***This is a shorter version of the actual homily text I preached, but for the sake of posting something … here it is.***
The Gospel this weekend challenges us quite clearly – if we have two cloaks, give one to someone without one, and if we have food do the same. It’s a call to recognize the gifts we have received and to share them with those in need. The Lord commands us to do these things – they are not nice suggestions or counsels for some people in the Body of Christ. It is a command for each and all to share our gifts for the building up of the Church and the world. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians: “What do you possess that you did not first receive?” and if we have received them as gifts, ought we not to share them?
As a concrete response to this Gospel call to share with others, I want to invite each of you to bring a grocery bag of food to Mass next week for us to donate to our local food pantry. We’ve traditionally had the food basket out for the fall each year but following the emphasis of Pope Francis upon the corporal work of mercy of feeding the hungry, we will now keep it out all year round for us to continue to support the food pantry. To this also we will add our newly repainted state of St. Anthony and a little ‘poor box’ for donations to the needy in our parish community. I thank you in advance for your generosity.
My second invitation for you is to spend a bit of time reflecting on your gifts throughout this coming week. In the Gospel John is approached by a tax collectors, soldiers, and many others and asked what they ought to do in response to the call to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. The response for each was a bit different depending on their own labors and reminds us that the Lord invites us most often to serve Him in the places where we are already present. Simply put, God has given us all specific gifts and brought us to certain places for some specific reason. So what gifts might He be seeking to use in you for the good of others? And think outside the box. Can you sew? There are ways to serve in the altar society but also others in our community. Are you creative in decorating? Use it to help others who don’t have the gift. Are you a social butterfly? Use that to bring people to the Lord or to be a pleasant face to welcome them when they’re at church. Are you good at planning activities or running them? There are places for you. Do you have a great love of our faith? Start a small prayer group or Bible study. Do you have a strong back or construction skills? Put that at the service of others who are in need of them. If you have extra food or clothes or things around the house, consider donating them. Are you struggling with not being able to do very much because of health or age? Pray! Prayer is the engine that keeps the parish running and a vital gift in any community. These are just a few of thousands of options that the Lord has graced us with. So the question is what are your gifts? What is it that the Lord might be inviting you to put at the service of others and who might that person or persons be?
The fascinating thing about this command of Jesus Christ to give of ourselves is that while it might seem to be difficult, it is actually a means of teaching us where to find true joy. May we have the grace to follow His word and rejoice in knowing the nearness of Christ as we serve Him in those in need.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come, O source of joy. Come, O Come, Emmanuel.