Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

For Nascar fans only!

Homily for Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

We hear in the gospel how immense crowds pressed upon Jesus as he taught. The crowd was so big, Jesus actually got into a fishing boat and used the lake as his speaking platform, so that he could address everyone gathered on the shore. Crowds like this hung on his every word wherever he went.

He could easily have turned them into a revolutionary army and manipulated them for any number of purposes. But instead, he simply invites them to change their hearts. Jesus truly is the Lord, and he lets us choose freely to accept or reject his message, never bullying us into following him.

He is the "sower" of the parable, spreading God's Word and announcing God's invitation, but never forcing hearts to welcome it. This combination of eagerness to win over disciples, but respect for his listeners' freedom is especially evident in Jesus' use of parables.

A Biblical parable is a simple comparison between a hard-to-understand divine truth, a truth about God and his plan of salvation, and a well-known earthly reality. Some interpreters say that Jesus used these stories and comparisons to conceal his meaning from his opponents.

But there is also another way to look at it.

Sometimes people don't want to accept the plain truth, because it means they have to change. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the plain truth. But many didn't accept it. So now he takes a more roundabout way to convince them. By telling parables He offers his listeners a chance to accept certain truths in the abstract, before seeing how they apply to them personally.

It's a way of telling someone uncomfortable truths that our minds and bodies do not want to hear, penetrating indirectly the hearts that have closed themselves to Jesus’ direct proclamations.

Jesus teaches in this way because he always respects our freedom, but he never gives up on convincing us to use that freedom well.

Pope Benidict  XVI tells us....
"It is necessary that each person freely accept the truth of the love of God. He is Love and Truth, and love as well as truth never impose themselves: They knock on the door of the heart and mind and, where they enter, bring peace and joy. This is the way God reigns; this is his plan of salvation."

Here is a story to help us understand how God allows us to be free to choose him. It is called “It is in your hands”

Two brothers were arguing about the wisdom of their parents.
"Father is very wise," said the first brother. The second brother disagreed. "Father is not so wise! We're just as smart as he is. I'll prove it to you." The next day the second brother went into the woods near his home and captured a small bird.He brought the bird home and said to his brother, "Let's go find dad. I will show you that he isn't so smart."

The two brothers went into their father's study, the second one holding the small bird between his cupped hands. "Father, I have a question for you," he said. "I hold a small bird in my hands. Tell me, is this bird dead or alive?" If he said that the bird was dead, the boy would simply open his hands and show that the bird was alive. If his father answered that the bird was alive, he would crush it between his hands and reveal that the bird was dead. This would prove that his dad wasn't so wise after all.

The boys' father considered the question for a moment and said, "My son...the answer is in your hands."


And so it is with us, in his wisdom, God created us with free will.

God gives us the seed of a meaningful, fruitful, and truly happy life by offering us his friendship, but it's up to us to plant the seed in good soil, and to keep the soil good. It's up to us to choose each day to follow Christ's voice in our hearts, not the lies of the devil, the sighs of our laziness, or the seductions of the world around us.

Will our lives be meaningful, fruitful, and happy?
The answer is in our hands.

Having said all this.....

Without the help of God's grace, our freedom cannot long resist the influence of the devil and material wants.
And yet, God's grace doesn't make us into saints unless we cooperate with it. There are two ways we can cooperate with God's grace.

First, we can use well of the gifts God has given us as channels of grace: they are
  • the sacraments, the Bible, the teachings of the Church, the example and intercession of the saints, and, most importantly of all, the gift of prayer.
  • If we are using these gifts eagerly and intelligently, and constantly learning how to use them better, we are like farmers who do not let their their tools get rusty and in disrepair.

Second, we can exercise our freedom, just as we exercise our muscles.
  • This means making conscious choices, motivated by worthy reasons.
  • The father or mother who goes to work every day for years just out of routine, and doesn't consciously renew each day his or her  commitment to his family and to the common good, the reasons behind their going to work, will eventually wonder what their purpose in life is..
  • The Christian who comes to Mass every Sunday for years just out of routine, but doesn't consciously renew his personal commitment to Jesus Christ each Sunday... which is the reason behind coming to Mass, will eventually drift away from God.

We must know the reasons behind our choices, and we must consciously renew our commitment to those reasons.

That's how we exercise our freedom and defend ourselves against the  boredom of routine - the secret ally of the devil, and the secular world.

Today, as Christ renews his commitment to us in this Mass, let's renew our personal love for him in the depths of our hearts, embracing His parables and choosing freely, once again, to be his faithful followers.

Nothing will please him more.