A Closing Thought

The following homily was the last one given at St. George by Fr. Chris prior to his departure.

     In moments like this, significant moments in our community’s life and in my own life, I oftentimes think that I need to be especially profound. But the fact is, brothers and sisters, there are truly no wiser words than those of Jesus Christ and St. Paul spoken 2,000 years ago. I cannot say anything better, more clever, or provide any more insight into the godly life than they have already offered us. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul said, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.” In other words, God blessed me to some degree, I contributed to the foundation but now, it’s someone else’s turn. That’s what he said.

     I, too, can look back and honestly say, “Together, we’ve laid a foundation.” Together, we have focused on making our church and Sunday morning the most beautiful they can be. Together, in various ways, we served meals to tens of thousands of people at no cost, we clothed the naked, we’ve visited the sick, we’ve shown hospitality to strangers, we’ve grieved with those who were grieving and we’ve celebrated with those who were celebrating. We’ve educated, nurtured, and given our youth a solid foundation of faith to follow. We’ve given over a million dollars to ministry. We’ve consecrated, rebuilt, repainted, remodeled, and replaced nearly every part of these buildings given to us from previous generations. Together we did all of this and everything was done while we continued to worship and thank our good, loving, merciful God. That was our strength. Christ was our inspiration. We never stopped praising Him or giving Him all of the credit for what we were able to do.

     This is what made these 18 years of ministry so wonderful here: as time went on, we became closer and closer to each other. You embraced me when I was there to embrace you. When your parents became sick and passed away, we were there to grieve together. When your children and grandchildren were born, we celebrated life by visiting you in the hospital, blessing the baby at 8 days and 40 days, and through the baptism, we were being reminded that God was behind everything. At those most significant times in your life, at those most vulnerable times like when you were sick in the hospital or caring for an elderly loved one, when you wanted to get married and make sure everything went perfectly, when you simply wanted prayers offered for your departed loves ones, we did everything together in God’s Name and, ultimately, it was that fact that brought us together, that made us truly family, that created a bond between us that we will never forget and we will never break. And why should we? Family, whether spiritual or biological, is still family. We belong to each other.

     In today’s gospel, Jesus said exactly what I’m thinking about the future of this community. When his disciples wanted to catch more fish, He encouraged them when they’d given up hope. He told them to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Step out of your comfort zone, leave the walls of this church today encouraged that God Himself, Jesus Christ has commissioned you to do the work of a modern-day apostle. Give them as much bait as they’d like: the bait of love, acceptance, joy, compassion, and peace. Prove to them through your own life that there’s absolutely nothing like the Christian life. And when you hesitate like Jesus’ disciples did, when you think and feel like you can’t do it, when you’re convinced that you have no power to persuade or to evangelize anyone, remember one thing: it’s not about you or your feelings. It’s about obedience. Servants are obedient to their masters no matter how they feel. Like St. Peter, who even said to Jesus that it was essentially a waste of time to try fishing again, you need to continue following Christ, serving Him and His Church for the rest of your life. You know very well that this has been my message for 18 years here at St. George and it’s going to continue to be my message for the rest of my life: serve Him. Love Him. Follow Him. Be like Him. Doing that, not only will each of us be strengthened individually but this Church will go on for many years to come.