October 24,2021: Homily- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’”

Lord, what do I want you to do for me?  Well, I’m glad  you asked.  I want to have more good friends.  I want to have more money.  I want to lose weight.  I want to be better looking.  I want to be smarter.    I want my dream job.  I want to retire early.  I want to be healthier.

Can you do that for me?

Oh, I just thought of a few more.  These are the really big ones. I want dad’s Alzheimer’s to go away.  I want my son to break his addiction.  I want my spouse to get a better job so we don’t lose the house.  I want to be cured of my cancer.  I want my daughter’s marriage to not fall apart.  I want to find love.  I want to not be so lonely.  Or so depressed.  Or so worried.  Or so afraid.

Can you do that for me?

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’”

That’s the God we all want, right?  We want the God who fulfills our every wish, our every want, our every need.  We want the God who fixes our problems and cures our ills and brings us happiness.  We want the God who doesn’t let us fall into financial ruin, and doesn’t let our child run with a bad company and wind up in jail, and doesn’t let our cancer return, and doesn’t let our spouse leave us, and doesn’t let our loved ones die.

Where is THAT God?

As you know – as Catholic Christians we believe some pretty incredible things – that God is Father, Son, and Spirit, that the Son became one of us, that he was born of a virgin, that he performed all sorts of miracles, that he reconciled us to the Father through his passion and death, that he rose from the dead destroying death once and for all, that he sent the Spirit to be with us forever, and that he comes to us in grace-filled holy moments we call Sacraments (even in the meal we are about to share).  That’s a lot of stuff.  But for how tremendously unbelievable and astonishing those things are, they aren’t really the biggest obstacles to faith for many of us.

Our suffering is.

After all, God can do absolutely anything he wants.  He’s all-powerful.  God’s all-knowing.  He’s all-good.  And so, God can right any wrong, fix any problem, stop any illness, prevent any destructive storm.  Yet, we know that those things still happen  – not just to others, not just to “bad” people, not just to people of little or no faith, but to all of us in varying degrees – even you and me, people who come here each and every week to give thanks to God and pledge him our love.  So why do we have to go through these things, why are our requests ignored, why do our deepest longings and dreams and desires and hopes seem to remain unfulfilled?

We don’t know.  Nobody knows. That’s the honest truth.  We simply don’t know.  If you think you’ve “solved” this problem – publish it and you will be the most famous theologian on the planet.  We try.  We try to “figure” it out.  We do our best to understand, but our words and explanations fall far short.  We just don’t know.  And because we don’t know, because God allows so many things to happen that cause us so much pain and disappointment and sorrow – many of us struggle to believe in a God who loves us and who only wants good things for us.

In a very real sense, our sorrow, our pain, our crosses can become obstacles to faith, can become chisels chipping away at the image of God we held as kids.  It’s easy to believe in God when times are good, but it is much less so when times are bad.  And for some, it can be nearly impossible.

“The blind man replied to him, ‘Master, I want to see.’ 

Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’”

 I often wonder what would have happened if Jesus didn’t heal this man, if he didn’t cure his blindness.  Would he have lost “faith” in Jesus, his “faith” in God?  I don’t think so.  My gut tells me that it was precisely his faith that sustained him through all the difficult years of his blindness – and had his blindness remained, his faith would have remained too – continuing to be his anchor, his refuge, his consolation.  His faith was not a casualty of his blindness.  It was the cure.

And the miracle that was granted him – the one that allowed him to “see’” – might be as much for us two thousand years later, as it was for him.  For in many ways, faith is a kind of “sight” – a kind of lens through which we are able to see and interpret the world around us, the good and the bad.  It’s the lens that allows us to look at the world, look at others, and look at our own lives in particular, and remain hopeful, remain trusting, remain at peace – even when trouble and chaos and disappointment are all around us.

In our First Reading we see the Prophet Jeremiah trying to encourage the people in times of trouble.  Jeremiah was known for saying a lot of really tough things during his years as a prophet, but this was one of those times when he was giving them consolation.  You see, a little over a hundred years before, the Assyrians had conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and that kingdom had never been restored.  (Ten of the twelve tribes of the Jewish people were either wiped out or exiled – what we call the “lost” tribes of Israel).  And now the Babylonians to the east, were rising in power and knocking on the door of the Southern Kingdom, threatening the remaining two tribes.  People were worried.  People were afraid that the end might be near.  People were not sure what the future would bring.

Yet, Jeremiah was trying to assure them that their sufferings would not be the end of the story, that their tragedies would not get the last say, that their pain and sorrow would not prevail.  And while the Babylonians would eventually “conquer” them a little over ten years later, and would exile many of them to Babylon for about fifty years, they (the Babylonians) would not ultimately prevail.

God would.  God would ultimately win, and would once again bring them back from the brink of destruction, bring them back to the land they could call their own.  And the Jewish people somehow “survived” in Babylon,  partly because they don’t seem to have really been mistreated to any great extent, but mostly because they held on to hope, held on to their trust in God, held on to their faith.

And that made all the difference.

My dear people of God, I’d like to say that all your problems are going to go away.  I’d like to say that your lives will unfold just as you have planned, that God will absolutely protect you from every disappointment and sorrow and danger.  But those things are not promised to us. We wish they were, but they’re not. What’s promised is that God will not abandon us.  God will not give up on us.  God will not turn his back on us.

Rather, God will console us.

And guide us.

And comfort us.

And encourage us.

And forgive us.

And God will dry our tears.

And love us.

And so, today as we continue to pray to God and plead with him to take our troubles away, take our worries away, take our pain away, we also remember to pray for the very thing he granted the blind man.

Master, I want to see.”

And when we do that, when we let God open our eyes, we might start seeing the challenges and crosses of this life in a much different light – not as conclusions to our stories, but rather paragraphs and chapters in a story that isn’t finished.

And may we, like the Jewish people, continue to hold on to hope and trust and faith in God,  knowing that it is those things that will sustain us as we patiently await a new day, a new reality, a new chapter, a new Easter morning somewhere down the road.

Father Boat

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