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Sermon on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Since day one of my ministry at St. James, work has been non-stop. It has become increasingly clear to me, it will never end. I make sure that worship is enriching and satisfying, that Religious Education is attractive and appealing to children, that music is uplifting and lively, that programs provide lots of opportunities for learning and spiritual growth, preach the (unpopular) teachings of the Church, uphold family values, visit inactive parishioners and hear their concerns and do all the best I can to invite and draw younger couples in the church. Possibly, failure to give them excellent service would mean not expecting them next Sunday.

I see to it that everyone engaged in ministry is in compliance with the Diocesan policies to highlight the importance of creating and establishing a safe and caring environment for children, youth and the vulnerable and that bills and building insurances are paid in a timely manner. I thought of spearheading a congregational life survey to get a feel about people’s interests, give them what they want and meet their needs. If the pastoral council would like to pursue this idea and take the lead, it will be an excellent material to start a long term pastoral plan.

Oh…before I forget, I felt obligated to console the fans of Coolidge Bears HS Football team for the devastating loss to Florence last friday evening. I left at halftime because I was convinced that no amount of divine intervention could change the pace of the game.

A couple of weeks back, someone brought to my attention that the church  was hot as hell at the start of the 8:00AM Mass. As a Pastor, I dare not bring any inconvenience to anyone. I therefore, volunteered to put the AC on at 6 (which would mean forcing myself get out of bed early) so that as my people walk in, the place would be nice, cool and conducive. Tell me about it, ministry is a stressful job and involves a huge measure of sacrifice.

I sounded as if I was so sure, with clarity and conviction about parish life and yet, I was close to being zeroed when I heard and began meditating on the Gospel boldly proclaimed this Sunday, “unless we hate our families, accept and carry our crosses, and relinquish all our possessions, we cannot be his disciple.” These hard and poignant words are extremely demanding and costly. They appear to be harsh and unforgiving especially to an average believer. In fact, if this injunction is taken quite literally, almost everyone of us will get a failing mark. Should he be one of the greeters, he probably would say, hey! do you really want to get involved in this life? Man oh man, how’s that for a hospitality minister? I can imagine, only a handful will be left while others sign up to a different church in town or end up listening to a popular tele-evangelist preaching nothing but human wisdom: prosperity and investment.

The Gospel seem to be confusing and sure to shock. If, at the heart of Christianity, is love, exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus, its exact opposite, hate, then, is untrue. It is possible that this very strong language comes from a semitic idiom, a hyberbole, specifically used to spell out the high cost of discipleship. In this context, then, ‘hate’ does not really mean ‘dislike’ but ‘love-less’. Loyalty to Christ must be on top of our priority list. Everything else is secondary. Even our most cherished relationships, the privilege of leading comfortable lives and our never- ending yearning to keep- up- with-the-joneses, must be subordinated. As far as interpretation is concerned, once we make a commitment, nothing else matters but him. Discipleship is not cheap, motivated by no earthly ambition. He wants to let us know that no one should get into the way. Well, he is just being honest with us to avoid misconception and being misled. I know it didn’t make a lot of sense.

Let’s try this. There was a time when my Droid was everything to me. It was the extension of my office, the sheer reflection of my personality and the gadget I cannot live without. When Iphone 4 was released, I didn’t even give a damn because my droid is the definition of a smartphone. All of a sudden, few minutes before presiding over the 5:00 PM Mass, sometime in July, it slip on grip, dropped to the floor and dismantled. I felt, I lost all I had in a heartbeat.

Finally, this whole enterprise does not happen on impulse. Instead, it is a long process of patiently entering into an intimate relationship with Jesus which requires intense amount of work, self-denial, discipline and cross bearing. Amen.

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This entry was posted in: Parish

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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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