Listen to Fr. Jeremy’s Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 30, 2018
This past Thursday (Sept 27) was the feast of St Vincent de Paul. St Vincent was ordained a Catholic priest in the year 1600 in southern France. He served the Church. He was known for his academic abilities and worked frequently as a tutor, teacher, and university professor. During a ship voyage in the Mediterranean, he kidnapped and enslaved in northern Africa for 2 years, until he managed to escape. In certain respects, he was part of and worked within the ‘system’ of the formal structures of the Church. And yet, his eyes were open to more than simply running parishes. Having been raised in a very poor family himself, he knew the difficult plight of the impoverished. In a particular way during his priestly ministry, he realized a real need to provide medical attention to the poor. So moving beyond his parish or his academics, he began to start, manage, and staff many hospitals in France. Later he saw an additional need and ministered to convicts in prisons to spread the Gospel. He actively and intensely recruited others to assist him – he organized a group of lay women known as the Ladies of Charity to help the sick. He founded a new religious order of priestly men later known as the Vincentians to spread the Gospel by missions, prayer, retreats. He even went on to found proto-seminaries to help form, reform, and educate priests in an age when seminaries as we know them really didn’t exist. He didn’t wait for others… or his bishop… or his brother priests… moved by the Spirit within the Church, he opened his eyes and acted.
Fédéric Ozanam was also a Frenchman. He too was educated. He was studying at the University of Paris and was a Catholic. In those days (1830s), just a few decades after the French Revolution, being Catholic was not exactly a social benefit. While part of a weekly student discussion group at the University of Paris in the 1830s when a fellow student [not a Catholic supporter] challenged Frédéric and the practicing Catholics of the group. The challenger was willing to concede that the Catholic Church had done much good work in the past, but bluntly asked them “But what do you do now?” Inspired by the challenge at the age of 20, with 5 other Catholic students and a university moderator, they formed the “Conference of Charity” to minister to the poor. That organization is now known as the St Vincent de Paul Society after their patron saint. He didn’t wait for others… or his parish priest… or his fellow Catholics… moved by the Spirit within the Church, he opened his eyes and acted.
A man some of you likely knew Larry Hamilton just passed away a few months ago. He was a member of Holy Family. After some spiritual retreats, a movement of the heart, a desire to respond to Christ’s challenge in Matthew 25 to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirst, clothing to the naked, warmth and shelter to the homeless, he founded In Heaven’s Eyes. It started slow, I’ve been told. But with his persistence, his patience, his passion to serve, it did eventually take off. It grew. He invited others. He kept at it. It now does regular immense good each week – each Wednesday giving food, each Sunday giving clothing, a meal, God’s presence to those on the margins especially at Exit 0. Today, In Heaven’s Eyes strives to show God’s love by providing clothing, spiritual meaning, and comfort to the poor, lost and needy. It is not restricted to those from this parish. It is an ecumenical work with Christians from other denominations working together to serve the poor. It exists because one man didn’t wait for others… or his parish priest… or his fellow parishioners… moved by the Spirit within the Church, he opened his eyes and acted.
“The spirit came to rest on [Eldad and Medad] also… and so they prophesied in the camp” (Num 11:26). And Moses answered them, “If only all the people of the LORD were prophets! If only the Lord would bestow his spirit on them[all]!’” (Num 11:29).
Jesus replied to the Apostles, “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk 9:39-40)
Who are you waiting for? Pope Francis? Archbishop Thompson? Me, your parish priest? Or the people sitting around you in the pews? Would that the Spirit within the Church would opened all of our eyes to see and act.