Fr Alec's reflections on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

When Peter Chanel was a boy in France, he read letters from French missionaries to America, which enkindled in him the desire to become a missionary himself...[T]his weekend our cluster focuses on the continuing missionary efforts in India.


watch the video: Fr Alec's reflections on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time


read the text:

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord be with you.                                        R./ And with your spirit.

Let us pray.
O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.     R./ Amen.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (13:44-46) Jesus said to his disciples:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it"

The Gospel of the Lord.

For this video, I am once again in St. Michael Church standing, this time, in front of the statue of St. Peter Chanel, the Marist missionary and patron of our Catholic School. When Peter Chanel was a boy in France, he read letters from French missionaries to America, which enkindled in him the desire to become a missionary himself—a desire that was fulfilled when he was given the opportunity to travel to the South Pacific to minister to people who had never heard of Christ. Now, I love missionaries. I really do. Like Peter Chanel, I too have had the desire at times to serve in the missions. So, I have a great admiration for those who do.

It was Jesus himself who first sent his followers to be missionaries: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” It has long been said that one of his very first disciples, the Apostle Thomas, was a missionary to what is now India. And this weekend our cluster focuses on the continuing missionary efforts in India. Our prayers are needed for the Indian missions, and our financial support is also needed. The blue baskets in church this weekend are for the annual mission appeal, and contributions can also be mailed to, or dropped off at, the Pastoral Center. Please indicate that you want your donation used for the mission appeal, if you mail it in or use the Pastoral Center drop box.

Specifically, this year’s appeal is for the Diocese of Warangal, India. There are over 9 million people in that region, but only about 70,000 of them are Catholic—fewer than 1 out of 100. It is a mostly rural diocese, and most people work in agriculture, as farmers and such. There are no major industries in Warangal. The first known Catholics arrived in that part of India about 130 years ago, in 1887, as railroad workers. More Catholics arrived in later decades looking for land to cultivate. Italian missionaries were sent to minister to the Catholic population and, we are told, they also “engaged themselves spreading the Faith to others of the area and gradually won many people for Christ.” That’s the work of the Church—not only tending the Catholic flock, but reaching out to others, too, as Jesus commanded.

We reach out to others, not only because Jesus commanded us to, but also because we care about them and because we appreciate the Christian faith that has been handed on to us. Through this faith and through our baptism, we have been received into the Kingdom of God. Ours is the pearl of great price in today’s gospel; ours is the treasure in the parable. But when we share our faith, it is not lost; instead, our faith grows when we share it. That has been the experience of the people of Warangal, India. Those early Catholic families and the missionaries sent to them were like the little bit of leaven we heard about last week, the little bit of yeast, that produced a huge amount of food. The seed that fell on good ground did yield a fruitful harvest. 

Like all missionaries, those serving in Warangal today are concerned about people’s lives here and now, not only about their eternal destiny. As one of the Vatican II document says: “the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for the cultivation of this one. That is, as we look forward to heaven, we should be working hard to make this world more heavenly. So the mission appeal helps not only with direct evangelization, direct mission work, but indirect mission work as well—ministering to bodies and minds, not only to souls. Our indirect mission work in the Diocese of Warangal focuses on education for the rural children, especially “on the education of the girlchildren, who are looked down [on] even today,” we are told. Plus, there are other medical, social service, and charitable institutions for everyone, not just the Catholics. We serve people because we are Christians, not because they are.

And the mission is not just one-way. We share our prayers and financial support with the people of the Indian missions; they, in turn, share their prayers, and some of their ministers, with us. Indian priests, including from the Diocese of Warangal, serve in the United States today, helping us with our ongoing priest shortage. As you may know, several Indian priests serve now in our diocese—in East Baton Rouge and Ascension and Assumption and Livingston civil parishes.

You might be interested to know that the coronavirus pandemic has affected the people of India in some of the same ways as the people of the United States. America is #1 in reported coronavirus cases, and India is #3. The churches of the Warangal diocese also closed completely, before reopening. And when they reopened, their people, like ours, were told to wear masks when coming to mass and to follow social distancing in church. They reopened with restrictions on the number of people who could come to church, just like us. Their people also could not receive the Blood of Christ at mass. Catholics in the Warangal diocese faced some of the same restrictions in their church as we have, and as people throughout the world have. And, actually, I found out on Friday that their churches have now closed for a second time, and they are closed currently.

What we have in common with them is far greater than what separates us. When their churches are open, they hear the same readings as us. They pray the same prayers as us. The same Body of Christ is shared during their masses. However, as I said, fewer than 1 in 100 people in their area are Catholic. Moreover, according to a Warangal priest currently serving in Mississippi, the people of their diocese “live from hand to mouth with their daily bread provided by God. But for [their] other needs, they depend on [us and] others.” This weekend, let us demonstrate our loving concern for the people of that area by helping to provide for their spiritual and material needs. Let us be generous with our prayers and generous with our donations. The Lord Jesus taught that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Let us, then, give and be blest.

St. Peter Chanel, please pray for the Catholic Church throughout the world, especially in the Indian missions.

St. Peter Chanel, pray for us.