August 22, 2021: :Homily- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

As parents you all know that children have a hard time knowing what’s good for them. But they can’t be blamed. The truth is that they don’t know any better.  All because they haven’t lived long enough, neither have they had enough life experiences, nor had enough time to learn from their mistakes and lapses of judgment.  But for most of us, we eventually come around and eventually start understanding what is truly in our best interests.  And so, many of us try to eat well, and exercise, and obey the law, and show up for work, and pay our bills, and take care of our homes and yards, and do all sorts things to help ourselves and those dear to us.

After all, we want what’s best for ourselves.

“The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.”

So says Jesus to his disciples in our Gospel passage of today.   He knew that he had been telling them all sorts of things that were hard for them to accept, all sorts of stories and sayings that seemed to turn their world upside-down.  He was saying strange things that seemed to go against their collective common-sense, go against the ways they had grown to believe things were, go against how they understood the world to work.  And they’d seen the miracles too,  which got their attention, but often made them more confused as to who this friend of theirs was.  And just before this statement from Jesus, the disciples had heard him go on and on about how he was the bread that came down from heaven.  What could that possibly mean?  Now they were really confused and probably wondered if Jesus was completely in his right mind.  If I was there, that’s exactly what I’d be thinking!

And so Jesus tries to reassure them.  He even goes so far as to ask them,

“Does this shock you?”

That was, in a sense, Jesus’ way of telling them – I know that I’m saying things that are difficult for you to understand.  I know that you are puzzled and wondering whether or not you should still be paying attention to what I have to say.  I know that I’m challenging you in ways you’ve never been challenged.  I get all of that.  And I need you to stay with me, need you to do your best to accept what I’m saying because . . .

“. . . the words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.”

Do WE truly believe that?

It’s kind of ironic how (for most things in this life) we tend to grow from a state of not understanding what’s good for us to a state of greater understanding –  a state of being aware why we need to do certain things and refrain from other things in order to have the best life possible.  Yet, often when it comes to spiritual things, the things of God, we sometimes do the exact opposite.  And so, for many of us we loosen our grip on these holy things with each passing year. You try to think back.  For many of us our youth was filled with big, selfless dreams about changing the world and caring for the less fortunate and sacrificing for the good of others and making a real and lasting difference in our lives and in our world.

But with time, many of us drift from that perspective.  We begin telling ourselves that it’s because we now know what the “real” world demands.  And that’s the master we often start serving – the one that makes sure our worldly needs are met before all else.  We pursue these things endlessly (sometimes, exclusively) and then pass them to the next generation, who does the same thing, and so on and so on – in the service of – only God knows – what exactly?

Love your enemies . . . . . . Turn the other cheek . . . . . . Forgive seventy times seven times . . . . . . . . Lay down your life for your friends . . . Go the extra mile . . . . . . and so on.

These are precisely the words that are “Spirit and life”, words that can help us be “fully alive”, words that if taken to heart and truly lived out, will help us live life in the only way worth living, the way God created us to live, and died to  save us and show us the power of that kind of love.  And that takes faith.

My friends, today is a challenge for each of us. It’s  an invitation to look deep within and examine to what degree we are really on board with what Jesus is asking of us.  Can we echo the words of Joshua from our First Reading, and truly mean them?

“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Or do we think that our way is better?  Do we think the world’s way is better?

We don’t really have a choice.  We’re going to wind up serving somebody, one way or another – whether we want to or not.   Who will that someone be?

A Short Story

Do we stand for God?

A group of Christians gathered for a secret prayer meeting in Russia, at the height of the persecution of all Christian churches. Suddenly the door was broken by the boot of a soldier. He entered the room and faced the people with a gun in his hand. They all feared for the worst. He spoke. “If there’s anyone who doesn’t really believe in Jesus, then, get out now while you have a chance.” There was a rush to the door. A small group remained – those who had committed themselves to Jesus, and who were never prepared to run from Him. The soldier closed the door after others have run away, and once again, he stood in front of those who remained, gun poised. Finally, a smile appeared on his face, as he turned to leave the room, and he whispered “Actually, I too believe in Jesus, and you’re much better off without those hypocrites!”

Father Boat

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