Saturday, June 25, 2016

To Be Generous - Homily for the 13th Sunday in OT (C)

 At every Holy Mass, our God brings us here and we are given a moment to reflect.

This evening, Jesus tells us that he “has nowhere to rest his head” (Lk 9:58). He, who is the almighty God, the second person of the Trinity, whose dwelling is the glorious throne of heaven, has left all of the supreme treasures of heaven and the riches of earth behind and has become poor, so poor that he has nowhere to rest his head.

Such is the radical extent of His total love. When the Word became flesh and dwelled among us (cf. Jn 1:14), He left behind everything—the glory, the treasure, the ninety-nine (cf. Lk 15:4)—even if it would make Him poor, so as to go in search for the one.

The story in our first reading, of Elisha leaving his father and mother behind, is a veiled image of Jesus’ commitment. In the first reading, Elisha takes his oxen, the very means by which he sustains his way of life, and he slaughters them. That can’t be undone. And then he burns his plowing equipment. He can’t undo that either. Why does Elisha do this?

Because he is committed: he is so committed to walking as a prophet that he literally destroys any possibility of going back. There’s no going back, no looking back “to what was left behind” (Lk 9:62).

Such is Jesus’ commitment to us: Once the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word, becomes flesh, He can never undo that. Jesus will always be joined to our humanity for all eternity. Even when that means becoming poor and suffering death. He loves with a love that does not count the cost.

This Jesus goes throughout the countryside, calling all people to Himself, "follow me" such as to know Him, and to know His love for us, and to love Him in return.

*          *          *

This morning, I was privileged to attend the Holy Mass of the Solemn Profession of Perpetual Vows for Sister Gemma Rose at the Carmelite Monastery on Clayton Road. It is a Holy Mass where the young sister offers her total commitment to God and begs Him for His grace to love as He loves. Sister Gemma had left everything for Jesus.

As she professed her vows, the words of today’s Psalm came to my mind: “You are my inheritance, O Lord” (Ps 16:2).

Why was she doing this? Because of love. She had discovered Love and loved Him. Sister Gemma wasn’t simply committing herself to the Carmelite Community because it was radical. St. Paul, after all, warns us of such things when he says, “If I give away everything I own and even hand over my body that I may boast, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:3). For Sister Gemma, this was a matter of love. So much so that she called this Mass her wedding day, the day she would be married to the One who loves her and left everything so as to find her.

I recalled the words of St. Paul: “For this reason”—that is, for love—“for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” (Eph 5:31). We often think of that line in terms of husbands and wives. But Paul is firstly speaking about Jesus who leaves all so as to be joined to us.

This joining, the consummation of this spiritual marriage, happens at the reception of Holy Communion, where Jesus offers His body and blood to become one with our body and blood. Sister Gemma reminded me of this spiritual marriage that is offered at every Mass, where Jesus approaches with nowhere to rest His head.

Today He would find a place.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think that the Eucharist which I receive is the same Eucharist that had strengthened Sister Gemma to respond with such love. Every day, every Mass, it is the same Eucharist. I just simply and so often forget about the Jesus who is there. Jesus, who has leaves everything behind so as to come to me here, today.

*          *          *

The example of Elisha and of Sister Gemma remind me, that while not all of us are called to be an ancient prophet of Israel or a religious sister (although some definitely are!), the common thread is that Jesus invites us to the vocation of love-- to love and not look back-- and it’s a call from Jesus who is generous, who loves and does not count the cost, who loves us and doesn't look back.

For my part, I pray that, the next time He comes to me, there will be a place in my heart for Him to rest His head. And so I pray:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

-          St. Ignatius of Loyola

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