Sunday, July 04, 2010

Homily 14th Sun O.T. Year C & 4th of July

    As Catholics, we believe that the Church is not only made up of Catholics in this world, but also those who are being purified in purgatory and those who have inherited eternal life in heaven. The Church in heaven, the communion of saints, is called the "Church Triumphant." The Church in purgatory is called the "Church Suffering". And the Church here on earth, which is composed of all of us here today, is the "Church Militant." Together they make up One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

    Why are we called the "Church Militant"? This is our title because, since the moment of our Baptism and with the strength of our Confirmation, we have been sent out into the world with a mission, to tell the whole world, especially our families, friends, and coworkers, the message of Jesus Christ and His Church, and to make the world around us holy, acceptable, and pleasing to God, our Heavenly Father. We have been sent out as soldiers for Christ, into a very real spiritual warfare, to combat and subdue the devil and all that is evil in our society. To this battle we take the weapons of virtue and truth, the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the graces of the seven sacraments. Against these weapons and the Word of God, no evil can stand. This very Mass is the front line of the battle where Satan is defeated and he gets a taste of what is coming to him at the conclusive victory of Jesus' Second Coming. The readings are our orders and the Eucharist is our nourishment for the battle.

    But, our calling goes all the way back to the first one Jesus gave his apostles and disciples. Ours is the same one. Luke's Gospel describes how Jesus appointed seventy disciples to prepare his way in "every town and place." This was a universal mission. He sent them out to all the world. And the mission was urgent. God's people are referred to as a "harvest", ready to be gathered into his kingdom. But the harvest is abundant, and laborers are few. They must get to work, there is no time to waste, "the kingdom of God is at hand." They are to take no money bag, no sack, no sandles; they are armed only with their mandate from Jesus and the power of His Name. And indeed, they were the first wave of the Church Militant, sent like lambs among the wolves. But, as the prophet Isaiah foretold, "the Lord's power shall be known to his servants." As Jesus' disciples went from town to town, two by two, spreading the "Peace" of Christ, healing the sick, and casting out demons, Satan fell… "like lightning from the sky." The disciples came upon "the full force of the enemy" and in Jesus' Name they were victorious.

    This fight is real.. this isn't mere hyperbole. Will we be victorious in our own time? Our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers who are in our nation's military are fighting terrorists that hate our country, hate our founding principles, and hate our religion. Our heroic military men and women must never be underestimated, underappreciated, or forgotten – especially on the Fourth of July, the day of our independence from the tyrannical rule of King George III and the British Empire in 1776. But what about the war that is being waged in the human heart and soul? Peace will never reign in our world if it does not reign in our hearts.

A mother and father is absolutely, understandably, proud when they have a son or daughter join our nation's military. But, how many are willing to let their son join the priesthood or their daughter, consecrated religious life? To most of our children, this is never even presented as an option. It is never even considered. But what was true in the early Church is still true today: "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few." There are about 200,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville but only about 200 priests. St. Gabriel is the largest parish in the Archdiocese with over 6000 parishioners. When was the last time a son from our parish was ordained a priest for this archdiocese, to lead the Church Militant in spiritual warfare? When was the last time a daughter from our parish took final vows as a religious sister or nun? We are blessed here to have four members of the clergy in constant contact with you: Fr. John, Fr. Jim, Deacon Stephen, and Deacon Darryl. And I'll be here through the summer, raising that number to five. We must encourage our children and our grandchildren to follow their good example. They, too, can lay down their lives in sacrifice and service in a vocation of great joy and fulfillment for a Church against which the powers of hell shall not prevail. Perhaps there are young men here today who are called to be priests or religious brothers. Perhaps there are young ladies here today who are called to be religious sisters or nuns. Who from St. Gabriel will take our place when we are re-assigned or have run out of strength? Who from St. Gabriel will take up the banner and continue the fight? Who from St. Gabriel will ensure that Christ sits enthroned over a culture of life, and not a culture of death? Let us not fall into the trap of caring more about continuing our own name, legacy, or inheritance than we do about continuing the Name of Jesus Christ and his holy family, the Church.

    But, it is understandable that, especially today, as scandals of priestly abuse spring up in other countries, we can think that giving a son to the priesthood would amount to giving him over to a losing battle. And so we speak often of a lack of vocations or of a "vocations crisis." There is not a lack of vocations, there is a lack of discernment. But we are seeing that the tide is turning. The Holy Spirit is moving in this archdiocese and there is much cause for hope and excitement! When I entered seminary in 2005 I was one of three men studying to be priests for the Archdiocese of Louisville. Now we have almost 20 seminarians and more on the way! Allowing your sons and grandsons to join this faithful band of brothers will not be a losing battle! Since 2005, I have watched our company grow to include men who have become emboldened rather than deterred by the scandal, the culture, and attacks on the Church from all sides. Just like the men and women who signed up by the thousands to join our nation's military after 9/11, more and more men are entering the seminary following the difficult times when our sexual abuse scandal broke out. These are good and prayerful men, from all sorts of backgrounds. They love God and they love the Church. They love our Holy Father, the Mass, and all that the Church teaches. They are intelligent and they know their faith. They can explain it well and are easy to relate too. They love the people of God and are eager to serve them. It's the sacrifice and the challenge that entices us the most. We want to be a part of something greater than ourselves. We want to be a part of something that has eternal significance, something with meaning and purpose. We want more than ever to take up the banner of Jesus Christ and continue the fight until the victory is won! We will not settle for defeat!

    The women's religious orders are seeing tremendous growth as well. The orders that have retained their habit, have held onto their founding principles, that have renewed their lives with prayer and sacrifice are seeing young ladies join today at a rate unseen before. For example, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, in Nashville, TN just recently celebrated their 150th anniversary. They had to completely expand and renovate their convent because they were receiving so many vocations! Their order and so many others like them are converting the world to holiness through their many diverse missions and through their constant prayer in the inner life of the Church.

    There is no better time than now to encourage your sons and daughters to consider a religious vocation. If your child or grandchild is considering it, have them email me, Deacon Hardesty, at and I will help to point them in the right direction. As we engage the front line of battle today at this Mass, perhaps we can spend some time after Communion or quietly after Mass to "ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest"… to ask the Head of the Church Militant to call forth men and women from St. Gabriel who can help him to win this most winnable battle.

Listen to this homily: Recorded mp3

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