30th S. 2021: 5-Steps

Today’s homily is for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary time, Oct. 24, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

I think sometimes we make discipleship more complicated than it ought to be. All throughout the Gospels Jesus calls someone to himself–he extends the invitation to follow him–and either they do or they do not. To follow is discipleship. To not follow is not. Today’s Gospel introduces Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, who wants nothing more than to see. In the story of Bartimaeus, we will see Christian discipleship revealed in five steps.

Step 1. Bartimaeus is blind, has nothing, and sits in the dirt all day crying out for anything that anyone might give him. How pathetic. It’s disgusting and sad, and is quite beneath human dignity. Life’s circumstances have brought Bartimaeus low. He has no pride. No ego. No claim on anyone or anything. He is at rock bottom. You know, for many people it is not until they hit rock bottom that they cry out to the Lord. A coworker of mine at New Deal Market was a born again believer and spoke of Jesus to anyone who would listen He came to hear God’s call in a drunken stupor. He fell down into the gutter unable to get up. And when he looked up, he saw a bright light that changed his life forever. The rest of the world would have seen a streetlight, but Phil saw the light, heard the voice of God, and never had another drop again. Step 1 is recognizing that we are but beggars before God. If we have anything at all, it is only because in his mercy he gives it to us.

Step 2. We cry out to him in our want. Notice in the Gospel that everyone tells Bartimaeus to be quiet. They remind him that he’s nothing, he’s a nobody, and Jesus has no time for him. But Bartimaeus is courageous and cries out all the more! As we recognize our need and cry out to the Lord, there will always be others who mock us, tell us we’re weak, and who remind us that we’re nobody with nothing. There bullies in school, and bullies at work, and many in the world. They will tell us to be quiet, but they cannot bully our Lord. He hears our cry and bids us come to him.

Step 3. Jesus calls and Bartimaeus jumps to attention. The calling of Jesus that echoes in each person’s heart is what we call a vocation. The root word of vocation is the Latin word, vocare, which literally means, “to call.” Jesus calls us to himself and satisfies our every need through only four ways: the single life, the married life, the religious life, or the priesthood. St. Fancis de Sales said, “A good vocation is simply a firm and constant will in which the person who is called must serve God in the way and in the places to which Almighty God has called him.” We must respond.

Step 4. Bartimaeus wants to see, and so should we. So many of us are blind with greed. Blind with a desire for popularity or fame. Everyone wants to be a YouTube sensation. Money has become our God. Power calls us, wealth calls us, fame calls us…but God’s call is rooted only in love and our total happiness. Bartimaeus responds correctly. He wants to see. Do we? Do we want to see a world without borders? To see people without politics. To see not the color of skin, but the quality of one’s character. God sees beyond hair and piercings and tattoos. God sees the heart. He looks deeply into the soul of the person. How different our world would be if we could really see.

Step 5. Bartimaeus receives his sight and followed him on the way. We never hear more about Bartimaeus, but we know he followed Jesus from that point forward. And that is the way it might be with us too. Jesus hears our cry, lifts us up out of the dirt, opens our eyes, and bids us to follow him. We may never make the headlines or end up on t.v., or be a YouTube sensation, but we will never want for anything again. In Jesus we find passion, joy, purpose and fulfillment.

27th S. 2021: Become One

Today’s homily is for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary time, Oct. 3, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Today’s Gospel ends with Jesus telling his disciples privately, “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” It seems like a strange ending to Jesus teaching about divorce, don’t you think? Jesus speaks about the permanency of marriage as God intended from the beginning. He talks about a bill of divorce being offered as a concession because too many of us are fickle, unloving, selfish, and weak. He uses the term “hard-hearted.” 

To be hard-hearted is to remain closed off, unwilling to make oneself vulnerable. Sadly, too many–even in marriage, even with our spouse–remain closed off, insensitive, unconcerning, unsupportive and undiscerning. This is not marriage at all. A marriage as God intended, says Jesus, is one where far from being divided into mine and hers, me and “other,” my friends, her friends, my money, her money, my time, my goals, my dreams, my future, my, my, my, Jesus teaches instead that there is only we, ours, and us. Our future, our finances, our friends, and our goals. That is marriage as God intended. That is, actuality, marriage

In Jesus’ day, as it is now, people were looking for any reason at all to divorce and find another…you know, one that you’ll be happier with than the one you’re with now–fulfilled, satisfied in every way. One that will not bring you down to earth like that anchor you’re with now, but let’s you keep your head in the clouds; lets you be the astronaut God has called you to be. One that will launch you to the glory for which you were created, will sustain you while you’re up there in space, and manage all your affairs down here on earth. This is pure folly. It’s a fantasy. The stuff of movies and romance novels, maybe, but not of real life. 

