Sunday, July 19, 2015

Trust God to Provide - Homily 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.      Mark 6:7-8

If Jesus were giving his instructions today to his disciples, instructions like take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in your belts. Do you think he would include our smart phones on the list? How many of us could imagine setting out for even one day taking nothing with us: No food - no purse - or wallet - no change of clothes - no phone - no money – no check book or credit cards. Can you imagine it? Can you imagine the trust those disciples had that God would provide. It was incredible! They left Jesus that day taking nothing with them.

Could we set out for just one day taking nothing with us? Not me! 

What do you think the point was? 

You have to believe he was telling them, and he is telling us - "Don’t let possessions so clutter your life that they get in the way of doing what is really important to God - sharing your faith with others."

Every once in a while you see an example of someone who seems to have their priorities right. For some odd reason this message made me think of Manute Bol. Now you have to be a serious sports fan to remember Manute Bol. Manute was a Sudanese immigrant who just happened to be 7 feet 7 inches tall. Manute was recruited to play professional basketball in the United States in the 80s.

Manute weighed just a little over 200 pounds which made him both the tallest and thinnest player in the NBA. He was quite a sight. If you ever saw him play with the Washington Bullets you know he really wasn’t a great player. But as it turns out he was a great human being; and a missionary in the spirit of the disciples, in the spirit of today’s reading. The reason he came to mind today is because Manute was a Christian and he believed his life was a gift from God. And, like the apostles, he allowed Jesus to lead him, to send him out, in the service of others. He once told an interviewer: “God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.”

In many ways, Manute’s trust in God and sense he had a mission in the world embodies the message Jesus gave to the disciples that day. Manute gave away his entire NBA fortune to Sudanese charities and trusted that God would provide for his needs. While most pro athletes go broke on cars, jewelry and groupies; Manute Bol went broke building hospitals. I think that was Jesus’ point. I think Manute “got it.” He trusted God to provide, and then spent his life sharing what he had with others. He simply trusted that God would make it work. Like the apostles, and like Manute, we are all called to be missionaries in some way.

Some years ago, a number of young Christians were attending an international summer camp. They came from many nations around the world. One project assigned them was to come up with effective ways to preach the Gospel in our modern world. After the young people talked about using television, radio, the Internet and rock concerts an African girl said something that touched the heart of everyone. She said: When Christians in my country think a pagan village is ready for Christianity they don’t send books or missionaries. They send a good Christian family. And the example of the family converts the village.

I think that’s what the Gospel is saying today. Have such radical trust in God - in me - that it changes the people you come in contact with. Like this young African woman’s example God wants us in our homes, in our work places and in our communities to preach the Gospel by living a life that trusts God will provide what we need. The way we can be missionaries to our world is by our presence and by our example more than by our words.

The poet Edgar Guest had it right when he said years ago:
          It is all in vain to preach the truth, 
          To the eager ears of trusting youth.
          Fine words may grace the advice you give,
          But youth will learn from the way you live.

Saying we are called to evangelize and be a missionary scares us a bit. But it shouldn’t. We are all called to evangelize, to share our faith with others; we are all called to missionary work in our homes and families, our social groups, at work and in our neighborhoods. Not necessarily with words so much as with our actions, with our example, with the way we display our trust in God to provide.

St. Francis Assisi once said: "Preach the Gospel and sometimes use words."

Our call as disciples in our modern world is to be like the African family who by their example converts the village. Today’s Gospel message is all about trusting God and then showing our faith to others by the way we live. At the end of Mass we say: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” 

Let’s vow today to be that family, that person, that converts our village by our example.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Homily Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus visits his home town - Mark 6: 1-6

What a tragic loss for us!

One of the problems we have with reading the bible is it’s hard to get tone of voice and attitude. Today’s Gospel reading sounds like the people had some attitude:

  • “Where did this man get all this?" 
  • "What kind of wisdom has been given him?" 
  • "What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!" 
  • "Isn’t he a carpenter ... Mary’s kid?”

The people in Jesus’ home town just could not imagine Jesus was anything special. To them, Jesus was just another young man who grew up in Nazareth. He didn’t deserve their respect. They saw Him as a common man!  Their familiarity with him blinded them to who he really was. It’s very sad really. Jesus, the Christ, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, God himself was living in their village and they didn’t recognize him.

What a tragic loss for them!

But the truth is don’t you think the same tragically sad thing is happening again today.
We are living in Nazareth.                                                                                                                                            
We live in a Christian country where you can’t drive a few blocks in any city without seeing a church. Even the smallest towns in America have a church, or more likely several churches. Christianity is everywhere in America. Yet in America church attendance is dropping every year. We have become a lot like the people of Nazareth. We are so familiar with the things of God - the crucifixion of Jesus - the burial - the resurrection - that we are no longer moved by them. We are reminded of what Jesus did for us and we say: “So what?!” We talk about the cross and people say: “Oh Jesus, I know all about him. He’s no big deal." It’s very sad really. Jesus, the Christ, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, God himself is living in our cities and towns and we don’t recognize him.

