(January 14, 2018)Bottom line: It doesn't require perfection to encounter Jesus. And we don't need to be perfect to invite others.
When Archbishop Sartain recently met with priests he shared a dream: That we would transform our world, our country, our families by inviting people to an encounter with Jesus - that our top priority will be to help people meet Jesus. When that happens you can expect surprises. Jesus may say, "come and see." Come and spend time with me. But that's not all. Jesus may send you as a missionary disciple.
A missionary disciple is someone who has met the Lord and who then invites others. In the coming weeks we will see aspects of missionary discipleship. That theme is perfect for our readings. Today we hear God calling Samuel in the middle of the night. And the boy Samuel answers, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
Jesus in broad daylight calls a man named Andrew. He becomes the first missionary disciple. We should pay attention to Andrew. He shows what missionary discipleship means. He goes to his brother and shares something important. I don't know about you, but I don't find it easy to share something personal with a brother. What if he laughs? Or worse, what if he says nothing? Or changes the subject? But Andrew forges ahead. "We have found the Messiah," he says, "the Christ, the Anointed One." He takes his brother to Jesus and Jesus does the rest.
Simon, son of Jonah, says Jesus to him, I give you a new name - Cephas, in Greek Petros. It's the root of words like petroglyph and petrify. It mean rock. Jesus calls Peter the Rock not because of what he is, but because of what he will become. Or to be more exact, what Jesus would accomplish through him - make him the Rock where he would build his Church.
But what about Andrew? Andrew is the first called. Did he resent Jesus elevating his brother? If so, he never lets on. Andrew shows an essential quality of a missionary disciple. He knows, "It's not about me, it's about Jesus."
We need missionary disciples like Andrew. When Archbishop Sartain shared his dream, he also confronted some hard realities: Since 2011 Mass attendance in the Archdiocese has declined 7% and the number priests assigned to parishes has dropped from 124 to 103. Church weddings have reached a low of 1,161. That may seem like quite a few, but when you consider we have 145 parish, it means an average of only eight weddings per year per parish. A pastor of a large parish told me he had only one wedding last year.
I'm glad to say we are doing a little better here. At St. Mary of the Valley we have done things to promote the sacrament of matrimony. I inherited the custom of each month blessing those with an anniversary of matrimony. Also I love to bless engaged couples. We want to help them have a beautiful marriage. On that line you will notice the bulletin has a brochure letting people know what we offer as far as wedding receptions.
Getting married and founding a family is still a significant place to hear Jesus' voice. Families flourish when they center on Jesus. He bring the forgiveness and healing we need to held together. John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God. For sure, like a lamb, Jesus is gentle, but more to point: Like a sacrificial lamb, Jesus offers himself for forgiveness of sins.
A person might feel fearful about meeting Jesus. We all struggle with sin and guilt. Guilt doesn't belong just to Catholics. It belongs to humans who reach the age of reason. The person who feels no guilt can become sociopath. Next week we'll talk about guilt - the good, the bad and the ugly - and what Jesus wants us to do about it. Do not be afraid.
For today I underscore that it doesn't require perfection to encounter Jesus. And we don't need to be perfect to invite others. Like Andrew we want to reach our own relatives, especially our children. Many parishioners began the New Year with a three day fast for them. Some of you told me that even though it was difficult, it was also an exhilarating experience - and you saw blessings from the combined fast and prayer. Consider making a weekly day of fast and prayer. Ultimately we want to trust Jesus, not ourselves. And we want to invite others. Make the invitation as best you can. Then remember what the Eli said to the young Samuel, "If you are called, reply, Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." Amen.