Today I do not have a homily to post, since the deacons were preaching. But that will not stop me from reflecting on the Sunday readings...
It was rainy this morning, so the early Mass did not have as many people as I would have liked. The later Mass was very crowded, however. At the later Mass, I baptized 5 babies. The water was a little cold, so 4 of them cried a bit. The one whose parents held her so that she could see the water and reach down to touch it did not cry.
This afternoon, I drove out to the local Community College in the next county for a choir and band concert. It was very nice. One of our parishioners was singing in her last concert at that school before moving on to a four year institution.
I got back home from all the activities around 7:30, but it is too cold to ride. I hope tomorrow is warmer.
Now to the readings. Since in a couple of weeks, we will be celebrating Pentecost, the readings had a common theme of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel, Jesus was speaking to His disciples telling them that He would not leave them orphans, but would come to them. And He would send another advocate (Paracletos) to be with them- the Holy Spirit. In the first reading, Saints Peter and John go to Samaria to impose hands on the people who had come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, so that they could receive the Holy Spirit. The reason they even went to Samaria, was that the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem drove many Christians out of the city, and as they left, they continued to preach.
The second reading had a similar theme from a couple of weeks ago- that of suffering for doing good. Saint Peter exhorted people to always be ready to give a reason for their hope. And that if they were going to suffer, it would be better to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil. His words were not just words that he preached. It would not be long until Saint Peter himself, as well as many of the apostles, would pay for their belief in Christ with their lives. Nevertheless, they continued to give a reason for their hope.
Sometimes as Catholics we have a little trouble doing that. We sometimes think that as long as we are "nice" everything is going to work out. But really, Jesus does not ask us to be "nice." He asks us to be faithful. Our actions should be our primary mode of preaching about our beliefs. But our words should not fail us. When I was in the semminary, one of our professors (a priest) used to tell us "if you do not study, you are going to Hell." His reason was that studying the faith, becoming knowledgeable and skilled at explaining was our job, our calling from God. To waste time or to fail to do the necessary work to fulfill our calling would result in a severe judgement. Another professor (also a priest) told us that if we did not learn how to answer, people would go down the street to find someone who would. And he is right.
But it is not just the priest who should be able to answer. Sometimes a person who has a question never gets to the priest. Sometimes the person who has to give a reason for their hope is their brother or sister, or their neighbor, or co-worker. Each of us should be a lifelong learner. And we should not be afraid to speak the truth, even if people do not want to hear it. We never know when the seed of faith that we plant with courage and conviction will take root in someone. Maybe they will turn to Christ because they observed someone who actually lived and actually took the time to learn.
Of course, it is not all intellectual. In all our learning, the most important aspect is prayer. If Jesus is not a real person to us, if our relationship with God is not personal and intimate, not only will we be poor evangelizers, our own faith will be too weak to do us a lot of good. Jesus promised not to leave us orphans. God wants to be intimate with us, to come to us and be with us forever. That is certainly something to hope for.