Fr Bernie Gilgun’s homily, Jan 26, 2007

posted by Mike on January 27th, 2007

This is the first of what will hopefully be many recordings of homilies by Father Bernie Gilgun, from his weekly Mass at the Mustard Seed in Worcester, Massachusetts. You can download the mp3 (6.7MB) or see other formats. You can also subscribe (RSS) to the podcast.

The universal church is celebrating today the Feast of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus.

St Timothy and St Titus were both disciples of Saint Paul. St Paul established Timothy as Bishop of Ephesis, and he established Titus as Bishop of Crete. And apart from that and apart from St Paul, we wouldn’t know anything about Timothy and Titus. We know Timothy and Titus, who they are and what they did, because Paul wrote to them, and because Paul taught them.

He loved Timothy. In that reading which Sue read for us, he said, “I think about you night and day.” Every single day. I’m always thinking about you, remembering your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and the faith they had that I know is in you. “I am yearning to see you again.”

He loved Timothy, Titus too. And in this special way, he calls Timothy “my son,” “my child.”

So, instead of meditating tonight in these few minutes on Timothy and Titus, I thought we might meditate on St Paul, whose feast was yesterday. The Conversion of St Paul was yesterday. And that’s the patronal feast of our diocese. Our basilica takes its name from the converstion of Saint Paul, on the 25th of January.

St Paul was, perhaps, the greatest missionary in the history of the Church. He certainly paid a price for his missionary efforts. He established church after church after church. And everywhere he established a church he paid a high price for it. Imprisonments, beatings, betrayals, shipwreck, just on and on and on. How one man could suffer what he suffered–and yet he said, “I glory only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He didn’t want anything else but suffering. “I glory only–God forbuid that I should glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This remarkable change in a man, from a persecutor of the Church, to the pillar of the Church. There’s nothing like him in the history of the Church. In fact, some Protestants used to say, that “Jesus gave us the Gospel, but Paul founded the Church.” That’s not the truth, of course, but you see the foundation of that remark.

Paul–the early Church was established by Paul, and what he didn’t establish, then till now, he instructs through the lessons that we read time after time after time after time. Mass after Mass after Mass, from St Paul’s letters.

Ronnie Knox says that all the letter of St Paul can be summed up in one phrase: “In Christ Jesus.”

You all know the story of him. Persecuting the Church in Jerusalem first of all, and then setting out to Damascus, to find any Christians there, bind them up, and bring them to the authorities for punishment.

On his way to Damascus he was binded by a great white light that knocked him off his horse. The others with him, he said, saw the light, but they didn’t hear the voice. He alone heard the voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is foolish to kick against the goad.”

Paul said: “Lord, who are you?” He said: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.”

Paul understood right then and there that the Church was the Body of Christ, and in persecuting the Church he was persecuting the Lord, Jesus. He never forgot that lesson when he learned it that time, and in any case . . . .

He fasted for three days, remained blind, and at the time that the Lord was appearing to Saul he was also appearing to Ananias. And he said, “Go to Paul and”–oh, as soon as he said Saul!–“Go to Saul and . . . .”

The scripture tells us that Ananias trembled at the sound of the name Saul. He trembled. Said, “I don’t want to go near him. Don’t want anything to do with him. Don’t you know how he’s persecuting the Church, how he’s a villain of the worst order. I don’t want anyth–”

And the Lord says to Ananias in the vision, “Don’t be afraid to go to him. I have chosen him. He is a vessel of election, to bring the glory of my name to nations, to kings, and to the people of Israel. And I will make clear to him how much he must suffer in my name.”

Ananias goes to Paul, restores his sight, Paul rests for a few days, and then he begins his missionary life.

And every breath he ever took after that was for the glory of the Lord. He was absolutely single-minded. There was nothing else that mattered to him at all. What he undertook! And what he endured for the sake of the Gospel is unparalleled in the history of the Church. It’s no wonder that the basilica, that the cathedral here is named for St Paul. The Boston Episcopal cathedral is St Paul. The cathedral in London is St Paul. All around the world cathedrals are named to St Paul, because the role that Paul played in the foundation of the Church, even in the Church of Rome.

