AUGUST 21, 2016
A farmer had three sons: Ron, Don and Little John. All had their names on the church roll but none ever attended church or had time for God. Then one day Don was bitten by a rattlesnake. The doctor was called and he did all he could to help Don, but the outlook for his recovery was very dim indeed. So the priest was called to appraise the situation. The priest arrived, and began to pray as follows: "O wise and righteous Father, we thank Thee that in Thy wisdom thou didst send this rattlesnake to bite Don. He hasn’t been inside thy church in years and has shown little interest in You. We trust that this experience will be a valuable lesson to him and will lead to his genuine repentance. And now, O Father, wilt thou send another rattlesnake to bite Ron, and another to bite Little John, and another really big one to bite the old man. For years we have done everything we can to get them serious with Thee. Thank you God for rattlesnakes.”
On the way home, the priest thought he had done a good job for God’s kingdom. When he got to the office, his secretary said, “Father, the old farmer called again.” “What did he say? Did he thank me for my prayer? The priest asked. For this, the secretary replied, “He asked me to cancel his automatic donation and remove his name and his sons’ names from the parish list!
This weekend I am asking all parishioners and people who might read this message in the bulletin to become involved in the ministry of evangelization or re-evangelization in our parish. This is a fundamental aspect of our Christianity. We are to preach the Jesus Christ to the nations. In the first reading for this Sunday, Isaiah prophecies that God will call all people to come into his intimacy. We are his voice. He uses us to say to our relative, a friend and neighbors, "Come, come and join us in the intimate relationship with the Lord in the Catholic Church.”
Every year, thousands of courageous people make sacrifices to become Catholics. At the same time we see many falling away from their Catholic faith. How many people in your family have stopped practicing their faith? Not only yours, mine too. This is the situation Jesus is talking about in the Gospel of this weekend. The majority who heard and met Jesus were Jews, the chosen people of God. One would expect them to follow Jesus, the promised one, for whom they had been waiting. Comparatively few did follow him.
At the same time, many Gentiles, non-Jews, did follow Jesus. The Jews who turned away from Christ are the present day Catholics who turn away from him by leaving his Church. The Gentiles who followed Christ are the modern converts who come to Christ in his Church.
Among the thousands who join the Catholic Church every year through the “RCIA” (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) are ordinary people. Some of them are scholars, learners or professionals who find Christ and his Church through a long time of learning and research. Why do they join the Catholic Church? Because they find the truth in this church and want to be sure about what they do and what they believe; because they realize it is the Church Christ founded; because they really and truly want to receive Jesus in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist.
Then why do other Catholics, including bishops, priests and nuns, leave the Church? Because of pride – they prefer their own opinions and ideas to the truths of our divinely guided spiritual family; because of passion – often they are involved in an impossible marriage; because of prejudices – they jump a decision before they know all the facts; because of ignorance – they do not know the real meaning of total commitment to Christ; because they don’t like their pope or their priest; because they got hurt by the priest or by the congregations and because of hundreds of thousand other reasons. Fallen away Catholics need our prayer, love and sympathy. We are inviting you to spend your free time learning and entertaining your faith with the programs, videos, movies, audios, and books on a website we just purchased for you: FORMED. ORG.”
As God said through his prophet in the first reading, “I came to gather nations of every language.” By contrast, those who do not feed their faith, who do not treasure their faith, who do not live their faith – they may lose their faith sooner or later.
I congratulate all the new converts in our parish. We are proud of you. I thank the parents for preparing your children to receive sacraments. Likewise I beg God to help all who have lost their faith or are losing their faith. And you, the faithful people of God, please invite anyone you know, who are not here with us, to join us and to worship God in his Church.