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Real Unity: Sermon for the X Sunday through the Year, 9 June, 2024

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”


          It is providential that we are invited to reflect today on unity. Unity has been one of the most important tasks given to me to accomplish here as a pastor – I don’t think that I could have asked for a more challenging one. Unity is so important because union is the goal of our lives – union with Christ. We long for its completeness in Heaven, but it is not just a goal for eternity, it is our goal here in now as well.

          Unity in our parish, in this portion of the Body of Christ, is how we experience union with the Lord. It begins with unity with one another. Unity recognizes the richness present in the dignity of the other, in all the uniqueness of each person, created in the image and likeness of God. None of us is an isolated individual, so our culture is a part of that beauty of each person. Our Corpus Christi procession last Sunday was a beautiful expression of that unity, recognizing the unique gifts brought by the different cultures present in our parish (of which, by the way, there are way more than just two), and the unique gifts and talents of many people who contributed towards worshiping Christ in the Eucharist together.

          Unity does not mean other people becoming more like us. We need to recognize just how much the people we want to be more like us have already adapted to life in a different country. And those who are newer should recognize the ways that those who have received them have adapted to their presence. On a human level, expecting someone else to become more like you, is a recipe for frustration and despair. But even more importantly, on a spiritual level, we have to leave behind our conception of unity as one of conformity and assimilation, because unity is not about one person or culture becoming more like another: It’s about supporting each other as we all grow closer to Christ.

          Another important manifestation of Christian unity in our parish is unity with the pastor. Christ is present in the priest, who is a source of unity in the parish. Priests need your support and encouragement. The priestly vocation is beautiful, but difficult, and we need your help to fulfill the mission given to us by the Lord.

          Especially, I ask you to encourage your new pastor. Becoming a pastor is a shock to the system of a young priest. Before, you are the fun priest whom everyone wants to be around. Now, you’re the one fielding all the difficult questions. The first year for a new pastor is particularly difficult. You can probably understand that, because the first year of anything is difficult: A new job, getting married, becoming a mom or dad. A new pastor feels constantly under the microscope. He will feel compared to other priests and at least somewhat inadequate, no matter how talented and likeable he is.

Some of your fellow parishioners will nitpick the way he pronounces the words of the prayers at Mass, how he does his hair, the foods he prefers to eat, or what he does in his spare time; they will read a personal agenda into an offhand comment, and criticize how and when he prays, etc. They might even write letters to the Bishop complaining about such supercilious things, making assertions like, “he seems to be under the impression that he’s here to teach us our faith.” For the record, we do have that impression.

So commit yourself to some way in which you will concretely affirm and support your new pastor in his first year. Of course, you will pray for him, and you will say nice things to him after Mass, but he needs to know that you are really behind him. A priest is a blessing to a parish. So many communities around the world long to have a priest and do not. Unite around your priests. Specifically, give you pastor the freedom to be a true spiritual leader. If you want great things to happen in your parish, it is leadership that really makes the difference. That’s risky, I know, but I assure you that it is a risk that is worth it. Jesus asked the Apostles to do bold things that seemed foolish in their eyes, and if you pastor does his job, he will do the same to you. However, if that is too scary, if your principal goal is that nothing ever changes, or that everything goes back to the way it used to be at whatever arbitrary point in time feels good to you, you should think about whether it is reasonable to ask a man to give up his life to help you to achieve that goal. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

You might have guessed that I’m drawing on my own experience. The first year here was the most difficult of my entire life. I didn’t yet have a strong support network, my family was far away, my spiritual director moved to Texas, there was no real day off for the priest like there is now, I felt constantly under fire, and despite my bravado and seeming arrogance, I hadn’t actually learned to stick up for myself in the way that I most needed to.

I made it through that year because of Christ – because of his closeness to me in prayer and in the Eucharist, through the strong spiritual life cultivated in me by the seminary; and because of so many of you who supported me and prayed for me. I cannot thank you enough.

The quality of a priest is not measured by his personality or how likeable he is. When people talk about a priest they love and admire, so frequently they’re just talking about his personality. Being a good priest does not come from being an extrovert or an introvert, from being more athletic or more academic, from being bolder or more reserved. God knows what each parish needs at each time, and He can make a good priest out of any man He so chooses. Ultimately, the priest is not here to make you happy. He is here to make you holy.

