Saturday, October 24, 2009
Last Sunday's Homily
Here the homily I gave last Sunday, the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time B.
Saint Francis was known to be a joyful person, always going about Assisi with a smile and often singing a song. But one day Saint Francis was going about town sobbing, crying, and in between sobs could be heard his lament: Love is not loved! Love is not loved!
Today we hear in the readings some very good news. The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, He who is Love Himself, came to serve us and to give his life as a ransom for us. He took on our lowly humanity and suffered a cruel passion and crucifixion to redeem us. Though raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, He still sympathizes with our weaknesses and is ready to give us mercy when we have sinned and the grace we need to avoid sin and to do good. He even sent us His Holy Spirit to remind us of what He taught us, to help us come to know Him and the Father, and to help us become holy and guide us in the right path. In doing so, Jesus truly showed and continues to show us that God is Love.
And yet Love is not loved. We do not love God as we could. But why? Surely in the face of such love we would naturally want to respond with love in return.
So the question we must ask ourselves is do we let God love us? Do we trust that God wills to save us and help us live lives of true peace and holiness? Or do we see God as a tyrant who demands of us perfection before He will love us, as if His love were something we earn? Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, but Peter objected, not wanting Jesus to serve him. Are we, like Peter, too proud to accept the free gift that God has to offer us? Do we think we have to earn God's love and mercy? Or still yet, do we perhaps not set aside the time to really let God speak to our hearts? Are we perhaps too busy to spend time with God and to really get to know Him?
If we think God a tyrant who lords it over us, then it is no wonder we often seek the fulfillment of the deepest desires of our hearts in things that fail to satisfy, be it money, or status, or possessions, or the work we do, or even drugs and alcohol. It is true that our hearts thirst to be loved and even more true that God desires greatly to quench our thirst, to serve us, to love us with His unconditional love. If we do not set aside time in prayer each day and if we don't come to mass or do so begrudgingly, then we waste an opportunity to let God fill us with His love, to recharge us and give us the graces we need to love and serve others as He does. If we were to let God love us, if we would take the time to meet Him in prayer and let Him speak to our hearts, then we would fall in love with God harder than with any other person on earth. We would be set ablaze with love and would want to set others ablaze too, not unlike Saint Francis.
The old saying goes that you cannot give what you don't have. And so the only way we can love others, the only way we can love God as He deserves, is if we let God love us first, if we come to discover just how much He cares and just how much He has been trying to get through to us, to show us His presence when we are in the midst of difficulties, to guide us when we face trials. We must come to see that our Lord came to serve us when we should have been the ones serving Him. Only then will we understand what it means to gather every week on Sunday to give thanks to our God for the blessings He has so wondrously bestowed on us. Only then will we understand why we are encouraged to pray during the day in ways that both remind us of God's goodness and that praise Him for being so good to us. Only when we begin to let God love us will we feel the need to share His love with others by bearing patiently with those who annoy us, doing kind deeds for people who do not deserve them, forgiving those who have wronged us, and perhaps even one day laying down our lives for another.
If we first let God love us, then we will not feel the need to lord it over others, to compete with them in order to make sure we have enough or to make sure we accumulate all the good things for ourselves, getting the best places as James and John tried to do in today's gospel. Rather, once we discover the depths of God's love for us, we can willingly and freely give our service to others in need, sure in the knowledge that God has given us an over-abundance of wealth in giving us His very self and hopeful that He will continue to supply our needs in the future.
The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. This week, if we take even five minutes each day to let God love us by stopping and speaking with him in prayer and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts then we too will be transformed into men and women in love with God, who will stop seeking places of glory and begin serving others out of love for God. Once on fire with love for God, we will understand what it means to endure any trial or tribulation, to undergo any suffering out of love for God and for our neighbors. We will also trust that God is ready and willing to help us in every way to grow in love. We will love Love and ardently desire, as St. Francis did, that all peoples know and love our God of Love who came among us to serve.