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Being Anxious About the Things of the Lord -- Sermon for the IV Sunday through the Year, January 28, 2024

“A married man is anxious about the things of the world, … and he is divided.”


          St. Paul just won’t leave us alone! Last Sunday, he encouraged us to have a total detachment from the things of this world – “those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning” – because this world is passing away. His words today could seem like a condemnation of marriage. The married man and woman are “anxious about the things of the world,” precisely what he told us last week we ought not be doing!

          I have to admit, though, that as one of those unmarried men praised by St. Paul, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry when I read, “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” If only! Certainly, the life of celibacy helps those priests or consecrated men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom to focus on pleasing the Lord. I only wish I had more confidence that St. Paul’s words were fulfilled in me, and the many other busy pastors who end up having to be anxious about at least some things of the world as our efforts to lead you closer to the Lord take place in the context of a complicated, modern world.

          What, then, is the point of this further insistence on detachment? “I am telling you this for your own benefit,” Paul explains, “not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction.” That is, whatever state of life each Christian is in, we are all called to adhere to Him without distraction. There is no doubt that this is no easy task, but we actually see it happen around us all the time.

          In September, a parishioner at St. John’s lost her daughter to cancer at the age of 34. The burden of sadness was immense, but she was supported by brothers and sisters in Christ who stayed in touch with her, visited her, and encouraged her not to lose hope. Her volunteer service in the parish was a lifeline to the Lord as well. A close friend and fellow parishioner encouraged her that God would use her suffering to do something good in the world. That friend recognized that there were many other women in the parish who had lost a child – through illness, violence, or pregnancy loss – and that the loss of a child is a wound in a mother’s heart unlike any other – something that only another mother can understand. So she encouraged her to share her experience with those other women, and this week they are starting a support group for women who have experienced the loss of a child.

          Another parishioner recognized the success of last year’s Lenten Series – our highest attendance yet in the six years we’ve had this event – and wanted to build on it, so she and her family opened their home to other parishioners to learn together (through talks by our parish priests), play together, and pray together. Friendships were formed and strengthened, families spent time together, and newer parishioners got to know more of our community. Even a few non-Catholic friends took part!

          Two other parishioners recognized that there are so many great people here at St. John’s with inspiring personal stories, and that we ought to know each other better. So they started a podcast called The Flock, in which you can hear some of those inspiring stories and get a story behind the faces you see each Sunday. Listening to the podcast, you can get a sense of the history and legacy of our parish from long-time parishioners (who might surprise you with how they got their start), and be inspired by the witness of recent converts or reverts to the Catholic faith.

          A group of college age young adult women came together to support each other and an empty-nester couple opened their home to them once a week. Many of them went together to a national Catholic young adult conference together at the beginning of this month, and I am excited to see what the zeal and passion they’ve brought back from that experience does for them and for our parish. One young lady told me that, participating in Eucharistic Adoration with over 20,000 other young people, “I had this powerful realization that I am not the only woman my age who loves Jesus and wants to live as a Catholic.” Knowing that you are not alone is a powerful realization that can carry you through a lot of challenges to your faith!

          This past year, I got to know two young people from our parish – a brother and sister – who are now in college. While growing up here at St. John’s, they participated in youth ministries, sang in our parish choir, and were nourished by a Christ-filled family life. At college, they’ve been involved in campus ministry, helped to start a chant schola, and one is leading the campus chapter of a national Catholic apostolate that brings Catholic speakers to secular college campuses to address the issues that frequently distance our young people from the faith. At a time when many people fall away, their faith is thriving.

          These spontaneous efforts by our own parishioners show that the Holy Spirit is at work in our parish, and that the people of our parish are taking ownership of our mission to proclaim Christ’s Truth, Hope, and Glory to our world. Those who are grieving are experiencing Christ’s hope through mutual support and encouragement, young people are affirming each other in adhering to Christ and the saving truths of His Gospel, and God’s glory shines forth through lives that have been given over to Him.

          These spontaneous initiatives go hand-in-hand with the more official ones carried out by our parish. Last year, I told you that, if we received the necessary financial support through your commitments to sacrificial generosity, we wanted to add a part time staff member to support our parish’s priority of marriage and family formation. We received that support and added that staff member. That new position has allowed us to offer more consistent support to our marriage formation program, has supported an early-marriage supported apostolate that we launched last fall, has supported young families by planning initiatives like “Pizza and Parenting” and workshops on the role of technology in the family, and has supported older families by planning an upcoming event for parents wanting to reach out better to children who do not practice the Faith.

          This past year, we accomplished a major parish goal by – after searching for over two years – finally hiring a professional musician to lead music at our Masses in Spanish. This is a huge step in our project of greater unity because not only does it address an inequality of resources in our parish, but by raising the level of the sacred music at those Masses, it will be easier for our entire parish to worship together. We have already seen that start to happen with more harmonious bilingual (or really, trilingual!) liturgies around the Sacred Triduum and Corpus Christi.

          We made other great steps forward to support our goal of parish unity, like hosting a whole-parish volunteer dinner. Yesterday, we had the first of our quarterly Parish Leadership Summits, where we offer greater leadership formation to the many people exercising leadership in the apostolic activities of our parish, give leaders in our parish the opportunity to get to know each other better across languages and cultures, and solicit constructive feedback from them about our parish. This coming Saturday, with the help of the Catholic Leadership Institute, we start the process of evaluating the progress we have made on our Parish Priority Plan, which will lead into the next round of setting our parish’s new priorities for the next few years.

          We know that the challenges to living the Christian faith in our present world are substantial, and increasing in number and severity as the days go by. But the Christian life is a life not of despair, but of hope! The “new teaching with authority” continues to be proclaimed by Christ through His Church here and now. Our parish is a place where the fullness of the Christian faith is boldly proclaimed – from the pulpit, in the classroom, in our homes, at our parish events – and not only proclaimed, but lived. Together, we are discovering the newness of following Christ, the excitement that comes from discovering anew the new life that He promises all of us.

          That’s why we’re asking you once again to renew your commitment to sacrificial generosity in support of our parish. This week, you will be receiving a special brochure in the mail along with a commitment card to renew your financial commitment to support our important work at St. John’s. Next week will be our Commitment Sunday, where you will hear from fellow parishioners about how we as a parish are bringing Christ’s truth, hope, and glory to the world around us. This week, when you receive that commitment card, I ask that you talk with your family about your sacrificial support of our parish. Each of us should be in the habit of re-evaluating our financial situation and re-committing ourselves, so that our giving is not just a matter of habit, but an intentional act of love for God by sacrificing for the good of His Church.

          With a generous response to this campaign, we hope in the next year to serve God and you even better in the new office building that is nearing completion, extending our parish’s visibility and reach in our community; hire a full time coordinator of youth catechesis to build one, integrated youth catechesis program with offerings in English and in Spanish; hire a talented Director of Sacred Music to continue the growth and excellence of our sacred music program; continue to provide staffing to support the great volunteer work being done for marriage and small group apostolates; and have the funds necessary to support the new initiatives that will arise from our next Parish Priority Plan.

Thank you so much for all the ways in which you have generously supported our parish in the past, and thank you for considering how you will be able to support St. John’s in the year to come. If each of us works together in a committed and generous way, we can make God’s truth, hope, and glory shine in our world. Thank you, and God bless you.


The Rev. Royce V. Gregerson

Parish Church of St. John the Evangelist, Goshen

IV Sunday through the Year, A.D. MMXXIV


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