It is good every once in a while to stop and reflect upon what we say and do on a regular basis.
At the end of the Gospel, the deacon or priest always proclaims, “The Gospel of the Lord.” To which you all respond, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”
Praise. Thanks. Glory. Honor. Awe. This is what the Church is trying to communicate when we pray that simple response in response to the good news, the gospel that we just heard.
The action that accompanies these words is an action that also occurs at the beginning and at the end of the Mass. We are usually singing so you may not notice it. Can anyone tell us what this action is? (Kissing the altar and kissing the Gospel Book.)
What does a kiss usually connote? Yes, love, care, felling, affection, connection, desire.
Yet I think we all have experienced in our lives and the lives of others that our words and our actions do not always convey what we are really thinking or feeling; that sometimes they are mere masks of what is really going on interiorly; or they become rote and devoid of true feeling, thought or conviction, and can become merely self-serving and selfish.
Hugs are similar. It is like taking the book of the Gospels and hugging it like this (holding close to chest and rocking back and forth) saying, “I love you. You are so special to me. I can’t live without you.”
So, is this really our response this evening (morning) to what Jesus just told us: “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Or how about this: “Whoever does not take up one’s cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for MY sake will find it.”
Our parish mission begins with these words, “Place God first in ALL things.”
The subtext would include placing God first in all situations, all circumstances and all events; that team sports, picnics, the Seahawks do not take precedence on Sunday. It means that the biblical tithe becomes the benchmark of our stewardship and that like Financial Peace University teaches that the first line of our monthly budget is our financial gift to the parish. Placing God first means surrendering everything to God.
This is an incredible challenge! And if one thinks that this is an extreme teaching, listen to the two verses that precede today’s reading that follow last week’s Gospel that the Church left out both weeks.
Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth? I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of their household.”
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ! Sign me up! Yeah, I’m there, I really want to bring division and discord and seemingly make life miserable.
What is going on? How can anyone really take this seriously today?
Some context might help. Jesus is already facing hostility and push back about his teaching from the Pharisees and Scribes. He is getting ready to send the twelve out on mission and he doubles down on the demands of following him.
It is easy to image their friends and family quietly begging the twelve not to go on this mission, to dump this guy.
Maybe they themselves were beginning to wonder what they had gotten themselves into. Maybe they were sensing that they were passing a point of no return with Jesus, that it would cost more than they first figured, that it would be much more demanding than they ever thought.
To use an image from our second reading: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
“Newness of life” means a different kind of life all together, a life dead to sin and alive with Jesus’ own life.
Here is a visual example of what I think Jesus and St. Paul are talking about. I can take this jar and immerse it in this bowl of water and the outside gets all wet and eventually the water runs off it.
Or, I can take the lid off and immerse it in the bowl of water and what happens? Yes, it becomes full of water, to the brim.
This is the type of discipleship Jesus is asking, no, demanding of us if we are to truly be his followers; if we are truly to be filled with his very life; if we are to fulfill our baptism. We are meant to be “all in.”
Jesus wants All of us – every bit of us and all OF us – every single one of us who are baptized.
So what might this mean for us? What changes must we make in our individual, marriage and family lives? What must you and me do to place God first in all things?
Can I embrace this Gospel message? Can I kiss the cross, the altar of sacrifice and lay down my life for Jesus and his Church, his Body?
Which brings me to our Faithraising Campaign. I am very grateful to share with you that we have just barely passed our vine goal of $3,250,000 in pledges. To each and everyone who has made a financial commitment, thank you very much.
There is another aspect of the Faithraising Campaign that, like the water and the jar, I want to explain by using a visual example.
Would the folks in this section of the church please stand and remain standing. Thanks.
This represents about 20% of the folks here at Mass. 80% of the folks are still sitting.
We have 2,350 households, about 7,000 registered parishioners at St. Michael parish. Just under 20% of us have returned a pledge card and made a three year financial commitment. Yet these 20% have pledged over $3,250,000 over and above their regular stewardship.
Would you folks in the middle sections please stand up and remain standing with these folks over here? Thanks.
Could you imagine if all these folks, about another 60% were all participated in the Faithraising Campaign and made a financial commitment today at Mass what we could do as a parish and how much we could raise for the Kingdom of God and the mission of Jesus Christ?
And with all these folks setting the example, then maybe these folks would become so inspired, they (would you please all stand up) too would join in with joy and gratitude at what God is doing to change all of Thurston County and not just our parish.
The theme of our Faithraising Campaign has been “Equal Sacrifice, not Equal Gifts.” It is about everyone being able to make some sacrifice for the good of all, for the mission and ministry of the parish to reach out in evangelization and in service.
Please be seated.
Jesus truly challenges us today – all who are here and all of our fellow parishioners. How will we respond both to the Faithraising Campaign and also the living out our faith in our everyday lives?
For those who have yet to make a pledge, I invite you to do so today. The commitment cards are in front of you (in the baskets between the chairs). Next week in our Firstfruits Sunday when we will officially begin our three-year giving. Pink envelopes will be available for our contributions next week as you come to Mass.
This is an exciting and a challenging time for us. Let us ALL get more than wet. Let us be filled to the brim with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.