Homily for Saturday, August 29, 2015

Readings for Today

It might seem strange that the first reading today discusses remaining tranquil and to mind one’s own affairs on the day that we celebrate the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. First, tranquil is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about him. Second, it also does not appear to be the case that Saint John the Baptist was one who could mind his own affairs, since it was his challenge to Herod that caused his ultimate death. He was able to take on Pharisees, Herodians, and others to make sure that the knew clearly that to follow Jesus required an absolute choice to live in a particular way. In describing Saint John the Baptist, it is easy to remember there is simply nothing halfway about living the life of faith.

On one level, this is coincidental since the first reading is the reading for today is the continuation of the Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians we have been reading over the past few days. But since they are together, it does raise the question about whether there is a way that Saint John the Baptist could be seen as one who is tranquil. I think there is.

To be sure, first, it must be considered that there is evidence the preaching of Saint John the Baptist had appeal to a wide number of people. Leaving the comfort of the the known to follow this odd preacher out into the desert and to be challenged to reform their lives does, on the one hand, seem to be a challenge. Yet, it happened. What is it that appealed to those who went out into the desert?

This is precisely a version of the question Jesus asks about John. What did you go out to see? Why is it the challenging message of John made such a difference in people’s lives, when it could be seen at the same time as very unsettling? Perhaps what was most appealing to the people was the authenticity that was readily apparent to those who came to hear John speak. Could they have witnessed in John’s life and message the authentic witness that does bring tranquility? Was that the case?

John was no hypocrite. He did not say one thing and do another. He gave his life for the faith, to remain true to the relationship he had with God. As a result, his example grew the faith. He prepared the way for Jesus not just be words, but by living a clear example of total commitment to God, which was to be evidenced in the self-gift of the suffering and death of Jesus.

It can be hard for me to see this as a pathway to tranquility, maybe because I do not allow myself to be challenged enough by God. Maybe I have become too comfortable in my faith. Perhaps what I am reminded about today is that the peace that surpasses understanding can only be found by allowing myself to be upset by God enough to see those things that really matter.

Homily for Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Readings for Today

To live an authentic life, it is important to seek to understand ourselves. Sometimes we act in ways where our actions are not always what they seem, even to us. Sometimes we do one thing, but the reason for doing the one thing is for something other motive or reason. For example, we might act nicely toward someone, but we may only do so to get something we want. Motivations arise from deep in the heart. And we always need to be asking God to help us to be honest, especially with ourselves.

Why is it we do what we do? Developing self-awareness so that we can understand our motives is not always an easy thing. In fact, sometimes it is necessary to have the help of others. Such is the case for Tobit in the first reading. He does not trust his wife, and he gets angry at her. She doubts not only her story, but far worse, he doubts her character as well. She is not only lying, but he also accuses her of stealing. But what is really going on?

I would suggest that one challenge is that Tobit is angry, but the object of his anger is not what he thinks it is. He is not angry at his wife, but really is angry at something else. Maybe he is really angry at being blind, or at God, or even at himself. Maybe he is angry that he is dependent upon his wife. Whatever the reason, his lack of self-awareness is taken out at his wife.

The gospel is similar. The question is couched in compliments for Jesus, but the end, or purpose of the question is a trick. They are hoping to catch Jesus in a statement that makes it appear he is either disloyal to Caesar, or to Judaism. It is a tricky answer. Stating a desire to pay the tax could be seen as an admission of his acceptance of the Romans. Giving his loyalty to God may be seen as a desire to be a traitor. Both were high crimes for which he could pay a high price.

In order to help us know what to do, we seek out wise persons. We may see a therapist to help us to face honestly the difficulties in life. We may ask a friend for advice. Most importantly, we may seek out spiritual guidance by making regular use of the sacrament of confession. We may need to find a spiritual director to help us in our attempt to grow in our relationship with God.

Perhaps it is the gospel that helps us with an important goal, namely, to avoid hypocrisy. Not becoming a hypocrite demands the type of honesty that confession or spiritual direction (or usually both) gives us to live honestly. Sin is an attempt to be dishonest with God, which is foolish, as God knows all about us. Honesty is a gift that leads us to a virtuous life, especially when we can be honest about our lives with God.

Be honest with God. Be honest with yourself. Because when this is done, when we are honest, we indeed find it possible to grow into a life of fulfillment as we become better selves.

Homily for Saturday, January 3, 2015

Readings for Today

I do not know if you are a football fan, but Johnny Manziel has gotten a lot of press, not so much for his football playing, but because of what he does off the field. When accused of having a party before the last day of the season, he said this. “”It’s about action. It’s about being accountable and doing what I’m gonna say instead of looking like a [jerk].” I suspect we have all heard at least once the expression “Actions speak louder than words.”

While we do tell children to always tell the truth, we do not always do that ourselves. The successful husband is the one who knows that truth is not always what is requested. “Does this dress make me look fat?” Or, there are times when we eat a meal that maybe is not the most tasty. We clearly do not always tell the whole truth in such a situation. We do not always answer truthfully when someone asks us “How are you?” There are times when we do not want to really tell someone the honest answer to this question.

But there are many situations where we learn that actions must match the words we speak. Think of a man who tells a woman, “I love you,” but never backs up such a statement with actions, or worse yet, a man who says that to a woman and his actions are in fact hurtful. Children learn very quickly if the actions of their parents match the words they say. There are many instances where it becomes clear whether or not we really¬† believe what we say, demonstrated by the way we act.

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