Message: Doubt darkens the mind and despair chills the heart. The Bible - God's word - gives light and warmth to the soul.
Last Sunday we completed a four part series titled, Through Him. Through Jesus in the Holy Spirit we come to the Father.
The series concluded with this invitation from Jesus: "Do not be afraid. Just have faith." I know that most of you do have faith in Jesus - and that you want to grow in faith. When we took the Disciple Makers survey, 41% said your relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship in your life. An additional 40% said, "I have had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and am growing as a disciple."
To grow as disciples, to have greater faith, we need to build on our strengths. As it turns out, the Disciple Makers survey indicates that our parish has three areas of particular strength - areas where we scored high in relation to the other 91 parishes who took the survey. For today and the following two Sundays I will focus on these three strengths.
Now, you might be thinking I am doing some bragging. I have completed six years as your pastor and look forward to six more. It may sound like I am taking credit for our areas of strength - and maybe I am a little - but the strengths have more to do with the culture of our Valley. Let me illustrate:
When I came to Monroe in July of 2009, you gave me some gifts - including a bath and grooming for my dog, Samwise. Sam used to resist baths, but the ladies were so nice, he submitted. Well, when I came to get him, the ladies had gotten him wonderfully clean - and they put a red bandanna around his neck. It had little hearts and words like, "I love Jesus." And "Jesus is number one." When I saw that bandanna with the words praising Jesus, I knew I wasn't in Seattle any more!
Not that Seattle doesn't have Christians, but they tend to be embarrassed, even fearful, about expressing their faith. I like being in an area where people are more open about their faith.
For sure we have plenty of problems and lots who have fallen into doubt or even despair. Still, many continue to turn to Jesus and to the Bible. That brings me to our first strength. The Disciple Makers survey had this statement: "I personally believe Scripture is the word of God." 77% said, "I strongly agree." Strongly agree! And another 20% marked, "I agree."
That's a great strength to build on. You believe as I do that the Bible is the Word of God. Most of the Mass - not just the Liturgy of the Word, but also the Liturgy of the Eucharist - is a series of citations from the Scriptures. We are a Bible Church!
The Scriptures have power. We see that in this weekend's readings. Ezekiel knows he speaks for God. "Thus says the Lord!" he writes. As a prophet he speaks more than a mere human word. He speaks God's word. We see this even more in the Gospel. The people ask, Where did he (Jesus) get such wisdom? Jesus comes to bring the wisdom of god.
Like the people in Nazareth, you and I can either listen to Jesus or close our ears. Today, people shut Jesus out by filling their lives with distractions - TV, the Internet, Smart phones, even things like politics.
This weekend we celebrate the Fourth of July. We are grateful for our country and we want to be good citizens. That includes voting and other forms of political involvement. The best things we can do to become better citizens is to be better Christians.
The founders of our nation were Christians and the book they read most was the Bible. Even Thomas Jefferson, who was something of scoffer, considered the Psalms the most sublime poetry.* President Washington considered that our democracy can only survive - and thrive - if people have a moral foundation rooted in the Bible.
The Bible has great power. Earlier I referred to doubt and despair. Doubt darkens the mind and despair chills the heart. The Bible - God's word - gives light and warmth to the soul.
I am proud that almost all of you agree or strongly agree that the Bible is the word of God. In order to build on this strength we do need something along with with Bible - a strength we need in order to preserve the Bible itself. I will save that for next week. It is our second strength. It will help us make that great choice: Not to close our ears to Jesus, but to hear the words of the prophets - and greatest prophet, Jesus himself. Amen.
*See The Faiths of Our Fathers: What America's Founders Really Believed
Plan for the summer months:
From Archives (14th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru