We know from the gospels that Jesus used examples from his time to speak to the people of his day. Today’s readings tell us that. Since Jesus lived most of his life in Galilee in northern Palestine, and most of the people he preached to were farmers who made their living on the land or fishermen fishing the sea, Jesus talked to people about fishing and their farms and vineyards and planting seeds.
So how would he speak to us now? Would he Google the place?
I’m here for your parish mission for the next three days. Tonight, tomorrow night and Tuesday night at 7:30 PM. I googled “Matawan” for information about your town, or borough, to use the right word, and Wikipedia said there are about 9,000 people here in Matawan. in a space of 2.3 square miles. The median age about 36.
In a New York Times article last year entitled 2 Lakes, the Shore and a Train to the City the writer said that Matawan was a good place to live, to bring up kids, close to the train, close to the shore, close to the water. The statistics say you’re more prosperous here than other parts of the country, but the 2000 census did say that 5.5 of your population were below the poverty line. I’d guess that might be greater these days.
Now, I don’t think that Jesus, if he came here to talk to you, would go on a lot about statistics. The gospels say he urged people to be grateful to God for what they had. Don’t forget God who gave you everything; God should be at the center of your life.
Be like your Father in heaven, aim high. Live a grateful life and love the way God loves.
The gospel also says that Jesus was not someone who was always calling people out. He saw the heartbreak, the sorrow, the sickness, the pain that’s present in everyone, no matter where they live. He saw sinners. Sinners are those who get life wrong. He spent a lot of time with them. He’s God’s face for us to see.
For the next few evenings I’ll be using the Gospel of Matthew to follow Jesus Christ through the last days of his life and his appearances as Risen from the dead. These are the most important parts of the gospel. We’ll follow him as disciples, which means we’ll learn from him, our teacher and Lord, how to live today from the way he lived yesterday. I’ll go slowly through the scriptures step by step, so if you come to these evening sessions might be good to bring a bible along.
I hope this mission helps us to appreciate Jesus Christ and give us a greater appreciation for the scriptures that speak of him. In our church today, the scriptures have become our catechism and our prayerbook.
But you know as well as I that many don’t read the scriptures much or understand them too.
An article in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine, America, (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/current-issue.cfm?issueid=786) discussed the way American Catholics read the scriptures. Actually, they don’t read them much or know much about the writings we call the Word of God, the author, Brian B. Pinter, says. Also, Catholics who do read the scriptures, may read them literally, like fundamentalists. But the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1993, Pinter points out, warned that “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”
Last summer the pope urged Catholics to take up and read the scriptures. It wasn’t a pious wish, he was dead serious. The scriptures are the Word of God that nourish our faith and help us know God’s will.
A couple of weeks ago was catechetical Sunday, when parishes began their religious education programs for the year. Most of these programs are for our young people. But you know religious education involves more than young people. All of us are called to grow in our faith and live what we believe.
Unfortunately, adults may think that faith is something you learn as a child in school or in a religious education program and you never have to learn about it again.
The Catholic writer Frank Sheed once said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.
As children, in religious education we may see the world with two eyes; but as adults we may see the world only with the eye of experience. And so we lose the focus that faith gives, another dimension. We won’t see right. Faith helps us to see.
“You are all learners,” Jesus said. It’s not just children who learn, all of us learn. We are lifelong learners. Lifelong believers, engaged believers, struggling believers, even till the end.
So, I invite you to our mission this week as lifelong learners. Some of you may not be able to make it, but let me make a deal with you. How about doing a little online learning? I have a blog on the web called “Victor’s Place.” I’ll put up some material from our mission every day, starting with this homily. If you can’t get here yourself, or have a neighbor who wont darken the church door, or have a daughter in California who’s not going to church, take a look at “Victor’s Place.”
You saw me bring up a cross at the beginning of Mass and put it next to the pulpit. That was to remind me and to remind you that Someone Else is here speaking during these days of mission. The Lord is with us. He wants to speak to us here in this place where 9,000 people live, a place of “2 Lakes, near the Shore and a trainride to the City.”
The mission services, a short catechesis, a longer reflection on the scriptures, hymns, prayers and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be about 1 hour. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Nights at 7:30.
I’ll be celebrating the morning Masses on Monday and Tuesday at 8 AM and preaching a short homily. Afterwards I’ll be available for confessions.
Fr. Victor Hoagland, CP