Pastor’s First Sermon

Thank you for your prayers and kind concern for me. Here is the little homily I gave on Sunday…

joshua1Joshua said to the Israelites, “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.

As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

The Lord called Abraham from the darkness of paganism and promised to make a mighty nation from his descendants. The Lord gave Abraham his son Isaac, and Isaac his son Jacob–also known as Israel.

The Lord sent Moses to lead Jacob’s descendants out of slavery. God did wonders to defeat all of Israel’s enemies. And the Lord brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. He gave them food to eat which they did not plant and cities to live in which they did not build.

We do not know exactly what the Israelites were thinking before Joshua reminded them of all that God had done for them. Perhaps they had not given the Lord a moment’s thought in a long time. Maybe they thought the idols of the pagans were fine and that one religion was just as good as another.

By the time Joshua finished reminding them, however, the Israelites had come back to their senses.

“Far be it from us to forsake the Lord who has done so much for us,” they cried. And they consecrated themselves to the service of God.

shechem stone
Covenant stone at Shechem

Dear church, let me do for us what Joshua did for the Israelites. Let us recall the many kindnesses of the Lord…

Did the Lord not send His son to die for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have eternal life? Did He not consecrate us in Baptism and fill our souls with His grace? Is He not ready and willing to forgive our sins whenever we go to a priest to confess them? Does the Lord not come down from heaven during Mass and feed us with His own Body and Blood from the altar?

Has He not brought all brother-Catholics in every corner of the earth into unity in the truth? Has He not given us Pope Benedict to be our wise and loving shepherd, to teach us right from wrong?

FILES-VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCEDid He not give our forefathers the zeal and wherewithal to build this beautiful church for us to worship Him in? Does the good Lord not provide for our needs everyday? Can we doubt that God has a plan to get us to heaven, and that all we have to do is co-operate?

These are the facts. This is what the Lord has done and will do for us.

In the gospel reading in the past four Sunday Masses, we have heard the Lord Jesus speak to the people in the synagogue in Capernaum. He revealed to them the truth about Himself. He explained that He is the Messiah, that He gives divine life to all who believe in Him, and that He feeds His people with His own Body, Blood, soul, and divinity.

To receive this gift, what is required? The act of faith. The people in the synagogue in Capernaum saw a man standing before them, teaching them amazing things. He asked them to believe that He is God.

Most of the people in the synagogue did not believe. They were suspicious.

Let’s not be too hard on those people—they did not know everything that we know about Christ.

Christ capernaumHe was asking a lot of the people in the synagogue that day. Even His beloved Apostles didn’t know what to make of everything He said. But when the Lord asked them if they, too, would disbelieve Him, St. Peter gave the humblest, most common-sensical response ever given to a question.

“Lord, you are asking for an act of great faith. You are asking us to believe that you are the one and only divine Son of God, perfectly united with the Father. No one has ever asked his disciples to make such an astounding act of trust.

“But what is our alternative? Without you, we have nothing. You are demanding, sure. But without you we have no hope.”

After Joshua reminded the Israelites about the kindness of God, he then presented them with a stark choice. There can be no fudging with the Lord, no compromises with idols and false doctrines. As the prophet Elijah said to the Israelites, “Why do you straddle the issue? If the idol is god, serve him. If not, serve the Lord.”

So Joshua said to the Israelites gathered before him: Make your choice. If you will not serve the Lord, go your way.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord is presenting us with the same choice. It is all laid out before us here and now.

Joshua was confronted with the choice to serve God or abandon Him. Joshua spoke for his people. He was the head of a large household.

By God’s grace, dear brothers and sisters, I am the head of this household now, [N.B.: Holy Name parish, Washington, D.C.] unworthy as I am. I am a sinner like everyone else, and the service I can offer is weak and faltering. My meager service is unworthy of God and His Church, but it is what I have to give.

In spite of my unworthiness, I am going to presume to speak for us all. We are confronted with a choice: to serve God, or to turn away. With fear and trembling, I am going to say what Joshua said. Let’s pray that the grace of God will sustain us. After all, what is the alternative? Christ alone has the words of eternal life.

“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

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