Homily from the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
"Peace to this Household!"
Today's Gospel is literally and instruction manual written by Jesus for a new priest being sent to a new assignment. In our Gospel today, Jesus says that the harvest is abundant. When I told people I was coming to St. Vincent's, they all reacted the same way, "WHOA!" they said. "Big parish. You're going to be very busy." So, as I look out at all of you, I have to concur, the harvest is abundant.
Jesus also says that the laborers are few. So when I'm sitting in the rectory, and it's just Monsignor John and myself, I have to concur, the laborers are few.
But Jesus did send the disciples out in pairs didn't he? I am honored to be paired up with Monsignor John. So many of the priests of our diocese have told me how lucky I am to be sent here to St. Vincent's because, they said, I will learn a lot about the priesthood from Monsignor John.
Christ tells us to pray to the master of the harvest to send out more laborers. How pleased I was to see the sign in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, asking for prayers for vocations. It is obvious that you are doing precisely that.
Jesus said, "A tree is known by it's fruit." For the last few years I have seen the fruits of this parish. I've become good friends with Deacon Matt and Deacon Tink Coonan. What a blessed day that will be for this parish a year from now when they are ordained priests. Chris Lapp and Matt Soberalski are sons of the parish. Ben Muhlenkamp spent five years here helping out with Life Teen. And I've become good friends with priests who have served here: Fr. Mark Gurtner, Fr. Joe Gaughan and of course Fr. Jason Freiburger with whom I attended seminary. I have seen the fruits of this parish. How good it is to finally look upon you, the tree!
In this instruction manual of today's Gospel, Jesus tells me to stay in the same house; do not move about from one house to another. As you know, seminarians are assigned to different parishes each summer. So for the last four summers, I've moved about from one house to another. How happy I am to finally arrive home and I look forward to making a home with you, to praying with you, to raising children with you.
The relationship between a priest and the Church is spousal - you and I are wed to one another. Each of the past summers, I've caught only veiled glimpses of my bride's face. But now, as I look upon you, I finally see the fullness of my bride's face. It's like the moment when the bridegroom lifts the veil off his bride's face and sees her as his wife for the very first time.
What other instructions has Jesus left for me in this instruction manual in today's Gospel? He says, "Eat what is set before you." O.K. Let's take it easy on this one. As you can see, I've had my fair share of meals. I'm at that point in my life where my waist is a 40 and my inseam is a 30. At this point it would be more efficient for me to roll everywhere instead of walking. So let me feed you first. Let me prepare this table for you and feed you with the Body and Blood of Christ and together, we will eat what is set before us.
Jesus also instructs me to cure the sick among you. When you are ill, I will anoint you. When you are injured by sin, I will absolve your sins through the Sacrament of Confession. And I promise you, that everything I do for you will be motivated solely by the love of Christ. That will mean that from time to time, I will even have to say something that is difficult to hear, but I assure you, it will always be motivated by love, not harm.
Yes, today's Gospel is an instruction manual about the relationship between the priest and his people. But it's not so much about the priest, Father Andrew Budzinski as it is about our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. As the Gospel tells us, Jesus did not send the 72 disciples so that they might be glorified and praised, but so that they might announce to every town and village that Jesus is coming.
I am here because I have been sent by Jesus to announce his coming. Every time I walk up that aisle, it does not mean that Father Andrew has entered the building; it means that Jesus is on his way. It means, in few moments, Jesus will once again make himself real and present on this altar in the Eucharist.
It means, as Jesus says at the conclusion of today's Gospel, "the Kingdom of God is at hand for you."