Sunday, December 22, 2013

It easily could have been different (Sunday homily)

I can only reconstruct my homily from memory, as I had only a mental outline. This is close.

When I meet with couples preparing for marriage, 
I ask them about how they met, how they started going out, 
how they got engaged, and so forth. 

And then I show them how, in the things they described, 
there were many points at which their lives might have gone this way or that: 
He might have gone to a different college; 
she might have gotten a different job. 
He might not have found the nerve to ask her out; 
she might not have called him back! 

It's an opportunity for them to reflect 
on how contingent their lives are; 
how different it might have been. 
So much depends on such little things; 
on decisions, the consequences of which, 
we can never imagine.

It's the same in the story of our salvation, 
particularly as the Gospel describes it. 
Mary didn't have to say yes; 
and Joseph didn't have to do as the Gospel describes. 
How easily he might have dismissed his dream as "just a dream."

Another point. How did it happen that Joseph had the inner resources, 
he spiritual resources, to respond as he did? 
Consider what he might have felt, learning Mary was expecting. 
He knew she had taken a vow of virginity; 
he was marrying her to be her guardian and protector. 
Now he learns she's expecting--what might have gone through his mind? 
His character, his ability to sense, spiritually, what was going on, didn't just happen. 

It was a product of a lifetime of choices. 
So when we wonder, why do we go to Mass every Sunday? 
Why pray? Why go to confession? 
Why make the choices, the sacrifices, we make? Why the discipline? 
This is why: to prepare us for our Saint Joseph moment, 
which we won't likely see coming, or even realize is as momentous as it is.

Now, as we saw, our lives take twists and turns, 
and perhaps some of them we're not proud of. 
We may have regrets. 

I had hopes of attending Boston University; 
I hoped for an Air Force scholarship. 
But then I didn't get the scholarship,
and there went my dream of going to Boston U. 
Instead I went to U.C. 
While there, I left the Catholic Church; ten years later, I came back. 
And in all that, there were things I was ashamed of, and regrets.

But had I taken different courses, 
I might not have ever become a priest. 
But here I am, and I'm happy to be here!

So if you have those regrets, that sense of shame, 
don't underestimate what God can do with that. 
We so often give God a mess--
and he says, "I can make something of this!" 

Then there are those prompts of the Holy Spirit; 
they come unlooked for in unexpected ways. 
I remember the nudge that got me back to the Church. 
I was driving past a church, and the thought came to me: 
I needed to get to confession. 
And I did: my first confession in ten years!

When those nudges come, pay attention: 
they may be far more consequential than we realize!

I hope we all make it to heaven. 
It's my job to get you there; and I hope you help me get there. 
So if we make it, we will be able to look back at the path that brought us there, 
zigging this way and that. And we'll say, WOW!

No comments: