Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Ever hear of Steve Monforto?
He’s a Philadelphia Phillies fan
and he’s been going to Phillies games since he was 3 years old,
always hoping to catch a fly ball hit into the stands.

This past week his dream came true
when he reached over the railing on the second tier of seats
and caught a foul ball which he handed to his 3 year old daughter
who turned and promptly threw it back towards the field!

Watching on a Jumbotron, the whole stadium gasped
and when little Emily Monforto realized something was amiss,
she turned and melted into her father’s outstretched arms.

What she didn’t see
(because she was winding up to pitch the ball back)
- was the expression on her dad’s face.

Over the span of just a few seconds you saw
amazed joy on Steve's face when he caught the ball,
his face beaming with pleasure as he handed it to Emily,
and then his eyes wide with disbelief as she threw it back.
But in the same instant he realized his prized ball was gone
he turned immediately toward Emily just before she turned to him
and a broad loving, father’s smile broke on his face like a sunrise
as he pulled her into his arms and hugged her.

Emily wasn’t sure what had happened
- she thought she was playing catch -
but all she knew from her father
was the warmth of his smile and the comfort of his arms.

“Taking a child, Jesus placed her in their midst
and putting his arms around her, he said to them,

‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me, receives not me,
but the One who sent me…’”

You could see on Steve Monforto’s face the recognition
that his daughter had just thrown away something he valued,
but because he valued his daughter far beyond his prizing a foul ball,
his heart and his arms were already there
to embrace and comfort her.

It just might be that Steve’s heart
is filled with the "wisdom from above"
St. James described in today’s second reading:
a heart that is pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy, constant and sincere;
a father’s heart predisposed, always ready to reach out in love,
to envelop his child in an embrace that is
welcoming, forgiving, comforting and accepting.

And such is the heart Jesus asks us to have as we serve one another.

I know that this sounds too simple.
Of course a father loves his child.
But how could this be a model for us
and how we conduct our affairs day to day?

Are we to love our neighbors as a father loves his daughter?

Yes. That’s exactly the wisdom, the love, the welcome,
the mercy, the comfort, the acceptance
Jesus enjoins us to offer to others in our lives.

To paraphrase today's scripture:
Whoever receives a neighbor as one receives a child, receives me;
and whoever receives me, receives not me,
but the One who sent me…

Little Emily is her father’s child, his flesh and blood,
the apple of his eye, the one he would give his life for
which is exactly how the Lord considers each one of us
and just how he asks us to consider one another…

Such wisdom, such regard, such love
is not something easily arrived at.
It’s a labor of love to come to value others
as much as we value ourselves and our own ideas,
as much as we value our possessions and our money,
- as much as we value a foul ball,
caught in the stands of a ballpark.

A way to begin to deal with the Lord’s call
for us to serve one another with such love
might be asking ourselves,
“What do I value?”

What things, what possessions, what self-interests do I value
more than I value others in my family, at work,
at school, in my neighborhood, my parish, around the world?

Are we more like the disciples,
arguing the value of our own self-importance,
asking, "Who among us is the greatest?"
-- or like Christ, welcoming the child into his embrace?

What do I learn about my life in Christ
when I ask myself, “What do I value?”

We gather at this table every week
to remember the value Christ placed on our lives:
he valued us more highly than he valued his own comfort,
more highly than he valued his own life.

And here, at this altar, he offers us his heart, a heart that is ever
pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy, constant and sincere.

We are nourished by the life of Christ’s heart
in bread and cup of the Eucharist
that our hearts might be as peaceable and full of mercy as his.

May the love we celebrate and receive here
be the love by which we live.