Fugitives to the Nations
In 1919, a group of parishioners of St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn Park, Baltimore, asked their pastor if they could celebrate Mass closer to their homes in the little town of Glen Burnie, five and a half miles south. The pastor agreed, and a little group of Catholics began gathering for the Eucharist at a local storefront, the town hall, and anywhere that would host them. With that, the Catholic presence in Glen Burnie was established with the creation of Holy Trinity Parish.
Over the last 100 years, that Catholic community has taken many shapes and forms. In the 1930s, the parishioners built a church in which to celebrate their lives and God’s love for them. As the community continued to grow, folks gathered beyond the church in movie theaters, schools, and other venues to serve the expanding population of the parish. By the late 1960s, Catholics established from Holy Trinity, the parishes of St. Philip Neri, then St. Bernadette, Crucifixion, and Good Shepherd. In the last twenty-five years, this Catholic community has found its way back together as one, here at Christ the King.
100 years; one faith; one Lord; one family.
Our story – like many stories of Catholic parishes – is one that continues to follow the pattern of God’s call that begin long ago in the Old Testament. We hear it again in today’s First Reading from Isaiah, writing five centuries before Jesus’ time. The prophet recalls God’s actions among the people: “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations…and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD.”
This is always the action of God with regard to His people; He gathers them. Division is not God’s business – it never is. And the purpose of gathering His people together is so that they can then be sent out – as “fugitives to the nations” – in order to share the news of God’s presence and love to others, and to gather them in. Similarly, this must also be the action of the People of God, the Church. We too are called together by God’s love from many nations and languages into one church family, where we are strengthened and nourished together – as we have been for 100 years – and then we are sent out into the world to touch the hearts and minds of others.
If we do this properly, we become agents of Christ’s mission to gather together into one Church all the nations of the world – regardless of race, origins, or means. We enable Jesus’ words to come true among us: “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God."
If this is truly our task as disciples, then we must reject all forms of division in our world – prejudice, racism, fear-mongering, exclusion, hatred. These are not the tools of God. These are not the values that have built and sustained our Catholic community for this past century – and they will not serve us in the century to come. As our Letter to the Hebrews tells us, "Strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed."
What will serve us for a bright future full of hope is if we see ourselves as recipients of God’s call to be gathered from the nations into this parish. We are the result of God’s choice, and our presence here is no accident. Now, as we gather for the Eucharist and are nourished by Jesus, we are equipped to become ambassadors – “fugitives to the nations” – who are intent on bringing the Gospel message to the world.
Worship sites come and go and parishes change; names are adopted and transferred; but the Catholic Church endures – as our presence in this community shows. We have every reason to be proud of our history – not because of pretty buildings or certain personalities – but because we have been part of God’s story of calling people together, strengthening them, and sending them into the world to proclaim the Gospel and transform the world.