Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

St. Philip Neri lived in Rome during the 16th century.  He was a great counteractive to the Protestant reformation.  He was known as the Apostle of Rome.  He brought many people back to the Church and back to holiness.  Many of the influential people of the time were formed in holiness by him.   Now the Masses that St. Philip celebrated were always crowded, the people were there to hear what he had to say, to receive his blessings and of course, most important of all, to receive the Holy Eucharist. 

Now there was a time when St. Philip Neri was greatly distracted at these Masses, there was a gentleman who upset him greatly towards the end of Mass.  And it happened for several weeks in a row.  The man would leave the Church immediately after receiving Holy Communion.  He’d receive and then just walk out the door and onto the street.  No time for reflection, no time for prayer, nothing, just back to regular life.  As if nothing important had happened. 

So, after a few weeks of this St. Philip finally met with the man to tell him to stay in Church, to spend some time in prayer, after receiving Holy Communion.  Telling him, something very important has happened.  You have received the Lord into your very being.  You have received the Lord into your body and soul.  We must respect and honor that great and beautiful moment with prayer, and with thanksgiving, and with praise, and sometimes with petition.  This is not a moment to be taken lightly.  The man smiled and totally agreed, shaking his head yes and saying OK father, will do.  I’ll stay.

And so, the next week comes and again the man leaves immediately after Communion, walking straight out the door.  St. Philip comes up with a plan.  The next week as the man leaves, he is joined by three altar boys.  They were prepared and waiting for him.  One boy follows ringing a small bell. The other two flank him, each carrying a candle.  It was a mini-Eucharistic procession.  The man got the point, he was a walking tabernacle, and he never left early again. 

Tomorrow, June 24th, we remember the birthday of St. John the Baptist, the greatest of all prophets.  Jesus said of him that there is no man born of woman greater than John the Baptist.  He stands as a marker between the Old and New Testaments.  He represents all the prophets of the Old Testament who along with him point to the New Era of Jesus Christ.   Now there are two statements concerning John the Baptist that I want to focus on.  First, as he was once referring to Jesus he said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”  It’s about Him; it’s about Jesus it’s not about me. This is our statement too, as Christians we say, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”  Jesus must increase within me; my ego must decrease.  That time of prayer and thanksgiving after Communion is the most important time of the week.  Our Lord is physically present within us.  We become those walking tabernacles.  In those moments of grace, in those moments of praise and thanksgiving after Communion we desire (or should desire) that His presence and influence become greater and greater in our lives.  That we become those fruitful branches connected to his Divine Vine.     That when people look at us they see only Him.  They see only Jesus!  “He must increase I must decrease.” 

Second, John is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.  He came to make straight the way of the Lord, and to preach the forgiveness of sins.    John is the voice, but Jesus is the Word, capital W word.  The Word made flesh.  John made Jesus known with his voice.  Now we too have a voice, we too can be a voice crying out in the wilderness.  And it does sometimes seem like a wilderness out there, devoid of anything sacred or holy.     If we choose, Jesus can be our Word, capital W word, spoken to the wilderness all around us.   

My prayer for us today, that nourished by the Eucharist, nourished by the Word made Flesh, that we are made ever more fruitful, that our voices loudly proclaim Jesus the Word.  Our voice will last only for a time, but Jesus the Word is eternal.  

Let us become great Saints,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley