Cardinal Newman once said that we should “dare to see things as they are.” That is what makes a true Christian. A true Christian can see things as they are. We are meant to see the value, the beauty, the greatness of things, of people. That is what it means to have eyes of the Lord. We see an example of this in our first reading. Samuel is sent from the Lord to find the son of Jesse that the Lord willed to be the next king. All the sons line up, all except one. Samuel eventually says, “Is this all your sons?” To which Jesse replies, “Well, there’s David, too, but he’s the youngest and weakest you don’t want him…he’s in the field.” But God did want David. The Lord says in the first reading, “Do not judge from his appearance…..Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
To be a true Christian is to see below the surface of things, as the Lord did with David. The world sees a piece of bread; the Catholic sees the body and blood of Jesus. The world sees “just a beggar” (like in our gospel); the Catholic sees a son of God, made in his image. The world sees a tissue; we see a life. The world sees an alien and accounts him no value or dignity or hospitality; we see a brother and give him a home. The world sees the church as an institution; we see the church as the living body of Christ. We must have eyes of faith!! This is what it means to have a Catholic worldview–to see things are they really are.
Today’s readings give us a beautiful image of the Holy Church. The Church is like a rock, with living waters flowing out of it. Some scripture scholars–and I’m right with them–say that the rock in the desert that Moses struck is a foreshadowing of the Church. Jesus himself makes this identification between the Church and the image of the rock. We see it in other places in the scriptures, too.
Just as water gushed out the side of Our Lord in the Cross, flowing from the Body of Christ the Church are unending waters that nourish the world, waters that heal, waters of wisdom and sound doctrine, waters that purify and refresh, waters that give and sustain life–even eternal life. Often the rock of the Church is planted in a desert, in a mission field, and then it generates life and faith there. Greenwood was once such a desert; then OLG came, and people came here echoing the words of the Gospel: “Give me a drink.” The world is thirsty indeed. We outgrew our church in just a few years.
I hope the video you have just watched helped you to see some of the many ways that waters flow out of the side of this parish. If the whole Church is a rock, then this parish–it’s just a small pebble–but wow, we do a lot!! And you and I get to be a part of it. That is a high honor, and one we should remember as we make our annual pledges now. With every dollar we give, with every hour of service or ministry, with every talent given back to God–we stand with Moses and strike the side of the rock. Let the waters flow.
I will post the video when it is posted on YouTube.
I have to tell you that it’s been a long week. I was out late on Friday, then got called to the hospital int he night. Of course yesterday was an early day; had a running event on the east side in the morning, then over 100 kids were here on retreat preparing for their first communion. I finished with that around 12:30, then had a party, then a marriage prep. Then I looked at the clock: 3:45pm, less than an hour before confessions and Mass. Plenty of time to write a homily. OK, thought I, I will be able to concentrate better in the rectory. So I went to the house. Then I took a nap. Woke up from the nap. 4:10. Still 20 minutes to write a sermon. So I made a sandwich. Then God gave me the topic of my sermon. Mayonnaise.
Today’s readings offer us a glimpse at how the Devil likes to work. We see, if you will, a pattern he likes to follow. We see his modus operandi. I want to look at the Devil’s actions, his strategy in our Gospel today.
First, the Devil tempts Jesus. Now Jesus had been “led by the Spirit into the desert.” This is when the Devil likes to attack: when we are in the desert. Lent is a desert for us, a time of silence and simplicity. The desert is a symbol of one’s getting closer to the Lord. They warned us in seminary that the Devil works harder the closer one gets to ordination. The devil does not want another priest. This is true for everyone who seeks God. The closer we get, the more the Devil wants to stop us. He does not want stronger Christians. And so there is dryness, temptation, difficulty in prayer, in life. There, in the midst of our desert, in the midst of our coming closer to Jesus, is the Devil. First, he tempts us from afar–with a distant idea, or a small wondering, a whisper in the ear (“No need to pray tonight”; “Skip Mass just this once”; “Go ahead, say that thing you shouldn’t” etc). Then….
Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday. We will receive two things at this Mass: the ashes and the Eucharist. First, the ashes. One thing that the ashes remind us of is that without God, we are a pile of dust. Remember how he made Adam? He breathed into the dirt, and boom, there was man. We are simply a pile of dirt without the Lord who breathes into us life. Now the second “thing” we receive at this and every Mass is far more important than a pile of dirt (it saddens me so many are so much more excited to receive dirt on their heads than Jesus within their bodies and souls) is the Eucharist. The Eucharist, it reminds us that, with God, we are holy, we are Jesus! We who receive the Eucharist are divinized, we become Jesus! Jesus lives his life within we who receive him in the Sacrament! The school is focusing these days on “Becoming What You Receive.” When we receive the Eucharist, we become Jesus, we become the one we receive. We have a lot of ways of remaining what we receive–Jesus names them in our Gospel: pray, fast, give. Let us do that and do it generously this Lent.
Today’s Gospel contains my favorite scripture verse, Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be given you besides.” I suppose I like this line, this promise of Jesus so much, because it delivers to us a beautiful promise straight from the lips of the Lord. He says that as long as we follow after God, as long as we seek him with a sincere heart and with all we’ve got, everything takes care of itself. We have a temptation to want to always take care of things ourselves and then, if there’s time, follow God. We get it backwards. This line reminds us Jesus is our Shepherd and we don’t have to worry. We just need to follow, to seek after him. He’ll cover the rest.
Among my happy memories from the playground at St. Charles School during my elementary school days is foursquare. We had a lot of fun with foursquare, and sometimes you’d wait all recess in line it was so popular. There was one guy though, who will remain unnamed here. He was a friend of mine. Well, he was a friend before foursquare. He was infamous for making his own rules when he got to the king spot. All of the sudden, every rule you knew about foursquare was out the window. He would tell, “Cherry bomb” or “Around the World” or “Corners” or “Penguins” and a host of other things. Those were code words that meant new rules, changed rules, thrown out rules. I hated when people would do that! Why?? Because you don’t get to just make your own rules! Can you imagine if the rules of chess, or basketball, or football were just thrown out willy-nilly? If someone decided that the king in chess could all the sudden do what the queen could, or that a bishop could be a rook if he felt like one? It would be ridiculous. And we get that, mostly.