First Reading: Jer 33:14-16

Second Reading: 1 Thes 3:12-4:2

Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

I remember the first time I had to get up in front of a congregation and sing.  I was applying for the Minister of Music position at the Baptist Church we attended. I was sick to my stomach, my knees were shaking and I couldn’t focus my mind or my eyes on anything.

This wasn’t the first time I had ever been up in front of people. I had been in band and choir for years. But this was the first time, standing up there alone. And, believe it or not, at 15 I was shy, awkward, and very much locked inside my own head.

I was terrified of singing off key, forgetting the words, and looking like an idiot. But I sat there waiting for the time to start the service praying, “Lord, please help! All I want to do is sing for you.”  As the service began and the pianist began the intro to “How Great Thou Art,” I opened my mouth and sang. It wasn’t my best – I was still a nervous wreck. But by the end of the worship service as we were singing “Just as I am,” I realized that I wasn’t singing for me, or them, I was singing to God, for God, and by his strength.

Our Gospel today speaks of fear and why we shouldn’t be afraid of what is to come.  Every generation has experienced trials and tribulations within nature. Hurricanes, Tornados, Tsunami’s, earthquakes, volcanos, floods, drought, and everything in between. Every generation has had its own herald proclaiming the end of the world.

But Jesus tells us very simply, during these times, when these signs happen, stand up straight, keep your chin up and stand firm in the promise made to us, because our redemption is at hand.  This is why we shouldn’t be afraid. Why we shouldn’t fear anything around us. Nothing nature or man can do, can separate us from God’s love. Only we can separate ourselves from God.

None of us want to be separated from God, cut off from his love and mercy. But we find ourselves separated from God when we let our hearts focus on things of this world instead of on things of heaven. The Gospel says “drowsy from carousing and drunkenness.” Yes it means partying and getting drunk all the time. But it also means doing anything that takes us away from doing what we should be doing – bringing the Kingdom of God to those around us.  It also says, “And from the anxieties of daily life.”

I can’t imagine anyone here being able to relate to that, so let me help. Anxieties of daily life – what am I going to wear today? I can’t wear that, I’ve worn that out in public before. What will people think if they see that I don’t have the latest fashions? What will they think if I am not driving the fanciest new car? What will they think if they come over and my carpet isn’t the cleanest or my furniture top of the line, or my dishes don’t match, or they find out my son is gay, or my dog meows instead of barking. On and on and on.

And yes, the daily anxieties of where is the money coming to buy food and pay the bills. I can either pay this bill or get my prescriptions filled. Or I can pay the light bill or the gas bill. These are real and valid concerns. 

But as Christians we have the comfort and the promise that these things are passing. Our hope, our joy, is not contained solely in the here and now. We keep watch and we wait, because our hope, our joy is yet to come.  It will come after this life.

For now we need to be focused on what we can do right here, right now to help God’s Kingdom here on earth grow.

 

What aspects of your daily life hinder your expression of love for God and for your neighbors?

 

What steps can you take this week to help bring Christ’s mercy to all you meet? 

((Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B)) 
 
When I was 18 I remember going through a period of time where I couldn't sleep. I was stressed and torn up about who I was, what I was. And I wasn't able to come to grips with myself.  I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at my reflection. And I said the words for the first time out loud. "I'm gay."  I started crying and wanted to look away from my reflection. It was broken, wrong, and not who or what I was supposed to be.  but I forced myself to keep looking. And I said it again and again and again - "I'm gay!" 
 As I stood there, tears pouring down my face, I realized a few things. The world hadn't stopped spinning. I wasn't struck down by God with a lightening bolt.  But I also realized - I was exactly as God created me to be. And most importantly - He loved me just the way I was.
 
Our readings   today all speak of healing. Emotional, physical, and social. 
 
Isaiah in our first reading gives us the promise of the coming Messiah. That he is our vindication, he will open the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf, and the tongues that cannot speak will give him praise.  
In our Gospel today, Mark sees that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promise to us in Isaiah. Jesus cures the sick, heals the broken, makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.  But Jesus also tells them not to tell anyone. Why? 
 
Well, one reason is the fact that as word gets out, as we know it does, the crowds get larger and larger, and He has no time to eat or pray, and I'd bet sleep.  Also, He doesn't want the miracle being the end all of it.  He is not just there to perform signs and wonders.  The healings were from God and should draw the people back into a closer relationship with God. There were many healers in Jesus' time - he wanted them to see and hear that this was more and not get wrapped up in just the miracle. 
 
The reading from James also draws us to not only heal ourselves with God's help, but to be healing for others.  Don't favor the rich man just because he is rich. Don't favor the pretty just because they are pretty.  Don't favor the well dressed, just because they are well dressed.  Treat everyone as equals regardless of the thickness of their wallet, regardless of their education, regardless of their social standing.  When it comes to the table of God's word and the Table of the Eucharist, each of us are found lacking - the rich, the poor, the famous. 
 
James draws us to focus on how we are as a church, the body of Christ. We know Jesus came to call sinners. He ate and drank with the poor and outcast of his day.  Many that followed him were desperate, lonely, broken. Even he and his disciples were homeless, wandering from town to town, living off of the generosity of others. And we are reminded not to look down on someone because of how poorly they are dressed; not to look down on someone because of their social status - or lack of. 
 
We are called to heal ourselves first of all.  And this is not always an easy process, and never painless. We have to see ourselves for who we really are - sinners just like everyone else, in need of God's healing and grace. We need to find those areas of our attitudes, our beliefs, our hard heartedness and give them to God.   So that we can overcome them.  And this is a life long process. We are never truly done with our own conversion.  But while we are healing: 
 
We are called to be healing to all.  Often times the rich don't want to hear this.  They want to feel secure in their wealth.  And having wealth is not in and of itself a bad thing.  But we must realize that it is all a gift from God and should be used as such. Not horded to the point of allowing others to starve and wander the streets because they have no place to go.  
Often the rich don't want to hear the truth. They pick and choose what they want to hear and what they want to believe. Leaving the painful choices to others. Like those that choose to follow the "Prosperity Gospel" being preached by so many false prophets and televangelists. But St. Augustine said: "If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you do not like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself." 
 
We are to give of ourselves, even when it hurts. As our Blessed Mother did, standing there at the foot of the cross, watching her Son die so that all might live. She united her heart with that of her Son, knowing - perhaps not knowing exactly how, but knowing that God would take it and make it more than any could imagine. 
 
We are about to celebrate Christ's great gift to us - the Eucharist. As we receive the body and blood of Jesus, allow Him to make you anew and lead a life of true obedience, humble service to all, and unconditional love for one another.