January 9, 2022
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps 29:1-4, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
This feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of Christmas Time and tomorrow we will put on the green of Ordinary Time. For the past six weeks we have prepared ourselves to see more clearly the Light of the World which has always been with us in the most personal way for the past 2000+ years. Then we took the time to celebrate and live in the glow of that Light during Christmas time. Now we are reminded of the commissioning we have received in the Holy Spirit when we were baptized and then Confirmed. Ordinary Time, then, is about taking this Light to the rest of the world. To all nations. Just as surely as Jesus was declared as beloved by the Father, so are we declared beloved. The Father is well pleased with us also because we have accepted our roles as lights to the nations.
Last fall we may have noticed that our enthusiasm for the mission of the Church had waned just a bit. With a well-focused Advent and through deep and sincere repentance especially with are renewed commitment to the Spiritual Works of Mercy, we are ready to start afresh. Such is Ordinary Time. In worldly terms, not ordinary at all.
The first reading today from the prophet Isaiah comes from a biblical genre referred to as the suffering servant. This servant described centuries before Christ actually prefigures Jesus and His mission in the world. And of course, Jesus’ mission is our mission.
Let’s look again at the first reading because it can really help us focus on what should be the ‘ordinary’ day-to-day focus of our lives:
…he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
This is a very big job and you’ve probably realized by now that none of you can pull it off by yourselves. You are all gifted people and all infinitely beloved by the Father. BUT you cannot accomplish the mission given to us by yourselves. You cannot even accomplish it with your conservative or liberal friends or your ‘spiritual, but not religious relatives’. We CAN be ‘Kane County Strong’ for a while, but that’s different than what the mission of the Church calls for. What’s that even mean, ‘Kane County Strong’? Does anybody know? What are we digging in for or holding on to? Is there a standoff coming? ‘Innies’ versus the ‘outies’? Will somebody eventually have to storm the city hall or the senior center because the character in front of us is doing it…to show how strong we are? Then what? What’s the vision?
The Mass itself first calls us to Communion, to Community before it sends us out to mission. To be the light to others. How strong is our sense of Community? Everybody in our parish is tough as nails. We are self-sustained and can survive without all the amenities of a city. We can survive without the family and friends we have left behind in wherever we came from. We have in some ways led the way for the countless people who are still moving in, fleeing the chaos of their lives, to dig in and be STRONG out here in the red dirt and rock and the parched, water starved vegetation. Lots of tough, strong, self-assured and self-sustained people. ALLLLL with strong opinions. Likely much different than the attitude and identity of the servant described in Isaiah.
All the changes that are upon us provide a good point for identifying a new baseline for ST. Christopher’s. Our participation in the Synod on Synodality will help us see more clearly who we are at ST. Christopher’s and what we can reasonably accomplish out here in Kane County. Next week I will give a 30-40 minute presentation after Mass on the Synodality process covering the hopes and expectations for our participation up through July. As we discuss the various topics it’s important that we use our time together to express concerns and ideas rather than have question and answer sessions. We can best utilize the time by directing our ideas to each other. As you recall, as a retired priest I am not assigned here for any specific tenure and the pastor lives 80 miles away. The main factor affecting the quality and type of parish you have depends mainly on the kind of relationships you develop with each other. Given modern technology and the easy availability of user-friendly instructional materials, St. Christopher’s development as the BODY OF CHRIST is limited only by the motivation of the parishioners. Most everyone moved to Kanab knowing that we are 300 miles from the center of Catholic life in Utah. We have decided that it’s not important to live close to the Bishop of Salt Lake City. It’s not important to live close to the Bishop of Phoenix or Las Vegas. It’s not important to us to live close to larger communities of Catholics. Also, we have realized for decades that we are facing a limited supply of priests to serve full time in our tiny mission parishes or even larger urban parishes. Out here in Kane County it’s US; we are the Church. Or rather it’s YOU. Like Jesus, you are anointed by the Spirit. You too are God’s beloved sons and daughters in whom He is well pleased!!