Sunday, January 25, 2009

3rd Sunday - homily

For many years, the Archdiocese has had vocations retreats for boys and girls in high school. As a seminarian, I helped out with a few of the boys’ retreats which were 2-3 days in the summer. Some of the boys called it, “Priests Camp”. They would have fun and play games but there would also be the stuff of priesthood: Mass, confessions, prayer, and talks on the priesthood. The retreat was officially called, “Come and See”, which is based on the call that Jesus gives to the first Apostles: Come and see what life with me is like…come and see what I am calling you to.

The Archdiocese actually asked me to give talks to the boys about my vocation story. I told them about how I entered seminary (after the craziness of college and high school)…how I left seminary…then re-entered seminary…then left again…then re-entered again! When I discussed leaving the seminary the first time, I said that I felt like the rich young man in Matthew’s Gospel who Jesus calls to sell everything he has, give it to the poor, and come follow Him. The man couldn’t do it, and so he walked away from the call, ”sad”. That’s the way I felt. I had heard God calling me to the priesthood but I didn’t want to do it. So, I walked away from the call, sad.

We see and hear different responses to God’s Call throughout Scripture and Tradition. We see the response of the rich young man which is to walk away from God’s Call. We also see the response of someone like Jonah who answered God’s Call to be a prophet but his heart wasn’t in it. We hear in today’s first reading that Jonah prophesied to the town of Nineveh and helped convert that town. What we don’t hear is that Jonah had resisted God’s Call initially. He tried to run from God, but realized he couldn’t. So, he’s only serving as a prophet because he realizes that there’s no way out. We might say that he’s simply going through the motions.

Then, we hear the response of our patron saint, Andrew, in today’s Gospel. Andrew is called by Christ to “come after me”. Andrew and his brother Simon “abandoned their nets” and followed Jesus. He responded immediately to God’s Call and his heart was in it. It really is an incredible response that we shouldn’t overlook. He gave up everything on the spot to follow Jesus! He gave up his job. He gave up his livelihood. He left his family. He abandoned his own plans. He abandoned his own hopes and dreams.

Andrew didn’t know what he was getting into. He didn’t know what being a fisher of men meant exactly. He just knew that it would be good because it was what Jesus was calling him to do. As we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, he believed that Jesus was the Messiah. So, whatever the Messiah wanted him to do, he would do. Andrew showed great faith and trust in God. He showed great love and generosity in answering God’s Call. He is a great example for us to follow.

We see the different, general responses to God’s Call when it comes to the Eucharist. We know people who have had the different responses. Some have heard God’s Call to receive the Eucharist and have left. They have left the Church…they have left the Eucharist. Some come here on Sundays and receive the Eucharist, but their hearts aren’t in it. They are doing God’s Will in being here, but we might say they are going through the motions. Some have responded to the Eucharist as Andrew responded to Christ’s Call: immediately and generously. They come here on Sundays and even weekdays with hearts that are open.

The key in responding to God’s Call is our hearts. Are our hearts open to Christ? Are we open to what He is calling us to do? Have we put ourselves in a position to encounter Him? I really believe that Andrew responded the way he did because he had had an encounter with Christ. Just like the woman at the well in John 4, Andrew had encountered the living God in a deep way and his heart had been moved. This is what changes lives. This is what changes hearts. This is what leads people to leave everything to follow Him. May we be open to encountering our God today in the Eucharist so that we will do His Will today and throughout our lives.


At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a timely article in the Sunday Post titled, “A Not-So-Simple Life” about a young woman’s journey as she discerns her vocation. She started a ministry that serves the poor in Southeast Washington. It’s interesting and highlights this woman’s pull to serve God’s call.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the past week I have been struggling with the realization that God has given me the gift of free will but that I'm not living His will. Today's sermon made me think seriously about how difficult it is to give up worldly goods and inspirations to follow Andrew's example. Think how much better we would be if we give up one possession or desire and turn that energy into prayerful reflection. I pray for the strength to turn these words into action.

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Katherine said...

God has called me to nursing, Emergency in particular. It's definitely not an easy road. There have been many times where I wanted to leave the hospital and never go back after some really nasty Code Blues, or being assaulted by Psych patients and drunk patients. It's not easy to be nice to the whiny patients out in Triage when they can't see that another patient is more critical then they are.

But the good outweighs the bad. I love working with kids. They have such a pure outlook on life. The cancer patients give me insight on life and its beauty. The codes let me see life and death at its best and worst. I get to try and help improve people's quality of life. I would not trade being in this job for anything in the world. And it's one of those jobs where it doesn't end when you leave the hospital. I sometimes get people coming up to me on the street and CVS asking me for help. Some of them are former patients.

Because of Emergency, I have gotten stronger in my faith. I need God to take care of these people. I need God to help me be strong for the patients and their families. I need God when I see bad stuff and I need comfort to go on. Heck, I need God in general.

