Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?" (Mk. 10:35-45) When praying and contemplating on this gospel, these words caused me to reflect deeply on the state of our neighborhood parishes. Jesus said, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt." Historically, sorry to say, our Church leaders imitate the rulers in our gospel on occasion. They ruled over their parishioners by planning to close some churches without including the church members in the conversation. How long will our church leaders wait for the numbers in the pews to increase before they announce that a church must close or "be merged" is the daunting question? Is your church on the list? Hopefully, though, as parishioners try to navigate back to their beloved communities during this post-pandemic, some will find the church doors open. Unfortunately, if they're opened, for how long becomes the troubling question, especially if the numbers in our pews continue to spiral down. One could not argue with the leaders if they decided to close some churches during this post-pandemic. The leaders will probably say that they listened to Jesus, "Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?" (Lk. 14:28) If there is no money in the basket, and the pews are empty, closing or merging churches makes sense. Again, is your church on the list? So what can we do? Well, we could ask Jesus to do something for us, as the disciples did. And when Jesus gives us this response, "What do you wish me to do for you?" We could say, Jesus, we want you to save our church, take it off the list. He will more than likely say, "This is a hard thing to do." Indeed, saving our church from closure during one of the worse periods in our church history will be difficult. However, if we can drink the cup that Jesus drank or be baptized with the baptism with which Jesus was baptized, we can stop the rulers from placing our church on the list. Here I am suggesting that we renew our understanding of baptism. Baptism is a process and not something accomplished in life. We live for Christ, "For 'In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Therefore we must be authentic witnesses to our faith, which means we must be servants to one another in the community. This is a lifelong process. Jesus said that he came "to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." We must remind ourselves of our baptismal promises even though the pandemic siphoned our baptismal fonts, making them dry to the touch. Here, the pandemic must not steal our true identity as a child of God; we are priests, prophets, and kings with queens; this is the baptismal promise we made and must live. We are a royal priesthood, ready to serve because we have drunk the cup of our baptism. Let's toast to that and save our churches. Read Paul's testimony, "are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life." (Rom. 6:3-4) Through our baptism, we live in the newness of life; there is plenty of good room in the church; choose your seat, sit down, stand up and give God the praise.
Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS