In our reading today from II Corinthians, Saint Paul says,“For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus”. I heard a great talk from Fr. Dustin Boehm, VF, a couple days ago on this very topic, so I give him credit for inspiring parts of this. When we make any decision, big or small, according to Christ, we have to die. We have to die to ourselves and our earthly wants. Such as, if you chose to bring life into this earth or donate to your parish, you sacrifice earthly money. This is no more true than in James, whose feast is today, and the other apostles. They all gave up their entire lives in a matter of minutes to follow the Son of God. Just as Christ had to die on the cross before the joy of the resurrection, we must die to ourselves to receive joy in Christ. So, don’t be sad that we may have to give up some earthly pleasures, the joy and satisfaction of doing God’s will is much more than the earth could ever give us.
The Prophet Micah tells us in our first reading,“You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love”. Father Tran, OFM, really helped to show me how important love is. Now, obviously love is important, but it is amazing how interconnected it is with everything. Love of God gives us love of His people, His creation, and His Church. If we love God’s people, we serve the poor and help the needy. If we love God’s creation, we respect it. If we love God’s Church, we go to mass, make ourselves available to the sacraments, and serve through liturgical ministries. An atheist may love God’s people and nature, but they are an atheist because they do not love God’s Church. A Catholic may love God’s Church and nature, but if they do not help show others how to love God they do not truly love God’s people. Loving God is not just loving some of what he gives us. It is loving ALL He gives us. You may completely love one or two parts of God, but that is not good enough. That is only liking God. Liking God will not get us to Heaven, loving Him will.
About a week ago I was in Yellowstone National Park. We were stopped in traffic for about 20 minutes. Growing curious of what was going on, I got out to see what was the hold-up. It was a young buffalo that had been hit by a car. A team of people had to euthanize it and hoist it into the bed of a pick-up truck.
This really ties to our first reading from Jeremiah. If there had been a shepherd there, that buffalo would have been safe. Jeremiah is speaking of false shepherds, those who don’t take care of the Lord’s people. Jeremiah goes on to say that the Lord is the Good Shepherd, and he will appoint other good shepherds to lead us.
In our Gospel, our Lord has appointed those good shepherds; his apostles. The sheep begin to follow. There is a reason the bishop’s crozier is curved. It is to remind us that he is the successor of the apostles, the good shepherds. We are the sheep. We all need guidance. We must unite as a flock under the good shepherds, and flock towards the kingdom of God.
Today’s Gospel according to Saint Matthew tells us,“Many people followed [Jesus], and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known.” Just as Saint Nicholas gave gifts to the poor in secret, I encourage all to do the same. I understand putting your name on the donations for the Church to receive tax deductions, but try to keep some acts of kindness secret. Matthew 6:3-4 says,“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Our Lord will reward every good action, whether or not others see. Give in secret, you will be rewarded in Heaven.
Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Apollinaris, a bishop and martyr. He was sent by Peter to be the first bishop of Ravenna, Italy. He preached the Gospel so well that he infuriated the pagans, leading them to beat and exile him. But he returned. Not once, not twice, but three times. Every time he returned, the pagans beat him and sent him away. The last time he returned, he was martyred. May the Lord give us courage to do what must be done in the face of evil.
In our Gospel according to Matthew today, our Lord tells us,“for I am meek and humble of heart”. This reminds me of one of my favorite popes, Pope John Paul I. One of the more obscure popes of modern time, he reigned for only 33 days. His papacy was overshadowed by those of of John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II. This reading reminds me of His Holiness, because as bishop his motto for his coat of arms was one word. Humility. Humility is something that is hard for some, yet easy for others. Only through realizing God’s true love, may we adopt real humility. When realizing that we are nothing without God, is when He does the most with our lives. Pope John Paul I never wanted to be pope, he thought it should have been someone else, but through his humility the Holy Spirit called him to the Chair of Saint Peter. Through our humility, God will also do great things with us.
Today, what really spoke to me was the responsorial psalm. It says,“The Lord will not abandon his people.” Now, I’ve never been much of a pet owner, except for a few fish, but if you own a dog or cat and it runs away, most owners will try to go find it. I’ve never really felt this emotion with my previous fish, although I have had a few jump out of the tank. I assume that it must be very saddening to lose something that is such a big part of your life, just as Mary and Joseph must have felt when they lost Jesus, just hopefully on a much lesser scale. If you lose you pet, you look for it; even though it was your pet’s choice to run away. If we find our pet, we pick it up and bring it home; not the pet’s choice. Our Lord feels the same way as us when someone falls away from the Church. The only difference is that he can’t just bring people back, it is their free will. We must be God’s earthly hands, evangelizing those who have fallen away. We must guide them and bring them back to the Church. It is our job and we must fulfill it.