Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer’s homily for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Originally Appeared in : Vol. 100 No. 02

In a letter to his nephew, the Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo, then in his 70’s, wrote about his great achievements as a sculptor, painter and poet, saying, “Many believe and I believe I have been designated by God for this work. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love of God in whom I put all my hope”.

Michelangelo regarded his service to the church and the community as a vocation and not merely a job or yet another commission. He approached each work with reverence and humility, seeking to discover rather than create.

For example, as he sculpted, he claimed that he was uncovering a figure that already existed in the marble. He was not chiseling it or molding it according to his set plan but setting it free to be whatever God intended it to be.

It was said that when Michelangelo was at work, he wore a lighted candle fastened on a cap over his forehead so that no shadow of himself would fall upon the marble or the canvas.

Like the servant in the first reading from Isaiah, like Paul in the second reading and like John the Baptist, Michelangelo understood that his role and his contributions were God-inspired and God sustained. If he was great, it was God’s greatness reflected in him. Michelangelo knew that his work, however great it was and however much it was acclaimed, it paled in comparison to the saving work of God in Christ.

In Michelangelo’s approach to his work, and in the humility of Isaiah and Paul, John the Baptizer and Jesus, we also find a lesson that may aid our own ministries and the way we live our daily lives.

As a bishop, as parents, teachers, mentors, friends, and relatives, we are all called to extend our good influence to others in an attempt to guide and inspire to a level of service that prefers to affirm rather than attack, to offer encouragement rather than criticism, and to continue to hope rather than despair.

Anger, revenge, jealousy, frustration, mental illness, prejudice, intolerance, and hatred have influenced human behavior since the time of Cain and Abel.

The presence of Evil in our society, which has existed throughout all of human history, is a result of turning away from God at many levels and in many forms.

We all have a broken and fallen nature. And the reality of Evil is finding it easier and easier to possess the human spirit.

This reality is no great revelation.

We all know, intellectually, that evil is, perhaps, most often seen in our selfishness and our pride. Selfishness and pride have brought down sophisticated and educated societies throughout human history.

God’s Grace is far stronger than the fierce influence of Evil. But Evil is so attractive, so appealing, so cunning that we can literally sell our soul to the Devil and embrace the culture of death. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, it is the little ways that we give in and loose ground.

Evil finds its way in our lives in so many ways: a lack of respect for authority, a lack consideration for another person’s property, a lack of gratitude and stewardship, a lack of accountability, a lack of reconciliation, the deterioration of family life and family values, a lack of self-discipline, promiscuity promoted on TV, in music, in movies and on the Internet

The power of Evil is rooted in selfishness and pride, and it is showing up in every aspect of our life.

That is why the martyrs, like the five Franciscan Martyrs, and specifically Friar Pedro de Corpa, the saints of the church, the genuine heroes in our society, and just regular people, like you and me, cannot give up. The knowledge of our faith and the living of our faith are the only remedies against the cancer of Evil.

It is a battle that we cannot stop fighting, personally and communally. Some suggest that we soften our rhetoric and speak more civilly to each other when we disagree. That’s a Band-Aid® on a gaping wound. We have to bring God back into our daily living.

Taking our cue from Isaiah, Paul, John the Baptist, the Franciscan Martyrs, and Jesus, we should make sure that the only horn we toot is the one that renders authentic praise to God.

Michelangelo knew that his best work would shine forth if he got out of the way and did not impose himself on or force the creative process. In the same way, John the Baptizer knew when to bow out and direct his disciples toward Jesus.

Everyone of us in every profession and age group, possessing every talent, skill and ability… has been called, as the Baptizer was called, to point to Christ, the Lamb of God, dwelling among us and walking with us in our doubts, our hurts, our fears.

John declared his witness in preaching and baptizing at the Jordan River; our witness can be declared in less vocal but no less effective ways by our unfailing compassion for others, in our uncompromising moral and ethical convictions, and in our everyday sense of joy and purpose.

Today we are commemorating the 75th anniversary of Nativity of Our Lady Mission. Before the Mission was built in 1945, Mass was celebrated for decades in the home of Captain and Mrs. Dean on the “Ridge”, a historical section along Route 99.

Captain and Mrs. Dean’s son, Marion Leo Dean, was killed when his ship, the S.S. City of Atlanta, was torpedoed during World War II. The Dean Family donated land for the Church in memory of their sailor son.

Father Leo Ziebarth, a Marist priest, oversaw the construction of this Church in 1945. His living quarters are now the small meeting rooms next to the sacristy.

The Marists Fathers pastored Nativity of our Lady for 44 years, and the Conventual Franciscan Friars ministered Nativity for 25 years. Father Tim McKeown became the first diocesan pastor here in 2014.

For the past 75 years, Nativity of our Lady and the religious and lay leadership has served the Catholic community well. In September of this year, the monument depicting the five Georgia Martyrs will be enshrined on this historic property so that people from all over may come here seeking the intercession of the Georgia Martyrs against unfaithfulness in Marriage, boredom in Marriage, violence in Marriage and become a place of pilgrimage and prayer.

I am sure that the next 75 years will be a continuation of giving Mary honor for the role she played in our salvation history and the example she gave us in obediently doing the will of God.

May Mary and the Georgia Martyrs continue to bless the members of this Eucharistic community and bring others to a deeper faith because of their example as disciples of Christ. Amen.

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