21st Sunday - homily
Probably my favorite all-time TV show is “Cheers” which ran in the 80s and 90s. It was a funny show, a sitcom that took place in a bar in Boston. There were many interesting characters – bartenders, waitresses, and patrons. One of the waitresses was Carla who was Catholic and had many children. Carla had a very interesting spirituality, to say the least. During one episode, one of Carla’s teenage sons expressed a strong interest in becoming a priest. Carla began to think, ‘hey, if my son becomes a priest, that is my ticket to heaven. I can do whatever I want!’
So, Carla began doing whatever she wanted. She did all kinds of stuff, including many mean things to people. When they asked her why she did it, she said, ‘hey, what does it matter? My son is going to be a priest’. Well, towards the end of the episode, her son came to see her with a new girlfriend. Carla became a bit scared, and asked him, “Umm..what happened to the priesthood?” “Oh, come on, Mom”, he said, “that was last week!” At the end of the show, Carla is desperately asking God’s forgiveness.
It is a ridiculous example, but it helps us to consider the sin of presumption, especially in light of today’s Gospel. Presumption is when we take salvation for granted…we take Heaven for granted. It is good for each one of us to ask ourselves: “am I taking salvation for granted? Am I taking Heaven for granted?” Our hope is that no one at St Andrew’s does this; our being here shows that we don’t take it for granted. But, the reality is that some do, or else this Church would be filled at this Mass and every Mass.
The Jewish people were starting to do that, so Jesus tried to warn them in the Gospel. They might have been thinking, ‘hey, we’re God’s people. We’re the people of Israel. We’re God’s chosen ones’. Jesus paraphrases their arrogant attitude with “Lord, you ate and drank with us, and you taught in our streets. You know us”. He is saying to them, be careful, I might not know who you are when you try to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. With our Protestant brother and sisters, we often hear them say, “I am saved…On such and such date, I professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I’m saved”. Jesus says, be careful. The correct attitude should be, ‘I hope I am saved’.
Even we Catholics use phrases that might be presumptuous or arrogant. One of the funnier lines I’ve heard has been, “well, I went to 12 years of Catholic education”. I would often hear this from people when I told them I was going into or in the seminary. They would say, “really, wow. Well, you know, I went to 12 years of Catholic school.” I would be thinking, ‘oookay’, and simply say, “hey, that’s great”. More commonly, we say, ‘hey I’m a good person’. Yes, I’m sure that’s true, but the question is: will you be saved?
On a more personal note, we ask the questions, ‘do I take Jesus for granted? Do I take my relationship with Him for granted?’ Do we just assume that he will always there for us, and that we don’t need to go to Him? Do we take God’s mercy for granted? Christ is God’s mercy and love personified, so if we take Him for granted, we take God’s love for granted. We know that we do know this with other people – family members, friends, loved ones. We realize at different times that we don’t tell people we love how much they mean to us or that we love them. Do we do the same with Jesus?
I learned a very harsh lesson about taking people for granted when my father died suddenly when I was 17. I never got to tell him how much he meant to me and that I loved him. I have learned since then that whenever I have the chance, I tell people how I feel about them and that I love them. I would encourage all of you to do the same; tell those you love how much they mean to you.
So, what can we do to avoid taking Jesus for granted? We can try to talk to and listen to Him in prayer. We can get to know Him better by reading Scripture; many people read one chapter of the Gospel before going to bed at night. We can serve those in need and get involved in parish activities. Jesus says that when we serve the poor, we serve Him.
The best way for us to appreciate Christ and not take Him for granted is in the Eucharist. In a few minutes, we will see Him under the signs of bread and wine. When I elevate the host which is His Body and elevate the cup which is His Blood, each of can quietly say, “Jesus, I love you. I thank you”. As we receive Jesus in Holy Communion today, may each of us know God’s love and thank him for his mercy. May each of us know God’s love in Jesus Christ.