Living as God’s own.

Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house.

Welcome and thank you for joining us this Sunday as we testify to our faith in our Lord and Savior, join in fellowship in His Holy Name, and celebrate the entire family of faith which is all of us who dwell in the Kingdom.

As I have occasionally commented, our Church takes this time, about mid-October, to transport us into the Christmas season as we consider the childhood of Jesus and His life within the Holy Family; as we consider our lives within the family of faith, the Kingdom of God.

It seems sort of funny, our Church was ahead of the current day Christmas rush as far back as 1914 when this Solemnity was established at Holy Synod.   

On this occasion, with its focus on family and a kind-of Christmassy theme we may feel transported back to our own childhoods, the lives of our children and grandchildren, especially in their earliest years, our families, the love, events, and even trials we have shared. Family – and the idea of Christmas – we connect with all that, and that is good. For most people it is the place good is first felt.

Considering all that we experience and share in our own families, how do we feel, what do we think, when we consider, hear about, and ponder the family of God, the Holy Church, the Christian Family?

We could consider a gamut of thoughts and feelings. Just as in any family, there will be those who say all things must change, those who say we need improvements, those who say nothing must ever change. There is a whole range of opinions from one end to the other. However, lets step away from all that and consider something completely different – our Lord’s words: Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house.

Jesus’ incarnation, birth, and young life in the family ushered in the very thing He preached. It was the message He was meant to bring: The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, believe.

In ushering in the Kingdom, in drawing us into one family, Jesus seeks an essential change in us, His Kingdom dwellers and workers. We are called to now focus our priorities and lives on the new reality, the Kingdom reality. We are now to live as God’s own family with the Father at the head and Jesus as our brother, united in the Spirit.

In our new reality, the strictures and structures of family have vastly expanded. Relationship has evolved. We have become a new people, reborn, regenerated, and connected one to another. Being there, we have cause to proclaim: Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house. Saying so, and truly living as a family, we join in carrying out our responsibilities in our Kingdom work of evangelism, fellowship, and worship. We rejoice as family, as God’s very own.

Made whole.

He will not break off a bent reed, nor put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph.

Jesus came to fulfill what Isaiah had written about centuries before. Isaiah writes about a ‘bruised reed.’ and a ‘smoldering wick.’ Jesus came, not to destroy the reed or put out the wick, but to take brokenness and the smoldering away. Jesus has healed and re-ignited us. Jesus has brought us into the Kingdom, into lives vastly differently.

As we journey through this Lenten season, we reflect and act on our call to be true citizens of the Kingdom, to live up to our call. We look at our inward selves and our outward actions and reform them through more ardent prayer, sacrifice, study, worship, and giving. We come to really connect with the fact that those in the Kingdom live like this year-round, not just during Lent.

Over the past two weeks we have been reminded of our healing from our bruises and how we have been re-ignited to passionately partake in God’s work. We live in the reality that we have been made new, whole, and on fire for the gospel, and to do each day all that this status entails. 

We have been called to continue to be different, to fully live the Kingdom life and call others to be saved, to share in this Kingdom life which is vastly different from that of the world.

Today, St. Paul speaks of what happened to many of the people of Israel as they journeyed to the promised land. Most were struck down because of their unfaithfulness, and that fact was written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.

Now here is the key element for us who were bruised and smoldering before our entry into the Kingdom life – do we wish to continue to live?

Jesus presents us with a stark reminder of our obligation as Kingdom people. We live to bear fruit. We have been healed, we have been re-ignited, we are whole and new, and the gospel path is before us. We must never lose the passion to live differently, to walk the gospel path in the footsteps of Jesus. We must not grow weary and say, no fruit today. Yes, God’s expectations are high because His promise for us is great.

Being committed as Kingdom people to be the difference that draws others into the Holy Church, the Kingdom life, being the change necessary to transform the world is our mission. Jesus has made us whole for a reason, and this is the reason – the bearing of abundant fruit. The consequences of being barren are a warning to us.

