The gospel we’re encountering right now is sending a message that’s both powerful and timely.
It all comes down to one little word: faith. What happens when you have it, what happens when you don’t.
Last Sunday, Mark’s gospel told us about a faith so powerful it could work miracles. This week, faith is absent—and so are the miracles.
In fact, Jesus himself is rejected—a prophet without honor in his hometown.
St. Paul, in the second reading, doesn’t have much honor, either. He writes to the Corinthians: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
But: he is sustained by Christ.
He is uplifted by faith.
I think we all need to hear that.
Last week, I was in Buffalo for a Catholic Media Conference, and my flight back ended up getting delayed. Several times. I spent a lot of time in the Buffalo airport reading the news —catching up some of the commentary surrounding the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage.
Checking my iPad, it was not hard to find reaction in the Catholic media—from to outrage, to sadness, to calls for civil disobedience.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops called the decision a “tragic error” and “immoral.”
Make no mistake: this decision could have far-reaching implications for the Church.
But I don’t think it is a moment for us to cower. We should not consider ourselves victims.
Taking our cue from today’s gospel, I’d like to suggest something else.
I think this is a moment for us to be prophets.
Webster’s defines a prophet as “one who utters divinely inspired revelation…an effective spokesman for a cause.”
This is our moment to claim our cause, and to live it, to be what we are baptized to be: true and faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
In a statement after the court decision, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, head of the U.S. Catholic bishops cited St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and said: “I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage…hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society…and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.”
My friend Elizabeth Scalia writing on her blog, offered this: “We go forward, in faithfulness to the gospel, with a determination to love.” And she added “We need to work with the mind of a missionary church, meeting people where they are…Our first calling,” she wrote, “isn’t to wail about Caesar, but to save the souls of whoever comes to us…”
It was that sort of spirit that led the Archdiocese of Denver last week to launch an online campaign it called “Mission of Joy.” The archdiocese laid out the mission very simply: “To accept the challenge of living as authentic followers of Jesus Christ in a world that has largely forgotten him.”
The goal, they said, was to fill social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—not with messages of victimhood and vengeance, but with something more radical:
Hope and joy.
Hundreds of postings poured in, from around the country. People shared pictures of family gatherings, quotes from saints, stories about how they found their way back to the church. One person is even embarking on a project to begin a marriage formation program for lay people. The outpouring was remarkable and inspiring. And it’s only just begun.
More than ever, we need to be prophets of the gospel, and remind the world why this is called “good news.”
But, sadly, it’s not a message many want to hear. In some countries, it will land you in jail. It may even cost you your life. If you run a bakery, you might be sued or silenced. On the streets of New York, if you are a Catholic priest, it may even get you spit on. You don’t have to look far today to find the “insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints” that St. Paul described.
But we hold fast to this: no matter the challenges, God assures us, as he assured Paul: “My grace is sufficient.”
He gives us all we need.
Whatever difficulties we encounter, whatever setbacks we face, whatever fears we wrestle with…God’s grace is sufficient.
As much as we’d like to think otherwise, the world will not be converted by striking down laws or rewriting the constitution. A sinful world doesn’t change that easily.
No. It is up to each of us. The world will be converted one conscience at a time. It will be transformed by personal witness. It will be uplifted by the gospel being lived day after day—whether it’s in the office, on the subway, in the doctor’s waiting room, at McDonald’s or in the mini-van on the way to summer vacation.
It will be converted by our efforts, as husbands and wives, to strive every day to help our spouse become a saint.
It will be converted by the choices we make—as I’ve said so often before, by how we live and how we love.
It will be converted on our knees, in prayer.
And it will happen, ultimately, because of faith.
As the gospels have reminded us these last few weeks: faith works miracles.
We sometimes forget that Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, and that we share in that through the grace of baptism.
Well, this is our moment to be prophets: heralds of the good news to a scornful, sinful world.
Of course, it is not easy. As Jesus said, a prophet is not without honor except in his native place. Taking a stand and affirming truth can carry a cost.
But if we don’t do it, who will?
Let us set about the great work of reminding the world what Christianity is about, what marriage is about, what love is about.
This is—as the Archdiocese of Denver put it—our “Mission of Joy.”
Starting here, starting now, let us make it, too, a mission we undertake in the spirit of St. Paul: with faith, hope and love.