How stiff is your neck? A homily for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

64a8a94ebc7e806503ff1c119d9330e6-427x640x1First, we remember today the tragedy of Sept 11, 2001.   Let us take a moment of silence to remember those who died and their families, and to pray for peace.

The term “stiff-necked” emerges many times in the Holy Scriptures.  I did a search and found 40 places in the bible.  Could be more.  But we see this term in our first reading.  God is mad at the Israelites.  He had saved them from slavery in Egypt, and yet here they are building a false god and worshiping it.  The problem, God says, is that their necks are stiff.

“Stiff necks.” It is an interesting term. The neck, of course, is the part of the human that connects the head to the rest of the body.  When your brain sends a signal to your arm that it needs to go up into the air, for example, that signal goes through the neck.  When your brain tells your legs to run, that signal likewise goes through your neck.  When your brain sends a message to the heart to love someone (love is before all else a decision), that signal must also go through the neck.

We are stiff-necked when we don’t let the signals go through.

You see, I think many of us have stiff necks.  A lot of times we know what is right in our heads but the signal–which goes through the neck–is cut off.  Examples:

  • I know I need to start reading the bible, but I don’t see the time
  • I know I need to volunteer more and pray more, but I just don’t think I cna now
  • I know I should be better to my wife, but…
  • I know I need to stop cheating on my schoolwork, but..
  • I know I need to move into a nursing home, but..
  • I know I need to go to confession, but…
  • I know I should call my sister I’ve not spoken to in years, but….
  • I know I should be donating some money, but….
  • I know I need to start exercising and eating better, but…
  • I know I need to tell this or that person that I love them, but…
  • I know I shouldn’t go to this or that internet site, but….
  • I know I need to be less angry and upset with my kids, but…

For the Israelites, they KNEW–beyond all doubt–that God had saved them from slavery.  They knew this in their heads, but the temptation to idolatry was strong. The signal was cut off, and the rest of their bodies worshiped the idols.

I want to ask: how stiff is your neck?  How many things are there in your life, where you know THIS is the right thing to do, but you aren’t doing it?  How big is the disconnect between what you know what you be doing and what you are doing?

Today we ask God to loosen our necks.