Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: Repent and Believe in the Gospel
Readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100117.cfm
In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus reference John the Baptist and his preaching. John the Baptist preached in these words: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” These were the words that the tax collectors and prostitutes heard and believed. The words that let them experience the joy of Gospel.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
The Gospel – the good news that Jesus Christ loves you. He gave His life to save you. And now He is living by your side to enlighten, strengthen, and free you. This is the good news, and how good it is! This is the good news that has inspired countless saints, missionaries, and martyrs from the beginning of the Church until now; the good news that brings peace and joy; the good news that saves.
Repent and believe in the Gospel. We’ve described the Gospel, but what about, “repent”? Why does “repent,” come first?
Imagine a person in a hospital bed. She is anxiously waiting to hear from the doctor. She checked into the hospital the day before because she wasn’t feeling well. The doctor ran some tests, and he finally comes in. He says to her, “I’ve got great news. Take this medicine daily; come back for rehab once a month, and completely change your lifestyle.”
How would the woman respond? “That’s not great news. You’re just telling me to make these radical changes. Why do I have to do this? What’s wrong?”
The doctor would respond, “Ma’am, you are very sick. If you don’t make these changes, you will die in the next month. But if you do everything I tell you, you will overcome this illness. Actually, you’ll feel better than you have in a long time.”
Repent comes before believing in the Gospel because the good news doesn’t make sense if we don’t know we’re in danger. Friends, there’s nothing more dangerous than being in a state of mortal sin.
A mortal sin is a grave sin that we commit knowingly and freely. We call it mortal not because it kills our physical lives but because it kills the life of our soul. Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “I came that they may have life and have it to the full.” He was speaking about the life of our soul, the life of God. We snuff out God’s life from our soul when we commit grave sins knowingly and freely. Grave sins include those that are connected to the 10 commandments. I’ll list just a few:
If we commit these sins knowingly and freely, then we have committed a mortal sin, and there is nothing more dangerous than being in mortal sin.
Why is mortal sin so dangerous? If we die in the state of mortal sin, we go to the everlasting suffering of hell. And in addition to the eternal consequences of mortal sin, we also experience effects of mortal sin even on earth. Almost every time I am asked to do a house blessing, it is because the family is experiencing strange occurrences in the home – perhaps even attacks from the evil one. And 99% of the time, that family doesn’t go to Mass, and the couple isn’t married in the Church. It’s a dangerous thing to be in a state of mortal sin.
Thanks be to God, our Lord did not want to leave us in this situation. This is the good news of the Gospel! If we find ourselves in a state of mortal sin, the Lord has given us a way out, a way to overcome the illness, a way to repent and believe in the Gospel. He has given us a way for our souls to come back to life. He has given us the sacrament of Confession.
The sacrament of Confession restores the life of God to our soul. It is obligatory for everyone to go to confession at least once a year, but if we have committed a mortal sin, we need to go right away and certainly before receiving Holy Communion. Confession brings us even more than healing and peace; it brings our souls back to life, back to communion with God. Confession is the way that God has given us to repent. Repenting means being sorry for our sins, being ready to make up for them, and being ready to try our best not to sin again. If we do this, then we can know the joy and peace of believing in the Gospel.
When was the last time you went to confession? Has it been over a year? Have you committed a mortal sin since your last confession? Then come right away. If you don’t remember how to go to confession, then do a quick Google search, or call us at the office. We’d be happy to help. No matter your situation, do whatever it takes. There’s no time to waste. John the Baptist did not say, Repent when it is convenient and believe in the Gospel. He was urgent. Today is a gift, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. We need to be urgent, too. Otherwise, we’re not only in eternal danger, we’re missing out on the joy of the Gospel.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: As We Forgive
Readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091717.cfm
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
One of the easiest things for me to do in the confessional is to assure penitents of how much God loves them. When I hear the penitents racked with guilt, I look up at the crucifix and I remember that there is no end to God’s love; there is no sin too great nor any amount of sins too many for God to forgive. He created us and died for us. He gives His whole life to us on the cross and in the Eucharist so that we can be happy.
