Former Army chaplain reflects on preaching to the military and their families
“Essentially, for those of us who have a duty to preach, we must intimately know our people,” said Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ. For many years, Fr. Mark’s “people” were members of the military and their families; he is a retired military chaplain. He spoke of that experience on January 8 at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology’s Second Annual Preaching Conference. The title of his presentation: “God leaves no one behind: a rescue mission of the heart.”
“To know our people, we must know their stories, their joys and sorrows,” continued Fr. Mark. “They sometimes come with broken hearts and need to be healed. Therefore, their voices must be part of our homilies. If we know them, and Christ, we will have a better chance to touch their hearts. If we use one idea or image, we have a good opportunity to open up their hearts so that change and transformation may occur. In essence, we try to bring them closer to God so that forgiveness and reconciliation may happen.”
Fr. Mark emphasized that the military is a microcosm of society. “It is culturally diverse and we as preachers need to be able to address their problems and questions. In my homily on the gospel reading of the Prodigal Son, I had a rescue mission idea in mind, noting that God leaves no one behind, especially those in despair, lost and forgotten and brokenhearted. God’s mission is ongoing.
“We all need to remember that we are in this mission together, that we are on the same aircraft carrier sailing in one direction and most of us sinners are sea sick. Only God is our Dramamine.”
Fr. Mark continued with the theme, likening Jesus to the “leader of a rescue team ensuring that so that no one would be left behind. He came to seek and to find.”