This is an excerpt from my homily given to the Steubenville Toronto LEAD team as they prepare themselves to serve us as leaders at Steubenville Toronto this coming weekend. The finest young men and women chosen for a special task.
Too often, today’s Gospel is seen as a denial by Jesus of His relatives who are standing at the back and await Him. It’s not a denial of them; but an affirmation of others; the same kind of affirmation we are all called to offer as Christians to one another – to see each other as family. My best friend’s family embraced me when I was young, and I know the blessing of good Christian people welcoming me into their home and treating me as a son, a brother, later an uncle. I know that this witness given to me helped me to see family in a radically different way and I’m sure it contributed to my own sense of freedom and love which helped me discern God’s will for me to give my life to others as a priest.
To see the people I serve; the people in the parishes I’ve been a part of and now the seminarians and young men and women considering religious life; to consider them my family – it takes nothing away from the love I have for my own family, but has brought me more love in my life than I ever could have imagined possible.
I want to put away a fallacy, a falsehood that exists about priesthood & religious life – people think because we give up marital relations it’s a lonely life – nothing my friends could be further from the truth. Faith in God and in Christ calls upon each one of us to give of ourselves to trusting the Lord and going deeper – faith seeking understanding. Jesus isn’t denying His relatives; instead, He’s affirming relationships. As He preaches to this particular crowd our Lord heals a man possessed and is accused of being evil. But in the drama of the moment of the healing miracle; Jesus speaks to those open now to listening, of making good choices in their life (Matt 12:33-37); of looking for signs (38-42) and of inviting evil into our lives (43-45) and here we have Him speaking of the importance of relationships for the Christian.
What makes you and I different as Christians from any other religion is that our faith is not founded merely on following an ideal or something. Our faith is more than following someone. We are not merely or only followers of Jesus. Our faith hopes for, longs for; is at its very best when we have a relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ.
The moments we find our Lord Jesus Himself in prayer, communicating and dialoging with God the Father; Jesus Himself reveals the importance of relationship to us Divinely but also humanly through His relationship with His mother, St. Joseph, the Apostles and His many friends. We don’t go it alone in this world and if we took a moment to think about what that would look like or feel like; I don’t imagine any of us desire that – to be absolutely alone in this world; to have no one or nothing.
We know that Jesus dearly loves His mother, and the privilege we have of being Disciples of Christ now is we know how much He loves His mother and the role she plays in our lives, in the Church we are a part of. For Jesus to say to the people who listen that they are every bit as special and important to Him as His dear mother is, as His relatives whom He grew up with are – this ought to make these people desire a deeper relationship, a deeper communion with Jesus and with the other men and women in the crowd.
And it’s important that we hear this message too. We are Disciples with open and receptive hearts as the people were in this Gospel account, we are in the presence of Jesus Himself, His Word and with His very Person & Presence with us. Just as this account was in the context of a series of important messages Jesus offered; I too think that this message is in the context of what we might consider the next steps to be in our discipleship, in our lives.
You are uniquely special disciples my friends, chosen to be Steubenville Toronto LEADS – you are chosen. It might have been by way of an application, and it might not seem to you right now that the Lord Himself chose you – but He did. When you put an application in, it might have seemed a simple action but Steubenville Toronto is such an important event that the leadership team who select you pray fervently about who they will select – that’s you. So as instruments of the Lord, Jesus chose you and they responded.
You are important to the Lord our God and His Son Jesus Christ. You were picked by Him because you have and will continue to have a relationship with Him. You are His brothers and sisters. He has chosen you to look at the experience you are having at Steubenville Toronto as an important part of your life leading you and to be followed by a deeper sense of commitment.
Maybe it will be to become a more dedicated leader in your parish, as a youth minister, a lay pastoral assistant, to offer your gifts and talents to other things in your community building relationships and evangelizing in greater and greater ways. Maybe it will lead you to consider how you live as a committed Catholic Christian in your career and given to the vocation of marriage; as a husband or wife, mother or father – giving yourself totally to God and another person, and then other people in the raising of children; of building up the Holy Catholic Church as you grow through what we call the Domestic Church in a home, a family. Maybe it will be to a religious vocation; the priesthood or religious life. To marry the mission of Jesus Christ as we priests do, or to marry the Person of Jesus Christ as religious do. No matter what I can assure you is that this experience and your life is not leading you to do less, to be on autopilot, to be small in the world. Look around you here!
You are all important people in the mind of God. That I’m sure of! What stops us from being who we are meant to be is often fear – but our deepest fear is not really that we’re inadequate but rather that we’re powerful beyond measure. It’s the light that can and will shine from us that scares us more than the darkness because we know that light, that reflection of the Light of Christ comes with a price, a sacrifice, it shines only when we surrender ourselves to it. And that frightens us; it certainly has frightened me many times. We ask ourselves, who are we to be great?
The answer is you’re a Child of God. You’re playing small doesn’t serve the world or your purpose. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so others won’t feel insecure around you. You were born with a purpose, to make manifest the Glory of God. When you let your light shine, as a Christian a reflection of the Light of Christ we also give others unconsciously permission to do the same.