Following is my homily from this past weekend. I pray that it reaches you in some way.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 18, 2019 – Cycle C
Jer. 38:4-6, 8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53
It’s August 18 but I am going to ask you to think about Christmas right now. Think of the angels singing to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.” Think of Handel’s Messiah and those glorious words; “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Now fast forward to today’s Gospel with Jesus’ words; “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division, so that even families will be divided among themselves.” Strange words from the Prince of Peace but then if we think back in John’s Gospel, on the night before he died, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. Yes, this Spirit of truth whom, alas, the world cannot receive.”
The key word in all of that is “truth.” Jesus would nevertheless speak truth to us because peace cannot be built on a lie, and His Spirit would remind us of that. But, because it is the truth, therein lies the problem.
Does anyone recall the famous lines from the movie, “A Few Good Men”? Tom Cruise says “I want the truth” and Jack Nicholson replies, “You can’t handle the truth.” Those words ring true today just as they did back when Jesus was trying to share that reality with us. We say we want the truth but in reality, we cringe when we hear it and even worse, we often toss the one who speaks the truth into the cistern, just as Jeremiah was in today’s first reading and like Jesus, as he was sent off to die on Calvary.
Just as we found with Jesus, being a truth-teller always comes with a price because it means we may have to go outside of our comfort zone. We may have to go outside of the norm and not stand with what today’s society tells us is right and just (or should be right and just). We may cause that divide between family and friends because we are proclaiming what we know is the truth yet no one else is standing by our side. Jesus did not make easy decisions, nor did he avoid conflict. If Jesus can do so, and we are to be Christ-like in all that we do, then why can’t we? Yes, it can sometimes be a lonely existence being a disciple of Jesus, but I personally would not have it any other way.
Nothing is more important than our friendship with Christ and to bring others to the reality, the truth, that He is the only way. Why is that?
The Catechism of our Church teaches us that “we were created to live in communion with God, in whom we find happiness.” In other words, we simply cannot find the fulfillment we seek in life, except through living in communion with God.
But how do we do that?
Many people think that if what they are doing does not have a large impact or the message they are sharing falls on deaf ears, it is not worth doing. I would disagree with that and say that it is worth doing, even if you do not see the results.
My wife and I taught Confirmation students for many years. The one idea that we tried to forge in their hearts and in their minds was to do something and not just sit idly by. Open a door for someone. Help an elderly person across the street. Be an open ear to someone who was having a bad day. In many of these situations, you may never see the person you helped again but that should not matter. What you did may change that person’s life forever. It may have turned that day for them into a new beginning. One that includes the power of Jesus Christ because in you, they see Him. Setting the world on fire can occur in simple ways IF we are willing to stand with the truth.
Allow me to expand upon that with a story.
There was a man walking on a beach when he encountered thousands of starfish awash on the sand. A little further on, he saw a young boy picking up the starfish, one by one, and placing them back into the water. He was struck by the fact that what the boy was doing was useless as he will never be able to save all these starfish. As the man neared the boy he said, “can’t you see there are thousands of starfish dying here and you are slowly returning them to the water? What difference do you think you are making?”
The boy continued to rescue each starfish and as he picked one up and placed it back in the water, he turned to the man and said, “I’ll bet it made a difference to that one.”
Christ calls us to change the world, to set it on fire with His love. Each person can share in that, no matter how small the action seems to be or how hard it may seem to do. No matter how others may judge you, put you down, scoff at you, we should live for the truth. For by the beauty of your actions, great or small, you can help to heal those divides and bring others closer to Christ.
I ask each one of us present here today; “Do you want the truth?” Can you handle the truth?” When we speak and accept what we know is the truth, we are called to become martyrs with Jesus Christ, to become a witness for Him and the truth that He provides to each one of us, if we choose to open our hearts to Him. Just as Jesus’ message sometimes divided one another, He also brought people back together, because of that same message. Sometimes we too must break apart before we can build back up. We must put aside our egos, our frailties, our humility, our insecurities and be what God is calling us to be; His good and faithful servants.
Following Jesus can be difficult at times and it may mean enduring persecutions and hatred. He knows that, but He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us, to protect us, to strengthen us, and to love us.
As we prepare ourselves to receive the gift of His precious Body and Blood today, let us recommit ourselves to be His servants, to be His hands and feet in a world in desperate need of His love. To bring those who have fallen away, who do not believe, who are lost and frightened, back into His loving embrace. For it is through the truth, His truth, that you and I will truly be set free.