26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14 (9a)
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
September 30, 2018
Jesus speaks to his disciples about what causes them to sin. His direction to cut our hand or foot off or to cut our eye out if they cause us to sin might seem extreme, perhaps even crazy. He’s directing us that we need to be strong when dealing with sin but if you think about it, never do our eyes, hands, or feet cause us to sin. We might use them in committing sin but they do not cause us to sin.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t sin today. One doesn’t have to pay attention to the news long to hear about horrible things. Sin is real. The devil is always at work putting temptation before us.
It is clear that we need help in the battle against sin. Ultimately, the help comes from God. One of the ways that God offers us help in the battle against sin is with angels, in particular our guardian angels (we celebrate the memorial of the Guardian Angels on October 2nd) and St. Michael the Archangel.
St. Michael is known in the Bible (ex. Revelation chapter 12) as the one leading the angels of Heaven in battle against the devil. God’s side won and the devil and those who joined him were cast out of Heaven.
Sin is real. Evil is real. Near the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII was inspired to write the prayer we know as the St. Michael Prayer. For several decades it was said at the end of Mass to ask for intercession in the battle against evil. Last week we resumed the custom of saying this prayer.
Any parish can say this prayer but it can have a special significance to us as our parish is named for St. Michael. That means he is the patron saint of our parish. We can ask for the intercession of any saint but naming St. Michael as our patron means we entrust our parish to his intercession in a special way.
Our parish is normally the primary way in which we experience our church. Thus, the name “St. Michael’s” serves to identify who we are but we are not defined by this alone.
The parish is the people of God gathered together for faith and fellowship in a local area. We can break the parish down even more. For example, one might say I go to the 4:30, 8:15, or 10:30 Mass. However, regardless of which Mass we go to, we belong to something more than just the community at that Mass. We belong to the parish.
In the same way that we do not belong to just one particular Mass, we actually belong to something bigger than any one parish. We belong not just to St. Michael’s parish but to the Diocese of Rochester and the worldwide Roman Catholic Church.
We are all called to work together as one church to be who Jesus calls us to be. There is nothing wrong with seeing ourselves as a particular parish but we should not limit ourselves by the parish.
With number of parishioners who attend Mass decreasing it is all the more important that we find ways to work together with our neighboring Catholic parishes to strengthen us so that we can continue to proclaim the gospel.
Hopefully you have heard about the regional planning efforts between all the Catholic parishes in Wayne County. It is not about closing churches. The whole point is to strengthen our parishes. If you have been reading the updates in the bulletin, then you know that the planning group recommended a plan that would put all of the parishes into two clusters. Our bishop has approved this plan. We would remain separate parishes but share things like staffing to build up our ministries. We do not know when the plan will go into effect. It might be next year or it might not be for a couple of years. That depends on when priests retire or are no longer able to serve in full-time ministry.
Now, the planning group is working on possible Mass schedules. Nothing has been set yet. There will be public meetings before any final recommendation is made to the bishop. Of course, people want to know what will happen at St. Michael’s.
We will probably lose one Mass. No one likes that but in terms of space we can easily fit everyone into two Masses. Other churches will lose Masses or face significant changes of what time their Mass is. We are working on a schedule that tries to keep all the churches open with the least amount of change.
We don’t like change. We like multiple Masses to choose from. Yet, we must acknowledge the reality of the continual decline in the number of priests and number of parishioners. The latter means fewer people at Mass, fewer volunteers for ministries, and fewer people giving financially.
There will still be 12 Masses in the county. There will be Saturday evening Masses. There will be Masses early on Sunday. There will be Masses later on Sunday morning. One might have to drive a little. We recognize this might be more difficult for our older parishioners who can’t drive far. We are trying to take that into account. For our younger families, maybe you will have to drive a small distance sometimes for church. It will be no farther than some drive for work, sports, or shopping.
The bottom line is we need to look beyond our parish to be all that God asks us to be. Please pray for the intercession of St. Michael as the patron saint of our parish, for us to be the parish God calls us to be. Pray for the intercession of St. John Fisher, the patron saint of our diocese, that we be the diocese God calls us to be. Pray for the intercession of Mary that we be the Church that her son Jesus founded and calls us to be.
(For more on our regional pastoral planning goto http://oprp.dor.org/active-pastoral-planning-groups/wayne-county-pastoral-planning-information/)