Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 29B
I’ve been a priest now for over three years, and one the only times that your likely to see me wearing something other than black clerics is when I’m out for a run. So a lot times as I’m just going about my day, I’m not really conscious of the fact that I’m wearing anything very different from anyone else around me; that is, until someone stops me in the aisles of HyVee and asks, “Where do you keep the lemon juice?” I’ve also noticed that I’m much more comfortable with people calling me “Father” or “Fr. Darin” or even “Fr. Schmidt” rather than calling me by just my first name or my last name, whereas at one time, the opposite was true, especially before I was ordained, to have people calling me “Father.”
I know it can seem strange to be calling someone who’s less than half your age, and someone who looks like he’s less than a fourth of your age, to call me “Father,” but I appreciate your efforts. It’s a title of respect and honor, but more important than that, it serves as a reminder to me and to other priests of what our vocation is, what God has called and is equipping us to do as priests and mediators, and as we hear in the Gospel today, it is a reminder that we have been called to serve, and to be the slave of all, to offer our lives with Christ as a ransom for many. I need your help to remember often, who I am called to be for you and for all. Even my own parents make an effort to call me father, even though they’re now 73 years old and have known me since the beginning of my life. Some of my siblings and cousins tend to think that’s a bit strange, but I appreciate yet another reminder of who I am called to be, although if my parents ever need a priest, I do hope they find someone else to minister to them, especially for Confession.
I’ve heard from older priests that you kind of lose your name after being ordained. From then on, people can simply call you “Father.” And there’s something very beautiful about that. The practice of calling any priest “Father” reflects the understanding at some level that, despite personal differences, and even the personal sinfulness of a priest, every priest is still anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring God to us and to bring us to God. That’s another reason why I try to wear my clerics whenever I’m in public, so that even if someone doesn’t know who I am personally, they can still recognize me as a priest, as “Father,” and they can approach me for Confession, for prayer, or for whatever else. Wearing my clerics also helps me to reflect more on whether my words and actions communicate or contradict the love of Christ to those who see me, to those who come in contact with me.
This weekend we celebrate World Mission Sunday. We remember and pray for those in foreign missions, taking the Gospel throughout the world, but we also renew our own commitment to being missionaries of God’s love in our own day to day lives, in our homes, in our workplace, in classrooms, restaurants, and shopping malls, while we drive on the road or walk in the park. Now there’s no standard uniform for Christians or other Catholics like there is for priests, to make us stand out, but it would be very good for all of us to reflect this Sunday on how well we communicate the love of Jesus in all these various places and our activities, to everyone who sees us or comes in contact with us. How does our tone of voice, our sarcasm, the way we talk about others or the way we ignore or avoid certain people, how does that build up the kingdom of God in our world today? How do our small acts of kindness and consideration, our stopping to help someone in need in the midst of our busy schedules, how does our talking to someone who’s having a difficult time and our really listening to them, how does that communicate God’s love?
You see, we’re all called as Catholic Christians to bring God to others and to bring others to God, to have a priestly mediation and missionary focus in our world and culture. And like Jesus and the Apostles, we’re not meant to use power and authority to subject others to our will, but to serve them out of love and out of concern for their souls, and for their material needs as well. We open ourselves to receive the grace God has for us at this Mass, and to receive our vocation and mission in the world today. As we receive Jesus Himself in this Eucharist, we are sent out to bring His love to everyone we meet. Jesus commissions each one of us, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” Make disciples of all colleagues. Make disciples of all classmates, of all neighbors, of all persons we come in contact with, by loving them with the same love with which Jesus has loved us, by serving one another, laying down our lives for one another. Go, therefore, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.