Fr. Terrence enjoyed being here last weekend - and is at St. Therese parish this weekend. He told me you were kind to him and I would expect nothing else – so I hope you were generous to his appeal to help the Basilians in their mission work.
I enjoyed being home with my sister and her family – and we got more of my mother’s house cleaned out – and played lots of card games. . .
A lady wrote this story about a childhood experience she had –
She recalled that when she was a child, her wealthy parents would take an extended vacation to Europe every summer and they would leave her in care of a sitter.
When she was eleven, the regular sitter quit right before her parents left - and they had to hire a last-minute replacement, who they knew only by her references.
Before their departure, the girl came upon her mother wrapping up all the family silverware and other valuables, hiding them away in a locked closet.
The girl - having never seen her mother do this before – asked her mother what she was doing — so her mother explained since she did not know the new sitter - she could not trust her around the family’s treasures. . .
You can imagine how the girl interpreted the remark – the parents could trust the new sitter with HER –
but not with anything that had material value. Wasn’t she more important than silver knives and forks???
I’m sure the parents - if questioned - would of course say they valued their daughter more than any of their possessions – but for the girl – their actions spoke louder than their words.
The woman concluded the story that with a bit of counseling over the years, she had gotten over the shock of not feeling valued – and considers herself a somewhat adjusted adult.
How many times do we allow our actions to speak louder than our words??
In these two parables today - Jesus is making the point that the kingdom of heaven and living in God’s grace should be of the utmost value to us – certainly worth sacrificing for.
Going to Mass, taking time for prayer, following the Commandments, reading the Scriptures, loving God and our neighbor – is not just some form of insurance to make sure that we live later in the eternal kingdom of heaven --
It is supposed to be something that we enjoy, and help bring about in our lives right now –
And that’s where are actions may speak louder than our words. . . we say we believe in the kingdom of heaven - and want to live in the eternal kingdom someday –
but do we follow up those words by making an investment in the kingdom with our time, talent, and treasure?? Singing “how great thou art” is one thing – but living it is something completely different!
The person who found the treasure in the field was extremely lucky – but the treasure was not in their possession until they sold all that they had in order to make it their own.
Again, the person who found the pearl of great price was lucky – but the pearl did not belong to the merchant until everything was sold and the pearl was in their hand.
Both of these people were willing to sacrifice everything they had – in order to obtain the treasure!
Likewise, the kingdom of heaven does not come to us automatically. Yes, it is freely offered to us – it’s a gift – but we have to invest in it to really posses it – or rather I should say - to have it posses us.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.
So the most important thing we have to invest is our time – how to spend it, or more importantly - how do we waste it – day after day. Do we invest any of our time in making the kingdom more a part of our lives – by praying, by reading Scripture, by serving others?
The kingdom of heaven requires an investment of our WILL –
we have to deliberately choose to guide our lives by Christ’s teachings rather than making up our own rules about what’s good or bad - what we should do or should not do.
And the kingdom of heaven takes an investment of our treasure - our finances - for if we truly value our faith – and this parish community which helps to nurture our faith – and our school which helps to form our children in the faith — then we will adequately support them.
When our lives are over, we will have to leave behind every material possessions we have accumulated here on earth – U-Hauls simply do not follow a hearse to the cemetery.
But we will take with us the treasure we have stored up in the kingdom of heaven: our good works and our love for God and others – these will be our joy for all eternity. A life of holiness and goodness is a treasure that will not fail.
The kingdom of heaven is worth our sacrifice and our investment – for -
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.
And so we pray that the Lord may purify our hearts – making holiness and goodness our utmost desires – so that we will be set apart, ready to do God’s will.
And as my friend Fr. Phil Eagan would say: can I get an AMEN??
We live in a society that likes instant results and instant gratification.
For those of us who still go to the grocery: we buy instant meals and then try to get in the shortest line on the way out - or go to the self-check out to hurry things along.
The internet provides us with instant information and we find instant replays essential when it comes to our sports.
