Monday, January 26, 2015


Deacon Jerry Franzen    CATHEDRAL – JANUARY 28, 2015

Jonah 3:1-5, 10          1 Corinthians 7:29-31         Mark 1:14-20

As you may know, we have a three-year cycle of Sunday readings:
Year A, Year B and Year C.
We finished Year A where we used Matthew’s Gospel
back in November.
We are now in Year B,
and we are using readings from the Gospel according to Mark.
At next Advent we will begin using Luke’s Gospel.

The other two Sunday readings are also on the three-year cycle.
Today is the only place in that whole three-year plan,
where we hear a reading from the Book of the Prophet Jonah
on a Sunday.
This weekend is my only chance every three years
to preach about the adventures of Jonah.
To understand the whole story of Jonah,
one must read the whole book.
Today we heard only one part chosen from the book.
If I were wearing my teacher’s hat, I might say:
“For your homework, I want you to get out your Bible
and read the whole book of Jonah.  It’s short.”
You may even get a laugh out of it.

Although you would not know it from what we heard today,
Jonah didn’t really want to go to Nineveh
to convert the pagans there.
He despised the Ninevites; they were gentiles.
He got on a boat headed in the direction opposite that of Nineveh.
He was tossed overboard,
and God had a big fish swallow Jonah,
transport him and spit him up on the shore near Nineveh.

Even after Jonah got to Nineveh,
he wasn’t thrilled with his assignment.
But he carried it out anyway,
and we just heard in the first reading how well things went.
The Ninevites were all converted


I remember attending a meeting of a group called More Life
at Thomas More College back in the late 1970’s.
The discussion was about the horror of the Roe v Wade decision.
I probably heard about the March for Life then also,
but I wasn’t listening.
Why would I go on such a march, a protest?
I wasn’t a troublemaker.   I was a teacher, a scientist.
Why would I want to take time from my work
to confront politicians?  Not my job.
What did I know?  I was pretty clueless about the whole thing.

Sixteen years ago, I decided to go on the March for Life
with some students from Thomas More College,.
I, like Jonah, was not sure of what I was getting into.
I was swallowed into the belly
of a great whale called the Croswell Bus.
And after a less than comfortable ride,
I was regurgitated at the far off foreign city
of Washington, D.C.
After a day’s walk through the city
with hundreds of thousands of others, amid chants of
“Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Roe v Wade has got to go”
after praying the rosary, singing various hymns, I was tired.
Jonah was a lot more successful than I.

Jonah was a lot more successful than I.
He walked through Nineveh proclaiming his message,
and, Ta Da. the pagans were converted.
Sad to say,
such a miraculous conversion did not happen in Washington.
It appears that still many of the people of Washington
do not believe in the sanctity of God’s gift of life.
There was no fast proclaimed in Washington,
and I doubt that anyone showed up
at the office the next day in sackcloth.
The results of the March for Life
have been nowhere near as dramatic as those
of Jonah’s march through Nineveh.
Jonah saw great progress among the Ninevites;
we have yet to see the overturning of Roe v Wade.
More than a million innocent lives are being taken each year
in this country at the hands of abortionists.


Last Thursday was the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court
decision to legalize the killing of human beings by abortion.
The first March for Life was held the year
following the Supreme Court decision,
and, as we all know, this yearly event has not
turned around this nation.
But there is evidence that progress is being made
in spite of the fact that the law has not changed.
God is at work.
Polls show that more than 50% of the population agrees
that abortion is evil.
It appears that the message, “We want the law changed”
still falls on the deaf ears of a majority of the legislators
while the message of the kingdom of God,
the message of  Jonah, the message of Jesus
IS being heard by more throughout this land.
It is being heard by more
who would consider having an abortion.
The number of abortions is decreasing.
Something is happening.

Nothing can diminish the importance
of working to change laws that permit this evil to continue.
The “repent or be destroyed” message of Jonah was powerful
and one that the Ninevites had to heed.
But the message cannot stop there.
It must also be “repent and believe in the Gospel,”
as Jesus proclaimed.
Believe in the gospel that God loves each of us.
Believe in the gospel that God will take care of each of us.
Believe in the gospel that God forgives each of us.


I joked earlier about feeling like Jonah in the belly of the whale.
I have found the March for Life experience,
like so many other experiences in my life,
to be more of a “Come after me” experience,
the way Jesus gathered his disciples.
For me, it has not been a confrontational,
"in your face," experience.
I have found that the pro-abortion people
who show up at the Supreme Court building are subdued;
they don’t really seem to be very proud of their cause.

During the times I have been on the March,
I followed in the footsteps of many who went before me --
both those in previous years,
and those on the pavement right in front of me.
I joined many who are followers of the Lord.
I have felt God’s love among this group;
they have welcomed me in.
You might say that they “fished me in.”
As a fisherman, I can identify with that quite well.
There was once a deacon in this diocese
who kept inviting me to follow him in the diaconate.
Like Jonah, I resisted.
I didn’t want to leave the comfort of what
I was already doing to pick up new things.
Why would I want to baptize, preach, preside at marriages?
I had enough to do.
But that deacon was persistent,
and, eventually, I was hooked and reeled in.
I am eternally grateful to him,
and hope one day to meet him in heaven
and properly thank him.
Persistence is important.
Maybe, just maybe, the persistence of those who march for life
is now really making the message of “Come after me”
to be heard.
Maybe the stories are being heard
by those who considered abortion
and decided against it --
heard by parents now with children
who are so loved by them and by God.
Maybe the message of “Come follow me” is being heard.

I sat next to Bishop Foys at the diocesan Mass
at St. Dominic’s church in Washington on Thursday
as he commended the youth and adults there
for their presence, their courage and their persistence.
He said that their presence, courage and persistence
gave him hope.
Yes, we have hope,
a hope that is fostered by leaders like Bishop Foys,
who are present, courageous and persistent.
As I sat there,
the words of St. Peter at the transfiguration came to me:
“Lord, it is good that we are here.” (Matthew 17:4)

Come and see what the Lord has for you,
and you will know that it is good to be there.

We all have a part to play in delivering the message,
the message to follow the Lord.
Parents share that message for their children.
Teachers share that message for their students.
Pastors share that message for their parishioners.
Bishops share that message for their flocks.
We all must share that message for those around us.
Do not underestimate the power of your part in that message.
We must each be fishers of men and women.
We must be present, courageous and persistent.
We must all strive to make each part of our lives
a “living-out-of-the-gospel-message,”
so that there will be no doubt that each of US
is the earthly presence of Christ for others to follow.