No, I’m not some brilliant scholar who can quote St. Thomas at the drop of a hat. My knowledge of St. Thomas up through high school was that he had co-ed high school named after him in St. Louis that had two things going for it – a really great soccer team and a staff that could handle my brother Jim.
I used that quote this morning for a couple of reasons – first, the Church celebrates his memorial today. Second, there were a number of priests yesterday that I heard talk that were a shining example of what this quote means.
My first experience came from a discussion Bishop Robert Barron took part in for at the Amazon headquarters where they discussed his new book entitled “Arguing Religion”. Amazon hosted him at their headquarters in Seattle and basically the moderator asked him many questions on many different topics, one of them about the current scandal that plagues our Church concerning the priestly abuse. Bishop Barron did not deflect this question and try to move on to the next question but in the same light he did not quiver in his defense that the Catholic Church is not an institution that should be abandoned in her time of need (right now). He drew on a quote from scriptures that says we, the Church, hold a treasure that is not made of gold (Jesus Christ). We hold this treasure in earthen vessels – meaning that the members of the Church itself are all sinners and are subject to sinful ways. That doesn’t change the fact that the Treasure is pure, unstained and still is our only way to salvation. So we cannot run from the Truth, we cannot abandon this treasure because of the sinful state of man – we must always pray to God to forgive our sinful ways and remain there to protect our perfect treasure. Listening to that yesterday morning was a great way to start my Sunday.
At the 7:30 AM Mass, we had a visiting priest celebrate the Liturgy, a former child of the parish – Fr. Kevin McKenzie. Fr. McKenzie spoke eloquently and started his homily with what the first reading meant to him. It was a beautiful reflection from the reading from Nehemiah where Ezra read from the law and as the crowd he was reading to heard what was being read, that realized how sinful they had been and prostrated themselves and began weeping. Then the following was told to the people weeping…
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”
Fr. McKenzie explained that this reading holds true today. Just last week I was telling you how stressed I was from all that was happening in the world. Fr. McKenzie explained that God did not create our hearts to bear the burden of all these sins. He created us to for happiness. He implores us to at rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength! Rejoice in the Lord, again I say REJOICE. God will bear the burden of all our sins; give your stress over to God, lay that burden upon His shoulders – find rest in the Lord. Amen, brothers and sisters, AMEN. Thank you Fr. McKenzie for those thoughts.
Then at the 9:30 AM Mass, Fr. Siefert shared a personal story about his father in relation to the our second reading from St. Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians…But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Fr. talked about some of the trials his father is experiencing as he gets older, but wanted to point out that none of us should take anything for granted. The simple task of buttoning a shirt, tying a shoe, can all be affected when just one part of the body suffers. The same with the Church. Don’t take for granted the gifts each one of us brings to make this Church one body in Christ.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church
to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
After all of the Masses yesterday, Sarah and I took advantage of the herald from the first reading to go and eat rich foods, to drink sweet drinks…and met our friends for lunch at a local restaurant to celebrate the birthday of one of my best friends – Mr. Hoppinchop.
So, after last week, this weekend turned about to be just what the doctor ordered.
Do something great for our Lord today – find rest in Him; it is the purest and most peaceful rest one will ever find.
God’s will, not mine, be done.
Be not afraid; just have faith.
Jesus, I trust in You.
He must increase; I must decrease.