22nd Sunday Ordinary Time
Deacon William Meehan
Preached: September 3, 2023
Scandal. Political upheaval. War. Secularization. Even exile. The prophets of the Old Testament faced it all. During times of great change and uncertainty, God called men and women from various backgrounds to stand up for their faith and to help guide the rest of the world toward virtue. Often, when we think of prophets, we think of Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, and the prophet we heard from in our first reading, Jeremiah. They were people who lived in an era which has since long gone, and their messages often seem like distant exhortations to a culture that no longer exists.
However, the stories of the prophets continue to have value for us today. They show us what it means to be a person who fights for their beliefs and who stands up in the midst of crisis, and they help us live lives of virtue. This is something which is important for us because each and every one of us is a prophet. You are a prophet. At Baptism, following the anointing with the Chrism oil, the celebrant proclaims that we are anointed priest, prophet, and king. There is much that can be said about this three-fold consecration, but I’m going to focus on just one today: you have been anointed a prophet of God.
What does it mean to be a prophet in our world today? What are we supposed to do? The prophets of the Old Testament show us exactly what it means to be called by God to respond to the signs of the times. The prophets are people who arise in history. They are appointed by God at a particular point in time to respond to the crises of their society.
When the People of Israel turned away from God, when they neglected the Law, or when they were facing some specific threat or turmoil, God appointed individuals to shed light on their errors. These individuals called attention to the sinfulness in the world and reminded them of God’s love and mercy. They pointed out errors in the hope that things could be changed. They heard the voice of God and they relayed that message to others.
The purpose of a prophecy was not to declare condemnation or to proclaim the end of the world. It was to incite the people into changing their ways – it was a call to conversion. And then the prophets interceded for the people – they prayed for them.
These are all things which we can do. Now, I am not saying that we all ought to be standing on the streetcorners screaming for repentance. Nor am I saying that we should be criticizing people online and denouncing them as sinners. But we can still give witness to God and to virtue. By the very way we live our lives, others should know our love for God.
In the midst of an ever-increasing secularized world, where virtue ethics are cast aside in favour of individualism, choosing to follow God and living that choice provides a concrete demonstration of what it means to be a Christian. We can reject the atheistic and materialistic consumerist society. We can make decisions based upon upholding the dignity of each and every person as a beloved child of God. We can provide support to others who need help. We can try to be more caring and less selfish.
All these gives testimony to God, and it incites others to conversion. The methods we employ today may differ from the Old Testament prophets, but the goal remains the same. Yet, there is one more characteristic of a prophet that we cannot overlook. The prophets were quite often rejected. They faced ridicule and backlash for standing up to the institutions of their day. Jeremiah is a prime example of this. We hear him calling out to God saying that, because of his prophecies, he has become a laughing stock.
In devoting himself to God and becoming wise in spiritual things, Jeremiah was mocked and silenced by those in positions of power and authority. They do not want him to speak the truth because it interferes with their plans. They do not want their mistakes pointed out to them. They are hard-hearted and do not want to change their ways.
When Jesus tells his disciples that they must take up their crosses, this is what he is referring to. He is calling them to be prophets in their own time, knowing that they too will face backlash. Being a prophet is not an easy task. It was not easy during the time of Jesus, and it is not easy now. But this is the life to which God is calling us. It is a life that we, as Christians, freely accept by virtue of our baptism.
And why do we take on this role if we know the difficulties, the crosses, that will plague us? We do it because we have hope that our love of God and God’s love for us will lead us to heaven. This is the future glory of which Jesus speaks in the Gospels. We accept the mission of being a prophet in the world because of our longing for God.
We choose a life which may not seem satisfying according to secular values, but which does ultimately fulfill our desires. In the depths of our hearts, we all have a desire for God, a desire to be close to God. Being a prophet in the world helps to satisfy this desire. It may not always seem to be the case, but being a prophet is one of the most rewarding things we can do.
Each one of us has been chosen by God – called by God. By virtue of our baptism, we are enlisted as prophets. Throughout history, God has appointed prophets whenever the world needs them most. God sends prophets to show others a better way of living – the way of virtue and of love. We are all being asked to share our faith in our communities, and in our society.
This is not a task that we can leave for others who are somehow “holier” or “better”. God does not ask for people who because they are the most powerful or the most influential. When God first calls Jeremiah, the prophet responds saying “who am I, Lord? I am only a child!” It does not matter your age, or your status, or how successful you are. God is calling you to be a prophet. It is up to you to respond to God’s calling. It is up to each of us to be the prophets that we need in the world today.
Question: My daughter’s boyfriend is Christian, he is not catholic, can they still marry in the Catholic Church?
Please watch video below for answer:
If you prefer to read, below is Fr. Mark’s Answer:
This question clearly came from a parent who is concerned about their child. Parents are concerned about the happiness and future life of their children. In this question we see two of those desires parents have for their children. First, they want them to be in a healthy and happy marriage. Secondly, they hope that they will maintain their faith and relationship with God.
For the Catholic Church, we speak of marriage as a covenant. This is rooted in the Scriptural concept of covenant, referring to the relationship of God with the people of God. The best definition of covenant I have ever heard is very short and simple. Covenant is the “promise to remain.” The unconditional love of God ultimately revealed in the self-giving love of God shown by Jesus on the Cross. In marriage, two people are committing to enter into a covenant. In fact, St. Paul uses marriage as a symbol for the covenant relationship between Jesus and the Church. The Church as the bride of Christ. For this reason, two Christians who enter into marriage, enter into a Sacrament in which they are to reflect the unity of Christ and the Church.
