3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, January 26, 2014
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
“He said to them,
‘Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’
At once they left their nets and followed him.”
There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of years or so
about the “New Evangelization.”
Of course, the word “evangelization” comes from the Latin word “Evangelium,”
which comes from Greek word for “good news,”
and which we normally translate as “Gospel.”
So sometimes people use the term “New Evangelization” to mean
a new effort to bring the good news of the Gospel to all people
—not just oversees, but next door.
But the term “New Evangelization” was actually originally used by the Church
to mean something a little different.
Back in the 1980s when Pope John Paul II first started using the term,
he was talking about the people and nations whose cultures
had been formed and immersed in Christianity for centuries,
but who no longer understood even the basics of the Gospel,
the “Good News,” of Jesus Christ.
And so he called for a “new evangelization” of these people,
a push to “re-evangelize” quasi-Christians—to “re-Gospel” them.
And he said that that new evangelization must first begin
of not only with those who are marginally or culturally Christian,
but also those who are trying to be devout Catholics—you and me.
We also don’t know the Gospel as well as we should,
and more than that, we don’t know and love Jesus as we should.
And so in the new evangelization the Church calls us
to begin by renewing our own knowledge of the Gospel,
and growing in our own personal relationship with Jesus.
So as I’ve spent many hours in the last few of years
thinking of how we, as a parish,
can take a more active role in the new evangelization,
I keep coming back to this:
we need to first re-evangelize ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago, in my bulletin column,
I wrote about making New Year’s resolutions.
And I suggested that instead of the usual resolution of losing weight, etc.,
that we make resolutions that would lead us closer to Christ.
Today I propose to you that we make these resolutions a concerted effort
to spark a new evangelization in our parish.
And in renewing ourselves individually and as a parish,
finding ourselves not only better prepared to evangelize others,
but also actually doing so.
Now, I’m not one for grandiose schemes
—they tend to light up the sky, but then fizzle rather quickly.
Simpler, concerted efforts usually work better.
So I prepared a little handout you’ll find in your pews:
please pick that up and look at it.
This not a complete and thorough listing of all the things we can or should do.
But it offers some simple suggestions,
and perhaps those can serve to make you think of others.
I ask you to take this home today, and in the week or weeks ahead look it over,
maybe mark one of the suggestions in each category,
or add your own ideas.
The point is, we need to make firm resolutions, commitments,
to do simple but particular things, to come to know Christ better
—and we have to start somewhere.
I’m not going to go through item by item, but let’s take a quick look at it.
First we begin with the “Moral Life.”
How can you know Christ if you don’t live with Christ?
Today’s Gospel tells us that Christ told Peter and Andrew:
“‘Come follow me…’…and [they] followed him.”
To live with Jesus we must walk the way of Jesus,
we must live the life he does—the moral life.
Can you imagine Peter and Andrew cursing or lying in front of the Lord?
So we need to resolve to change things.
Of course we need to get of all sin in our lives,
but usually when we try to change everything all at once,
we wind up failing miserably, and give up.
So a good strategy is to make a resolution to focus on one or two sins at a time
to really work on them.
Then there’s the Life of Charity:
how can we love Christ if we don’t love as he does?
So we resolve to work on particular areas of charity,
for example, beginning with family,
being a more patient parent, a more attentive spouse,
a more considerate or son or daughter.
Or being particularly patient with the people at work who really annoy you.
Pick one or two things and commit to being charitable, loving.
And then your Prayer Life.
How can you know someone you don’t even talk to or listen to.
And that’s what prayer is, a conversation with God.
So make a resolution to do something this year to improve your prayer life.
Something big or something small—but commit to pray a little more or better.
And then the life of Grace,
the grace especially that comes to us in the sacraments.
We really can’t enter a deeper relationship with Jesus unless he helps us
—through his grace.
So resolve to partake of the sacraments more often, or more devoutly, this year, in one way or another.
Again, keep it simple, but be specific, and commit yourself.
And how can you know a person, if you know nothing about them,
if you don’t pay attention to what they’ve told you about themselves.
So you need to educate yourself about Christ,
especially by listening to His Bride, the Church,
whom He has sent to tell you about Himself.
And there are so many ways to do that nowadays,
from lectures here at the parish,
to reading Catholic books or websites, on and on.
Pick one or two and resolve to learn more about Christ.
If you do this, I promise you, come next December
you will be closer to Christ than you are today.
And you will be ready to share your love for him with others.
In fact, you won’t have to wait until then:
as you grow step by step closer to Christ
you will be anxious to share him with others as you go.
