Bring Christ with you when you go back into the world

BRIDGEPORT— “Christians should be in the world but not of it,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

With the pandemic receding and many people returning to in-person Mass for the first time in a year, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said we are living in a moment of unique challenge and opportunity to bring Christian love into the world.

The bishop said “after this long 15-month winter we have endured together,” we should act in a conscious and intentional way to bring the vibrant, authentic Christian witness of love back into the world.

He described it as a love “powered by what you and I have been offered as we’ve been entering the upper room—to share purposefully, intentionally and joyfully the living power of Christ’s love on the Cross.”

Citing the May 10, letter in which he joined the state’s other Catholic bishops in inviting all people back to in-person Mass beginning with the Vigil of Pentecost, (May 22), the bishop said that today’s online Mass will be the last regular Sunday Mass taped from the Catholic Center chapel.

In the spirit of re-opening and returning to the world, he will begin visiting parishes throughout the diocese to personally welcome people back to Church.

“We will be welcoming people by name back home to church, a reassuring ,merciful, uniting presence in their lives and a golden opportunity in this new spring time to bring the message of Christ’s love to those reluctant to go back to church and to a waiting world,” he said.

The bishop began his homily by noting that he recently had occasion to take the subway from his family home in Gravesend, Brooklyn, to visit his doctor’s office in Manhattan. It was the same 40-minute trip he took as a boy for four years commuting daily to Regis High School.

The bishop recalled his student routine of studying Greek for the first 20 minutes and then allowing himself some “people watching time,” which on the subway could be “better than a Broadway show.”

However, after a time he came to realize that a community had formed on the train with the sullen faces turning into nods and smiles as people gradually got to know one another.

A priest in his Theology class at Regis opened up yet another dimension to the bishop’s subway ride when he challenged the senior class to stand up and make themselves known as Christians by acting and behaving in a caring way.

The bishop saw that principle put into practice on the subway one morning on his way to school when a man died between station stops. Most people in the crowded train didn’t notice because the man had died standing up and slumped to the floor after many had exited the crowded car.

It was then that the bishop noticed that one person had stayed behind to pray over the body, ”a person of love, a person of faith” who did not want the man to die alone.

The bishop said now is the time to contemplate what it means to be Christian because we are about to freely return to a crowded and busy world of friends, parties, sporting events and other activities.

“These are all good things,” he said, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this is an important juncture in which we must also bring our faith back into the world as witnesses of Christ’s love.

“Christians are very much in the world. We have become members of the world and that is a good thing provided that we do not become of the world. How do you and I become members of a diverse society and yet remain faithful to who we are, so they will know we are Christians?.”

The Gospel of John has a simple answer for us, he said, but it’s not a matter of how we might dress or outwardly identify ourselves, “but the love we have in our hearts, and our courage to show it to our neighbors whether known or unknown in simple acts of kindness or heroic acts of courage.”

He challenged the faithful not to lose this opportunity, so that people “should know by our manner we are Christians in the very sum total of our lives. Kindness should not be random but always our way of life. Forgiveness is not the exception.”

“They will know whose disciples we have become and the work He has given us in the inauguration of the Kingdom in this world… and that is why the Spirit is coming to us over and over again,” he said.

The bishop said the subway ride brought back many memories but also led him to ask himself an important question, “I being a Christian, a priest, a bishop. Would they know I was a Christian? Please God they know. The world needs Christians to be in it and not of it. They need to know.”

Before giving the final blessing the bishop said he looks forward to welcoming people back in person as he visits parishes in the coming months.

“I am asking you with heartfelt invitation to come back to Sunday worship with our sisters and brothers in person if possible,’ he said. He also noted that diocesan liturgies and other Masses will be live-streamed from St. Augustine Cathedral when he celebrates there.

The bishop thanked Patrick Donovan, director of the Leadership Institute for producing the online Mass each week throughout the pandemic, and he also recognized musicians Lindy Toole and David Harris who provided the music and song for his Masses.