Homily for 14th Sunday Year A Ordinary time
When I was in the Philippines, I was talking to a nun-in-charge of the Home for the Aged Priests in the Archdiocese of Cebu. The nature of her work allowed her to meet many different priests from different places. She shared with me a wonderful story of a priest-exorcist who came to stay in that place one day. The story was that this priest was doing the ministry of exorcism to a certain person who was possessed by an evil spirit. This priest played the music ‘How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord’. Hearing that, apparently the evil spirit started to cry. It is an amazing thing for this priest because in his experience as an exorcist, evil spirits are so arrogant, full of pride, swearing, cursing, uttering terrible words. But hearing it crying, is unusual. So this priest asked ‘why did you cry?’ The spirit answered: ‘It’s true that God’s dwelling place is so lovely, so beautiful. But I no longer have the chance to live there. But you people just take this and many other things for granted.’
Friends, I’m sharing this with you because in our gospel today, Jesus is giving us a chance, an opportunity, an invitation, whoever we are, to come to him, to rest in him and to learn from him. And this is too good an opportunity to miss and to be taken for granted. This is an invitation that assures us that not only that we can tell God, how great our problem is, but also that can we can tell our problems, how great our God is.
And I thank all of you, especially the young people here for responding to this invitation of Jesus- to come to him- through this Holy Eucharist. At times, we may be tempted to think Mass is dull, boring, repetitive, and we don’t get anything out of it. But St John Vianney would say: “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.” The Second Vatican Council Document in its Constitution on the Church ‘Lumen gentium’ put it even more beautifully saying that the ‘Eucharist is the source and the summit of Christian life.’ (LG 11). The Eucharist gives us life and keeps us alive. Scott Hahn, a protestant-turned-Catholic theologian recalled his amazement of the first time he’d been to Catholic Mass. While sitting in the Church, during the Liturgy of the Word, Hahn exclaimed: “I sat there saying ‘Man, stop the show, let me explain your prayers. That’s Zechariah; that’s Ezekiel. Wow! It’s like the Bible coming to life and dancing out on the center stage and saying, “This is where I belong.” (http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0088.html). One more thing, is that every time we receive the Eucharist, we not only come to Jesus, but we allow him to come into our lives and become part of us.
It is important to remember too that ‘coming to Jesus and resting in him’ is not only about our partaking in the Eucharist.
Coming to Jesus at Mass also means coming to celebrate as a community of faith. “In the Church there is no DIY or ‘do it yourself’ Christianity, there are no ‘free agents’ as Pope Francis would say on one of his Wednesday audiences at St Peter’s Square. [See: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140625_udienza-generale.html]
The pope added: “We are able to live this journey (this faith journey) not only because of others, but together with others.” Pope Francis also acknowledges that it is a challenge for us to take because according to him: ‘It is true that walking together is challenging, and at times can be tiring: it can happen that some brother or some sister creates difficulties, or shocks us…. But the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to a few human beings, to us all, to a few witnesses; and it is in our brothers and in our sisters, with their gifts and limitations, that he comes to meet us and make himself known. And this is what it means to belong to the Church. Remember this well: to be Christian means belonging to the Church. The first name is “Christian”, the last name is “belonging to the Church”.
Coming to Jesus also means coming to him in faith.It is a challenge for us today because of the many things that would distract us from God, from the faith. There are people today, even in our immediate surroundings who would say to us ‘that they don’t need God’, and even showing pride of their not having faith at all. Francis Chan puts it rather cleverly when he wrote: “The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time.”
If only all of us realize the beauty of our God and the value of our faith, we come to appreciate more of the gift of life that God has given us so generously. The other day, I visited a parishioner who had been diagnosed of brain tumour and given few weeks to live. Her faith and her readiness to die amazed me. She couldn’t wait to get there. Her faith keeps her strong, and not feeling depressed by her situation. She realized ‘life is a gift’ and her faith tells her to continue living it no matter what it brings her. And that my friends, is true faith in action.
This morning I was driving towards Raywood ( a small country Church) to say Mass there. It was foggy almost all of the way. The fog was so thick I could only see no farther than 50 metres ahead of me. So I had to slow down, turned my lights on, and more importantly, stayed on my lane. And I got there safely. That made me reflect though that at times, our faith is like that. Our faith at times could only help us see as much. There might be cloud of doubts or uncertainties, worries, or problems so thick that we could hardly see any light or any way out. But if we slow down (humble ourselves and pray, seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways [cf 2 Chronicles 7:14]) , go to retreats, give time to ourselves and to God), turned our lights on (keep on living, live in hope), stay on the right lane (remain in the Church), and keep going, then we’ll get to our final destination in the end (heaven and eternal life).
Friends, dear brother and sisters, Jesus in the gospel is calling us to come to him, to take up his yoke with love and fidelity in him, and learn from his example of loving with no condition, of serving one another with no limits, and laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters. He is giving us an opportunity to come to him in the Eucharist, to celebrate our faith as a Church, and he has gifted us the faith. These are our chances. And I hope and pray, we wont take these amazing opportunities for granted. Otherwise, like the evil spirit in the story above, we would end up crying for ever rather than enjoying our lives in happiness forever with God. Amen.