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the same concept of Anon at 10:16 & Fran's comment from the previous post:

I wonder when society is going to take a good hard look in the mirror, and realize that we are responsible for the image returned. I wonder what would shine in return if we lived for; morals instead of money, piety instead of pride, love instead of lust, generosity instead of greed and selflessness instead of self. My suspicion is that we’d all be pretty pleased with our looks.

At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if I chose the right vocation or if I'm answering God's call, but have you ever heard the saying, “Bloom where you are planted?” I try to remember that when I look at my life and think, “If only I had taken that job,” and “If only I married someone else,” or “If only I lost 20 pounds,” and “If only I weren’t so confused,” then surely I’d bloom. I don’t know if I’m doing God’s will or my own, but I’m learning to measure my progress there in how I do what I do when I am where I am (regardless of where I think I may want to be). So, I don’t know if I’m doing what God is calling me to do, but I know He’s touched my life and it’s changing me.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Anon 12:11-

I think the problem is less about a willingness to look in the mirror and more about a distorted image of what we see. I think there are a lot of people who believe themselves generous and selfless without necessarily examining what those words require. Take the issue of greed-

there was a homily given a while ago (I think by Fr. Greg) that struck a chord. He was talking about Bill Gates being praised for giving millions of dollars to charity, noting that his actions were a very good thing, but also remarking that the man had billions. How many times have we seen famous people praised for their charity and then watch coverage of their lives as they live like kings? I’m not saying that success and wealth are wrong- we have simply have grown a consciousness that allows us to give virtually little of ourselves and feel good about it. Christ teaches us about sacrifice, and our generosity and giving of self should come from his example. I have argued this point with my husband- that we CAN give even if we forgo (often a superlative) comfort. However, it seems that, by and large, people are okay with their own excess and extravagance as long as they are also “giving” to charity. In those instances, greed is healthy and strong but how many see it that way?

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It gets better each day….
Nancy Pelosi wants the stimulus package to include birth control. Her reasoning- birth control will help the economy.

Were pregnant women and teens the ones who purchased inflated mortgages? Were they responsible for the credit crisis and the failures of the banking industry? No matter- let’s lay the burden on their backs anyway! So many brilliant people we have leading our nation. Let’s see if I got the argument right- no people, no cost? The gospel according to Pelosi, brilliant!

At 7:19 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Oh, Anon 11:29am, in case you weren't outraged enough:

The state of Maryland requires health insurance plans that provide coverage for pregnancy-related benefits to provide coverage for all outpatient procedures associated with IVF...which is plenty disrespectful of human life, not that many care to admit it.

At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that HMO’s are exempt from covering IVF in Md. But you got me thinking- the cost of covering IVF treatment (infertility affect 1 in 8) has increased the cost of health care coverage. Many businesses fought coverage at the state level arguing that additional costs would (and did) cause them to reduce or eliminate coverage. If advocating contraception is a means for “helping” our economic state- why not eliminate the mandated coverage for expensive IVF procedures?

A few years ago, the Catholic Church (with other religious groups) fought for an exception to providing ocntraception coverage to their employees. In NY, the state required all employers who offered drug coverage to include coverage for contraception. The Court supported the state, explaining that they must weigh the importance of the Church’s adherence to its faith against the state’s interest in providing equality to the sexes. It blew my mind- what happened to separation of church and state there? The case wasn’t about the vast majority of citizens in NY to use contraception, but about the Church’s right to religious freedom.

So, is the Church also required to pay for IVF in state's where coverage is mandated too?

At 6:18 AM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Anon 11:42 pm

HMOs are NOT exempt from the requirement to provide IVF coverage. I don't know whether religious organizations are exempt from the requirement...if I've time today I'll look into it.

Mandating coverage for IVF does seem inconsistent with the mindset that birth control is good for the economy. However, what I think Pelosi meant is that unplanned children are bad for the economy.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Anon 11:42 pm - to follow up my previous post

Religious organizations ARE exempt from the state requirement to cover IVF. "Self-funded" health plans also are exempt from most state coverage requirements, however most choose to include IVF in the interest of having a competitive benefits package.

[A "self-funded" plan is a plan in which claims costs are paid by the employer; with a fully-funded plan the claims costs are paid by the insurer. Because of the potential to take the hit for large claims, self-funded plans aren't usually an option for small employers.]

The link below is to a study regarding the impact of Maryland's coverage requirements on premium costs, compared to those of surrounding states. It was published in 2004 however I think it still is worth reading. Interestingly enough it targets IVF as not being in line with what other states require, and that it has the highest cost of atypical requirements. That cost is expressed as a fraction of a percent that sounds like a drop in the bucket, but still it's lots of money that could be put to better use elsewhere.

At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understood what Pelosi meant and realize I kinda took a potshot. My broader point is that their (liberals, pro-choicer's, whomever "they" are) only look at one side of things even when looking at the other side compliments the very arguement they are making. Sometimes, it seems as though "they" can't bring themselves to the side of respect for life.


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