Saturday, April 25, 2015

This Is Not a Retirement Community - Homily for the Feast of St. Mark

This is not a retirement community.

Let me repeat that. This is not a retirement community.

The last words of our Lord while He was still personally present on this earth is “Go.” Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.

In the Catholic faith, there is no such thing as “retirement.” No matter how old you are, you have a mission. You must go. You have work to do!

“But people don’t listen to me” you say. Do you recall St. Francis? When people didn’t listen to St. Francis of Assisi, he preached to the animals—proclaiming the Gospel to every creature.

Have you gone so far as to proclaim the Gospel to every creature?

So people don’t listen to you. So what? And why don’t they listen? Is it because you are… old? So what if you are old! It says: “[the apostles] went forth and preached everywhere , while the Lord worked with them.” The Lord worked with them! Do not be afraid because you are old! Do not be discouraged when no one listens to you. The Lord is working with you! Trust in this!

Go, the Lord says. This is not simply a command. This is a blessing.

There was a time when “going” was not a blessing, when it was part of a curse. You remember the story of Adam and Eve. After they had separated themselves from God, they must go. And they go without any purpose—into a life with little hope. Their going was a separation.

Into this Bad News, Jesus approaches with Good News. And He invites people to come to Him to hear it. And then, after they have heard it, He sends them out—sending them just as the Father sent Him. What a blessing: to share in the same mission as the Son!

Go forth! You are sent! Go forth, the Mass is ended…. to which we reply “Thanks be to God.” We recognize what a blessing it is to have such a mission—to proclaim Good News in a world full of Bad News! To share the mission of the Son. To be so united to His work.

You are sent. The Greek word is “apostelein” from which we get the word “Apostle” which means “one who is sent.” You are sent to proclaim. “Evangelion” is the Greek word—it means message, Good News, from which we get the word Evangelist.

St. Mark, whose feast day we celebrate today, gave his life to proclaim the Good News. He publicly bore testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ is real and that this reality changes lives. Jesus changes everything.

St. Mark did not keep this in a bottle. After he encountered Jesus, Mark went out. He evangelized.

We need more Catholics willing to take this mission seriously: to go out, to be unafraid, to stand up and to proclaim—even when no one will listen. Even when the audience is.... young.

We need to announce Gospel to the young. And this is not simply my job. This is your job. YOU are to go out into the world—this means going out to both the old and the young. But go out to the young!

And when you go out to the young, you will realize that you need to get to know them if you are going to evangelize to them. They want to be known! And when you get to know them, you will find that one of the biggest obstacles for them to overcome is the belief that “what you see is what you get.” They live in a visible world that has no depth; they do not believe in an invisible world beneath the surface. And so they are concerned with the new and the beautiful and the surface appearance.

And while that may help them with some things—like being attracted to some of the beautiful things that the Catholic Church can provide—it also hinders them from seeing other things: like the wisdom that invisibly dwells within The Old. They will reject you because you are old…. unless you show them that there is a beautiful depth to you. That you have heeded Jesus’ command to “Come” and that you have encountered Him and that He has changed you and given a depth to you that you can now bring forth and announce.

If you show them that there is a beautiful depth, a wellspring of wisdom beneath your surface, then they will start to see other invisible things: like the fact that they have a soul; like the fact that Jesus really is present in the Eucharist; and that the kingdom of heaven is really “at hand.”

This is part of what the recent Successors of St. Peter have begged us to begin: namely, to take up the New Evangelization.

You are part of this. This isn’t simply a mission for the priest to take up. Nor is this something for the energetic and the youthful. No, this is your mission. Because the Church is not a retirement community! You must go out! You have a mission still. We must not rest in this. Go!

This is not a retirement community!

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