Saturday, September 7, 2013

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C
Christ the King Parish, Topeka
7/8 September 2013
Year of Faith

I'll try to accomplish a lot quickly in this weekend's homily.  I know I don't have a reputation for doing that, so I wrote out this homily in the hopes of sticking to the point.  I want to address some changes in the parish, do some introductions and welcomes, and issue a challenge to the men of the parish.

Firstly, I think there has been quite a bit of buzz, and rightfully so, around the parish regarding the fasttrack improvements to the parish rectory and offices.  Especially when I was gone for a few days of end of summer vacation, I would receive periodic texts from friends telling me there were dozens of people at the rectory, and what was going on over there, and did I know that there were toilets out in the front yard?  I want to thank all the volunteers who killed themselves to surprise me with an extreme makeover while I was gone.  The parish should be so proud of those who stepped forward and asked me if the transition between me and Fr. Pete, and the welcoming of an associate pastor and seminarian, would mark a good time to do some updating to the parish offices and rectory.  There are some talented and generous and sacrificial people in this parish, and there is a deep faith and love for Christ the King, and some people who almost killed themselves on these projects.  I think we should all be proud of them and we owe them our thanks, most of all me.  I am humbled and emotional and deeply grateful for the quick and great renovations that took place, and the rectory and parish offices are working nicely already for myself and Fr. Sylvester and Daniel Stover our seminarian.  There is more work to be done in the rectory basement, but it's amazing that these renovations were substantially completed in such a short time.  Amazing is the only work that comes to mind.

There have rightfully been some questions about the expenses associated with these projects.  Thanks to Fr. Pete not being a spender, there was some cash available in the parish budget so that I was able to authorize these quick renovations.  I do realize that this opened me up to criticisms of the new guy needing nice things and liking to spend money.  I am sure I am different than Fr. Pete, but please be assured that I come from humble roots and do not like to spend or waste money.  I hope to prove myself over time to be a wise steward of the parish resources.  I of course intend in the future to take things more slowly with changes and improvements and renovations, and to get broad consultation and support from all of you.  But I do believe that with the amount of volunteers and donations that have come in, that it was the right thing to do these renovations at this time of transition, rather than waiting.  I do think that we added tremendous value to our properties, much more than was spent, and I hope when I report a full accounting of what was done, that you all will agree.  Certainly those involved in real estate and construction have commented almost unanimously that we are getting a lot of value for very little cash.

I'm most pleased that we have a good living and working space for myself, and for Fr. Sylvester D'Souza, and our seminarian intern Daniel Stover.  I've tried to be up front with you that it is my firm belief that welcoming more priests and seminarians to live and work here at Christ the King is a passion of mine, especially as I continue to serve the Archdiocese as Director of Seminarians while also your pastor.  I think these priests, transitional deacons and seminarians that will be coming will be great to learn from, and I think we have a great parish in which they can learn too.  So I'm so excited for what the future years will bring.  So thanks to all who made this welcome possible so soon by renovating the parish offices and rectory.

We should all be deeply respectful of Fr. Sylvester, who has taken the great risk of being a missionary from so far away, leaving a country that is only 1% Catholic to serve in a city now of Topeka that is over 30% Catholic.  We should be sending missionaries to India, not vice versa, but he is here to serve for the next 9 months, the last of his five year commitment.  So we will be welcoming a different priest in the summer of 2014, but this year we have Fr. Sylvester, and what a great opportunity to learn from a deeply joyful and faithful priest from so far away.  Thank you Fr. Sylvester, for your coming to be with us.

I also greet warmly Daniel Stover, originally from Silver Lake, who is on pastoral internship here in anticipation of his being ordained a deacon this spring.  Daniel knows Topeka well, having been a member at Most Pure Heart for many years.  He is here to work on a learning agreement, to shadow me, and to take on some projects that I will give him.  He is very knowledgable and generous, having substantially competed his theological formation and studies, so please join me in making him feel welcome, and give him a chance to serve.  My plan is to have a seminarian here most of the time . . . so I hope you enjoy Daniel and the other guys who will be training here to be our future priests.

Finally, to the Gospel, which is as challenging as it gets, given that Jesus tells us to hate family members and to renounce all our possessions, if we would dare be his disciples.  Jesus tells his disciples this while large crowds are following him - when he is popular and things are going well.  Yet out of love for them he does not want those who are following him during the happy times to fall away when things get tough.  Which is indeed what happened, since only a handful of his disciples made it from today's Gospel to the cross.  Jesus reminds us that the quest for holiness and the kingdom of heaven is nothing less than the most extreme adventure of our lives.  To treat Christianity as anything else, or to follow Christ only during the good times, is to do it all wrong, and a complete waste of time.  Christianity can never be anything less than to be in that tiniest of minorities of those who are able to take up their cross and follow him.  That is why no matter how big or small our gathering here in church is tonight, or how big or small or parish was, or is, or will become, the only membership option is an extreme and dangerous one.  We should all go home unless each and every one of us is here to put everything on the line - Christianity can only be about radical and total commitment to Christ, his cross, and his way of truth and love.  There are no other membership options.

This weekend I want to put a challenge out to the men of the parish, not to take the place of all the women in this parish who do an amazing job of leading and serving.  Without asking the ladies to do any less, I am challenging the men to do more.  Specifically, to get involved in the That Man is You program on Saturday mornings and the Knights of Columbus.  Jesus pulls no punches when he says that in drawing close to him, and giving your relationship with him absolute priority in your life, that you will find your truest and best and most sacrificial self, and become the man, the husband, the brother, the priest, the uncle, the grandpa and the spiritual father than you were meant to be.  Drawing close to the Lord will improve every relationship with your life. Don't take my word for it, take the Lord's who puts it to us as plainly and with as much challenge as he possibly can, out of love for us.

I am committed to participating in the That Man is You group this year, and I don't like to pray or be challenged or eat donuts alone.  To the families in the parish, the best thing you can do for your family is to encourage dad to participate in this group.  There are signups after Mass.  I'll see you guys next Saturday morning.  

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