This homily I gave on January 17th and 18th 2009. The readings were 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19 (where the Lord calls young Samuel at night); 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; with the Gospel Jn 1:35-42, where Jesus calls his first disciples.
This one was a bit more spiritually practical in approach, but I definitley did hit hard the Frist Commandment, which is something I seem to be tredning towards a lot. So far so good. I think this one was a little long – a little bit over 8 minutes versus my normal 7, but it seemed to work well. My son Thomas liked that I mentioned him, but I told him to expect that to be too regular. Like I said in the homily, tyhe LAST thing I want to be is predictable.
“In praying and meditating over these scripture readings, I found myself starting to go down the obvious roads – how these readings tell us to “answer God’s call”, or to “respond to his summons”.
And I said to myself – there’s just got to be MORE here than just that.
No matter how worthy an approach for some this might be, I just kept feeling that going down that road for me would be just too simple – or worse predictable. (And the last thing I want to be is predictable.)
The Holy Spirit it seems was directing me to go down another road.
It was the reading from the Corinthians was the problem for me – it was placed with the other two quite deliberately and yet it seems totally out of synch with them – it’s not about “answering the call” – it’s clearly about rejecting immorality and living a life full of virtue. I just couldn’t reconcile the two for some reason.
But as I read and prayed and thought on it more and more – I think I began to understand . . .
For me there just seemed to be a certain “ARROGANCE” contained within the “God is calling and we need to answer” approach that just didn’t sit well with me.
It kind of implies that WE are the ones in charge – WE get the final say – it’s up to US and US ALONE as to what we decide to do.
It seems that by going down that path I would inevitably reach a point where I would be implying that it was CHOICE that was supreme here. And THAT is something I could NEVER DO.
I’ve always been very suspicious and critical of the “It’s all about US” philosophy – to me it smacks of the sin of selfishness and flies in the face of the basic humility and subordination of our will to God’s that is so essential in the Christian Life.
Now don’t misunderstand me – I’m not that saying answering God’s call isn’t important, and I’m not saying we don’t have free will to choose him or reject him.
What I AM saying is that those facts – and that’s what they are, merely facts – needs to be subordinated to a far more important “TRUTH.”
GOD is GOD and WE are NOT.
GOD is ultimately in charge of everything – it is HE and HE ALONE to whom we MUST look and MUST serve and MUST obey. (The First Commandment, right?)
These readings are NOT about simply making A CHOICE to follow Christ or not like they may first appear – they’re about making the RIGHT CHOICE. It’s not about the “WHAT” it’s about the “HOW”.
Just because we have a choice, doesn’t mean that there’s not a RIGHT ANSWER and a WRONG ANSWER – a RIGHT WAY and a WRONG WAY. It’s not all just a question or personal preference, is it?
In fact, there really is ONLY ONE WAY to responding to God’s call – HIS WILL and not OURS.
You see – Samuel in the Old Testament and Andrew and Peter in the New – they didn’t just “choose” – they chose CORRECTLY. They set aside whatever it was that THEY may have wanted or planned or desired and made the RIGHT CHOICE – they did whatever HE wanted. No matter where HE led them – they were obedient to HIM. They just followed – they just obeyed – simple as that. And they did so for the rest of their lives – lives they ultimately gave up for HIM.
Looking at it this way, the reading from the letter to the Corinthians fits perfectly – Paul is saying that there IS in fact a right choice and a wrong choice – there IS an objective morality and therefore also an objective immorality – and it is Christ and his Church who is tells us which is which – the TRUTH as to which moral choices are RIGHT and which are WRONG.
You know I truly believe most people usually want to do what is right, I really do.
But I think there are many powerful forces in this world that can so easily lead good people astray. It often gets to the point of not knowing which way to turn – how DO you know with any real confidence just what IS the right choice to make – the moral way?
Well, we know of course the short answer – CHRIST is the way. (He said exactly so himself in fact.)
BUT JUST WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, EXACTLY – WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?
WHAT DOES FOLLOWING THE “WAY OF CHRIST” ENTAIL IN PRACTICAL TERMS?
Just how do we “Think and Act like Christ” as Father Hardesty told me those many years ago?
Well, looking to the Church for guidance in moral matters is a very good start, and I encourage everyone to listen and take seriously her teachings, especially on the sanctity and dignity of all human life – PARTICULARLY as TODAY – Jan 18, 2009 – was literally just proclaimed National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I encourage you to read up on it.
But – more basic than that – how do you begin?
What are the first steps to that “reconversion experience”? How do you create a “spiritual renaissance” within you or convert back from what that great Catholic speaker Jesse Romero calls “Comatose Catholicism”? (He actually borrowed that phrase from Cardinal Newman, by the way.)
You might be surprised, but it’s really very, very simple.
You probably have hears that you have to get to know Jesus – you have to understand him intimately – to fall in love with him as Father Jim says – and there are many, many ways to do this. . .
. . .but I’ve recently come to understand that there is in fact a really good ONE WAY – something simple that anyone can begin with and that works every time . . .
. . . read and pray the Scriptures – daily.
In fact it WAS Jesse Romero who inspired me with very simple solution – in one of his talks that my son Thomas and I heard just the other day – and it was so simple and obvious that Thomas got it quicker than I did – and he’s only seven.
Read and pray the scriptures – daily.
Jesse was telling the story of when he was on the threshold of his reconversion back to Catholicism some years back he was asking the very same question – what can I DO that I know will enable me to follow Christ CORRECTLY? St. Paul said to “avoid immorality” – but how can I be sure of always doing the right thing?
Fortunately Jesse was smart enough to know that to get the right answer that he was looking for he needed to go to an ultimate font of knowledge. And just like every good son instinctively knows, that’s always found in one person in particular – MOM.
So he called up his Mother and asked her “Mom, what do I need to do to know all about Jesus? How can I learn how to always do the right thing – make the moral choice?”
And his mom answered him. “Jesse, go get your Bible, pick it up and start reading. You start with the four Gospels and you read them all the way through. You “pray them” as you go – you ask for guidance and inspiration all the time you’re reading.”
Jesse thought about it for a moment and then he asked, “Well, what do I do after that?”
So she told him “You do it again.”
So he asked her “How many TIMES do I have to do it?”
“About fifty” she told him.
And being the good son, he did just what his mom told him to do. He read – and he prayed – the four gospels over and over – he chewed, swallowed and digested every word again and again – and they slowly became part of him.
It wasn’t long before he expanded his reading to the rest of the New Testament and from there he went back into the Old. His mind and his spirit slowly expanded to seek out the teachings of the Church and through regular reception of the Eucharist, Christ truly came to live inside him.
He now spends 20 minutes every single day reading and praying the Scriptures and he knows the right choices to make – Christ you see has quite literally told him. He has fallen in love with Christ.
Sometime after his reconversion he went back to his mom and asked her “Mom, did you really mean for me to read those gospels fifty times?”
And she told him “No Jesse, I meant for you to read them for the rest of your life. Telling you “fifty times” is what I knew it would take to get you there.”
If you ever get the chance to hear him speak please don’t miss it – I can tell you NO ONE can match the FIRE and PASSION he has for Christ and his Church – and like a good son he has a particular devotion to the Blessed Mother – he even calls himself “the Latin Lover of Our Lady.”
But HIS passion can be OUR passion – HIS enthusiasm can be OUR enthusiasm -and all it takes to begin is a regular reading and praying of sacred scripture – not just occasionally or once a week, but as often as humanly possible. Daily if you can.
Following the correct “WAY” is not as difficult as you might think, my friends – we actually do have it all written down for us.
Pick it up and begin.