[All public liturgies in the State of Ohio are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. This will be one part homily and one part pastoral message to my parishioners.]
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.”
Last Sunday I preached about vocations and how God has called each of us not only to baptism and a life of holiness in His Son, but also a particular holiness of living out baptism in a specific way. I challenged you to identify a moment of hearing His voice and to share that or write it out or do something that would give that moment concrete expression. As we seek to hear that voice and understand our particular vocations, I think it’s natural that we also start to evaluate our response to our calling. I would not be at all surprised if you had some anxiety about if you have measured up to what God desires… and if that wasn’t the case before it might be the case now as you are told that believers in Christ will do his works and even greater ones. Now I know I certainly haven’t walked on water, or multiplied bread, or told the dead to rise and watched them get up out of their casket, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you haven’t done anything like that either. But at the same time I certainly presume that you and I count as believers in Christ. So what in the world is Jesus trying to tell us in this Gospel?
To answer that, we need to broaden our vision of vocation. Last week I talked to you about vocation as a very personal matter, God’s particular call to you in your particular life. What we didn’t talk about last week is how your vocation is mostly not about you! Think of last week when Peter preached to the crowd. He had been transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit so much in his life and had become so much more than a random countryside fisherman. But was that transformation and calling by Christ for his own benefit, or for the benefit of the three thousand brought to faith that day and the countless others down to we ourselves who would learn about Christ through St. Peter? Or think of today’s first reading. Were the seven reputable men chosen to be the first deacons of the Church for their own benefit and holiness? No, they were chosen because widows needed to be cared for in the community and the Apostles needed to focus on traveling and preaching. And so it is for us as well. You have been called to your vocation for the benefit of a person or persons that are not you yourself. And that’s a good thing! We have a natural joy in our heart when we imitate Christ and live for others! For example, it is not a strange idea that someone would marry partially because they are happy making their spouse happy! You are not the focus of your vocation.
Jesus said that whoever sees him sees the Father. This was the greatest work of Christ, the thing that everything from his miracles, to his preaching, to his death and resurrection, were all meant to accomplish. That through him we could know and approach the Father as his adopted sons and daughters. Jesus Christ directly did that for a tiny region of the Middle East and only during the three years of his public ministry or, at best, the thirty-three years between his birth and his resurrection. For the two-thousand years since then, by the working of the Holy Spirit, believers have brought Jesus Christ to the rest of the world and all the generations which followed. The second reading said that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” These are the greater works that Jesus said believers in him would do. Not so much as individuals, but bonded to each other by the callings of our particular vocations we become the Church. Who can count since the day of the resurrection how many people have found hope and life through Jesus Christ because believers – because generations of people just like you and me – have tried to imitate him in what ways we can?
My hope is that everyone who is a believer will come out of this time of pandemic and isolation even more aware of how incredibly important it is that we are bonded to each other as a larger community… that we will be excited not just for social interaction and seeing one another again, but because faith does not thrive in isolation. Keep staying close to each other as best you can, because it truly does matter.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.