God is always renewing something: A homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

fallI am going to attempt to summarize the readings and a lot of what has happened in the past week with one theme: God is always renewing something.

The other day I was summoned to Franciscan Hospital around 3pm. After my visit, I had about 20 minutes so, as I often do when I am there, I took a stroll around the campus while praying a rosary. It was a happening place. I almost got run over three times. I got to thinking about what a massive place it is, and about my chaplain days at St. Vincent Hospital. Then I realized that I have never seen a Buddhist Hospital. I have never seen a Jehovah’s Witness Hospital or an Episcopalian Hospital or a Baptist hospital. I have seen a lot of Catholic hospitals. I think we Catholics get it, that we who follow God have to act on his word and keep it, as St. Paul says, “living and effective.” We often need physical renewal, God takes care of that through his Church.

I’ve been drinking lots of cider lately. I just love the fall. Turns out it’s not a great idea to drink a half gallon of cider in one sitting. It doesn’t end well. I also love breathing the Fall in—the air is so crisp and fresh, and there’s been this wonderful fall breeze, blowing the leaves around. It’s like God is renewing the world before our very eyes, giving us a new chapter. There’s a short poem by Humbert Wolfe: “Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” The Earth always needs to be renewed, and God takes care of that.

And the breeze comes into the church as well. Today is the feast day of John XXIII, who famously said that we have to open up the windows of the church to let in some fresh air. We celebrate his feast day today because he is the pope who convened Vatican II on this day in 1962. (BTW, he is the patron saint of Roncalli High School since his name at birth was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Today we pray for our high school—for the students, staff and faculty. And we pray in thanksgiving it is doing so nicely; the freshmen class this year is the biggest ever.) Lots of renewal came into the Church from that Council and we are the better for it. And now Pope Francis has called together a synod on the family, which is going on as we speak. We pray in thanksgiving for all the councils and synods God has summoned together, and for the popes who convened them. The Church is always in need of renewal, and God take care of that.

And it happened very locally this past week—renewal in the church, that is. First, Msgr. Mark called together several meetings at the rectory here at OLG last week, where it was clear people have many visions and hopes for OLG. We also celebrated our patronal feast day on October 7, the feast day of Mary Queen of the Rosary. We had a wonderful Mass; all the kids got blessed rosaries to carry with them wherever they go. I’m doing rosary checks constantly. And that evening, almost 100 young folks from our parish were confirmed by Archbishop Tobin. It was the perfect gift to our parish on its feast day. The Spirit came into them to the point of overflowing and will animate their “souls and spirits, joints and marrow,” as the second reading put it. Our parish is always in need of renewal, and God takes care of that.

Our relationships also need to be renewed—not just our friends and family, but all of humanity. Mother Teresa said that all problems in the world exist because we forget we belong to each other. A while back I heard a story of a man who was in a marketplace one day. He came upon a table with all kinds of gold set upon it. His eyes became very focused on the gold, and he became very hungry for it. “All the things I can do with that gold,” he thought to himself. So he went over and he snatched it all up. Now there were people everywhere, so he was caught immediately. Someone asked him: “With all these people—how did you think you could get away with it?” He replied: “When I saw the gold, I didn’t see the people.” If we want to renew our relationships, we have to get rid of our riches, our storehouses of junk. And we must renew our relationships—our immediate family ones and beyond, even to Africa. Jesus tells the disciples TWICE in the Gospel that it is HARD to get into heaven for those who are rich. Newsflash: we’re all rich here. And our riches, our closets full of junk, our extra houses and cars—all of that can easily blind us to the demands of charity, the demands of LOVE. They blind us just as the man in the marketplace was blinded by the gold. Pope Francis said this: “The emptier the person’s heart is, the more he or she needs to buy, own, and consume.” Better to fill our hearts with good relationships than our bank accounts or closets.

Most of all, our relationship with God needs to be renewed—and it happens best by prayer, confession, and Eucharist. I will leave you with three examples of how this can happen. On Wednesday, a group of girls in fourth grade prayed the rosary at recess instead of playing. It was their id
ea. The 8th graders decided on their own to attend 7:30am Mass on Friday before school. And a bunch of second graders went on about how excited they are for communion. No wonder God tells us all to be like the younger folks. They get it that renewing our relationship with God is possible and important!

What needs to be renewed in your life? Maybe you need physical renewal. Maybe you could benefit from a walk in the fall wonderland before it becomes a winter wonderland. Maybe you need to help this parish be renewed by taking part in a new ministry. Maybe your relationships could stand a new spark. Maybe your prayer life is a bit stale and needs a makeup, or maybe it’s been too long since your last confession. Maybe it’s something I’ve not mentioned. Whatever it is, I pray this: don’t leave this church today until you have figured out what needs to be renewed in your life, and how you’re going to let God do it—whether it’s by letting God renew you with scripture, a sacrament, prayer time, a nice meal, a party, a holy hour in the adoration chapel, whatever it might be. What needs to be renewed in your life? And how are you going to let God do it?