7.31.22 Homily: Possessed Much?

Today’s homily is for the eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 31, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video is here.

Jesus tells the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” I think there are many good people who fall into the trap of letting their possessions, possess them. Amazon Prime, Door Dash, and other immediate delivery services have made it very easy for us to spend our money. How many times have we impulsively purchased something that we may well have wanted at the time, but it’s still in the closet with a tag on it, is still in the garage in the box, or still remains in the kitchen unused after having if for months or even years–did we really even need it? 

Many homes have these differing personality types when it comes to possessions. Some put no investment in name brands and will wear almost anything. They are very happy with hand-me-downs and second-hand store items and are able to put every single thing to some good use…but they buy every single thing. At a discount, or in bulk, but every dollar is spent on really good deals…far too good to pass up. There are t.v. shows about this! And they are possessed with greed for things.

Others buy far less. Their lives appear minimalist and simple, but simple they are not. Upon inspection, the things they have are exceedingly expensive. Their wealth knows no middle ground, no “good-enough” to get the job done. Only name-brand clothing, high end technology, sunglasses, and cars. And they too are possessed with greed for the name. I know one woman who when shopping for a new washer and dryer called the store and said, “give me the most expensive washer and dryer you have,” but as we know, expensive doesn’t always mean better. 

The Gospel is a strong warning for us today: know this, none of us is promised tomorrow. One day we are here, and the next we are gone, as Denzel Washington famously said, “I’ve never seen a U-haul behind a hearse.” The actor said, “I’ve been blessed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in my life, but I can’t take it with me, and neither can you. It’s not how much you have,” he said, “it’s what you do with what you have.”  

I know it, you know it, and clearly, it’s not a new concept because Jesus and his hearers knew it too. They didn’t have the lottery in Jesus’ day–but they did have the harvest. Just the right seed, in the right soil, at the right time, with the right weather, and Boom! We need a bigger barn! Jesus says, be careful! Winning the Mega Millions Lotto doesn’t make you immortal! Just yesterday, someone from Illinois won 1.34 billion dollars…he or she is going to need a bigger barn, right?! No, better to have a bigger heart.

Today’s Gospel challenge is clear–have we been adequately generous with what we have? We say that everything we have is a gift from the Lord, but do we mean it? Are we generous with what we have, blessing others with our wealth? Sometimes we are generous with those who are close–who share our name, our interests, our race, or religion, but are less generous with those who are far from us–though maybe in much greater need. 

What great wealth we have been given. Each of us, blessed in abundance in a variety of ways. In the manner with which we’ve been blessed, we are called to give. If one is wealthy, then in financial support. If one is retired, then in time spent with others. If one is educated, then in educating others. Today Jesus calls us to take inventory of our lives and our possessions. Our attitude and generosity are always a matter of the heart. And Jesus came to heal that heart! Jesus continues to cast out demons–today he wants to liberate us from the sickness of selfishness and greed. None of us is promised tomorrow, be generous today, one’s life does not consist of possessions—and will only find rest and peace in God.

17th S. 2022: A Sinful City

Today’s homily is for the seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 24, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

Today’s reading from the Old Testament is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where God brings justice to those who have been afflicted by the sinfulness of the society in which they live. As the Hebrew people told it, God destroys those cities “because their sin is so grave.” Of course, we know the sin is of a sexual nature–it’s where we get our English word, sodomy, or sodomite. There are many who would like to simply dismiss this example of sin in society, arguing that the Biblical worldview is archaic and no longer applies, but I think this is wrong. And there are those who would like to elevate this example of sin in society, arguing that because it was used as an example here, that it is worse than any other sin that can be committed, but I think this is wrong too. 

This is not a story about homosexuality, as far too many would suggest, this is a story about sodomy, social sin, the effects of sin, God’s justice, God’s judgement, God’s mercy, and the power of prayer. God cares about people–God loves the world and everything in it–and God is always concerned about behavior that is closed to life. 

The Old Testament is said to have 613 commandments–all of them in some way or another a violation of the love that is due to God or neighbor. As Christians we are not bound by those 613–Jesus gave us only one commandment, namely, to love–and we should, but what does that mean about the rest of the commandments found in the Old Testament? While not bound by them, we must ask ourselves, “What is the danger here? What is at stake here? What virtue of value does it seek to uphold?” We are not bound by it, but we must allow all of God’s Word to form us. 

