Browsing Homilies

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Patronal Feast Day)

Is 52:7-10 | Ps 121 | 2 Cor 4:7-15 | Mt 28:16-20

Last Sunday, fourteen of our young adult parishioners received the sacrament of Confirmation. What first began on the day of their baptism, has now been brought to a fullness as fully initiated Catholic Christians. Their foreheads were anointed with the same sacred Chrism, which Christ himself used to anoint the crown of their heads, after they bathed in those saving waters. On that day, unaware as they were as infants, their parents and godparents presented them a lit candle, entrusted to them, “to be kept burning brightly, so that their child enlightened by Christ, may walk always as a child of the light and, persevering in the faith, may run to meet the Lord when he comes with all the Saints in the heavenly banquet” (70).

In my homily, I asked whether or not they knew where that candle was. Did they still have it? Was it ever re-lit for them, maybe on the anniversary of their baptism? Throughout their formative years, how often were they reminded all that was promised to them on that day?

And whether or not they still had it or knew where it was, I stated that their parents, godparents, and sponsor were, even if only symbolically, handing that candle off to them. That candle, which as infants, none of us could handle on that day, has been handed onto us. We who are of age, are now the ones entrusted with keeping it burning brightly. We, who were given new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, joined to God’s people, anointed (set apart) became a new creation, and clothed ourselves in Christ.

Signed, sealed, and nourished by the sacraments, just as our parish patron, Saint Noel, chose for himself, so too, are we sent out into the world as missionaries. We’re commissioned at every Mass at the Dismissal:

  • Go forth, the Mass is ended.
  • Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
  • Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
  • Go in peace.

If we dutifully show up here week after week, but then don’t take that commission seriously: if we don’t watch what we say and are mindful as to how we choose to say it, text, share, attach, upload, download, sites we visit, behave in public, act in traffic, treat and respect our body (which was anointed) and the bodies of others—we’re doing this in vain, and things aren’t matching up; we’re not aligning ourselves with the grace given us; a reflection of the One whose life is in us!

Nearly all of us are not called to be missionaries in the sense that Saint Noel and his seven companions felt radically called to. But as we journey in our cars, wait in line, place an order, tip our servers, talk about others; wherever our feet carry us, we are missionaries with that candle.

Take an honest assessment of the previous week alone, and talk to our Lord about the brightness of that flame. If it’s dim, or flickering, where is there brokenness in need of his healing? Where might you need forgiveness, and to whom might you need to forgive?

Was someone a jerk to you as recent as this past week, or made life more difficult than necessary? Was it years ago? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every jerk, every bully is that way because they’re broken, too; something is missing. No one’s a jerk to you because everything’s fine in their life. This doesn’t mean we excuse behavior or become doormats; maybe a healthy, charitable conversation needs to be had. Because even if they knew what they were doing, they didn’t know what they were doing—or, they wouldn’t have done it. That’s our story every time we sin, we don’t know fully realize what it is we’re doing, or we wouldn’t do it. Even on the cross, our Lord prayed, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”

We are called to take up that cross in our homes, schools, workplaces, across our neighborhoods, in our relationships, and beyond. This is what our parish patron did. Noel served faithfully, although he felt like a failure. He’s the silent hero of a difficult trail, a patron of the lonely and disappointed (the poor guy suffered martyrdom and the Church only names him, “a companion”) a man of great courage and faith in the face of tremendous hardship.

Every encounter with another person on this earth, each call answered, each forgiveness granted, each injustice challenged, it offers opportunities for growth. Our bodies—and hearts—know that growth never comes without aches and pains. Yet we keep going, together. We keep taking up the cross of daily demands time and again, trusting that this is the path to eternal life. Despite affliction, our Lord comforts us just as Isaiah proclaimed that he redeemed Jerusalem.

These last two years, we have known tremendous brokenness. We have been afflicted in every way: embarrassing division, unspeakable acts of violence, and horrific loss of life. Saint Paul reminds us, however, we’re not “constrained; perplexed, yes, but not driven to despair; persecuted, yes, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”

This is what happened to us on the day of our baptism, when we died to self, and rose with Christ—baptized into his life, death, and resurrection—a treasure we hold in earthen vessels, our very bodies. Jesus promises that the darkness of the cross leads to the light of resurrection. May we find strength in his promise, just as our patron Saint Noel did with the time he was given, gripping that candle tight, and entrusted to us to be kept burning brightly.


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