August 29, 2021: Homily-22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

If you’ve ever had to do some sort of work or project or repair something in front
of someone else, you know that it’s not really that enjoyable. And this probably is
for a couple of reasons. One, it can be distracting (and annoying) to have someone
standing right next to you watching and talking and interrupting. Most of us, when
working on some sort of project, we simply want to be left alone, and simply want
to be left in peace and quiet so we can just do the job and be done with it. But
there is a second reason, one that is even more annoying – something that can
really make us frustrated and angry. I’m talking about “unsolicited advice”.
I guess none of us like that. There is nothing more irritating than having someone
standing over us telling us that what we’re doing is wrong, or explaining how we
can do it better, or describing what they would do if they were in our place. “Go
away!” is what we would like to say, but often we don’t, because we don’t want to
be rude. But we’re thinking of it, for sure. And the reason is pretty simple: Most
of us are convinced that however WE are doing it, is the BEST WAY, that we
obviously know more than the other person does, that we will be just fine without
anybody’s “help”.
And for some things, that is absolutely true. We truly don’t need someone telling
us that we’re vacuuming “wrong”. Our “way” in that situation, is probably just as
good as any other. And if any of you actually do work in people’s homes for
money, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In these situations, you indeed
are the “expert” and probably don’t find it helpful when the person who hired you
is watching your every move and making suggestions and various comments every
step of the way.
And this philosophy of “my way is always the best way” spills over into so many
areas of our lives. We don’t like it when people tell us how to drive, or what kind
of car we should buy, or where we should go to church. We don’t like it when
people try to convince us that their doctor is better, or their mechanic is better, or
their financial person is better. They sometimes want to suggest who should be
dating who? Is it true?Yep – it sure seems like most of us feel pretty confident that
  • we can make it through this life just fine without much help, without much advice,
    without much “interference” from others.
    The queson is: “What about in matters of faith?”
    I don’t have to tell you that there has been a sort of “disconnect” between what we
    Christians say we believe and how we actually live. And I don’t mean just
    recently. I mean throughout the history of our faith. And that shouldn’t surprise
    us. After all, we are not perfect – and as a result, we don’t always do the right
    thing or act for the right reasons. In other words, we sin – sometimes in minor
    ways and sometimes in grave ways that cause quite a lot of harm. Living a life of
    faith is a journey, and we will make many mistakes and wrong turns and miss steps
    along the way. And while we should never be happy about that, we shouldn’t
    expect our weaknesses to disappear overnight. Holiness is, in a very real sense,
    more of a process than a destination, and all that God asks of us is that we keep
    working to get better at it.
    And this “disconnect” between what we say we believe and the actual choices we
    make arises for various reasons. Two stand out the most. The first is the one we
    are probably most familiar with. Sometimes we don’t do the right thing simply
    because we don’t want to. We give in to some sort of temptation, and instead of
    choosing what we know to be right, we choose something else instead – something
    that satisfies some kind of desire in us in the moment, or something that provides
    us with an easier path, or something that puts our well-being or safety ahead of the
    well-being or safety of others.
    But sometimes we choose the wrong thing simply because we don’t really “buy”
    what God is selling. In other words, we’re not doing the wrong thing deliberately,
    but rather are doing the wrong thing because we have convinced ourselves that it
    isn’t really wrong after all.
    I guess you could say that sometimes we even think “our way” is better than
    “God’s way”, we tend to think that we are seeing a situation clearer than God is,
    that our judgment is somehow better than God’s. Put simply – even when it comes
    to matters of faith, I guess you could say we really don’t like “unsolicited advice”.
  • It’s hard to admit that others might have wisdom that we don’t have, that others
    might have insights that we don’t possess, that others may have something to offer
    us that we would never be able to acquire on our own. And that applies both to
    God’s Word – the Sacred Scripture – and also to the faith that comes to us through
    the teachings of the Church. In both cases it is sometimes easier to reject the
    wisdom of others and replace it with our own wisdom, replace it with our own
    vision, replace it with our own understanding of how things are and how things
    must be.
    So how do we avoid that trap? Well, first it takes deep faith, a faith that is willing
    to let God directly or through others remove the lenses through which we tend to
    view the world and replace them with new lenses – lenses that help us see a little
    more as God sees. But it also takes something else. Listen to the words from our
    Second Reading from the Letter
    of St. James:
    “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you . . .”
    Humility – something that is often lacking in so many of us. My friends, it makes
    little sense to call Jesus “Lord” and then disregard what he has to say. It makes
    little sense to listen to and read the Sacred Scripture if we have no intention of
    letting God speak to us through these sacred texts. It makes little sense to choose
    to be tethered to this God-given ark – the Catholic community – if we are going to
    toss out what we don’t like and simply embrace whatever works for us.
    And don’t misunderstand me. I am well aware of how challenging it is to live out
    the words of Sacred Scripture, to live in a way faithful to the Gospel. I am well
    aware of how challenging and demanding the teachings of the Church can be, as it
    invites us to radically step out of ourselves and live for others. And I am well
    aware of how outside pressures can chip away at what at one point in our lives we
    used to be way more confident of.
    And so, I’m not suggesting that we need to embrace any sort of intellectual
    dishonesty, that we need to somehow “pretend” we believe things we are having a
  • hard time believing or embracing or understanding. But we do need to make sure
    that our egos aren’t getting in the way of accepting a life in imitation of Jesus, that
    our self-centeredness isn’t getting in the way of accepting a life in imitation of
    Jesus, that our pride isn’t getting in the way of accepting a life in imitation of
    In other words, maybe we as individuals, are not quite as smart as we think we
    are. Maybe we, as individuals, don’t have all the answers. Maybe we, as
    individuals, don’t always know what’s best. Maybe (or should I say, positively)
    God does. (Well, of course he does.) And maybe some people we never, ever
    listen to do. (Imagine that.) And maybe the Church (through the power of the
    Holy Spirit) does too. That, too, takes a deep and authentic kind of faith.
    And so, if we feel that God is somehow standing alongside us, watching how we
    are living, or peering over our shoulder ready to put his two-cents in, let’s resist the
    temptation to (in effect) say, “Go away. Mind your own business. I got this.”
    Rather, let’s admit that we could really use some help, some guidance, some
    advice. After all, God’s “two-cents” . . . are, my dear people of God, priceless.
    Father Boat

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