Message: Let's focus on the first thing God wants from us: to lift up Jesus..
For almost a year we have asked this question: What is God's purpose - his plan - for St. Mary of the Valley? This question has plunged us into a process of prayer, discernment, listening, study, surveys, interviews and research. I have found the process helpful.
It may take the rest of my days to assimilate it all. I do want to continue to ask God's will not only for our parish, but personally. Lord, what is your purpose for me? What is your plan for today? A lot of time I spin my wheels like the disciples fishing all night, catching nothing. Even if I often feel frustrated what matters is being attentive to that one thing Jesus wants me to do today, now. "Cast the net."
Jesus wants you and me to do something. This discernment has led to three priorities. I will talk this weekend about the first priority, especially how it relates to to the Scripture readings. Without any more fanfare then, here's our top priority: Lift up Jesus!
As a priest I am conscious of lifting up Jesus literally during the Mass. The paten - that metal plate or bowl - contains the Consecrated Hosts: the bread that has become the Body, Blood and Soul of Jesus, his full humanity and divinity. The chalice holds the wine that has become his Blood, likewise Jesus in his entirety. At Mass then I lift up Jesus. You, together with me, lift up Jesus.
We see it poetically in the reading from Revelation. The saints and angels around the throne cry out, "worthy is the Lamb that was slain." The Lamb is Jesus, slain for us on the cross. Throughout the Book of Revelation we see Jesus exalted.
During this Easter Season (remember 50 days, 7 weeks) we will have a reading from Revelation each Sunday. Revelation foretells what will happen. We have to pass through tribulation, it warns, but in the end Jesus rules. We will joyfully celebrate the wedding of the Lamb. His bride wears a spotless linen dress. That means you and I will be cleansed, purified so we can perfectly exalt Jesus.
So the book of Revelation describes end times. The Acts of the Apostles tells about the early history of the Church. Peter, as we see today, focuses on Jesus. He was lifted on tree - slain for our sins. And says Peter, God lifted him to the right hand. The phrase "lift up" has a rich significance. It can refer to both the cross and the ascension. We of course can lift up Jesus only because it has already happened on the cross and in the ascension.
Yet our action is vital. When we lift up Jesus he elevates us. He takes us from misery to mercy. From anguish and disorientation to purpose.
We see it dramatically in the Gospel. Jesus transforms futility into abundance. Tired, exhausted, discouraged Jesus tells them to give it one more try. They receive a precise, measurable result: 153 fish!
St Jerome says the number refers to known classification of fish. Thus 153 represents welcoming all people and cultures. St. Augustine for his part notes that 153 is the triangular number of 17. If you add the numbers from one to seventeen it comes to 153. Try it yourself. Seventeen, says Augustine, represents the ten commandments plus the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: The law and the Spirit. There are other interpretations. One that I like say that 153 is the numerical value of the phrase "the church of love." I'll say more about that when we talk about the second priority. We will for sure see it in relation to supporting our bishop.
For today let's focus on the first thing God wants from us: to lift up Jesus. We will explore this together in the months and years to come. We will apply it to some concrete goals that I will publish in June. It's all about Jesus. Lift him up. It feels good to say, "I will praise you Lord for you have rescued me." Amen.
From Archives (Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
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