Now I will be the first to admit - I don’t like wasting time - so I do head for the self-check out lines – and am still searching for the quickest way to get south of the river these days . . .
But we can’t deny the reality that some things just take time. People who are highly successful in life did not get where they are at without patience and effort - whether that’s in the arts, sports, business or academic field. Children do not grow up instantly - no matter how quickly we want the adolescent years to pass - and nobody gets to retire before putting in years of work.
I think what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel is our spiritual growth – our being transformed more and more into the image and likeness of Christ – is one of those things that takes time, patience, and perseverance.
These days, computers on tractors and planters make the sowing of seeds very precise – there is very little waste. . . But even in Jesus’ day - an ordinary farmer would have sowed sparingly - only seeding good ground.
But in the parable – the farmer is far from ordinary. Because the farmer stands for God – and when God scatters seed – it goes everywhere. In other words, God’s call and God’s grace and God’s mercy – are offered to everyone – indiscriminately and unconditionally.
For in the parable - the seed is the word of God that Jesus preached. Like:
Come to me all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Or - whoever does not take up their cross and follow after me - is not worthy of me. . .
So, not everyone was receptive to Jesus’ message. Some people listened to his teachings, liked his stories – then quickly forgot what they were intended to teach.
Some people got very enthusiastic about what they heard, then other things quickly drew their attention and overtook the core of their being.
Some were even hostile to Jesus.
But there were some - who did listen to Jesus’ message and allowed the seed to take root in them, to grow, and overtake their hearts – so that the word of God was at their core.
One of the most detrimental things, I think, to our spiritual journey – is discouragement–
discouragement that we are not growing fast enough - or someone else seems to be more holy than we are, or we think we will never become the people we want to be. . .
I think we all want God’s grace and God’s love to lift us up, to spur us on, to fill us with joy each and every day – and some days it does.
But other days we let discouragement get the better us. The wonderful things we think our faith should do for us don’t seem to be there.
And so we give up on our faith and our progress in our becoming more and more like Christ – much too quickly, and God’s grace and love becomes in us that seed which withers and dies. And that’s not what God wants for us - and not really what we want for ourselves.
The most important thing this parable can teach us – is – perseverance – the need to stick to our spiritual journey no matter what.
Sure our prayers are not always wonderful, our lives are certainly not always sinless, and our charity is not always perfect. Let’s be honest and admit we do have a lot of imperfections – and the more we grow spiritually, the more we become aware of them.
But THE most important thing is to keep on trying. To persevere. To not give up on ourselves or one another – because when we give up – we backslide - and our hearts become hardened rather than becoming softened.
The great inventor Thomas Edison once said: “I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident – they came from work.” And so does our growth in faith.
Another time he said: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” And that’s a four letter word many of us dislike.
A Russian Orthodox proverb tells us to:
“Pray to God, but keep rowing to the shore.”
The great salesman and author, Coleman Cox, states: “Even the woodpecker owes its success to the fact that it uses its head and keeps pecking away until it finishes the job.”
And Saint Mother Theresa is just as profound for saying: “To keep a lamp burning, you have to keep putting oil in it.”
Are we putting oil in the lamps of our faith wo we can be the light of the world which Jesus calls us to – or are we forgetting the oil all together much like the foolish virgins we will hear about in mid-November?
God’s word and God’s grace and God’s mercy and love – are like seeds - they need to be nurtured and cared for with prayer, the sacraments, and good works.
God is an indiscriminate and unconditional, and a rather sloppy farmer: for God offers grace freely – but we can’t ignore it, can’t sit on it, can’t let it be choked out by distractions or laziness, or taken from us by the world’s temptations.
We have to nurture it – which does mean some effort and care and work on our part – and that’s why we gather at this table today. . .
You may have heard, because the word has been out for awhile – that in November 2021, the American Bishops kicked off what they are calling a three year Euchristic Revival: which is to culminate with a national Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 17-21, 2024 - the first such event since 1976.