What a tragic loss for us!

Even we can be blind because of our familiarity - blinded by our image of Jesus. The same blindness, that prevented the people of Jesus hometown from seeing who he really was, often exists in us. We too can be blinded by our routine from seeing the power and the love that Jesus has to offer us. So many of us come to church, and in truth, we have little or no faith in the ability of Jesus to create miracles in our lives, to heal us, to forgive us. Like the people of Nazareth, we often lack faith in the power of Jesus to transform our lives for the better.  Like them, we think we know everything there is to know ABOUT Jesus; and yet, we don’t really KNOW Jesus on a personal level.

This Gospel passage can be a true gift to us. It can shake us out of our routine and challenge us to take a fresh look at Him, and then get to know him. This passage is a gift because it helps us to let go of the impressions we have of Jesus and really look at the person. Jesus was born and grew up in very normal and humble circumstances. Not by accident but by design.  This passage helps us see how normal Jesus’ life was; how much his life is like our own.                              

Many of us protest that we are just too ordinary to be holy; to be part of the mission of the Church. We think the mission of spreading the faith was given only to the priests and deacons. Our lives feel far from the extraordinary life of Jesus.  And so we speak of our lives as ... “just” ... this or that. I’m just a student.  I’m just a businessperson.  I’m just a mom ... just a nurse ... just a teacher ... just a soldier.  We forget that for most of his life Jesus was ... just ... a carpenter in a little nowhere town.  

What makes this Gospel passage such a gift to us is that we see that Jesus’ life growing up in Nazareth was so much like ours. It helps us to know him, really know him. And in knowing him, it can give our lives such meaning and worth - our ordinary times - our ordinary lives. Jesus lived a simple life and because of that he understands from first-hand experience our everyday life.

  •  He understands family life.
•  He understands hard work.  Carpentry in his day was seriously hard work.
•  Jesus understands human life — all the messy physical realities of being human.

We see today that there was a time when Jesus was as ordinary as any one of us. And God used his time in Nazareth to fashion and mold and form him into the instrument God needed, and would use, to save the world.

This passage can help us see that God uses the ordinariness of our lives to fashion and mold and form us into the instruments God needs, and will use, to continue to save the world.

We learn today that Jesus is ... like us!  And we are called to be ... like Jesus! 

People all around us are looking for something to give them hope but they cannot quite put their fingers on what that might be. And maybe that’s because Jesus is just too familiar to them.  They don’t see his power and how he can give meaning and purpose to their lives. Unless we tell them!

The question this passage should make us all ask ourselves is:

How is God fashioning me in my ordinary life to serve, to save, to heal?

Friday, July 3, 2015

I have fallen, Lord,
Once more.
I can’t go on, I’ll never succeed.
I am ashamed, I don’t dare look at you.
And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me,
bending over me, watching.
But temptation blew like a hurricane,
And instead of looking at you I turned my head away,
I stepped aside
While you stood, silent and sorrowful,
Like the spurned fiancè who sees his loved one carried away by the enemy.
When the wind died down as suddenly as it had arisen,
When the lightning ceased after proudly streaking the darkness,
All of a sudden I found myself alone, ashamed, disgusted, with my sin in my hands.
This sin that I selected the way a customer makes his purchase,
This sin that I have paid for and cannot return, for the shopkeeper is no longer there,
This tasteless sin,
This odorless sin,
This sin that sickens me,
That I have wanted but want no more,
That I have imagined, sought, played with, fondled, for a long time;
That I have finally embraced while turning coldly away from you,
My arms outstretched, my eyes and heart irresistibly drawn;
This sin that I have grasped and consumed with gluttony,
It’s mine now, but it possesses me as the spiderweb holds captive the gnat.
It is mine,
It sticks to me,
It flows in my veins,
It fills my heart.
It has slipped in everywhere, as darkness slips into the forest at dusk
And fills all the patches of light.
I can’t get rid of it.
I run from it the way one tries to lose a stray dog,
but it catches up with me and bounds joyfully against my legs.
Everyone must notice it.
I’m so ashamed that I feel like crawling to avoid being seen,
I’m ashamed of being seen by my friends,
I’m ashamed of being seen by you, Lord,
For you loved me, and I forgot you.
I forgot you because I was thinking of myself
And one can’t think of several persons at once.
One must choose, and I chose.
And your voice,
And your look
And your love hurt me.
They weigh me down
They weigh me down more than my sin.
Lord, don’t look at me like that,
For I am naked,
I am dirty,
I am down,
With no strength left.
I dare make no more promises,
I can only lie bowed before you.

[The Father's Response]

Come, son, look up.
Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded?
If you loved me, you would grieve, but you would trust.
Do you think that there’s a limit to God’s love?
Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you?
But you still rely on yourself, son. You must rely only on me.
Ask my pardon
And get up quickly.
You see, it’s not falling that is the worst,
But staying on the ground..