Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Wis 9:13-18; Phil 9-17; Lk 14:25-33

This is one of those passages that make us shudder a little. Can Jesus really mean that: to hate the members of one’s own family, to renounce all your possessions? Is that actually necessary to be one of Jesus’ followers? I suspect that most of us would come up considerably short if challenged on those issues. But this is, indeed, a case of hyperbole, of overstating the make the point. The basic point is this: Jesus is saying that it takes a very careful decision to truly be a follower of mine, a decision that has to come from the depths of your own heart. There can’t be any other influences. It’s got to be you and your own heart that follows Jesus. Put everything else to the side.

I believe that more and more people are doing just that in the Catholic Church these days. Fewer and fewer people are Catholic just because they are of Irish, Italian, Polish or Bavarian descent. There’s certainly less family pressure than in previous generations to continue in the same church. In spite of a lot of openness and freedom there are still an awful lot of Catholics in the United States these days. People now are Catholics because they want to be. Part of that decision does come from their hearts. But that decision to be a follower of Jesus is not made once and for all. It needs to be regularly renewed. It is a decision that we carry with us through all the ups and downs of an eventful life. It needs to be renewed in times of great stress, in times of serious illness, in times of the loss of loved ones. It needs to be renewed through stretches of spiritual dryness. It needs to be renewed in the later years of our lives when our own powers and abilities begin to wane. Again and again we need to tap our heart and say, "I will follow you, Jesus, wherever you go."

The following of Jesus implies more than just a decision for him. It includes the larger perspective that Jesus opens up for us---who and what the Mystery of God is. That’s the big question! The Mystery of God is the question that always lurks in the background, as it has for thousands of years. I want to give you some idea of how far back that question of God stretches. In the 1950s and 60s a team of archeologists carried out an excavation of Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq. They discovered a series of burial sites and nine skeletons. Upon examining these closely, they found them to be not members of our homo sapiens species, but Neanderthal people, closely related to human beings but slightly different. What amazed the archeologists was the obvious care that was given to the burials. The bodies were reverently placed and covered with stones. They even discovered the remnants of pollen from seven different kinds of spring flowers placed on the burial mounds, indicating that these burial sites deep inside the earth were decorated with flowers—possibly indicating a sign of hope for a life beyond. Later on the sign of flowers would become the symbol of a hope for renewed life. There were, at least, the rudiments of a searching for the question of "the beyond," the question of God. Carbon dating showed that the skeletons were 45,000 years old. The question of God has been around for a long time.

Whenever we call ourselves a Catholic Christian, whenever we attend a Eucharist (like this) on Sunday or any day, one of the things we are essentially saying is that Jesus is for us the answer to the question of God. He shows us who God is. He shows us that God is almighty, but lenient to his creation. He shows us that God is Creator of all, but bestowing of freedom upon His human creation. He shows us that God is just, but even more that God is loving and merciful. As it says in the Eucharist Prayer that we will soon pray: "By His actions and words he proclaimed to all the world that you care for us." That’s why we have to put everything else to the side to follow Jesus. It’s got to be you and your heart that follows Jesus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear 4th graders,
I love all of your favorite mysteries all them r my favorite!