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12 September 2013

Not Smart, But Foolish: Thursday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

This morning I had the privilege of assisting as Deacon for CatholicTV's live 9:30 am mass.  Video to come.

In the meantime, the text of my homily:

When I would fight with my younger brothers, my grandmother would often take me aside and say gently, “Remember, Matt, the smart one gives in.” 

My grandmother, you see, possessed this great insight into what it means to be Christian: she knew that to be a follower of Jesus, one didn't need to win, or succeed, but only to be faithful to his message.  She didn't get this way by accident, of course: each morning she’d troop up the Highland Avenue hill to our local parish in New Jersey, Our Lady of the Assumption.  And, on those days when snow, or rain, or arthritis kept her at home, she would tune in to watch mass on television, joining her prayers with her Catholic family throughout the world.

And while I end up at church every day – I am a friar, after all! – I still struggle to let her Gospel-based wisdom shape my life. Indeed, for all of us, sometimes it isn’t easy to remember the very basic ways of living the Gospel life. Even though today’s Gospel may sound very familiar to us, it’s still good to hear: it’s a way to be reminded once again that as Catholics we are called to something better: we are called to a life in which we follow Jesus and, eventually, into a life where we are with Him forever. 

Even though we’ve heard it all before, it’s good to hear the description that Jesus of what it is like to be a disciple.  We are called to:
-          Love our enemies
-          Do good to those who hate us
-          Pray for those who hate us
-          And, even give to those who have already taken too much from us.

Thinking about this description reminds me of my grandmother again: she wasn’t rich woman, but she did raise a family of five and left a legacy of faith that everyone in her home parish still talks about years later. 

No one, however, ever talked about her money or her knowledge.  In fact, in the eyes of the world, such a life may look rather foolish.  And the same can be said for us.  But, the only way that we will be able to spread the Good News is to be foolish.  In the way we act, we are able to give those we meet an insight into what makes us tick, what makes “us” us as Christians.  Think about it: even the smallest efforts that we make, a cup of water to a maintenance man in our apartment, a pleasant word to a customer service representative, have the ability to attract people back to the Lord.

When Jesus describes how a follower acts, he is describing for us a life that will both attract people and also make them question: they will wonder, are these Christians that good? Do they really love their enemies; do they really pray for those who hate them?  Each of us possesses the ability to make this come alive for those we meet.

There are many people in our world whose only opportunity to experience God is through their meeting of Christians: if aren’t Christ for others, then who will be? 

Let us remember that our forgiveness and charity is first of all about God and then about our neighbor.  And then we’ll not only be the smart ones, as my grandmother would say, but the Christian ones too.


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