It’s easy for me to assure penitents of this truth, to tell someone else how much God loves them, but it’s hard to appreciate it and receive it myself.
One of the signs that we have truly received God’s merciful and freely given love is that we too are merciful. Mercy includes not only caring for the poor, and visiting the sick and imprisoned, it extends to forgiving and loving our enemies, those who have hurt us. It’s very rare for anyone to go through life without being hurt by someone close to you - perhaps a friend, a family member, or a coworker. Have you forgiven them?
The moral of today’s readings is very clear: if we want to be forgiven, we must forgive. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. When hearing the Gospel, it’s easy to condemn the ungrateful servant immediately for his obvious hypocrisy. But what is the reason for his hypocrisy? Why doesn’t he extend the same merciful love that he received?
The servant doesn’t appreciate what he has received. He doesn’t get it. That’s why he turns around and demands repayment for his tiny loan despite being forgiven an enormous debt. If we, who ask God to forgive our sins, do not forgive those who have hurt us, we are just like the servant in today’s Gospel. So what is the solution?
We have to get it. We have to appreciate God’s love for us. Two things can keep us from appreciating God’s love. One is that we don’t know the debt of our sin, and two is that we think that we have earned it.
Let’s begin with one: the debt of our sin. In the Gospel today, the translators chose to describe the debt with the word, “huge.” The literal translation of the original Greek text is, “10,000 talents.” A talent was worth 6,000 day’s wages. Multiply 10,000 and 6,000, and you get 60 million day’s wages. If that servant were to work everyday for 70 years, he would arrive at about 25,000 days, leaving him just 59,975,000 days to go before he could pay off his debt.
How could anyone accrue that amount of debt? We do so and more when we sin against an infinite God who has given us His very self. It is God who created us. God who died for us. God who gives His entire self to us in the Eucharist. And all of this only to make us happy. When we sin, we throw away this incredible gift, and we accrue an impossible debt.
Number two: we think that we have earned God’s forgiveness. God’s love is unlike any other love that we have ever received. Even if we grew up in unconditionally loving homes, we still generally think that we have to earn people’s love. Mom and Dad will only love me if I’m successful. My husband will only love me if I am skinny. My friend will only love me if I do what he wants.
These are the types of love that we are used to, so when we hear that God loves us, it is very common to think that he loves us like our friends and our family members love us. And that makes us think that we can earn his love. That might be what is going on with the servant in the Gospel. Perhaps he thinks that he has begged so well that he actually earned the forgiveness of his debt. As strange as that sounds, it’s a common occurrence in our relationship with God. It’s not rare to think that if we have checked off our boxes - said our prayers, gone to confession, attended Mass - we have earned God’s love.
But nothing could be further from the truth. St. John writes in his first letter, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.” God doesn’t love us because we have done something for Him, or that we have loved him first. His love is always first, completely free, and completely unmerited.
This is the great news of the Gospel! Have we believed it? Have we really received God’s love? To answer that question, we can simply ask, “Have I forgive those who have hurt me?” If we get just how good the good news is, if we understand the enormity of our debt and the gratuity of God’s love, we will find ourselves forgiving our enemies, forgiving those who have hurt us.
So what if we haven’t forgiven those who have hurt us? What if we are holding onto a grudge that we can’t let go of? Can we be forgiven?
Our God is the great King who is willing to forgive much more than 10,000 talents. He is merciful and patient. In Him you can find the healing and strength you need to forgive. Talk to Him honestly in prayer. Receive Him often in the Eucharist and Confession, and you will come to know His love more deeply. Ask for the gift of forgiving, and you will receive the peace that comes from praying with confidence, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: Who Am I to Judge?
Readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091017.cfm
Who am I to judge?
