“Say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In today’s Gospel Jesus sends out the seventy two disciples to prepare the way for Him. They went to every city and village he intended to visit and in those towns and villages they worked miracles, healed the sick, and cast out demons in order to prepare the way for the Lord, to open their hearts so that when the Lord came they would be ready to receive him.
Jesus gives these seventy-two preachers instructions about how they are to minister to the people they encounter, how they are to travel, and even what to do if they are rejected. But there is one thing that seems to stand out in His instructions to them. They are whether accepted or rejected, to proclaim to those they encounter “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”
In many ways I can identify with these seventy two disciples, for I too have been sent by the Lord, through the mediation of Bishop Swain, to minister to you, the people of St. Rose of Lima Parish. And I must admit right up front, that I did not follow perfectly the instructions of the Lord in our Gospel; I did not come with “no money bag, no sack, [or] no sandals.” In fact I came with all three, and a whole lot more.
I am sure that many of you are wondering about me. Honestly, I sometimes wonder about me too. You may be wondering “What kind of priest is this man?” “What changes is he going to make?” “Will he be like Fr. Tom or will he be more like Fr. Tony?” I am sure these and many other questions are on your mind, and in time they will be answered.
As time goes on you will also realize that I will make some changes. Some of you might have already notices some small changes. Every priest has his preferences, and I am no different. But know this; I will never make a serious change without first praying and reflecting over the matter. I will never make a serious change without first seeking the opinions of other, more experienced priests as well as others who would be able to help me in these sort of decisions. I will always seek, above all, to do the will of the Lord as given to us through the teachings of His Church. I seek to be a servant of God, and thus I seek to His will, expressed it the teachings of the Church, in all things.
You will probably soon realize, if you haven’t already, that I am not Fr. Imberi, Fr. Mason, or Fr. Fitzpatrick. Certainly they are much thinner and better looking than I can every hope to be. Realistically, I know that I will probably be compared to them, and that’s only natural. Like all of us, I have my strengths and weakness, my triumphs and failures. So please be patient with me as we get to know each other better over time.
In our Gospel Jesus tells the seventy-two to preach that “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you” whether they are accepted or rejected. This message is at the heart of the message of Jesus, and thus it is the message I hope to bring to each member of this Parish.
The Kingdom of God is at hand for you. This, like everything Jesus said and did is not only meant for all of us as a group, but for each of us as individuals. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to say “The kingdom of God is at hand for everyone” But he told them to say that “The kingdom of God is at hand for YOU.” Our encounter with Christ, although communal, is also personal. He calls each one of us by name. He calls to each of us and reminds us that His Kingdom is near to us.
This personal encounter with Christ is at the heart of the ministry of the pastor. He is to be Christ’s personal representative to the whole parish, but also to each individual in the parish. These encounters with Christ through the ministry of the priest happen in a very particular way through the seven Sacraments. Whether Baptism, Confession, The Holy Eucharist, Marriage, or The Anointing of the Sick, it is a personal encounter with Jesus Himself through the Ministry of the Priest. Truly in the Sacraments the Kingdom of God is at hand for us, individually and personally, and that, my people, is powerful. God loves you so much, that He has sent Christ to you in the Sacraments, so that you, individually, personally, might have an encounter with Him.
As I begin my time here at St. Rose I am mindful that I am here to be Christ in your midst. I am here to make present to each and every one of you the Kingdom of God. I am here to make that Kingdom so present in our lives and in your community that when the Lord calls us home, we will gently step out of this world into the glorious Kingdom of God, which although present here and now is hidden from our eyes. In other words, I am here to lead you to heaven.
As we begin this new adventure together let us pray for one another, that together, as one family, we may make progress in our way to heavenly Kingdom of God. For truly, my brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Praised be Jesus Christ!