The Bishops want the Church to use the time leading up to the national gathering to inspire, educate, and unite Catholics around the one thing we have that no one else has: the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
We Catholic believe that when Jesus said “this is my Body, this is my Blood” – he meant it. That is, the Eucharist isn’t a symbol of his Body, it isn’t his Body only when we are gathered –
but that He is really present: soul and divinity- in the bread we break and the wine we drink. What an awesome gift God gives to us each and every time we come to the Eucharist.
One way Bishop Johnston wants our local Church to be inspired, educated, and united in the Eucharist – is for all the priests in our Diocese to preach on some aspect of the Eucharist on the first Sunday of every month.
So welcome to month one. And since I was taught you always preach about the readings of the day – welcome to a very difficult month of preaching on the Eucharist. But I did have a whole week of retreat to think about this. . .
So here goes.
The words in today’s Gospel can be hard to hear – whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than Jesus – is not worthy of him?
Isn’t Jesus all about love – how many times does he say love one another as I have loved you in the Gospels?
And that’s the point – at least I think . . . it’s about priorities – not about the denial of love. . . or the love of one person, Jesus, at the expense of not loving others. . .
Love one another, as I have loved you. . . so we must first get at HOW Jesus loves us – so we know how to love one another.
The origin of our English word CORE – that is the part of something which is central to its existence or character – such as core values –
or what are the core activities in your science class today – is the Latin word CORDA - which means – heart.
So I think what Jesus is after today in the Gospel – is: what is at our core, what has captured our hearts – as a Christian??
And the answer to that has to be Jesus – or why call ourselves Christian?
Now remember for the last couple of weeks I have said that the Scriptures and our faith are very clear on the fact that God loves us – and we heard a couple of weeks ago from St. Paul in his letter to the Romans – that God proves God’s love for us – in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . .
So God’s love for us is unconditional – it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do – no matter what —God loves us — God will not abandon us —
And this is the love that has to be at our core – at the center of our existence and character – in our hearts –
For once that love is there – we can try to love others as unconditionally as God loves us.
Because the truth of the matter is – so many times we love each other conditionally – that is we put limits on it – we often times cut it off if we don’t get what we want or need from others – and that’s just not the way God loves us – nor wants us to love others.
I haven’t lived to be 64, nor have I heard Confessions for over 35 years – not to know the people who are supposed to be the easiest to love in our lives – like fathers, and mothers, and sisters and brothers, and best friends, and fellow Christians — are not always the easiest to love in our lives – mostly because they know exactly what buttons to push to get us going.
And once the buttons are pushed – it’s easy to flip on the switch to conditional love – I’m not getting what I want or need for you – so I am going to cut you off – and that’s not the love God wants us to have for one another.
That’s why we were plunged into the waters of Baptism – so we can live in newness of life – a life where and when and how –
we love each other as God wants us to – unconditionally: with heartfelt compassion, in kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience – as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians — all of which is impossible to do, unless we have the love of God at our core – in our hearts - to guide and direct us.
One of the things you will probably hear me say often during these first of the month homilies on the Eucharist is –
What difference does it make if the bread and wine ON the altar are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ – if those AT the altar remain the same??
The Eucharist is not just something the Church does — it’s something that we need to become –
For we can venerate the Lord present in Eucharistic Adoration for hours on end.
And we can participate in the Mass: fully, consciously, and actively every week – and even every day –
But if our hearts remain the same – if our core does not change – becoming more and more the image and likeness of Christ who we adore and receive - then what difference does it make??
That’s the Eucharistic revival we need in the Church – to know that the Eucharist can and should have an effect on our lives.
We’re not just putting in time here – we are supposed to be allowing God to love us – and allow that love to change our hearts –
so that we can leave here and do better at loving father, and mother, and sister, and brother –
and those who we meet and encounter each and every day.
So let the revival – begin. So we can go out and make a difference in the world.
Moments in time...