Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

Every single one of us is called by Christ to be a leader, in some way or another.  This very simply means we are all called to have a positive influence on others, on those around us.  Maybe some of us can have a wider influence, because a special God-given talent or an important position in society gives us a wider reach.  But every one of us has some kind of reach: within our family, within our circle of friends, classmates, coworkers, or within our community or country.

We are not just isolated, single-cell organisms.  We are members of a Divine Body.  This membership into Christ was brought about by baptism and is constantly renewed and strengthened by the Eucharist.  St. John Chrysostom asked the question:  What is the bread?  And then he answered, it is the Body of Jesus Christ.  And what do those who receive it become?  They become the body of Jesus Christ, not many bodies, but one body.  We are not isolated single persons, all alone.   We are members of a Divine Body.  And Jesus is reminding us today, energetically, that we are called to be salt and light in every one of those relationships – to share with others the meaning, the hope, the forgiveness, and the goodness we ourselves have received from the Lord.

So how do we do it?    How do we exercise this Christian leadership, this influence of salt and light?  Jesus makes it clear that the first and foremost way of being the leaders we are called to be is through our personal example.  “…Your light must shine before others,” he explains, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Today at St. Joseph’s its Scout Sunday.  Our Troop is Troop 325.  Now the number 325 just happens to be one of my favorite numbers.  It’s the same number we used at my Seminary to get into the building.  There was a code we had to punch in at each outer door so as to get inside.  And that number was 325.  Why is that my favorite number?

Now my seminary rector chose 325 because that is the date of the Annunciation, March 25th.  That’s the date Jesus was conceived and began growing within the womb of his Mother Mary.  It’s the very first moment he became human, and his mother formed him.  Now I just said that we are members of the body of Christ.  So in a very real mystical sense we share in our Lord’s conception.  A reason we look to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s help in forming us into a Christian, forming us into a little Jesus.  She has the experience. 

Now one member of the mystical Body of Jesus who was salt and light and has a special connection to scouts is St. George.  He is the patron saint of Scouts and Scouting organizations.  St. George was born in the latter half of the 3rd century.  His dad was a high ranking Roman soldier and his mom was from Greece.  Both of them were of noble birth and both were Christians.  George right from the beginning was raised in a Christian household.

When George was old enough, he joined the army.  He was a very good soldier and by the time he was almost 30 he became an imperial guard for the emperor.  Only the best soldiers were Imperial Guards.  On February 24, 303 A.D. Diocletian, who had no love for Christians, announced that every Christian the army encountered would be arrested and in addition to this, to prove their loyalty to the State, all soldiers would have to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods.  This would prove that they were a good citizen. 

George refused the order and he even told Diocletian he would not obey.  This really angered Diocletian.  It may seem odd but Diocletian was a friend of George’s family and so he tried to overlook George’s Christianity and disobedience.  But when George went public with his Christianity and his beliefs, Diocletian could no longer keep the information to himself.  And in an effort to save George, Diocletian attempted to convert him to belief in the Roman gods, he offered him land, money, and slaves in exchange for offering just a small sacrifice to the Roman gods.  Just be quiet about your Christianity, he said to George.  Be a Christian in private, offer a sacrifice to the State gods and you’ll be safe.  George would have none of it.  “I’m a Christian through and through, not just at home,” he said.

Finally, after exhausting all other options, Diocletian ordered George’s torture and execution.  In preparation for his death George gave all his money to the poor.  On April 23, 303 A.D., George was decapitated.  Today he is honored as a martyr and is known as one of the 14 Holy Helpers, the Holy Helpers were a group of very popular saints in the Middle Ages. 

If God is calling each of us to be salt and light, calling us to make a real, everlasting difference in the lives of others, then it must be possible for us to do it.

But how?

Today’s First Reading gives a starting list of possibilities: 

¨ “Share your bread with the hungry,

¨ shelter the oppressed and the homeless;

¨ clothe the naked when you see them,

¨ and do not turn your back on your own.”

¨ These correspond to some of the traditional corporal, or material, works of mercy.

We can find another list of possibilities in the traditional spiritual works of mercy:

¨ comforting the sorrowful, 

¨ instructing the ignorant, 

¨ admonishing sinners, 

¨ counseling the doubtful,  

¨ praying for the living and the dead, 

¨ bearing wrongs patiently, 

¨ and forgiving injuries.

Certainly, during this Mass the Holy Spirit will translate these general ideas into some very practical possibilities in the heart of each one of us.

But the Holy Spirit is extremely polite.  He doesn’t want us to be his slaves; he wants us to be his friends.  And so, even though he will inspire good ideas, he will not force us to carry them out.  He leaves us free to say yes or no.  Let’s allow the beauty and the power of this Mass to give us the courage we need this week to fulfill our life-mission just a little bit better than we did last week, being salt and light for a confused and broken world.  We are members of a Divine Body nourished by our Lord’s Body and Blood.  Don’t hide that. 

Peace and all good,

Fr. Christopher Ankley