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'Set out into the deep…' – Keynote address to Windsor Essex Catholic School Board Assembly

September 21, 2012
University of Windsor - September 21, 2012
On Friday morning, September 21, 2012, I addressed nearly 2000 Catholic educators, administrators, support staff, trustees and pastoral ministers who gathered together in the St. Denis Centre of the University of Windsor for the "Together in Faith Day."
Introduction of Fr. Rosica by School Board Director:
Rev. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. is a priest of the Congregation of St. Basil since 1986.  Born in Rochester, New York, he received his Bachelor's of Arts in Italian and French Language and Literature from St. John Fisher College in May 1980.  From 1985 - 1987, he served as deacon and priest at St. John the Baptist Church in Amherstburg and was instrumental in the establishment of St. Thomas of Villanova High School.  His Basilian superiors then assigned him to graduate studies in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem from 1987-1994.
Upon completion of his graduate studies, he served from 1994 - 2000 as Executive Director and Pastor of the Newman Centre Catholic Mission at the University of Toronto and lectured in Scripture at the University of Toronto, St. Peter's Seminary and King's College in London, and here at Assumption University.
In 1999, Fr. Rosica was appointed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as the CEO and National Director of World Youth Day 2002 and the Papal visit of Pope John Paull II to Toronto.  In July 2003, he became the founding chief executive officer of Canada's first national Catholic television network Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation.  In February 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Fr. Rosica consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican.  For the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization that begins in two weeks, the Vatican has named Fr. Rosica as the English language Press Secretary.  He will be the voice of the Synod to the English speaking world.
On December 1, 2011, Fr. Rosica was appointed president of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario while still holding his position at Salt + Light in Toronto.  He is working very closely with our school board.  Fluent in several languages, Fr. Rosica is a published author and well known lecturer around the world.   He has received significant awards from Pope John Paul II, the Government of Italy, and the State of Israel, and has been honored twice by Queen Elizabeth for his work with young people.
Keynote Address to “Together in Faith Day”
Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board St. Denis Centre
University of Windsor
Thank you for your very kind words of introduction, and for the honor of addressing this great assembly of those who form Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. To stand before nearly 2000 people who are dedicated to the important work of Catholic Education is an awesome privilege and responsibility.
There is something so very timely and appropriate about today’s event occurring on the feast day of St. Matthew, the evangelist and teacher. In the Gospel story that we heard earlier at mass (Matthew 9:9-13), Matthew does not tell us about something that Jesus did or said to somebody, rather what Jesus said and did to him. It is an autobiographical story of his meeting with Christ that changed his life. To imagine the scene described in today’s Gospel, we need to recall its magnificent depiction by the great Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio, housed in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in downtown Rome.
Caravaggio portrays Matthew the tax collector sitting at a table with three other men. Jesus and Peter have just entered the room, and Jesus is pointing at Matthew. A beam of light illuminates the faces of the men at the table who are looking at Christ. In this momentous scene, the gloom and the canvassed window surrounds the table and fills the room. Christ brings the true light to the dark space of the seated tax-collectors. The painting records the collision of two worlds — the awesome power of the immortal faith, and the mundane, empty and dishonest world of Levi. Jesus spears Levi with a beam of light, and with an apparent effortless hand gesture he exerts an inescapable gravity, with no need for wrenching worldly bravado. Jesus' bare feet are classical simplicity in contrast with the prim, proper and fashionably dressed accountants. Being barefoot can also symbolize holiness, as if one is on holy ground. In this unforgettable moment for the infamous tax collector of Capernaum, Caravaggio chronicles the moment when a daily routine is interrupted by the miraculous. Caravaggio's audience would certainly have seen the similarity between the gesture of Jesus as he points towards Matthew, and the gesture of God as he awakens Adam on the other Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Church considered Christ to be the second Adam.
