Sunday, July 21, 2019

God's urgent invitation (Sunday homily)

The Hospitality of Abraham by Andrei Rublev. You can watch this strange movie, or read about him here.

Notice in the first reading: God came to a meal. Why would he do that?
This was about friendship: 
enabling Sarah and Abraham to experience friendship with God.
“Friendship with God”: isn’t that a stunning thing to say?

Yes, it is! But that is why Jesus came; 
Friendship with God is our destination.

God comes to a meal in the Gospel, too.
Martha is all worked up about it, and she complains, make Mary help me!
Martha is right in one aspect: 
what an honor it is to have the Lord visit her house!

Would that more Catholics would recognize that.
What an honor that Jesus comes to be with us!
This is why we genuflect, if we are able.
More important is the disposition you and I bring to Mass.
One of the ways we express our attitude is in our clothing.
This is a minefield, so I want to be very measured here.

Not everyone has nice things to wear.
Some people have to come straight from work, or go immediately there.
Life can be complicated.
It can be a struggle just to get the family together.
When I was little, my mom would get me ready for Mass,
and then go do other things, warning me to stay put.
I didn’t listen! Sorry, mom!

Without pushing too far, I want to pose this question:
when you present yourself before the Lord, are you making an effort? 
Yes, I know it’s hot. You think I don’t know? 
I am wearing more clothes here than anybody;
I’d much rather be in shorts and a golf shirt and flip-flops.
Would that be acceptable? To offer Mass that way?

Oh? Do you think you are merely a spectator here?
That your presence isn’t awfully important?
Yes, I’m a priest, and my role is unique;
But you are a member of Christ’s body – aren’t you?

Let’s go back to Martha and her complaint, 
Because that leads to my second observation.
Not only did God come to a meal; he came to give a meal.
This is the “better part” Mary has chosen: to let Jesus feed her.
That isn’t only for Mary; Martha was welcome too. So are you and me.

This is why, coming to Holy Mass, it helps 
to read the Scriptures ahead of time, and if possible, 
have time before to calm down and recollect.
Now, parents with young children, what I just said wasn’t aimed at you! 
I’m glad you’re here! I know how hard it can be, and Jesus knows too.
Just keep coming and do your best! Jesus will take care of it.

If the Martha in you is saying, “but who’s going to fix dinner?”
Can’t you just see Jesus wink and say, “Oh, I think I can handle that!”

This is still about friendship with Jesus. That’s what he longs for.
And there is no short-cut. 
Friends only become friends because they talk to each other, 
they spend time with each other, and they love the same things.

Martha wanted to “do” for Jesus. Admirable.
But do you think you and I will go to heaven because of what we DO?
Because of good works, giving money, following the rules?
Remember what Jesus told us:
Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven;
They’ll say, didn’t we prophesy and do good works in your name?
“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.’”

These things matter after and only because we are friends with him.
He wants to know you; and for you to know him. 

You might say, I don’t know how to be friends with God.
I’ll say it once more: friends talk to each other; 
they spend time together, and they love the same things.
So: talk to Him, spend time with Him, and love what he loves.

Here’s good news: the Holy Spirit, 
already in you through baptism and confirmation, is Love, 
and he will help you love the Father and the Son. 
Ask him, again and again and again.
This, I believe absolutely, is a prayer God cannot and will not refuse!

So: God came to a meal; God came to give a meal;
And God is himself the meal!

Of course that makes us think of the Eucharist, and that’s right;
but not in isolation. Never in isolation. At best, this is sterile.
At worst, this is a grave sin and an abomination.

What do I mean by this?
I mean that Mass is a lot more than just receiving Holy Communion. 
And our life as Christians is about more than Sunday Mass.
It’s all connected.

It’s kind of like thinking about the tabernacle – see the tabernacle? – 
without the altar, where the sacrifice takes place; 
and the rest of the church around it, this holy place, 
where holy people led by a holy priest, gather for that sacrifice;
which Jesus himself offers, of himself, on this very altar!

It’s not just Christ and this church that are holy;
The priest must be holy. I am a sinner; so I go to confession.
Holiness, above all, is not primarily about how we behave,
but first and most important, it is about union with God:
everything else flows from that union with him.

So I go to confession because I fail in my friendship;
but my Friend, the Lord Jesus, 
is so good to me that he eagerly forgives me 
and helps me become the friend I want to be.

Your participation in this sacrifice requires you to be holy, too.
You might say, I’m not doing so great on that.
Well, receiving our Eucharistic Lord is itself the remedy for venial sins.
When friends spend time together, they grow in friendship.

Now, if you are conscious of a mortal sin, then go first to confession.
When a friend has sinned gravely against a friend, 
you don’t pretend as if nothing happened: 
you own up and you ask to be reconciled.

To recap: God came to a meal; God gives a meal; God IS the meal.
He came to give himself, to unite us to him, forever.

This last week I was at a conference with Dr. Scott Hahn.
And he made a striking point. 
He described doing a Bible study 
on all the times the New Testament talked about 
the consequences of refusing Christ’s invitation. 
In his own words, he was “stunned” when he took in, all at once,
All the things Jesus said about what happens to those who refuse him.

Such as? Well, how about “He who believes and is baptized 
will be saved; but he who believes not will be damned.”
Or when he spoke about the house built on a rock – that is, Himself! – 
versus the house without Christ, built on sand:
“And great is the fall of that house,” Jesus warned.
Or what I quoted earlier: “Depart from me, I never knew you!”
Or recall the sheep and the goats: depart from me, you accursed!”

I could go on. The point is, everything hangs on this invitation:
Come to me, Jesus says. He comes to you. He wants to be with you.
He offers himself to you and to me.
Don’t leave church today without accepting, or renewing, his friendship.

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