Let us then take advantage of Jesus’ mercy – this time of allowance, this Lent, for the change needed to bear fruit. As our Entrance Hymn taken from Isaiah says: Happy the just, for it will be well with them, the fruit of their works they will eat.

Made whole.

He will not break off a bent reed, nor put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph.

Jesus came to fulfill what Isaiah had written about centuries before. Isaiah writes about a ‘bruised reed.’ and a ‘smoldering wick.’ Jesus came, not to destroy the reed or put out the wick, but to take brokenness and the smoldering away. Jesus has healed and re-ignited us. Jesus has brought us into the Kingdom, into lives vastly different.

As we journey through this Lenten season, we reflect and act on our call to be true citizens of the Kingdom, to live up to our call. We look at our inward selves and our outward actions and reform them through more ardent prayer, sacrifice, study, worship, and giving. We come to really connect with the fact that those in the Kingdom live like that year-round, not just during Lent.

One day a Rabbi walked into a classroom full of Jewish religious students. The class was full of excitement. Rabbi, Rabbi, they said in unison, the Messiah has come. The Rabbi walked past the students and went to the window. He turned around, went to his desk, and told his students to sit. He said: The world looks no different; therefore, the Messiah has not yet come.

This is a powerful statement.  We know the Messiah; the Christ has come. We know that He is Jesus, the Son of God. Yet the world looks little different with its wars, obscenities, angers, covetousness, and all the other evils that surround us. What has changed?

One hundred twenty-five years ago a group of people looked about them and said the very same thing. They were immigrants, faithful and hardworking, but their lives were not getting any better. They were persecuted and called names. Their pastors continually castigated them. How could they have a Messiah if nothing changed?

They joined together and in a great act of faith and trust in Jesus and organized the Polish National Catholic Church. It would be faithful to the teachings and structures of the pristine undivided Church. It would have the passion of the first Christians who not only believed but acted on the fact that they had been healed and ignited by the Messiah. It would be the Kingdom Church Jesus had established, where they, their descendants, and anyone seeking the Kingdom could fully live out the Kingdom life, be the change Jesus called us to carry out, where life is indeed different, holy, loving, giving, and self-sacrificing.

So here we are in this body called the Church, with all necessary to live the Kingdom life fully, to bring about justice, to live in dignity together as Jesus’ body. So let us continue in prayer, sacrifice, study, worship, and giving. Let us continue to be different and call others to be saved, to share in life that is vastly different because of Jesus.

Called to Live Anew

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me… He has sent me

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

At the beginning of today’s gospel, Luke, the scientist, addresses Theophilus (translated literally as “Friend of God”), relating to him the gospel message he received.

Luke relates the gospel, not for the sake of telling a story, or even creating a documentary on the life of Jesus (he wasn’t working for the History or Discovery channels), but rather for the purpose of Theophilus’ certainty. He was sending the message so that energized with it, Theophilus would live out and proclaim the gospel message, drawing others to it.

We need the same certainty. We have the same charge.

In regrettable ways many Christians have become bystander faithful, documentary viewing devotees, and going through the motions followers, believers without passion or resolve. Many have forgotten the gospel charge – to go out and proclaim it for the gathering in of fellow disciples.

It must not be so for us. We need to feel within ourselves the Gospel’s confidence and certainty. Armed with its confidence and certainty we then walk the gospel path ever more closely. We proclaim that gospel ever more boldly. We become like Theophilus – each of us a friend of God and witness in our community.

To live life anew, life in the Kingdom already present for us, we must set confidently to work, the work shown us this very day. 

Like Ezra and Nehemiah, we are to call the people in, call them together, and place before them the glory of the gospel word and way – and then celebrate. We are to take the gifts St. Paul reminds us we have each received in different type and proportion and use them with passion for the building up of the Kingdom. By our work and word many are to know, love, and serve the Lord in His Holy Church, members of His body.