Caravaggio’s paintings are known and loved for the ways in which the artist used the people and atmosphere of real Roman street life in his art. Caravaggio painted men and women working in the street. While other artists airbrushed models to a phony perfection, Caravaggio gave us rough bare feet, filthy clothes, wrinkled faces and dirty fingernails. Jesus and his followers did not go to salons or day spas on the Sea of Tiberias. He didn’t frequent galleries or wear fashion designer fitted clothes! Caravaggio produced his masterpieces while also living a stormy life as a playboy, a criminal, a penitent and eventually a faithful Catholic, all of which find vivid expression in his work.
"Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, 'Follow me.' He rose and followed him." God alone knows how many times I have visited that Church of San Luigi in central Rome, and I have spent long moments before that striking painting of Matthew’s call that is today’s Gospel story. The strong presence of Jesus at one end of the table, pointing his finger at Matthew sitting opposite him, sends chills up my spine each time I see it. This incident is not mentioned in the Gospels because of the personal importance of this guy named Matthew. The interest is due to what follows after the moment of the calling. Matthew wished to give a great banquet in his home, to bid farewell to his former work companions, "publicans and sinners."
What does this story say to us today at the beginning of a new school year in a large, Catholic educational system in southwest Ontario? Several lesson plans or pastoral strategies emerge for us from the call of Matthew the Evangelist that can guide us through this new year. The first is that Jesus welcomes in the group of his close friends a man who was regarded as a public sinner. Matthew, in fact, not only managed money, considered impure as it came from people foreign to the people of God, but in addition collaborated with a foreign occupying power, whose tributes could be determined arbitrarily.
Second, Jesus excludes no one from his friendship. More than that, precisely when he is seated at the table in Matthew’s house, answering those who were scandalized by the fact of his frequenting rather undesirable company, he makes the important declaration: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous but sinners" (Mark 2:17). The real proclamation of the Gospel consists precisely in offering God's grace to the sinner!
Third, with the figure of Matthew the Gospels present us an authentic paradox: He who seems to be farthest from holiness might well become a model of acceptance of God's mercy enabling one to glimpse its marvelous effects in his life. The call of Jesus comes, therefore, also to people of a low social level, while they are engaged in their ordinary work.
Finally, Matthew responds immediately and urgently to Jesus' call: "He rose and followed him." This meant for him abandoning everything, especially a sure source of income, though often unjust and dishonorable. Obviously Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not allow him to continue with activities disapproved by God. The story is about us!
The Basic Story of Jesus Christ
But let us go deeper into Matthew’s story… When someone who knows little or nothing about Jesus Christ comes to us, what do we say to them and where do we begin to tell the story of Jesus? Where did Matthew begin when he gave us his gospel, his account of this man Jesus and the difference he made in his life? I don’t think that there is anyone in this large gathering of nearly 2000 people who would begin where Matthew did in his wonderful Gospel… where the first line of the first page of the New Testament begins - with the clear and ringing assurance: This is "the story of the begin¬ning/the origin/the genesis of Jesus Christ."
For Matthew the origin of Jesus Christ starts with Abraham begetting Isaac! Matthew's list of people who are an integral part of the origin of Jesus Christ contains some of the most sig¬nificant names in the biblical account of God's dealing with His people Israel. Just listen to these words:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1: 1-17)
Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
…After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
…Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Let me suggest three points on the three sections of Matthew’s amazing genealogy. I am deeply grateful to one of my own Scripture professors, teachers, role models and mentors, the late Fr. Raymond Brown, S.S., who taught me this perspective during my graduate studies in Sacred Scripture.
The Patriarchs
"The story of the origin of Jesus Christ" begins with the pa¬triarchal period when Abraham begets Isaac. The puzzling "story of the origin of Jesus Christ" goes on with Jacob begetting Judah and his brothers. Why is Judah singled out, and why ultimately is the Messiah from his tribe? Was not Joseph clearly the best of the brothers? Surely he is the embodiment of Jesus' story, not Judah who sold his brother and sought out prostitutes. Matthew is faithful to an insight about a God who is not controlled by human merit but manifests His own unpredictable graciousness.
