Monday, September 1, 2014

Find your deepest meaning in the cross

          Happy Labor Day to all!  Although there are nearly no schools that wait to start their year until after Labor Day, it still marks the end of the summer "vacation season" for most everybody.  For me, Labor Day is a clear marker for the end of summer.  Last Saturday I witnessed my seventh (and last) marriage of the summer "wedding season".  I'm looking forward to some Saturday afternoons off!  God's blessings are truly abundant, however.  And in a culture that tells us that marriage is "optional", to have seven weddings this summer is almost a miracle.  Please pray for more happy and holy marriages!

OK.  Vacation's over.  Get back to work!


Homily: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
         It was spring in the year 2000 and I was on the cusp of completing my Senior Thesis project after which I would be eligible to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  I was excited about the prospect of graduating and finally being able to pursue a career working for one of the “Big Three” automakers, eventually working my way into their design studios.  In anticipation of my graduation, I participated in a job fair in Detroit in which I submitted my resume to each of the Big Three companies as well as to many of their major suppliers.  “If I could just get my foot in the door in Detroit, I’d be well on my way”, I thought.
         In June of that year I received my degree.  A couple of months afterward, I received a call from Delphi Corporation, a supplier of various components and systems for cars that used to be a part of General Motors itself.  Delphi had a position that they wanted to interview me for and, having not heard from any of the other companies I submitted resumes to, I quickly jumped on the opportunity.  “We’ll make all of the arrangements and send you the itinerary”, they said.  When I received it, I distinctly remember the surprise and confusion I felt when my flight wouldn’t take me to Detroit, but rather to Indianapolis.  “Perhaps they have a human resource center in Indiana where they conduct their interviews”, I reasoned, and left it at that.
         After arriving in Indianapolis my surprise and confusion only grew when, after driving north out of Carmel, I started to realize that even what I had reasoned to be true about the purpose for sending me to Indiana and not to Detroit probably wasn’t true.  When I arrived in Kokomo, my excitement about this potential opportunity had all but disappeared.
         The next day, after the interview—and after I realized that it had been for a job in Kokomo and not in the Detroit area—I felt like I had been duped.  Delphi did soon offer me the job and, having no other offers on the table (and it was a good offer), I hesitatingly took it and prepared to move myself to Indiana, hoping optimistically that I could eventually transfer to a job in Detroit.
         In our first reading, we heard the prophet Jeremiah lamenting the fact that he had allowed himself to be duped by God.  Very young when God first called him, Jeremiah tried to convince God to pick somebody else.  God, however, insisted on promises that he would be with him to deliver him from whoever would oppose him.  Jeremiah, however, wasn’t feeling the love.  Every time that he prophesied in the Lord’s name he was compelled to speak of God’s outrage at his chosen people for having disobeyed him for so long and of the violence that would come upon them if they didn’t change their ways.  Because of the seeming absurdity of his message—and, perhaps, because of his young age—Jeremiah was roundly mocked, derided, and at times assaulted for speaking such things.  Thus, he felt like God had tricked him into doing this with false promises of security and we hear him today “kicking himself” for allowing himself to be tricked.
         In our Gospel reading, Peter seems to be feeling like he had been duped also.  After having responded to divine inspiration to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ of God, and after having received such a glowing approval from Jesus (which we heard last week: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah…), Peter is now confronted by Jesus’ proclamation that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed by the elders and to be raised on the third day.  Perhaps we could understand Peter’s strong reaction: “What?  No way will we ever let that happen to you!”  Peter was confident that he had found the Christ and the Christ that he was waiting for would be an all-conquering king.  Thus, he felt like he had been duped when Christ revealed that his grim fate would be to suffer and to be killed at the hands of the elders.
         Jesus, however, took this opportunity to teach his disciples an important lesson.  Discipleship would not lead one into honor and prestige in this world; rather it would lead to shame: the greatest shame known to man at the time, that of being crucified.  The shame would only be an earthly shame, however, for having lost their lives for his sake in this world, they would in turn find the eternal life that salvation would bring them.  And, as we would see years on from this event, Peter would eventually find the deepest meaning of his life in the cross that he had been “duped” to carry.
         Jeremiah, too, would find the deepest meaning in his life by carrying the cross that he felt he had been “duped” to carry.  For when he says that he tried to keep himself from speaking the Lord’s words, those words would become like a fire burning within his heart that he could not contain, that he could not endure; as if trying to contain them was something unnatural to him, while their spilling forth from him brought relief, even as it brought forth the cross of ridicule and derision.
         Not long after moving here to Indiana, I was certain that I had been duped and I started looking for a job so that I could move back.  I strove with no success, however, but found that when I accepted what I felt I had been duped to accept and decided to settle here in Indiana that God revealed the deepest meaning of my life to me—that is, that he had called me to be a priest in this very same place—and so here I am today.
         My brothers and sisters, our lives are full of times when we feel like we’ve been duped by someone into accepting something that turned out to be a much more difficult or unsatisfying experience than what that person promised it would be.  Perhaps, like the prophet Jeremiah, we even feel like God has been that other person.  Nevertheless, if we take some time to look deeper at the situation, perhaps we will see how God is revealing to us the deepest meaning of our lives; that is, how through the cross he has “duped” us to carry he is preparing us to live in the Father’s glory when Christ returns.
         This truth is never more evident than here in the Eucharist.  For through the cross that Jesus was compelled to bear came the fount of everlasting life: the sacrifice of his Body and Blood that we re-present here on this altar and the grace of redemption that we receive when we consume it.  And so, my brothers and sisters, let us boldly take up whatever cross we may have been “duped” to carry because we are disciples of Christ: for there we will find Jesus, carrying the cross with us and leading us to our everlasting reward.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN - August 31st, 2014

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