Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 15B
“I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets,” but “the Lord took me […] and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” At certain times in our lives, we’re given the grace to take a step back and catch a glimpse of how God has been working through the events and circumstances of our lives, and how He has been directing everything according to His divine plan. A particular moment of clarity for me was as I approached graduation from the University of St. Thomas and faced the prospect of four more years of study and preparation for the priesthood, this time to be spent in Rome. When I was growing up, I never imagined that I would someday travel so far, and see so many historical and beautiful places, and meet so many different and interesting people. But at the same time, as I looked back over the years and surveyed where God was leading me, I realized that God had been answering all my prayers, and even the unspoken desires of my heart.
When I was a kid—and I know that to most of you, I still look like a kid—but when I was kid, I always loved adventure stories. One game series sort of epitomizes this sense of adventure for me, and it’s called the Legend of Zelda. In the Legend of Zelda games, you play as a hero that would fight monsters, solve puzzles, work your way through dungeons and find treasures, and with each new challenge, in each dungeon you would find one treasure, one new item that would be the key to overcoming new challenges and to making your way through the rest of the dungeon to reach your goal. This was kind of a theme that ran through each of these games, and it gave a strong sense of providence, of destiny, and of adventure.
In a similar way, I saw that God had sent me on an adventure. To someone from Elk Point, the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis seem pretty big and diverse. And the University of St. Thomas has some impressive architecture, with arches and buildings that almost look like castles. And then to be going to Rome for four years, and all the opportunities that would bring, to see unbelievable art, history, and architecture, and to meet people from all over the world. Just an unbelievable privilege. And all along the way, I found that God was equipping me with exactly what I needed to meet new challenges and to face new obstacles. And I also found that most often, my greatest obstacle is me. And most of time, God is equipping me with what I need, through the people around me.
That’s why I’m so excited to be here at Holy Spirit with all of you, to begin the next stage of my adventure. You will find, though, that with all my German blood, I don’t usually express my excitement very exuberantly. But I am excited to be here, and to see what God has planned for us. It’s already been an adventure for me, trying to move in and get settled, and to see how a youth room, can become a sacristy, and now parish offices as well. I don’t know all the reasons why I was sent here, but God knows why I’m here, and why He brought you here today, and God knows what He has planned for each of us, and how we are to help one another to live as Christians, to live as followers of Jesus Christ.
The Catholic faith and the Christian life, when lived authentically, can never be boring. Our life of faith should be an adventure for each one of us. God is constantly stretching us, especially through our interactions with the people around us. God is constantly calling us out of own comfort zones, just as he called Amos to be a prophet in our first reading. If we’re really listening, God is calling each of us, and challenging each of us, and Jesus sends us out, even as He sent the Apostles, to proclaim the peace of His kingdom in our own day and age, in new and creative ways, in our words and in our actions, to everyone we meet in our day to day lives. This is the Christian vocation. This is the task of everyone who has been baptized into Christ. This is our task.
In my own journey, I’ve found that I can live in one of two ways. I can put myself at the center, and try to make myself the king of my own little world, and be constantly trying to direct everything and everyone to serve my own little needs. And it is during these times, when I serve myself, that life becomes boring and heavy, when I choose to live in my own little world. But if I choose to put Christ at the center and to serve Him, to die to myself and live for God, an unbelievably larger, more beautiful, and more exciting world opens up to me—God’s world—and I can stand in awe of how God directs everything according to His plan, and brings about things more wonderful and more beautiful than anything I could have asked or imagined according to my own small way of seeing things.
This choice, this decision to put myself or to put Christ at the center, has been the fundamental struggle for me in my own Christian life, and I am sure that it will continue to be my fundamental struggle in the priesthood. I’m glad that you’re here to remind me, and that I’m here to remind you, to keep Christ at the center, to see a bigger world, so that, together, we can live this adventure, which is our Catholic faith, and finally reach our goal of eternal life with God. Keep Jesus Christ at the center of everything you do, and you will truly live.