The Kings
Does not the first section of Matthew's genealogy build up from Abraham to the high point of "David the king"? Yet only two kings (Hezekiah and Josiah) could be con-sidered as faithful to God's standards in the book of Deuteronomy. The rest were an odd assort¬ment of idolaters, murderers, incompetents, power-seekers, and harem-wastrels… the real mafiosi of Jesus’ past. Yes, that story involved not only individuals with their strengths and weaknesses like the patriarchs, but an in¬stitution, an organization, a structure, indeed a hierarchy embodied in absolute rul¬ers… those of us who must be loyal both to the spontaneous grace of God and to a church with authority may get encouragement from this phase of Matthew's theology reflected in the story of the origins of Jesus Christ.
The Unkonwn and the Unexpected
In the third grouping, except for the first two names (Shealtiel and Zerubbabel) and the last two (Joseph and Mary), they are a collection of unknown people whose names never made it into sacred history for having done something significant. In other words, while powerful rulers in the monarchy brought God's people to a low point in recorded history (deportation), unknown people, divided among saints and sinners, were the vehicles of restoration. Still another indica¬tor of the unpredictability of God's grace is that He accom-plishes His purpose through those whom others regard as unimportant and forgettable.
If the beginning of the story involved as many sinners as saints, so has the rest of this great story… the sequence of which we are a part. This means not simply a Peter who denied Jesus or a Paul who persecuted him, but sinners and saints among those who would bear his name throughout the ages. The God who wrote the beginnings with crooked lines also writes the sequence with crooked lines, and those lines are our own lives and witness. Matthew’s genealogy teaches us that God did not hesitate to entrust to a monarchical institution an essential role in the story of His Son's origins-an authoritative institution (at times authoritarian) which He guaranteed with promises lest it fail but which was frequently led by corrupt, venal, stupid, and ineffective leaders, as well as sometimes by saints.
If we look at the whole story and the total picture, the genealogy teaches us that the beginning was anything but an idealized, perfect reality of perfect lines and brilliant colors; the Gospels teach us that his ministry was not thus; the his¬tory of the church teaches us the sequence was not thus. The lesson for us is hardly a discouragement but an encouragement as we work to build up the kingdom of God that Jesus entrusted to us.
The story continues in our day, in our Church, in our Catholic School System in Windsor and Essex County. The canvas is in God’s studio as the master artist and creator uses small and big brushes to paint the story of the Church and of salvation with our very lives. We are the actors, the protagonists, the stars of God’s amazing story.
Dear Friends and Partners in Catholic Education, the evangelization of today's world, and especially of today’s Catholic Schools so often spoken about by Blessed John Paul II and ardently desired by Pope Benedict XVI – is a task in which the Church places great hope; yet the Church is fully aware of the innumerable obstacles she faces in this work due to the extraordinary changes happening at a personal and social level and, above all, to a postmodern culture in serious crisis.
"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel", writes St. Paul. (1 Cor. 9:16.) To follow the mission of Jesus today means to live the Gospel, to be a witness with all our life. We cannot be part of this Catholic School system if we are not deeply committed to Christ, the Gospel and the Church. To do otherwise is to be dishonest, disingenuous, phony, lurking in shadows. In 1975, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI masterfully wrote in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paragraph 41: "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
“It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.”
Do you realize how important it is to live our faith publicly, joyfully, and with boldness and courage? We Christians are not exempt from the influence of today's culture. It produces individuals whose Christian identity is weak and confused; faith is little more than a routine practice often influenced by a dangerous syncretism of superstition, magic and New Age. Together we must confront with courage the major barriers in modern evangelization, including cultural resistance to the proclamation of Christ as the unique savior.
No one in his or her right mind will be interested in a faith about which its members seem too embarrassed to communicate it forthrightly. We have to be convinced that the fullness of the truth and beauty of the message about Jesus Christ is powerfully attractive when it is communicated without apologies or compromise. If the church wants to reach young people today, it must avoid the temptation to "fudge" on core Catholic beliefs in an effort to make them more agreeable to contemporary tastes. Together we must find new ways of bringing the Gospel to today's world and to our schools by preaching Christ anew and by establishing the faith.
