8.14.22 20th S.: Take Your Stand

Today’s homily is for the twentieth Sunday in ordinary time, August 14, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be seen by clicking here.

I am a Christian today because I like Jesus. I like how he loved people and had a tender heart toward them. I like how he healed people whether he knew them or not. I like how he fed people who were hungry, and I like how he spoke courageously to anyone–religious leader or Roman leader. He didn’t care if you were rich or poor, gentile or Jew, slave or king. He said what was true because, well, it was true. The earthly Jesus was just a good man, a courageous man, he was not afraid of anything or anyone– and I think that’s a pretty good way to live our life, don’t you? I try to live like Jesus. I’m not there yet, but I do try. 

The first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah teaches us that what we do has consequences. Jeremiah called people to repentance, to change their life, to change the way they were living because it was not God’s way. His courageousness got him thrown into a cistern. Why? Because haters are gonna hate! And people who live in darkness do not want to be exposed by the light, by the truth–but Jeremiah was fearless and he did God’s will no matter the cost, and that cost was his life when he was tossed into the cistern to die.

But God rescued Jeremiah. The court official, Ebed-melech, boldly went to the king to tell him the truth about what was going on. He said Jeremiah was innocent and it was these others who were at fault, and Jeremiah was rescued because a good man took action, and was courageous enough to speak to power against what he knew was wrong. Are we? The readings today challenge us to take a side. There’s no middle ground with God; there’s no “good enough.” With Jesus there’s no room for compromise. God wants to know, “Hey, are you with me or not?” Are we who claim to follow him, actually following him, his life, his example?

Jesus wants us to take a stand–and Jesus teaches that when we stand with him, it means that we’re going to stand against what is opposed to him. We cannot live in the light of Christ, and at the same time live in darkness and sin. Light casts out darkness. We’re either with Jesus or not. Jesus is in fact the prince of peace, but he says quite clearly today, that division will occur. He says we need to figure out whose side we’re on, because there’s only two sides–with him or against him.

Households will be divided. Some will choose Christ and some will not. I know that you know people–maybe your own siblings, maybe your own children that are divided. I see it all the time and I experience it in my own family, but other people’s decision to follow or not follow Jesus is on them. I have to decide which side I’m on. Each of us must take a stand. We love all people, but we don’t have to agree with the decisions they make. Either our actions are consistent with life and love and goodness and truth or they’re not. And like Jeremiah, our decisions and our life has consequences. And like Jesus, sometimes the truth doesn’t want to be heard by others, but we say it because it’s true. And sometimes people don’t want us being generous and kind to others because they don’t look like us, or think like us, and act like us, but we do because that’s what Jesus did. 

There’s no promise of good times ahead for us in this life. Jeremiah knew it and was rescued…and that was good, and maybe sometimes we might get rescued too. But sometimes doing what’s right will get us onto the cross and to an early grave, and that’s the way it could go. But we know that Jesus conquered the grave. And we know that those who love to the end have an eternal reward. So let’s live courageously. Let’s love greatly. Let’s boldly speak to what’s true and never fear the darkness of sin. In other words, we need to take our stand. Right here. Right now.

8.7.22 19th S.: Be Prepared!

Today’s homily is for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 7, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be seen here.

When I was eleven or twelve years old, there was a veterinarian in town by the name of Gary Daley. Gary went to his heavenly reward in 2012 after a battle with cancer. My mom worked with Dr. Gary at Lander Veterinary clinic, where Gary is still spoken of in high regard. He was a kind and generous man–merciful even–especially to me. Gary had almonds, and in the winter of 1987 he hired me over Christmas break to walk back and forth in the orchard piling up the small branches to place them in the center of the row where they could more easily be picked up by the tractor. I worked eight hours a day over Christmas break, at $5 an hour, and on his lunch break, he took me to Carl’s Jr. and paid for lunch. Not too bad. He was a good and generous boss. Did I mention merciful too?

Well there I was one day, working in the orchard, and it was just so still and peaceful. I was picking  up sticks but started to get a little sleepy. “Maybe I’ll just relax for a second on this bed of sticks that I had piled up.” How embarrassed I was to wake up and see Gary standing there when my eyes opened–caught! quite literally, sleeping on the job! Gary asked if I was ready for lunch and never once mentioned it. He paid me a full day’s wage and never, for as long as he lived brought it up. 

I have never forgotten it. I’ve held onto the shame and the embarrassment of working for someone so kind and generous, and while I should have worked harder for him because he was so good to me, I thought only of myself, how tired I was, and took a nap. I was just a kid, that’s true, but even then, I knew better, and I know better still. 

The Gospel we heard today is not meant to instill fear in us, but it should cause us to reflect a bit about the quality of our work in the Lord’s absence. Our Lord Jesus, the Son of man, is a good and generous master too. He has put us in charge of his children, his Church, the earth, and all that is in it. We are in right-relationship with him–we have faith. Faith is having what our heart desires the most–a wonderful relationship with the unseen God that was purchased for us by the blood of his only begotten son. We are his trusted servants not because of anything we have done, but only because of God’s love and generosity towards us. 

What will the Lord Jesus find when he returns to judge the living and the dead? Will he find faith upon the earth? Will he find a people who have daily committed themselves to doing his will, living right, and being generous and kind to others, especially the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant? Will the master find us being generous toward the poor, concerned about the earth and its resources, kind toward our neighbor–not only the one right next door, but also the one beaten and battered along the side of the road? Or will he find us instead asleep in the orchard? Today we are warned, “you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Be prepared!

I don’t think this is a reason to be afraid, but it is absolutely a call to wake up. It’s a reminder that we need to get our act together. The master’s return is long overdue and we are in the second or even third watch–we must be vigilant like those blessed servants in the Gospel–not out of fear, but because we have been so greatly loved, been given so much freedom and responsibility. We have faith. We are in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, let us do as Abraham did–he obeyed when he was called, despite uncertainty, he went wherever the Lord called him to go, and his descendants were as numerous as the stars in the sky, countless as the sands on the seashore. 

God wants to bless us, he wants us to remain in faith, but we must stay awake. He is merciful, but won’t we be embarrassed at our present state should he return today? There’s still time. Get up and pick up some sticks.

In loving memory of Dr. Gary W. Daley, November 19, 1951 – November 6, 2012. May he rest in peace. Amen.

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.