Sunday, August 18, 2013

Homily for 18 Aug 2013, 20th Sun OT C

In today’s first reading, we hear about the struggle that Jeremiah was facing as a prophet to the people. The princes, who had the ear of the king, sought to end Jeremiah’s life because they did not like the message he was spreading about the need to change their lives. They were content with the way things seemed to be going, even when it would mean destruction later on. It is not always easy for us to accept the realization that sometimes we get too comfortable with our current way of doing things that we stand in the way of change that may lead to our own survival.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus telling us that he came to “set the earth on fire” and wishes “it were already blazing!”

It should illicit in each one of us a question about how the fire is burning within our own lives. Are we able to really burn with a zeal that causes us to go beyond our comfort zone to be a part of the new evangelization? One of the commentaries I read about the gospel for this weekend went so far to suggest that when Jesus becomes the first priority in our lives there may be some division within households as some strive to faithfully follow Christ while others stand as roadblocks to the truth, which is Christ. I know from my experience as a priest that there have been many families who have faced these difficulties. There is a tension between a desire for Christ and a desire for the things of this world. Many of us and our family members fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum concerning these two poles. We do not see the full division of which Christ speaks. In a word, most of us are comfortable with where we are at the moment. We are not fully on fire.

As the priest, and more importantly, as the pastor of the parish, part of my task is to help direct you beyond this life and, hopefully help you find the fire of which Jesus speaks and fan the flames so that it may burn all the brighter. It is not an easy task. Sometimes, people respond much like the princes who went to the king seeking to silence Jeremiah. This is because change is scary. Change is difficult. Change sometimes means sacrificing some of our comfort.

Will you today let the fire of change burn in your hearts so that you have the zeal to go out to all the world and tell the good news? It might mean changing some of the expectations you have of yourself and or others. It might mean looking at your faith through a new lens. It might even mean considering serving the Church in a professional way, such as being a teacher at a Catholic school, volunteering to be a part of a parish team or even, if you are not yet married, considering whether or not God might be calling you to serve him as a consecrated religious, or a priest.

Jesus came to set the world on fire. We are called to fan the true flames of faith. We may be treated like Jerimiah in order to get the job done, be we can be sure that God is with us.

As we heard in the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews:
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
he endured the cross, despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.

Let us be filled with the same joy. Amen

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Where is your treasure?

Here is a draft of my homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

As some of you know, yesterday Garrett and I attended Fr. Francis McInnis’, “Fr. Mac’s”, funeral in Great Falls. While I was there, I had the opportunity to visit with Father Guinan and go to confession. With the second reading in mind, I could have some good material for my homily, but I’m going to go in a different direction.

Thinking about the Gospel, and to some extent the first reading, I want to share some things Fr. Guinan shared with me. First, he said to tell all of those who were here when he was the pastor he said hello. He then asked how things were going with the school. I told him that like most small Catholic schools we can always use more money. He said that he wished when he first arrived in the parish about years ago to increase the giving of the parishioners to support the parish and the school. He wished he’d done more to bring the salaries of the teachers closer to a living wage. He was here when the Saint Mary’s Educational Trust was set up. However, there has not been much of an effort over the years to greatly increase our endowments. We have one new endowment that started with a $40,000 anonymous gift and a few additional contributions. The income from these sources pay about half of one of the 24 payrolls we face during the year.

As a parish, we strive to keep Catholic education affordable for our families. In order to accomplish that goal, we need to come up with additional monies from endowments and direct gifts. While I’ve been using the school as the example here, the same applies to all ministries in the Catholic Church. We have to keep in mind the need to support the Church on the local level, the diocesan level and the universal level.

Today’s Gospel and 1st Reading remind us not to get overly hooked on ourselves, but rather to see how we can use the gifts we’ve received from God to build up the kingdom. The gifts we’ve received are not simply so that we can “rest, eat, drink and be merry.” It has been entrusted to us to be used for the betterment of others. We are not expected to starve ourselves to feed others, but we could think about cutting back on some of what we do eat and give some of the savings to benefit others.

But God said to him,

‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
We need to look at what does really matter to God and find ways to act appropriately with our lives. If you have been entrusted with much, much will be expected. As you think about St. Mary’s school and parish, remind yourself what Jesus said before he told the parable,
“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”