Our efforts will mean precious little if we, ourselves were content to graduate from our own Catholic schools, universities and Faculties of Education “magna cum mediocrity,” ignorant of the Christian faith and the responsibilities and obligations that have been placed upon us as we chose to work in a Catholic School System.
If we, ourselves have gone through a Catholic school system, and if we allow others to go through our system and graduate them “magna cum mediocrity” then we have failed miserably and we fail others miserably. Our unique brand of greatness in the Catholic Schools of Ontario exists nowhere else in the world. We have the potential here in Ontario, to light the world on fire and produce many new saints for the Church and the world.
Make no mistake about it: this is no easy task. A diploma on a wall somewhere is no greater than the frame that holds it. Young, naïve idealists may hope to see their names in lights one day. Mature, seasoned, Christian realists and authentic, Catholic educators, partners and colleagues in Catholic Schools prefer to see light shine from within the minds and hearts of their students.
Set out into the deep
Dear Friends, more than a decade ago, at the conclusion of the Great Jubilee Year 2000, Blessed John Paul II wrote a masterful Apostolic Letter entitled “Novo Millennio Ineunte” - At the beginning of the new millennium. His words resound in this vast assembly today:
“Our hearts ring out with the words of Jesus when one day, after speaking to the crowds from Simon's boat, he invited the Apostle to "put out into the deep" for a catch: "Duc in altum" (Lk 5:4). Peter and his first companions trusted Christ's words, and cast the nets. "When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish" (Lk 5:6).
Duc in altum! These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (Heb 13:8).
It is prayer which roots us in this truth. It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral [and may I add here educational] plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration? We then share the experience of the disciples in the Gospel story of the miraculous catch of fish: "We have toiled all night and caught nothing" (Lk 5:5). This is the moment of faith, of prayer, of conversation with God, in order to open our hearts to the tide of grace and allow the word of Christ to pass through us in all its power: Duc in altum! On that occasion, it was Peter who spoke the word of faith: "At your word I will let down the nets"…
Our Catholic School System is situated along Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. The stages for our educational enterprises are places like Anderdon, Amherstburg, South Windsor, Tecumseh, Essex, Lasalle, Leamington, Pointe aux Roches, River Canard and its unique form of français, Windsor and many more towns and municipalities which form our Catholic Board.
This morning let us envision the scene again at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus gets into Peter's boat in order to teach the crowds; and from the Bark of Peter, the Church, He continues to teach the whole world. This is not the only time in the Gospels, when the boat, the fishing boat, Peter’s boat, figures in Jesus’ teaching to His Apostles. One time, while the Lord sleeps, a storm rages, putting the fear of death into the Apostles. But the Lord wakes up and calms the storm. Another time, His desire to be with His brothers moves Him to walk upon the waters, and He challenges Peter to do the same. Both times, the Lord chides the apostles about their lack of faith - for if we have faith in Him, in His care for us, then no storm will overturn the boat in which we sail, and no water will open to swallow us up in darkness.
We all are in this boat together. It means first, that we are to trust the Lord to show us the way, to bring us to our goals safely, and to feed our souls on the journey. We will no doubt encounter problems - there will be days when we cast out our nets all day long, and at the end of the day, there might be nothing to show for it. At those times, we must listen to the Lord, as Peter did, and cast the nets again into the deep - for it is our faith that is being tested - not as to whether we profess it or not - but as to whether we are ready to do something about it or not.
The Lord does not abandon those who come seeking His mercy and His forgiveness. He walks upon the waters. He calms the storm. He guides the boat into safe harbor, and brings with Him the great catch, the great feast, to which we are all summoned - the daily feast of His Body and Blood, our food for eternal life.
Today let me leave you with the examples of three great figures, three heroes of our Catholic tradition who show us what it means to be witnesses, teachers, courageous catechists and disciples of the Lord of the Church. They are part of the group of seven, not the Canadian seven whose works are beautifully housed in a museum in Kleinburg, but rather the group of seven new saints who will be canonized exactly one month from today. We need the example of these authentic heroes to sustain us and encourage us in our work.
