Homily for June 17

Image source

Homily for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


When I was younger, much, much younger, I was taught
to live  according to the Ten Commandments, the words of Jesus
and the teachings of the Church
- LEST I sin and end up in hell.

Are you familiar with the concept of “teaching to the test?”
It’s a term for any method of education
whose curriculum is heavily focused on preparing students
to pass a standardized test.

Analogous to “teaching to the test”
is an approach to faith that might be called “living to the test,”
the test being God’s judgment of me at the end of my life.
Or, as Saint Paul put it in his letter to the Corinthians and to us:
Therefore, we aspire to please the LORD…
for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ
so that each of us might receive recompense,
according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil.

Just as “teaching to the test” might suggest
that the purpose of education is passing an exam,
so “living to the test” suggests
that the purpose of leading a Christian life
is escaping eternal punishment.

And while there’s some validity in both,
neither one tells us the whole story.
The purpose of education
is something far greater than passing an exam
and the purpose of living according to the law of Christ and his Church
is more than getting into heaven.

True education prepares a student
to be a more fully developed human being
long after any exam is taken.
True education teaches not only content
but just as importantly teaches the student how to learn.

Analogously, the goal of the Christian life
is to help us human beings live and more fully participate
in God’s loving plan for his people
long before we appear at the pearly gates,
waiting for St. Peter to post our final grades.
True faith teaches the believer not only how to die
but more importantly - how to live!

Nowadays, one doesn’t hear much about hell, or the threat of hell,
and many tend to think that somehow,
just about everybody goes to heaven
regardless of the far-ranging degrees of accountability and success    
we experience in living or failing to live as God desires.

As is so often the case, this isn’t so much matter of either/or
but much more a matter of both/and.
It’s altogether both helpful and valuable
on the one hand, to keep in mind that one day
God will judge my life as worthy or unworthy
of the place he has prepared for me in heaven.
AND, on the other hand, to live each day as its own,
simply striving to love God and my neighbor
because such love is what God asks of me
and is good for the welfare of the human family
and my own well-being.
God’s commandments, the gospel of Jesus and Church teaching
are not intended as a series of hoops through which we jump
[on our way to the judgment seat of Jesus
but rather are meant to help you and me be and become always more
the persons God created us to be.

• As children, we often obey our parents out of fear of being punished
but as we grow and mature,
we observe and meet societal expectations and standards
out of a love and respect for others and for God.

• We don’t obey the law simply to avoid being arrested -
we keep the law because it establishes good order for our society -
even if there are times when fear of arrest
keeps us from pressing too heavily on the gas pedal. 

• A marriage doesn’t develop and flourish based on fear of divorce,
but rather on the love that spouses mutually promise and share -
although there may be times of temptation when it’s precisely fear
that keeps a partner faithful to his or her vows.   

So it is with God and us.
A life lived according to the rules - out of fear of hell -
]is not the life God envisions for us.
Rather, the life God desires for us
]is a life shared with him and with others - in love.
It’s possible that we might go through life keeping all the rules
]and yet never meeting, never experiencing the person of Jesus.
If keeping the rules doesn’t lead us to a deeper relationship
of trust, love and intimacy with God - something is critically missing.
Although here, too, there may be times when fear of God’s judgment
may keep us from sin and living apart from his love and grace. 

We all need always to keep in mind that we’re called to lead holy lives
for the sake of holiness
- and by holy lives I mean lives generous
in goodness… truth… mercy… prayer… kindness…
peace… justice… healing… and compassion.

And we need to keep in mind that it’s on just these points
that one day we’ll stand before the judgment seat of Christ,
hoping to pass our “final exam”
and, in God’s mercy, be welcomed to life that has no end,
a life with no end to its joy and peace.

Simple thoughts like these,
thoughts about how we live, day by day, in God’s love,
in preparation for being judged
simple thoughts like these should be in our minds and hearts
as we consider complex issues,
issues like immigration policy and reform:
how we meet and welcome our neighbor
at our nation’s borders.

And thoughts like these, day by day, should just as keenly inform
how we meet and welcome the neighbor who lives
in our own homes, in our own families, in our neighborhoods,
in our town, in our parish, at work and at school.

We need to consider what it means to lead a holy life, day by day,
because it’s on this evidence
that our lives will be reviewed and judged by Jesus.

Jesus uses a beautiful image in today’s gospel
to help us measure ourselves and our lives of faith:
the image of planting seeds.

We can’t wait until the “final exam” of the harvest at the end of our lives
to see if we have been faithful farmers.
Our fidelity begins with the seeds we sow every day
and how we nurture them.

Alden Solovy is friend of mine in the blogosphere.
He’s not a Christian, he’s a Jew, and he writes, beautifully,
from the perspective of  his Jewish faith.
Let me close by sharing with you
a fine poem Alden wrote about planting seeds.

Planting Seeds

Every act is a seed:
Every laugh, every smile.
Every song, every dance.
Every outstretched arm
And every open heart.
A seed of holiness. 
A seed of redemption. 
A seed of grace.

Every act is a seed:
Every frown, every angry word.
Every dislike, every disdain.
Every closed fist,
And every hardened heart.
A seed of loneliness.
A seed of isolation.
A seed of despair.

How many seeds have I planted, God of Old,
Seeds that hurt, Seeds that heal?
How many seeds have I yet to plant,
Seeds that hurt, Seeds that heal?

Ancient One,
grant me the discernment
And the skill
To plant seeds of wonder and awe
In my life and the world.

Let me be a source of wholeness,
Let me be a source of thanksgiving,
So that my life yields
A garden of blessings
In service to Your Holy Name.

- ©Alden Solovy at ToBendLight.com


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!