Homily: The 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 9, 2020
Alfred Hitchcock, the director of such scary films as Psycho and The Birds, had a unique touch that he brought to most of his films. He would appear in them. The part was usually uncredited and very small such as an extra in a crowd on the street or a customer in the bank. It soon became a game for movie goers to watch carefully and try to identify him.
The director, the one who coached the actors, studied the plotline, created the tone and suspense, was in the film; what an intriguing concept and yet that is exactly what our God and creator presents to us every day of our lives. The prophet Mohammed shared a similar point when he spoke this divine message from God, "If my servant draws near to me by a hand's breadth, I draw near to him by an arm's length, if he draws near to me by an arm's length, I draw near to him by a fathom; If he comes to me walking, I come to him running."
There is a sense of this divine pursuit in our readings today. Elijah, in the reading from First Kings, is waiting for the Lord to pass by; he soon finds that God is not in the powerful wind, or the earthquake or the fire but in the tiny whispering sound. If Elijah had not been paying attention, he would have easily missed the Lord passing by. It is a lesson for all of us that we must pay attention if we want to encounter the Lord in our life. God is not always where we think he is.
That was a lesson learned by the disciples when they found themselves in a boat on a stormy sea. The last place they expected to see Jesus was walking on the waves of the sea during a storm. Just when they thought that they were doomed, the Lord quieted the wind and the waves not to mention the fears of his followers. If we are to understand God's love, then we need to understand his desire to be with us even in the worst times of our lives.
Good times or bad times, we are called to keep an eye out for God as he passes through our lives. It means ridding ourselves of all the distractions that pull us away from our contact with God. If the distractions grab our attention, then like Peter in our gospel, we will begin to sink into despair and fear. Certainly, the last few months have had us dealing with major distractions in our lives. We can easily feel like Peter walking on that stormy sea and that is when it is vital that we keep our eyes on God.
So where are some places in our lives where we can find God waiting for us? In his book entitled, "How Can I Find God?" Jesuit James Martin poses this question to a wide variety of people and then shares their answers.
For former congresswoman, Lindy Boggs, she finds God in the eyes of her 3-year old great granddaughter or in a flock of robins eating berries in her backyard. But the number one place where she finds God present is in the Eucharist, the ultimate act of unselfish love.
Author and theologian, Richard P. McBrien, finds that he experiences God through his interactions with other people. He feels that we can know God's love, mercy, justice, compassion, and forgiveness when we experience them in others. He feels that when we look for God, we should not only look up, but we should also look across.
The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin said that it was in the time surrounding the false accusation of sexual misconduct made against him and in his struggles with terminal cancer that he was able to recognize Christ in a personal way. He stated, "It was as if God said I will not abandon you. I will walk with you and help you through all of this."
In each of these personal accounts, the one common factor is God's nearness. God is waiting to be found, longing to be welcomed. All we humans are expected to do is look for God, discover God, and cherish the intensity of the moment.
So I ask you, where will God be waiting for you today?
Homily: The 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 2, 2020
The minister began his sermon every Sunday by first bowing his head for a moment of prayer. One day, his young daughter asked him why he did that. "I ask God to help me preach a good sermon." "Well then, why doesn't he help you do it?"
It was a moment when the little girl realized that God doesn't always give us everything we ask for. But in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, God tells us that he will give us what we truly need if we come to him. In our gospel from Matthew, we hear how Jesus responded to the needs of the people who came to him. Matthew describes Jesus feeding the people with the words, "He took bread, said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples."
The connection to the Eucharist is obvious and as Matthew relates the miracle of the loaves and fishes, he wants his listeners to be aware of how Jesus feeds us, his followers in a miraculous way within the Eucharist.
In the early stages of the Coronavirus epidemic, people were told to stay home and not come to church for the Eucharist. The people were encouraged to watch the mass on the computer or the television. For most people, it became comfortable to stay at home and watch mass in their pajamas while drinking their breakfast coffee. As we begin to have masses again, we are inviting people to come back. Some people would rather stay home and stay comfortable and safe.
The hope is that people will make the necessary sacrifices including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and abstaining from singing in order to come to the altar and receive the Body of Christ. Having been fed with the Body of Christ, we can find the strength and the help we need to cope with the insanity of our world.
Jesus promises this to us. It is natural for us to think of Jesus feeding when we take communion, but along with the sacred meal, Jesus also feeds us with his word. He tells us in the first reading to "Come to me heedfully." In other words, come alert and attentive. Listen that you may have life.
Before He feeds us at the table, He feeds our minds and our hearts with his word. This meal for our minds affects not only our health but also our moods, our attitudes, our values, our relationships with others, and with God.
Life is full of stress and pressure for all of us, but when we make the time to come to the Eucharist and open our lives to the presence of Jesus that we find in the word and the Body, we will then be recipients of inner peace and strength that our world cannot give. Jesus promises it.