Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Homily: 23rd Sunday of the Year

Wisdom 9:13-18
Psalms 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17
Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen!

It was last Wednesday evening that God taught me a lesson. He taught me that one should be careful when praying for humility, because He will surely give it, usually at the most inopportune times. Earlier in the day, when I was preparing for the Harvest Mass at the Sorenson’s I printed off some directions off the internet, but knowing that they are not reliable I called one of our fine, upstanding parishioners just to make sure the directions were right, which they assumed, although not the way they usually went, were just fine.

I figured, by what the directions told me, that it would only take about 15 minutes at the most to get there. Since Mass was slated to start at 6:30 I figured I would leave at about five to six…that would give me plenty of time…or so I thought.

I began my journey full of confidence, only to become a bit worried when at about 6:15 I arrived in Jasper…hmm…not where I thought I should be…so I turned around and tried again…once again I found myself where I shouldn’t be…as the clock was ticking and my mind racing I realized that my car was beeping at me…telling to me that I was about to run out of gas…what I thought would be enough gas to get me to the Sorenson’s and back, was now, in the midst of being lost, not nearly enough to get me where I need to be. Just then a sign told me that Sherman was just a few miles off. Now, never having been to Sherman, I made the mistake of assuming that they would have a gas station…an assumption which of course…was dead wrong…an assumption which in the long run probably saved me some embarrassment since I then realized that I had failed to bring my wallet. Now as the clock was nearing ten to seven I figured I should head back to town to get some gas and try again. But realizing that when I did try again, I did not know where to go, I called our faithful parish council Chairman. I informed him of my dire predicament and he only laughed at me…which made me wonder if this wasn’t some sort of joke that they play on all the new pastors…I began to wonder if there even was a Harvest Mass or if this is just way you break in the new pastor.

After putting in a few gallons of Gas and confident with new directions I began again. Just then my cell phone rang and it was our trusty Deacon. When I answered he said “Father, where are you?” I said “I’m lost.” He said “I figured that, but where are you.” When he realized I was just headed out of town he was so kind to lead me to where everyone was waiting…thanks be to God the folk group was there to keep the people from rioting by playing for them…I don’t think I will ever live this down…so be careful what you pray for…you just might get it.

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

1. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this, as they said about Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Eucharist, is a hard teaching. It seems as though Jesus is encouraging us to hate people…and surely that cannot be so. Jesus teaches us to hate no one or no thing other than evil and sin. So what exactly is Jesus getting at? Is He really telling us to hate our parents, our brothers and sisters, and our other family members? Clearly, the answer is no.

2. I think this passage is really not about hate at all, but about love. It is about making sure that our love priorities are straight. He wants to tell us, in no uncertain terms that if we want to follow Him, if we want to be faithful Catholics, then we must love Him more than anything else. St. Matthew, in recording this same event puts it a little differently. There Jesus says “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who love son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus is not so much telling us about hate, but rather about our love for Him. Jesus is making a point about love and what we might call a hierarchy of loves, a prioritized list of people and things we love.

3. It is clear then, that Jesus wants to make perfectly clear that if we want to follow Him, and I assume every one here does, then He must be the first priority on that list, and nothing, not even our father or mother should come before Him.

4. I do no think that what I am about to say will come as a surprise to anyone. Our world, our society, or nation, sometimes even our own communities, and families have this backwards. They seem have the whole hierarchy, the whole list of priorities upside down. Instead of God being at the top where He should be, He is at the bottom. Coming to Mass or religious ed is sort of a thing we do if we have time left over after all the other stuff we like to do. And even some of the things other than God which should be priorities are not. Things like our spending time with our spouse and children and serving our country and community sadly take the back seat to things like working overtime to buy another car, sporting events and practices, hunting, fishing, and I hate to even say it, watching TV.

5. You know, it’s easy for us to just sort of sit here and think about all those other people who don’t live this teaching of Christ well. I know when I was writing this homily I started making a list in my mind of people who don’t do this well, the suddenly I realized that before condemning everyone else I should take a good long look in the spiritual mirror. I would be willing to bet that a good number of us while listening to this homily have already started thinking about those other people…neighbors, family members, co-workers, who put all kinds of thing before God. That’s easy to do…but when it comes to this, before judging others, we need to should take a good long look at ourselves.

6. I think it would be a very good and spiritually uplifting thing for all of us, myself included, to take a good look at our priorities and ask ourselves a few questions. Are we really putting God first? Do we think about Him every day or just on Sundays and Wednesdays? Do we give Him some of our time every day in prayer, and if we are giving Him time in prayer every day are we giving Him the best of our time, or just what is left over? Can we honestly say we love Him and put Him above everything else in our life? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then I say to you, welcome to fallen humanity. There isn’t a man, woman, or child on earth who lives this perfectly. So don’t be discouraged, but keep trying.

7. If we want to grow in this area I would offer the following suggestions. First, if we have not put God first in our lives, we should repent. We should say we are sorry and resolve to change for the better. The best way to do that is to make a good honest confession. Second, make a commitment to never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever miss Sunday Mass. Unless you are dead, dying, or really sick, never miss Mass. Once you are fully resolved to do that we move on to number three, give God the best of your time. Are you the kind of person who is at their best in the morning? Then give Him some prayer time then. If you do your best work in the afternoon, then give Him some time then. If the best thing you can do is sew, then make a beautiful Altar Cloth and give it to the parish, or make some clothing for the poor. If the best thing you do is garden, then take the best of your vegetables and give them to the Red Sisters in Sioux Falls, or the Carmelites in Alexandria, or to the Banquet where they can be used to feed the poor. And this isn’t just for adults. Children, if the best thing you can do is ride your bike, then ride it to the Church to visit Jesus who lives in the tabernacle. If the best think you can do is play football, then play it honestly and well for Jesus.

8. If we start by doing these three things then what follows will come naturally, and soon we will be able to say, with totally honesty, that we do love Jesus above all things, and then we will truly be able to call ourselves followers of Jesus, men and women seeking to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus along that path that leads through Calvary to the joy of heaven.

Heart of Jesus, patient and full of mercy, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of families, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

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