Sorry, but there will be no homily this week or next as I am on vacation in beautiful Alaska. Look for some Alaskan homilies on my return and follow my progress on Facebook.
That Desire Might be Enkindled
In today’s gospel a Canaanite woman comes to find Jesus and asks healing for her daughter. Surprisingly, Jesus won’t even talk to her. When he does finally talk to her he calls her a dog. In the very next sentence he then praises her for her faith in a way that we don’t even see him compliment his disciples. What is going on here?
First, we have to see that this woman is not Jewish. She is not a part of the chosen people. Jews often referred to gentiles as dogs, so we see Jesus repeating a popular objection to involving himself with a non-Jew. Notice though that this woman is said to be coming out from the land of the gentiles and is going toward Jesus. Spiritually, she represents all the gentiles who will come to have faith in Jesus. Most Christians today were not born Jewish, therefore we are gentiles and the fulfillment of the Psalmist’s desire, “O God, let all the nations praise you.”
However, there is a second important reason behind Jesus’ delay in responding to the woman. St. Augustine remarks that “The woman is ignored, no that mercy might be denied, but that desire might be enkindled.” The crisis that led the woman to leave Tyre and Sidon behind, to beg Jesus for help, allowed her desire for God to increase. God wishes to do the same for us. Through the difficulties and struggles of our life, we pray that our desire for God might be increased.
When we are ready to come out of Tyre and Sidon, to leave sin and separation from God behind, we will discover that God is also coming out to meet us. Let us therefore persevere and turn to God in moments of crisis that our desire might be enkindled and we might hear those beautiful words of Jesus, “Christian, great is your faith.”
Where is God?
In today’s first reading, the prophet Elijah has an amazing encounter with God. Mt. Horeb was the famous mountain where God appeared in smoke and fire to give Moses the 10 commandments. Elijah would have been full of expectation, and indeed while on the mountain he experiences some powerful signs. There is a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire…all powerful signs that God had used in the past to show his presence. Yet, this time, Elijah discerns that God is not in any of these. Rather, Elijah encounters God somewhat unexpectedly in “a tiny whispering sound.”
Where do we expect to encounter God? Do we tend to look for him primarily in big and powerful ways, in ways that stir our emotions and excite us? This can happen, and we need it to happen every now and then. However, God is more often found not in loud exciting ways, but in silence. If we make time for silence, we might just be surprised that we will have an amazing encounter with God. In the ordinary work of our day, don’t forget to take some time to meet God, to be silent, and listen for the tiny whispering sound.
Satisfaction for the Thirsty
Maybe we’ve never experienced a lack of water in our lives, but all of us experience thirst. We have a spiritual thirst put in us by God that only he can satisfy. Society gives us all kinds of things that it says will satisfy us, but they ultimately leave us unfulfilled. Today God invites us to “come to the water.”
After we have found the life giving water in our faith, Jesus then asks us to share it. Perhaps we are afraid. We may think that we’re not qualified to be an “evangelist.” The truth is that we don’t have to be experts to share the faith. Maybe we only have a little, like 5 loaves and 2 fish. We bring to Jesus the little that we have and he does the rest. All it really takes to be an evangelist is to recognize that you are someone who is thirsty and that you’ve found the source of water. Now who wouldn’t want to share that?
Our world is hungry like never before for the satisfaction only God will give. Don’t wait for someone else to do something about it. Jesus says to us as he said to the apostles…”Give them some food yourselves.”
What’s in Your Field?
Jesus speaks today of a treasure hidden in a field. Hopefully we get the point that our faith is a treasure and our relationship with God worth “selling” everything. Truly there is wisdom in our Church beyond what Solomon could have imagined. Yet, do we realize this? Can we really say that our faith is what we value most of all?
We tend to focus on the man in the story who finds the treasure, but did you every stop to think about the man who sold him the field? He obviously didn’t know he had a treasure. Maybe he never bothered to really look around his field or else he could have found the treasure. As a result he probably sold his field cheap, no knowing what he had.
This parable is a warning to all of us. We have a treasure in the Church. However, if we fail to learn our faith, to dig around in our field, we will one day find the little faith that we had…gone. We will run the risk of leaving the Church and selling our field cheaply, believing that we actually got a pretty good deal on what we thought was just an empty field.
