See the Readings from the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
1. When Jesus was preaching in His home town of Nazareth, there were two reactions to His efforts. The first was amazement and admiration of His deep understanding. His ability to speak and teach was electrifying. Jesus did not just preach like no other rabbi who had spoken in their little synagogue in that little town. He spoke like no one had ever spoken before.
2. On the other hand there was contempt. It may have been that Jesus touched His hearers so profoundly that many became uncomfortable. Didn’t they know Him? When and where did He learn how to speak like that? Mabye some thought Jesus was trying to reach above His station in life. Maybe others were afraid that Jesus’ success would lead to a crackdown by King Herod (who was very jealous). So they tried to kill Him.
3. The problem of lack of faith in Jesus Christ is not one which existed only in Nazareth of old. It challenges us today. The other day, another priest remarked that often we go about the education of Catholics presuming that everyone has already committed themselves to Jesus Christ. But they have not, including some Catholics who have received all their sacraments of initiation. Without the basic commitment to Christ, the Sacraments themselves and doctrinal teaching will not have the effect which God desires.
4. Commitment to Christ in the exercise of the gift of faith opens the mind to receive understanding of the Truths of the Faith. Commitment to Christ gives us the motivation to repent of our sins and opens us to the grace of God to overcome those sins. God takes Committed Believers in Jesus Christ and makes them more like Himself.
5. In the scene in Nazareth, there were people who were asking "Isn't Jesus the son of Joseph?" (Saint Joseph did "father" Jesus in that Joseph raised Jesus.) But those people thought that they knew everything about Jesus, but in reality they did not. If we are going to commit to Christ, we must humble ourselves. If we think that we are full of knowledge, we are really empty. We must listen to His words almost as if we were ignorant, but thirsting for the knowledge and wisdom that Jesus has.
6. Commitment to Christ includes the realization that Jesus is Lord. I am not Lord. Jesus knew that some would demand to see the signs He was doing in Capernaum. But He refused because their desire for signs was not coming from faith and trust in His power, but rather from their desire to be the judges of who He was. They wanted to have control over their faith. In the present day, at times we wish to have control over our faith too. We want God to prove something to us. Or we simply select the things we like about religion and choose those and reject other things. For example, some will choose Baptism, but reject Confession; or choose Confirmation, but reject Marriage; or desire the gifts of the Spirit like tongues or healing or authority or power, but reject the gift from God which is another child. In these cases, Jesus is not Lord. For our part we must accept Jesus' rule if we are really to commit to Him.
7. Another means of committing to Christ and being like God is in our generous sharing of goods. Everything which exists, God made. And everything we possess, including existence, God gave to us to care for and use for His kingdom.
8. Like me, many of you have already received letters from the Bishop asking for your generous donation to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. If you received such a letter, please respond to it with a pledge. If not, you will get your opportunity in two weeks. I would like to encourage each and every person in our parish to make a pledge and keep it. Even if your pledge is not very big, it would be invaluable to the success of the programs of the diocese.
9. For example, the Annual Appeal pays for the education of men to the priesthood. It costs approximately $17k a year for 9 years to train a man to be a priest (it includes room and board and insurance, etc). (I only had to go for six years because of previous college degrees). Anyway, I for one did not have that kind of money. We certainly do not want to limit our candidates for the priesthood to men who can afford that kind of bill. The Appeal helps Catholic Charities assist the poor. It helps fund training for teachers of the faith. It makes marriage preparation less expensive. It pays for the marriage tribunal.
10. In 2009, our goal was $89,000, which we were able to pledge and make. Last year, 556 Saint Michael people pledged and contributed. That was pretty good, but we have around 1700 families. That makes me wonder about the other 1144 families. So my interior goal for the parish is 750 pledges this year. Therefore I hope that many new contributors will participate this year. Anyway, please pray about it and join me in supporting the Bishop's Fund.
11. Of course, even if we were to contribute to the Bishop's Annual Appeal and our parish as we should, that generosity is not really enough. Saint Paul told the Corinthians that without love, no good work would be worth anything. The love which Saint Paul speaks of is the very love of Christ, by which He hung on the Cross and poured out His blood for us- the Innocent Victim dying for the guilty. That love must be the motivating principle, the interior attitude, the object of the will, the reason, the power of our good works. In short it must be Christ Himself acting within us.
12. Of those people in the synagogue at Nazareth, some later converted and became faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Others would beg Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. But which will we be- the committed disciple or the opponent?