4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Dt 18:15-20 Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9 1 Cor 7:32-35 Mk 1:21-28
A Cardinal who grew up in Eastern Europe once shared with a group of young people why church bells were so important to him. “They remind me of my Baptism, of my faith and my mission in life” he said. In his country the Church bells were rung every morning at sunrise to remind the people to begin their day with a prayer of thanksgiving to God. The job of ringing the bells belonged to the altar boys who had to get up before dawn, and walk down to the Church in the dark in order to ring the bells at sunrise.
When the communists took over Eastern Europe they wanted to destroy the Church, so they imposed a curfew until dawn to try to prevent the ringing of the church bells. This cardinal, and his boyhood friend were committed to serving God, and so they would get up early in the morning and sneak over to the Church to ring the bells. One morning when it was his friend’s turn to ring the bells, he was shot for violating the curfew. This tragedy devastated the village, but every day, the bells of the Church still spoke out…
Ringing Bells make a Joyful Noise
At St. Anthony’s we begin every Mass with the ringing of the Church bells. Our bells have always made a joyful noise to the Lord because they call us to open our hearts to God so that we can receive His love. In a certain way our bells are the voice of our Church, because when we hear them, we are reminded of God, our faith and our Baptism.
It takes two to ring the bells
There are two people involved in the ringing of the bells, the one pulling the rope, and the ones listening to the sound. All of us who are baptized have this dual vocation in our lives; we have a responsibility to listen to the sound of the bells (to listen to Christ) and to be a bell for Christ by living our witness to the Gospel before our friends and family.
Listening to Christ
The first reading today contains a stern warning to those of us with this dual responsibility. In it, God warns Moses and all of the prophets (That is us sisters and brothers) that we need to hear the truth – that is the whole truth, and not just the parts of the Truth that we are comfortable with. It is not enough for me to simply hear the Churches teachings on abortion and not hear her teachings on immigration or war, or to hear the Churches teaching on the liturgy and not hear her teachings on the care for the poor or the sick. If we want to be faithful listeners, then we need to hear the whole truth.
How do we listen to Christ?
The response for the responsorial psalm today says, “If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts”. This means that we have an obligation to listen to Christ each day. We listen to Christ through attentive prayer. God has created each one of us with a specific mission in mind, a specific vocation, a calling. If we never listen to Christ, then we can only become aware of our vocation when God sneaks up behind us and whacks us over the head with the spiritual 2x4 (two by four).
Christian Life is Baptism flowing out into the world
The word Vocation means “one who is called”. There are two different connotations of the word vocation that I would like to address today; our baptismal vocation, and the vocations of service that we might be called to in Marriage or Holy orders.
Christian Life is our Baptismal Vocation flowing out into the world.
Fix in your minds the idea that at the moment of your Baptism God placed into your soul a rich spring, welling up with the purest, sweetest, cleanest water. Our Baptismal vocation is not a split instant in our life, but rather the water from this spring welling up within us and flowing out into the world over the course of our entire life. The grace that we received at Baptism remains effective for all eternity – and it desires to permeate into all of our relationships and interactions, washing them clean through the grace of God. Sadly, many Catholics receive this spring at Baptism and then seldom turn again to listen to the voice of God resonating in their souls. Some of us gathered here today may share this experience. For all of us, the readings today call us to listen anew to the bells of the Church!
Have a Conversation with God
I want to encourage all of us gathered here today to make time in our lives to listen to God. Specifically, we can take 10 minutes in the morning as we begin our days to reflect quietly with God about the people that God is calling us to be the bell of the Church for today. This is what God and Moses were doing in the first reading. They were reflecting together over the people that God had entrusted to Moses. Listening to God in prayer this way helps us to become aware of the ways that the grace that God has given us at baptism is flowing through our lives and into the world. It is also a way to become aware of when God is calling us into a more specific vocation – a vocation of service.
All are called to listen and dialog today
In the Church there are two sacramental vocations of service, marriage and holy orders. As a married Deacon, I need to be attentive to both of these calls, but all of us have a need to listen to God about both of the sacraments because all of us experience these sacraments in our lives. Those of us who are single, or young are called to listen and dialog with God about where He is calling us to serve and how he is calling us to serve. If we are ordained, or married, then we too have an obligation to dialog with God about how he is calling us to live out our sacraments today.
This means that like Christ, the prophet that Moses and God spoke about in the first reading, we have an obligation to listen to the whole truth of God in our sacramental life and not to shy away from the teachings of the Church that we find difficult or inconvenient. In this sense all of us need to hear the bells, and all of us need to be bell ringers…
Don’t be anxious about the things of the World.
St. Paul warns us today not to be anxious about the things of the world, but rather to trust in God. The reason why St. Paul warns us about this is because anxiety strangles our ability to listen to God and prevents us from trusting God.
Married People – Trust in the Lord
When it comes to marriage, do we choose to listen to Christ about contraception, or be anxious about the burden of children and so we contracept? Do we place other things above our vocation to serve one another out of love? Where in our marriage do we need to invite in the healing love of God. How can we allow him to enter into the wounds of our love and redeem them, heal them? In what ways are our marriages thirsty for the flowing, cleansing, refreshing, life-giving waters of baptism?
Bishops, Priests and Deacons – Trust in the Lord
For those of us in Holy Orders, are we faithful to the vows we made at our ordinations? Are we humble to His Will readily following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our ministry? Does our life of prayer continue to grow and deepen? Are we holding fast to the faith of the Church – the whole faith? Are we obedient to our Bishop, listening to him as good sons ought to? Do we continue to conform our lives to the example of Christ?
Pray for Vocations – Pray for our married couples
All of us experience the sacrament of marriage – either as husbands and wives or as sons and daughters, and so all of us are affected by the fidelity of those married couples in our community who are called by God to live out this sacrament. Let us pray then sisters and brothers for the married couples of our parish that God may give them the grace to live out their sacrament faithfully, and fruitfully.
Pray for Vocations – pray for our Bishop, Priests and Deacons
Likewise all of us here experience the sacrament of Holy Orders. Without it we could not gather week after week to receive the Eucharist and to celebrate the Mass. Let us take some time this week to pray in a special way for those in Holy Orders and those living the religious life. That they might be faithful to their vows taken at ordination and so reflect the love of God to the World.
Listen and Trust in God and you will discover your vocation
All of us here are called to a vocation in life. The way that we begin to discover this vocation is to listen to God and to trust in God.
To those of us here today that have not yet received either of these two sacraments I want to offer you this reassurance. The decision to enter the seminary to study for the priesthood or diaconate is a serious decision, however, it is not the final decision to be a priest or deacon but rather the next level of listening and trusting in God to see if He is calling you to Holy Orders. In the same way becoming engaged is a serious decision but it does not mean that you are married, but rather that you are going to spend some time considering marriage seriously. Engagement and entering the seminary means that we are willing to listen to God and to trust that He will make his will known to us.
To those of us here today who are living in Holy Orders or Marriage – we too have the same challenge: to listen to God in the context of our vocation and to trust that God will provide for the needs of our ministry. If we do this we will become better wives, better husbands, better priests and better deacons.
Brothers and Sisters when we listen to God we hear the peal of the bells. When we trust in God, we are the ones who are ringing the bells. Go and make joyful noise to the Lord this week!