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Get into the ring! How this works...

This is easy! Each week on Thursday I post my homily main focus for preaching this coming Sunday. What I am hoping for is a reaction from people in the pews. Does my "focus" connect with your daily life, faith, and experience? Or not? Either affirm the direction I am going in (by giving me an example from your life) or challenge me, ask for clarification! Questions are the best! Reaction rather than reflection is what I'm looking for here. Don't be afraid, get in the ring. Ole!

Friday, September 21, 2012

September 23 Homily Prep

-Last Sunday's homily is available by email
-This Sunday's Scriptures can be found at>>>>
-I will be celebrating mass this weekend at 5:30 Sat, and 8:00 and 12:30 on Sunday

Tea Leaves

Folks I don't think we are reading the tea leaves correctly. At least not the way Jesus recommends. I am struck by the comment from Jesus in last weeks gospel "you are thinking not like God does but like human beings do".

What I am referring to is this business of "assessing success or greatness". My experience tells me (and my own temptation and proclivities suggest to me) that we are reading and estimating greatness, quality, success, etc. according to or through the lens of this world's values. The driving motivation of most everyone in the church and outside of the church Is to avoid losing, being last, failing, serving and to succeed in this world, to win at the game of life in this world.

My question is "has our Christian conversion made an impact upon our judgment?". Maybe you will agree with me, even the religious and pious people have a temptation to conclude or judge that when they are losing in the world that God has abandoned them.

What this tells me is that we have not adopted or been impacted by Jesus's "inside out" revolution on humanity's journey in the world and in the kingdom. Jesus says "if you want to be great you must be the least, last, servant of the rest". That sounds fine and well until it starts to happen to us. When we start to lose, when we fall down, when we are persecuted, when we are frustrated, when it looks like we have been defeated, we turn to God and pray that He would turn it around for us. That doesn't seem to me to be Jesus's message.

What God is calling us to, what God-thinking is all about is that we are assuredly going to lose in this world, we are definitely going to die, we are going likely to be downtrodden, persecuted, and disparaged. When those things happen to us we should rejoice for the kingdom of God is at hand. I don't think we're getting it. We are not reading the tea leaves correctly.

Maybe we have been confused by the notion that if we VOLUNTARILY become the last, if we choose to lose or serve or die THEN we can see it as a path to greatness in God's eyes. This is kind of like the Mother Teresa mentality of being holy and religious "if I elect to give up on success" then my failure is a sign of closeness of God to me. But when losing, littleness, last-ness, death, servitude, etc. is imposed upon us BY life and BY others THEN we don't get it. We don't read those tea leaves so clearly as the fact that we are great.

Is it possible that this success-in-the-world routine and standard of success is the reason that the Gospel has been so unsuccessful in changing the world? Maybe?


Anonymous said...


JoyFuralle said...

Yikes, I don't know how you'll deliver this message without crying. Truth!

And it's not that we don't get it, we don't WANT TO get it either! We would rather talk about the weather & our jobs & one another & all sorts of baloney. Just like the disciples we really may not understand, but we are just as afraid to ask questions and know more because then we might have to change our actions or thinking.

anon 1 said...

I find this reminder of “God’s thinking” being different from “human being thinking” to be very helpful. It helps me quickly get to that spot in my mind of remembering that the message and way of Jesus Christ is “topsy-turvy” from what our society and culture would have us believe.

But maybe because of last week’s homily reflection, I am going somewhere subtly different with the tea leaves. I am wondering if the leaves are not about failure vs. success – but rather, are the leaves about detachment vs. success? Perhaps it’s about giving up the “care” for the outcome, and instead changing our entire focus to thinking about the other, about the common good, about the loving. In doing that, “success” (as the world defines it) might possibly be the outcome of our actions; but just as easily, “failure” (as the world defines it) might be the outcome. Either way, the outcome is not the point. Accurately reading the leaves is about looking for the “loving” action – rather than the outcome of the action – whatever the cost. Strangely, that approach is indeed “obnoxious” to many.

Kathleen said...

Father, I’m not sure I’ve understood correctly what you’ve written, but here’s an example. Reading this brought to mind the job club meeting I attended this week. In the group of 25 or so, it seems, not unexpectedly, that most of these unemployed people have had the loss, shock, littleness, etc. of job loss imposed on them by life and/or by others—company mergers, mass layoffs for cost cutting, company moving overseas. Some people had advance notice and time to plan, others were caught completely off guard. From the world’s point of view some in the group may have been considered more successful than others, and they come from many lines of work—graphic designer, nursing, pharmacists, office clerical, accountants, logistics, tax analyst, customer service, teaching, services for the blind, and others. Probably no one in the group is considering themselves as being great and no one has admitted to inwardly rejoicing for being in the unemployment predicament. They weren’t working on God’s behalf as missionaries in a foreign land, but some appear to be religious people, still volunteering in the community or their parish, and they may have tried to be Christ-like in their interactions in their previous jobs. A number of people indicated they aren’t planning to be wildly successful according to the world’s terms, but will be happy with a job with ‘meaningful work’ with a salary that will cover the basics, vacations and retirement and other perks not being among those basics. “Give us this day our daily bread” in the Our Father has taken on new meaning. The world continues to judge by its standards of success: during interviews one person was asked, “So, you did so well in undergrad, why didn’t you get that extra master’s degree?”, and others have been told, “You’re too overqualified for this job.” At least some of us pray not that God turn things around for us, but that He’ll help us see where He wants us to be. I guess we can rejoice for that.