Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2017 – St. Mary Immaculate Parish
The Gospel today is one of the passages that is full of paradoxes,
including what seems to have become the chief paradox of the Christian life,
namely that bizarre statement from Jesus
that “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Right before it, Jesus places himself as a means of division in the most sacred social unit, the family: “whoever loves father or mother more than me…”
and “whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
This is an echo to a statement elsewhere in the gospel when Jesus says,
“I have not come to bring peace but division.”
All these statements seem to contradict everything that we believe.
Aren’t we told to honor our mother and father?
Isn’t the post-resurrection mantra of Jesus, over and over, “peace be with you”?
Many times, we encounter these statements
and perhaps try to figure them out but then give up
because, by themselves, they make no sense.
What does it mean to say that I’ll only find my life by losing it?
Is Jesus really serious that I must love him more than I love even those in my family?
Christianity is hard.
It’s hard to study, and to think about and to understand on an intellectual level.
It’s even harder to put it into practice in daily life.
I’m sorry to say, and I really hope this is okay for me to say,
but frankly…if Christianity is easy for you, you’re doing it wrong.
For so long, we’ve been taught to incorporate ChristianityLite.
We have come to prefer what C.S. Lewis calls, “Christianity-and-water.”
Watery Christianity which is easier to swallow.
Jesus has become for us, in our teaching and in our culture,
merely a social worker;
a therapist who exists to make me happy;
a vending machine of grace who exists to give me what I want and to make me feel good.
Is it any wonder that the world at large no longer takes him, or us, seriously?
Is it any wonder that the way of life we are being asked to live
by this Church which Jesus founded
is unimportant to us?
Is it any wonder that,
for so many people in our lives and at certain times even for ourselves,
the life of grace has taken second or third or twentieth place
to the other desires and tasks of life?
Jesus is not a social worker,
and we are not activists in love with his cause.
We are Christians, and we are in love with the Christ.
The Christ, the anointed one, the savior and king of nations; Jesus, the Son of God, who is the most intimate companion of our hearts.
Whoever loves father or mother or sister or brother
or sports or work or cars or the Cubs or Chili’s or whatever
more than him is not worthy of him
because what he is asking of us is not of the worldly order.
To love worldly things more than him is to replace God with the things God has created.
It’s the same as loving the potholder that little Jimmy made for you for Mother’s Day
more than you love Jimmy himself.
We usurp God in this way, and put worthless things in his place.
Up and down the centuries,
the great writers and thinkers and spiritual guides have returned us to this place,
and reminded us of the basic reality of following Jesus:
whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses it for my sake will find it.
Jesus tells each one of us, not just as some collective whole,
but as individual people to “take up his cross.”
Very often I am tempted to look at the suffering in my own life and say,
“aha! See, this here is my cross. And I will just offer it up and get through it.
And then I’ll have a better shot of getting to heaven.”
By encouraging his disciples to take up their crosses daily,
he is not suggesting that somehow their individual crosses
are removed from the one Cross of Christ.
One commentary on this Gospel writes,
“The Lord Jesus…has been striving to detach the disciples
from every private path, project, relationship, and desire of their own
in order to bring them to participate fully and actively
in the only life and destiny that matter – his own.”
Brothers and sisters, one day – hopefully long from now – all of this will be gone.
Father and mothers and sisters and lands will pass away
and we will be left there alone to pass through the gauntlet of death.
My salvation is my salvation and
my relationship with Christ is my relationship with Christ.
Salvation is not something that happens a long time from now to someone else far away from me.
I, Ryan Adorjan, will be held accountable for the things that I, Ryan Adorjan, have done or not done.
If I don’t want to experience salvation;
if I don’t want to have every desire of my heart and life satisfied perfectly forever;
if I don’t want to fall on my face around the throne of God and worship him into eternity….
I don’t have to.
I’m free. I have free will.
We are called to love Christ, more than anything else.
But the difficulty and bliss of love is that love can never be forced.
If love is forced, it isn’t love at all.
What would salvation be if were not free?
Imagine, a heaven full of slaves.
God surrounding himself with men and women of every time and age
who worship him because they must;
he is their master, and controls their every move.
This is totally contrary to everything we know and believe about God.
Charles Peguy writes,
“But in [man], God says, I have willed better, I willed more.
Infinitely better, infinitely more.
For I have willed this freedom, I have created this very freedom.
Having once known what it is to be loved by free men,
the prostrations of slaves no longer mean anything to you.
The freedom of man is certainly my greatest invention.”
We’ve all experienced this when the one whom we love makes an act of love in return.
When our spouse or child quells that little fear when they reply with sincerity,
“I love you, too.”
And they’re not saying it because you’re paying them or holding them hostage,
but because they are free;
they are freely choosing to love you as you.
In our freedom, we are certainly well within our rights
to love fathers and mothers and children and lands
more than we love Jesus,
more than we love the Cross.
“Christianity is no longer in vogue;
it is no longer something that can be transmitted by habit or social custom.
For many people around us,
faith is ‘old stuff’ to be discarded without even taking it into consideration.
This can have the effect of making us downcast,
or it can throw us into the adventure,
exalting even more what has been true since the origin of Christianity:
Christ proposes himself to the freedom of the human person.” (Fr. Julian Carron)
As a remedy to the difficulties of life,
mother and fathers and sisters and lands propose for our free choosing
doctors and medications and fast food and beer and drugs.
Christ proposes himself.
And this proposition, not of a solution but of a person
who offers much more than a “fix”,
who offers true, new, free life
is part of a beautiful mystery.
And “Life is beautiful because every day there’s an opportunity for a relationship with the Mystery….
I need to hear again One who calls me by name,
to know that what He has begun with me will never end.” (Fr. Julian Carron)
So how can we combat this attitude of slavery?
How do we recover from indoctrination into “Christianity-and-water”?
We start by responding to the invitations of Jesus and the Church
with something besides “mechanical adherence.”
I’m at Mass because it’s what we do…
we’ve done it forever and it’s Sunday and this is what we do.
“What do you get out of it?”
So what are the mothers and fathers and sisters you’ve brought in here today?
“I hope Mass isn’t too long, because I still have move mulch in my yard and it’s gonna be hot today.”
“I’d rather be fishing.”
“Watching federal agencies clean up crude oil in Riverview park sounds fascinating…”
Brothers and sisters, let yourself be here right now.
Let this time be your moment of rest,
and open yourself to him and to those prophets and little ones he sends to you.
Stop worrying about all that you are responsible for doing today and tomorrow;
stop fretting the things of yesterday;
this is your moment in the story of your salvation.
Jesus is coming to you and is proposing himself to you.
When we stand in a few moments to recite the creed,
commit yourself to actually saying it,
to praying it.
Make the promise to yourself that the mechanics end here.
Give the real you, the living you an honest and fair chance to have a break,
to be open and at rest.
And to receive, in your heart and in the flesh,
the one who says relentlessly,
“I love you. Take up your cross,
and follow me.”