Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Sunday, January 21, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     One week ago, early on Saturday morning, an alert was issued in Hawaii about incoming missiles.  An article I read online this week was an interview with Dallas and Monica Carter, a Catholic family from Honolulu.  Dallas said that four thoughts went through his mind when he saw the alert:  1)  I need to go to confession.  2)  How do I do that perfect act of contrition thing?  3)  I need to get the children together the pray the rosary.  4)  Where is my whiskey?  As you know, it was a false alarm.  But the article said that all over the islands the next day, Sunday Masses were packed.  It is what Dallas called #MissileConversions.  At the end, he mentioned what he would do differently if this happened again.  He said, "Have more whiskey readily available.  I'd have a rosary in one hand, and my favorite whiskey in the other."

     This story highlights how many of us relate to God. We get in a jam, and cry out, "God, I need you!"  Today's Gospel highlights another, more mature, way to relate to God.  This is to hear Jesus say to each of us here today, by our name, "I need you."

     In the call of Peter, Andrew, James and John, Jesus says, "I need help."  He takes common, ordinary fishermen and makes them fishers of men and women.  It says they immediately left everything, their business and their families, and followed him.

     Now I suspect that the Gospel shortens what really happened. It must have taken longer for them to make such a huge decision.  And I suspect that their reasons for following Jesus evolved over time.  They must have been like we are, and in the beginning focused on what is in this for me?  What do I get out of following Jesus?  If we read through the Gospels, we see how they slowly had to learn that discipleship would involve sacrifice, and even the cross.

     Fr. James Martin in one of his books says we become saints in stages.  That is true.  Look at the saints of our tradition, and the saints of our lives, and they did not go "poof" and automatically become holy.  Saints go through lots of conversions, lots of stages, in their discipleship.  Each conversion involves more of a subtraction than an addition.  Like Peter, Andrew, James and John, each stage involves leaving something behind.

     We become saints in stages.  This is also true of our parish and student center.  Seventy years ago St. Thomas Aquinas was founded on this site.  In the 1950's, our lower lounge was the church for over ten years.  In 1964, our church was built.  In the 1990's, some of us were here for a major campaign that expanded and renovated our facilities, and endowed the Mgsr. Supple Chair of Catholic Studies at Iowa State University.  And five years ago, a generous person gave an amazing gift which enabled us to greatly expand our parish parking. 

     A few years ago, our parish leadership discerned that our next stage is not bricks and mortar.  Our next stage is people, to reach more on our campus and community.  We do not want to become like some churches, with a really nice church building but empty pews.

     So a few months ago, we launched our Catching Souls campaign, to endow and embed four campus missionaries, to increase our financial stability, and to allow us to expand other parish priorities.  Our celebration goal was 4 million, with a challenge goal of 5 million.  Today I am thrilled and honored to say that we have raised over 4.3 million.  Today we close this phase of Catching Souls, but we will continue to reach out to alumni all over the country.  I am not stopping until we reach 5 million, and maybe not even then.

     Words cannot fully express my gratitude to all of you who gave to make this campaign so successful.  It has been inspiring to me to see how many people stepped up with stunning generosity.  And it has been fun for me to go out and talk with alumni, and hear their stories of how St. Thomas Aquinas impacted them and shaped their lives.  St. Thomas Aquinas has a bright future because of your great support, and I am so grateful to you.  This stage in the history of our parish is a beautiful one.

     In today's Gospel, Jesus says, "I need help."  He calls Peter, Andrew, James and John, common, ordinary fishermen, and he makes them fishers of men and women.  This call of Jesus continues today, here, in our midst.  May the good Lord continue to bless our efforts to reach more, and catch souls.