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.
Luke 18:27 – “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Today our Collect at Holy Mass reminds us of something important. It says that without God “mortal humanity is sure to fail.” We know this is true. Whenever we embark on some project, or seek to clean up some mess or fix some situation–if God isn’t a part of the process, it doesn’t work. Without God we are bound to fail. With God, though, we are sure to succeed. “With God, all things are possible.”
Today’s Collect had us praying for strong hearts. It is a good thing to pray for. As our gospel suggests today, it is a weak heart that judges, condemns, refuses to forgive. The psalmist asks God not to deal with him according to his sins; a weak heart treats people according to the ways they have wronged us before. The opposite of a weak heart is a strong one–a heart that measures out generously, and without counting the cost, compassion and mercy to others…regardless of mood or feelings or stress or whatever. How fitting that these should be our readings today, on the fourth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis.
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 Ezekiel talks about the virtuous person. He talks a lot about virtue. I don’t think we do enough of that these days. The word “virtue” has its origin in the Latin word “vir,” meaning “man.” To be an authentic person–to live up to what we humans are meant to be, designed to be by God–means being virtuous, or “humanous.” We are fully and most perfectly human when we are people of the virtues. When we are not people of the virtues, we are not fully being people; we fall short of what God calls us and designed the human person to be.
The virtues are beautiful because of how concrete they are; if one practices a virtue long enough, that virtue takes root in him. The virtue of kindness, for example: if I chose to do kind things and say kind words and foster kind thoughts–if I do all that in concrete moments–then, by golly, within a while kindness is a habit, a natural (supernatural?) instinct, and I find myself a kind person. Same with all the virtues.
The other helpful thing about virtues is that there is always an excess sin and a deficiency sin. Virtue, as the saying goes, stands in the middle.
Here is a chart I made some time ago of the virtues. It includes the theological virtues, cardinal virtues, etc., with their excesses and deficiencies. It is drawn from a variety of sources.