Fr. Rick’s Homily -23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 4, 2022

Wis 9:13-18b; Ps 90:3-6, 12-14,17; Phmn 9-17; Lk 14:25-33

First reading today from the Book of Wisdom:  Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends?

Today’s Psalm:  In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge….

One of the great advantages of getting old-ER and especially if we are reasonably lucid, we have the opportunity to have our faith strengthened; strengthened by reflecting extensively over the decades of our lives and we now KNOW indeed that that the Lord in every age HAS been our refuge.  Even when we didn’t know it.  Even when we didn’t want the Lord to be our refuge.  Quite likely we wanted to be so self-secure and so self-contained that we knew we could just always rely on our own wisdom and strength or charISma to get us through our lives.  Inevitably some event or period of events proved to us beyond doubt that we are not only NOT in control, but that we are relatively clueless; helpless.

To get to this point of honesty and joy, we need to go through a very serious and honest life review.  In order to really appreciate God’s refuge and mercy and love, we have to actually acknowledge our need for it.  That’s the whole point of the cross.  Jesus came to save us from our sins, our bad judgment and our confusion.  It’s only when we are really honest about our lives that we can really know our need to be saved and then feel the grace of God pour into us.  Being so relentlessly honest is not so easy though.

A person told me a while back that he knew of a speaker who used to give frequent presentations at Alcoholics Anonymous conferences.  One of her better lines while talking about her own recovery was, “If I ever get what’s coming to me, I hope you’re not standing too close to me.”  Is that humble?  Is that kind of scary?  You might be thinking, “I hope her recovery lasts!”  Really though, isn’t that awesome?!!  Isn’t that even a HOLY moment?  I would imagine that that comment drew a chuckle from most in the crowd or even a belly laugh from some, but there might have also been a bit of a group gasp.  After all, she’s talking to a group of people who are and have been in the process of a thorough life review.  Facing down the Truth of their lives and knowing for a fact that they are walking miracles and walking exhibits of God’s mercy…………the God who had been their refuge all along.

Perhaps most of us could be that presenter and most of us could imagine ourselves in that crowd and could feel affirmed and inspired and a little uneasy by the thought of actually ‘getting what is coming to us.’  I mean, Jesus endured the cross for whom?  For ALL of us!  Thank you, Jesus!!  We all needed to be saved!!

It was only through the cross that Jesus could overcome death and then resurrect and then send the Holy Spirit so that we too could all resurrect on the last day.  The cross was the way to life.  The cross still IS the way from the ‘way of ME’ to the way of the KINGDOM’

Now let’s make this a little more specific.  You recall that we have:  how may sacraments?  7 !!  We recall that three of them are sacraments of initiation; Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation.  Two are Sacraments of Healing:  Reconciliation and the Sacramento the Sick, often call the Sacrament of Healing.  What are the other two?  Matrimony and Holy Orders.

These last two are sometimes are called the Sacraments of Service OR the Sacraments of Vocation.  Our vocation is always our call to service.  In a word, our ‘Cross’.  Our way to build up the Kingdom of God, i.e., to make the world look more like heaven than hell…. For our grandchildren…. And their grandchildren.

There are three major vocations in the Church:

Matrimony, Holy Orders and the avowed single life which includes the call to a religious order or those called to being single in the world.

Could it be then that our Vocation is our Cross, the way God has called us to redemption.  Is the love of your life your cross?  Not your ‘ball and chain’; but your cross?  Your spouse, our parish and Diocese, your religious order is our cross, or way to redemption.  This is where we are called to honesty and reform.  This is where we are called to serve.  This is where we are called to community.   This is where we are called to love and BE LOVED.  This, and only this, is the way of the Lord. 

That’s why Jesus says in today’s gospel, ‘If you do not pick up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple’.  One implies the other.  Life does not make sense if we are not connected to the people that God has called to bring Truth and Joy and Justice into the world.  We simply CANNOT do it on our own.  We can grit our teeth and gut it out for a while, perhaps for many years, but that is not the life that Christ has called us to.  That is not the life that God created us for.  Jesus came to save us from our confused, myopic, shallow way of living in order to give us LIFE and LIFE ABUNDANT!! 

But you knew that….

Homily Reflection for the week:  How is your cross most clearly the path to your redemption and new life?  Which cross might you NOT recognize as your redemption?