Archives For Preaching

The Signs Accompanying the True Gospel:

The Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier

The Miracles of St. Francis Xavier by Peter Paul Rubens

“Signs will accompany those who believe” (Mark 16:17). Signs indicate the presence of a deeper reality. They don’t say something in and of themselves; rather, they confirm the veracity of a preexisting conviction. In Mark’s Gospel reading—chosen because of the Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier—we hear one account of Jesus’ parting words to his disciples. He reveals to them that great miracles will verify the good news that they preach to the world. However, it is important to note that such wonders are secondary in the text; they merely accompany the gospel. We know that Jesus’ miracles produced mixed reactions amongst the crowds. Very soon after He multiplied the loaves and the fish, the masses turned on Him because of His difficult teaching on the Eucharist. Based on this reality, it seems that the message is more important than the miracle.

Nevertheless, the signs are there. How might we approach them? While studying at the University of Oxford, I often engaged in discussions with a Polish student of physics and philosophy. Peter and I would talk about God, miracles, and the Church with great frequency, but Peter was an atheist. He would always remind me that miracles do appear to occur, but that they are easily explainable if we turn to quantum physics. After all, everything comes down to probability when you think about it. His conviction demonstrated to me that miracles, though they might have captivated the imagination of people of earlier days, don’t necessarily do the trick now, at least not among a certain class of intellectuals. Where, then, shall we turn?

Many people have speculated about the current crisis of the Roman Catholic Church. Some argue that the crisis is one of faith. Others say that it is an issue of trust. I think that we are living through a crisis of holiness. Why has Pope Francis, for instance, aroused so much interest? It is largely because he lives a life of authentic holiness. His lifestyle of sanctity turns more heads than the great number of miracles that have been performed within the Church since the start of his pontificate. The sign that verifies the message of the Gospel today is the sign of holiness.

Francis Xavier, being a saint, a holy man, as Bartlett’s coworker put it, is an outstanding model to follow in this regard. In one of his letters from the Far East to his fellow Jesuits, St. Francis exhorted them to “dispose themselves for much,” “que os dispongáis para mucho.” Though he surely disposed himself for much in that modern scholars estimate his performance of more than 30,000 baptisms, he also disposed himself in ways that are much more akin to our own. Where did Francis Xavier initially go when he arrived in Goa: first, to a hospital to minister to patients, like Dwyer; second, to a prison, like a number of our second years; third, to a school, like many of us first years. He knew both the little way of St. Therese and the big way of the early Apostles, both of which were signs that served to confirm the gospel he proclaimed.

St. Francis Xavier’s challenge to us, my brothers, is to internalize his call to “dispose ourselves for much.” I’m convinced that holy witness, above all, will convince this generation that God is truly Emmanuel. Let us pray that, during this advent season, we might rediscover the miraculous truth that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, as well. With God on our side, we can dispose ourselves to accomplish the impossible task put before the disciples and, of course, put now before us: the evangelization of the whole world.

Finding God in All Things: Second Sermon as a Jesuit Novice

X ALL THE THINGS - Find God In All The Things

I had the opportunity to share my second sermon as a Jesuit novice this past Friday. The Church takes the readings from Ephesians 4:1-6 and from Luke 12:54-59. Enjoy!

“God is over all and in all and through all.” Permit me to engage in a short moment of reminiscing. About two years ago at this time, a new teaching fell upon my ears, and it transformed my life.  It was simple, yet touching. My spiritual director told me that I could “find God in all things.” At first, the idea smacked of pantheism, but, then, as the conversation continued, he won me over. The concept seemed almost magical, mystical, and, as I have long been a romantic, it fit well with my fascination with the sublime. The idea was gorgeous, but could I live it?

Shockingly, I could. As I descended the stairs and walked out into the street, love permeated everything. Each individual, despite his or her bleak clothing (it was winter in England), was God-like, made in His image and likeness. I skipped past the local Chinese restaurant and praised the smells that crept into my nose. The food at the dinner table that night was extra-delicious. This attitude has continued, though, I must say, sapped of the initial bout of intrigue, up until the present time. God still reveals Himself to me in both ordinary and extraordinary ways.

As far as I can tell, the crowds in this reading were just like me before the turning point I’ve just described. They hadn’t discovered that Jesus was truly “LORD OF ALL.” Perhaps they needed a good Jesuit spiritual director to guide them; or, more likely, they needed God to open their eyes to the epitome of His presence in the world: the person of Jesus Himself.

