(From notes and memory, here is an approximation of my homily this past weekend.)
As you must have guessed, I'm Father Martin Fox, your new parish priest.
As soon as I walked out, you were able to compare me to Father Moran,
and you have already sized up ways we're similar or different.
I sing the prayers at Mass; I don't know if he did.
I can tell you, I'm nowhere near as charming as he is.
When I make jokes, the parts I expect people to laugh at, they don't laugh;
but then when I'm not expecting it, they do.
Father Moran is, I think, taller; but if I turn sideways, you can see another similarity.
Like Father Moran, I'm 51--which doesn't seem that old to many of you,
but it's as old as I've ever been!
The good news is, I've already made a good share of my mistakes--
and learned from at least some of them!
The bad news is, I'm not finished making mistakes.
For example, I'm going to get most of your names wrong,
and I'll need you to tell them to me many times.
Saint Augustine famously said,
"I'm with you as a Christian, but I'm for you, I'm your bishop."
Well, I'm not your bishop, but your parish priest.
In that spirit, let me say, I'm with you as a Christian, but for you, I'm a parish priest.
Our readings talk about baptism, the "fountain to purify us"
which makes us all Christians and, as Paul said, joins us to Christ.
But being a Christian also involves answering the question the Lord posed in the Gospel:
who do you say that I am?
Pope Francis has made this point--
as did Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul before him--
that we need Christians who aren't afraid to answer that question.
And, not uncertainly, but with conviction.
There are a lot of false values in our world, about money and status,
about God, and vengeance and war, versus mercy and reconciliation,
and about what gives meaning and worth to life.
And these false values win converts, in part, because they have disciples with conviction.
The Truth--Jesus Christ--deserves disciples who have conviction!
Now, you might say, wait--in the Gospel Jesus told them not to say anything.
So it's OK if we don't say anything.
But that was only until they understood about the cross--
and were ready to take up their own.
There's an idea out there that says, our Faith shouldn't ask too much of us.
If some part of our Faith is hard to accept, or hard to understand, or hard to live,
somehow that's cited as a reason it's not true.
But it seems to me if we try to have Christ without the parts
we don't like, or understand, or find difficult,
we end up with a Christ without a cross--and that is no Christ at all.
And that is the "Christ" he wanted them to be silent about.
On the other hand, when you and I take up our cross,
by that act we are no longer silent.
We don't have to carry it perfectly.
We have the example of our Lord (pointing to the Stations of the Cross),
who accepted human weakness as his own, and fell several times.
It's better that we try to be cheerful about it,
but if we aren't, we have the example of Saint Simon the Cyrene:
he didn't want to help, but he did.
So for all of us grumpy about the cross, there's our patron saint!
But when we take up the cross, even--especially!--
after just dropping it (as I do a lot!) then we are answering the question,
"who do you say that I am?":
"You are the Messiah who suffers with us. And we will follow you."