Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 8C
I think we all know a few people whom we might describe as not having any filter between what they think and what ends up coming out of their mouths. Maybe that’s even how people would describe you. It can be helpful at times. You never really have to ask their opinion on things, because they’re always just about to tell you. Other times, all we can do is sort of cringe in anticipation of what we know is going to be awkward. “From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” What we say and how we say it can reveal a lot about us. Other times, it can be misunderstood or not come out quite right. Even if we’re usually careful about our choice of words and tone of voice, there are times for all of us when we say something, and then almost immediately regret it. Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as saying, “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”
On the other hand, hopefully all of us have experienced the great power for good that words can have upon us and those around us, affirmations, encouragement, even things that we continue to remember years later. As I was growing up, I remember having to pile into the car with my brothers and sisters. Because I was the youngest, I would often have to sit between my mom and dad in the front seat. Towards the end of one trip, someone was asking what time we would be getting home. When they heard it would be around 10 pm, they started to complain about how late that would be. So I piped up and said, “Well, at least it won’t be 11 o’clock.” And I’ll always remember my dad then saying to me, “You know, that’s what I like about you. You’ve got a positive attitude.” Now you’re all left wondering what happened to me since then to make me so negative. But there’s no denying that words can have a lasting impact, for good or for ill.
Hopefully, there are also words that our heavenly Father speaks to us that we have really taken to heart, that we remember and can recall for encouragement, consolation, even to stir up sorrow and repentance from our sins. We should have a sense that the words of Sacred Scripture are words that God is personally speaking to each one of us. We’re all familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, how the Father welcomes him back and throws a feast, but actually the words that the Father speaks to the elder son are what stuck out to me during one retreat, and I continue to think of those words often. When the elder son refused to enter into the feast, the Father also comes out to him, and he says, “Son, you are here with me always. Everything I have is yours.” Do I really believe that God says that to me? “You are here with me always. Everything I have is yours.” Jesus is speaking to you and to me when He says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. And you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Do we believe that?
The truth is that most of the time, we would rather not take God at His word. We’d rather not believe that sin is as damaging and as unsatisfying as God warns us it is. For many of us who find ourselves too busy to pray, we’d rather not believe that prayer is all that it is cracked up to be, and that we are so often missing out on the greatest opportunity that this life on earth has to offer. When we so often ignore and rebel against God, we’d rather not believe that living in the presence of God and in communion with His will for us is actually as great and as satisfying as God promises it is.
If anyone here suffers from FOMO, the “fear of missing out,” we know there are things we tell ourselves to help us cope with missing out on something good. “Well, I’m sure that party was lame anyway. I really never wanted to go. Would have been too loud. And I bet the food wasn’t very good, either.” We do the same even more so when it comes to our spiritual lives or our lack of a spiritual life. We tell ourselves, “A life lived for God can’t really be as good as Jesus says. The Resurrection and heavenly glory can’t really be worth all the sufferings that the Saints endured, the Cross that Jesus freely accepted,” because if it is, if what God keeps saying to us actually turns out to be true, then the way I’m living my life needs to change. If I’m living as if sin is no big deal, but it really is, that’s not a comfortable position to be in. If I’m living as if suffering is the worst evil that should be avoided at all cost, but it really isn’t, then my whole approach to life needs to change, and that’s not easy.
God speaks His heart to us. Out of His great love and concern, He continues to tell us the truth, through the words of Sacred Scripture and through the teachings of the Catholic Church. But we don’t really want to believe it, because we don’t want to have to live it. The season of Lent begins this Wednesday, another opportunity for us to take God at His word, to really believe Him, and to even make changes to the way we’re living to reflect the Truth of what God says to us. It can be a transformative experience, or it can be another missed opportunity. The choice is ours. Let’s make it a good one.