July 19, 2015 - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Let's face it, as a church we have driven away a good many sheep of the flock as a result of our actions.
The Catholic Church, the body of Christ on earth, has throughout history, alienated people from the love of Jesus Christ.
It's true, we have, priests and people alike.
Walk into any Pentecostal or evangelical church, go into any bar, or just listen to the evening news.
You'll find people who are angry with the Church. You'll also find people who are lost sheep, divided, scattered.
Jeremiah, in the first reading, is called to speak this Word of God: Woe to you shepherds who divide and scatter. Jeremiah is reaching from the past into our century and speaking to us.
So why are we losing people? How are we scattering the flock? And, more importantly, what can we do to change?
We lose some people as children. Maybe they were treated unjustly in the Catholic school system or maybe they were bored to death by a less than effective religious education program or maybe, tragically, they were assaulted or abused.
We lose some people as teenagers. Maybe they were made to feel guilty for going through puberty and ashamed for beginning to have sexual feelings. Or maybe they were made to feel unimportant, unwanted, not ready to take their places in an adult world.
We lose some people as adults. Maybe we make adults feel like failures when they don’t choose the right lifelong partner the first time. And when they do find the right person, we tell them they can’t come to communion.
We lose some people who find themselves sexually attracted to members of the same sex and we hurt them when we tell them over and over again that they are objectively disordered.
And now that the state has given gay people equal protection under the law, we refuse to acknowledge those rights even though we claim to uphold the inherent dignity of each human person.
We even lose some priests and religious who are unable to fulfill the Church’s stringent law requiring celibate chastity and yet we still continue to uphold this archaic practice as sacred tradition.
We lose others who are simply shocked by what we Catholic Christians do and say year after year in the name of the Lord.
And let's not forget those we lose because they are lazy, the ones who simply choose sin over grace because it's the easiest route. And so the flock is scattered.
It's seems to me that it is our task to do what we can to gather the flock back together.
Look at Jesus in the Gospel. He gathers. He does not scatter. He gathers the Apostles together and calls them to be other shepherds. He also gathers the people and tends to their needs.
As a priest of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church I am one of those other shepherds.
I am not supposed to divide and scatter. I am not supposed to make your life harder. Nor is it my calling to make you feel perpetually guilty for your mistakes.
I have come to proclaim the Good News. I have come to faithfully take the gifts of the bread and wine and change them for you into the body and blood of the Good Shepherd.
I have come to bring healing and anointing. And I have come to call others to do the same.
Do I do these things perfectly? Goodness no. Is that a good reason for me to stop trying? Absolutely not.
If we desire to be like Christ, then we must stop dividing ourselves. Jesus does not do this.
If we desire to be like Christ, then we must stop judging others. Only Jesus, the Good Shepherd is judge.
If we desire to be like Christ, then we must stop drawing lines in the sand that turn some into insiders and others into outsiders. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says there is one flock.
We are torn apart by this sinful tendency to always judge who belongs and who doesn't.
The living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ gathers. It does not scatter.
If we are to be authentic Catholic Christians then we must continue to strive to be gathered together as one flock into the living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ
Let us pray that the Lord Jesus will gather us together, take pity on us and teach us, transforming us into his very own precious body and blood.