Homily for Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Readings for Today

Poor Jeremiah.  Things are really going badly for him.  Modern psychologists might suggest he is depressed.  His life is simply not turning out like he intended.  Perhaps he thought that when he accepted the call of God everything would be very easy.  Say yes to God and become a hero lauded by all.  But, as we hear the words he speaks today, he is far from universally being accepted.  He sounds like he is literally at the end of his rope.

Perhaps you have had a similar time in your life, where it seems like there is nothing good around you, and you have the feeling that things will never, ever get better again.  Such is a very dark place to be.

So often, when we find our selves in such a place, we are challenged to a new way of seeing.  Whether that is in seeking out the legitimate work of a psychological professional, the wise counsel of a holy spiritual director, or the time we spend in private and communal prayer seeking to hear the voice of God deep within us, the path to healing is usually one where we are challenged to see things differently.

Such is the case with Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah’s own words we hear that his preaching has been filled with indignation, anger, so consuming him he cannot sit with merry makers, but rather finds himself alone.

It is interesting that when God speaks to Jeremiah, it is not those to whom he preaches that the call to change is given, but rather, it is to Jeremiah himself.  How easy is it to blame our problems on others?  “If only that co-worker was not so mean to me.”  “If only my boss would see things rightly, like me.”  “If only those Republicans would only stop blocking good legislation.”  “If only those Democrats would stop wasting my money.”  Whatever the view, it is often much easier to look outside of myself when I am unhappy, rather than seeking to look to God to heal my own sinfulness.

For, while we may not always see it, the spiritual life is a treasure that deserves our undivided quest to imitate Jesus in all we do.  To “sell” those aspects of our life that do not lead to a better self, more like Jesus, and to “buy” the field in our hearts ready to bear abundant fruit because of how God will transform our lives.

Homily for Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Readings for Today

Have you ever had the experience of driving by an accident, and despite your best efforts, simply having to look at it?  I suspect you have.  I know I have.  Even traffic reports have developed a term to describe this:  “rubbernecking.”  There are times when we simply cannot avoid looking at suffering.  We are both repulsed by it and attracted by it.

I wonder if the words of today’s first reading describe “rubber necking”.  Only, in this case, the destruction is pervasive.  Everywhere the writer looks there is destruction.  Individuals slain by the sword, those who are hungry, those waiting for peace without satisfaction, seekers of healing who only experience terror, and those priests and prophets who find this land so strange they cannot recognize it.

It only takes a little bit of time with a newspaper or the television to know that little has changed.  Our city of Chicago has evidence every day of people who are the victims of the modern day “sword”, the gun.  Each weekend we hear about more shootings around the city, to a point where at least I find I do not even find that I am affected by it any more.

Wherever I walk, I cannot help but come across those who are hungry, poor, homeless.  I cannot help but feel the despair that is described in the first reading.

But these feelings are the easy part.  The hard part is when the first reading takes me where I do not want to go, namely the acknowledgement that these things exist, at least in some way, because of my sin.  MY SIN.  Not the sin of others, but my sin, which has contributed to the world of evil.

It begins with the acknowledgement of my sin because I can too quickly move to the communal sense of sin.  Yes, it is true, I alone am not responsible for world hunger.  But I am responsible.  I waste food, I do not consider how I could live more simply, I find there are times I cannot even bring myself to look at the poor.

And, there are times when I all too easily let myself off the hook.  But Jesus did not.  He spent time with the very people who may have been described in the first reading.  He was with the tax collectors, the outcasts, those who are victims of violence and hunger.  In short, Jesus often sided with the very people I sometimes find it hard to be with in my own life today.

In the gospel, as always, the key to the mystery is found.  Becoming detached from the barriers to being that person who is the seed planted in the ground that will yield such a rich harvest.  Less activity, less anxiety, and more reflection on the presence of God in my life form the way in which God answers our prayer, “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.”

Homily for July 30, 2012

Readings for Today

Little things can become big things.  There are so many instances in life where we see this truth.  In March of 1982, an article was published that became known as espousing the “Broken Window” theory.  Namely, ignoring “small things” caused them to turn into “big things”.  While not all agree with the broken window theory, it was cited as a successful underpinning to the cleaning up of crime in New York City by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point.

Anyone who has looked at an acorn can see the difference in size between it and an oak tree.  Recent pictures of Michael Phelps’ mother reminds us that even he was a small baby at one time in his life.

We also can look at how our faith can be the same way.  Small, unchecked bad attitudes, habits or seemingly harmless actions done with out reflection can be the fertile soil for much more negative things.  Or, with proper reflection and prayer, such small things as good attitudes, habits, or seemingly inconsequential actions can be the fertile soil for such activity to be rooted in the Kingdom of God.

Today’s gospel challenges us to be attentive  to the little things.  First, the gospel awareness of the Kingdom of God is really about acknowledging that while we can see patterns in our life, we are not always certain how these patterns arise.  Namely, there is a tension between our belief that the world is knowable, with the tension there is a mystery present to in human existence.

Certainly it is possible for us to become impatient with the pace of our spiritual growth.  At the same time, because growth can occur so slowly, we can ignore it altogether.  But inside of us, because of God’s grace, there is immense possibility.  We can become far more than we ever imagined.

We, small and insignificant human beings, can become large, like a mustard seed in our faith.  We, small and insignificant human beings, can have tremendous impact throughout our world, like yeast in dough.  As we are reminded, with God, all things are possible.