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Saturday, September 24, 2016

SJB-lastHomily -- Remember what you are!

The theme I see in this weekend's readings is pretty simply stated: "don't forget who you are!" (And the flip side of that is: “Don't forget who you are not!”) Amos clearly condemns the complacently rich of Zion (Jerusalem), and foretells their downfall.  Jesus shoes us a parallel image of the anonymous "rich man" who has lost his identity into his wealth: all he is now is just his stuff - Lazarus is not even as dehumanized as him. He doesn't reflect that he is a beggar before God like all of us, and that he is not immortal. Do not forget who you are, nor who you are not.
We see this also in the second reading.  The first letter to Timothy is full of Saint Paul's advice for the young leader who, due to his age, needs reassurance that he is on the right track for where he should be leading the Christian community, as well as reminders of who he is and what he is about.  It may seem a bit of a hodgepodge, but truly is more like a potluck of delicious little dishes like the nice parish picnic we had about a month ago. In fact, this letter follows the typical style of the day when kings/emperors would send instruction to their local governors for how they ought to carry out their duties. Sometimes local Greco-Roman magistrates would even post copies of these letters on the outside of the main buildings for everyone to read, and thus the emperor would write in a way that, while speaking to the governor, truly also spoke to everyone.  This letter of St. Paul is summarized by Luke Timothy Johnson as follows: As in Ephesians, the Christian household and community are witnesses to the world of "faith and truth" (2:7).  But only a community that is orderly and harmonious - displaying the best of the values and virtues of the larger Greco-Roman culture - can truly be the "household of God." Indeed, only as an orderly "household" can the community stand as a witness among the Gentiles  to the great mystery in Christ (3:16).
Saint Paul encourages Timothy in what he knows is God's Will for him as a leader of the Christian community, as well as outlining the vocation of the entire "household of God:" But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,
devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called...
This is certainly good advice for Timothy, but it is also good advice for all of us.  It is a reminder that the pastor (myself) is at best a good leader when he is simply trying to live as a good child of God like the rest of the "household."  As Saint Augustine put it, "For you I am a bishop, but with you I am a Christian; the first names a danger, but the latter names a salvation."
I have tried to be a good leader by being a good Christian here, and have not been perfect at that but have also never given up.  I pray that the Merciful Lord may look kindly upon me and help me in the future.  Ultimately any priest who sows good seeds for the kingdom is doing it for the future, not the present, and I am grateful for the generous hearts of the pastors who have been here in the past decades of this parish.  Ironically as well, the best priests put not themselves at the center, but Jesus, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life.  You need Him, and you need a priest to bring Him to you in the Eucharist, but that is all. 
Paul indirectly stresses that Timothy needs to remember the primacy of Jesus, by mentioning him three times in this short passage, including the poetic prayer of praise that finishes the reading.  That focus is essential for the pastor, which is why I am at peace with the road ahead for myself and for you.  Father Glenn is a great priest and pastor who will care for this household of God with wisdom and compassion and a deep love for Jesus Christ. You will be in good hands, and I am grateful to pass on to him this family that shows a real love for priests.
May God bless us all as we continue our journey of faith, and may we never forget who we are: children of our heavenly Father, whom He deems worthy of His love!

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