Sunday, September 09, 2007

23rd Sunday - homily

Some time ago on the blog site, a person made the comment along the lines that many of us see the Gospel as too idealistic. It’s just too demanding…it’s too much. So, since we know we can’t live up the high expectations, we settle for mediocrity. Instead of living out the Commandments and Beatitudes praying regularly, and going to Confessions regularly, many people settle for just ‘being a nice person’, for example. It’s an interesting point that’s good for each of us to consider: Do I approach the Gospel in the same way?

I think that Jesus addresses this point in today’s Gospel. He makes it clear that he is calling us to greatness, not mediocrity. It is a big undertaking to be his disciple, and we need to know all that’s involved to follow him. He gives the example of a builder who is constructing a large tower. The builder gets halfway through the project and realizes that he doesn’t have enough resources to finish the job. He loses all credibility as a builder. Likewise, if we start on the huge project of following Christ- basically building a tower of holiness and love, get halfway and realize that we don’t have the resources – the strength and courage – to follow Jesus, we lose all credibility as disciples. In fact, Jesus says that if anyone who can’t renounce all of his possessions cannot be his disciple.

Now, about what we hear Jesus say in today’s Gospel that we are to “hate” our mother and father, sister and brother, all these people, and even our own life. Wait, did Jesus say we are to hate, like, everyone? Well, we understand that the word “hate” here means “love less”. It is brought more clearly out in Matthew’s Gospel that we are to love Christ more than anyone or anything. He is to be number one in our hearts and lives.

Why does God call us to greatness? It’s because he wants us to experience the fullness of life. He knows that if we settle for mediocrity, we settle for mediocre happiness and mediocre peace. More than that, though, God calls us to be great because He himself is great and he wants us to share in his greatness. God’s idea of greatness is different from the world’s; Jesus says that the greatest among you is the one who serves the rest. So, we look at Christ’s greatness. His whole life is about serving us. He became one of us, lived as a poor man who little or no possessions, took up his cross for us, and died a terrible death for us. It is because of his service – his greatness – that he is glorified by the Father. Christ wants us to share in his glory…to share in his greatness.

Christ doesn’t just call us to greatness and then leave us on our own to live it. He gives us all the help we need. He gives us his grace which is his life and strength, especially in the Eucharist. He says that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, and will bear much fruit”. Christ helps us to be great as his disciple.

Finally, one example that is hard but it helps to make the point. Good friends of mine are parents who are in their forties and have three beautiful kids. They are very good ad holy people. The husband and father, Mike, is very sick right now with a rare blood disease. It does not look good. I ask you to pray for Mike and his wife, Kelly. I was talking to Kelly the other night and she was looking at the tough road – the mountain of suffering - ahead of her. She said, “Fr Greg, how am I going to handle this? Either Mike will be sick for a long time or if he passes, I’ll have to raise the kids on my own”. The only thing I could say is, “Kelly, one day at a time”. It’s not my phrase, but there is a lot of wisdom to it.

I would use the same line to each one of us here today who is looking at this huge tower of holiness and love that Jesus is asking to build as his disciples: one day at a time. He is here to help us, and it is through his grace that we are his disciples who will share in his greatness.


At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do we reconcile the Gospel with Paul's letter in the second reading... how do we reconcile but put people and things aside in following God?

I don't get it.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger fran said...

Dear Mike and Kelly,

I am thinking that you must be the same Mike and Kelly, who have posted on this blog site in the past, both together and separately.
I am certain that your thoughtful messages have been a source of strength, hope, faith and inspiration for many who read here.
I know that they have been for me.

I hope that you will now find strength in the many prayers that will be offered for you, by the parishioners of St. Andrew Apostle today and in the days ahead.

At 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's like deja vu-

What do you say a close friend who is facing this kind of thing (as Mike and Kelly)? I wish one would give me magic words. I spent the other day with my best friend's children (the daughter in particular) who asked me if I knew about her dad having cancer. I said I did, and she started to cry. It took all I had to hold myself together. I felt like my heart was breaking. She's only nine years old. I was there when she was born, and I remember her father turning to me and saying (with tears running down his cheeks), "Can you believe I have a daughter?"

I feel like I've been out of body the past few days. I feel helpless. I can make dinners, I can do laundry, I can drive carpool- but I can't make her dad better. Isn't that what our kids ultimately rely upon- that the adults they trust can make all better?

Take each day at a time- how do you convey that to a child? I know I should say, "No matter what, all will be okay." But will it really? It makes me so sad.

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Catholic girl said...

Dear Mike and Kelly,

You are both in my prayers. Keep strong. The there is a lot of power in prayers.

At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Dear Fran, anon, and "Catholic Girl"(cute screen name), Yes, Father Greg was referring to Mike and Kelly, bloggers on his site. We just arrived home after a 3 week stay in Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville Florida. It is so wonderful to hug and kiss our children. Our deepest gratitude for your kindness and most importantly prayers.
Thank you to, Father Greg, for mentioning our situation in his homily. The prayers from St. Andrew's parishioners must be strong because God keeps renewing our spirits and supplying much fortitude. The Monday after the homily was perhaps our hardest day at Mayo but God was with us in every way.

To Deja vu: What do you say to a child? Our 13 year old son called his dad many times and begged for a promise that the doctors would make him well and that he would get better. Mike assured him that the drs. would do every thing possible and that God would take care of every thing else. He then told him to continue to uphold his responsibilities: homework, chores, obeying grandma, going to baseball practice.

The next day my son walked to Amoco and applied for a job. His older sister (knowing that they would not hire him) said "why? What can you do there and nobody hires thirteen year olds?"

My son's reply, "I want to get a job because dad might need money."

A nine year old will see that you are making meals, helping with daily tasks and the nine year old can be asked to help. As you can not promise that this child's dad will get well, neither can we.......But we can show them by example and word to trust in God, to do the work (no matter how small) to help the family, to pray, and, as Father Greg said "to live one day at a time."

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anon #1:

Paul was referring to a "spiritual son" who Paul brought to conversion. This man was a slave who was imprisoned with Paul. He was sending him back to his community and asking that this new convert would be received as a brother in the faith community(not as a slave). These were very bold words for Paul because during this historical time slavery was seen as an acceptable ordinary practice.

This man was not Paul's actual biological son.

We are not asked to put people and things aside in following God. We are asked to love God above all things and people. The easiest way to understand, for me, no one belongs to us. Our children are God's children. Our family members and loved ones are God's children. As much as we think we want all good things for them, God wants all things for them even more. Any thing and any one is first and foremost only here because of God and they are in our lives because of Him. So to love them MORE would mean that we are loving the gifts of God more than God. Breaking the commandment to love the Lord, thy God, above all things.


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