New Year’s Homily,2016
Cathedral Chapel, Roseau
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. It is also designated by the Church as the World Day of Peace. It is New Year’s Day.
I would like to invite you on this special day, amidst its three-fold designation, to reflect with me on the theme: The God who sends. The basis of my reflection is today’s Second Reading in which Paul writes: “When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted sons” (Gal.4:4-5). Here we are presented the purpose of the Incarnation: God sending his Son to be born of human stock in order to carry out his work of redemption, and so, enable us to become adopted children. This redemptive action by our God is in effect a belonging process – a process of becoming his sons and daughters. What a privilege we have!
The text continues by stating: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts: The Spirit that cries, “Abba, Father”, and it is this that makes you a son … and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir” (Gal.4:6-7). Here we have it. What more could God do for us, except to make us heirs—persons with the power of inheritance. Have you ever given thought to the fact that heaven is where you belong; that you are heir to God’s kingdom? I know it is a mind-boggling idea for creatures such as we are.
Brothers and sisters, this text is more profound than we can imagine or fathom. It presents God as the one who sends: a God who commissions; a God who spurs people into action for the greater human good. In that way, today can be coined as the Universal Day of Christian Commissioning. By this, I mean that, for us Christians, it represents the call to enter the realm of God’s missionary agenda. Truly, our God is one who sends!
The Holy Scriptures attest to the fact that God sent his Son Jesus, so that, after his followers had imbibed his message, they would in turn be sent themselves. The whole church is one which is sent; it is a Church on mission. It is by its very nature, missionary. In the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus, before parting with his apostles, saying to them: “Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (Mat.28:19-20). However, one of the biggest challenges we face as Church today, is that, many of us believe that only a few people are sent. In fact, our Baptism primarily, and all the other sacraments, secondarily, are various ways by which we are commissioned to carry out the divine plan to renew the face of the earth. What do I mean by that?
Of what significance, for example, is our baptism? It is a call to live a holy life in this world to prepare ourselves for the Kingdom. So, our entire life is itself the living of our baptism. Any form of sin, is failure to live up to our baptismal promises. Therefore, it is less a question of how we were baptized, or the amount of water which was used. It is rather more a question of the quality of life that ensues as a consequence of those signs at the initial sacramental encounter.
Another important example, on which the human family depends, is marriage. How is it a missionary mandate for those who commit themselves to each other in holy matrimony? God has provided this important structure for faithful conjugal life and the proper raising of children with kingdom values. The family union is meant to enhance the proper formation of the young and to guard them from the dangers of the world and all its cravings. You and I know that in our culture today, this structure is not a perfect one. Ours is the responsibility to continue the struggle, with the help of God, to perfect it. Husbands and wives, are you aware that you are called to mission in your family? To what extent are you a missionary disciple in your home? Is your home really a Domestic Church?
The same can be said of those who take Holy Orders: deacons, priests and bishops. We too, by our ministry, are called to faithful and selfless service to the kingdom, and to be models of righteousness to Christ’s flock. We can also apply the principle to all confirmed Christians who are essentially called to witness to their faith; and those who are called to commune at the Lord’s Table, sustaining themselves for the long journey. Paul’s analogy of the body, in his Letter to the Corinthians (1Cor.12:12-30), is very useful in helping us understand the indispensable role of each Christian in the divine arrangement. In short, it reminds us that together, we are the body of Christ, and as separate parts, by our gifts and shortcomings, we affect each other both positively and negatively.
New Year’s Day, therefore, should be a day of recommitment to our particular missionary task. We often speak of New Year’s resolutions. They can be viewed as the practical measures which we take to carry out our individual missionary tasks. These are in themselves indications that we do not have it altogether. We are often so overwhelmed by our shortcomings that we narrow down those resolutions to manageable and achievable goals. However, more often than not we limit our potential, and we measure ourselves lower than we really are. That may not always be a bad thing if it is out of our humility before God.
However, as Christians, we must begin to see ourselves as persons who are sent; sent by God on mission. Pope Francis reminds us that we are missionary disciples. A Christian is not simply a receiver; he/she is more of a giver. I guarantee you, brothers and sisters, that if we were better givers, the Church as whole, would never be in want. I am always reminded of the words of the saintly Mahatma Gandhi who said: “There is enough food in the world to satisfy human need, but there is not enough to satisfy human greed.” Sometimes, and maybe too often, we are too stingy with God and with ourselves. Our Church should be doing much better than it is doing presently. See the number of you assembled here this morning. Imagine all these gifts being harnessed for the collective good of the Body of Christ. It is absolutely important that every Christian gets involved in the well-being of the Church, otherwise it becomes more of a gas-station where we come to fill up our spiritual tanks until the next moment of exhaustion. Everyone can and needs to get involved in the Church in order to make it what it ought to be. On a practical level, for example, we should not be short of musicians for the Church in a country such as ours; our choirs should be bursting at the seams, altar servers should be more plentiful because parents teach their children the value of service from a tender age; visitations to the hospitals and homes, especially those of the poor and underprivileged, should be abounding. No catholic should have to leave the Church because they feel uncared for by their members. We need to build a believing community which cares. Our God is a God who sends. Everyone is sent to do something for God!
