I was present at the final day of the Eparchial retreat for priests in New Westminster last week. Here is one priest's homily.
Aug. 10th. 2007: “Priestly Duties” (2 Cor. 4:5-18) (Mt. 24: 15-51)
*Glory be to Jesus Christ!*
Any special commentary requires a Foreword, and special occasions call for a specially tailored presentation, and today I have the privilege of addressing my fellow priests.
We priests are special. It is no exaggeration to understand ourselves as a chosen race. To paraphrase a little, we are God’s specially chosen group of co-workers. He trusts us so much that, He plunked us down here in British Columbia, entrusting to each of us a large group of His dearly beloved people, each of which He had ransomed with His Blood. And He expects us to protect them from both visible and invisible enemies, human and demonic. We are to teach them to keep God’s laws and Commandments, and to lead them to heaven.
And with that, we will come down from those euphoric and dizzying heights, and back down to earth and to the world we actually live and work in, and take stock of where we’re at.
*In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!*
The Church is our Divine Guide to heaven, and even though we priests have gone through such rigorous training, we will always need the guidance of The Church.
The Scriptures are available to everybody in the world of course, but it takes much more than just the Scriptures to lead souls to heaven. Our bishops, under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, have as one of their tasks, the pairing up of the Epistle and the Gospel of the day, because when properly matched together, they are much more effective in making a teaching point. So, nothing in our Holy Church is assembled in some random fashion.
In today’s Epistle, St. Paul is stressing the importance of standing firm in the faith during times of trials and persecutions. He begins by reminding us that we carry a great treasure, (our immortal soul), in our earthen vessels, which are our bodies. And our greatest strength is our well developed faith.
Because of our firm faith, affliction cannot crush us. In times of persecution, our faith assures us that God will never forsake us. In times of persecution, our faith assures us that we are never abandoned, and even if struck down, we are never destroyed. Those are the things that St. Paul believed.
Today, 2000 years after he wrote those letters, we Catholics have exactly the same faith that St. Paul had, and we believe everything else that he did. And we agree with him, that, even though our bodies may show signs of age, wear and tear, our immortal souls which we take such care to preserve, will always have that freshly renewed look. And like Paul, we are a people of hope. We are also ready to face and endure any trials, in order to attain our eternal goal.
After that, we have our Gospel reading, which is like a continuation of the Epistle reading. St. Mathew describes the seriousness of the trials we will be facing, if we are still around during the end times. We know of course, that people have always had to face trials and tribulations, right from the beginning of the world, but at the same time, Our Lord did see fit to warn us to be really prepared for the tribulations of the end times. So, what is behind all these warnings to be prepared? Or, to put it another way, what happens to people who are not fully prepared when forced to face trials and tribulations?
Perhaps some past history might be in order. The Martyrs of the Coliseum were so committed to Christ that they were very happy and joyful at the opportunity to die for their Christian faith. That’s how committed they were to Christ!
Closer to our own times, during the Nazi reign of terror, fewer people paid for strongly held beliefs, with their lives. A smaller percentage of people were so totally committed to their Christian, or democratic principles, that they were willing to die for those principles. The majority chose to join the Nazis. So that’s what can happen to people of little faith.
And when the Communists came on the scene with their promise of a Godless paradise, they succeeded in recruiting many millions of people to their cause. Faith was disappearing from the face of the earth, and the less faith a person has, the more he is attracted by sin.
In our own country, in which half of the population calls itself Catholic, Pierre Trudeau quickly enlisted a large majority of Canadians in support of contraception, abortion on demand, and easy, no fault divorce. Now we are conceding equal rights to homosexuals, including their right to legal, same-sex marriage.
We still have lots of Catholics around, but what percentage is committed enough to put their lives on the line, in defense of Catholic principles? Where are the faithful and committed Catholics, when our country really needs us?
So now, dear friends, as regards preparing for that “Great Tribulation”, how successfully have we been handling our small trials? Our present trials should be a good opportunity to get all practiced up for that big one, not? How dedicated and firm in our faith have we been up till now, --- and in a free country, yet? What are our values?
Some of us priests will perhaps stand before God and say: “See, Lord, You gave me ten sheep to look after and I have brought You ten more! But another might say: “I return those You had given me. Here, you can have them back.”
I guess what I’m saying is, are we priests committed enough to God, that, we’re always ready to put our lives on the line in defense of Church and faith, ----- at the drop of a hat, or do we need to take the time to decide which situation is really worth that much? Because I think that God wanted His priests to function in the front lines, so to say, to deny the wolves, access to our sheep, otherwise we’re sure to lose some.
I made this last point, because, our politicians think that our sheep belong to them, not to us, and we don’t even seem to be arguing with them about it.
And now, back to my introduction, where I pointed out that we priests are God’s elect, His chosen collaborators, and His Commandos, so to speak, and yet, it seems to me, that, the enemies of the Church and the enemies of souls are walking all over us. Why are we letting it happen? We cannot abdicate our duties, because we know that God has no one else to send?
Dear brothers in Christ, we are the ones who must turn things around, and we cannot afford to fail, because there are no more troops behind us! We’re all there is! We’re it!