This homily was given at our Outdoor Mass so sound quality maybe bit different.
Homily for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, June 28, 2020. Matthew 10:37-42. Theme: Jesus is Our #1
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us right off the bat that our relationship with him runs the risk of being in danger, of being broken, if he is not kept and cherished as our #1. And I think this is something we all know and for this reason each of us have developed ways of keeping him as our #1 such as a daily prayer, coming to Mass, reading the Gospels, serving the needy and other such things.
But many Catholics started feeling that their relationship with Christ was indeed in danger of being damaged when many of these things that we’ve always depended upon to nurture that relationship came a screeching, halt. Almost overnight and without much warning, there was suddenly no Masses, no Confessions, no prayer meetings or Bible study groups. And not knowing really what to say or do in such an unexpected situation, the leadership of the Church didn’t help to make matters any easier. For example, trying to alleviate people’s sense of loss over being kept away from the Eucharist many started to talk about spiritual communion almost as if it was the same thing as the sacrament. Now, of course, it is true that Christ dwells in us spiritually by faith, but it’s not at all the same thing. If it was why in the world would Jesus have bothered to give us the gift of himself as the Bread of Life? And why in the world would have millions of Catholics in our history – and even today in some oppressive nations – risk discrimination, imprisonment and even their very lives in order to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion?
I think unintentionally and yet in actuality, a false message was relayed that the sacraments, the parish church, and other aspects of our Catholic Faith were non-essential. To be fair, there were some bright spots in the Church and not every minister closeted themselves out of fear for their lives. There were clergy, religious Sisters and Brothers and lay people in various places who continued to serve the needs of God’s people. They sought to alleviate suffering and provide spiritual services in as safe conditions as possible and as best they could even if it meant risking their lives. But sadly, most people did not encounter this type of devotion.
(Here, in the audio version of this homily, I tell a story about a young man seeking solace from the church)
I know that I was very concerned about this possibility of a disappointed or even damaged faith happening among us and so I prayed daily for you and all of our parish. But looking out at all of you gathered here for Holy Mass today I can see that my fears of lost faith were unfounded. Despite the requirements and restrictions laid upon you, you are here because through it all you have managed to keep Jesus as your #1. This desire of yours for the Eucharist shows that, like all relationships of love, you yearn for and seek union, togetherness, with the One who is Lord of your life. And so, I congratulate you for cooperating with the grace of the Holy Spirit to come here and worship at our Eucharist.
And seeing you all here today is also, I think, a testimony to the quiet undeterred dedication of our pastor, Fr. Bill. I hope you know, and if you don’t then I want you to know, that ever since March 16, he has done all that he could to help you keep Jesus as your #1 and to help St. Sebastian’s be one of those bright spots in the darkness of COVID-19. While carefully walking a tightrope between civic and Archdiocesan rules he has kept our parish open and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament going, 7 days a week, from 10AM to 4PM. This was a tremendous gift to us! Are you aware that many parishes in Marin were closed and locked? I even saw one myself that had signs on every door telling parishioners to stay home and not come to the parish church at all! How very sad!
And in addition to keeping the church open and making Eucharistic Adoration possible, our parish priests would not allow the physical health restrictions to compromise your spiritual health needs. And so, they faithfully kept our regular schedule of Confessions going on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons, drawing people from throughout the County because they made sure this sacrament was as accessible and as easy to receive as possible. Many parishes did not make Confession possible or if they did you had to jump thru hoops, make an appointment and meet with the priest in a parking lot.
Now, I want to be clear that neither Fr. Bill nor Fr. Jerry knew what I was going to be saying about them this morning, but I think it’s something that has to be said, that needs to be said. Another person who doesn't know what I am going to say is Mike De Angelo. He has literally made our outdoor Mass possible by purchasing, building and jury-rigging everything you see here: altar, lectern, microphones, sound system. What a beautiful parish of marvelous people we have!
In various ways and forms, in person, online and through creative adaptations to bring Holy Communion to those who personally requested the sacrament, we did what we possibly could to help you keep Jesus as your #1. And many have told us “thank you”. But truly, on behalf of all, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you. Because, you see, you ministered to us every bit as much as or even more than we ministered to you:
Your faith that did not falter fed our faith.
Your trust in Christ increased our confidence in him.
And your love inflamed our love so that we, too,
could keep Jesus as our #1 throughout a very difficult time.
God bless you!