitude - especially gratitude for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom requires gratitude because it is not something we create, but a reality we receive. Pope Benedict said that the Kingdom means that God exists, that he really is God and that he is at work in our world. Thus we pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

After gratefully receiving the kingdom, we naturally want others to share in it. That is the second step - compassion. Compassion means more than feeling sorry for the other person and wanting to help. In the deepest sense compassion means to recognize that the other needs Christ - just as much as you or I do. We are like the man beaten by robbers, left half-dead. Christ, the Good Samaritan, cares for our wounds and brings us to the inn - the Church. That's the deepest compassion: to lead others to Christ and his Church.

So, gratitude and compassion. Today we see the third and most basic step. It's what Mary did: Listen to Jesus.

To illustrate listening to Jesus, I would like to give a remarkable example: A priest named Fr. Michael White and his pastoral associate, Thomas Corcoran. About fifteen years ago they arrived at a dwindling parish. Young people especially were drifting away. There were more Catholics attending the local evangelical church than the parish.

Highly dedicated men, Fr. White and Tom tried a number of program to attract more people. They were like Martha in today's Gospel - busy doing many things, but getting few results. The more they did the more frustrated they became.

After a time of study - listening to Jesus like Mary did - they began to implement a new approach, always keeping faithful to Catholic sacraments and teaching. They had an amazing response - and they have shared it with other parishes in a book called "Rebuilt."

A number of pastors in the Archdiocese have read Rebuilt - including members of the Presbyteral Council. When one of the young priest told me about it, I got it on my Kindle. I have to admit I could barely put it down. It struck many chords with me. In my 42 years as a parish priest, I have had some successes and plenty of frustration. Rebuilt gave me a lot of hope that we can effectively evangelize as Catholics. I have asked the members of our parish staff and parish council to read it.

Rebuilt is no quick fix. We will need to read it, reflect on it and pray about it - listen to Jesus, as Mary did. I am looking forward to see what steps other parishes in the Archdiocese take.

It's about listening to Jesus. In this series of homilies, it is the third step, but it is in reality the most basic. "Mary has chosen the better part," says Jesus.

The first two steps, gratitude and compassion, in some ways come naturally to us. But they cannot be sustained unless we listen to Jesus, unless we make time to pray and discern.

Martha may have thought she already knew what Jesus wanted, but Mary was smarter. She listened to the Lord. Mary," says Jesus, "has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." Amen.


Versión Castellana

From Archives (Homilies for Sixteenth Sunday, Year C):

2016: Becoming a Disciple Week 7: Listen & Learn
2013: Focus in Mission - Part Three
2010: The Difference Between Martha and Mary
2007: Being in the Lord's Presence
2004: Five-Legged Dogs
2001: Hospitality - First Principle of the Moral Law
1998: The Better Part

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