Sunday, October 02, 2016

Persevere like the mustard seed (Sunday homily)

When you hear the term “faith” in this Gospel, 
realize that it’s talking about something more than just belief. 
Perhaps better would be, faithfulness. Fidelity. 
Something we used to call “Stick-to-it-tive-ness.”

A lot of people hear this Gospel, 
and they think it’s talking about 
what some Protestants refer to as “name-it-and-claim it” theology. 
You’ve seen them on TV: preachers who will tell you 
that if only you believe hard enough, you can whatever you want.

This is not what Jesus is saying.

Remember, Jesus is the one who said, 
“If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.”
Take up your cross, not, your new car!
Healings and prosperity are great if they come, 
but they aren’t what Jesus came to give us.

Jesus came to give us a new life of holiness. He came to give us heaven. 
In a word, he came to give us himself.

So the measure of a faithful disciple is fairly simple: 
is that enough for me? Is it enough for you?

In the first reading, the Prophet Habakkuk 
is wrestling with a big question, which many of us wrestle with: 
when, O God, will you keep your promises? 
When will evil be defeated? When will the truth prevail? 

And God tells Habakkuk what he tells us: 
wait for it – the vision will have its time.

The prophet’s concern was the imminent threat of invasion, 
perhaps by Assyria, or Egypt, or Bablyon. 
God’s People were surrounded on all sides 
by powerful enemies who worshipped false Gods. 
Meanwhile, the Jewish people were ignoring God and lax in their faith. 
So Habakkuk saw both crisis from without, and from within.

Sound familiar?

A lot of us are pretty anxious about the state of things, 
and for good reason. 
Today is Respect Life Sunday, 
and we know just how bad things are with assaults on human life. 

There is a huge push on to legitimize and normalize euthanasia – 
that is, killing people who are sick or depressed or in pain. 
It’s being called “assisted suicide,” but don’t be fooled;
It’s not just about people in extreme circumstances.
In places where it’s been legal, especially in Europe, 
it involves children too. 
It involves people who are simply depressed. Or disabled. 

And it isn’t about “choice.” Once euthanasia takes root,
it isn’t long before people are “helped” against their will.

In Canada, this was imposed on the entire country 
by their Supreme Court? Sound familiar? 
And now the push is on to force all hospitals, 
Force doctors and nurses to participate! 
Stay tuned; we’re next.

And I could detail other reasons for concern, 
But I don’t want to discourage you. Many of us are already discouraged. 

But let’s listen to what God told Habakkuk 
and what Jesus told his disciples: persevere! 
Especially, persevere in prayer.

Next weekend we will have our annual Forty Hours, 
and the timing couldn’t be better.

Do you know the origin of Forty Hours? It began in the 1500s, in Italy. 
The way they did it was to have each parish take turns 
with 40 hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament;
when one finished, another would begin, 
so that there was never-ending prayer 
in the presence of Jesus on the altar.

But do you know why they did it? 
It wasn’t primarily to grow in devotion, or to pray for their own needs. 
They were begging God to avert disaster. 

Here’s what Pope Paul III said, commending, quote, 
“the prayer of the inhabitants of the said city, 
in order to appease the anger of God, provoked by the offences of Christians, 

and in order to bring to nought the efforts and machinations 
of the Turks who are pressing forward 
to the destruction of Christendom.”

I’m sorry, but if you think our situation isn’t that dire, 
you aren’t paying attention!

In our time, we could cite many offenses of Christians, 
and our own country, that are a stench before God.
We, today, are likewise beset with enemies seeking our destruction, 
but we’re doing a good job all by ourselves, without help from ISIS.

Jesus referred to the faith the size of a “mustard seed.” 
But there’s something else about a mustard seed: 
it doesn’t do anything but be a mustard seed. 

It doesn’t say, “well, I think I can squeeze in 
being a mustard seed sometime today…
I’ll do my seed-job while I’m driving home…
This has been a tough day, I won’t get to my mustard-seeding today.” 

No, every day, every hour, that mustard seed 
does whatever a seed does to turn into a tree. 
It perseveres. And that is what Jesus calls faith.

Are there miracles you want to see? 
Do you want some of our politicians, and our judges, converted? 
Do you have family members and friends who need conversion? 
How much do you want it? How much will you pray for it?

We might think of Forty Hours as an opportunity, 
and a blessing – and it is. 

But I submit to you that first of all, it is our duty.
You and I are God’s servants; this is what we do! 
This parish exists to bring God’s holiness into this place, 
and into the lives of the people here. 
And to pray, with the whole Body of Christ, throughout the world, 
in Purgatory and Heaven, for mercy and conversion in our world.

Please sign up for Forty Hours. 
The bonus is that we get to spend this time with Jesus, 
right here with us! 

And I’ll mention something else. 
Forty Hours is a great, and easy, way to share our faith with others. 
Why not invite someone to come along? 
“Let’s just pay a visit.” You may want to explain, 
if your friend isn’t Catholic, 
that we know by faith Jesus is in that monstrance, 
the King is on the altar before us.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to come.

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