Sunday, August 30, 2015

Homily - Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) (2015)

I invite you to join me and many, many others in praying today and this week for an end to abortion. The recent series of videos documenting the horrible and disgusting practices of Planned Parenthood remind us that evil exists in our world and that not only is it legal, but acceptable to so many! In contrast stands the Catholic Church and its teaching on the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages. So, specifically, I invite you to pray at least one Hail Mary every day this coming week. Pray to Mary, who experienced the ultimate and most wonderful unplanned pregnancy and chose life! Pray through Mary to her Son Jesus Christ that he may welcome the souls of all the unborn into his loving embrace, and that he may give grace to those in the abortion industry - that they may have a change of heart, stop participating in the killing of the unborn, and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness. I really do hesitate being so blunt on this issue. But as Catholics we are called to know and share the truth of God’s love and will for the world – it is not one of death and darkness, but of life and light. So many are in the dark on this issue and can justify in their own minds the intentional killing of innocent human beings, and so we must pray. Whether it is those like the founder of Planned Parenthood, who was unapologetic and militant in her use of abortion to eliminate those she deemed inferior – for her an others like her we must pray; or those working in the abortion industry or in government willingly participate abortions – for them we too must pray; and for those who have had an abortion – we must pray, not with judgment but with love and compassion; for those without hope as they face an unplanned pregnancy – we must also pray and support them by our acts of love and charity. I can sympathize with those in darkness and in the midst of sin; I know what it is like to be so distant from God’s love. I think about my moments of greatest darkness in my life – they were probably the saddest moments as well as the moments of greatest longing and emptiness; and at the same time moments that I could completely justify my sinful thoughts and actions. Although I was educated enough to know better, I was not willing to accept living apart from sin. Thankfully, through the grace of God, I am now a recovering sinner. Which brings me to today’s Gospel. The passage I just read was the conclusion of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse, in which Jesus invites, really challenges his disciples, which includes us, to unite ourselves to Jesus, who satisfies our greatest hunger and nourishes us for life eternal. Here is Jesus explaining how great his love is for his disciples: that he is willing to give himself completely - body and blood, soul and divinity - completely out of love for them. This is the love our God has for us, too! We learn that many said that this saying is too hard, who can accept this. In other words, they understood – intellectually – what Jesus was saying and asking of them, but they just were not willing to believe and do what he taught – and so, as we read, they returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Jesus. Isn’t this true in our own lives at times? See, to accept Jesus’ invitation means to first surrender our own will, our ego, our pride. Second, to accept Jesus’ invitation means to then live a new life as a Christian, to follow God’s commands and God’s will for us, and to then be willing to share God’s love and truth with others. To be fully Christian then means to being willing to risk living a life of difficulty, it means being willing to risk alienation, being mocked and persecuted. And if you think I am exaggerating, think about the Church’s stand against abortion: when we take a stand – by our words and actions - in defense of human life from conception to natural death, we not only face the risk of but more than likely we will be mocked and alienated by the media, government officials, maybe even family and friends, and so many others in society. But here is the good news: in also accepting Jesus’ invitation, we are living the life we were made to live, we are doing what we truly do the best, and we are living a life that gives us the greatest happiness, we have clarity of meaning and purpose in our life. And remember, Jesus promises us in today’s Gospel the help of the Holy Spirit, which we will need to put our past behind us and give ourselves totally to God. We can not do this alone, we need help. And it is with this help and clarity of purpose that we experience a peace, a joy, and a confidence that allows us to not only understand but to fully accept Jesus’ invitation. It is with such help and clarity, that the Apostles words today make perfect sense, right? To whom shall we go? You, Jesus, have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. The same of Joshua’s words in today’s First Reading. Joshua declares that for him and his house, they will serve the Lord. Like Joshua, we can, in the face of so many temptations and distractions, declare that we and our families will place our trust completely in Lord, protects us, cares for us, who loves us. And even further, we can understand and even embrace St. Paul’s counter-cultural words on marriage in today’s second reading – that each spouse is called to die-to-self and give one’s self fully and completely to the other just as Christ has done for us. And so let me conclude with the second prayer. This is the prayer that I will pray for you and me that we may daily accept Jesus’ invitation. It is titled a Prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me. Amen.