Saturday, February 20, 2016

HOMILY - Second Sunday in Lent (Year C)

I recently returned to a particular email from work. It is from my employer's interim President and CEO and he was writing to organizational leaders about leadership. He highlights a couple of messages that a leader should communicate during times of uncertainty. Two stand out for me: 1. Clarity of Mission 2. Flexibility with our plans. Yes, these are textbook principles of leadership and business, AND they are also, I think, equally, if not more applicable to our faith lives. First, as Catholics, our mission is clear: it is about being in relationship with our God. Last Saturday, I had the honor to assist Bishop Campbell during the Confirmation Mass at Immaculate Conception. One of the questions he always asks the Confirmandi is: Why did God make you? I was quick to raise my hand as did about every student – because they were well-prepared for this question. Bishop Campbell did not call on me, but the student whom he did call upon answered correctly (as I suspect most of you would have responded): God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. This is our mission and purpose as Catholics, right?! Our mission as Catholics is actually two-fold; and so we can say that not only are we called to be in relationship now and eternally with God, but to also invite others to be in this relationship too. "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Mt 28:19-20) Second, as Catholics, we also need to be flexible with our plans. There are certain truths that are NOT bendable or optional, right? This is one of the beautiful aspects of creation and nature, also of our faith and our Church. And certainly our mission does not change – it has not changed for the past 2,000 years and won't in the future. However, how we pursue this mission has and will change, right? Think about the impact of technology in our faith – the access to Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church, and how we can communicate this information to others through the use of technology. As another example, the role of the parish must be flexible – we at Our Lady of Peace are slowly transforming from maintenance mode to an amazing, dynamic parish that is driven to form disciples equipped and empowered to evangelize (again, part of our mission). This Sunday's readings reinforce these principles in our faith life. The covenant relationship between God and Abraham, highlighted in today's first reading, is certainly the goal of our human existence. The measure of our success in achieving this goal is the profound experience of God – to experience his love, his mercy, his care generosity for us that comes when we freely and fully enter into relationship with him. The scholar Lawrence Boadt describes it as the overwhelming, personal experience of God's presence that affects the entire direction and quality of our life. The covenant relationship with God transforms Abraham. Similarly, the Transfiguration experience of Jesus by Peter, John and James was both equally wonderful and mysterious, joyful and enlightening. In fact, this is my hope for each of you: that you may be transformed by an experience with God that radically and wonderfully brings you great joy and peace. And ultimately, our mission is to get to Heaven, where we experience this joy, peace, freedom of being in relationship with God eternally – this is truly our heart’s desire: to be citizens of Heaven, as St. Paul reminds in today’s second reading. St. Paul's admonition in today's second reading exemplifies the second principle: the importance of being flexible. He is warning his brothers and sisters – whom he loves and longs for, his joy and crown – to not be fooled by others who demand adherence to circumcision and dietary laws of old in order to be a Christian. To be clear, Paul is not saying to follow "Paul's rules," but rather to be an imitator of him, who stands firm in Christ. It is Jesus Christ who teaches us by his example of love and obedience to God the Father of what it means to be in relationship with to God. We don’t achieve our mission by blindly following a set of rules. Not to say that rules are not important – they are: they are the guardrails that can keep us focused on what is most important. However, it is about relationship, not rules; it is about following Christ's example of love and obedience to God's will for us, God's plan for us, God's desire for us to be in relationship with him now and eternally. I will add then that Peter's desire to set up a tent in today's Gospel is an example of NOT being flexible. I agree with scholars who say that the offer to set up a tent is Peter's expression of reverence in this Transfiguration event – it would have been an incredible, awe-inspiring experience. Heck, I don't blame Peter for wanting to stay in that moment. However, it can be also point to an inability to change, to grow, to mature – to want to stay put rather than grow in relationship with God, including experiencing the uncertainty and difficulty that may await in the future. The truth is that the Transfiguration is for the disciples benefit, not Jesus'. It is a moment to strengthen and encourage the disciples for what awaits them next: Jesus' passion and death. And similarly, we need to be open and flexible to such experiences with God to strengthen us for what awaits us in the future. I will conclude with one more principal from my boss’s, boss’s, interim boss, and that is: Over Communicate what you are sure of. With so many distractionS in our world and uncertainly about what the future holds, we will always benefit from over-communicating what we know to be true: that God loves us, that he has an unlimited love, mercy and care for us, so much so that he was even willing to have his own son suffer and die so that we might be restored in relationship with him. Over-communicating what is true is certainly what St. Paul did so effectively, as well as the Gospel writers. So it is good to read these writings often as well as to take advantage of resources like Catholic Radio and our Lighthouse Media resources at the doors of the Church. In the midst of pain or loneliness, frustration or hurt, anger or loss, or anxiety about what the future holds, take a moment to remind yourself of what, through faith, we can be sure of: God’s love for you! You can even use today’s Responsorial Psalm as the phrase of week, if you will, to over-communicate what you are sure of: The Lord is my light and my salvation. Maybe as you start or end the day, maybe at a particularly stressful moment of the day, or if you wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, you can over-communicate the truth that: the Lord is my light and my salvation. Singing it is optional, but finding comfort and strength in what we are sure of is certain! May God bless you.