There is a saying among preachers that the first person we preach to is ourselves. So often when am I giving a homily I’m also thinking: “I need to hear this too.”
This morning we see how Jesus went preaching throughout the whole of Galilee. But before Jesus begins His preaching, He heals Peter’s mother-in-law by grasping her hand and helping her up. This is a very important detail.
A few months later, these same words will be used to describe what happens to Peter. One day, Peter will be walking on the water and will begin to sink. He will cry out, “Lord, save me!” and Jesus will grasp his hand and help him up.
Peter and his mother-in-law are both saved by Jesus reaching into their lives, taking their hand, and helping them up.
Before Jesus begins His preaching ministry, He alerts us by His actions what the substance of His preaching is: that He is going to reach into our lives, grasp our hand and pull us up—saving us from drowning in the waters of doubt, healing us from the fevers of this world.
Sometimes this happens from the pulpit; oftentimes, this happens in our daily life. After all, Jesus is preaching to us—reaching out to us—every day. It’s just a matter of whether or not we are awake during His homily.
So, as I was preparing for today, I asked God to preach to me this week. I asked Jesus to reach into my life. And He did! It wasn’t a bolt out of the blue or a thundering voice. Rather, God preached to me in humble, simple ways.
For example, I was having lunch with a good friend this week and, during that lunch, we talked about the spiritual life. At one point, as my friend talked, I had this—I don’t know—this Something come upon me that was telling me that I really needed to hear what she was saying. And this is what my friend said:
“Jesus doesn’t just want my big issues. He also wants my small issues. So often I let little issues pile up and I don’t go to Him—and then it becomes a big issue. And then I go to Him. And we solve it together in 20 minutes. But if only I would go to Him with my small stuff too. He just wants to be with us and be in relationship with us every day.”
My friend didn’t know that she was preaching to me. She didn’t know that she had become a prophet, an instrument for the very voice of God, that God was reaching into my life through her. But I had prayed for this. I was ready to hear. And it’s exactly what I needed to hear. Maybe God wants you to hear this too.
There were other conversations that I had during the week where God would again preach to me, reminding me that joyfulness is eloquent, that conversations need to be good, that—ultimately—we need the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. He has so much that He wants to tell us. He wants to pull us up, if only we would take His hand!
The Catholic Preacher
Did you know that you are preaching right now? Right now, you are telling the people around you that Holy Mass is important. Or, maybe, there are some visitors here—and we always have people checking us out and wondering if this is the place for them to land—you are preaching to them, saying that this is a vibrant parish: This is home!
Preaching is not limited to the homily or to the priest in the ambo. You are constantly preaching. In fact, you are preachers at your work-places, your homes, everywhere. Tonight, when you go out or whatever you do, you will be preaching. You will be preaching about whether this Jesus impacts your evening life; about whether His Church changes our lives; about whether Jesus has grasped your hand and pulled you up.
The thermometer that tells us how we are doing as Catholic preachers is whether we have people joining our parish and becoming Catholic. Our RCIA program has 31 amazing people who are coming into the Catholic faith—many of them coming here because Jesus reached into their lives through one of our parishioners. It is you—you who are sitting in the pews—that have the power to draw people in. How many people have you brought to the Church?
Priests are exhorted, during their life, to bring at least ten men to the priesthood. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Well, can we not say, then, that every Catholic should bring in at least ten people to the Church?
Are you aware that you are preaching every day? Are you aware that people are observing what your life preaches?
The Domestic Church
During the past couple of weeks, I have given some emphasis to the home and our roles as parents. I wish to do this one more time before Lent.
You have a parish at home and it is called your children. You are preaching to them—just as really as a priest preaches here—you are preaching to your children every day by your life.
But what is the Gospel that you preach?
Take, for example, when a child breaks a rule. How do we discipline? Do we discipline with the patience of our heavenly Father who is so patient with us? Do we give our children the opportunity to do better and the hope of redemption? Do we connect rules and love?
Dads, to your children you image God the Father. Moms, you image the Church. The way that we preach to our kids in discipline will affect the way that our kids think of the Church. So many people grow up with resentment to God and anger to the Church because they believe that God and the Church are all about rules and punishment—and unfair punishment at that. These are the messages they were preached at home.
In the confessional, I hear the confessions of many children. And they are so, so sorry for the times they have disrespected their parents. Some of the kids already believe that they are really bad. I cannot tell you how many times I have said the words, “It’s going to be ok and I know you will do better. I know you are trying to be a good boy”—I cannot tell you how many times I have said that and the child’s eyes light up and they are hopeful again.
When was the last time that your punishment was coupled with the deeper words of redemption, of hope?
I have been discussing with a woman who had a few children when she wasn’t married. These children are her light and joy. And I praise God that she gave birth to her children! But the woman is convinced that she is judged and condemned by the Church. But she isn’t! She is most welcome here—isn’t she? I mean, is there a worse sin than crucifying the Father’s Son? If God can forgive us for that, then isn’t there hope of redemption for this?
So many do not know or believe the Father’s love. So many people think that Mother Church is quick to judge and condemn. The seeds of that begin by the preaching of mothers and fathers in the home.
I know we can do better. There is still hope for us to be good parents! To be good... preachers.
Let us ask the Lord to preach to us this week. Ask Him for the Holy Spirit again. Because, whether we know it or not, we are preaching every day to people that we never thought would be hearing us. Allow Jesus to reach in to their lives and pull them up, showing them that redemption is literally at hand.
Who knows. Maybe God will pull you up through that. Maybe He is reaching out His hand to you right now…