Inevitably, Christians go through various stages in their spiritual development. It is one thing to acknowledge that God is over all and in all and through all, and another thing to live in that truth. For this reason, St. Paul urges us to “live in a manner worthy of the call we have received.” Fundamental to such worthy living is humility, the virtue to which Jesus exhorts us in the second half of today’s gospel selection. In recent weeks we’ve heard such beautiful talks on humility within these walls that it would be unfit for me to elaborate on this theme excessively. Therefore, I’d merely like to share two short exhortations and points of reflection as a way to conclude this message.

First, are we more attuned to reading the appearance of the earth and sky or to interpreting the present time? In other words, do we recognize the pattern of the earth without recognizing the patterns of the earth’s maker? While it is certainly good to know scientific data and philosophical facts, it is even better to know the mind and the heart of the author of science and philosophy themselves.

Second, do we judge what is right in and of ourselves alone, or do we ask God to inspire us with His judgment regarding the difficult situations of our lives? Do we default to attitudes of mediocrity, of passive aggression or of plain malevolence when confronted with a conflict, or do we ceaselessly seek peace, unity of mind, and reconciliation, as both St. Paul and Jesus suggest?

Tasks such as the ones I’ve named are intimidating, and at times we may feel that we have neither the energy nor the willpower nor the love necessary to reflect on God or to work for peace. However, we can expect that our Lord will give us the grace necessary to accomplish His will, trusting even that He lives over US, in US, and through US.

Thanks for reading! Your comments and questions are very welcome.

Best wishes,
David JW Inczauskis, nSJ

AMDG

Divine Mercy: My First Sermon as a Jesuit

Tomorrow, I’ll give my first homiletic reflection (sermon) as a Jesuit. What’s a more proper topic than Divine Mercy?! The context is Luke 15:3-7, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

When the Jesuit reporter Antonio Spadaro asked Pope Francis the simple question, “Who are you? Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”, the Pope responded, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Though He is the Vicar of Christ, the most “powerful” man in the Holy Mother Church, Francis identifies himself with the lost sheep that Jesus chases, with the sinner who receives God’s immeasurable mercy. In this spirit today I’d like to share two short comments and one brief exhortation that illustrate the length to which Jesus goes to offer us redemptive mercy and the call we have received to grant that mercy to others.

Jesus is a Shepherd of sheep, yet he is a sheep himself, the Lamb of God. We cannot separate these two roles of Our Lord. In the gospel parable Christ brings the lost sheep back to a celebration of neighbors, perhaps a great feast of thanksgiving. Is not this feast the Supper of the Lamb, the celebration of the Eucharist? And what is the Eucharist if not a ceremony of the Lamb’s Blood shed on the cross, poured out for sinners? When we approach the Body and Blood of Jesus in our daily celebrations here, we come both as sinners upon whom Christ has shown mercy and as triumphant soldiers in the Army of the Lord who glory in the victory of the Cross.

But now, the mass does come to an end. This banquet is only a foretaste of the everlasting wedding supper to come. While we remain on earth, there is work to be done for the sake of the gospel. Is this task any different from that of the pastor of Luke’s parable? We, strengthened by the mercy of Christ ourselves, set the world on fire by showing that mercy to sinners. One considers the witness of the late Cardinal Bernardin, who, amidst the false accusations of sexual abuse, agreed to meet with the man who brought forth these charges. This man was dying of HIV/AIDS. He had left the Church. After this man, a certain Stephen, consented to an encounter with Bernardin, Stephen asked for full reconciliation with the Catholic community and God. Bernardin said mass for his accuser and offered him forgiveness, reminding us of the words of Jesus on the cross: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” In the midst of even the greatest forms of agony and backstabbing, we Catholics must commit to be instruments of God’s offer of peace to sinners.

What might we, Jesuit novices, have to learn from these things? Everything! As God despises the sins of his creatures yet loves them nonetheless, we must despise the sins of our fellow creatures yet grant mercy to them nonetheless! Who hates you? Who has wandered from you? Who makes you upset? Love them as Christ would. Who have you offended? Who do you hate? Whose attitudes and actions make you cringe? Be reconciled with these people in the spirit of Christ! We constantly receive the mercy of Christ, for we have sinned, yet we share the mercy of Christ because we are His imitators.

Let me close with a brief prayer taken from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It captures the essence of this Lucan parable: “Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself. Amen.”

Thanks for reading,

David JW Inczauskis, nSJ