What an important message: Jesus, the stone that was rejected has become the chief cornerstone. Jesus, who was rejected, now reigns at the right hand of God the Father. What we need to see today is that this same Jesus can help us when we feel rejected. Christ was rejected that we might be reconciled to God. Because He knows what it is to be rejected, He can help us with our feelings of hurt and despair. There are many of you for whom the pain of rejection is all too real. Hang in there. There is a man with nail prints in His hands and feet who says it really does matter that you keep going. And remember, there are those who need you to be their wounded healer just as Christ has ministered to you.
Jesus told a parable about two brothers. One told his father that he wouldn’t work in the vineyard, but he repented, and did do the work his father asked him to do. His brother said, “Sure, Pop,” when he was given the same assignment, but never did. Which, asked Jesus, did the will of his father? It’s important to do what we say we will do, to be a promise keeper for we live in an era of unkept promises. On this Respect Life Sunday, we must ask ourselves: are we faithful to our promise to treat all life (from conception to natural death) as a gift and and blessing and not as a burden? Yes, all gifts sometimes bring suffering ... but we are a people who have unwavering hope in the Gospel of Life and Joy!
What is there within us that judges our lives not on the basis of what we have received, but on the basis of what we have received in relation to others? Of course, when that gift happens to be the gift of eternal salvation, the principle is even more critical. Shall we who know and love the Lord Jesus not rejoice whenever any person receives that grace as well, whether they receive it as a child, as a teenager, or at 98 years of age after a life of total degradation? God is hopelessly in love with humanity. There is nothing He will not give to save us from sin and death. But why make Him wait till we are on our deathbed? Why wait until the jungle has ensnared us and defaced our divine dignity? Why not make a good confession today and rejoice that our faith is a blessing and not a burden?
Do we know what we have as Catholics? We have what the world desperately needs--a Savior and a parish family. We are not simply an assembly of individuals. We are the body of Christ. God has called us into a sacred community. He has called us to be His own family. We may not be articulate theologians but we can be a friend to one another and to the world outside. That is our task. That is the ministry to which Christ has called us--to be a caring community. To reach out arms of sympathy and support to those who are in distress. To rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. Faith is not so much believing this thing or that about God as it is hearing a voice which says, ‘Come unto Me.’ We hear the voice and then we start to go without really knowing what to believe either about the voice or about ourselves. And yet we go. Faith at this point is standing in the darkness, and a hand is there, and we take it. We take the hand of God and then we reach out in the darkness and we take hold of the hand of a neighbor. That is who we are and what we are about. “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love . . .”
The world doesn’t revolve around us. Our first priority is to Christ and His kingdom. That means more than simply keeping the commandments. It means loving God and His people more than any worldly treasure. It means, in short, denying ourselves and following Jesus who gave His life for us and for the entire world. Many people claim to be Christ followers. However, there is absolutely nothing in their lives that would signify this except, perhaps, attendance at Mass. They are not sharing their faith with others. They are not volunteering in their communities. They are not giving to those who are down and out. As we have asked several times over the past few weeks, are you a follower of Christ or simply a fan? It makes a difference!
“Who do you say that the Son of Man is?” asked Jesus. And, for once, Simon Peter got it right, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Who is Christ to you . . . and what difference does it make in your life? Listen to Fr. Cooper's Sunday Homily and be inspired on your journey as a follower of Jesus!
Mary’s Assumption can be easily understood by love. It is also love that is the source and cause of her perfect beauty. Being intimately close to God, she radiates His infinite beauty. This celebration of Mary’s Assumption inspires us to hope. Pope Benedict XVI said: “For over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as ‘Star of the Sea’: Ave maris stella! Human life is a journey. Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. They are lights of hope. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us?” (Spe Salvi, 49). Let us turn to Mary. She gives us hope that, like her and through her maternal intervention, we will find the way to heaven, our true and lasting home.
The existential philosopher, Søren Kierkegarrd, called the decision to follow Jesus a leap of faith, like jumping off the cliff. One could not play it safe and follow Christ; rather we must be willing to risk it all. St. Peter would call it leaving the boat. But the time to play it safe is over. We must risk it all for the sake of Christ. Are there some fears that cause you to be disillusioned and keep you from risking it all for Christ? Could it be that you have allowed those fears to become greater than they really are? Are problems distracting you from the source of your power? Do doubts nag at you and keep you from learning to trust Christ? Whatever it is, the One greater than fears, problems, and doubts is here! Jesus is waiting on you to believe in Him and risk it all. Come on, leave the boat and walk on the water. Jesus says you can do it! Listen to Fr. Cooper’s Sunday Homily and dare to get out of the boat!
In our own way, each of us has been to the mountaintop at some time in our lives. “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). But we are sinners. We love Him, but in the time of testing, we have each denied Him. We are grateful to be recipients of His grace, and we commit ourselves again this day to seek in all we do to be close to Him from this day forward. That is what the Transfiguration is all about! Listen to Fr. Cooper's Sunday Homily and keep the flame of faith alive in your heart!