**Seventh Sunday of Easter - Fr. Joe Austin **
May 12, 2024 - 11:00 AM

Audio Recording

He gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry.” There are two points to keep in mind: first, our faith must be in God, not man. Second, the laity have an important role to play in ministering to the world.
Today we have some very good priests who have successfully harnessed the power of social media to gain access to a large audience. Fr. Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron immediately come to mind. But not everyone can be, or should even try to be, a Fr. Mike or a Bishop Barron. As excellent as these two men are at inspiring thousands if not millions of people through the power of modern media technology and as inspiring as their charisms of teaching and knowledge and their masterful oratory skills can be, not all priests can or should try to do what these two modern-day giants in the Church do. But if we ask ourselves what should the priest do, we can turn to St. Paul who tells us: the pastors and teachers, the evangelists, the priests — they’re all given to the Church to equip the holy ones, to equip the laity, with the teachings of the Church so that the laity can go out and do the work of ministry, and do it well.
We often hear that comparison can be the thief of joy, and I think that’s true. Maybe we sometimes compare ourselves to an Elon Musk or a Bill Gates and then we may end up getting sad over our relative lack of wealth or prestige or knowledge. Comparison can be the thief of joy. But even beyond this little aphorism, there lies the truth that the individual person is not called by God to be someone they’re not; each individual person is called to simply be themselves. Turning back to the priest as the example — the priest doesn’t need to be a carbon-copy of a Bishop Barron or Fr. Mike, nor is he called to be.
I recently heard some disappointing news about a priest who seemed to be wanting to follow in the footsteps of a Fr. Mike or Bishop Barron. He was a priest who was seeking to establish his own large social media following, through the use of his own charisms of teaching and knowledge and his skill at oratory. But he ended up having a fall. This individual who was hungry for attention was recently found guilty of falling into the sin that far too many fall into, the sin of the flesh. And his particular fall was particularly wicked — no need for details. This unfortunate situation of the fallen priest leads us to an important reminder: to be careful about putting our faith in man. The priest is a man. The priest is a fallen man. Yet, the priest, with God’s grace, is able to be a man who is successful at striving for holiness and fighting the creeping growth of vice that tries to find its way into one’s soul. The priest can be someone living a morally exemplary life, but it’s because of the grace of God that he accomplishes this. Sadly, some people who are meant to represent Christ to others fail in this work, in destructive and scandalous ways. Sadly, sometimes the work put forth can become a work that is self-concerned, where the ego and its desires becomes the focus of attention, rather than the focus of the work be about spreading the teachings of the Church. Certainly, continue to follow the Fr. Mikes and the Bishop Barrons. I still listen to them. But remember who the Lord is. Remember that the message is Christ and him crucified, and remember that the focus should always be Christ and his Church, his kingdom; the focus shouldn’t rest upon the human person who is speaking the good news, but upon the message of good news, the message of Jesus Christ.
Again, in speaking about the examples of good Catholic social media influencers and bad ones, there are two points to get across: first, our faith must be in God, not man; and second, the laity have an important role to play in providing ministry to the world, a role that is supported and fed and nourished by the tradition of the Church and Her vast ocean of teachings and wisdom. And that role is found in the individual being authentically themselves. With this role of the laity in the work of the Church comes the job of each member of the laity forming themselves in the faith — a job that can be greatly aided by good priests like Fr. Mike and Bishop Barron.
Now, to leave you with a teaching point regarding young people, and a related word of caution: the main role of the parents of the laity, the main and blessed work of both mother’s and father’s — the main work of parents is to teach their children the faith. This is also a call for parents to teach themselves the teachings of the Church, so that they can better carry the responsibility and the blessing of forming their children in the faith.
And now a word of caution for parents: be sure to be aware of the dangers of social media and the internet in general. While it’s easy to get access to a good message from Bishop Barron or Fr. Mike on our devices, it’s just as easy to access messaging that can be harmful to both the human spirit and the psyche, especially for our young people. I’m sure we’re aware of the challenges that certain addictions made easily available through technology present against the ability to pursue purity of heart and chastity. With these addictions that can spread like wildfire, it can very suddenly make it simultaneously difficult to be pure of heart, meaning difficult to be authentic and genuine (because of feeling the need to hide a dirty secret), and the addiction can obviously make it difficult to be chaste, meaning to be free from the pull of certain temptations. So, especially parents, but for all of us who encounter young people in our lives, we do well to be on the lookout to protect our young people from encountering the harmful messaging that can be seen online, and we do well to be prepared to support anyone, but especially our young people, when they come to us for help, making sure to encounter them with mercy and also encounter them with a plan of support to help them fight against whatever is afflicting them.
May Christ, sitting at the right hand of the Father, pour out His Spirit into our hearts so that we might be enflamed with the knowledge and love of God, and more and more enter into the work that God has seen fit to give us.