You are the light of the world.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.
Today we gather, on this anniversary of the calling to heaven of our organizer, our spiritual mentor and father, Bishop Franciszek Hodur. Today we gather to remember and recall his work, but not only. Today we gather to refocus and recommit ourselves to the path he laid before us, a sure path that shows our Christian light and faith to all, and which leads all to heaven.
The great piece of art on the ceiling of St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Cathedral shows exactly that. Bishop Hodur is following Christ, our light. In turn the people and clergy follow behind him, as he reflects Christ’s light. Off in the distance, more and more people continue to follow Christ’s light as it is reflected by each person who follows Christ.
We are debates:
As is so often the case in any endeavor, we attempt to label our actions. We attempt to define ourselves in words. For those who do not know us, we use analogy and metaphor.
As the people of the Holy Polish National Catholic Church, we do the same. We walk through the litanies of who and what we are, and sometimes engage in extensive debates. Everyone has a favorite analogy or metaphor. It is natural, because those coming through our doors want a touch point. They want some basic understanding. You know the questions and the answers:
- Do I have to be Polish to join? No.
- You’re Catholic, right? Yes, but not the kind you’re thinking of.
- Democratic Church? What does that mean? It would take too long to answer in one homily…
No one wants to come to church, especially for a first visit, and be inundated with long technical answers or even the quite inappropriate and untrue: We are just like the Roman Catholic Church, except…
Who we are:
Bishop Hodur would have none of that. As I noted in the bulletin, Bishop Hodur referred to the numerical growth of the church and noted that an increase in numbers was not enough. What is necessary is spiritual commitment. Growing the Church is not only about numbers. It is something more profound. It is our personal commitment to the spirit and faith of our Church. It is also an invitation to others to join in our Church through the power of our ideas.
Who we are is the light of the world. We are a community of believers, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith, that reflects Christ’s light and leads all to heaven. We are people who are committed to the spirit and faith of our Holy Church, because that spirit and faith best lead to heaven. We are a Church whose hands and arms are open to all because we invite all to join. Our invitation is the way we reflect Christ’s light and the sheer power of our ideas.
Looking at the work of our great organizer, we can reflect on the accomplishments achieved by the community of faith he built.
The first accomplishment is dignity. Bishop Hodur led an immigrant people, largely disenfranchised, used as fodder in mines and factories, underpaid, and seen as the dirty underclass of society, to dignity. He built up the people’s spirit; he called on them to exercise their patriotic duties, to become involved, and to grow — as a result of their faith — into physical and intellectual strength as solid citizens, business people, and community.
The people he led were the descendants and heirs to a strong and proud land, with a rich history of physical, political, intellectual, and democratic endeavors. Most importantly, as human beings, they needed to see the inherent dignity bestowed on them by God. Bishop Hodur saw all people as God’s children. He saw every nation as endowed with particular gifts by God. No one was without dignity. No one was to be treated as less than human or as mere capital for use by others.
We are all endowed with human dignity by God and that is the starting point for reflecting the light of Christ. No one is too small or insignificant to be the words, actions, and light of Jesus in the world.
Another accomplishment is Bishop Hodur’s support for equality. He fully supported, encouraged, and stood in the midst of the Labor Movement. He rallied for equality in the workplace, and in the ownership of property. He saw a great wrong in those who amassed great fortunes and who horded wealth, building self-serving empires on the backs of their workers. Bishop Hodur rallied too against churches that saw their people as donation machines, who aggrandized their clergy, bishops, and popes while letting those they considered subjects suffer want and subjugation.
We are equal children of God. Within our Church no one ranks first, no one last. Our great democratic principles make all equal owners in the responsibility — not just for governing and managing — but for being Christ’s light to the world.
A third accomplishment is Bishop Hodur’s focus on education. Look at our Church and its organizations. You cannot trip over an organization or event without finding some sort of scholarship or college stipend associated with it. Bishop Hodur built poetry societies, a large publishing house, and literary societies. He coupled intellectual education with physical education, taking a holistic approach to learning. He saw reading and all education as the keys to success — both in society and in our key mission of spreading Christ’s word and light, being light to the world and teaching the gospel.
God’s light does not exist in a vacuum. Spreading God’s word and reflecting Christ’s light, is dependent on people. Our organizer, Bishop Hodur, knew that. Being the light of the world is not a definition, metaphor, analogy, or description. It is not a comparison, or a job for the clergy caste. It is the job of the Church. The Church is all who take up its spirit and faith, who invite others to join by the way they reflect Christ’s light and by the sheer power of ideas.
Let us once again take up the spirit and faith of the Holy Polish National Catholic Church by the way we acknowledge the dignity of every person, the way we practice equality in our democratic model of Church, by educating to teach the gospel, and most importantly by being Christ’s light to the world — the same light Bishop Hodur reflected and continues to reflect. Amen.