Homily for January 22

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

Audio for homily

At once, immediately, they left their nets and followed him…

It didn’t work that way with me!

When people ask me when I decided to become a priest
the most honest answer I can give is,
 “About six years after I was ordained.”
I was ordained in 1973.
I truly decided to become a priest around 1979.
Those six years were very interesting years!
(That's a story I may share at another time...)

I’ve heard married people say the same kind of thing,
that the real decision to be married
came some years after they stood at the altar.

While I truly believe that God calls each of us to many things,
the word "call" might sometimes be too strong 
to describe how God does that.

I heard no voice, I had no vision,
I experienced nothing mystical.
Not so much a call,
what I experienced was a nudge, a prompting,
an intuition, a suggestion that becoming a priest
might be what I was meant to do with my life.
Actually, it was more like a hunch,
a “holy hunch,” if you like,
but a hunch nonetheless.
So, I followed my hunch, 
hoping that God was behind it and,
to the best of my ability,
I believe that indeed, I’m doing with my life 
what God has asked of me.

But what God originally nudged me into
has turned out to be very different than what I expected.

I'm reminded of one of those self-help books
with the interesting title: This Isn’t The Life I Ordered!
Well, whose is?

Even though I believe that God and I are still on the same page,
I’ve found that my work is often frustrating, disappointing,
difficult, painful, lonely, confining, confusing, depressing,
suspect and unsupported.

But at the same time, I also find my work to be
exciting, challenging, fulfilling, uplifting, liberating, 
validating, appreciated, needed,
joyful, blessed and deeply rewarding.
And I have these two sets of experiences of my ministry
precisely because of where my work invites
and allows me entrance:
into your tender, fragile hearts
and into your joys and sorrows,
your dreams and disappointments,
your successes and failures, 
your experience of sin and grace – and mine, too.

If you think a priest’s work is mostly doing "holy things"
or saying "holy words" – or even "being holy" himself –
you've only got it partly right.

We live in a culture which serves up a lot of junk.
My work is to sort through, with you and for you,
all the junk in our lives
and to dig deep enough to discover the holy
in our hearts, our lives and in the world around us.
And when we find the holy within and among us,
we come together to celebrate and share it 
with others who are searching for it, too.

In sorting through all the junk
in pursuit of what's of real value,
we Christians use the gospel as our treasure map
and the Church’s wisdom as light for our path.
Like the ancients of Zebulun and Naphtali,
something deep within us longs
for anguish to take wing,
for the darkness to be dispelled,
and for the holy to be uncovered and revealed.
And like the Corinthians,
we screw things up a good deal of the time:
we make our own maps and cast the Lord's aside;
we forgo wisdom's light and stumble in the dark;
we prefer rivalry to unity and lose sight of our goal.

We need to heed Paul’s warning that unless Christ be our light
and his Cross the standard of our lives,
we will be lost, buried in the junk failing to find that holiness
our restless hearts are always seeking.
 So, I want to ask you today to ponder how God might be
nudging and prompting you to serve.
I ask you to explore any "holy hunch" you have
about how the Lord might be calling you to serve.

With the parish staff and Parish Council
I'm inviting all of us to make 2017 a Year of Service.

Over the past month, in the bulletin,
we've published a listing of service opportunities
and that same information is available
at the church doors today.
Jesus is always nudging and inviting us
to leave our nets behind, 
if only for an hour or two a week,
or maybe just once a month,
leaving the day-to-day behind to follow him
and share in his work.

The first disciples dropped everything at once
- to follow Christ.

For our sakes, Christ dropped everything he had,
laying down his life for us on the Cross,
that we might have life and have it to the full.

May the sacrament we share at his table today
nourish and strengthen us to follow
whatever "holy hunch" each of us might have
and to serve the Lord in serving one another,
near and far.


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