September 8, 2013
After a Sunday Mass, a man came up to me jokingly: “Father, you had 8 funerals in ten days. You are making money and your parish is getting rich too.” I had a big smile on my face since I knew that it was only a way to tell me that I was busy enough to keep me out of trouble. Then later on, I thought he was right. We are getting rich spiritually as we continue to send people back to God. They are praying and interceding for us constantly. But financially we’re not getting rich at all. When a person dies, nobody drops his or her offering envelope in the collection basket anymore. At each funeral, the presiding priest gets $20 and the parish gets $55, how can we get rich with these figures? We get poorer, not only financially, but ministerially too. The dead people stop doing the daily parish ministries and we have to fill their shoes.
We are really short of dedicated people in services. Please offer your time, love and talents to the One who has given them to you. Be generous to God and to us in your service. Here is an example of service:
Active 95-year-old is listed as pastoral assistant in parish bulletin:
PITTSBURGH (CNS) – At age 95, Joseph Martinelli is a regular at daily Mass at St. Colman Parish in Turtle Creek. In the parish bulletin he is listed as pastoral assistant, just hinting at the many roles he fills. “He’s been active for many decades,” said Father James Kunkel, pastor. “He serves liturgically as a Eucharistic minister and reader, he takes Communion to the sick, does the prayers at the funeral homes and goes to the cemetery.” Martinelli also oversees the parish’s money counters on Sunday mornings and helps with the parish festivals. “He’s very holy, spiritual and dedicated to the Church. He’s willing to help,” Father Kunkel said. “We call him “the monsignor.” He looks like an Italian monsignor.” Priests who know him say he reflects how lay people are called to assume new roles today in a Church experiencing the declining vocations to the priesthood. But Martinelli’s extensive church involvement is nothing new. It started the day he retired from Westinghouse where he worked for 42 years as an electrical instrument calibrator. That day, his pastor told him he had something for him to do, and the work hasn’t stopped since.
Do you see any Joseph Martinelli in our parish?
As we resume our regular programs, we need you to help us. Besides all other ministries, we need you to teach First Communion and Confirmation classes. We need you to work with our youth groups and share life with them. We really need dedicated people like you. The passage of the Gospel this Sunday is one of some hard and radical sayings from Jesus as Luke's Gospel portrays him, but this saying goes further than others. The basic foundation of Christian discipleship is summarized in one central idea: total dedication. Work, business, family relationship and one's own life must be subordinated to the following and serving of Jesus with whatever cross-bearing that may entail. The message from Jesus is clear. It sounds more like a warning than an invitation. It is costly to be a disciple of Jesus. One has better consider the cost before making the commitment.
Not too long ago in a communist country, there was a ten-year-old-girl whose whole family had been scattered to distant labour camps because they were Catholic and worked closely with the parish priest. The girl was first taken to an orphanage. The problem happened when she refused to give up the cross her mother had hung around her neck before leaving. She tied a knot so that the people could not take it from her during sleep. The struggle went on and on, but it was no good. She would not give up the cross. She said to them, "You can choke me and take it from a corpse if you like."
The people were good enough not to kill her nor take her cross. But she buried her youth by doing ten years in a labour camp.
In some circumstances to follow Christ might mean sacrificing the dearest things in life. Thus, if one is a Christian in certain countries, one has to say goodbye to advancement in one's job, and becomes the second class person in the society. But there is a price to be paid in the free world too. Some doctors in England emigrated rather than taking part in abortions. To seek reconciliation with another person might mean losing face and sacrificing one's pride. Those who are trying to live Christian life today are faced, not with martyrdom, not even with hostility, not even with contempt. They are faced with the deadly indifference of their fellow human beings, lightened only by occasional bursts of amused curiosity.
Ours is not a comfortable religion, but very demanding one. To take it seriously is to walk a rocky road. The crucial demand of Jesus should not take our courage away. When Jesus speaks about family ties and giving up one's life, he is primarily asking for a change in mindset. All of us can begin to think differently. We can see whatever we do in our parish ministries is the way we respond to Jesus’ call: follow me.
The claims of Jesus are always the first and foremost criteria of Christian life even though they require no less sacrifices. Jesus knew what he was talking about. And his grace is enough for us to live out our Christian life. The remaining question is whether we take his teaching seriously or not. In the celebration of the Eucharist, we pray that our whole lives must be an offering we present to God along with Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