Sunday, February 1, 2015

Authority and Courage

“The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes (Mark 1:22).”

The last four Sundays, I have been preaching to you about our call as Christians.  First, we spoke about our universal call to holiness that we received at baptism.  Then we spoke about our call to always serve others.  Last week, I spoke about our call to serve the poor, and this week we are reminded about our call to proclaim the gospel with the same authority that Christ did.  There was a way that Jesus preached the gospel that captivated his early followers.  He did it with authority.  Obviously this came from above as the number of his followers grew.  What we sometimes fail to comprehend is that we too have this authority that Christ had to preach the gospel, for this authority was given to us through Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation by the seal of the Holy Spirit.  Authority is given.  Just as the Archbishop gave me authority as your pastor, each of you has received the authority to proclaim the gospel by the Holy Spirit.

The trouble is that we sometimes do not preach the gospel with the same gravitas that Jesus did, even though we have been given the authority to do so because the same Spirit that accompanied Jesus in his public ministry accompanies us every day.   We just have to have the conviction to preach the good news as Jesus did.  Last night, I was celebrating Mass for former Salesian students on the feast of St. John Bosco and I reminded them of something Don Bosco once said:  “In order to do good, we must have some courage.”  Unfortunately, and you’ve heard me say this many times, as Christians we sometimes lack the courage to go out and do good, to go out and defend our faith, and to go out and boldly proclaim the gospel.  One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive in Confirmation is the gift of courage, and this gift propels us to do amazing things.

Last week, one of brother’s fellow firefighters decided to run the Miami Half Marathon in his honor.  My brother ran it two years ago, and they used to see each other running up and down South Beach as they trained.  Yet this firefighter wasn’t simply going to run, he was going to run while wearing 75 pounds of firefighting equipment.  I can barely take two steps wearing my brother’s old gear, and this brave soul was going to run with this cross on his shoulders for 13.1 miles to honor my brother.  He didn’t say much.  He simply ran.  Obviously, his gear caught the attention of others including the media that featured him prominently in the evening news.  My family and I were deeply moved by this gesture as well as so many others who saw this as such an example of love and courage to call attention to the stress that all first responders have to go through because they deal with unspeakable tragedies every single day.  But this courageous young man was not done yet.  As I was preparing to go in for my last Mass of the day last Sunday, this courageous young man showed up at the front door of our church to present to me the medal he won to honor my brother.  As my sister and I put these stories up on social media last week, people were deeply moved.  This is courage.  This is true authority.  This is preaching the gospel without saying any words.  This is selfless, sacrificial, and heroic.  This is what Jesus spent his life doing.  This is what each of us is called to do.  This firefighter reminded us last week, that there are still Christ-like heroes among us.  What’s holding you back from doing the same?