Sunday, February 01, 2015

Prophets, devils, and making a difference (Sunday homily)

The readings give us an opportunity to talk about what a prophet is.

In the first reading, when Moses says a “prophet” 
would come after him, this doesn’t refer only to one person, but many. 

Look all through the Old Testament: 
you will find one figure after another 
to whom God gave the gifts and inspiration necessary 
for them to lead his people forward. 

Now, there are a couple of things to notice about all those figures. 
First, they didn’t all make good use of the gifts God gave them. 
One of the really tragic figures is Samson. 
He was given spiritual gifts, 
wisdom, and physical strength, which he squandered.
Or there is King David, who also made terrible mistakes,
but also great repentance.

Of course, all these Old Testament figures 
anticipate the final prophet and king, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Notice the Gospel showing us something 
you never saw anywhere before in Scripture. 
None of the Old Testament prophets 
ever exercised authority over demons. 

Only Jesus Christ does this. 
It’s a powerful sign that he is, of course, 
more than just a prophet, but God himself, become man.

After Jesus comes, something else changes. 
There are no more prophets.

Instead, the Lord calls the Apostles; 
and they are the foundation of the Church.
They go out in his name and – notice – 
in his name they have authority over evil. 
And to this day, this is something the Church has.

I’m not just talking about exorcism, 
which the film industry finds so fascinating. 

Baptism, among other things, is an exorcism—
casting out evil as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell. 

When we use holy water, that’s a prayer against evil. 
And recall what we pray after each Mass: 
asking Saint Michael to cast down “Satan, and all evil spirits.” 

This shows us who we are, as Christians, in the world. 
When Moses spoke to the people, 
he spoke about “a” prophet in their midst. 
But the Church, as one body, 
is a prophetic – and priestly – and kingly – people. 
Every one of us has a share in that. We’re a mighty force! 

We’re tempted to think we don’t make enough of a difference. 
On one level, that’s true, 
because so many Christians don’t realize who they are. 
We don’t live in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

And of course, we know that too often it is Christians 
Who are actually helping the enemy gain ground. 
When our legislators and judges endorse abortion, 
or redefining marriage, or torture, or political corruption, 
most of them are Christians. 
Or we might think of crimes of bloodshed in so many places, 
committed by Christians, or helped by the indifference of Christians. 

Now, we know about these things, and we react in different ways. 
We may be shocked. Or angry. Or filled with sorrow. 
That’s all good. 

But if we feel overpowered, or if we want to give up, fight that feeling!
That’s the enemy’s wish: that we forget the power Jesus gave to us.

So whether we face opposition for doing what is right, 
or we are tempted to give up, 
I think the right response is what Jesus says in the Gospel: 
Shut up, devil, and get out of the way!

God didn’t give us the power of the Holy Spirit to be passive,
but to make a difference. 

So this is a good time to mention the Archbishop’s letter, 
which we all received, asking our help again 
with the Catholic Ministry Appeal

And this a good time to pass down the aisle the pledge forms 
and the pencils at the end of each pew.

As you know, there are six major projects this funds, 
and they are all good causes:

1. Catholic Social Services, helping people in practical ways 
when their backs are against the wall, whether it’s groceries, paying a utility bill, 
or providing family counseling. 

2. Catholic chaplain programs at secular universities, in hospitals, and in prisons. 

3. The pension for our retired priests. 
This is a problem especially because we have many priests retiring, 
especially in the next few years, 
but not enough new priests in the pipeline. 
Which leads to the next item:

4. Our seminary and our vocations programs. 
Twenty years ago, I would not have asked you 
to support our seminary. It needed to change. 
Today it’s very different, and I think worthy of our support. 
I personally send several checks to the seminary every year. 
Happily, it has more seminarians than in years’ past; 
but that means they need more money.

5. Saint Rita’s School for the Deaf. The need speaks for itself.

6. The newest inclusion is the “New Evangelization” office. 
Do you know those books that we pass out every Christmas – 
that many have found very helpful? This paid for those. 
And this supports a growing effort to help marriages; 
we had a group who just completed a “Marriage Works” program, 
and many have told me it was very valuable to them. 

If you look on the top right, you’ll see that 
for four of the six projects, 
you can designate all your money to go to one of them. 
You do that by marking the appropriate box, 
and making your check as payable to that cause. 

This is what I do—I write my check to 
Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary of the West. 
You may prefer one of the others, 
or just giving to the fund as a whole.

If you want to use your credit card, 
you mark the boxes on the upper left, and fill in your card number. 
You can also do an electronic transfer, 
but you need to attach a voided check.

On the lower left side is where you write in your name and address. 
But don’t forget to write in Saint Remy at the top! 

And then, on the lower right, is where you indicate 
the amount of your pledge, to be paid over time.
And, of course, if you’re going to write a check, 
you can do that now, and insert that in the envelope.

While you finish that up, let me offer a closing thought. 
Every one of us hopes to make a difference in this world. 
But that only happens when we turn that hope into some sort of action. 
Sometimes it’s prayer and fasting; sometimes it’s speaking out; 
and sometimes, like today, it’s making a decision 
to help pay for good work being done in our name.

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