A World Full of Weeds
With all the violence, difficulties, and scandals in our world, this place can really seem less than ideal. Well, it is. The good news is that we don’t have to make everything right in this world. We don’t have to fight to the death to avenge wrongs done to us. There is another world where all will be made right. As we go through this world, our task then is patience, like the farmer who allows the weeds and the wheat to grow together until the harvest.
While we’re at it criticizing the world and everyone else in it, we can often think that of course we’re the wheat. Is that so? Most of us probably look a little more like weeds than wheat at times. The good news is that God is not done with us. We are all works in progress and that is why we must be patient, with each other and with ourselves. The harvest will come when all will be made well, until then…patience.
Sink Your Roots Deep
Today’s homily was given in the Chapel of the Twelve Apostles on the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Missouri.
Our young people today have so many options before them. Particularly alluring is the world of sports. It is not uncommon for kids to be playing multiple sports and giving great amounts of time to this. On top of sports there is a multitude of other activities to be involved in and it seems that no one wants to risk “missing out” on anything, so they try to do it all. In this way they seem to be a lot like the situation described in today’s gospel.
The gospel from today’s Mass describes a sower going out to sow. As he goes, it seems that he is throwing seed everywhere. Some lands in rocks, some on the trail, some among thorns, and some on good soil. Like kids who try to do everything, he seems to be casting seed everywhere, much of it having little lasting effect.
There is a notion of freedom today that relishes the ability to do whatever we want. However, I would propose that the true joy in life comes not from doing a great number of things, but rather in being committed to a few important things. The seed that falls on good ground needs time to stop and put down roots. We too need to stop trying to find happiness in the quantity of activities and realize that true joy and freedom will come only from commitment.
What is worthy of the commitment of our lives? For what are we willing to say that we will forgo all these other activities in order to commit to something special. The greatest joy in life comes when we find the special things that are worthy of our commitment, when we stop and put down our roots. While there will be many things along the way that will give great meaning to our life, ultimately only God is worthy of the total commitment of our lives. May we have the strength today to sink our roots deep in something of great meaning, most especially our faith.
The Gift of Freedom
This weekend we celebrate our freedom, our Independence Day. What could be more American than freedom? Yet, have you ever stopped to think about what that freedom really means or where it comes from? Ultimately, our freedom cannot simply be about doing whatever we want and no one stops us. True freedom is the freedom not to do what we want, but to do what we ought. We are most free when we become the people God created us to be.
In our Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers recognized that the right of people to be free comes not from government but from our Creator who has endowed us with “unalienable rights.” It was for the same reason that the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s. Communism was trying to remove belief in God from public life, leaving only the state as the source of rights and freedom. If the government thinks that it gives us freedom, it can also try to take away our freedom. The recent attempts to remove the “Creator” from the Declaration or “under God” from the Pledge shouldn’t just make us sad, it should make us scared.
If we will not be a nation under God, then we will inevitably be a nation under tyranny.
The truth is that freedom comes from God and we are truly free only when we give ourselves completely to God. We have no better example us this than our Blessed Mother. She found great freedom in her complete obedience to God. An even more perfect example of this is God himself. Jesus entrusted himself completely to Mary as a little baby. If Jesus could give himself into Mary’s hands this way then we should too. Blessed Pope John Paul II took as his papal motto, Totus Tuus, “totally yours.” Everything we have belongs to God. In the great irony of the Christian life, it is when we claim nothing as our own and give ourselves totally to Jesus through Mary that we are able to be truly free.
Help for Failing Senses
At first it might seem strange to celebrate a day in honor of the Eucharist. Don’t we do that at every Mass? Of course, but today is a special day to recommit ourselves to our faith in the Eucharist. Sometimes we can let our faith grow weak, not really stopping to think who it is we receive in Holy Communion. It’s easy for our senses to be deceived since the Jesus comes to us under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine. We might doubt that this is really Jesus.
This was the case for a priest whose doubt of the Eucharist gave rise to the feast we celebrate today. Today’s homily tells the story of Fr. Peter of Prague and the great miracle God worked for him and for the Church in 1263. May we all recognize the great miracle that God works at Mass today and every day.
Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. St. John has the distinction of being among only Jesus and our Blessed Mother who are honored with the celebration of their birth on the Church calendar. Today is also a special day for me as St. John the Baptist is my primary patron and the namesake of this website. Shawn being the Irish rendering of John, that makes me “Shawn the Baptist.” I pray for the grace to be the faithful prophet that St. John was and to always point people to Jesus. That he may increase and I may decrease.