A HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “A” – 9/3/17 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonum! Peace and goodness to you this day!
A few years ago, I had the honor of being at the hospital after my Godson was born. In fact, I was visiting with his parents and holding him, when this nurse came in, to give his parents their final instructions on taking their new son home. They were going to be leaving the hospital in the just about an hour or so. And so I asked if they wanted me to leave when this was going on. And his parents invited me to stay, and listen, they thought it might be good for a priest to hear this. What happened next, amazed me. The nurse ran through like ninety do’s and don’ts, of how to take care of your new baby. All in about fifteen minutes. There were several, pretty innocent, common sense things like use baby shampoo, and watch out for diaper rash, and keep his nails clipped so that he doesn’t scratch himself. And then there were several much, more serious warnings about leaving him alone during a bath, or about the dangers of really hot water, or all the potential choking hazards that they had to watch out for, which included just about everything smaller than a baseball! But the one that got me most, was don’t sleep next to your newborn child, in the same bed. You might roll over on top of them! I couldn’t believe this list! And you know, if it’s on the list, then somebody, somewhere, must have done that to their newborn. As she ran down through the list, I heard the nurse say, at least seven times, that this might caught death. Death! I was like, whooooh! Let’s slow down here! Tell me again, what was that, that might cause death? Could you put that in writing? I had to ask, are we going to get a copy of these instructions before we leave? Nope. We didn’t. The nurse walked out of the room and she said “Good luck!”. I was shocked and terrified! When I bought my car, they gave me better and more detailed instructions than that! And they put it the instructions in writing! If I were the parent, I wouldn’t have been able to leave that hospital. This is why priests don’t have kids. I had to ask myself, why would ANYONE have kids if it is this dangerous? And then I remembered I was holding my new Godson.
Our Gospel today reminds me a lot of that experience in the hospital that day. Jesus speaks very clearly that if we are going to be His disciples, we are each to pick up our crosses and follow Him. Jesus is being very honest with us here. He’s not sugar-coating anything. We’re getting the full story of the Christian life right here. And yes, just like the nurse in the hospital, we know that sometimes, the crosses that Jesus is talking about may cause death, of those we love, and even of ourselves. And again, we want to ask, then who is going to want to be a follower of Christ? Is this really the best advertising that we have to get people to be Christians? Really? Most people want to run the other way from crosses. And Jesus is promising crosses to all those who follow Him? What does this mean? In many ways this is worse than the nurse in the hospital!
Well, for our answer, I want to go back to our first reading today, from Jeremiah. Jeremiah is not a happy camper today. He didn’t want to be a prophet. And his very worst fears about being a prophet are all coming true. And so he says, “You duped me, O Lord.” Jeremiah’s words are powerful and poignant! Jeremiah is in midst of his own cross! But Jeremiah’s words aren’t words of surrender or defeat, but an honest expression of the struggles and personal price that he has paid for speaking the word of the Lord. And although Jeremiah’s words make it clear that he is not having a good time, they also make clear that he is also experiencing inexplicable joy as a result of being faithful to God’s plan for his life. Jeremiah writes, “I say to myself, I will not mention him, meaning God, I will speak His name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” Jeremiah must bear his suffering. His love for God compels him to do so!
Why do we pick up our crosses and follow Jesus? We do so because He is the way, the truth, and the life. We do so, because our love compels us to follow this Jesus to real happiness, to real peace, and to real life. Picking up our crosses and following Jesus isn’t an option for us. It’s what we must do to inherit everlasting life! We are all so close to the Kingdom of Heaven that Christ has won for us! Jesus has done all that He can to get us there. Now it is up to us to persevere, to love, to serve, to hope, to have faith, and to pick up our own crosses and follow Jesus home. A little suffering is nothing compared to the inexplicable joy that God has in store for us.
Jesus is being very honest with us today. He is giving us the whole truth. He’s holding nothing back. It can be a little overwhelming. Just like a nurse telling you that you can kill your baby. And yet knowing the truth, we know how to get to Heaven. It is not always going to be easy, but it is going to get us home to God, where we most want to be!
+ May God bless us this day, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!