St. Marianne Cope, Mother of the Outcasts
Sister Marianne Cope was a mother to Molokai lepers. Born Barbara Koob (now officially Cope) January 23, 1838, and baptized the following day in what is now Hessen, West Germany, Marianne worked as a teacher and hospital administrator. In the 1880s, as superior of her congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, NY, Mother Marianne responded to the invitation to assist with the care of lepers on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. She loved all whom she served and showed her selfless compassion to those suffering from Hansen’s disease (leprosy).
Mother Marianne was about 50 years old when her mission at Molokai began. She spent the last 30 years of her life ministering on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, working closely with Father Damien (now St. Damien) and with the outcasts of society as they were abandoned on the shores of the island, never to return to their families. After Fr. Damien had died, Mother Marianne took charge of the refuge he had built for boys. She died 30 years later, August 9, 1918 from kidney and heart disease.
She was beatified at the Vatican on May 14, 2005, one month after the death of Pope John Paul II. She will become a Saint on October 21, 2012. People of all religions of the islands still honour and revere St. Damien and St. Marianne who brought healing to body and soul as they cared for the outcasts of society.
St. Pedro Calúngsod: Model of Holy Friendship
In our world today, we have lost the meaning of true friendship. A young saint who models authentic, holy friendship and single-minded devotion is the young Filipino migrant, St. Pedro Calúngsod from the Cebu province. He was born in 1655 in what was then the Diocese of Cebu, made up of Panay Island in central Philippines and Mindanao in the south as well as the Ladrones Islands in the Pacific, known today as Guam.
Few details of his early life prior to missionary work and death are known. Pedro was a young, lay missionary, catechist and evangelizer of his time, traveling out of the country to reach out to other people to proclaim Christ. The 17-year old Pedro suffered a martyr’s death in modern-day Guam on April 2, 1672, while trying to defend a Jesuit priest, now Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores from those who hated Christianity. The attacker hit Calúngsod with a spear and split his skull with a machete. The bodies of the Jesuit and the young Pedro were then tied together and thrown into the sea, never to be found again. United in life by a holy deep, holy friendship, the priest and young man endured martyrdom because of the faith that united them.
At his Beatification in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 5, 2000, Blessed John Paul II praised the young Pedro with these words: “In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Fr. Diego, but as a "good soldier of Christ" preferred to die at the missionary's side.”
On October 21, 2012, during the Synod on the New Evangelization, Pedro Calúngsod will become the second Filipino saint after St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who himself was an altar server martyred in Japan while serving in a mission there in 1637. In our time when the meaning of authentic friendship has been distorted especially by the exaggeration of social networking and misunderstood by many, St. Pedro reminds us of the words of Jesus, that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Kateri Tekakwitha: Model of Purity and Goodness
Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” was born to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in 1656 in upstate New York along the Mohawk River. At the age of four, smallpox attacked Tekakwitha's village, taking the lives of her parents and baby brother, and leaving Tekakwitha an orphan. Smallpox had marked her face and seriously impaired her eyesight. Although terribly weakened, scarred, and partially blind, Tekakwitha survived. She was adopted by her two aunts and her uncle, also a Mohawk chief. The family abandoned their village and built a new settlement, called Caughnawaga, some five miles away on the north bank of the Mohawk River, which today is in Fonda, New York. Kateri was baptized by a Jesuit missionary in 1676 when she was 20, and she died in Canada four years later. The newly baptized young woman became intensely devout, and would deliberately expose herself to the pain of cold and the burn of hot coals, and pierce her skin with thorns to imitate the suffering of Jesus.
Kateri's family did not accept her choice to embrace Christ. After her baptism, Kateri became the village outcast. Children would taunt her and throw stones. She was threatened with torture or death if she did not renounce her religion. Because of increasing hostility from her people and because she wanted to devote her life to working for God, in July of 1677, Kateri left her village and fled more than 200 miles through woods, rivers, and swamps to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier at Sault Saint-Louis, near Montreal. On March 25, 1679, Kateri made a vow of perpetual virginity, meaning that she would remain unmarried and totally devoted to Christ for the rest of her life. This was totally unheard of in her culture. Her example of purity and chastity teaches us that the body is our doorway to salvation, and so how we treat it matters. If we cannot say “no,” then our “yes” will mean nothing. When we live our sexuality in the proper way, according to our state in life, others will be able to find God through us.
