Homily for February 16

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

To what ever you choose, stretch forth your hand…
That was Sirach’s advice to us in today’s first scripture.
To what ever you choose, stretch forth your hand…

• So, TO WHAT do you and I stretch forth our hands?
What do we reach out for?
What do we try to grasp? What do we grab for?
What do we try to get a grip on? get hold of?  glom on to?

• This “stretching forth our hands,” this “reaching out for,”
is a basic human gesture.
We see it in infants who early on
begin to reach out for what’s in front of them,
infants who reach out for us to pick them up,
to hold and embrace them, to feed and protect them.

• Just yesterday morning I celebrated a beautiful baptism,
a baby boy, Benjamin Francis.
Benjamin didn’t know where he was or what as happening to him
but there he was in his baptismal outfit  --  reaching out!

• And once we begin stretching forth our hands
reaching out as infants  --  we never stop.
Even if illness or age keeps us from physically stretching forth our hands,
our hearts and minds reach out all the time for what we want,
what we desire and what we choose.

Sirach raises the stakes here when he writes that God sets before us: 
 “good and evil, life and death…”
- and that we’re called to reach for
good over evil   --   life over death.

• Those are pretty heavy categories to contend with!
And sometimes, we do actually face off with “good and evil,”
sometimes we have to make real “life or death decisions.”
But more often,  we face smaller challenges
- but even these fall under the headings of good and evil
and ultimately lead us in the direction of life - or death.

• I’m talking about the kind of challenges you and I meet
day in and day out,
the almost daily choices we make
between telling the truth and lying,
between begin greedy and generous,
between playing fair and cutting corners,
between good, wholesome thoughts and lusty fantasies,
between foolishness and wisdom,
between honesty and fraud,
between welcoming others in or shutting others out,
between being faithful or unfaithful to one’s partner,
between healthy entertainment and junk food for the mind,
between speaking a cruel  word or speaking a kind word,
between gossiping and minding my own business,
between laziness and using the talents God gave me,
between wasting time and spending my time well…

• And those are just some of the many choices
that fall under the categories of good and evil,  of life and death.
When faced with these options, or let’s be more particular:
when you and I were faced with these very options
in just the past week,
to which did we “stretch forth our hands”?   what did we reach for?

• Not every choice or decision is a “life or death” option.
But everything we think and say and  do    does fall somewhere
along the spectrum between what’s right and what’s wrong.

• Everything we think and say and do leads us, ultimately,
to either a greater life and a deeper love of God and neighbor
or to a lesser life that weakens and drains our potential
for goodness, for greatness,
for becoming the persons God made and called each of us to be.

• And it’s very easy, isn’t it - oh, so easy! -
for any of us to point to choices and decisions that others make,
and to criticize their making what we deem to be
bad decisions and poor choices.

• But the scriptures today call us to look at ourselves first:
to see if we possess, if we exercise what St. Paul calls wisdom.
a wisdom he deemed keener than that of his own times
and deeper than that of our own times, some 2,000 years later.

• This is the wisdom that bids us seek the truth
and to live by the truth once we find it.

• The wisdom of a studied and well-formed conscience.

• The wisdom of those with courage enough
to speak up and act when the truth demands it
and to hold our tongue when silence is called for.

• This is the wisdom of common sense,
a wisdom that survives the ages
even when common sense is periodically
twisted by the fads and trends of the day.

• This is the wisdom that counsels us, as Jesus does,
to say, Yes when we mean Yes
]and to say No when we mean No.

• The wisdom we need
to be honest, loyal, and faithful to the truth
in what we feel and say - as well as in what we do.

• This is the wisdom we find sadly absent in today’s daily news…

• This is the wisdom keen enough to understand
that we fail in our hearts long before we fail in our deeds.

• The wisdom which, when we follow its counsel,
brings us the deepest satisfaction and joy
- no matter how hard it was to make the wise choice.

• This is the wisdom that nourishes and nurtures us
every time we come to this table
to receive Jesus, Jesus who is the Wisdom of God,
Jesus who laid down his life for us on the Cross
and who offers his life for us, again, here
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

• We are invited here at the altar to feast on wisdom
to nourish us and help us make good choices, the right choices.

• We act wisely when we choose good over evil,
truth over lies, the genuine over the counterfeit,
the selfless over the selfish, life over death.
Any time we make less than a wise choice,
we make a foolish choice.

• So pray with me that you and I will stretch forth our hands,
to reach for that goodness that serves God and neighbor,
that we reach out for anything and everything
that deepens our life in God
who is our greatest, our only, our one, true Wisdom.

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