Because we are the friends of God, the Theophiloi, residents of and workers in the Kingdom, armed with the great gifts of the Holy Spirit, and charged by Jesus Himself to go out and make disciples, we must take the certainty of the gospel seriously and set to work. We must be bold in our proclamation – sometimes in subtle ways, other times ingeniously, still other times with great verve, but always confidently.

The words Jesus spoke today are not just Self-referential. They apply to us. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. We are anointed. We are sent.

Called to live anew!

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

How do you recollect time? Most people see time as a linear progression, past, present, and future. We could draw an arrow from one moment in our lives to the next, event to event. Did you know that God sees time differently, that Jesus came to change our conception of time and even place?

That is true. Jesus’ birth marked the start of a new age – the age of the Kingdom. In His Baptism, which we celebrated last week, Jesus marked out our change – how we are to enter His place and time, the Kingdom of God.

For many Christians, the Kingdom is something afar off. We have time. If we are sinning, we can go to confession tomorrow, or next Sunday. If we need to repent and live changed lives, walking the gospel path much more closely and realistically – radically, well we can work on that. That is a false notion. We have our facts wrong. The Kingdom will not come someday but is here now. We are in it, and we are called to live changed now, immediately.

What St. Paul tells us in his writing on baptism is true. We died with Christ in our baptism and so we have been raised with Him to life anew. We are no longer living according to the world’s time and priorities, stumbling from moment to moment, place to place like the lost. Rather, we are living a changed reality in which we have great work to do, Kingdom work. We must set to it now.

Kingdom work comes down to what Jesus showed us at Cana in Galilee. It is about changed perspectives and lives anew.

The changing of water into wine isn’t just a one-off miracle. It is not just a moment along a timeline. It is rather a foreshadowing of the eternal change that comes when the wine is made His blood. It is a foretelling of the way we are changed in Jesus. 

When we share in the Eucharistic moment in a short time, the changing of bread and wine into His body and blood, we literally join with Jesus in His timeless reality. the ever-present Kingdom where we also reside. We receive abundant grace for our work.

Our Kingdom reality is where the Spirit’s gifts, given to each of us in different form and measure, are to be implemented. We are residing in God’s time and place and our mission is an imperative command to declare the Kingdom and invite others into it; to live changed. 

And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child

At our three Holy Masses of Christmas we saw references over and over again to Jesus as the light of the world, the light of heaven breaking into the world to change it forever.

We can certainly see how the Lord’s love and mercy have changed us. We no longer live in fear. Our life is eternal, the gates of heaven and all its light are opened to us. We have forgiveness of sin, we have a new relationship with God and to each other.

We who were once strangers and afar off are bound together in a new family, the family of the Church. We are given two important missions by God that spread the light of Christ.

Our first mission is to grow in our personal sanctification, to become more like Jesus, to walk better in His ways. We receive power and strength to do that through the many graces we receive both sacramentally and in living our everyday walk of faith.

Our other first mission, for it is equal to the necessity for sanctification, is to build the Kingdom of God right here and right now.

On Christmas 1919 Bishop Hodur addressed his congregation and spoke of the gap between the very materialistic view of the world, a world only concerned with bodily needs and wants, and the Savior Who came to build up both the body and the soul. He called this materialistic focus an illness, for the worldly do not perceive the wholeness God offers us in Jesus. They limit themselves by their deafness to His word and way.

Jesus pointed to the Kingdom and called us to build. We are to call people out of where they are, out of deafness, to what they can be, not only as individuals, but as a society.

This is the example we celebrate today on this very special Solemnity in our Holy Church – the Humble Shepherds, the Ubogich Pasterzy.

The Shepherds whose life was limited to the care of earthly material things, their flocks and pay and duties, encountered heaven. They met Christ Jesus their Lord and Messiah, God. They met Him as we meet Him each time we come to Holy Mass, participate, pray through the Eucharist, and receive Him. They were left with the same choice we all have. What will I do for my sanctification and for the building of the Kingdom?