Jesus says that when two people are married there is a fusion that occurs. Each of them joins together to create  something entirely new. When I marry couples I tell them that Christian marriage is more like pancakes than bacon and eggs. Bacon and eggs are simple. You cook them and put them on the plate. You don’t like eggs? Oatmeal instead. You don’t like bacon; sausage instead. Switch ‘em around, mix and match you know! But with pancakes, you start with eggs, butter, flour, baking soda, sugar, milk, mix ‘em all up, add a little heat from the kitchen (wink wink) and you have a pancake! Where did the eggs go? The butter? It’s in there, but indistinguishable. It becomes something entirely new. That’s why Jesus says the two become one flesh, never to be undone. You just can’t undo it. It’s impossible. That’s marriage.

So why so many struggles in marriage today? I think it’s because the ingredients are there, but they stay in the bag. Instead of marriage being the ingredients coming together, we’re calling marriage the bag. The hardness of heart closes people off to the mixing that must occur for a marriage to actually take place. That’s what an annulment is, actually. It’s not “a catholic divorce” as some say. It is instead a statement of fact that all the ingredients were there, but for one reason or another–always related to the hardness of heart–they never fused. Never became one. 

Marriage as God intended is the absolute goal, a helper and guide, and a companion for the whole of life. It’s beautiful and right and good. It’s a foretaste of heaven–the fullness of the Kingdom. Just ask my wife, she’s living in the kingdom right now! Haha. No, it’s work, humbly accepted, and embrace on faith. You see, before you can have it, you have to accept it as true. That’s why Jesus says if we’re not ready to accept the Kingdom (and clearly marriage) like a child we will not enter it. 

Whether the Kingdom or marriage, we must live in the truth, we must trust, we must forgive, and allow for mistakes and growth (and more mistakes), but remain always in faith, always in hope, always in love. And that is marriage as God intended, the two become one, and one with God. 

St. Margaret of Youville said, “All the wealth of the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united.”

26th S. 2021: Speak Up!

Today’s homily is for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary time, Sept. 28, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

In our first reading from the Book of Numbers an enthusiastic young man runs up to Moses and says, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” and Joshua tells Moses to stop them! What was the fuss all about anyway? It was because Eldad and Medad were not among the seventy upon whom the Lord’s Spirit came to rest. There should have been seventy-two present; they were on the invite list, but for whatever reason, those two didn’t make it in time. Clearly, Joshua’s attitude, and maybe some others too were like, “Hey, you snooze you lose!” Or like the soup nazi from Seinfeld, “No soup for you!” They wanted to say that because you weren’t there, you shouldn’t be prophesying! You don’t rate!

Maybe we should take just a moment to talk about the Old Testament understanding of what a prophet is, and then what they are expected to do. The word “prophet,” literally means a messenger or spokesperson on behalf of God, who delivers a divinely inspired message. We often mistake the role of the prophet as one who sees into the future, and to some degree they did, but there’s more. The prophet, on behalf of God, does have an eye to the future to say, “Man, God doesn’t like how this is going! If things continue this way, we’re going to be in a huge mess!” But they weren’t only looking at the future, mostly, they looked and pointed others to the past. To remember.

The old testament prophets always remind people of where they have come from, God’s laws they had agreed to obey, the life of holiness they were called to live, and how far they had fallen–how greatly they had missed the mark. The prophets pointed back to the Covenant; back to Moses and the law. But they also pointed to the future again, but this time with hope and optimism, and a reminder of God’s forgiveness and faithfulness. They said, if you repent, if you change your ways, if you return to God, it’s not too late, the God of mercy will forgive you and receive you back into his arms. Isaiah told the people on behalf of God, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

What an important message and an important role the prophets had. Always to remind God’s children that there was right and there was wrong, and it’s never too late to come home to the father’s love and the father’s house. We can’t keep going this way. We can’t keep living this way. We need to get back on track as a holy people and a holy nation. We need to repent again, be reconciled again, to pray again, and to hope again. Moses wisely told Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish all the people of the LORD were prophets! I would love it if the LORD’s spirit would descend upon them all!”

And my brothers and sisters, Moses’ prayer was answered. The Spirit of God descended not just upon two or seventy two, but on the apostles at Pentecost and on every believer since–on you and on me. We have been made prophets by the Spirit and are called to be his voice with the same message today that the prophets had so long ago–remember the Covenant and the commandments, the direction we’re going isn’t good, we cannot stand strong with so much division, we must return to Christian living, repentance, reconciliation, lives of holiness, and sacrifice, and prayer. We must again be people of hope, bringing light and life to places of darkness and death. 

Moses’ prayer was answered. The Spirit of God has descended. But where are God’s prophets? Who will be this generation’s Eldad and Medad, Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, or St. James from the second reading? And Jesus reminds his disciples, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Right is right and true is true regardless of where it comes from. Our church is always working alongside other men and women of goodwill, religious leaders and faith traditions, who though different than our own, are casting out demons right along with us. Be a prophet. Speak boldly. Gather alongside others who are also making the world a better place. And bring people hope, life and good news.