Message: Run the race - keep participating in the sacraments, especially Holy Mass.
In today's second reading we hear about a "great cloud of witnesses." The author is referring to saints who have preceded us. Now, like fans in a stadium they cheer us on to keep running the race.
Here in our parish we recognize that cloud of witnesses: the Communion of Saints - which includes men and women from every nation - but more immediately, people who have served faithfully here at St. Mary of the Valley.
We are celebrating 100 years as a parish and we are grateful to those who gave themselves for us. No one compelled them, no one forced the, but they freely gave their time, abilities and financial resources. For that reason we have a parish today.
Those good people, those saints, are cheering us on. The reading from Hebrews says that because we have that cloud of witnesses we should "rid ourselves of every burden and sin." We can't run the race weighed down by sins and "burdens": gambling, pornography, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual immorality, anger and bitterness.
I'm old. I don't feel old, but I know I am in the final phase of life. The finish line is not so far away. But none of us - young or old - knows how soon we will break that tape. Now is the time to get rid of our burdens and sins.
Maybe you have stumbled and don't want to get back up. I think about Eric Liddel - the young man depicted in Chariots of Fire. Once, when he was starting a race, he was tripped (probably by accident). The others got a good lead. Incredibly, Eric not only stood up, but started running so hard that he actually won the race! You and I stumble, maybe even get tripped by others. We might even stumble daily. What matters is getting up again.
A great cloud of witnesses cheers us on. As Hebrews says, "persevere in running the race." I've been looking though albums of our parish. It's great to see familiar faces - younger of course, but still recognizable. Others, however, are gone - maybe they have moved, but many have dropped out. Let's let them know we want them back. It's not just the priest's job. I authorize all of you to say these four words: We want you back.
Here's an image of our union: At World Youth Day it was thrilling to be part of a river of young people making their way to the Saturday evening vigil - and at night sleep (or try to sleep) on the beach. The youth came from 180 nations. Many groups had their own flag.* We join under the flag of St. Mary of the Valley. We are in this race together. We are not in competition. We help and encourage each other. And we do have that cloud of witnesses.
After speaking about the cloud of witnesses, Hebrews tells us to have our eyes fixed on Jesus. And what does Jesus want? In the Gospel he says he wants to set the earth on fire. It's the fire of love - of immersion in the Holy Trinity through baptism and Eucharist.
I invite you, I encourage you, I beg you to run the race - keep participating in the sacraments, especially Holy Mass. With that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on, let's rid ourselves of every burden and sin - and persevere in running the race, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. Amen.
*It was beautiful for example to see the red, white and green of the Mexican flag or the Union Jack. And inspiring to see the groups of young people behind their flag.
From Archives (20th Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
Resources for Geography of Faith
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
Parish Picture Album
World Youth Day 2013
(about 40 pictures in a slide show)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
(new, professional website)
KRA's & SMART Goals (updated June 2013)
A Homilist's Prayer