SATURDAY HOMILY: All of us are called to win souls for the Kingdom
I am very often edified by the zeal that I see in the Evangelical Protestant Christians I know. They are on a mission to win souls. Catholics don't usually think in those categories but we should. We possess the fullness of the faith and yet, for many of us-priests as well as laity-we are just sitting on it. Listen to what St. Paul writes to the Ephesians in today's first reading: "Hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love for all the holy ones, I do not cease giving thanks for you ." My hunch is that St. Paul would not be anywhere near as pleased with us and our laid back, ho-hum attitude toward sharing the faith as he was with those first Catholics in Ephesus. In fact, if he were here today, we would very likely hear from his lips words of stern rebuke.
This general lack of awareness of our mission as Catholics to "win souls" is one of the reasons why Pope Benedict has called for a Year of Faith. The Holy Father wants to raise the spiritual temperature of all Catholics. He wants to allow ourselves to be set on fire to proclaim with a joyous and infectious enthusiasm that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior, that He alone is the answer to the longings of the human heart, and that He is to be found in the fullness of His splendor in His Holy Catholic Church.
The Holy Father wants to make sure that we know that sharing the faith is not an option for us; we have a mandate. Over these many months we have heard much about the unjust "HHS" mandate (i.e., the "contraceptive mandate" of Obama Care which we must oppose through every legitimate means, including by voting with a Catholic conscience on November 6). But there is a mandate from an infinitely higher authority which I call the "IHS" mandate. "IHS" is an ancient Greek monogram for the Holy Name of Jesus. The "IHS" mandate is the "Jesus mandate," the command He has given to all of us to make the Gospel known to everyone. Without pointing the figure of blame at any one group or individual, religious freedom (given to us by God and guaranteed by the Constitution) is under attack by our government because we have failed to fulfill the "Jesus mandate." Many of the people in government who have wittingly or unwittingly placed themselves in opposition to the Church are Catholics! Indeed, the government official who promulgated the controversial HHS "contraceptive mandate" claims to be Catholic!
Jesus gives us a promise and a warning in today's Gospel: "I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God." These very serious words of our Lord apply to everyone in the Church: to the pastors, to the lay faithful and to men and women religious.
Bishops, priests and deacons must make every effort to promote the Year of Faith among the faithful and to help them become active participants in it. In our times, God in His goodness has raised up very holy men to the Chair of St. Peter. All of the modern popes-Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II-are either Servants of God, Venerables or Blesseds. Our present Holy Father-also known for his great personal sanctity-like his predecessors, has given to the Church in the seven years of his amazing pontificate an immense legacy of magisterial teaching and pastoral initiatives. Unfortunately, too many priests have been less than eager to communicate these teachings and initiatives to the people they serve and as a result their impact has not been often felt. The year I was ordained a priest (1983) was a "Holy Year of Redemption," but did I know about it? It pains me to say that I heard nothing about this in seminary classes or in homilies. I can honestly say that all these years later I still feel I was deprived of a great blessing. Of course, this was before the internet, Catholic radio and EWTN and perhaps today there is less of an excuse for not being aware of such things. Nevertheless, it remains the solemn duty of the Church's clergy, as an expression of their communion with the Holy Father, to energetically promote initiatives such as the Year of Faith. This they must do by way of their preaching, teaching, counseling and other ...
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