13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Rick Sherman Homily
June 28, 2020
Ps. 89: 2-3, 16-19; Rom. 6:3-11; MT 10:37-42
The Christian paradox of needing to die before we can live has such a familiar ring to it, that perhaps we don’t always consider its true implications in our day-to-day lives. It certainly doesn’t sound very inviting or optimistic. Especially when we hear Jesus telling us that if we do not pick our cross, an instrument of torture and public humiliation, and follow Him, we cannot be His disciple. It sounds rather brutal. Whether we consider this belief consciously or subconsciously, the implications are quite profound.
If death does not lead to life, then we are essentially being led to a place of relative futility. The ultimate outcome of life would be death. The human mind would most likely conclude that the goal of life then would be to pursue as much pleasure and comfort as possible in this life, because when it’s over, it’s over. Humans would most likely enslave themselves to their senses and the values of others. Rather, Jesus came to save us from lives of futility, misery and meaninglessness. He came to save us and to bring us Life Abundant.
God’s intervention in our world and our lives represents a radical transformation. From life to death to Abundant Life. The Gospel Acclamation reminds us today that we are ‘a holy people called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light.’
Dying with Christ, as Paul alludes today in his letter to the Romans, is dying to our own will and way of thinking. When we die to the expectations of the world, then we can start to live in God’s very consciousness. When we die to the norms and expectations of pop culture and consumer culture and ‘anything-goes’ sexual culture we become more and more enlightened and liberated even while we are living in this world. Jesus has promised us that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that the Kingdom of God is among us and within us. To enjoy Life Abundant means we can start to experience Heaven even while we are on this planet.
When Jesus died and resurrected, He returned to Heaven and then sent us the Holy Spirit which enables us to actually participate in the indwelling love of the Holy Trinity. We can participate in God’s love in the most personal way which is ultimately perfected in Heaven.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is first and foremost an historical fact, but it is also a co-participation, an intimate relationship and unity with Christ. When we die to our own wills and die to the expectations of this world, and choose to follow Christ, then our whole lives are permeated by God’s being and consciousness.
But this experience of resurrection is not just a sense of emotional and psychological well-being. God is truly with us and wants to attend to our physical needs as well.
In the gospel today Jesus reminds us that when we receive a prophet because he is a prophet, then we receive the reward of the prophet and likewise when we receive a righteous man. We will receive the reward of a righteous man. This should really motivate us to understand the true nature of a prophet and a righteous person. We do not want to miss such opportunities.
In today’s first reading from 2 Kings the ‘woman of influence’ recognizes Elisha as a prophet and holy man and informs her husband that they should make proper accommodations for him to stay at their house. Nothing elaborate; just private and functional. He later assures her that she will be rewarded with her deepest desire; a child of her own for which she felt desperately unable to conceive of with her aged husband. This is a real physical and earthly relationship, one that will continue to deepen her faith and trust in a genuinely caring and attentive God. Elisha is a protégé of the prophet Elijah from whom we heard a couple weeks ago. He too met the immediate earthly needs of a poor woman who recognized him as a prophet. In her most desperate circumstance (she and her son were on the verge of starvation) she shared some of the last of her flour and oil with the prophet and later was rewarded with all the flour and oil she would ever need; more that she had ever hoped for. True Abundance!
We can be sure that God is always especially attentive to us in our times of most desperate need. The psalm today tell us that God’s ‘kindness is established forever’ and His faithfulness is confirmed in Heaven. Our English word, ‘kindness’, does not quite capture the true translation from the Hebrew word, ‘hesed’ which suggests deep love and mercy, a genuine attentiveness and caring. We might quickly pass a couple dollars to one soliciting money at the intersection as we are waiting for a stop light; a kind gesture, but not requiring a big investment from us. It would be a vastly different situation if we encountered a small child sobbing by themselves in a busy shopping center. We would instinctively try to connect the child with a parent. If we later discovered that the child had been abandoned, we might feel strongly motivated to help determine what would be the best transitional process for the child and then follow up to see how the child’s care was being extended. We would likely not forget that child easily. We might possibly even want to adopt the child and provide the long term personal care it needs. This type of interest and care would be more like ‘hesed’; God’s genuinely personal, merciful and affectionate love…especially in the most desperate of circumstances.
Again as in the psalm, this kindness is established forever…..even when we might be at our worst…God is always at His best. He ‘confirms this care from Heaven’; He responds and provides to our earthly needs with a Providence that might seem totally unthinkable in our earthly state of mind. Our times of desperation are particularly apropos for being open to times of true transformation.
We are now in a time where many of us, perhaps ALL OF US, are in a period of great transition and change with many unknowns. It’s easy to feel desperate under such circumstances. Even without a pandemic humans regularly encounter our helplessness in the face of unfaithful or requited love, in times of illness or the death of loved ones. Many people are wondering if their jobs will ever return or if their households will ever again seem peaceful and predictable. If relationships under a new stress and scrutiny are beyond salvage. We can feel very desperate under such circumstances and bewilderment.
As the Scriptures remind us today, these periods of extreme transition and desperation are especially good times to be open to God’s transformation in our lives. God is always faithful to us and is caring for us as we would for the lost child. Transformations often take a while, but they do happen. God is always ready to make great things happen from Heaven, even as He is working through the most earthly of means.
Perhaps this week we could be relentlessly honest with ourselves about some area of our lives in which we feel especially desperate. Perhaps it’s time to die to our limited human and worldly expectations and let God transform our lives with the Abundant Life.