Hearers AND doers of the word: A homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

BibleI’ve been on a bible kick lately. I started a weekly bible study about scripture and the sacraments and we meet every Tuesday at 7:30. I’ve been teaching all the elementary school grades the New Testament song, so they know the order of the NT books now. I got Msgr. to allow me to use incense at the 6pm Mass so I can smoke the Gospel book. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the scriptures and their power.

Today’s readings tell us just how much power the bible has. In Deuteronomy we see Moses praising God for the commandments they’d been given and which still we possess in scripture. These commandments show us the way, and without them we’d be lost. Big time. James in the second reading tells us that we ought to welcome the scriptures, which have the power to save our souls. We read a lot of stuff—Men’s health, Oprah magazine, People, Cosmopolitan, the list goes on—we read a lot of stuff. But none of it has power to save our souls, except the Bible. James goes on to say that we are to be doers of the word and not just hearers of it. Jesus is on the same track in the Gospel: he quotes Isaiah and says that we’re in trouble if we just pay lip and ear service to the word of God. We have to live it. And when we live it…Holy Moses, it has some real power!

Here’s what I mean. There are 500,000 Habitat for Humanity houses standing now, all because one man read Matthew 25:35-40 (“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room…) and acted on it. About 500 of them are here in Indiana. There are 660 beds at St. Vincent hospital, a hospital that wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for one nun who happened one day to read Luke 10:9 and was convicted to act on it (Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.) Think of the millions and millions of people who have been healed and treated and served at SVs, all because one nun read a bible verse and did something about it.  Speaking of nuns, I wouldn’t be surprised if St. Theodore Guerin, whose nuns founded our school, likely felt a prompting to join the Sisters of Providence because of a bible verse. Our parish school might not exist were it not for that nun and her encounter with Scripture.

How about our own lives? I remember one night before going to the seminary I almost talked myself out of it. Then I opened the Bible, and it opened to that passage about how a lamp isn’t meant to be put under the bed. I realized that my vocation was not something to hide away and stick under the bed. There was another time. I knew I had to have an unpleasant encounter with someone. That day in the Liturgy of the Hours, the reading included the line from scripture, “Be a man.” And then there was the first time I remember reading a bible verse on my own. It was Luke 19:1-20, the story of Zaccheus.

So the challenge today is twofold. First, read the bible every day. If you don’t have time to do that you’re busier than God ever intended you to be. Read it every day. As Fr. Larry Richards say, “No bible no breakfast, no bible no bed.” Read it every day. Make a commitment. I don’t care if it’s a single verse. Just read it. It will change your heart, your life, and the world.

Second, today we have a real blessing. We have the annual ministry fair. We have 70 booths of ministries that happen at this parish. Each of them we could find a bible verse for. Each of our ministries is living out the Word of God in some way. Find a ministry to get involved with so that you can live out the word of God here in this parish.

On this day in 257, Pope Sixtus II began his reign as pope. He is the Sixtus whose name is listed in the Canon, which I will use at this Mass. He died preaching. On his tomb, you can still read the inscription. It starts: “At the time when the sword pierced the bowels of the Mother, I, buried here, taught as Pastor the Word of God.” Sixtus was an amazing man. He did a lot. But he is remembered most for his love of the Word of God. He knew that it has the power to save our souls, to change us, to change the world. He loved it enough to read it and to live it. May it be so for us.