St. Ignatius could have asked that question to himself when he saw his friend, Francis Xavier, pursuing a worldly life. Francis Xavier was a proud man, who ridiculed St. Ignatius for following Christ. He was too interested in the comforts the world could provide to follow Christ in the same radical way. St. Ignatius could have responded by asking himself, “Who am I to judge?” but instead, he asked Francis Xavier, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”
Who am I to judge? We hear this phrase used often. Scripture tells us that judgement is for God alone. In the letter of St. James we read, “There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Clearly, we are not the lawgiver and the judge. We’re not able to save and to destroy. So the natural conclusion from this passage seems to be the same question, “Who am I to judge?”
The problem with the way we often hear this question is that there are two types of judgement. One is reserved to God alone. If we engage in that type of judgment, then yes, we are sinning. If we’re talking about that kind of judgement, then yes, “Who am I to judge?”
But there is another type of judgment that is not reserved to God alone. If we engage in this type of judgment, we are not sinning. If we’re talking about this kind of judgement, then the answer to the question, “Who am I to judge?” is, “a human being.”
It’s human nature to judge in this way. I was reading a book to my goddaughter on Monday. She’s 20 months old. As I was reading I asked her, “Where is the dog?” And she pointed to person. I said, “No, that’s a person! Here’s the dog.”
That’s a person. Here’s a dog. These are judgments. The sky is blue, and the sun is round. Those are judgments. It’s human nature to judge in this way because it is human nature to know. We know by making judgments. That woman is graceful. That man is strong. Are we sinning by making these judgments? Was I teaching my goddaughter to sin by reading her that book?
No. This type of judgment is not a sin. This type of judgment is the natural way that human beings know, and it even extends to morality. If I know my family member looks at dirty magazines or x-rated websites, can I judge that he is doing something evil, something wrong?
Yes. Indeed, the Gospel today demands that we make such judgments:
"If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother."
We cannot tell our brother his fault unless we have judged that he did something wrong. Jesus Himself says that a man who lusts after a woman is committing adultery with her in his heart, which is evil, which is wrong. When someone knows that their family member is lusting after women, it is a natural, human conclusion to judge that that person is committing an evil. My family member is lusting after women. Lusting after women is evil. My family member is committing an evil.
This type of judgment is not a sin. It is another natural, human judgement rooted in the way we think and know. Not only is it not a sin, it’s actually necessary in order to love. Love – willing the good of another. We have to make this judgment before we can tell our brother his fault, before we can try to bring him back to God. Telling our brother his fault in love is sometimes called fraternal correction; it’s also known in the spiritual works of mercy as admonishing the sinner. It’s a very delicate subject, but Jesus gives us the instructions of how to go about it.
When we see our brother doing something wrong, we are not to judge that we are better than him or that he is going to hell; that judgment is reserved to God alone. We are also not to tell his fault to our friends and family members; that is the sin of detraction, or gossip. When we see our brother doing something wrong, love – willing his good – demands that we tell him the fault privately so that he will repent, so that he will come back to God, the God who loves him, who gave His whole life for him, who only gives commandments so that we know how to find true happiness.
Fraternal correction is a hard thing to do because our culture expects us to follow a, “Who am I to judge?” attitude. It may seem kind not to bring up the fault of our brother, but it is actually the attitude of Cain, who asked the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” after killing him. Cain didn’t care that his brother was dead, and we have the same attitude when we ask the question, “Who am I to judge?” as an excuse for not loving our brother.
St. Ignatius did not make that excuse. He loved Francis Xavier by fraternally correcting him. Thanks to that expression of love, Francis Xavier gave his life to the Lord and experienced a greater joy than anything he had every known before. Thanks to that expression of love, the world now has St. Francis Xavier as the patron Saint of missionaries. He brought the Gospel to India and Japan and baptized thousands of people who did not know the love of our Lord until he came. The fruit of his work is still present today in the Catholic communities in India and Japan. It’s hard to imagine a world without St. Francis Xavier, and we owe it to the love that St. Ignatius showed him.
Who am I to judge? A fellow human being who knows that the greatest joy, peace, and happiness comes from loving God and following his commandments. Who am I to judge? A fellow human being who fears for the eternal death of my brother in hell. Who am I to judge? A fellow human being who loves my brother.