The sin of sodomy is a sinful attitude and concrete action against life. As I’ve said a number of times, God is pro-life, and for all thoughts and actions that encourage and promote life. The flip side of that coin is to be indifferent toward life, or even worse, to be against it–to be pro death. Is it only sodomy that is opposed to life, and are homosexual males that only ones who violate God’s law of life by their actions? Of course not! The story of Sodom and Gomorrah convicts us all. We all violate God’s law when it comes to right living. As St. Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (ROM 3:23) The church calls us to be pro-life, any many are in many respects, but many of us stand convicted on other life issues: abortion, birth control, masturbation, the death penalty, unjust war, domestic violence, pornography, drug use, gluttony, profanity, anger, human trafficking, gossip, slander, prostitution –all are opposed to life! And each of us stands accused in one way or another. All have sinned.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not a window through which we judge the actions of others–it is a mirror that causes us to reflect upon the degree to which my brokenness and my sinfulness have affected me, my family, my society, and my relationship with God. And we cry out to God in prayer. We repent. With a contrite and humble heart we admit that if God’s justice were to rain down today, we would be in trouble. These Scriptures are God’s reminder to us to repent while we still have time. We are reminded not to judge our fellow man, but to instead remove the beam from our own eye, so as to see more clearly. 

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah cannot be dismissed as archaic. It speaks to the sin that exists in every society–ours too. But we cannot look down our nose and wag our finger as though this is the only sin, or even the gravest. No, it is relevant, it does apply, and we are guilty…but we are also loved by God–even still. God never stops loving us, forgiving us, and working to heal us in the different areas of our life. That is God’s mercy  promised to sinful people who never stop striving. So let’s not judge, but instead reflect, repent, and pray for ourselves and for others.

7.3.22 Homily: Godly Labor

Today’s homily is for the fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 3, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video is here.

Jesus’ disciples return with great joy, celebrating the power with which they were able to carry out the Lord’s work. The harvest was abundant–there was a lot of work to do–but the laborers were few–it seems there is always a labor shortage both in the Church, and in the world. This reminds me of the fifth principle of Catholic social teaching, namely, the dignity of work and the rights of workers. The principle teaches that people have a right to decent and productive work, fair wages, private property and economic initiative. People do not exist to serve the economy, on the contrary, the economy exists to serve people.

This relationship between worker and business too often becomes one of difficulty and struggle in our world. The worker–if they show up for work at all–complains about “the grind,” they do their work slowly, dragging their feet, complaining about policies, wages, their boss, their coworkers, their working conditions, and the list goes on. You know who this is at your workplace–we all do. The work is always too great, the pay is always too little, the benefits always inadequate. That person foments dissent, division, and discomfort in the workplace–robbing everyone of their joy.

On the other hand, too often employers, seeking to gain profit on the backs of their workers, limit benefits rightfully owed, refuse to give raises that reflect the increased cost of living, demand more hours, more days, and more work from fewer and fewer workers. Employers dine sumptuously at their table while their workers have barely enough to get by. 

Today’s Gospel shows the way forward. It shows the seventy two eager and willing to do the work. They took nothing extra–no money bag, no sack, no sandals. In dependency they did the work. It’s simple: go into the house, cure the sick, and announce the kingdom of God. You’ve got just one job, just the one! They depended entirely upon the generosity of those into whose house they went. Jesus tells them to eat and drink what they give you, and be grateful for it. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Don’t bounce from house to house (from job to job), always looking for a little better. Be grateful for the work, be grateful for the wage, and bring peace to your workplace.

That’s the Christian way, my friends. Christians go to work, they have a right to a decent wage, but they’re not whiners, complainers, and rock-kickers, bringing down everyone and everything. If this is our attitude, it needs to change. On the other hand, employers must share their wealth with their workers. We cannot complain about finding good help, and then not pay good help what they are worth. 

And this work in the world must also reflect work and workers in the Church–Jesus was, after all, sending out his ministers. According to the Catechism, “the minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority.” (C.C.C. 2122) At the same time, “Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church’s ministers, for “The laborer deserves his food.” (Lk 10:7, 1COR 9:5, 1TIM 5:17) 
The ministers today are few, and the work is still great. Our priests, deacons, and religious must serve with joy in their heart, without bitterness, or desire for financial gain as they serve, and our Church shows its appreciation with food, drink, and financial support. We cannot live like kings while those who minister to us live like paupers. And in that way, the kingdom of God’s love is shared and reciprocated–each providing the other what is rightfully theirs both in the world, and in the Church. As St. Vincent de Paul taught, “Let us love God, but with the strength of our arms, in the sweat of our brow.” We work, we take care of each other. We love and advance the kingdom of God.