Sunday, August 26, 2018

'Are you in or are you out?' (Sunday homily)

When Joshua gathered all the people of Israel, 
he laid a blunt challenge before them: 

Do you want to serve the gods of Egypt or of other nations, 
or the Living God who delivered you from slavery?

The idea of serving multiple gods may seem strange to us, 
but it should not. Less has changed than it may seem. 
Those other gods Joshua referred to? 
The people knew all about them. And they loved them!
Joshua was challenging them to give up what they loved.

Perhaps if Joshua were here today, he’d ask:

Do you want to serve the god of money and power? 
All about climbing and self-sufficiency? 
So that you can say, “I did it myself; I did it my way”?

Or, do you want to serve the god of attractiveness and desire, 
of sex and youth? This is a very popular god: 
large portions of the Internet are dedicated to it; 
most of the entertainment industry. 
Haven’t you ever noticed how many old rich men 
have young, pretty wives? Not their first wives, of course.

Perhaps you and I want to worship the god of sports. 
Sports are valuable, but look how they crowd out everything else. 
Even on Sundays, so that many children are told, by their parents, 
sports is more important that Holy Mass.

How about the god of popular opinion? Who would dare to oppose that? 
Don’t we want to fit in and be accepted?

Then there is the god of our own ego, our own way. 
How often other people are sacrificed to our rage!
(Added after first Mass:) This is what people get wrong about the second reading:
husbands hear that and say, I get to boss my wife around!
And wives hear that and say, you'll get a knuckle sandwich!
But it's not about power; it's about the Cross.

Let us not forget the very popular gods of food, alcohol and pleasure. 
The problem isn’t that you and I enjoy these gifts of God;
but do we bow down to them? Do we organize our lives around them?

And when I say “we,” I mean me, too! I obviously like food, 
and every morning I’m very devoted to my comfortable bed.
On my desk I have a shrine to the god called, “the latest information”; 
I’m always checking what’s going on, either with my computer, 
my tablet, or my phone.  

Some people can’t be away from their phones for even an hour;
And if it summons them, they feel they must obey it!

For some people, government becomes god; 
for others, it’s the country and the flag.  
God isn’t on “our” side; but we’d better get back on his side, 
because that’s not where our country is, right now!

There was a book a few years ago called “Having it all.”
That’s what we all want. So it was pretty harsh when Joshua said:
You have to choose: you’re either all in with the one God;
Or you are out and you go with those false gods.
Choose: in or out.

The God of Israel, the living God who delivered his people from Egypt, 
is the God who is in this church, right now. 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God; 
the God who was made flesh in the womb of Mary, and became man. 

The God who took up the Cross for us. 
The God who said, in Galilee, “my flesh is true food, 
and my blood is true drink; eat my flesh and drink my blood” in the Eucharist.

Jesus – the new Joshua – stood before his people and asked them: 
Are you in or are you out?

Right now, you are in his divine presence: 
and every single Mass presents the same question!

Every Holy Mass is a renewal of Jesus’ eternal covenant in his blood.
When you are at Mass, if you receive Holy Communion,
Stop and realize how solemn and how momentous that is.

This is not just a ritual, a habit; trot up front with everyone else, 
plop that little white disc in your mouth and go sit down again.
I don’t mean to be irreverent, but I know what I see.

Some folks need to wake up! You are meeting the Living God here.

To receive Holy Communion is not to say the Church is perfect, 
for obviously – and painfully – this is not true.
Christ’s Body was grievously wounded on the Cross, 
and it is terribly wounded today.
He calls us to work with him to bring healing and life to those wounds.
And even – in a way that defies understanding – through his wounds.
Some are asking, why should I be a Catholic? 
And I think Peter gives us the best answer: 
“Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.”
Even the betrayal of Judas – who was Peter’s friend and companion – did not change that. 

Receiving Holy Communion does not mean that you or I are perfect, 
because if we were, we would not need this divine Medicine.

Rather, to receive the Eucharist is to accept Jesus’ solemn pledge: 
he gives everything, absolutely everything to us. 
His body, his blood, shed on the Cross to the last drop; 
his very self as God and man; he gives us Heaven and earth 
and every good gift. He gives us everything.

You witness this on the altar at every single Mass.

And then, for us to receive Holy Communion is to respond:
“Yes, I’m in! Jesus, I’m ALL in! My whole life, not just one part; 
not just one day, but every day; 
not just what I’m proud of, but all my sin and doubt and grief.
My computer, my cell phone, my calendar, my bank account;
My refrigerator, my liquor cabinet, my job, my farm, my business; 
My family, my future, my plans;
My mind, my will, my hope and my all!

“I have no other gods. You are my Lord and my God. All for you, Jesus!”
That is what it means to take the Lord’s Body and Blood to your lips!


Anonymous said...

Excellent, Father. Thanks as always!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father. - R.A.