Building barns and the Big Bang theory

Stone City Barns by Philip Koch

Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time 
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

“Tear down your barns and build larger barns… “

While some of our parishioners do have a barn, most of us don’t.
But we’d be fools to think this gospel has nothing to say to us:
    the barn-less.
Actually, talking about barns is the wrong place to begin this homily.
More than a larger barn – we need a bigger context.
A context bigger than a barn…   Let’s try – the universe!

And let’s begin with a question about the universe:
    “Who (or what) is the origin of the universe?
        the center of the universe?  the heart of the universe?”

Perhaps you subscribe to the Big Bang theory:
    that “the universe was once a gravitational singularity
    which expanded extremely rapidly from its hot and dense state.”

Well, I’m not opposed to the Big Bang Theory
    but I gotta wonder where did that "gravitational singularity"
    (whatever that is!) – where did it come from? what’s its source?

You’re probably not surprised to find out I think that was God:
    that “the who or the what” that’s the origin of the universe,
        its center and its heart – is God.
And that of course means that I am not the center of the universe and,
    please do take this personally – Neither.  Are.  You.

But if God’s the center of the universe and I’m not (and you’re not)
    then there follows from that a certain order of things,
    a certain order of beings, a certain order of important realities
by which all other things, beings and realities
    are to be measured and ordered.

(Bear with me: we’ll get back to the barns!)

It’s this order of things in life that Jesus calls us to examine today.
He knows that we sometimes get this order of things mixed up,
    backwards, upside down or inside out.

This certainly happens any time, 

or better every time I start to think that
    my concerns are the center of the universe,
    that my needs are the center of the universe,
    that the people I love are the center of the universe,
    that getting my own way, that  getting what I want
        is the center of the universe.

Here’s the hard truth at the heart of today’s gospel:
    • nothing in my life is more important than God in my life;
    • nothing I have or want or need, nothing I fantasize or desire
        is more important than having God at the center of my life;
    • no one I love  --  is more important than God;
    • no love in my life is more important than God’s love for me
        -- and my love for God.

Nothing and no one in my life is more important than God in my life.

Of course, included in my love for God and in God’s love for me
    are many other persons and realities,
the most important of which
    are the people God calls me to love and care for,
        through whom I draw closer to God,
    and the people God calls to love and care for me
        through whom God enters my life more deeply.

God comes first: everyone and everything else, is in second place.
When we get this order backwards or mixed up or upside down,
    it’s then that we begin to want more things and to collect things.

Now, let’s be clear about this:  it’s not wrong to have things.
We need things.  Without some things, we wouldn’t live very long.
But when things become more important than people,
        more important than God,
    • when working to get more things
        begins to shape our schedules, choices and decisions,
    • when things become the objects of our love and desire
    • when getting more things for those we love is how we love them,
    • when we identify ourselves by the things we own,
    • when all the things we have are never enough
    • when the things we own  --   begin to own us,
    • when things become the center of our lives,
        the center of our universe,
    • when we have so many things that we haven’t got room
        to keep and store all the things we have
    -- well, that’s when we call in an architect
        to draw up the plans for building a bigger barn.

And for many of us, the house we live in is the barn:
    the barn where we store the things we have which, often,
        are many more things than what we need.
My barn is just across the green in Monument Square, the rectory.
Your provide it for me.
I live by myself in two rooms on the second floor of a three-story home.
In raw numbers I might have fewer things than many others
    but that’s not the bottom line.

The bottom line, the message of this scripture, is not the question,
    “How many things do I have?”
    but rather,  “Do I have more things than I need?
    Do I want more things than I have or need?
    What and who are at the center of my universe:
        my things or my God?”

This gospel doesn’t call us to burn down our barns or our houses,
    but it does call us to take some inventory.

Suppose we all went home today and began to make a list
    of all the things we have.
And suppose after listing, say, the first hundred things,
    we went back and crossed off – and eventually gave away –
        all the things we really don’t need.
How hard would be the letting go?
What would we cling to?  What would we learn?

This gospel calls us to take an inventory of what we treasure.
If the Lord calls me home to him tonight
    he’ll look to see what treasures I’ve brought with me
and I won’t have a barn or a basement or an attic,
    I won’t have a suitcase, a knapsack, a purse or a wallet.
I’ll have only the soul God gave me when my life began
    and when he searches my heart, he’ll know what I have treasured:
        he’ll know what and who have been the center of my universe.

In a few moments, at the Lord’s Table,
    we’ll be fed with food for the heart:
        the treasure of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
May the sacrament we celebrate and receive here
    give us courage to take an inventory of our barns
        and wisdom to let God be nothing less
            than the center, the heart of our universe.    

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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful and thought provoking homily. Wonderful and thought provoking readings today. Thank you so much for making me think about it a bit more!


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