HOMILY FOR THE FEAST DAY OF ST. BONIFACE 2017 DEACON ANDREW THOMAS
Most of the fundraisers at Catholic Schools in the 80s involved going door to door selling stuff. It was either chocolates, or magazine subscriptions, or popcorn. One year it was ballpoint pens.
But there were always three types of children involved with these sales:
The first type were lucky enough to have parents and relatives that would quickly purchase the entire supply and more within the first few days, and then the children would spend the rest of the week bragging about their success in the hallways.
The second type were just genuinely rosy and good at it (and we were secretly envious of them), and went out, worked a different neighborhood each week, and then within a month or so, were able to sell the expected goal for sales.
For most of us, though, it was a challenge, because we didn’t feel comfortable knocking on the door of someone we didn’t know or having to come up with a clever spiel, or the worst feeling of all, the rejection of having put in all that effort, and not selling anything. And one door slamming experience would be enough for us to call it quits!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Missionary work is like this. It’s challenging, difficult, and we are not guaranteed any success. But the fervent Christian is able to press on despite the difficulties out of love for Jesus Christ.
Our first reading comes from the Book of Tobit. we are introduced to a devout and faithful Jew who was experiencing the great sadness of being away from his homeland having been deported by the Assyrians in Nineveh.
He spent a lot of time in Nineveh performing good deeds. He would bring bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, and he would bury the dead, particularly those killed in the onslaught against the Israelites by King Sennacherib, the King of the Assyrians. These men had died and had been thrown behind the wall of Nineveh.
We see today, Tobit instructing his son, Tobias, in missionary work. He is to go out and find a poor man who is a faithful Israelite to join them in a meal to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. His son comes back alarmed, that an Israelite has been murdered. Tobit runs out to give the man a proper burial, much to the taunting and mocking of his neighbors.
Tobit sets a good example for his son, Tobias, in how to be courageous in performing missionary work.
Today, we celebrate the Feast day of St. Boniface, who was a great missionary to the Germans. Boniface was an English Benedictine monk who gave up the office of abbot to minster to the German people. He brought many pagan Germans to the Catholic faith.
Boniface most certainly received a good example from his English Benedictine forefathers led by St. Augustine of Canterbury whose feast day if you recall we just celebrated on May 27.
If you recall, Augustine and his forty men were so nervous, that they returned to Rome after they had reached modern France, scared of the harsh stories regarding the Anglo-Saxon people whom Pope Gregory the Great had wanted them to convert.
Eventually, though they gathered up the courage to travel to England, and there would probably be no St. Boniface today had there not been an Augustine of Canterbury.
You see, good missionary work has a ripple effect. Others benefit from it and are inspired to continue the work done in Christ’s name. And it’s the receiving and fostering of the Holy Spirit that in which we celebrated yesterday for Pentecost that strengthens us to do God’s work despite the obstacles.
We see in today’s Gospel parable, the owner of the vineyard, how harsh and cruel missionaries can be treated by others. This is cross we carry as missionaries.
One virtue that we should always strive for in missionary work is the virtue of humility. The more we are able to suffer humiliations, the more courage we will have in performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Yes, we will be persecuted, but if we accept rejection, mocking, misunderstanding, from others because we are humble, our God will truly exalt us.
So today, try to think of someone you can thank for introducing or strengthening you in your faith. And remember when things don’t go well, the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, “Every humiliation experienced is an opportunity for profit in the treasures stored in heaven.”
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