I haven’t found anything about the world’s record for the shortest sermon. But there is the story from tradition reported by St. Jerome of St. John to whom the fourth gospel is attributed.By the time he was old, frail, infirm, and had to be carried into the sanctuary John was down to the one same sermon, repeated Sunday to Sunday until he reached his death bed. His sermon was: “Little children, love one another.”It’s a timely sermon for any congregation, anywhere, and it hardly takes ninety-three hours to say it. But I suspect it requires a lifetime to do it, maybe longer.
Here we go! It’s time for the sermon I bet most of us have heard at least once in our lifetime.
This Sunday we will hear the Gospel reading taken from John 6:1-15. This is the story of the multiplication of loaves, where Christ feeds 5000 people with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish (a pretty impressive miracle wouldn’t you think?).
Depending on your pastor, it might be time for the Silly Sermon of the year where they like to proclaim that the real miracle was not the multiplication of the loaves at all. The real miracle was that the people, inspired by Jesus of course, took out the food they had stashed under their cloaks and tunics and shared it with everybody else. The preacher will then proclaim that this is an even greater miracle than the multiplication of the loaves. Can you imagine it? People actually sharing? Wow!
I can’t quite get myself to see much of a miracle in a bunch of guys pulling sandwiches out their pockets and sharing them. Well, just for fun, let’s pretend that it is.
In that case, my generation had a much bigger miracle than this one that we can brag about. At the Woodstock festival, way back in August of 1969, there was all kinds of sharing going on. I’m not sure if Jesus was there or not but I’m pretty sure there were a lot of folks there that may have thought that they were Jesus. Anyway, at Woodstock the hippies not only shared their food but they were sharing their drugs and some were even sharing their bodies with almost anyone they met. Now that was huge. Quite the miracle don’t you think? It makes Jesus’ miracle look small in comparison. Maybe Jimi Hendrix made them share all their stuff, I’m not sure. I don’t know what possessed them to do it but most of them don’t remember doing it anyway. Most people my age aren’t even sure if they were there or not. We think we were; but we’re not sure, a miracle in its own right, maybe. We could have stepped through a wormhole or a time warp or something.
Anyhow, I’ve given you ample warning. So now you can remember to put your thinking caps on before you go to church because you may need them: the “miracle of sharing” sermon is coming to a parish somewhere close to you this Sunday. I can hardly wait, can you? Let’s all just share in the silliness!
Oh, and just one word of apology to all my stingy, non-sharing Jewish friends. We don’t really believe this sermon, it’s just so much fun. So lighten up, would ya?
If we have a very modern view of religion, we might think that the best church is one where one enjoys a steady diet of fun-filled get togethers with others from their parish: what many call fellowship. It almost becomes the sum total gain of their church experience. Their non-confrontational stances are easy to accept and their focus on being tolerant of secular views makes them unthreatening to society as a whole. They avoid like the plague any controversial stand that might look to the world as being old fashioned or even medieval in the adherence to ancient and irrelevant traditions and doctrines of their father’s faith.
I see this often even among Catholics who do not do ‘fellowship’ extremely well, trying desperately to try to gain this carefree happy church feeling as if it were the goal and end to the church experience. Unfortunately, such a modern outlook is only diverting our eyes from the task at hand. To be a good Catholic is not however morose. It may not be happy, happy, happy but it is not without joyful satisfaction if we live our faith as our forefathers have lived it for some 2,000 years.
Happiness is different from joy. Happiness speaks to the well being of our mental and physical situation. That is an unrealistic view of the world we live in and the war that the Church has constantly waged against the world, the flesh and the devil. But joy is a deeper satisfaction of the heart, for it resides strictly in our souls and is the gift of God, given by His grace. This love for us is without parallel in any other church. We find our joy in suffering with Christ, in enduring with Christ amid the darkest of times. We rely on Him and revel in being able to be used by Him to spread His word, His love and His Good News: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Well nearly everyone, even some of our own Catholic brothers and sisters, priests, theologians, Biblical scholars et al ascribe to a watered down version of Christianity and reject the Cross. So, maligned as we are, it becomes the joy of the saints to be united with Christ in His continuing mission among men. It seems counter-intuitive to the world that we can find joy in suffering and persecution.
As for myself, I find consolation in the fact that the Church is being persecuted, scandalized and attacked. Why? Because it is what I would term “the negative proof of the True Church” and that I can have confidence in the Church as being the Church that Christ founded to call the world to the salvation of their souls by applying the Sacrifice of Christ to their souls: He is our All in all.
The negative proof is also born out in our historical look at the attacks She has weathered over the years. Sometimes I think that our Church is known better as the True Church by Satanists than She is by our own members and the mocking world.
You see, Satanists have long broken into the Catholic parishes to steal the consecrated hosts within our tabernacles. Now they will risk life and limb to do this so that they can desecrate and demean our Lord in the Holy Sacrament. They use the Sacrament of the Altar (the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ) to perform the most diabolical form of worship that exists on the face of the earth: the black mass. The entire ceremony is to ridicule, debase and desecrate Christ our Lord. These Satanists will not break into Anglican or Methodist churches to secure their form of communion bread. They realize, as do we (or we should), that Christ is only present in the consecrated hosts that can only be found in the Catholic Church. Sadly, they may believe more in the Real Presence and the gift of the Priest than do many Catholics sitting in the pews on Sunday.
It is our spiritual combat with all these forces that is a mark of our acceptance of the Sacrament of Confirmation where we were given the grace to fight this battle. The one caveat we usually ignore is that we must use this grace. We must exercise this gift to be among those who will, in the end, be welcomed as honored and valiant warriors by our Lord.