Sunday, February 14, 2010

World values v. God's values (Sunday homily)

Here is my homily for this weekend; I worked from notes, so this is more or less a reconstruction of what I said at 5 pm and 10:30 am Masses this weekend...

Folks sometimes ask me how I come up with my homilies each week...
this Sunday I can give you some insight into that.
This week, I was talking to Father Tom about the readings--
he often gives me good ideas about homilies,
I don't know if he ever says that about any of my observations!--
and we were discussing what to draw out of them.
Later on, I was sitting, reflecting on the readings, and I took some paper--
here it is, you can see it was post-it notes!--
and I drew a line down the paper.
One one side, I wrote, "what the world values";
on the other, "what God values."

Now, if you don't take anything else away from this homily,
that right there wouldn't be a bad exercise for anyone to do on your own--
when you get home, try that: write each on a piece of paper, and see what you come up with.

Here's what I came up with.

What does the world value?
For one, how we dress, or the appearance we make.
When you show up for a job interview, or a party,
people will fault you if you're dressed the right way.
I was at a restaurant last night, and I saw someone and I thought,
"he's not dressed very well!"
Then I thought, maybe I should focus on eating my meal instead.

What does God value? I don't think our appearance matters to him.
But whether we walk humbly; whether we tell the truth with love;
and above all, is my heart and my life open and ready to receive God wants to give?
I think those are things God values.

Saint Augustine said that God has wonderful gifts for us,
but sometimes our hands our full--and he has to knock things from our hands,
so we can receive his gifts.

So when our Lord talks about being hungry...
being hungry means I'm ready and grateful for something more;
but if I'm full, I say, "no thank you."
If I have all I need or want, how ready am I for something more?

The Lord said, "woe to the rich"--what does that mean?
Does it mean they are going to hell? That God hates rich people?
I don't think so. What does it mean?

Perhaps it means this: if we find our meaning and purpose in stuff,
in what we have, that's a woe, not a blessing.

On the other hand, to be free of stuff, and its power over us,
to be free of worry these things, to be free of worry about what others think--
or what we have to lose for doing what is right...this freedom, that's a great blessing.

I remember when I left Washington, and drove back to Cincinnati to enter the seminary;
I'd sold my house, and I no longer had a mortgage, no more worries about that!
I missed it--yet it was very freeing.
Now I've come full circle, and I have all this (gesturing to the church) to care for!
But it's all yours, it's not mine; so I'm still free.

This was the insight of that great theologian, Janis Joplin, who had a great insight:
"freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."

Freedom...what does the world think about freedom?

The world's idea of freedom is, "let me do what I want, leave me alone,
even if I'm destroying myself, that's not your business."
There's something to that--we don't want to run anyone else's lives.
But I don't want to live in a society that sees other people on a path of destruction, and says, not my problem. How heartless! How soulless!

God's idea of freedom is different: true freedom is nothing has power over me.
Free of the power of appetite, free of the power of stuff;
free to give myself away, to God and to others. No fear.

Lent--which starts this week--is our time to grow freer in these ways.
We fast to be freer of appetite;
we pray more to be freer from from the urgency of this world's demands,
and be reminded of the eternal, which is always there, but not always so apparent;
we give ourselves away--our money or our time--so we are freer from the power of things.

We might look at the two sides (holding up the paper) and wonder where we are--
the world's values or God's values.
I wasn't all that happy with where I found myself, either.
But in six week's time, where will we be?


Anonymous said...

My name is Anna Mitrovcan and I live in Serbia, Eastern Europe. I really liked your sermon and was very encouraged. Thank you!

Anonymous said...


I am preparing to speak to a youth group about almost the exact same thing. Your homily has helped me enrich mine. Thank you.