Calling Us

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2017:

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2017

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas July 2, 2017

What a week this has been, a Deacons Retreat at the Abbey of the Hills, resulting in thoughts, reflections, and stories to share.

The Abbey is a former Benedictine Abbey located about 30 miles west of the border in South Dakota. It’s hard to count exactly, but we had something like 40 deacons in attendance and our retreat master being Father Knoblach. I really don’t know if I’m the one that makes this declaration, but to my estimation he is absolutely brilliant. His theme for the weekend became known as old books. Besides the Bible, obviously an old book, he spoke extensively on G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and a bit on Tolkien. I’m sure not trying to tell you that I understood everything he said, for the reality is some of that what was said was over my head. Not saying that that is bad, but a reality to the point where taking notes was difficult to almost impossible for rear you would miss something that was being said.

You can well imagine that Chesterton piqued my imagination, because he wrote the Father Brown mysteries, that I just happened to be watching on Netflix. We know full well that Chesterton didn’t write all of these mysteries, but certainly they are written in the spirit of Chesterton. I’ll share with you only two of his quotes that are quite interesting, from the works he has titled “What’s Wrong With the World,” reflecting on Christianity, he said, “the Christian ideal has not been tried or found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” Another time in response to a story from the London Times posing the question, “what’s wrong with the world today?” He answered, “dear Sirs: I am” Yours, G.K. Chesterton.

A quote from C.S. Lewis, from his work entitled “Mere Christianity.” “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

And one quote from Tolkien, titled, “Fellowship of the Ring, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be eager to deal out death and judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” Along with many typewritten pages of articles and quotes from old books.

The only sad part of the retreat was that I was not able to get back for the hundred year celebration at St. Alexius. Proof of which is that I do not bi-locate very well yet.

Then early in the week father Greg asked me to preach this weekend and now what?

As it turns out, I’m going to tell you a story: Tuesday of this week we had an optional Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, by the way we did not celebrate. Why, I do not know; because not only was he an Archbishop and Doctor of the Church, he also was the presider at the Council of Ephesus. I’ve told this story before and if you’ve heard it before please remember what Father Statz would tell us, that good music, a good play, or a good homily, or a good story is worth retelling, so here’s what happened.

There was a Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople who taught his people that Mary could not be called the mother of God because she was simply the mother of a man. This so upset some of the people that finally they petition Rome to look into this question and give them an answer. It so happened that Cyril of Alexandria presided at the council at Ephesus in 431. The single topic to be looked at was this debate on whether Mary could be called a mother of God. Three times they asked Nestorius to come and plead his case, which he refused to do. So finally the Council declared emphatically that, “Mary was to be called the mother of God because she had given to Jesus everything and anything that any mother had given to any son.” Is the way they put it! The people, then overjoyed, raised in the streets a din, with drums and pots and pans and the women rattling their tongues, proclaiming Mary is the mother of God.

The story does not end there, because they ordered Nestorius to recant his teaching and he refused to do so. As time goes on, we find him sick abed, dying as worms were eating his tongue, that tongue that dared blaspheme the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now I want to take the liberty of putting words in Jesus’ mouth, He says, “you betrayed me, you scourged me, you crowned me with thorns, and you crucified me, but you do not mean mouth my mother!” This story not only gives proof of how much Jesus loves his mother and I declare to you, without hesitation, it is also proof how much he loves every mother! Remember too, that as a little boy Jesus grew up in a society that took very seriously any boy that should abuse or slap his mother, the penalty could be stoning.

Then Thursday of this week we celebrated the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Simon to be called Peter was a married man and a fisherman, who Jesus called, rock, on whom he would build his church. Peter was called the chief of the Apostles and from the middle of the third century onwards documents show that the Bishop of Rome was recognized as the successor of Peter.

Paul an apostle to the Gentiles was born a Roam living in Tarsus and was educated as a Pharisee. From the time of his vision of Christ on the way to arrest Christians and bring them in for punishment, he heard Jesus say to him, “why are you persecuting me”, and was struck blind. The rest of the story is found in this old book, called the Bible.

Then we come to this weekend where we are encouraged to answer the call: today’s Gospel occurs after Jesus calls each of his disciples by name, and remember now, these are ordinary people who lead commonplace lives marked by birth, growing up, married, having children, working, and finally dying – much like our own lives. Jesus called these people out of their everyday existence to a spectacular purpose: working with him to bring about the kingdom of justice, peace, and love in this world and to prepare for the next.

And calling them and Him calling us, through the baptism that Paul refers to, Jesus affords each of us a dignity, a purpose, and a value unique to our gifts and our capacities.

Some of us may be called to welcome strangers or to listen with patience and openness to the prophets in our midst, no matter how unwelcome their Message might be. Or maybe we are simply called to respond to someone’s need for a cold cup of water to offset the heat of the blazing July 2nd sun.

So, you all be Good, be Holy, preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words!

(‘Thank you’ to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here — Brian H. Gill.)

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