Saturday, July 08, 2006

No, it's not easy. So what? (Sunday homily)

Is it hard to be a Christian?

In the first reading,

God tells the prophet Ezekiel:
I’m going to send you to my people—
but they won’t listen! Go anyway…

Look at what St. Paul said:
He had extraordinary revelations from God—
So God gave him a “thorn in the flesh”—
some sort of trial or humiliation;
St. Paul wrestled with “an angel of Satan”!

How does that sound?

Look at the Gospel.

God himself comes into the human scene.
Jesus comes to the synagogue

in his home town,
he stood up to teach, as before.

Look at the hard time they give him!
They were so disinterested in him,
that only a few even came to him,

seeking healing.

To them, he was just “that kid, son of Mary,”
who grew up around here—that’s all.
So: is it hard being a Christian?
It was hard being Jesus Christ!

So, don’t be startled that:
It is hard to live for Jesus,
hard to follow all he asks of us.
Don’t be surprised when
others around us don’t have our backs.

You turn on the TV, go to a movie,

pick up a favorite CD;
you want to wear that outfit

that shows off your body;
Someone invites you to a party.

Then you think,

“Does this glorify God—is this right?”
And you get frustrated,

because you are torn
between something you want,

something popular—
and what is right.
No surprise!

Welcome to the struggle.
Anything worth doing, is hard.

You have heard of Tiger Woods?
He’s 31 years old,

one of the greatest golfers ever.
First time he played

the Masters Tournament, he won;
set a record doing it! He was 21!
How did he do that?
Yes, God gave him a tremendous talent;
and he’s had some advantages

others have not.
But none of that made it easy.
And it still isn’t;

he has to work to stay where he is.

I’m not finding fault, but:
he does all that for fading glory.
The money, the fame,

the girls, his own physical abilities:
It will all fade away.

As Christians, you and I

are striving for eternal glory!

How many people do we know who choose
fleeting pleasure and earthly goods,
over the eternal question of good v. evil?

Our nation is at war;

and ordinary men and women
from families like ours have courageously
stepped forward to defend us from terrorism.
How hard is that? And yet they do it!

Every one of us faces

a life-and-death struggle:
not on some faraway battlefield,
but right here, in the battlefield of our hearts.

Most of the battles are not like D-Day,
or Pearl Harbor, or 9/11,
when it is so clear what’s at stake.

Most of the time, it’s over small decisions.
For soldiers, the daily challenge

is just sticking with it.

Tiger Woods faced the same choice:
am I going to spend yet, another day,
filled with hours of practice?
How many times

did he have to hit that ball?

The battles we face are the same—
over seemingly small matters:
“Who cares what I look at

on the Internet?”
“The company won’t miss this;

they can afford it.”
“I don’t need to pray.”

And here’s another battle:
How often do we say,

“I’ll start tomorrow.”
Imagine if Tiger Woods had said that.
Imagine if Ezekiel, St. Paul,

or Jesus, had said that.

So: why would we want to say that?

Nothing against Tiger Woods, but:
He’s pursuing fleeting glory;
you and I seek eternal glory!
God never promised Tiger Woods

he’d always be great.
God doesn’t guarantee our nation

will win every battle.

But God has promised
you and me every strength we need;
he will be in the battle with us,
he will put us back on our feet,
striving with us to gain our eternal salvation.

No, it’s not easy. So what?


Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

I dunno. Seems like it's getting easier. I remember taking time off work to go to mass on Ascension Thursday. Now we celebrate Ascension Thursday on the following Sunday.

Once, people had to learn to pray in Latin, to understand the mass in Latin, to kneel for communion and receive it on their tongues. No longer.

It seems to me that there are elements in the Church devoted to make our faith easier to practice.

As Chesterton said, "Christianity has not be tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried."

I cannot believe in an easy faith; the world is not a simple place, it does not serve me to make my observance easier.

Am I a good Christian? As you once said to me on another topic, Father, that judgment is above my pay grade. Am I doing my best? Probably not. I pray for help to do better.

Thanks for all your good work.

Deacon Jim said...

It is not easy to live this life. Thank you, Father for reminding us of that. It is not easy to live the commandments each day. It is not easy to love openly without conditions and parameters. It is not easy to forgive. It is not easy to see Christ in everyone. It is not easy to give freely. It is not easy to avoid jusgments. And if you have addictions, depression or any such afflictions, it is not easy to battle with them either. We talk about spiritual journeys. We talk about a spiritual life. Maybe what we should be talking about is spiritual work. There's no such thing as "fair," as in "life's not fair." Right, it's not. Deal with it. It may not be fair, but it is just. The Father never promised us a free ride. He did promise us that he'd never let go.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful homily, Father. It is always good to be reminded that the path to heaven is narrow and winding. Too sad so many choose the other straight path lined with gold. I'm glad you didn't mince words.

Lillian said...

Thank you Father for the wonderful homily. It really spoke to my heart and was a good reminder that I need to fight the good fight.