Monday, November 30, 2015

An Evangelist to the End!

Fishers of Men by Kim Freitas
It's Advent!  How exciting! How beautiful!  Do you feel the change in the air?  We should.  This beautiful season is to remind us of what it felt like to be present for the promise of the Christ, the Messiah, Emmanuel!  The Jewish people still in captivity after such a long time, not only bound by the government of Rome but also still warring with sin in their flesh; were waiting for the promised deliverance, the prophet greater than Moses, for Jesus Christ himself.   Mary had been promised to deliver a child by the angel Gabriel and here we approach the date of his birth. 

We don't just celebrate a birthday on a birthday you know.   We don't just celebrate a past event, though that is part of it.  We celebrate the person!  We celebrate their past, their present, and their future.  We talk about what they were like as a child, maybe even pulling out some of those embarrassing baby photos to show the new members of our clan.  We tell jokes and stories.  We ask them how they are and spend time appreciating them!  We wish them many more happy years, and give them gifts.  Oh how wonderful a birthday is!  A day to remember a person, and a sad parting at the end when they must go back to their life and you to yours. 

That's the beauty of Christmas though, when we celebrate Christ's birthday it doesn't have to end there.  So here we are moving toward his birthday.  Some would say we should celebrate it every day of the year.. and you know they are right!  That's not what Christmas is about though.  It is not a day to stop and say ok, remember Christ today and forget him tomorrow.  No, it is a holiday to remind us to stop and say, have I been doing it!  Have I forgotten who Christ is?  Have I spent as much time with him as I should?  Let's tell those stories.  Let's talk to him, and listen to him, and appreciate him.  Then take him with us throughout the year.  We all need those reminders.  We need those days to remind us not to take things for granted. Not to forget.

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew the apostle.  There is a man who was a true evangelist.  A man who did not forget and took Christ with him.  The first reading from Saint Paul's letter to the Romans reminds us that faith comes from hearing.  How can they hear without someone to preach?  How can people preach unless they are sent?  The shepherd's in the field were one of the first to hear the good news.  They were told by the angels themselves!  The angel's were sent by God.  They announced who Jesus was, and pointed to him.  Jesus then sent Andrew.  Andrew announced the good news as well.  Andrew was so enamored with Christ, so filled with the Holy Spirit that it is said that when he was martyred in Patras they bound him to a cross.  They left him there for two days. For both days he preached to the crowds gathered.. using every last bit of his life to preach to them that Christ was the messiah, and the way, the truth and the life.

Then in today's Gospel according to Saint Matthew we hear the story of Andrew's calling.  Jesus called to Andrew and Peter and told them to stop casting their nets into the sea, that he would make them fishers of men.  Matthew tells us that immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.   They didn't wait till later.  They didn't pack up and say their goodbyes.  Rather they left, right then and there to do the will of God.  Come after me.   That was Jesus first words to them in this encounter.  Follow me.  As we journey through Advent and the Christmas season I think that is our challenge.  Just like the Shepherd's who heard the message came to find Christ in the manger, just as the Wise Men from the East saw his star and came to worship, just as Mary, the disciple par excellence, heard the message and gave an eternal yes to the father to bring Christ into the world... so too must we.

You and I, brothers and sisters, are called by our baptism to be apostles to Christ.  An apostle is one who has been called by the Lord, sent by the Lord, and has seen the risen Lord.   If you are Catholic you fit the bill.  You have been called through your baptism into the life of the Church.  Jesus has called you to this.  It was not you alone though it was your choice.  Jesus said no one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws them.  You have been called. You have been sent.  Every time we go to Mass at the end of Mass we hear something to the effect of "The Mass is ended, go forth and glorify the Lord with your lives."  The Priest or Deacon is not just saying "Hey see you next Sunday."  No, it is a sending forth!  You are being sent into the world to deliver the Gospel!  The food you have just received from this table, you are going out into the world to share it with everyone else!  You have been sent.

Finally, the one that so many people miss, you have seen the risen Lord.  I said this to my confirmation class recently and all of them demanded to know when.  In the Eucharist!  We Catholics do not believe it is a mere symbol.  We believe that Jesus Christ is truly present, literally and entirely in the Eucharist.  He is not trapped there.  He is not only there... but he is very much there!  When the Priest lifts up the Eucharist in Mass we look upon the divine deity, Christ himself!  Wow!  Does that floor you?  It should.  You have been called!  You have been sent!  You have seen the risen Christ!  You are an apostle.  That means you too must go forth preaching to the world! Oh, indeed, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!  Be those feet!

Are you ready for this?  If you were crucified today would you spend your last two days of life, starving and in pain, to preach the message of Christ to anyone who would listen?  Are you preaching Christ in your daily life?  Do people know you are a disciple of Christ?  Does your life exhibit the truth of the Gospel?  Are you following Him?  That's what Advent is about.  It's time my friends, to examine our hearts.. our lives.. our consciences and ask ourselves.. have we forgotten?  Let us use this Advent wisely as we approach Christmas.  Let us remember that our lives are ordered towards Easter, but they begin with Christmas.  So let's journey through our liturgical year to remind us of Jesus past present and future.. and as disciples of Christ let us remember that the means we want our lives to look like his.  Use this time to look at your own past, present and future... You have been born in Baptism.  It doesn't end there.  You are being reborn daily, with your choices, with your actions... with your thoughts.  Are you letting Christ be born in your heart now? Or is there something in the way..   You will be reborn after this life.  Where will you spend your eternity?  Now is the time.  Get ready.  Be ready.  Stay ready.

His servant and yours,