Saturday, September 10, 2016

HOMILY – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) (2016)

This past Thursday evening we had over one hundred people in our school cafeteria to begin our parish’s 11 week Alpha program. And we had nearly 30 men yesterday morning to start our parish’s fall Men’s program. It was wonderful to have such a diverse group of individuals together seeking faith and fellowship – lots of great energy and enthusiasm, too. I want to extend a special thank you to Fr. John and our leadership teams for all their hard work to host these events – many are with us at this Mass – thank you! As you may have heard or read, there is a Presidential election set for later this Fall. I will defer to our good pastor and the Bishops of our state and country to help us navigate, as faithful citizens, the challenge we will certainly face in the election booth in November. Needless to say, this election cycle has stirred a lot of interest – certainly in part because of the many pressing and important issues facing our country and our world, and as much by the “complex” personalities running for office. This election has also reminded me of the great need and desire we have as citizens and humans for leaders – leaders of our county, our communities, and in our places of work, our places of worship, and even in our home and within our families. This is what makes today’s first reading so interesting. The back-story is that the Israelites made a golden calf as a proxy of sorts for God. Like us at times, the Israelites could not cope with an invisible, remote, and mysterious God. They want to bring him down into their own world, into what they could see and touch and understand. And without their faithful leader Moses – the one who lead them out of slavery from Egypt and who was now up on a mountain with God and with no scheduled return date (or if he was even coming back), they turned to Aaron. It is Aaron’s failed leadership that underlies this story. Out of fear of the mob, or maybe a temporary loss of faith himself, Aaron showed no resistance to the people’s request to “make us a god who will go before us.” He didn’t seek to persuade them of the error of their ways. He didn’t encourage them to be strong, to have faith, to have hope in the same God who rescued them from slavery. Rather than discouraging bad behavior, Aaron tells them to take off the golden earrings that they were wearing, and bring them to him and he made a molten calf. Because he did not stop others from behaving badly and even participated in the bad behavior himself, he failed: he failed both his people and his Lord. Aaron also failed the test of honesty as a leader. When he tried to explain to his brother, Moses, about what took place while he was away, he failed to tell the truth – or at least he was not totally honest in what he said. Aaron twisted the facts to make it appear that he did not cause anything wrong to happen. Further, Aaron failed by not taking responsibility for his actions. He blamed the Israelites for making and worshipping the golden calf, rather than taking responsibility for at least his part in this event. I share this not to beat up Aaron, who has an important and valuable role in the Old Testament and our Salvation history; rather, I share Aaron’s failed leadership to highlight what the balance of today’s readings offer us as insight into true leadership. First, while not completely perfect or innocent himself, Moses does exhibit great courage to speak the truth, to defend the Israelites and God’s covenant with them, and to then humbly ask God for mercy, as we heard in today’s First Reading. Then, St. Paul in writing to his friend Timothy in our second reading, is humble and well aware of his past failings, appreciative of the gifts God has given him, and understands the great responsibility and trust God has also given him, and now confidently and boldly speaks the truth to others of God’s great love and mercy. And finally, in today’s Gospel we hear of a shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep until he finds it, and when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, then calls together his friends and neighbors to rejoice; and of a woman having ten coins and losing one lights a lamp and sweeps the house, searching carefully until she finds it, and when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors to rejoice; and lastly, of a father filled with great compassion for both of his sons and patiently waits for his lost son, and when he arrives home, the father runs to him, embraces him, kisses him, and celebrates his return. This is certainly the love and mercy our God has for us. These parables also provide the example of how we are to act toward others – the leaders we are called to be. Yes, each of us is a leader – maybe not by title, or election or level of power, but we each have been given certain responsibilities. We may not be able to directly influence the individual behaviors of our leaders in our governments or corporations, but we do control our own behaviors and actions and attitudes. Today’s readings then show how were are to act when given responsibility: to be brave and humble, aware and grateful of our many gifts, caring and attentive, willing to risk everything for another, to go to great lengths and self-sacrifice for someone or something, and to show great mercy and compassion toward others – even those who may have hurt us or embarrassed us. This week, I invite you to consider the responsibility you have been given – maybe it is at work, here at the parish, in your neighborhood, or in your family or home. How have you acted well? How have you failed? Pray this week for the grace to be the leader you are called to be, the leader that others need you to be. May God bless you.