Nine years ago, also on the 14th Sunday of Ordinary time, I began a new parish assignment at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Augusta. I was excited because after many years of college and seminary, I was going to live at home… just twenty minutes from my mother. As I prepared for my first Sunday homily back home, where I would be preaching to many people who knew me ever since I was a child, I got a strong dose of God’s sense of humor when I read the Gospel for that Sunday: “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
Talk about God popping my balloon. I took it as a sign of caution from the Lord: it’s good you are going home, but that doesn’t mean there will not be challenges.
As I have prepared for his first Sunday, I have prayed over the very same readings, but a lot happens in nine years.
The readings are spot on for both you and me as I become your new Pastor.
In the first reading, we hear of when God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet. God sent him to speak to a rebellious people, and Ezekiel appears to resist. He is afraid. Yet Ezekiel trusts and goes to where he is sent.
In the second reading, Saint Paul the great preacher who was never afraid to speak up, speaks of his weaknesses. “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Paul recognizes that owning his weaknesses allows him to see God at work even more so in his life. On his own, he cannot do anything, his weaknesses overwhelm him, but he has grown to realize that God’s grace is sufficient. That God’s grace fills in all the missing gaps…
The Pastor of a parish is charged by the Bishop to assist parishioners in their spiritual journey, to walk with and among God’s people: to understand their struggles and joys, and to share in them. A Pastor is called to teach and to challenge so that all, including himself, may become more faithful disciples of Jesus.
I come like Ezekiel to pass on to you what I have myself received: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I come with some worries and anxieties, but I trust that God will provide.
I come like Paul aware of my own limitations and weaknesses, trusting in God’s providence, that He is near and wants us to succeed.
Ezekiel and Paul not only are examples of for me as I begin my time as your Pastor, but are good examples for all of us. Like Ezekiel, we are called to share the Good News starting at home… all of us through our common baptism have been empowered to share the message of Jesus by word and action. And like Paul, we always do better when we own our limitations and weaknesses, rather than to make excuses for them or allow them to keep us away from the Lord. We come to Mass every Sunday and recognize our sins, confession keeps us humble, and through these, the grace of God sustains us and fills in the gaps of our own lives.
In summary, our goal here at Church is to grow deeper in our relationship with God, to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
If I walked into a shoe factory and quickly realized that the factory was so deficient that it was not producing any shoes, what would I do? I may see about making the needed changes, but if the shoe factory still does not produce shoes, or starts producing some other product instead, I may need to shut it down. It is not doing what it’s meant to do.
What is our desired product here at our parish? What should our parish produce?
A large saving account? More buildings? More programs? Large crowds? Though these are great things and would be welcomed, these are not what we are seeking. As a parish, our desired product is disciples of Jesus Christ. The final product we are called to make is men and women of God who are properly ready to enter heaven. If we do not do that, if growing in holiness and closeness to Jesus Christ is not our top priority, then we are not doing something right.
May Ezekiel and Saint Paul pray for us. May the Lord guide the steps of our parish, may He bless our efforts, so that His name may be always honored and praised in this place.