Saturday, February 14, 2009

Spread the Infection (Sunday homily)

Our first reading talked about “scabs and pustules”—
maybe not what you were expecting.
We might wonder,
what this has to do with our relationship with God?

Leprosy was a threat to the community’s physical health.
Shift our focus to the spiritual level:
What if we were just as careful about
hazards to the spiritual well-being of the community?

Father Tim Schehr,
who teaches at our seminary in Cincinnati, points out,
“the Bible includes plenty of examples,”
not of physical epidemics,
but “of spiritual epidemics threatening the lives”
of God’s people.

A “spiritual epidemic”—that’s what sin is.

If I cheat on my homework or an exam,
maybe that “infection” will spread to others at school.

On the other hand…
What if I say, “let’s go volunteer at the Piqua Compassion Network?”
That’s how a good “infection”—
an “infection of virtue”—can spread.

This is something Saint Paul is reminding us of
in the second reading:
how powerfully we can influence others.

We do that, Paul says, by doing everything
for “the glory to God.”

I got a job—thank God!
The tests came back favorably—thank God!
Our family and friends arrived home safely—thank God!

Other people speak of “good luck”—
but as Christians,
we know that it is God’s blessings.

Saint Paul also said, “avoid giving offense.”
That’s harder of course!
But Paul’s point is that our first task is get to heaven;
and second, to bring as many others with us as we can!

So however much we might find
to agree or disagree on about politics or sports,
what matters most is that we tell people about the Lord.

On judgment day, I’d hate to find out
that a disagreement I had with someone
over politics, or money, or anything else,
“gave offense” and kept that person from the Kingdom.

None of those things can compare
to the importance of helping people come to the Lord.

The Gospel tells us an amazing thing:
A leper walked right up to Jesus;
The first reading told them to stay away.

That leper was bold.
Others might need some help coming to Him.
So can you and I be bold about finding people
and bringing them to Jesus?

Lent starts soon—and many people
will be thinking about getting closer to God.
In next week’s bulletin—and in the mail—
you’ll get a list of things we’re doing for Lent:
Times for confessions, Stations of the Cross,
Bible Study, prayer, and so forth.

You may know that I was away
from the Catholic Church for 10 years.

You know one of the things that helped bring me back?
My father said, “let’s go pray the Stations of the Cross.”
And I went.
You know another thing that helped?
A coworker said, “it’s Ash Wednesday—
let’s go get ashes at Mass.” And I went.
What if they hadn’t said anything?
I might not be a Catholic—let alone a priest!

I mentioned before how we can spread a “good infection.”
Every week, over 1,200 people attend Mass in Piqua.
If we all had leprosy—that would be an epidemic.

But what if there were 1,200 lepers in this town,
who said, “Look! Jesus made me clean!”?


Anonymous said...

Gee - our priest gave us a sermon on "inclusiveness".

timh said...

Father - you've hit on my personal Catch 22 in your sermon - the fact that you were away from the Church and tell of it... In my oldest son's confirmation class, moderated by 4 lay couples, they told the 16-year-olds that they had all been away but reverted... which I struggled with because he took that as carte blanche to be away for a while himself... can we discuss this?

Fr Martin Fox said...