On April 17, 1680, Wednesday of Holy Week, she died at 3:00 in the afternoon at the age of twenty-four. Her last words were: “Jesos Konoronkwa”. “Jesus I Love You”. Fifteen minutes after her death before the eyes of two Jesuits and all the Native Indians that could fit into the room, the ugly scars on her face suddenly disappeared.
In June 1980, Kateri became the first Native American to be beatified. Kateri will be raised to the glories of the altar as the first native North American saint on October 21, 2012. Her earthly life was hidden in the seventeenth century, yet her message continues to resound through time, reminding us of all that is good, beautiful, holy and enduring about the Christian life and message. Kateri is a true symbol of the enduring links between Catholicism and our native brothers and sisters, the indigenous people of our lands. As patron of ecology and the environment, she teaches us how to love and respect the created world and care for it.
The Saints are the Facebook of the Church
Several years before his election to the Papacy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told an interviewer, “The only really effective case for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.” As Catholics we have the blessed privilege of seeking the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty. The lives of the saints and blesseds are a great consolation and source of hope and beauty, no matter how difficult are the times in which we are living. They are in the boat with us, keeping us awake, alert and focused on our destination who is Christ.
As Pope Benedict XVI reminded the throngs of young people gathered around him at Marienfeld during World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, “The saints ... are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.”
What attracts us to Christ and the Church? What keeps us alive and hopeful in the Church? What gives us the courage to set out into the deep and to not be afraid? Revolutionaries like Matthew the tax collector of Capernaum, Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai, Pedro Calúngsod of the Philippines, Kateri Tekakwitha, of Upstate New York and Kanawake near Montreal, and “a cloud of witnesses” show us the way. The saints and blesseds are the real Facebook of the Church. In the midst of conflict, hostility, suffering and martyrdom, they remained hopeful, strong and joyful. What inspiration they gave to their contemporaries! During times and crises of immense fragmentation and division, they kept their feet firmly planted on earth and their eyes fixed on their heavenly homeland. They model for us authentically human relationships that begin on earth and lead us into heaven. They say to us: “Do not be afraid to set out into the deep…” They remind us that on this long and at times arduous journey, we are never finished; we are only and always on the way.
God's grace can work even with people like us. And the great story of salvation continues down to our day… It would sound something like this: the origin of Jesus Christ- Abraham fathered Isaac . . . Jesse fathered David the king . . . Achim fathered Eliud"… Isaiah called… John the Baptizer… John called Jesus… Jesus called Matthew the tax collector, Thomas the one who doubted and Peter, the impetuous fisherman of Galilee. Jesus looked upon Martha, Mary and Lazarus at Bethany and called them, and he called Mary of Magdala. Jesus called Paul who called Phoebe and Priscilla, and then Paul called Timothy and Titus and then someone called you, to leave everything behind and set out into the deep. . . and you must call someone else. Who will you call this year? Don’t break this incredible chain. When this message arrives in our in-box, it is not junk mail. It must not be deleted. It contains words of eternal life that will make all the difference.
The great challenge in the era of Facebook and Twitter consists in presenting the message of Jesus and the teaching of the Church without being sidetracked by technology’s superficial aspects. An almost exclusive use of text and emails means that as a society we’re losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that’s necessary for living together and building a community. Let us never forget that the Word did not become an e-mail, an SMS or text message, or some kind of divine oracle uttered from some distant heaven long ago. Through Mary, the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. The Word became close to real people in real time. He has a face and a name: it is Jesus.
It is that Word that gathers us together this morning and sends us forth to make a difference and to make new saints. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors of your hearts, your homes, your schools and your Board to Jesus Christ. This is your shining moment. Go for it.
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