The Three M's
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B
The minute I looked at Today's readings I realized I could sum them up in what I will call the Three M's: Mission, Method and Membership.
What is the reason for our existence as Catholics. I am sure that is a question that many non-Catholics ask themselves everyday, especially if they do not like us. However, what is important is that you and I know what our mission is. It is cited in Today's gospel (JN 20:19-31) and you find it in the last paragraph.
But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
Our mission as Catholics, given to us at baptism, is to testify to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, He is the Son of God and that those who come to believe in him may have life in his name. We really have no other mission. There are many ways that we accomplish this mission, but, if we do things that are not based in that simple sentence we miss the point.
Many look upon the Church as a social service agency. It is not. We do social service, but if we lose sight of our mission then our social service is counter productive to whom we are called to be.
Others look at us as an educational institution. We are not, we do education, but if we lose sight of our mission, then our education is counter-productive to whom we are called to be at baptism.
The list goes on. You and I commit ourselves at our baptism, our confirmation and our marriage or Holy Orders to the mission of the Church. We commit ourselves to making Christ known as the Son of God.
Many do not understand that and take for granted that mission or dismiss it altogether. They will always do so and they will never get who we are and what we do until they understand us in light of our call to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ. This is the reason why my newspaper of choice is the Wall Street Journal. It is a business periodical that has a focus on how the world impacts daily business. Other newspapers are focused on the way the world would be if their world view was in place. Their world view does not comprehend our mission. Yet, how can it, many of those who work for these venues reject our message. If they reject our message they cannot understand our mission nor whom we are.
They become like Thomas earlier in the gospel. Thomas, if you look carefully did not doubt, he refused to believe. He speaks out of anger that Jesus died on the cross and so his doubt is a refusal to believe. Those who likewise mock us because of their doubt do so out of a refusal to believe, not an inability to believe.
Recently, in a further example of a refusal to believe, some scientist said that Jesus did not walk on water, he walked on ice. I told that to the Brazilians and they were laughing hysterically when they heard that one. Why would someone make such a ridiculous statement? It is not doubt, it is refusal to believe.
Now we need to look at the second M. Method. John (1 JN 5:1-6) tells us in the second reading that the sign of our belief is that we live the Commandments. Remember, there are actually only two commandments, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. The ten are based on the two. You can live the ten, however, and never live the two. You cannot fully live the two and not also live the ten.
Our method is, therefore, seeking to do what pleases God every day. We please God when we grow in love for him and in our neighbor. We demonstrate that love for God and neighbor in the way we live our life. This becomes a whole circle, the more we love God, the more radically we live our life. The more radically we live our life, the more we learn to love God. This is why prayer is so central to our faith. We have to be people of prayer so that we can grow in relationship with God and learn what it is he wants of us.
Our prayer life teaches us how to love. Our bible study teaches us how to love and our action teaches us how to love. Prayer, study and action work together and teach us how to be people of love. If we are not actively engaged in that then we do not fully understand how to be the Catholics. We cannot do the method and, therefore, we cannot fulfill the mission. Then we are just going through the motions or something. I am not sure fully what we are doing when we call ourselves Catholic mindless of the mission or the method.
This is why the way we live our life is so important. It is also important to know when we fall. We do that regularly. Remember that St. James warned us that the Just man falls seven times daily. So all of us fail in our method and our mission. The key is we try everyday to do the method better and the mission better.
So we pray, we study the bible and we do spiritual reading. All of this has one focus, bringing others to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. When this happens, they gain eternal life. This is what we do.
The world does not get this at all.
When I was in the Navy, I learned that a process that is fairly routine in the US Navy is something that was a mystery to the Soviet Navy, it was called Underway Replenishment. That is when one ship refuels and restocks another ship while out to sea. This has been part of Navy routine for decades, but the Soviets could not get it. They had been known to sail around taking pictures of US Navy ships engaging in what is called UNREPS to figure out how the Americans did this.
So it is with us, the more we live our faith, the more we have to realize that there are people in the world that find us more and more a mystery until they work to attack us or they dismiss us altogether. They cannot comprehend our method because they reject our mission. Yet, there are others that are just waiting to see us in action to understand. Remember, there is great rejoicing over one sinner who repents and comes to know the Risen Christ. If there is one thing I learned in the Crisis, is that the Devil works just as hard to destroy one soul. Therefore, our method should not be focused on the vast numbers of people who reject us outright, it is focused on the silent few who are watching who are asking the question why do they do what they do.
Remember, it was the action of the people within community that converted so many. They heard the message, but they saw those in community living it in a way that taught them what they said was true. They said to themselves and each other: "I want what they have." This is why the method is so important.
You have seen or heard the commercials about saying no to drugs. Yet one thing I teach people who find themselves in the position to say yes or no to drugs, that to say no, not only keeps you off of drugs, it also keeps another looking at you for strength to say no him or herself. When we live the method of the faith, we serve others by giving them a reason to come closer to Christ by not walking down a path that leads them away from Christ.
We when go to Church, we communicate to others that there is more to life than what is offered them by not going to Church. When we pray the rosary, engage in Eucharistic adoration and so many other things we demonstrate to others that there is something out there that the world cannot promise them. This is our mission. Everything you do for Christ communicates to others that Christ lives. Everything, you do for them, in Christ's name shows them Christ.
I know in front of me there are retired people, teachers, students, bar tenders, police officers, firemen and so many others. Yet, each are here and by your presence alone you speak volumes of who Christ is.
This brings us to the final M. Membership.
We can see in the first reading a description of the early Christian community. (Acts 4:32-35) If you look carefully, you can see that this picture would make Karl Marx jealous. Indeed, it would make President Hu from China jealous. This is the exact system they tried to create. It actually exists to this day. Religious orders work on the same system.
Strangely, it does not work when you try to accomplish it without the mission and the message. The whole community in the reading is focused on the love of Jesus Christ and the knowledge that he resurrected from the dead. This the motivating force in every decision they make as a community and every decision they make personally.
When you try to accomplish this without the motivating force, then you have to force it upon people which is why prisons are so important to a communist society like China and Vietnam.
Yet, membership is also focused on caring for one another and loving one another. That is the most important thing we can do as a community. This has been somewhat confused.
For example, people come to the door and believe it is the role of the Church to hand out money to people. No, it is only our role if we are doing so within the concept of mission, and method. If our mission and method may be compromised by our handing out of money, then we don't do it.
Some people come to the Church looking for a child to be baptized. They do not attend mass, they do not practice the faith, they have no intention of doing either, yet they want to baptize the child because they feel it is the right thing to do. This also compromises our mission. That is why we say no. Commit yourself to the faith first, then after you have chosen to live the faith return to have the child baptized, otherwise you will bring up a baptized child who rejects the faith. That is a worse position to be in than to be unbaptized.
We need to build up the community and to encourage the membership of the community to understand mission, and method, so that we can as a whole community engage in the methods needed to carry out the mission.
The stronger the community is the more it is able to carry out the mission. The weaker the community, the less it is able. One of the greatest ways to destroy a community is to get the people against each other. That is how a small country takes over a large country and that is how anti- Catholics try to undermine our faith, first by getting people to mistrust their priests, especially children, and then by getting people to mistrust each other. Yet, the more all are focused on Christ, the less people are able to accomplish that terrible goal.
The more we are as a community committed to each other. The more are able to commit as a community to the mission through the method. Together we work to be channels of God's peace and to preach the message that in Christ we have forgiveness of our sins.
http://www.revrobertjcarr.com MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Priest, 617 230-3300
Mission, Catholic, Commandments, Evangelism
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