Sermons

Summary: Every plan, every agenda, every meeting of any Church body must be focused on the mission that Our Lord Jesus gave to us as He ascended into heaven.

Tuesday of the 32nd Week in Course 2019

St. Josaphat

Every plan, every agenda, every meeting of any Church body must be focused on the mission that Our Lord Jesus gave to us as He ascended into heaven. He wants the Gospel to be preached throughout the entire world, so that everyone on earth has the opportunity to be sacramentally united with Him. Everything else hangs on that mission. Jesus prayed at the Last Supper for His current disciples, yes, but this passage from St. John reminds us that His prayer is “also for those who believe in [Him] through their word. That means for every human being who is touched by this Gospel of hope, of life, of love.

Christ knew that people would believe more readily in a Gospel that made demands on them if they were ministered to by a Church that fully accepted all those demands, and was one in doctrine and mutual affection. He knew that ultimately, for the plan of the Father to be fully effective, all people would need to come together in the Mystical Body of Christ. So He prayed on the eve of His arrest and execution for the unity of the Church. Saint Paul, especially in this letter to Ephesus, echoed forcefully the divine call for oneness. He also told us how we could better assure ourselves that we would “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Our day-to-day behavior must focus on lowliness rather than haughtiness, meekness instead of bullying, patience instead of angry eruption and forbearance with others who are acting like jerks.

Beyond that, our call to the One Hope of union with God in heaven here on earth must be filled with enthusiasm for our various ministries. By exercising the spiritual gifts that make some apostles, others prophets or evangelists, still others pastors and teachers, we build up the Body of Christ, we help others grow in wisdom and grace just as the adolescent Jesus did.

Return in your mind with me to the end of the sixteenth century, a century of Protestant revolution, yes, but also one of Catholic revival and missionary activity. “In 1595, the Orthodox bishop of Brest-Litovsk in present-day Belarus and five other bishops representing millions of Ruthenians, sought reunion with Rome.” The rupture between Eastern Christianity and Roman Catholicism was then about five hundred years old already. John Kunsevich, a Ukranian native, was then about fifteen years old. Influenced by Uniate priests and religious in Wilno, he entered the Basilian religious order in 1604, was ordained, and ministered to the people of the region. Ultimately he was named bishop of Vitebsk, and despite warnings of the hostility of many of the clergy and people, he went to minister there. Rabble rousers formed a mob that broke into his residence, pulled him out and murdered him this day in 1623. There is evidence that “the Lithuanian Protestants were also the secret instigators in the murder.”

This episode in Polish-Lithuanian history shows just how much effort the Prince of Lies will put into keeping Christians divided. But the power of Christ is uncountably higher, and operates through love and brotherhood. Christ will conquer, and all shall be one with Him in heaven.

The story of St. Josaphat, the first Eastern rite Catholic to be canonized, should encourage all of us, Eastern and Western alike, to work for reunion. This was one of the great desires of our recent saint-popes. It is particularly important that the Church show forth to the world a union that can only come through the operation of the Holy Spirit in our lives and doctrine.

That is why it is particularly scandalous that bishops participated recently in a ceremony in which an image that was and is clearly idolatrous was venerated as if it represented something or someone divine. It’s hard enough to help our separated brothers and sisters to realize that our images of saints are simply reminders and prayer centers, not idols we worship, without such terrible example being given by leaders of the Church, particularly in Rome. We should all join in common prayer that the Holy Father turn his back on such displays and insist that Jesus Christ is the only one who can lead us to union with the Trinity. And we should ask today’s saint to lead us in this prayer. We cannot achieve church unity by succumbing to heresy and schism. So we pray, St. Josaphat, pray for us.

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