I had many requests to post Father Kastl's homily from Mother's Day. Here it is.
In the final blessing for mothers in the Rite of Baptism we hear these beautiful words:
God the Father, through his Son, the Virgin Mary’s child, had brought joy to all Christian mothers as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their children.
This mother’s day gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the beautiful gift of motherhood, but it also gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the gift of the family, which is made up of mother and father, children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren for some.
The prayer that I just shared with you speaks only partially to what makes up the family of origin, so I would also like to share with you a few lines from the prayer over the father, not to take away from you mothers on this your special day…
God is the giver of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith.
If we listen closely to both the prayer over the mother and the prayer over the father, we soon get a very profound theology of married life, or even more fundamentally, the role of the Christian mother, the role of the Christian father in regards to the children who have been entrusted to them by God.
Let us listen to these prayers once again…“God the Father has brought joy to all mothers as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their children” and “He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith.”
These prayers speak to the unmistakable reality of the responsibility of the mother and the father to raise up the souls of their children. It is an unmistakable reality that it is the primary and absolute responsibility of the mother and father to safeguard, nurture, invigorate, challenge and sustain the faith their children receive in baptism.
Over the past few months, both Msgr. Dorney and I along with our staff have been discussing how this church community truly models the vision of the Universal Church, the vision of Christ in regards to the family. Do we preach, promote and provide programs that enable you, the fathers and mothers to fully actualize your vocation as a Christian mother or Christian father?
As “Fathers” ourselves, both Msgr. and I take our roles very seriously… seeing each of you as a soul entrusted to our care, taking our responsibility to help your families do more than just belong to this community of faith by going to Mass, attending religious education on Sunday mornings or attending our school. Just like a parent who must make certain promises on the day of the baptism of their child, so have we made certain promises to you… Just like a parent who has to make certain decisions on a daily basis to secure the wellbeing of their children, so do we have to make decisions that we feel safeguards and promotes the deposit of faith that is to be lived and actualized among you who fill these pews each Sunday.
I say all of this to remind us of the inseparable connection between the Church and the domestic family. Ultimately the Church is made up of Christian families who come together to share in each other lives and be strengthened by the Sacraments. You are the Church; you are just as much the inheritors of the faith from Christ as the bishops, priests and deacons, although we have different roles in the body of Christ.
If I were to ask the mothers and fathers who are here today, what are the biggest preoccupations that you have for your spouse and your children in regards to their future, I am sure the list would include some of the following… that your children have a knowledge of the faith, they have a sense of self worth and importance, their basic needs are provided for, that they are happy and healthy, that they are in stable and loving relationships, they have the gift of employment and descent housing, that they continue to grow in and practice the Catholic faith into adulthood and the list could go on and on…
If you were to ask Msgr. Dorney or I the same question in regards to our biggest preoccupations for the Christian family of the Church the list might include things like… a desire for our people to have a personal relationship with Christ, to be lifelong learners in the faith, have a sense of self worth and belonging, they make church a top priority, have a deep and abiding love for the sacraments, are in stable and lasting relationships, have a sense of ownership for this their community…seeing all that we have, time, talent and treasure as a gift from God.
In many ways these lists don’t run in opposite directions, rather they intersect and mingle in this holy place, “diversity meets community” to be molded, shaped and transformed into the living presence of Christ in our world.
Yet, to be transformed into this living presence of Christ takes the resolve to belong, engage and be committed to a life of discipleship.
As one of the “Fathers” of this community I am often amazed and humbled at the commitment and sacrifices many of you make on a daily bases in your walk with Christ, yet as with any parent, there are also certain things, certain preoccupations that keep me up at night or better yet, raise my anxiety about my effectiveness as a priest in this community.
In the face of so much goodness, I can’t help but ask, how could the Church do better in the formation of individuals and families? What are we not doing that needs to be done to respond to an ever increasing secular society whose values seem to overpower our Christian values of family life and morality.
When I see soccer fields filled on Sunday mornings, people leaving mass early to get to sporting games or other extracurricular activities, when I see people, and I convict myself at times on this one, with their faces so glued to their iphones and other electronic gadgets that they are unable to carry on a true and living conversation with others, when I encounter young people who have lost a sense of reverence and respect for their elders, when I see the advertisement for the newest primetime TV shows and hear about how much time Catholics spend watching this trash, when I see parents getting upset about what we invite them to do in regards to the religious formation of their child or asking what is the least they need to do to educate their child in the ways of faith, when I see families not coming to church together to accommodate sports schedules or just because little Johnny or Suzie didn’t want to come today, when I see people enter into this sacred space just as they would a sports arena, dressed like they just got out of bed, chewing gum, sipping Starbucks, and not genuflecting… These things keep me up at night asking myself what have I not done as a Father to guide and direct the faithful in a way that our faith remains pure and undefiled by the litter of a secular society…
If we look at the Acts of the Apostles, the tension of what it meant to belong to the Christian community has existed from the beginning… The struggle to understand the role of Christ in the plan of salvation, the struggle between the Jews and Gentiles over Mosaic practices… We hear, “There arose no little dissention and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them…”
The struggle and tension of following the ways of Christ has always existed. Yet what we also hear in this reading from the Acts of Apostles is an invitation from the Apostles, is a request for faith, trust and obedience in the community, the Church… “Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul.”
The role of the Church is then seen as a gathering place, not for those who have it all together, the holier than thous, rather a place where all gather with an openness and malleability in the ways of Jesus Christ, a message that calls out of ourselves, out of our own wants and needs, a call to sacrifice our time, our own desires and perspective to be in community and communion not just with God through Jesus Christ, but to be in community of mind and heart with our husbands, wives, children, friends and strangers… The Church, which was established as our vessel to heaven.
Dear friends, although mother Church can at times raise her ugly, stinky human head, the deposit of faith which she posses, the sacramental life she carries out, remains unstained by the defilement of men. It is the Church, who is our vessel in this life, a vessel leading us, supporting us and challenging us not to settle in for a life time on earth, rather to use our time on earth to live well now in anticipation for the life to come… We get that vision in our reading from Revelation… “The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down from heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.”
I pray that all of us, Mother, Fathers, Children, Bishops, Priests and Deacons alike, may truly take our respective roles and responsibilities in the Church seriously… Keeping in mind the question I asked you on Palm Sunday… “If someone was to look at all aspects of our life would they truly and undoubtedly know that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives, the Lord of our families, the Lord of our Church? For Christ gives a great promise to those who remain faithful to THE WAY” Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”