Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sunday's homily notes

Sorry folks, I've been kind of tired lately. Just a lot going on and this time of year, at least for me, could best be represented by a battery running down. Some have said, oh, didn't things slow down after Easter? Nope. It stays just as frenetic right until school lets out; although as that nears, it is slowing down a bit.

One result of all that is I have had less time and energy for composing homilies. Last Sunday, I composed my homily notes in the confessional, and took my wad of little slips of paper to the pulpit with me. What follows is my reconstruction of my homily based on that--although it varied each time.

The word "disciple" showed up in the first reading and the Gospel--we might want to reflect a moment on just what that word means.

A disciple is one who is taught. Not exactly the same thing as saying, one who is learning--because one can learn without a teacher; to be a disciple means one has a teacher.

So if we call ourselves disciples--then we have to have a teacher. Who is that for us? Are we seeking someone to teach us?

Someone is influencing us all the time--we might want to pause and reflect on who that might be. Of course, the teacher we need is Christ. And also the Church. The Latin word "magister" means teacher--and from that comes the word "magisterium," or the teaching office of the Church. The Church teaches us through the pope, the bishops and priests, and others who work with them.

So that raises the question, are we seeking to be life-long disciples? We know that sometimes, young people taking part in religious education will drop out after 8th grade or 12th grade, as if they are finished. But if we are still disciples, we still need to be taught.

This is the purpose of our Adult Faith Formation group, which works hard to put together opportunities for us all to grow in faith. Please take part. And if you've thought, "If they offered _____, I would go"--then please let us know! We want to help.

Also, let me plug the Wednesday evening Bible study I have, every week, 7 pm, at the Caserta Center. We're looking at Acts; and don't worry about just showing up, we'll help you feel at home even if you've not been there for the earlier stuff.

So we need to have a teacher--and we need to be teachable. That is, we need to be open--and that comes as a result of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Just as rain softens hard ground, so the Holy Spirit softens us to receive the seed of faith.

We might notice how our culture sends contrary messages: "I can do it myself" or, "No one is going to tell me what to do!"

The older I get, the more I recognize how slow I am to learn. I'm 47, and I realize I wasn't as smart 20 years ago as I thought I was--and no doubt when I'm 97, I'll see how dumb I am now! My mother had a pithier way to say it: "too soon old, too late smart." My mother had a lot of wisdom, as our parents always do. I thought my parents didn't know what was going on when I was a kid; and somewhere in my 20s, I had the embarrassing realization that they were wise to all my tricks the whole time.

Today is Mother's Day--and of course you knew that, even if you didn't say anything about your plans for mom; of course, you didn't forget, you were just going to surprise her, right? How about some nice roses [here I was referring to the live roses being sold after Mass by the pro-life group]? When you're with mom today, it would be a good time to thank her for being a good teacher.

Now, there was a curious thing in the Gospel just now--did you notice? Our Lord said, we were to "bear much fruit"--and then he said, we would "become his disciples." Maybe you would have expected it the other way round? I think I would have expected that: we become disciples, and then we bear much fruit. But that's not what he said.

I think he's referring to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That's the life of the Vine, shared with the branches. And as we increase in the life of the Spirit, we will bear fruit. And part of that fruitfulness will be being teachable--being open. [This was the point I wanted to make--but I am dubious I made it very clearly over the weekend.]

Now, another point I'll share with you. Father Tom mentioned something over lunch--a study in the paper about how much members of different religious groups pray. Catholics were right in the middle, in line with the national average: 58% of Catholics (and Americans) pray daily. Then Fr. Tom made the point that the groups that were higher than that, were also the groups you hear are growing; and those below, are often those not growing.

We often talk about wanting our parish to grow--this suggests that it may be as simple as focusing on how we are growing in the Holy Spirit; and also, that this is not just about our own, personal, growth, but our growth as a Catholic community.

As we continue to take part in the Mass, and our Lord is about to offer us life in his Body and Blood, we might ask his help to grow. That we might bear fruit.

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