These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; the one who judges me is the Lord. (1 Cor 4:1-5)
Long ago, in a parish far, far away, I was being attacked for my HIV/AIDS ministry and my outreach to LGBT Catholics and their parents. I made reference to this particular passage of scripture:
“As a pastor and a priest, I will not turn my back on those who are living with HIV/AIDS. As a pastor and a priest, I will not turn my back on our gay brothers and sisters and their families. One day I will have to stand before our Lord and give an accounting of my priestly ministry. He is the one to judge me—not you. And what is the measure he will use? . . . "as often as you did it for one of these least ones, you did it to me."
Brothers and sisters: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God. So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God. (1 Cor 3:18-23)
Paul’s words about ministry remind us that ministry is directed in service to the community, the community to Christ, and Christ to God. Or, as Pope Francis says, “shepherds should smell of the sheep.”
What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor 3:1-9)
My friend, Msgr Tony Kovacic (1920-2015), never spoke English very well, and, in addition, had a speech impediment. We were stationed together for a while in a parish when he commented: “Some people, they like you. Some people, they like me. Isn’t God good, they can like one of us?”
For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:10b-16)
To have the mind and the heart of Christ—that is the promise of the Spirit we received in our Baptism. To see the world and everyone in it through the compassionate eyes of Christ, to touch the world and all those who are hurting with the healing hands of Christ, to love the world and everyone in it with the very Heart of Christ—that is our calling.
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5)
As the liturgy says, “You choose the weak and make them strong in bearing witness to You, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Passion of John the Baptist prefigures the Passion of Jesus. As the one who prepares the way of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist prepares that way even by his death.
Brothers and sisters: You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel. (Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a)
The assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven . . . today (August 28) is the anniversary of my mom’s passing. She died in 1996, 26 years ago. Whatever good I may have done in my life is wholly attributable to her, whatever foolishness is totally mine. Today's video is a clip from the old film, Doctor Zhivago (1965), with her favorite song, Lara's Theme.
Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. (1 Cor 1:26-31)
Saint Monica is the mother of Saint Augustine, whose feast day is August 28 which is impeded this year because of the Sunday celebration; so, we celebrate both saints together. It was Saint Monica, who as she lay dying said to her son, “Remember me always at the Altar of the Lord.”