September 28, 2016
WTC: Bishop Zurek, there will be a very special Mass on Tuesday, Oct. 18, that encompasses quite a few things here in the Diocese of Amarillo, when it concerns the “Ministries of Charity.” Can you elaborate on the Mass and who needs to be present for this Mass.
Bishop Zurek: When Pope Francis announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy, he gave us a rather incomplete outline of some of the events that he would do in Rome. As a good mentor, he didn’t tell the bishops that we had to plan these events. He said that these were the things he would do and that we could do them if they fit in our schedules. It would be great to incorporate these ideas into our parishes, or we could come up with some other ideas. This Mass will concretely recognize the Ministries of Charity in our diocese.
I was asked what I would entitle the Mass; I struggled with that myself. In preparing my homily for the Mass which will be on the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, I came up with the idea of Discipleship in the Ministries of Charity. I used Discipleship because this is not a volunteer ministry. Christians don’t volunteer; they are disciples. They have listened to Jesus through catechesis, the scripture, through liturgy and the homilies. They are to absorb it and try to model their life on it. Therefore, their living is not volunteering for anything; it is living like Jesus did. It is doing what Jesus did.
The catalyst for the liturgy will be the Judgement scene in Matthew’s Gospel, which is probably the best one. Jesus said that when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me to drink. So let’s look at who might come and who should come to celebrate that they have heard the call from Christ and they participate in these charitable ministries. They pattern their life on it and as a result they help people see Christ concretely.
Let’s look at some of the things that Catholic Charities does. They provide food for those who can’t provide for themselves, for those who are too poor, or elderly, or incapacitated in some way they cannot go to work. Food is provided by many churches, through many local agencies. But our own Catholic people are involved in answering when they say
“I was hungry.” We take up collections for food. We have a food store at Catholic Charities.
“I was thirsty.” You may say that water is free. But there are children who need formula, nutritious drink, milk, fruit juices to help build good, strong, healthy bodies.
Further in Matthew’s judgement scene, Jesus says,
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” There are a lot of strangers in our midst, and they’re not all from foreign countries. Some may be in our own neighborhoods and we have never connected with them. Many may have moved here from elsewhere; some are migrants; some may be refugees. The ancestors of all of us were refugees to this country at some time; our ancestors were strangers and immigrants. How beautiful it is to help the stranger, to help him find a place to live, a job. It is even more important to recognize their personal dignity. I can’t help but think about who we really do meet when we help them. Jesus Himself said at the end of the narrative, that when we do this we do it to the “the least of His brothers and sisters.”
If you want a really super, concrete account, use the Emmaus account. Two disciples are going back to their own town. They thought that Jesus was the Messiah and all of a sudden, He was condemned, crucified and died. Now people come up with a tale He has arisen! These two disciples are walking home to continue their lives as if Jesus had never existed. And the “stranger” in their midst was Jesus. Can you imagine the shock on their faces, in their eyes, how they are startled, a “gotcha moment” when Jesus breaks bread and they recognize Him doing what he did at the Last Supper. We meet the stranger. We have the opportunity to touch Jesus; we have the opportunity to look into the eyes of Jesus.
Let’s look at the sick. How many parishioners take Holy Communion to the hospitals or just go visit those who are sick and are shut-ins who don’t have the capacity or the strength to get out of their home any more. Do you realize what joy is brought to them when they can look at someone and smile, knowing that they have dignity, that someone comes to visit them. People say, “They come to my home, to my nursing facility, to my retirement center.” We have people who have no home; there is sometimes controversy here in Amarillo about the homeless, helping them, what can or cannot be done. Mercy knows no bounds. Help people find shelter. When we do that, we find Jesus. We help Him find shelter; we find the
posada, the inn, a place for Him to be born. The homeless need shelter and need dignity. All of those who work in these ministries, come and let us celebrate with you what God has called us to.
Let’s look at the poignant ministry to the city and county jails and to the state and federal prisons in the diocese. It is as needed and effective as before. We have an incredible number of people who go week in and week out to visit the prisoners. They have to go through all the security to get in and to get out. What do they do? They bring the Bible to them. They break open the Word for them; some people have joined the Church through this ministry. They go through RCIA with them. The most beautiful part is the celebration of Reconciliation that I have done, as well as Mass in the prisons. I can see something transformative when I am preaching and celebrating Mass with the most captive of captive audiences there. Their hearts are fixated on Jesus Christ.
We also have people who need clothing in Catholic Charities, especially our children. There are those who lack the money to buy coats and blankets during the cold winter months. These are all disciples who should come to the Mass. Come and celebrate what God has called us to. Celebrate what the Lord is effecting through us. Bringing the presence of Jesus to them, not just in the Eucharist, not just through the Bible and His Word, but by our very presence. We care, we love them, and we want to be merciful to them. Even if you are not involved in these ministries, you are welcome. Maybe in this liturgy you will be moved to help bring the mercy of God, the love of God to them and the dignity of the human person.