This missionary thrust of today’s liturgy is also present in the Gospel text. The evangelist Luke tells us: “When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception” (Lk.2:21). The name Jesus is a missionary name – it means Yashua – Saviour. Jesus was sent by God to make salvation possible for all of humanity. Today we refer to ourselves as Christians—meaning that, we are Christ bearers—Christophers; people who, by baptism have put on Christ. By this very fact, therefore, ours also is a salvific mission. In the context of today, we should all ask ourselves: What am I doing to help save the world? Does my present lifestyle help to edify others: my spouse and children, my neighbours and co-workers, my Church community and country? What specifically am I doing to renew the face of the earth?
I am certain, my dear friends, that there are some who are already so deeply involved in the Church that they never think of themselves as doing anything extraordinary. They simply see it as their duty. But, I am also certain that there are many who are not pulling their weight, and consequently, the body of Christ, the Church, suffers. And mind you, it is that group of persons who complain most about the short-comings of the Church. Let us, today, ask ourselves: Am I responsible for the suffering of the body of Christ? The answer my friends must come from within, and that answer has implications for every aspect of Church life.
Within the last year, we have instituted in the Diocese, various missionary groups, through which the faithful members of all ages can be more involved. They are part of the missionary thrust of the Church universal under the umbrella of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
The goal of the Pontifical Mission Societies is to foster a universal missionary spirit among the people of God. For the children, up to the age of 14 years, there is the Missionary Childhood Association, with its motto, “Children Helping Children.” Children from the St. Ann’s Day Care, all our Catholic Pre-Schools, Catholic Primary Schools and Parishes are involved in praying for and supporting children here and throughout the world.
For those 15 to 19 years old, there is the St. Peter the Apostle Society. Part of their mission is to empower other youth and pray daily for seminarians and young men and women in formation for the priesthood and religious life.
The Young Adults on Mission are currently registering young men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 years. They will empower and pray for all young adults and engage in missionary work in our Diocese and beyond.
For the empowerment of family life, there are the Men on Mission, Women on Mission and Couples on Mission Societies. Among other activities, members pray daily for family life. Two of these societies were commissioned during liturgical celebrations recently.
More than one hundred Catholic teachers throughout the Diocese are members of the Catholic Teachers’ Prayer Network. Members pray daily for Catholic and other teachers here and throughout the world and are expected to visit retired and ailing teachers in their various communities.
Approximately 450 men and women from every Parish Church and Chapel community of the Diocese, are members of the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious Prayer Network. They pray daily for priests and religious brothers and sisters throughout the world among other spiritual activities.
For the sick, elderly and house-bound, there is the Pillars of Love Prayer Group. Members offer their suffering for the success of the work of evangelization in the Church. You are all invited to share the mission of any of these groups. They are open to all.
Currently, we have a vibrant group of young people who took the initiative to form the Hospitality Committee of the Cathedral Chapel. They established a trained group of ushers, so that the faithful will feel welcome when they walk through the doors of our Church. These groups are not designed to replace the good works of St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Legion of Mary, or any other which already exists. Everyone, every group has a particular mission for the common good—for the good of the Church.
The work of the Church is never ending. There is place for all in the body of Christ. We need people to work with married couples who are struggling in their relationships; we need adult mentors and guides for our youth; they need our protection from the abuses that are so rampant in our society today. We need more catechists, persons who are properly formed to teach the faith. We need parents who can pass on the faith to their children, those who do not simply leave it up to the church to educate their children, but rather take personal interest in their faith formation. Just incidentally, as a Diocese, we are in the process of reviewing our catechetical programme to include adults and parents in the formation of the young. We need good teachers in our schools who can pass on the Catholic faith to our young; we need more people with a vocational mindset.
Our God is truly a God who sends. Everyone is sent to do something good for the world. We all dream of that world where peace will abound. The commissioning of today, the World Day of Peace, is to do just that. However, it is not going to happen if you are not part of it. Everyone likes to be part of a success story. What will you contribute to make the Church—your Church, a success story?
At Christmas, we celebrated Jesus as the God who came; today we are celebrating him as one who is sent so that we too might be sent. Brother and sisters, if we can imitate Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, and play our part in this salvific process, we can truly have a little heaven down here. Everyone will be happy and everyone will be at peace.
The time to be happy is now
The place to be happy is here
And the way to be happy is to make others happy
And we’ll have a little heaven down here
And so, in God’s word to Moses, I pray that:
The Lord will bless you and keep you
That the Lord will let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you
That the Lord will uncover his face to you and bring you peace!
Peace to your heart, peace to your home, peace to your Church community, peace to our nation and peace to the world!