We can! We have! We will! I am! I do!

Image source: MayHeIncrease

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Scriptures for this Sunday's liturgy)

Do we ever pray as we heard James and John pray in this gospel?
“Lord, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you!”

That’s a bold prayer. It’s a demanding prayer.
And I think it’s often our prayer:
“Lord, this is what I want. This is what I need.
This is what you should do. This is what I want you to do,
for me, for someone I love - and I want you to do it now.”

And what were James and John asking for?
They were looking for a little special treatment –
as we often do when we pray.
They figured that Jesus could get them sky-box seats
in the eternal ball park where your team always wins.
They probably thought Jesus could email or text his heavenly Father
and order up a couple of choice tickets.
But Jesus knew it didn’t work that way.
Even Jesus was going to pay a price, the ultimate price,
for his seat in the Father’s sky-box.
So he tells James and John,
You don’t know what you’re asking for.
Those seats aren’t free.

Are you willing to pray the price?”
Will you drink the cup of suffering I’m going to drink?
Not really understanding what Jesus was talking about,
James and John answered, “We can!”

And if you think we aren’t just like James and John
in their enthusiastic response, then consider what you said
at your wedding when you were asked these three questions:

Have you come here freely and without reservation
to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

Will you love and honor each other as husband and wife
for the rest of your lives?

Will you accept children lovingly from God
and bring them according to the law of Christ and his Church?

You went a step beyond James' and John's “We can!”
You answered those three questions with
“We have! We will! We will!”

And you responded without a clue about what a month,
a year, a decade and more of marriage would bring to your heart,
your relationship, your life...

At my ordination the bishop asked me these four questions*
summed up in these words:

Are you resolved to celebrate the mysteries of Christ
faithfully and religiously…?

Are you resolved… to discharge without fail
the office of priesthood… as a fellow worker with the bishops
in caring for the Lord’s flock?

Are you resolved to exercise the ministry of the word
worthily and wisely…?

Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God
for the salvation of his people…”

And I answered those four questions,
"I am! I am! I am! I am, with the help of God!"

Would I have guessed then
what the last 8 years would bring to ministry
in scandal and parish closings?

And at Easter and at every baptism we celebrate,
all of us are asked,

Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?

Do you reject the glamour of evil,
and refuse to be mastered by sin?

And with equal enthusiasm we respond, “I do! I do!”

But do we? Do we pay attention to what we're saying?
Do we know what we're accepting? pledging? taking on?
Do we have even an inkling of the cup we might be asked to drink
in marriage, in ministry, in the Christian life?

Every married person, every priest, every Christian
has made those same responses,
“I have! I will! I am! I do!”

But I’ve yet to meet a husband or wife, a priest or any Christian
who has not been unfaithful, in smaller and larger ways,
to the promises we made when we were sure
“we knew what we were doing…”

And so we carry in our hearts, in our families,
in the church and in the world not only the joy of our fidelity
but also the weight of our failures
to be faithful to promises we made.

And sometimes we’re not so much like James and John
as we are like the other ten apostles
who are indignant and jealous because
they think James and John are getting the sky-box tickets
while they’re stuck in the bleacher seats.

The Lord makes the same response to the ten and the two
and to all of us. He says:
Ask for what you will,
but know that what you ask for comes at a price.
Don’t compare yourself to others with envy but rather,
serve others

and find the peace that comes
when you are faithful to your word and your responsibilities,
faithful to those in need
and willing to drink the cup that I will drink.
As for sky-boxes - they are not mine to give.
But be at peace with one another in the bleacher seats
and one day the glory of my Father will be yours.

Come, then, to the altar where the Lord of all
makes himself the servant of all and invites us
not only to be like him, but to share in the life and mercy
that are his alone to give in the bread and cup of the Eucharist
at this holy table.

*Here's the complete text of the four questions the bishop asks the ordinands:

- Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of the priesthood in the presbyteral order as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishops in caring for the Lord's flock?

- Are you resolved to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and religiously as the Church has handed them down to us for the glory of God and the sanctification of God's people?

- Are you resolved to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and explaining the Catholic faith?

- Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of his people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a perfect sacrifice?



  1. Another beautifully crafted homily -- I'm so glad we braved the "wintry mix" for the 11:30 Mass! (And the music was especially lovely, too.)

  2. Pastor Austin,

    Thanks for the "link love" (on the picture).

    In Christ,


  3. This is amazing, I loved reading it - which I did very slowly. Thank you for this CP.

  4. I'm glad I heard this in person, almost missed it!

  5. I am not particularly a sports fan but, somehow, sky-boxes and bleacher seats removed a level of abstraction that really helped convey the message of the Gospel to me. Very well done, thanks.


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