Whatever the season of their lives at this time, Catholics were encouraged to persevere in faith, be attentive to prayer, and let God do what only God can do, during Mass on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Father David Cooper, priest at Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church, during his sermon said that people need to understand that sometimes what they deem problematic inconveniences, could very well be the right hand of God acting in their lives.
He encouraged them, before Lent starts on March 2, to recreate or redefine a prayer corner in their house where the word of God is properly elevated and displayed, so that the law of the Lord becomes the “rudder” of their household. As the word of God would be where family members turn to when they hit rough patches in their lives.
“The word of God would be the motivation we would need to maneuver through this crazy world,” said Cooper. “It is perfect. It refreshes the soul. Whatever God says is trustworthy, and it gives a simple wisdom – God’s precepts are right and, if we accept them, they give us joy in our hearts.”
Referencing Luke’s gospel and the salvation story, Cooper spoke about the people of God having wandered in the wilderness for 70 years and during that time took on the practice and faiths of pagan cultures, and that some even questioned God’s faithfulness. He spoke to the reorientation that had to happen once again.
“They had to get familiarized again with who they are, and whose they are, and what makes them special in the eyes of God.”
He said the only way for them to understand God’s presence and His faithfulness was to hear God’s word.
Cooper reminded parishioners that only Jesus Christ, when he was in the wilderness, drawn there by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights, never lost his identity because he knew who he was, was confident that he was the son of God, and did not allow himself to be discouraged from that fact.
“One thing we in this modern age can find fruitful when we spend time with sacred scripture is that we must see ourselves in the story. We must see the prophets of old speaking to us. We must see Jesus touching us, healing with us, sitting with us…in reality, not virtual reality, because now we have a personal investment in the spoken word.”
He encouraged people to get back to the practice and culture of spending time in God’s word and it being proclaimed, with nothing else mattering.
The priest said the people who came out of the wilderness after decades of hearing God’s words proclaimed were taken back to the place where they first received the Lord. They became overwhelmed with emotions – they stood, they raised their hands, they lay prostrate and they wept.
“We all have our moments of unfaithfulness, but now that you are alive, and still able to hear God’s word and still able to relate and identify with it, this is not a day for weeping – rejoice! He said go home, and cook a good meal, share your meal with those who have none, for today, going forward, rejoicing in the Lord should always be our strength.”
Cooper said he knew many people question how to make their circumstances joyful even though they are sometimes painful. And he said the saints of old plainly say whatever the season of their lives, to find Jesus in it, bring him in, and allow him to stay with them through it.
“Sometimes, what we deem problematic inconveniences, could very well be the right hand of God acting in our lives. Therefore, all we have to do is persevere in faith, be attentive to prayer, and let God do what only God can do,” he said.
He also encouraged them to try to remove themselves from church tension and to remember that the natural identifying principle is baptism. That they don’t necessarily have to connect physically, but that they must spiritually. Cooper said that is where the unity begins and ends.
The priest made an example of baptisms – many today of which are over the top extravagant which he compared to baptisms in the “old days” when the baby was baptized naked – he reminded that the grace of the Sacrament was still equally awarded and that the faith of the moment was still celebrated.
“There is more to our existence than what meets the eye, so it does not matter what people say to you or about you, we carry in us an indelible mark, an unerasable mark, an imprint, a Christian character that God alone gives us, and God alone can take it away. And no circumstance of life can devalue it. That’s why we strengthen ourselves by allowing ourselves to be influenced most and singularly with the law of God, with the word of God, with the gospel of Jesus the Christ. We refresh ourselves at the beginning of each day, at the close of each day. In this communal setting, we allow ourselves to be the word made flesh.”
Cooper also reminded worshipers that they are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it, according to the Apostle Paul. And that no member of the body of believers can ever feel less important than the other. He said those people who feel that way belong to the Body of Christ more than those who have overconfidence in membership.
“Those who are weaker, those who are less honorable, we are to surround with greater honor. Those who are less presentable must be treated with greater propriety; they must be felt to believe they belong to us more. These are the very people who Jesus spent most of his time ministering to because he didn’t hang out with the Scribes and Pharisees and the religious authorities; they plotted against him. He refused to be a member of the religious country club. He wanted to be an outsider – that’s why he was born in a manger, surrounded by animals, first revealed to shepherds. Strangers came to worship him, to let us see that those whom society might right off, these are the very ones whom Jesus seeks day in and day out.”
He also encouraged people to find themselves re-engaged in the work of building the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
Cooper said Luke’s gospel is written for non-Jewish communities to let them know that there is truth, logic, and believability in the story of salvation for open hearts.
“Luke says I have observed and noticed, kept note and applied my own intuition. I have investigated everything accurately anew and now I write it down. I write it down in an orderly sequence for you, the beloved of God. Now he says because I have done the legwork, there is no need to second guess – just hear, understand and believe – and it will go well with you.”
The priest encouraged people going forward to bring back the culture of people who say they are sons and daughters of God’s kingdom to become more familiar with the word of God and reminded them that God’s word is perfect.
“God’s word for God’s people is the only foundation we need to stand on, no matter how much the tempest rages, no matter how many enemies size us up and surround us. We shall not be moved. On Christ the solid rock we stand. All other ground is sinking sand,” said Cooper.