Sunday, February 05, 2017


Some time today before tonight's 6:30 kickoff two coaches will address their teams one last time before they take the field for Superbowl 51.  Their messages will most likely not be addressed to individuals but the team as a whole.  They will direct their teams' attention to the gifts and talents that they already posses and challenge them to know that those gifts exist for the purpose of bringing their team to victory. Some time later at halftime those teams will be back in their locker rooms and winning or losing at that point their coaches will speak again.  The coaches will point out the successes and the failures of the first and instill in them a hope that using those gifts and talents they will succeed.  And win or lose both of those teams will return to the locker rooms at the end of the game and the coaches will speak once more and even the non victorious team will hear their coach speak perhaps of some individual achievements but will once again acknowledge the universal gifts and talents that brought the team to success that season.  The victories and the losses of life are reflective of the team not one individual.

Today's Gospel continues Jesus' Sermon on the Mount; his address to the team that are his disciples.  He speaks to their gifts, calling them salt and light, and teaches them that these gifts are to be used for a victory that serves others and gives glory to our heavenly Father.  He isn't telling them to conjure up these gifts or intensify them - as a team they are already salt and light, they simply must dedicate themselves to using them.

Salt and light elements that do not exist for themselves, they are made for the other. Salt preserves and brings out flavor.  Light highlights beauty helping us to appreciate it more and it also illuminates what is evil, dark and dangerous.  In commissioning his "team" Jesus is identifying them as gifts that are made for others.  To be salt, bringing forth the flavor, the presence of God and preserving the goodness of his kingdom.  To be the light that helps all to acknowledge the beauty of God's presence and to illuminate the darkness of sin and evil.

So in the midst of the game, how is this team, this church, these disciples doing? Looking over the course of some 2000 years of history, we can see the effects of the salt and light of the church.  In the care for the poor and infirm, the team has responded.  In the education of young and old, we have seen victory.  In laying down lives in sacrifice for those who are treated with injustice, persecution and violence we have known triumph. 

But as a team of disciples we must also be attentive to our
failures.  How did genocide and holocaust take hold in Christian Europe and anciently Christian Russia?  Why did slavery and racism take root in a land founded by Christian pilgrims?  Why does gun violence prevail in the streets of cities with churches on every block?  Why in a country that was born under the Christian premise that all are created equal do we see abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, bigotry and bias being celebrated as a right?  Quite simply these are examples of the team, Christian disciples not being salt and light.

Today we mark the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. We celebrate and give thanks for the professed religious men and women who through their communities have been at the forefront of manifesting the gifts of salt and light and even more so modeled for us the unity of team.  We may mention a particular sister or brother who taught us, but we speak of being educated by the Dominicans, the Jospephites, Sisters of Mercy, Christian Brothers, Franciscans and Marianists. We not only give thanks for what they have done for the mission of Jesus Christ in the church, but pray fervently that consecrated life may continue to grow and flourish.

As we receive the Holy Eucharist, we are reminded of whose
team we are on and through it we are empowered to be salt and light as a team.  We are the team of the universal church. This week we celebrated the installation of our new Bishop, John Barres and from those days one image of team stands out for me.  The seminarians of the diocese were assembled to take a picture with the bishop.  The formed a semi-circle with some standing and some on one knee waiting for the Bishop to slip into his spot.  Before he did that though, the Bishop stood before the group of seminarians and spoke with them for about five minutes.  He looked like a coach speaking to his team.  I expected them to run a play after he was done. As church we can never forget that we are a team united around our bishop who stands before us in the fullness of Christ's priesthood.

Our families are the most basic of our Christian teams, where salt and light are fostered.  Our families are fractured, not necessarily in the sad brokenness that is a reality for many. But by simply having two and sometimes three generations in one household our families can be simply a group of individuals living under the same roof.  We pray for the unity of our families, the first team of Christian life so that they may be salt and life for each other and the world.

Its half time, the struggle is real.  The gifts have brought successes and our failure to use them have hurt us.  Let us hear Jesus speak to us, recognize the gifts with in us and use them to be salt, light and share in the building of his kingdom

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