Homily for the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier
I really truly believe that today’s Gospel is a perfect one to reflect on at the beginning of the Advent season. It challenges us with the question: what (or rather, who) is at the foundation of our faith? Is Jesus the rock whom we have built our faith upon? If he is, then this is an opportunity to pray about how we can continue to build up and strengthen that foundation. If he isn’t that rock, the Lord is inviting us to make Him so.
Over the last few days, I have been talking to a few of my friends about faith and the importance of having a deep and personal relationship with the Lord. I often think that as Catholics in particular, that idea can be somewhat challenging for us to grasp. In the past, as a Church, we have really just not done the best in encouraging our fellow Catholics to embrace that personal relationship with Jesus. Instead, we tend to focus our evangelization efforts on sharing why the Church teaches what it does and why the Church does the things she does – the Mass, the Sacraments, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, those things are all well and good, but if we don’t take the next step and see everything that the Church does in light of the invitation to a personal relationship with Jesus, then we’re doing it wrong.
When the going gets tough, when life blows up in your face and a moment of suffering or uncertainty comes, it’s not going to be the Catechism that gets us through those situations. The things that the Church teaches will definitely make us better informed and help us to make the best decisions when challenging things come our way, but the only person who is going to help us through challenging times is Jesus. If we don’t have him as the center and focus of our faith or if we don’t desire to have him at the center, then why are we here? That’s what Jesus is saying in the Gospel today: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
What is interesting about this reading is that the Church skips two verses in this section of the Gospel. Included in those omitted verses is the line where Jesus says: “on that day…I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” Do we want to hear those words at the end of our lives? Do we really want to hear Jesus say to us “I never knew you”? I know I certainly don’t.
So let this Gospel today challenge us. Reflect on the ways that we do not have the Lord at the center of our faith. As we continue with the Season of Advent, what are some ways that we can strengthen that relationship? Introduce the reading of scripture into personal prayer time at the beginning or ending of our day. Sign up for a time slot each week for adoration. Make a resolution to go to confession once a week or once every two weeks. Instead of listening to music on the way to or home from work, spend that time having a conversation with the Lord – share with Him what’s on your heart, what struggles you’re enduring.
Jesus already knows us, but He wants us to know Him. Because it’s that personal relationship with Him that allows us to endure the hardships of life and to do the Father’s will in the midst of them. When we get to the other side of life, what will Jesus say to you and me: I never knew you? Or will he say, “welcome home”?