Over the past seven years, we have striven against the current to establish a new model: Every priest serves every parishioner. Trickling down from that has been another model: Every parish employee serves every parishioner. And hopefully it’s made it farther still: Every parishioner deeply cares and works for the good of (that is, loves) every single brother and sister in Christ. As much as I hope that you, the good people of this parish, have taken ownership of the good things that we have brought here (the music, the incense, the professionalism, the quality communications, the planning and execution of common goals, etc.), what I most hope that you hold onto is this: This parish has one pastor, because it is one parish. [That’s why I went to bat to get Father Brian named your new pastor: Not because he would wear my vestments or chant the Mass or use my favorite incense, but so that this most important accomplishment would not be lost: One pastor, for one parish.]

Most importantly, we are united with Christ in the Eucharist. In the celebration of the Eucharist, we are united by worshiping not only together with our brothers and sisters in Christ here present, but in worshiping God together with Catholics throughout the world and throughout time. That means worshiping Christ in the Eucharist in continuity with our own traditions as Catholic.

But what is really traditional? When I was a kid, I thought that traditional Catholic music was “One Eagles’ Wings” and “Here I Am, Lord.” Recently, as we have brought beautiful and properly sacred music to our Masses in Spanish, we’ve noticed an incredible diversity of reactions, from some who had the initial impression that we were foisting “Anglo music” on Hispanic people, to those who, upon hearing the organ at Mass for the first time, wept for joy at feeling like they were back in their childhood parish in Mexico. (It turns out that Mexico, and especially Latin America more broadly, is an enormous and extremely diverse place!) Negotiating what is truly “traditionally Hispanic” or “traditionally American” is way beyond my pay grade.

When Pope Benedict XVI heroically liberalized the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the “old Latin Mass”), he described what he was doing as a “reconciliation at the heart of the Church.” Those words have always stuck with me as the core of what unity is all about – a reconciliation at the heart of the Church. An appreciation of who we are is inseparable from an appreciation of where we come from, which has to inform who we continue to be.

We have pursued Pope Benedict’s “reconciliation at the heart of the Church” here at St. John the Evangelist Parish. Now, you must make that project your own, not just Father Gregerson’s pet project. A parishioner and friend told me recently that what she most admired about my time here was a relentless, singular pursuit of the most important goal (beauty in the Sacred Liturgy, and love for Jesus truly present in the Eucharist) in the face of significant opposition: That never would have been possible without the support of so many. Thank you to those who were enthusiastic from the very beginning. Thank you to those who were open minded enough to give it a shot. Thank you to those who are still trying to understand, still picking up your worship aid and trying: Your example of humility is beautiful as well.

Do not believe the naysayers who assert that tradition is divisive because it interrupts the status quo, the mediocrity whose grip has been trying to choke the Church around the world. It is infidelity that is divisive, because Satan is the unfaithful one, and it is Satan who divides.


“No one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder the house.”


The strong man who has had possession of this world is Satan, and his power is being broken. It was broken by Christ in His crucifixion and Resurrection and it is being broken here among us. Through our faithfulness here in our parish, the walls of disunity are slowly being broken down. Prejudices are being overcome; mutual understanding is increasing; we are working together towards common, concrete goals.

The formerly strong man has been bound in the hearts of the increasing numbers of people who participate in the Sacrament of Penance (Confession), in the increased Sunday Mass attendance, in those with a greater hunger for Christ’s truth, hope, and glory.


“This momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen, for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”


          Dear people of St. John the Evangelist Parish, look to what is unseen and eternal, so that eternity with God might be yours.



“Si un reino está dividido en bandos opuestos, no puede subsistir. Una familia dividida tampoco puede subsistir.”


          Parece muy oportuno hoy reflejar sobre la unidad. La unidad ha sido el desafío más importante dado a mí cómo párroco – no creo que podría haber pedio uno más difícil. La unidad es tan importante porque la unión es la meta de nuestras vidas – unión con Cristo. Anhelamos se cumplimiento en el Cielo, pero es nuestra meta aquí y ahora también.