The Shepherds set forth to announce and build the Kingdom. In the world’s eyes they remined poor, but in God’s eyes they became whole and rich. Let us decide to as well, as we renew our commitment to God’s mission for us. 

Strength of Faith.

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 

Over the months of Ordinary Time, (and we only have two Ordinary Sunday’s left) we spend our time dedicated to growth. We focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk the gospel path in Strength of Faith.

Over the past few months, we have encountered several instances of Jesus being questioned. On August 29th, we read that the Pharisees and some Scribes questioned Jesus on how his disciples ate their food – not strictly following the rules of the elders. On October 3rd, we read of Jesus being confronted by the Pharisees on the question of Divorce. Chapter 12 of Mark’s gospel narrative is replete with this questioning, with challenges.

The gospel writer was using these illustrations from Jesus’ life to help the first Christians, who were predominantly Jewish converts, understand Jesus and make sense of their faith. Should Jewish people pay taxes to Rome? What should one expect to happen in the resurrection? And today, what is the most important commandment?

In most of the cases we sense conflict and challenge; it was Jesus being confronted by those trying to entrap Him. Today, something different happens. A young Scribe breaks through the conflict to have a dialog with Jesus, to understand the nature of God better. The young Scribe as fully recorded in Mark 12:28 came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well He had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

The young Scribe sees the truth, realizes where the answers are, and in Strength of Faith overcoming societal pressures, peer pressure, and the duties of position approaches Jesus. That is what Strength of Faith does, it leads us to breakthroughs.   

Jesus recognizes the breakthrough and notes that the young Scribe is “not far from the kingdom.” The Scribe understands that doing right involves a total dedication to God, a carrying out of these great commandments of love, and its value. Living in this loving relationship with God and the other replaces burnt offering for the remission of sin since love overcomes sin and draws people away from sin.

Philo, the Jewish philosopher, argues that those who only love God or only love others are “half-perfect in virtue. The perfect have a good reputation in loving God and humans”

Jesus calls us to perfection of life by breaking through whatever holds us back from fully loving God and the others we encounter. To love requires we break through to do all we can to proclaim Jesus and serve our brothers and sisters.

Strength of Faith

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. We are focusing on our growth in Strength of Faith.

There are several ways of translating what Jesus says to Mary and Joseph. Our scriptures read today recount Jesus saying: “I must be in My Father’s house.” This can also be rendered “I must be about my Father’s business.” Literally, I must be in the things that are My Father’s—i.e., in His work.

It seems odd to us to have a twelve-year-old be so bold as to stay behind in a city of over a million people (especially at festival time), but some context helps.

A Jewish boy reaching the age of twelve, became ‘a son of the Law,’ and took upon himself the religious responsibilities which had previously been his parents. 

This marked moment shows Jesus’ maturity and His acceptance of those responsibilities, to learn, to study, to question, and penultimately to do His Father’s will. Jesus asserts that right in staying behind, not to contravene Mary and Joseph, but rather to grab unto an opportunity. 

In this opportunity He speaks a few words – His first recorded gospel words – words we are to take to heart and emulate – “I must be about My Father’s business,” I must do His work.

These words cause us to consider more fully not just the where of Jesus’ statement, Hey, I’ve got to hang out in the Temple because… but rather the what of His statement.

When Jesus says “must” He says that His doing is the on-going accomplishment of the necessary appointed work of the Father. He accepts His Father’s commands and continues forward in carrying out His duty. 

We, as the Christian family are called to be more than a presence in a place, church on Sundays. We are called to also share and increase the love of family between ourselves and in the world. We are to act in Strength of Faith in the carrying out of our kingdom mission, opening God’s loving family just as Jesus showed us.

The ties and connection of family go beyond place to the life – style we live. How do we style our lives? If we style them to be about our heavenly Father’s business, to doing His work, what we do in a place on Sunday, the worship, praise, and learning, bears fruit Monday through Saturday in the doing. We live and do as Jesus lived and did. We are in the Father’s work.