Homily, 26 June 2016, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Homily, 26 June 2016Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time1 Kings 19:16B,19-21; Psalms 16:1-2,5,7-8,9-10,11; Galatians 5:1,13-18; Luke 9:51-62— —‘Excuses’ : And to another he said, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." And another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home."— — Let me begin with a little story. This one isn’t my own, it’s from a book called “Tales of a Magic Monastery” by Theophane the Monk. I went to the monastery for a retreat. I checked with the man at the reception desk. As he handed me my key he said “Meet your director in the Retreat House at seven. Please respect the silence.” I arrived promptly at seven. The door to the room was open, so I went in. In the room two chairs, set facing each other. An old monk was sitting on one of the chairs. I sat down on the other. “Why not?” that was the first thing he said. He had never seen me before. I hadn’t said a word. “Why not?” I knew he had me.I brought up excuses: “My wife … busy at work … not enough time … I’m not an extrovert … family wouldn’t understand …”There was a sword hanging on the wall. He took it and gave it to me. “Here, with this sword you can cut through any barriers.” I took it and slipped away without saying a word.”Back in my room in the guesthouse I sat down and kept looking at the sword. I knew what he said was true. The next day I returned his sword. How can I live without my excuses?— —“Let me go and bury my father.”“Let me say farewell to my family at home.” We don’t know enough of the context to understand what’s really going on in these vignettes, but I wonder why these guys didn’t take care of these issues before they left home.Jesus could really read a person … sense what was on his mind or in his heart. What did he perceive in these guys? Excuses, I suppose, no real commitment. Notice what he told the first guy: “You, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” You can do that anywhere, any time: even burying the dead. You just have to want to do it. You can’t make excuses, yet we do. I know I do.— —There are three dimensions to following Jesus and they are non-negotiable aspects of the faith: our relationship with Jesus; our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ; and our willingness to keep his commandments. I think we all tend to gravitate toward one aspect or the other and make excuses for why we ignore or disregard the others. But like a three-legged stool, you need all three legs, all three aspects, for balance and stability. So how do we cultivate the first aspect: our relationship with Christ?That’s not hard to figure out. Like any relationship you have spend time together, talk to one another and listen to one another. Prayer, piety, and scripture are vital to this part of our relationship. Prayer is of course more than just words, it’s also spending time alone with God. As a woman once told me, she and her husband don’t have to talk whenever they’re together, all that really matters is that they “breathe the same air.” Piety is our devotion to religious practices: daily mass, the rosary and other formal prayers, adoration. Think of them as the precursors to prayer. Think of it this way … perhaps you have some rituals that support and nourish your relationships: a weekly golf date with your friends, a glass of wine with your spouse in the evening. These rituals bring you together and you begin to talk, to catch up on news, to make plans and workout problems. Scripture reading isn’t just about studying, but it’s also about prayer and reflection. Often just spending time with a particular passage or psalm is enough if you make it a habit. I’m ordained, but that doesn’t mean my relationship with Jesus is always great. I make excuses. The worst is “I’m too busy.” I get obsessed with my “to do” list, or I fritter away time reading blogs or news feeds. Why don’t I make time? “Why not?”— —The second aspect of faith is parish life. Jesus said to his disciples, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” After he washed their feet he said he had given them a model to follow: a model of service. Service to all people, of course, but also service to one another. In the book of Acts, Luke tells how the first Christians “… devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” It’s a non-negotiable part of being Catholic, that we belong to a parish community. This parish has a hundred different ministries, committees, and groups: from mowing teams to parish council; youth soccer to perpetual adoration. My excuse is that I’m already involved. But it’s not a very good excuse. Sometimes you just have to go to Trivia Night, or a Fish Fry, or a weekday mass. Not everything is a big commitment. It’s our twenty-fifth anniversary. Make that your gift to the parish: get more involved. Why not?— —Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That’s why the third aspect of our faith is also non-negotiable. “You are my friends,” he also said, “if you do what I command you.” Care for the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the prisoner, the stranger. Love your neighbor. These are among the things he told us to do. And so we have to do all kinds of works of mercy and promote the common good in our community and our world. I’ve already noted how many ways there are to be involved in the parish. Many of these are concerned with Works of Mercy and social justice. But there are many others ways to follow Jesus out into the world: volunteer for Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Literacy Center. Every month we collect food for the poor. What could be simpler? We get several hundred bags, but think about how may folks come to mass every weekend, and ask your self, why don’t we get a thousand? It starts with you. Why not?— —We believe in Christ, but can we be better disciples? What’s holding us back? What are our excuses? What if someone gave you a sword that could cut through any barriers?Would you pick it up and use it?Jesus has given us his life, death and resurrection and, above all, his love. That’s a pretty sharp sword. Take it up and use it. Why not?