Today’s homily is for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 4, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.
When we were kids we used to always hear from our parents—usually when we were the most upset and confused, “Just do what you’re told. You’ll understand someday. Now go play.” And while I admit that it didn’t sit with me very well, I knew it was the final answer. And the truth is, over forty years later, what did not make sense to me then, now, as a parent, makes perfect sense to me. I thought for sure that my mom didn’t let me have my way because she didn’t love me, but in truth, I didn’t get my way because she did love me…and so it is with God.
The book of Wisdom asks us, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends?” How often, like my mother’s child, I find myself angry and confused by what I don’t know or what I cannot control. I didn’t get the job I wanted or the promotion I thought was mine. I struggle to make ends meet or seem never to have enough time. I’m too short, too bald, too chubby, or too handsome. It seems that there is no end to the list of things that if I were in charge would certainly be different. “You just wait and see! When I grow up…” I want to know it all, understand it all, control it all, and mostly I just want what I want.
I don’t think I’m alone in this, I’m afraid. Too often we try to control what is not ours to control. We are angry or frustrated, scared, or anxious. The book of Wisdom has much to say to us, doesn’t it? There is only one way to have peace in this life–and that, quite simply, is to let go of the wheel and allow God to be the Lord of our Life. It was easy to understand when we were a child–mom and dad got the last word, but as adults we too often forget the important lesson we had learned time and time again as a child; we’re not in charge. Our parents love us and want what’s best for us. We may not see it, but that’s just the way it is–now go out and play.
The Catechism #314 teaches, “the ways of God’s providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face,’ will we fully know the ways by which God has guided his creation.” Even as adults, we’re not in charge. God loves us very much and wants what’s best for us. And many of us need to stop kicking rocks and shaking our fist and just go out and play. Life is short–we need to stop grinding our teeth, be generous, and love one another.
Jesus tells those following him, “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” The possession most difficult for us to let go of is our will. I have such a hard time letting go of what I want, what I think is best, or the way I want things done—and it robs me of my joy and keeps me from loving like I should. It keeps me from being his disciple of love, joy, and peace in the world. Jesus isn’t saying he won’t let us follow him if we don’t renounce our possessions, he says if you’re now willing to let go, you just cannot follow me.
Many times throughout my life God calls me to his service. He says, “Are you coming or not?” If we are willing to ride along with the Lord, we must recognize that we are not behind the wheel, but are in the passenger seat—or maybe even in the back seat. And while the passenger seat offers little to no control over the direction we are heading, if we could just relax and come to terms with it, we might even look out the window and see a wonderful, beautiful world. We might even have an uplift in attitude. We might even spend some more time with God in prayer and thanksgiving and reach out to family and friends long forgotten.
St. Cyprian of Carthage said, “For since God possesses all things, those who possess God will lack nothing if they do not lack God Himself.” So, for now we should pray and be okay with doing what we’re told. Someday we’ll understand. Go out and play.