          La unidad en nuestra parroquia, en esta porción del Cuerpo de Cristo, es como experimentamos la unión con el Señor. Empieza con la unidad con los demás. La unidad reconoce la riqueza presente en la dignidad del otro, en la unicidad de cada persona, creada en la imagen y semejanza de Dios. Ninguno de nosotros es un individuo aislado, entonces, nuestra cultura es una parte de la belleza de cada persona. Nuestra procesión del Corpus el domingo pasado fue una expresión hermosa de aquella unidad, reconociendo los dones únicos llevados por diferentes culturas presentes en nuestra parroquia (¡de las cuales, de hecho, hay muchas más que dos!), y los dones y talentos únicos de muchas personas quienes contribuyeron a adorar juntos a Cristo en la Eucaristía.

          La unidad no quiere decir que los otros se vuelven más cómo nosotros. Tenemos que reconocer cuanto los que son nuevos a este país ya se han adaptado al modo de vida aquí, y los que son más nuevos deben reconocer cuanto se han adaptado los originarios de aquí para poderlos recibir. Al nivel humano, esperara que alguien se cambie para ser más como tú es una receta para la desesperación. Pero más importantemente aún, al nivel espiritual, tenemos que dejar por detrás nuestra concepción de la unidad como la de conformidad y asimilación porque la unidad no es que una persona o cultura se vuelve más como el otro. La unidad verdadera es apoyarnos mutualmente mientras que todos se acerquen a Cristo.

          Otra muestra importante de la unidad cristiana en nuestra parroquia es la unidad con el párroco. Cristo está presente en el sacerdote, quien es una fuente de unidad en la parroquia. Los sacerdotes necesitan su apoyo, ánimo y aliento. La vocación sacerdote es hermosísima, pero difícil, y necesitamos su apoyo para cumplir con la misión encomendada a nosotros por el Señor.

          Especialmente, quiero pedirles a apoyar a su nuevo párroco. Volverse párroco es un shock. Antes, eres el sacerdote divertido con quien todos quieren convivir. Ahora, eres el quien tiene que dar respuesta a todas las preguntas difíciles. El primer año para un nuevo párroco es especialmente difícil, como el primero año de todo (un nuevo trabajo, casarse, volverse mamá o papá). En nuevo párroco se siente constantemente como si estuviera bajo el microscopio. Se siente comparado con otros sacerdotes e inadecuado, sin importar tan talentoso y amable que es.

          Unos de los feligreses serán quisquillosos sobre su manera de pronunciar las oraciones en la Misa, como se peina, lo que come o lo que hace en su tiempo libre. Interpretarán un comento casual como una agenda personal, o criticarán su manera de orar.

          Entonces, los invito a comprometerse a una manera concreta en la cual lo apoyarán y lo animarán en su primer año. Por supuesto, estarán orando por él y diciéndole cosas bonitas después de Misa, pero tiene que saber realmente que están detrás de él. Un sacerdote es una bendición para una parroquia. Hay comunidades que anhelan por la presencia de un sacerdote. Únanse alrededor de sus sacerdotes.

          La calidad de un sacerdote no se mede por su personalidad o tan amable que es. Muchas veces, cuando la gente habla de un sacerdote a quien quieren y admiran, hablan realmente de su personalidad. Ser un sacerdote bueno no viene de ser extrovertido o introvertido, ser más atlético o más académico, ser más fuerte o más reservado. Dios sabe lo que cada parroquia necesita a cada momento, y puedo hacer un buen sacerdote de cualquier hombre que Él elige. Realmente, el sacerdote no está aquí para hacerte contento – está aquí para hacerte santo.

          En los últimos siete años, hemos ido contra-corriente para establecer un nuevo modelo: Cada sacerdote sirve a cada parroquiano. De esto viene otro modelo: Cada miembro del personal sirve a cada parroquiano. Y espero que ha llegado más al fondo aún: Cada parroquiano se tiene cuidado y trabaja por el bien (lo es, ama) a cada hermano en Cristo. De todo lo que hemos logrado aquí en San Juan estos últimos siete años, lo que más quiero que mantengan es esto: Esta parroquia tiene un párroco, porque es una parroquia.