Peter, of course, was the first Bishop of Rome, but we never, in the old liturgy, said Peter’s name without saying the name of Paul, like in the Confeteor, “the holy apostles Peter and Paul.” It was like one person, “the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the holy apostles Peter and Paul.” It was together that they laid down the foundation of the Church in Rome.

A few years ago, at the end of the last century, there was a great deal of excitement in Rome, when, because of the techniques and the tools of modern archaeology, they discovered, under the Basilica of Saint Peter, just as we had always been told, there is the Vatican Cemetary. And in the Vatican Cemetary is buried Peter, whom Jesus established as chief of the apostles.

At the end of the last century the evidence was found, and of course now the tomb’s there and venerated, everybody that can goes down to the crypt for the tomb of St Peter.

Just a few months ago, in this past year, 22-06-06, the same thing was repeated under the Basilica of St Paul. We were always told—people laughed at us for being so naive—but we were always told, under the Basilica of St Peter is St Peter, and under the Basilica of St Paul is St Paul. And that has been demonstrated now to be the fact.

So there was added reason for celebrating the Feast of St Paul this year, because his body had been identified for the first time in many many centuries, as being just what we always said it was. Under the Basilica of St Paul.

But we celebrate–there’s only one feast in the year, we have all kinds of feasts and categories of feasts in the Church’s calendar, but we only have one feast for a conversion. Saint Augustine’s conversion was dramatic, and influential for the life of the Church, but there’s no Feast of St Augustine’s Conversion. Nor is there a Feast of Mary Magdalene’s Conversion, or anybody else’s conversion. The only conversion we celebrate as a solemn feast is the conversion of St Paul.

But St Paul isn’t the only one who should have a conversion. We all should have a conversion, every single day. The word means turning toward. St Paul’s conversion was the turning toward God of this one-time persecutor of the Church, who became the Church’s chief apostle in missionary effort and endeavor. He turned toward God when he was blinded by the light, fell off the horse.

I say sometimes, every morning when we wake up, we are pagans until we bless ourselves and begin our morning prayers, and we turn toward God again, and are Christians again for a new day.

Every day we must have that conversion. Every day we must have that turning toward God.

The other thing that I think of when we celebrate the conversion of St Paul is this added line of Jesus. He says to Ananias, “Don’t be afraid to go to him, I’ve chose him, that he bring my name to all the nations, to kings, and to the people of Israel, and I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” What an invitation! “I’ll show you how much you must suffer for my name’s sake.”

But that was the case. And yet in all that suffering that Paul endured, there was abiding joy. He never never never regretted his decision, he never thought of turning back. In fact, as I said a moment ago, he said, “God forbid that I should find joy in anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Tonight we remember how he instructed Titus and Timothy, and through Titus and Timothy all the Christians who lived in Crete and Ephesis, their two dioceses. And all these years later those same letters are an instruction to us. Reminding us that like St Paul, we must have a conversion, every single day. Every single day we are pagans until we bless ourselves and turn toward God again, seeking only to know His will, and the strength to carry it out.

That will involve abiding joy. That will involve abiding joy.

What of the Little Flower, how the Little Flower suffered with tuberculosis, dying of tuberculosis, her body wracked with pain, impossible—

Somebody said that our Lord Jesus died from, he choked to death, he ran out of breath, he couldn’t breathe. And that’s the hardest death of all. But that’s what killed him. He couldn’t breathe.

The Little Flower couldn’t breathe. She was happy to remember, “This is how Jesus died,” couldn’t breathe. But, like St Paul, St Thérèse, however it came, however the suffering came, she rejoiced in that suffering. Really and truly rejoiced. We should pray for that grace, to be able to say, from the bottom of our hearts in truth, “I don’t want any joy in this life except what I find in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His work, in His way, in His Gospel.”

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a comment