Jesus’ Vision of True Spirituality and Our Vision for St. Thomas More Parish
22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B.
Dt. 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21-27; Mk. 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Michael White in his book, “Tools for Rebuilding” defines a vision as a picture of what could be and what should be”. What does Jesus want us to be as his disciples and what do we want to become as a parish?
Last week we concluded our homily series on “Mass as heaven on earth”. Jesus emphasized that the Eucharist – His Body and Blood is essential for our eternal life. Some Jews found it hard to believe and they left. Jesus turned to the twelve and ask, what about you, are you not following them? That was the moment of decision-making as Fr. Marcellinus told us last week. Peter replied, “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the message of eternal life.”
We are here today because like Peter, we believe that Jesus has the message of eternal life. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We will follow him till the end of our lives no matter what happens, the ups and downs in our lives, families, church and society. We will hold onto Jesus.
What is in our hearts?
In order to hold onto Jesus, He reminds us what should be the right attitude toward the Eucharistic Jesus, towards Mass since we have decided to stay with him? It should be the attitude of purity of mind and heart and not just a focus on external cleanliness, rituals and strict observances of the law. Keeping the commandment is good but the most important is keeping the “spirit of the law” which is Love.
Jesus condemned the pharisaic attitude of the Jews who focused on their traditions and strict observance of the law and ritual cleansing, but their hearts were far from God, there was no joy in them. He called them to pay more attention to what is going on in their minds and heart. Because for Jesus, it is from the human heart that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, wickedness, licentiousness, greed, envy, slander, pride, folly, etc. All these evil things come from within and they defile a person – they make us unholy. If we examine our hearts and minds now, can we in all honesty say that we are free from all these vices? Can I say that? Of course, no! The vision of Jesus is that we pay more attention to our interior life and not external observance of the Law. He wants our encounter with him in the Eucharist to be an encounter that brings transformation, new life and joy.
This is what we desire our celebrations and our Masses to be at St. Thomas More parish. We desire to make our church a place of an encounter with the Lord, a place of spiritual renewal. That is what motivated us to join Divine Renovation Network last year. After listening to many parishioners, the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), with the input of the pastoral council and the staff has articulated our desires with this vision statement:
Come Encounter Christ, Joyfully Share His Love, Go Make Disciples
We want our Masses/gatherings to be, not just a mere ritual or observance of the law or fulfillment of Sunday obligation but a place of personal encounter with God and with one another; an encounter that brings about transformation, purity of mind and heart; an encounter where we experience the love and joy of the Holy Spirit.
We want to be a place where we can joyfully share the love of Christ and the joy of the Holy Spirit that we have experienced with our brothers and sisters in the community. A lot of people who come to our church/Mass are dealing with difficult situations in their lives. We want them to experience joy and new hope while worshiping here.
And finally, we want our parishioners to become missionary disciples, those who help to spread the good news of God’s love to others. When we truly encounter Christ, and experience his joy, there is a desire to share it with other people. We want to be an invitational church – moving from maintenance to mission. We need each other to make this happen. Hence at the end of Mass we are sent forth to go back to our families and into the society to let others know about Christ.
Staying Close to Chris in the Midst of Scandal
Today in our society, the church is facing a lot of crisis especially with the sexual abuse scandals by some of us priests. The consequences of this evil have affected all of us individually and collectively as a family of God. I’ve heard from some people expressions of anger, concerns, worries, frustrations, fear and even cynicism. But I’ve also heard some expressions of hope, faith and trust in the loving mercy of God. One of the messages I received that encouraged me is, someone asked, “How could you stay in the Church after all these scandals?” The other replied, “You don’t leave Jesus… because of Judas.”
In the Church and in our world, there will always be Judas, betrayers and infidelity. But we don’t leave Jesus because of them. Today Jesus invite us to look into our hearts and try to root out all those vices that do not allow us to experience his peace and love. He invites us to look at events for the spiritual point of view not just external. The battle is a spiritual one, not physical. Christ and the Church have some enemies that want to destroy it. They can’t destroy it from outside, it must be from within. If the priest pulls one priest/Bishop down, he gets many souls down. So, priest and Bishops are targets for the enemy. Hence, we need prayer, not anger. WE don’t leave Jesus because of Judas.
Need for Prayer
In the midst of all these, may we know that the Lord is with us. He loves us and cares about us/his church. We gather to pray for all of us, that we may overcome external observance of law and focus on purity of our hearts. We pray for healing for the victims of abuse and their families. Finally, we pray for all those who are hurting in anyway, that they may know the healing mercy of God.
May our worship here today help us to encounter Christ, joyfully share his love and go make disciples. Amen!