          Más importantemente aún, estamos unidos con Cristo en la Eucaristía. En la celebración de la Eucaristía, estamos unidos para adorar a Dios no solamente con nuestros hermanos en Cristo aquí presentes, sino con todos los católicos por el mundo entierro y por todos los siglos pasados, presentes y futuros. Quiere decir que adoramos a Cristo en la Eucaristía en continuidad con nuestras tradiciones como católicos.

          ¿Pero que es realmente tradicional? Recientemente, en conformidad con nuestra meta de unidad, a proveer recursos iguales y proporcionales a las diferentes comunidades en nuestra parroquia, hemos intensificado nuestro esfuerzo a dar gloria a Dios en la Santa Misa con la provisión de músicos profesionales para las Misas en español. Ciertamente ha sido un cambio. Para unas personas, ha dejado la impresión que estamos esforzando un estilo de música más típico de “los anglos” sobre los Hispanos, mientras que, para otros, escuchar el órgano en Misa es cómo estar en su pueblo natal otra vez.

          Negociar la cuestión de que es realmente tradicional para mexicanos, latinoamericanos, hispanos, etc., es un desafío imposible, porque todos tenemos tradiciones ricas e importantes para nosotros, a pesar de que sean tradiciones de siglos o de cinco o siete años. Latinoamérica es un lugar enorme e increíblemente diverso -- ¡gracias a Dios!

          Cuando Papa Benedicto XVI permitió la celebración de la Forma Extraordinaria del Rito Romano (la antigua Misa en latín), escribió que fue una “reconciliación al corazón de la Iglesia.” Esto ha sido nuestra meta aquí también: Una reconciliación al corazón de la Iglesia, buscando de hacer posible que celebremos la Eucaristía en común con todos nuestros hermanos en Cristo, a través de recurrir a las tradiciones más universales que nos pueden unir como católicos. Al mismo, hemos buscado una reconciliación con nuestro propio pasado, recuperando mucho que se perdió en el siglo pasado, y quizás nunca supimos que se perdiera. Gracias a los que se han emocionado desde el inicio, a los que estaban abiertos a estar convencidos, y también a los que están tomando sus panfletos y tratando de participar en algo nuevo. Su ejemplo de humildad es hermoso también.

          Que no crean a los detractores que digan que la tradición es divisiva porque interrumpe lo que se ha vuelto normal, la mediocridad cuyo agarre ha estado tratando de ahogar a la Iglesia. Es la infidelidad que es divisiva, porque Satanás es el infiel, es el Satanás quien divide.


“Nadie puede entrar en la casa de un hombre fuerte y llevarse sus cosas, si primero no lo ata. Sólo así podrá saquear la casa.”


          El hombre fuerte quien ha tenido posesión de este mundo es Satanás, y su poder se está rompiendo. Se rompió por Cristo en Su crucifixión y Resurrección, y se está rompiendo alrededor de nosotros. A través de nuestra fidelidad aquí en esta parroquia, las murallas de desunión se están descomponiendo. Estamos superando los prejuicios, el entendimiento mutuo se está aumentando, estamos trabajando juntos para lograr metas en común.

          El hombre anteriormente fuerte se ha atado en los corazones en los números aumentando de personas buscando el perdón de sus pecados en la confesión, en la frecuencia aumentada en la Santa Misa, en los que tienen más hambre de la verdad, esperanza y gloria de Cristo.


“Nuestros sufrimientos momentáneos y ligeros nos producen una riqueza eterna, una gloria que los sobrepasa con exceso. Nosotros no ponemos la mira en lo que se ve, sino en lo que no se ve, porque lo que se ve es transitorio y lo que no se ve es eterno.”


          Queridos feligreses de la Parroquia de San Juan Evangelista, miran a lo que no se ve y es eterno, para que la eternidad con Dios sea suya. Así sea.


The Rev. Royce V. Gregerson

Parish Church of St. John the Evangelist, Goshen

X Sunday through the Year, A.D. MMXXIV


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