Because you see, true love doesn’t want to hide itself, but to share itself.
And so I list next “Evangelization.”
There are so many simple ways to share your faith with others
—with other Catholics, with non-Catholics and even non-Christians.
I’ve listed some on this handout, including some very easy things.
For example, inviting a friend to come to Mass with you.
How hard can that be?
Most would at least thank you for the invitation—and some might say “yes.”
But make a resolution to do something—either on this list,
or something more creative.
Now, I conclude my list with what I call a
“Commitment to Volunteering in the Parish.”
Really, this should come much earlier on the list,
but I put it last so we could focus on it a little more.
The thing is, the Christian life begins and ends with being loved by Jesus
and loving him in return.
But that love has to be lived, and it is not lived in a vacuum.
And so, for those who love and follow him,
Christ draws us all, by his grace, into being one with him,
and one with each other in him.
So much so that he calls us His own Body.
And so as we live and love as one body of Christ,
we must live a life of love with each other.
This is the life of the Church,
and it is lived out in a very concrete way in the life of a parish.
The life of love and mutual service, following the example of
the one who “came not to be served by to serve”
and told us to “follow” him.
Whether it’s serving as an usher, or altar boy, or with the youth group,
or making meals for sick mothers, or organizing parish dinners, whatever.
This is the life of love in the Church.
Now, it’s true that the Church is much bigger than any one parish.
And there are many ways to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ
in context of this large Church
–whether actually working for the Church,
or as a devout Catholic working in a secular job.
Moreover, the largeness of the Church brings many blessings
—for one, the realization of the depth and breadth
of man’s response to Christ
as we see of billions of Christians worldwide.
But we all need a place to call home,
and sometimes we can get lost in a crowd.
This is one important reason why the Catholic Church is organized into parishes,
mainly along geographic lines,
so that Catholics living close together can actually share
something of a common life together, as a family.
Sadly, some people think of the parish only
as the place they go to Mass on Sunday.
It is that, thanks be to God, but it’s more than that.
The word “parish” itself comes from Latin roots and means, essentially, “household”: in other words, the parish is like a family.
Or should be.
It should be a place where we find real opportunities to love, live and learn
as Christian brothers and sisters, and fathers.
In today’s second reading St. Paul writes:
“I urge you, brothers and sisters,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
…that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
In this letter the Holy Spirit, who of course inspired every word of this,
was writing to the whole Church, past and present,
but St. Paul himself was only is writing to the tiny group of people
living in the city of Corinth, in Greece around 60AD.
While today we would call this the diocese of Corinth,
in all likelihood, it was a community smaller in size,
both geographically and in population, than St. Raymond’s parish.
He was emphasizing both the need for unity with the whole Catholic Church,
but also, in the context of that Catholic unity,
specifically, unity with each other in the Church in Corinth.
And the Holy Spirit says the same to us, here today.
The Church is huge, and we can sometimes have a hard time
finding a place in it, and having a sense of belonging.
But the parish is not so huge,
and is one important place where we can come to understand
that we belong to Christ and His Church,
or to help others understand that.
Even so, many times I’ve been told that the even the parish is too big.
But the parish is only too big if you don’t get involved
in some small group or activity
that will help you to understand that you are part of the wider parish.
On a very practical level, by becoming more active in small ways,
in small groups in this relatively small parish,
you can experience and grow in the love of the Church, the body of Christ,
and so draw deeper into the love of Jesus Himself.
Let me give you an example.
I once knew a man who was in his late 20s.
Long story short: he was a pretty good Catholic: he loved Jesus,
and he came to Mass every Sunday and to Confession every month;
he lived a pretty good moral life, and loved being a Catholic.
But there wasn’t much direction to his Catholic life.
Then one day he decided to join the parish’s young adult bible study.
And things changed.
He started to develop a thirst to learn about the faith,
and made a lot of really good Catholic friends
who supported him in living his Catholic life.
And he started to go to daily Mass and adoration,
and became an usher and CCD and RCIA teacher.
Again, long story short: so here I am.
Now, you don’t all have to sign up for bible study,
or to be ushers or CCD teachers—
much less to be priests.
But I do want all of you to grow in your faith and love for Christ and His Church,
and share that with others.
And I want you begin that today, this week, this year, in this parish.
Look over the list of simple things I’ve given you today,
and add some of your own ideas to it.
Think about it, and pray about it.
And then, most importantly, do something about it.
“Come follow me” Jesus said.
“At once they left their nets and followed him.”