The Podcast can be found here.
While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
In the Far East the emperor was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, ""It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you." The children were shocked, but the emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today--one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor."
One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by--still nothing in Ling's pot.
He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn't say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened.
Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful--in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey, nice try."
When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor!"
All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, "The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!"
When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!"
Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
Then the emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"
Jesus said, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.... repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed.”
Our Holy Mother Church is a very interesting creature. It is spread out across time.. geographical boundaries.. socioeconomic levels.. racial barriers.. theological differences.. and on and on the list can go. Across the globe there are approximately 38,000 Christian denominations... over 300,000 missionaries... 83 million bibles distributed every year... about 6 million different books in print on Christianity.. and on average 171,000 Christians are martyred every year because of their faith... Christianity IS the largest worldwide religion with about 2 billion adherents.... Jesus said that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in His name, but I had to wonder... Do you think all those folks.. books.. denominations.. etc.. are proclaiming that message?.. or have we all found our own seed, watered and nurtured it and on the last day intend on bringing before the Lord what we have grown.. or.. what He has directed us to grow?
Our Holy Mother Church is indeed a very interesting creature. The world tells us we must be relevant, so we replace altars with movie screens and sermons with YouTube and PowerPoint presentations. We say that time is precious, so we allot one hour per week to worship of our God. Liturgy is considered archaic, so instead of incense some have gone to a kite on a stick that they swirl around inside the sanctuary to symbolize the Holy Spirit. We even now have liturgical dance, but I don’t know what that is.. and the day I start pulling off my best John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever while serving at the altar is the day you all need to get up and move quietly towards the exit!
Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not knocking these things. If they convey the message of repentance and forgiveness, then they are serving a purpose. After all, the original intent behind the stain glass window was not to have pretty picture, but instead to convey the message of Christ to those who were illiterate. Older churches are massive and have these high vaulted ceilings, not o say, “Oh, look how special we are!” but to convey the transcendence of God.
My point - Yes, Fr. John, please get to the point - My point is that Jesus gave us one mission and that was to proclaim repentance and forgiveness... “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”... So the question for us is not whether or not we are a liturgical church, slinging incense, ringing bells and doing our weekly aerobics, the question for us is whether or not we are going about the business of completing this Christ ordained mission of proclaiming repentance and forgiveness in His Name.... Are we planting the seed that has been given to us by God, or are we substituting it for one of our own?
Truth is... we don’t need any of this... we don’t need smells, bells, vestments, kites or dancing in the aisles... Why? Because the message of repentance and forgiveness.. the message of God’s great love for His children, for me, for you.. for all those that wouldn’t even consider darkening the doors of this church or any other church for that matter is an irresistible message if it is rightly proclaimed.. and that message is not first proclaimed by our Holy Mother Church.. but by you.
It is proclaimed by every word that crosses your lips. If you curse the stranger, then the church is cursing the stranger. If you gossip, then the church is gossiping. If you speak evil of one another, then the church is speaking evil of one another.. and not only is the church doing all these things, but Jesus is also perceived as doing these things, for Jesus is in you.
My ego would like to go into a self-righteous rant on this topic, act like I’m not guilty of such activity, but I know the truth.. we all fall into such activities, but if we are not careful, these activities become habits. They become who we are seen as.. who the church is seen as.. and who Jesus is seen as... and no longer is the message of repentance, forgiveness, and love proclaimed.. instead, the message is one of our own making and nowhere near as attractive.
Thomas a Kempis asks, “why do we talk and gossip so continually, seeing that we so rarely resume our silence without some hurt done to our conscience?” He answers, “We like talking so much because we hope by our conversations to gain some mutual comfort, and because we seek to refresh our wearied spirits by variety of thoughts. And we very willingly talk and think of those things which we love or desire.. or else.. of those which we most dislike. But alas!” he says, “it is often to no purpose and in vain.”
When speaking to one another.. and to others... remember that you are to be proclaiming that message of repentance.. of forgiveness.. that irresistible message of love.. so when speaking ask yourself, “Whose seed am I planting caring for?”.... Or.. should I say, BEFORE speaking to one another and to others.. ask yourself, “Whose seed WILL I plant and care for?”
Let us pray... Heavenly Father, author and inspirer of all things holy, hear our prayers for our new Church. Send forth Your Spirit that we may humbly be guided by your Divine Will. Touch our hearts with true generosity to raise up a house of God for the inspiration and renewal of all your faithful. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.