Homily for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: Why Bad Things Happen to Good People
Readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090317.cfm
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Jesus says in the Gospel, “the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.” According to his conduct. Does that mean that those who experience disaster, whether it be in the form of a flood, a family death, or a sickness deserve it? Did they do something evil? Is God punishing them?
Jesus is speaking about the final judgment; the repayment will come in the form of an eternal destiny – either heaven or hell. Perfect happiness or suffering that never ends. In the final judgment, bad things don’t happen to good people. Everyone goes where they deserve.
So what about now? Why do bad things happen to good people on earth?
This is a hard question, one that humanity has pondered and agonized over since the beginning. If there were an easy, satisfying answer, we would have found it by now. There is no easy, satisfying answer to why bad things happen to good people. But what about a hard, troubling answer?
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus references a tragedy that had just happened in his time when he was speaking to his disciples. A tower had fallen on 18 people, killing them. Jesus asks, “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No.”
No. They were not worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem, but they were offenders. We are all offenders. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and, “the wages of sin is death.”
The hard, troubling answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people, is that there are no good people. Or, to be more precise, there are no people completely free of sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and, “the wages of sin is death.” As I was preparing for this homily, and I made this conclusion, it seemed to me very harsh. But as I continued my research, I learned that this is what we have to believe if we hold Jesus to be our savior.
The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus has saved us from our sins and offered us perfect happiness in eternal life; this makes no sense unless we are all sinners, unless we all deserve death. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and, “the wages of sin is death.” That is the sad truth that makes the Gospel such good news. But it’s also the sad truth that answers why bad things happen to, otherwise, good people. Once Adam and Eve ate the fruit, sin entered the world along with its train of suffering and death. And now no one, not even innocent children are exempt from the consequences of their actions. We are born with original sin; we sin; we suffer, and we die.
This answer is hard and troubling, and though it is true, it may not satisfy. It may leave us asking, why do some suffer more than others? I think of the victims of Hurricane Katrina whose lives were destroyed and who had to relocate to Houston in 2005; now their lives have been destroyed again by Hurricane Harvey. Haven’t they suffered enough? Or what about our loved ones who have suffered a painful illness or died an early death; they loved us, or provided for us, or gave us so much joy just by being alive – why are they taken from us before their time while others who have hurt us and hurt others seem never to be hurt themselves? Why do some suffer more than others? It’s not fair.
Scripture makes this question even more personal in Psalm 73:
For I was envious of the arrogant,
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs;
their bodies are sound and sleek.
they are not stricken like other men.
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken,
and chastened every morning.
The Psalmist complains that it is not fair. He has done his best to be a good person but has received suffering as his reward while the wicked, who do evil, live the good life, growing rich and suffering no pains.
Why, Lord? The Psalms show us that this is a fair question to ask. They show us that we can be honest with God, that we can pray to Him just as we are, with our emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness. Why do some suffer more than others? Why do my loved ones have to suffer like that? Why do I have to suffer like this?
Why? When the hard and true answer of the reality of sin does not satisfy, seek an answer in prayer, in prayer as honest as Psalm 73. The answer that satisfies may not come in the form of information, but it always comes in the form of compassion.
Compassion. Literally, it means to suffer with. We express it with the words, “I’m sorry.” We say it to mean, “I love you. It pains me to see you suffering. Let me be there for you.” This is the answer we long for when we are suffering, and this answer comes to us in prayer because that is where Jesus, our compassionate Lord, meets us. In the Gospel today, Peter didn’t want Jesus to suffer and die, but that is exactly what Jesus’ compassionate love demanded. Jesus saw us in our pain and in our suffering, and he was sorrowful. In prayer, He says to us, “I love you. It pains me to see you suffering. Let me be there for you.”
“Let me be there for you.” Jesus doesn’t give us a cross to see if we love him. He gives Himself a cross to show us that He loves us. “Let me be there for you.” On the cross and in the Eucharist, he says to us, “This is my body; this is my blood, which is for you.” He is saying, “Let me be there for you.” Hard and troubling times may continue, but if we pick up our cross and follow our compassionate Lord, our suffering can find a new meaning, one that satisfies, one he gives to us in the silence of prayer. “Let me be there for you.”
Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: God's Silence in Prayer
Readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082017.cfm
What do we do when God is silent to our prayers?
In the short time that I have been at San Jose, I have already known several who could relate to the woman in the Gospel today. Whether it be sick children or children who have left the faith, they plead to the Lord with many prayers, but God responds with silence.
Perhaps it’s not your kids that cause you to call upon the Lord like the woman in the Gospel today. Perhaps it’s for your friend, or for yourself. Perhaps times are tough and jobs are scarce. Perhaps patterns of sin continue getting the best of you. You call upon the Lord, but nothing changes.
What do we do when God is silent to our prayers?
The woman in the Gospel today made a good request. Her daughter was being oppressed by a demon, and she wanted Jesus to spare her of that suffering. That is a good desire; she’s not asking for anything evil. Yet Scripture tells us, “But he did not say a word in answer to her.”
This is Jesus we are talking about. Jesus, who went to the lengths of a torturous death so that we might be saved from our sins. There is no measuring his love for each one of us. There is no measuring his love for the woman in the Gospel, and yet, he did not say a word in answer to her.
What do we do when God is silent to our prayers?
The Gospel relates that the woman kept calling after Jesus. She kept making her prayer known. She was persistent. When God is silent to our prayers, we keep praying. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Jesus encourages us to have persistence in prayer. Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking.
But why? Jesus knows we are asking for something good. Why go through the trouble of asking over and over again?
Let me propose a possible response to this hard question.
The Gospel shows us that two good things come from persistence in prayer. Humility and faith. By asking, and seeking, and knocking, we grow in humility and faith.
The woman responds to Jesus, “Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” She recognizes that Jesus does not owe her anything, and she’s willing to compare herself to a dog who begs. This is great humility.
Without humility, we can’t receive any of the other good things that God wants to give us. We can think of God’s grace, what He wants to give us, like the rain that falls from the sky. Rain slides right down a steep hill, but it fills up a deep valley. In a similar way, God’s grace slides right down the person puffed up with pride, but it fills the heart of one who lowers himself in humility.
Without having to persist in humble prayer, we might think that God simply owes us what we want, and in our pride, we would never receive what we truly need.
And what do we truly need? Faith. The second good thing. Persistence in prayer strengthens our faith.
Jesus responds to the woman, “O woman, great is your faith!” The silence of Jesus not only revealed the woman’s humility, it strengthened her faith. And what could be more valuable than faith? Faith is the path to salvation, to eternal communion with God, to perfect happiness.
Elsewhere in the Gospel, when four friends lowered a paralytic through the roof so that Jesus would heal him, Jesus responded, “Your sins are forgiven.” … That’s probably not what his friends were expecting, but THAT IS why Jesus came. He wants to give us something more valuable than earthly health; He wants to give us eternal health. He wants to give us salvation.
Many around Jesus balked at him when He claimed to forgive the man’s sins, and Jesus knew their thoughts. So in order to help them believe that He can forgive sins, in order to give them faith, Jesus worked a miracle. The Scripture reads:
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
The miracle was for the sake of faith. He used the miracle to arouse faith. Faith is Jesus’ goal. It’s more valuable than even our physical health because it is our path to heaven, to communion with God, to perfect happiness.
In a similar way to the miracle that Jesus used to arouse the faith of those around him, He can also use silence to build up our faith. When God’s response to our prayers is silence, we turn to him with greater need, with greater fervor, and doing so strengthens our faith – strengthens the greatest gift he could ever give us. Silence is not a break in God’s love for us; it is another moment of his love for us.
His love is never-ending. The cross shows us that in every moment, God wants to give Himself to us.
So what do we do when God is silent to our prayers?
We trust that silence is not a break in His love for us; it is another moment of his love for us. And we keep praying. Through humility and faith, God is working the unseen miracle that is more valuable than even a physical healing. He is working our salvation.
Homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Review of Faith
Readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081517-mass-during-day.cfm
Today’s Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother into heaven gives us a chance to remember three critical and beautiful teachings of our Faith: the resurrection of the body, the office of the pope, and the role of Mary.
1. The resurrection of the body
We say this at the end of the Creed. “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” But what does it mean?
When I was working in the hospital as a chaplain a few years ago, I would hear of families grieving the loss of a loved one trying to comfort one another with sentiments like, “Now we have an angel watching over us in heaven.”
There is something true about this sentiment. Although we can never know for sure whether our loved ones are in heaven, our loved ones who are in heaven do watch out for us. They pray for us, and in that way, they are kind of like guardian angels.
But when we die, we do not become angels. Like Mary, we remain human beings. Mary is not an angel. In today’s solemnity, we celebrate the day she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. This was a unique grace and gift that Jesus gave His mom. Her body suffered no decay. God brought her, body and soul, straight to heaven.
For us, it is a little different. When we die, our loved ones bury our body while our soul goes to meet God, and there, though already experiencing the joys of heaven or the pains of hell, it awaits the last day when Jesus will come to earth again. On the last day, all will rise. Scripture tells us so; all will rise: "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." Our bodies will be reunited with our souls either in heaven or in hell. Pray God, may it be in Heaven, where Mary, our mother, already awaits us.
2. The pope
The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven was defined as a dogma – that is, divinely revealed and requiring our belief – by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
In all the history of the Church, only two doctrines have been defined this way: the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. So, if the pope has only defined two dogmas, what else has he been doing in the past 2,000 years?
He has been serving as the foundation of unity for all in Christ’s Church. The office of the pope was instituted by Christ Himself. We read this in the Gospel of Matthew: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail over it.” Jesus willed that His Church would have a visible head to serve as a foundation for unity for all his followers. When you’re in communion with the pope, you’re in communion with the very Church that Jesus Himself founded, the very Church that hell cannot overcome.
One only need to look at history to see what happens when you lose communion with the pope. In the past 500 years, thousands of denominations have arisen, all rejecting the authority of the pope and all interpreting the Bible in different ways. Without the pope, without the authority established by Christ, how can anyone claim to have the right interpretation? We are in a sad state of disunity and confusion. Pray God, may our separated brothers and sisters return to the Church that Christ founded on the rock of Peter, to the Church that has never ceased to honor the day of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.
3. The role of Mary
One could talk for days and days about Mary’s role in the plan of salvation, but I would like to focus on one aspect. We are generally very familiar with Mary’s role as our mother. I think, though, we are less familiar with Mary’s role as our oldest sister.
Unlike Jesus, her Son, Mary is not God. She was created about 2,000 years ago. Everything special about Mary comes from God’s gift. Her Assumption into Heaven was God’s gift; it was not by her own power. She herself recognizes this as we heard in her prayer from the Gospel: “For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant… the Almighty has done great things for me.”
Mary is our Mother, but she is also our oldest sister. Older siblings go through the same things before we do. They show us a kind of preview of what is to come. Mary is our oldest sister because she shows us what is waiting for us. A simple human being, just like the rest of us, Mary was perfected by God’s grace and now enjoys the glory of Heaven forever.
God, too, wants to perfect us in His grace. He wants us to enjoy the glory of Heaven forever. Jesus says in the Gospels, “Who is my mother? Whoever does the will of my Father.” Mary did the will of the Father by saying yes to his plan, and she became the mother of God.
God has a plan for us, too. And if we say yes to it, just like our older sister, then we will be perfected by his grace. We will become the mother of God – not by bearing Jesus in our body. Mary already did that. When we say yes to God’s plan, we bear Jesus in our hearts. This is no less real than Mary’s role of bearing Jesus in her body; indeed, Jesus Himself says it’s more important: “Who is my mother? Whoever does the will of my Father.”
Mary, our oldest sister, did that more fully than anyone else in history. That’s why we honor her. Pray God, may we too say yes to His plan and follow in our big sister’s footsteps.
The resurrection of the body, the office of the pope, and the role of Mary – these three teachings of our Faith come together in a beautiful way in today’s Solemnity of the Assumption. Thanks be to God for our Catholic Faith.
Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: Who is your God?
Readings here: www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081317.cfm
The Lord is God. The Lord is God.
That is what Elijah’s name means. Eliahu. From the first reading. The Lord is God. But for you, who is your God?
We can think of the word, "God," in at least two different ways. One way is simply the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being who created and sustains the world. In this way, when we say that the Lord is God, we’re saying that the Lord – the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – is the reason we’re alive.
We can also think of the word, "God," as what is of greatest value, what matters the most. In this way, when we say that the Lord is God, we’re saying that the Lord – the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – is what we value the most, is who matters the most. He’s not only the reason we’re alive; He is the reason why we live.
If we look around, watch TV, or check the internet, we’ll see that there are many gods in this second sense. For some, money is of the greatest value. It’s the reason why many people live, why they get up in the morning, why they work long hours, why they choose the friends they have, and why they do the things they do. For others, pleasure matters the most. It’s the reason why many people live, why they get up, work, choose friends, and do the things they do. And for still others, power matters the most. It’s the reason behind everything they do.
But for you, who is your God?
Money, pleasure, and power. These are the most impressive forces in the world. Much like a strong wind, earthquake, or fire grabs our attention, we can’t help but take notice of money, pleasure, and power, and if we’re not careful, they can become our god.
There is nothing wrong with money, pleasure, and power in themselves, but if they become the reason why we live, then we’re in trouble. Then, the Lord is not our God. We may know that the Lord is the reason we’re alive, but that is not enough for salvation. The Lord must be our God. He must be the reason why we live.
Who is your God?
One way to start answering this question is asking, "What are you most afraid of?” If you can answer this question, then you are well on your way in the spiritual life. And if your answer is sin, then you are well on your way to being a Saint. The person who fears sin more than anything else is the person whose God is the Lord.
What are you afraid of the most? Are you afraid of financial insecurity more than anything else? What about pain, loneliness, or embarrassment? Does losing your good name, title, or position keep you up at night? All of these fears are connected in some way to money, pleasure, and power. They are the most impressive forces in the world, and if we’re not careful, they, and not the Lord, can become our God.
A great image for this struggle of the spiritual life is the Gospel that we heard today. Peter and the disciples are in the boat, struggling against the storm. The storm, like the wind, fire, and earthquake, is an impressive sight. We can’t help but take notice.
The Gospel story is an event that really happened. Storms still brew on Lake Genesaret in the Holy Land today, putting boats in real danger. But I want to say that this event that really happened also has a spiritual meaning. Imagine that the storm represents money, pleasure, and power, the most impressive forces in our world. These forces are so impressive, that they are dangerous. They can overwhelm us – we see it in the thief who steals to get rich only to go to jail; the addict that ruins his life to get his next fix; or the leader in a business or government that has no friends because he trampled everyone down on his way up.
Money, pleasure, and power. They are the most impressive forces in the world, but Jesus walks right over them. They have no power over Him because He is God – God in the first sense: the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving being who is the reason why we and the storm exists at all. He is God.
But is He your God?
If He is your God, then you too will walk right over the storm, right over the most impressive forces in the world. You are not in danger of being overwhelmed because your God is the Lord. The only thing you fear is taking your eyes off of Him. The only thing you fear is sin.
At first, Peter walked right over the storm. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he had nothing to fear. Even the most impressive forces of the world could not overwhelm him. But the moment he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look at the storm, he became afraid, and he got overwhelmed. He started to drown.
Money, pleasure, and power remain powerful forces today – more powerful than we are by ourselves. They present us with real concerns: How will I pay for my children’s education? When will this pain go away? Why can’t I get a promotion? You don’t have to be a criminal or addicted to pleasure and power to be overwhelmed. But if we keep our eyes on Jesus, then we can walk right over any storm that assaults us.
Who is your God? What do you value most, and what are you most afraid of? These are questions to ponder in the silence of prayer, in the silence that allows us to hear the whisper of God, the whisper of God telling us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”