Pastoral Message – October 2, 2022
We are unprofitable servants; we have [only] done what we were obliged to do.”
Welcome to SSJ Festival Weekend!! I pray that all of you have already enjoyed or will take some time to enjoy the festival this weekend. Producing such a large and complicated event requires a great deal of work and planning. For example, every single ride and every single booth is placed precisely where it needs to go according to a computerized map of the property that lays things out to the nearest inch. Our volunteers log hundreds of hours to ensure that everything goes perfectly. They provide that service from their hearts – out of love for our parish community. They are all willing to go above and beyond to not only get the job done, but to make this festival a resounding success as both a community builder and a fundraiser.
The attitudes of our volunteers are significantly different from the attitudes that my son and I had when we were taking music lessons when we were young. I took accordion lessons and my son took piano lessons. Sadly, we each had the exact same approach to practice. If we were told to practice for 30 minutes, we did exactly what was required – not a minute more. With that attitude, it’s no surprise that neither of us ever became accomplished at our respective instrument. Contrast that with my son’s attitude toward practicing baseball or football, or my strong desire to practice driving when I was sixteen. If permitted, we would each practice for hours when the practice pertained to something that we enjoyed.
Jesus tells his disciples that they are “unprofitable servants” because they have only done what they were obliged to do. Instead of acting out of love or charity for their neighbor, they are acting out of obligation. As with playing the accordion or piano, there is huge difference between desiring to serve people out of love and being forced to serve them out of obligation. Our festival volunteers understand that difference and are truly models of the kind of attitude that Jesus is trying to instill in his disciples (and, by extension, all of us). Their efforts started months ago and will continue long after the rides and beer garden shut down.
This weekend, Jesus tells us that there is no glory in doing the minimum required as we journey through this life. We should strive to do more – in Latin the word is “magis.” In just about every lesson that Jesus teaches in the Gospels, He raises the bar of how we should behave with one another. The Ten Commandments are the bare minimum. Following the Commandments is like practicing the accordion for 30 minutes or simply going to mass on Sunday. Those of us who simply meet the minimum are failing to hear God’s voice calling us to do more. We are missing opportunities every single day to step up and live out the Good News of the Gospel. We are content, complacent, and maybe a bit lazy. Perhaps we are simply afraid. If that’s the case, we should take inspiration from the words that Paul writes to Timothy as he urges Timothy to step up and be bold: “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have…God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”
I can think of so many people here at our parish who stirring their gifts into flames and are acting out of power and love. They are determined to raise the bar on what it means to be a fully committed Catholic within our community. The massive group of festival volunteers is only one example. Last weekend our Catechists spent the day preparing to spend the next eight months teaching our young people about the faith. Over the past month, I have had the privilege to train all of our liturgical ministers. These are boys, girls, men and women who have answered God’s call to do more. Each day I see St. Vincent de Paul volunteers sitting in front of the office providing assistance to those in need. These are just a few examples of the many instances where our people are choosing to embrace the concept of magis within our parish. Rather than hardening their hearts when they hear God’s voice, they respond, “Here I am Lord.”
What an incredible blessing it is for Fr. Reynold and me to be witnesses to the love, dedication and commitment of so many of our parishioners. I’m convinced that there is no job too large for our community to tackle. As we move forward, we will continue to explore more ways in which we can all bring our time, talents and treasure to our parish, our Huntington Beach community, and beyond. As with any great organization, our strength is in our people. It’s not the church building or the large campus or the priests. We exist through the generosity and hard work of our people. Fr. Reynold and I are impressed by your efforts, humbled by your “get it done” attitudes, and grateful for the love that you choose to share.
Thank you for all that you do each day to make Saints Simon & Jude parish exceptional in every possible way. It is an honor to serve you all. I hope that you enjoy the festival and that God richly blesses you and your families.
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”