Sunday, November 11, 2018

What's really there? So much more than you think (Sunday homily)

The widow in the Gospel, with her contribution of two coins, 
is an example of something very common. 
A couple of coins, what’s that? 

But what may seem insignificant when looked at one way,
Is in fact something tremendous, when measured a different way.

When I worked in politics, in Washington,
I would often go to these events 
where other political or media-type folks would be.
Even if it was supposedly a social event, 
most of us were there for work; 
we were trying to make connections with other people in politics.

We’d all have name-tags, that also gave what news organization 
or political group you represented.

So then you an uncomfortable ritual: 
People would move around the room, 
trying to scope out name tags nonchalantly, 
in order to avoid wasting time on a conversation 
with someone who wasn’t important enough! 

Of course, the other person might think you were a good “target,” 
and would reach out to shake hands, oops, you’re caught! 
So then you’d try to be minimally polite, 
even as your eye is roaming for a more powerful person to talk to.

That poor widow in the Gospel, where would she be in that?
Only Jesus had eyes to see her true value.
Students, keep this in mind when you deal with others at school.
It’s rough when other people make instant judgments about you;
But are you sure you aren’t doing the exact same them to others?

I remember making so many assumptions about others in high school. 
And so often, I was so, so wrong! 
People I thought were the best people to know? Not so much, actually!
Other people I ignored, or thought were “out of my league,” 
turned out to be really great people, and I missed out!

Here’s another way we make this mistake. Look at the Mass.
People skip Sunday Mass – obviously they think, it’s not so important.
Or, people come to Mass, and it doesn’t measure up.
The priest is tedious and talks too long; that’s probably true!
They don’t like the music, or people around them are annoying, 
or for whatever reason, they are bored.

Look: if Pope Francis were here to offer Mass,
Do you think all those folks skipping Mass would show up?
Why? It’s the same Mass! 
I realize it would be the Holy Father, but if he were here now, 
he’d tell you himself that what Jesus does 
in the Holy Mass is what counts!

That’s what the second reading, from Hebrews, is about:
Jesus is our eternal high priest, and what he did for us on the Cross, 
is what he now makes present and real to us in the Mass, 
and in the Holy Eucharist.

And we might think, oh, but when the pope, or the archbishop, 
or when my favorite priest offers Mass…
When we’ve got the right kind of choir, 
Or when the church is arranged the right way, 
Or when we don’t have all these distractions,
Or when it’s in Latin, or we have guitars, 
Or whatever it is that makes it our “perfect” Mass…

But then I think of a Russian Catholic priest, Blessed Leonid Feodorov;
He was thrown into prison by the communists.
His atheist captors forbade him to offer Holy Mass.

He had no vestments, no choir, no chapel, no altar.
The other prisoners would sneak bread to him 
from their meager rations;
and when they accumulated a few raisins, they would make wine.

And so with a crumb of bread and a few drops of wine;
Maybe using a tin cup for a chalice, his only vestments were rags;
and reciting the prayers from memory,
voice hushed so as not to be overheard by the guards:
thus would Father Leonid offer his widow’s mite of a Mass.

How easily and how often we look at others, or at ourselves,
even at the familiar Mass which happens every day in our parish – 
and think we see, but we don’t really see!

But something astounding, world-changing, is there, 
if only we could see it! 

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