Saturday, October 28, 2006

What's your response? (Sunday homily)

Many ask me, “Is it hard being a priest?”
My response is,
When it’s what you want to do,
and it gives joy and meaning to your life,
how “hard” it is, isn’t very important!

You know it’s true:
You go out for football,

you practice the piano,
you care for your ailing father,
you work a second job to feed your family.

The second reading reminds us
what God was willing to do:
He chose a path that he knew led to the Cross.

I find it impossible to understand
how Jesus could endure the horrors of Good Friday.
Our Cross here, and the stations, give us some idea.
The movie,
The Passion of the Christ,
makes it vividly real to us.

The more we realize how awful it was,
then we realize how much it meant to God

to save us—that he would willingly embrace that!

We might think, that was easy for God—
but remember, he became human, like us:
A man with a stomach that knows hunger,
with muscles that ache,
with nerve-endings that feel pain,
and with a heart that can tighten with fear.

Let that sink in!
And it will help you say, with wonder,
So much did he love us!

We behold the Cross—how do we respond?

The salvation won for us, isn’t automatic.
You and I have to come, like the man in the Gospel;
we have to come to Jesus, and ask for healing.

You and I received that healing, that salvation,
the day we were baptized.
That may have been a long time ago,
and there’s a reason it happens only once:
that’s how powerful baptism is.

Your parents had you baptized as a child
so you would share that salvation as soon as possible.

Again, that calls for a response.
He died for us, to take away all our sins.
He gave us the Holy Spirit so we can live for him.
He opened the gates of heaven for us:
How will we respond?

This is the meaning of our lives as Christians,
our daily walk of faith.

The discipline of Sunday Mass;
going frequently to confession;
talking to the Lord in prayer, every day.

The hard choices of rejecting our culture
when it seduces us with greed and lust,
of rejecting prejudice and wrath,
of speaking out for human rights,
including the right to life—
and of caring for people in need,

wherever they are.

There’s a reason our world

isn’t a better place than it is:
because these are hard choices!
But recall what I just said:
When it’s what you want to do,
and it gives joy and meaning to your life,
how “hard” it is isn’t very important.

That man in the Gospel got a healing—
but then what did he do?
He followed Jesus on the way.
What if he’d said,
“hey, this is awesome, I can see now!
Thanks, Jesus; I’ll see you around”?

Yet how often that is precisely what we do.
Jesus healed tons of people—
where were they on Good Friday?
How many, today, look at the Cross, and say,
“hey, thanks Jesus!” and they go their way?

It’s not easy to look at the Cross,
and know you’re not ready to respond.

(By the way: that’s why many mock the Cross,
why they destroy the Cross,
why they don’t want it around.)

At the center of the Mass,
here is how fully He shows us his Cross:
It becomes real, right here, on the altar—
his suffering and death, happens right here!

That’s why that Crucifix is so important:
it helps us realize what’s happening at the altar.

And then communion confronts us:
what will our response be?
Will we say “amen” to the Cross for our own lives?
Will we say “yes” to following him,
wherever it leads, whatever it costs?
Will we be full members of his Body,
the Catholic Church?

This is why communion comes last,
and Mass ends soon afterward.
Because communion is our response;
and, if you will, His response to our response.

In the Eucharist, Jesus says to us,
“So, you will follow me?
Here’s what I give you,

as a pledge of my commitment:
My Body, my blood, my full self, as God and man:
broken for you, given for you.
When you eat and drink this,
this makes you part of Me!

This makes us truly One.”

Is it hard to follow Jesus, to share his Cross?
When it’s what you want to do,
and it gives joy and meaning to your life,
how “hard” it is, isn’t very important!

2 comments:

Steve said...

Thank you for yet another enlightening and educational homily, Fr. Fox. One of your quotes brings up something I have often wondered about. You said:

"We might think, that was easy for God—
but remember, he became human, like us:
A man with a stomach that knows hunger,
with muscles that ache,
with nerve-endings that feel pain,
and with a heart that can tighten with fear."

My question is this: since Jesus was truly human, as well as truly God, did he experience doubt? For example, when he was experiencing the Agony in the Garden, did he worry about whether he would truly rise again and later ascend into Heaven?

I know this is a theological question that may not have a right or wrong answer (at least until we get to Heaven, God-willing), but I thought I'd ask.

Keep up the great work, and God Bless you Father!

Father Martin Fox said...

Steve:

You raise what is, perhaps, the most difficult question we can ask about our Lord. The short answer is we aren't sure how to describe what he thought and felt -- what that was like.

So, when any of us try to answer the question, keep in mind that we are aiming for an "educated guess" as it were, since we cannot get inside his head.

I would say Our Lord experienced true emotions, just like us, so some sort of doubt makes perfect sense.

Did he doubt his own identity? I tend to think not, particularly as the Gospels pretty consistently show him knowing himself very clearly.

What was the nature of his wrestling the night before he died? Again, hard to say. Was he afraid of the pain and agony? Was he being tempted by the enemy, who had tempted him early on?

The key thing is that whatever went on in his mind and heart for however many hours of prayer, he made the right choice. And so it is for us; we may wrestle and doubt, but it's our choice that matters, either for good or ill.