But, marriage is a natural reality, rooted in creation itself. Every marriage is a human and good reality. So, a Catholic is able to enter into marriage with someone who is not baptized and obviously with someone who is a baptized Christian but not Catholic.
In the case of a Catholic marrying someone who is not baptized, when they meet with the parish to prepare for the wedding ceremony, a dispensation will be arranged for them to be validly married in the church. The church sees this marriage as having a natural goodness and they make that same commitment in their vows, “I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honour you all the days of my life.”
When a Catholic is marrying a baptized Christian from another church, then the parish will arrange for permission and this marriage is considered to be sacramental. When it is desired and possible, the minister of the other spouse’s church may participate in the marriage ceremony. A Catholic may also obtain a special dispensation to have the marriage ceremony celebrated in the church of their spouse if that is required. In fact, I have assisted with weddings in a few cases in other Christian churches for the sake of one of my parishioners.
When a Catholic is marrying someone who is not Catholic, we will normally open up discussion to be sure that they have thought about the implications. It is important of course that the couple honestly discuss future plans around practicing their faith and about how they plan to raise any future children. The Catholic partner is asked to do all in their power to have their children baptized and raised in the faith. This, of course, requires the agreement of both partners. So, it is important that this issue be addressed openly before they marry.
So, back to the original question, yes, any Catholic is encouraged and invited to celebrate their marriage within the church. As a parish we welcome each Catholic planning to enter into marriage. We will welcome them and assist them in entering into marriage in a good and healthy way. Our goal, like the goal of parents, is that they will make a good and lasting commitment and that this marriage will be nurtured by their faith. During the wedding celebration, the priest or deacon will offer a special Nuptial Blessing over the couple. One optional Nuptial Blessing concludes with these words, “… and after a happy old age, together with the circle of friends that surrounds them, may they come to the Kingdom of Heaven.” This is what parents surely desire for their children and it is ultimately the desire of the church for the couple as well.
Thank you for listening in to this Question and Answer series. If you have follow up questions to this answer or have other questions send them in to us.
13th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: June 28, 2020
“I am a distinguished life member!”
Seven years ago, I heard myself say these words when I received this status for an engineering community that I am involved with.
Those who know my background, know that I have a degree in ceramic engineering and a specialty in something called refractories. Refractories are bricks and concretes that are used at extreme temperatures over 1600 degrees Celsius in the harsh processes of steel plants, cement plants, incinerators, glass factories, etc.
It is a very unique speciality and the community that researches, installs, uses and talks about this is definitely a group of “geeks” from all over the world! They meet at least every two years around the world to discuss the latest and greatest, and when you get old enough, and enough grey hair, you get considered to be designated as a distinguished life member (DLM).
The DLM status has no money awarded, but instead recognition from your peers and an invitation to join every future meeting of “refractory nerds” at no cost!
Needless to say, I was thrilled with this status and the expectation to share my wisdom and knowledge with the future generations.
Attaining this status or designation came to me as a key message of today’s readings.
St. Paul tells the Romans, as well as us, what it means to be designated the status of “Christian” at the time of their baptism.
Paul says that Christians have died to their old self and the world and have risen with Christ and belong to the new world. Therefore, they must then behave accordingly and “walk in newness of life!”
Baptism, he says, is the new starting point, both when Christ started his ministry after his own baptism in the Jordan and for us as our starting point on our journey of faith. We join the Body of Christ, the people of God – our future is different.
We have died to our sinful nature and that Christ’s death and resurrection enable us to conquer the fear of our own death, and therefore live as happy, faithful, joyous Christians both now and eternally, knowing our status as Christian children of God.
This status as Christian, does not mean a life of leisure, of everything going perfect, or of ease and comfort.
We hear from Christ himself when he tells his disciples that they will have to take up their cross and may even have family members not agree with the path they have chosen.
The Christian journey is not easy always he says to us and is a matter of priorities. If we put Christ and God first in our lives, we may be ridiculed, but this is the cross we take up and walk with on the journey of faith.
We move from self-centred and me-first, to selfless, forgiving, and loving. We take time to pray, reflect, worship and actively help in our community. Of course, this will allow for less time and focus on minor worldly matters that aren’t important, like what clothes, or shoes, or cars we buy, but it is the path that we freely choose.
The purpose of our life is to use our gifts to serve others to bring the kingdom of God to the here and now. If we lose our life of using our gifts to serve ourselves only (self-focus), then we can find our lives in doing God’s work, and in making our societies a better place.
The Christians who champion and/or protest for social justice, fair trade, peace, anti-racism, anti-bullying; the ones who push for reform in education, housing, and the growing wealth gap between rich and poor; these are taking up the cross, the ones who may be ridiculed for their just causes. These are the people that Jesus says are not afraid to lose their life for the sake of the gospel.
We also see a great example in the first reading today. We see a wealthy woman take care of Elisha the prophet, who she sees in need of shelter and food. And when he asks her if she wants anything in return for her kindness, she says no, and that she is happy to live the simple life she has.
The woman could have asked for anything, but in her status as a child of God and faithful woman, she humbly states that she is happy with what she has.
We are called with our status of Children of God to get involved with the needs of the people God puts into our lives, to love our neighbour as ourselves.
We are to find our lives as God’s ambassadors, as God’s hands, when we put our gifts at his disposal.
We are Christians, we are baptized to a faith that helps those most in need, that puts an emphasis on love, on forgiveness, on peace, on joy and tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to be what God wants us to be – Distinguished Life Members!