Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Every person is worthy of our giving.

Thursday of 9th Week in Course

St. Marcellinus

We see today the convergence of these two readings with the commemoration of Ss. Marcellinus and Peter, who were martyred under Diocletian, but only after they had converted to Christ both their jailer and their executioner. They were considered so important that Constantine erected a basilica in their honor, and they are mentioned in the first Eucharistic prayer, which is the canon used in the extraordinary form every week. They, like St. Paul, wore fetters like criminals, but did not allow the word of God to be fettered. They knew that to deny Christ would be to deny themselves the reward of eternal life. They loved the Lord their God with all their heart, and showed to all mankind just how much they loved Him by offering their lives as a sacrifice.

The Holy Father has been exhorting us in his encyclical to be constant in our prayerful love for God’s people: ‘[Our] mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing. All around us we begin to see nurses with soul, teachers with soul, politicians with soul, people who have chosen deep down to be with others and for others. But once we separate our work from our private lives, everything turns grey and we will always be seeking recognition or asserting our needs. We stop being a people.

‘If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God’s glory. Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives. Jesus offered his precious blood on the cross for that person. Appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!’

He continues: ‘Some people do not commit themselves to mission because they think that nothing will change and that it is useless to make the effort. They think: “Why should I deny myself my comforts and pleasures if I won’t see any significant result?” This attitude makes it impossible to be a missionary. It is only a malicious excuse for remaining caught up in comfort, laziness, vague dissatisfaction and empty selfishness. It is a self-destructive attitude, for “man cannot live without hope: life would become meaningless and unbearable”. If we think that things are not going to change, we need to recall that Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death and is now almighty. Jesus Christ truly lives. Put another way, “ if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). The Gospel tells us that when the first disciples went forth to preach, “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message” (Mk 16:20). The same thing happens today. We are invited to discover this, to experience it. Christ, risen and glorified, is the wellspring of our hope, and he will not deprive us of the help we need to carry out the mission which he has entrusted to us.’

You may know that I am during the week a public school teacher, a chemistry teacher. That doesn’t sound like an evangelical mission, but if you are open to opportunities, it can be a powerful witness to both youth and adults. I am careful, though, in my speech. I recently was honored with a district award, and got to speak to a couple of hundred people. I told them that when asked how I am, I no longer say “fine,” because that is lame and incomplete. I told them I answer “grateful,” and then specified to whom I am grateful. I am grateful to all the people who have gotten me where I am by saying “yes,” chiefly my wife. But I am also grateful to those who have said “no,” who have frustrated my plans, because the “yesses” and “nos” have all been woven into a kind of symphony that led me to where I am, where I can be effective in mission. And, I said, “I can hardly wait to meet the composer.” They all knew whom I meant. Today we come together to hear the composer’s words, and to share His Risen Body and Blood. And for that we must be very grateful.

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