- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

Excerpts from the homily delivered yesterday by the Rev. John F. Myslinski at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville:

Recently, I was talking to a young man in his 20s who has left the church and believes that maybe he no longer even believes in God.

I asked him why he felt so abandoned or so disconnected with the mystery of God and he said that “if God really wanted any of us to believe, he would speak to us.”

I thought, to which God himself might reply — through faith that he shouts at us all the time — through the beauty of his creation that surrounds and sustains us. Grace and goodness is everywhere for those who are able to sense its presence and are generous in their search for it in what might seem strange places — a hug, a quiet morning, a cool breeze, a child’s laughter, a meal shared with loved ones.

A prominent American bishop has said that a major problem with American Catholicism is that so few Catholics seem to have a conversion experience. They have heard about Jesus or read about him, but they have never met Jesus. They know about him, but they don’t know him. For us as Catholics we find Jesus primarily in our tradition, in the way we pray and in the way we worship, and all this within our Catholic faith.

Some may ask, with all that seems so wrong with the church today, “Why within this tradition am I able to encounter most fully this Son of God, Jesus Christ?” And all this should provoke in each one of us a response to, “Why are we Catholic?”

In answering that for myself I can say, after much reflection and soul-searching, that I am Catholic because I was born a Catholic, raised a Catholic, educated a Catholic, and I like being a Catholic. I am Catholic because of our beautiful belief in Mary, the Mother of God. …

I am a Catholic because of our sacraments — which throughout our lives remind us of our journey, our spiritual journey with and to Christ. I am a Catholic because of our Christmas and Easter Liturgies, which are so wonderfully surrounded by the warmth of families and friends. And I am a Catholic because I know and love other Catholics who share a great pride in what it means to be part of this universal, holy and diverse people of God.

I am Catholic because of the good men and women I have known. But most of all, I am Catholic because of what we do here at this altar, as Christ did when he fed the 5,000. I am Catholic because of the Eucharist we share — the body and blood of Christ. And when we involve ourselves in this breaking of the bread, we, too, like those 5,000, can once again affirm our faith that Jesus is “truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

The difficult time our church is facing, the crisis of trust in our pastors, the scandal to the young — all this should be an opportunity to realize what is proclaimed in Psalm 145: “The mercy of the Lord is truly near to all who call upon him.” And to proudly recommit ourselves once again to the wonderful tradition of our Catholic faith.

I am proud to be a Catholic for many reasons, and I remain a Catholic for many reasons. And the most important of those is what we do here in this church as we celebrate this command of Christ: “Do this in memory of me.” As Dom Gregory Dix so beautifully writes, “And best of all, week by week, and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailing, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make holy the common people of God.”

And finally, we remind ourselves once again that for all the Catholic corruption, for the injustices performed in the name of Christ, and for the failings and sins of our Church leaders, we as Catholics can still find here in this beautiful tradition, that special and unique opportunity to meet and know Jesus Christ.

I share the sentiments of a young man, the editor of Portland magazine, Brian Doyle, when he writes: “So I am a Catholic for many reasons. Sometimes I think I might also be a Buddhist because that faith is calm and wide, and sometimes I think perhaps I am also a pantheist because I smell divinity in music, herons, drunkards, flowers. But Catholic is the coat I wear, Catholic is the house in which I live.”

It is a house that needs cleaning, a house in which savagery and cowardice have thrived, where evil has a room with a view, where foolishness and greed have prominent places at the table. But it is also a house where hope lives, and hope is the greatest of mercies, the most enduring of gifts, the most nutritious of foods. Hope is what we drink from the odd story of the carpenter’s odd son. When we eat his body in the ludicrous miracle of the Mass, we hope in him, and with him, forever and ever, world without end, amen, amen, amen.

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