Homily: 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Take a look at today’s First Reading. Look at the places that Paul traveled.
- He went to Lystra then Derbe
- Returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
- Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
- After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
- From there they sailed to Antioch.
10 cities. And there wasn’t any E-Z-Pass either!
There are three insights can be drawn from Paul’s journeys:
- The journey to spiritual progress is a long trip with many stops.
- The journey to spiritual progress is hard. “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.
If you don’t know this and if you aren’t ready to accept this, you’re in the wrong church.
Gretchen Filz is a Lay Dominican with a passion for fostering an increase in Catholic faith and devotion through content writing and journalism. She works as a digital content writer, creator, and marketer for The Catholic Company, blogging at GetFed.com, editor of the MorningOffering.com daily devotional email and author at GoodCatholic.com. She holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics and converted to the Catholic Church in 2011. She is also active in R.C.I.A., pro-life work, and various faith-based web projects.
I was reading her review of the spiritual classic entitled The Soul of the Apostolate. The book was written in 1946 by Trappist abbot Jean-Baptiste Chautard (1858-1935). Soul of the Apostolate Chautard was born in the French Alps on March 12, 1858. His father was a nominal Catholic who ran a little bookstore, but his mother made sure that their children were educated in the Catholic faith. Jean Baptiste eventually went on to study economics at the University of Marseilles where he had an experience which would change his life forever.
While walking across the campus one day Jean Baptiste came upon a priest praying his breviary (Incidentally, his is the official “Prayer of the Catholic Church. It is also known as The Divine Office or The Liturgy of the Hours). This priest was unaware of the impression he was making on the economics student. “His bearing, full of respect and religion, was a revelation to me,”said Dom Chautard, “and produced in me an urgent need to pray from then on, and to pray in the way this priest was praying. The Church appeared, concretized, so to speak, in this worthy minister, in communion with his God.”
This incident led Jean Baptiste to change his life and become a man of prayer. Such is the impact of a man who truly practices the interior life. Only then can the person say with Saint Paul, “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
How does this apply to us today? Fitz goes on to say that, “The present scandals in the Church have many people looking for positive solutions to the multifaceted problems which beset the Bride of Christ.” Systematic theologian Fred Sanders * offers a warning to those who would begin a flurry of activity to address these issues. ”It involves action, activity, projects, plans, organizations, and active work in all parts of the world: that’s the apostolate. It means an organization for spreading the gospel and Christian influence in the world, especially an organization by laypeople.”
The book is is not about the apostolate; it’s about the soul of the apostolate. It’s about the inner life of this outer work. Christians who are busy in the outer world need a rich, inner spiritual life to sustain them because if you hope to transmit supernatural life this cannot be done by merely natural means.
Chaurard’s entire book can almost be summarized by the phrase, “the Heresy of Good Works!” This is,
… feverish activity taking the place of God; grace ignored; human pride trying to thrust Jesus from His throne; supernatural life, the power of prayer, the economy of our redemption relegated, at least in practice, to the realm of pure theory; all this portrays no merely imaginary situation, but one which the diagnosis of souls shows to be very common though in various degrees, in this age of naturalism, when men judge, above all, by appearances, and act as though success were primarily a matter of skillful organization.
The very principle of life has vanished from this activity. It is nothing but graceless and morbid hyperactivity for Jesus. To hear such people talk and scheme and plan, “one might imagine that God Almighty… cannot get along without their co-operation.” Chautard calls them “activistic hereitics” and says “we can almost hear them say, ‘God finds me pretty useful.’”
Filz wrote that people dive into this frenetic activity, ”not realizing that the true solution will only come from Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, His life within us and
fidelity to His teachings.”
The bottom line is there must be a harmony between the active life and the interior life. Saint Bernard explains this balance using the very interesting metaphor of the reservoir and the channel. “The channels let the water flow away, and do not retain a drop. But the reservoir is first filled, and then without emptying itself, pours out its overflow, which is ever renewed. We have many channels in the Church today, “Saint Bernard added sadly,”but very few reservoirs.” (Sanders)
There are modern applications of the principles found in Soul of the Apostolate. Doran Oancia serves as Chief Operating Officer of West Edge, an energy company that transports, stores, and distributes refined petroleum products, crude oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs), and natural gas. He has worked as an executive for other energy corporations, including Strad Energy Services, and NGL Water Solutions (formerly High Sierra). He studied at Queen’s University, the University of Saskatchewan, and Heriot-Wat University (Scotland). Doran also hosts the Executive Disciple podcast. Executive Disciple asks, “Are you living an “integrated life,” or struggling to overcome a “divided life?” How do today’s leaders reconnect Sunday and Monday? In this podcast, host and C-suite executive Doran Oancia brings in powerful and engaging guests to discuss themes such as the Integral Formation of the Whole Person, the vocation of the business person, and practical approaches in moving from SUCCESS….. to SIGNIFICANCE.
He recently had two podcasts with Monsignor James Shea, President of the University of Mary – an affordable, private, Catholic college in North Dakota which offers bachelor, master, doctorate, and online degree programs.
Monsignor pulls a page from Chautard’s book by asking three questions:
- What am I working FOR?
- What am I RESTING in?
- What am I LIVING for?
These three questions affect our entire lives, and yet, have we stopped to reflect on them? In Episode 1 Shea and Oancia talk about the meaning of work as vocation, problems with our North American understanding of work, how getting Sunday right connects to getting Monday right, and how we can begin to understand a higher calling for our lives and our work in harmony with God’s plan for our lives.
In Episode 2, the two men ask, “Am I CHASING THE BLESSING?” In this beautiful and powerful conclusion of our interview with Monsignor James Shea, President of the University of Mary, they reflect on the “higher calling” of work as VOCATION (versus job, or career); leisure as CONTEMPLATION (rather than amusement, or even function), and how this affects the INTEGRATION of the two. “Our work is not about what we do, it’s about who we become.”
* Fred Sanders is systematic theologian with an emphasis on the doctrine of the Trinity. He and his wife Susan have two children, Freddy and Phoebe. They are members of Grace Evangelical Free Church.