This is my homily given at Sacred Heart of Jesus Korean Parish in Etobicoke today on the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Today’s Gospel is a portion of St. Mark’s Gospel from Chapter 1, which among other lessons is the expression of an “ordinary day” in the life of Jesus Our Lord. He came, He was Baptized, He was tempted, He began His mission, He preached the Gospel, He encountered the man with the unclean spirit, He healed, He went out further to continue to spread the Good News and performs yet another miracle.
Now please don’t put too much focus at this point, on my synopsis of St. Mark, chapter 1: I am merely pointing out the pattern that we might consider the ordinary pattern on the Mission and Ministry of Jesus. Now, here we are in the 4th Week in Ordinary Time, and I am sure that we have all heard somewhere before: if not in catechism class, then perhaps in a homily that our use of the term “Ordinary” to describe a liturgical season should not lead us to somehow think this is less than the other high liturgical seasons. That’s true. But further than that, I might propose something for us all to consider here today: food for thought for the week if you will – there is nothing ordinary about the life or mission of a Christian. Nothing is ordinary and if we are more than just our bodies and minds here today for Holy Mass; we must allow this truth to penetrate our hearts and souls and we must really carry this with us from here and into the world we live in – today and every day.
We are Catholic Christians. By the power of God the Holy Spirit, every one of us here was created to be extraordinary by our Baptism (p). Why is it, that it seems that nothing “extraordinary” is asked of us, and yet we have the example of so many of our Holy Saints who lived heroic and extra-ordinary lives? Why do we celebrate the lives of other holy people often from the past, but have a hard time seeing that we were created in the same way, gifted in the same way, empowered by the same Holy Spirit in the same way, and called to live the very same lives that they lived?
As Korean Catholics, you have a beautiful tradition of saints who’ve lived and died extraordinary lives committed and witnessing to the same faith we share with them, examples and models for us all. We too are baptized into living extraordinary lives, my friends. I know we are! And I am not standing here preaching to you as a man who altogether gets that and lives it each and every day either!
I am not preaching only to the congregation, I am preaching to myself. There are many different ways I convicted myself as I prepared my homily and reflected on the many ways and many days I seem to be satisfied and content with the living an Ordinary Life, with little desire to live fully my own baptismal call. What keeps me, what keeps us on track is a Sacramental Life.
Truthfully, no encounter with our Lord Christ is going to be an Ordinary encounter.
I try to reflect on this before and after confecting the Eucharist. I know it and feel it each time I go to Holy Confession. In my current role and ministry, as Director of Vocations for this archdiocese, I am working with men who are considering the Holy Priesthood and women and men who are considering religious and consecrated life. I suggest to you that in today’s world that we live in, this is an extra-ordinary way for people to choose to live. I suggest to you, and offer as insight: that extra-ordinary things are happening in the lives of most of these people that lead them to begin to see the Lord our God calling them to live extraordinary lives for Christ in the “ordinary” lives they feel they have been given by God. When I encounter young people who are discerning their vocation, they are so “on fire” with the Holy Spirit and ready to love and serve the Lord and others that it is has an effect upon me, and often affects me to re-commit myself to Jesus Christ where I confess I am lacking. I mention this for two reasons, two important reasons I want each of us to take away today.
One, we are all called to be extraordinary. Deep down, we must acknowledge that. Each and every one of us are extraordinary people called to live extraordinary lives for the Lord and for others. We may feel we don’t have that capacity – if we feel that, this is something we’re wrong about and we need to ask our Lord to help us see with greater clarity our Baptismal call. This world and all of us in it, is not served by any one of us here playing small in the world, being less than all we can be for God and for others. Our community, our families, our friends, our co-workers or fellow students do not benefit by our playing small or the fear we might have of being judged negatively or criticized for being Catholic Christians. Fear is never of the Lord, and so we must allow the Lord to rid us of the ‘unclear spirit’ of fear that holds us back from the living out fully of our faith.
Two, we must help one other to see our ability to share our gifts in extraordinary ways. As I journey very closely with the men who enter St. Augustine’s Seminary and discern a possible call to Diocesan Priesthood, men from this parish community– I get to know their lives very intimately. One of the things which I come to discover very quickly and which I am granted insight into, is how important the people in their lives are to their good (and poor) vocational discernment. I have come to see how extra-ordinary the bonds of relationship between people really are. We may rarely if ever think about this. I have worked with men who have the heart, mind and soul to live their lives as priests, yet are being strongly drawn away from their vocation because they perceive the people in their lives want them to do something else. Not only can this be a sad reality a vocation director and a person discerning must face – it is something which reinforces for me the importance of developing good relationships with others. Each one of us needs to stop and think about each and every relationship we have and will have and ask ourselves: are we helping one another to see the gifts God has given each of us, and helping one another be the very best person we can be?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, none of us here are meant to be living ordinary lives, our lives are absolutely and without a doubt meant to be extraordinary. You are an extraordinary person, and I hope and pray you will take that with you here today. Look around you, because each of you are extraordinary too and should be valued as such. This world we live in needs you to engage yourself fully and completely in this way, and help each other to see extraordinary gifts in each other. Help one another to become extraordinary, to become saints. The true definition of holiness is to seek to get ourselves to heaven and to bring as many people with us as we can. My friends, that is the vocation, the mission each and every one of us share and must take seriously today and every day. May God bless you.