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Sermon on the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

If you are a huge fan of the Arizona Cardinals, the wait is over. But if you are a serious Catholic, who cannot wait for the second coming of Christ, I deeply sympathize with your frustration. Eschatology (Last Things) has generally lost its place in the Catholic pulpit. As a result, Priests, like me tasked to care and direct the souls, can’t simply expect the congregation to remain as exciting and forward looking as they were in the past. Thus, it’s fair to say that the energy is depleted and the two millennia of waiting has dramatically dulled the sense of urgency. I am not in a position to put blame on anybody and I dare not as we are much preoccupied with the worries of the present.

The parable of the watchful servant is an invitation to embrace the Gospel, live on its demands and shrink not, face the challenge, deal with it, don’t get distracted, lower expectations and leave the rest to a gracious God, who is coming in such a short notice, in a sudden and unexpected way. Jesus says to his Disciples, “Gird up your loins and light your lamps and be like stewards waiting for the master’s return from a wedding…” In other words, Wake up Catholics! Buckle up! Be dressed for action! Rise to the occasion! Maximize your time, make good use of your  resources and relinquish anything that enslaves you: strong attachment to possessions and reliance on a false god, get rid of anger, bitterness and useless preoccupations and make yourself available to your church and not to Father only. I promise not to intervene in your frenzied lives, but if ever you spend two hours a day watching TV or surfing the net for no good reason, cut it off to one and let God intrude in. Don’t just do it to impress, soothe and please the Pastor. Instead, help out with nothing but your purest intention.

We, Catholics, take great pride as a global religion but when it comes to participation in grassroots level, we’re weak and it all boils down into lack of motivation and fire in the belly, I believe. A vast majority of Catholics who have joined other denominations will tell that they aren’t getting anything out of a Sunday Mass as much as they do in other churches. Similarly, those who have decided to leave the church of their birth and preferred to be totally unaffiliated will easily say that an organized, mainstream, authoritative religion does not seem to fit and work well with them. Or maybe, they’re sick and tired of it.  But actually, administration is time-consuming. The Priest has too much in his plate and no longer has the luxury of time studying, unlike in the Seminary, when he’s only expected to Eat, Pray, Study and (sometimes love) well.

Things have significantly changed. People, generally, have become increasingly demanding and adopted a consumeristic style of worship in which the Mass is predicated on what seems to satisfy: help the congregants feel great about themselves and forego the truth that makes them uneasy. Nowadays, a short, sweet, comforting and amusing 10 minute sermon hits the Catholic market and not the fire and brimstone, holier-than-thou preaching. But the problem is, I didn’t sign up as an entertainer.  I can try, though I wasn’t trained for it. Rather, I vowed, to leave everything behind (oh no, not everything) to bring the light of the Gospel that gives hope and saves souls.  

Given all the labor of our hands, the future of any church rests not on human ingenuity but on the gracious promise of a God who comes in surprising ways to teach, to govern and to sanctify and if we remain closer and steadfast to the text, a God eager to throw a huge party to good and faithful stewards. It then gives assurances and lasting impact to us ministers, in particular and to anyone, often beset with anxiety and fear of the unknown and overly concerned about what the future holds. For the time being, we will refuse to live again in the shadows of our sinful and stubborn past and move on with absolute trust that whatever we do at the present moment affects the future. The Gospel therefore, is not a cause for panic but another opportunity that make God’s presence felt to carefree and fretting individuals. Amen. 

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A Filipino Catholic Priest, born and raised in Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, eleven years in ministry and counting, currently assigned as Pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, Marana, AZ.

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