Life: One Damn Thing After Another? | Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 4 February 2018
Basilica of St. Adalbert – Grand Rapids, MI
Jb 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39

I’m grateful to Father Dan for his invitation to preach this morning in your basilica.
I’m even more grateful to my friend Deacon Michael Steffes for turning down
Father Dan’s first invitation to preach.
My name is Deacon Ryan Adorjan, I am a transitional deacon
from the Diocese of Joliet-in-Illinois,
and a student with many of your seminarians at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.

During the summer between college seminary and theology,
many bishops send their seminarians to spend a summer in beautiful
Omaha, Nebraska at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University.
During the 10 weeks in Omaha,
seminarians learn and begin to implement a spirituality of the diocesan priesthood;
we’re not monks, after all, and can’t spend all day in prayer and study.
We’re not missionaries, either: always on the go, in foreign lands, enduring hardship and trial.
Your average, run-of-the-mill parish priest is, in many ways,
an embodiment of what St. John Paul II termed a life of “active contemplation.”
How do we as very busy people stay rooted and grounded in our relationship with God?
How do we guard our relationship with Jesus and remain always on the go?

One of the attitude we were warned against,
one that is a constant temptation in the at-times monotonous routine of daily life,
is the tendency to view life as
“one damn thing after another.”
Another day, another Mass, another anointing, another angry letter,
another pancake breakfast, another school visit, another funeral, another baptism.

For some of you, the “one damn thing after another” life looks different,
but can feel the same way.
Another lunch to pack, another deal to close, another carpool with my annoying coworker,
another broken copy machine, another leaky faucet, another silly soccer game,
another spring musical rehearsal going late while I wait in the parking lot.

It’s unlikely, of course, that the prophet Job
lived in Grand Rapids,
but hearing him in the first reading this morning makes it seem
like his life and our lives are not really that different:

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

Nice.

Now, look at Jesus.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”

After a day of ministry, curing the mother-in-law of Simon,

Jesus is at home and after sunset
“the whole town is gathered” at this door.
It never stops.

Jesus is up late doing his thing,
and then gets up “very early, before dawn,” to go pray,
also doing his thing.

He is active in his ministry, in the carrying out of his duty,
and he is committed to his prayer, also carrying out his duty.

When Jesus rises very early, his reaction is not
“great, awesome, another stupid day.”
If his motivation came only from himself,
if the greatest good in his life was only himself,
he may very well have had such an attitude.

But the greatest of good of Jesus was not Jesus,
but the will of the Father.
Even in the midst of his prayer,

“Simon and those who were with him pursued him

and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

It is always interesting to compare various translations of the Bible,
especially in regard to the way the translator presents very small details.
In the New American Bible, the translation of the lectionary,
“everyone” is one word.
In the Revised Standard Version, my preferred translation,
“every one” is two words.
Everyone is looking for you,
and
every one is looking for you.
Everyone, the whole population of the cosmos, is looking for Jesus,
the one who is the center, the origin and climax of all history.
But at the same time,
every one is looking for Jesus – I, Deacon Ryan, in all of my individuality and particularity, am looking for him.

Now, again, look at Jesus.

What’s his reaction?

“Jeezzzz, Simon, can’t you see I’m praying here?! *mumbles* One stupid thing after another.”

Nah.

He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
Everyone is looking for me? Then let’s go find them.
“For this purpose have I come.”

And this is the beautiful point: everything is God’s initiative!

At the beginning, long ago,
God, on his own initiative, broke his own silence, spoke into the void, and created.
We sense our own yearning for him, which does exist whether we sense it or not,
only because he has searched for us first.
We are looking for him only as a response
to his having been looking for us, his reaching out to us.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
that terribly large and boring and 100% necessary book,
we read in paragraph 2567:
God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face;
he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him;
yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter…
The faithful God’s initiative of love always comes first;
our own first step is always a response.

Our own first step is always a response!

This means that there is nothing outside the realm of Jesus.
He is always coming to us first,
seeking us first,
yearning for us first,
in our lives first.

And from this fact we learn the mantra of Jesus:
“Come to me anyway.”

But Jesus, what about my sins and failings and faults?
Come to me anyway.
But Jesus, what about my unworthiness, my doubts, my fears?
Come to me anyway.

Life with Jesus Christ, as his disciple,
is never “one damn thing after another”
because he is the one who makes all things new;
and if he is right in saying that the reason he has come
is to go always on to nearby villages,
where you and I live,
to seek us first,
to find us first,
to be with us first,
then life is always new, always fresh.

Does this mean it’s always easy? Always really fun? Always great?
Of course not.

Sometimes life is, objectively,
one damn thing after another,
as Job said.

Friends,

We’re Christians now.
We’re different now.
Life, even in the midst of its difficulties,
is not a drudgery,
a kind of living-death.

That is the philosophy of nearly every atheistic regime
from the beginning of time,
but it is not the philosophy of the People of God.

The salvation for which we hope has a name,
the redemption for which we long has a name,
and it is Jesus,
the one who comes to us first, who seeks us first,
and who does not hesitate to make himself known,
even in the little damn moments of life.

Yes, it’s true, everyone and every one is looking for him.
Yes, it’s true, he’s already here.