Sunday, July 17, 2016

So, so anxious...! - Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Let’s be honest: I could give you a very short homily—and all that I’d have to say today is: “Stop worrying.”

Ok, thanks for coming.

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We’ve heard the story of Martha and Mary before: about how Jesus approaches and then how Martha becomes anxious while Mary is contemplative. We know that story. But did you notice the first reading?

In the first reading, God approaches (appearing as three men—a prefigurement of the Holy Trinity). And as He approaches, Abraham and Sarah become anxious to serve. It’s just like our Gospel! But instead of a Mary and a Martha, in our first reading we have two Marthas! Both Abraham and Sarah are anxious with serving!

So we would think that God would teach them a lesson. But He doesn’t.

Instead, one person of the Holy Trinity (perhaps the Holy Spirit?) promises them both a blessing, saying, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a Son,” Isaac (which prefigures Jesus and Mary and how she conceives by the Holy Spirit. But I digress).

Ok, so why the difference? Why is Martha chided for her anxiousness while Abraham and Sarah are blessed?

The answer comes when we consider the two stories together as one. In Abraham and Sarah, humanity has already fed God. So, when he approaches humanity again, this time in the story of Martha and Mary, God comes to us not hungering for food, but hungering and thirsting for our love.

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Let me explain with a quick story why that matters.

When I was in grad school, I would come home during various breaks throughout the year: Thanksgiving… Christmas… Spring Break, and so on. And when I’d come home, mom was quick to make dinner for me and the family. Plates would be set out, napkins, … she would ask what we all wanted to drink and there would be five different options. All of the family would be gathered around the table and mom would be bringing the food over. And then she would sit. – Finally, mom will be in the conversation. – But then she remembered that she forgot the salad dressing… So mom would get up and get the dressing and eventually sit back down… until she realized that the bread was still in the oven and up she went to get that.  

And as much as I love mom and her cooking, after months of not seeing mom, I must admit: I could care less about the forgotten salad dressing. When we’re home, food can wait. What we’re really hungry for is the heart.

Martha and my mom, for their part, were loving Jesus through their service. And I love my mom for that.

But for Martha, in that serving, she started to lose track of why she was serving in the first place. She became envious and jealous and even angry that Mary was just wasting time with Love.

But that’s what Jesus wants. In that present moment, all He wanted was for Martha to sit down with Him and share her heart and let Him share His. That’s all He wanted. So she can stop being so anxious.

Yet that's so hard to do, right?

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Pope Emeritus Benedict once said (and it was either in “Faith and the Future” or “Jesus of Nazareth”—I forget which)—he once said that humanity lives in three moments: the past, the present, and the future. And the most “eternal” of those three moments is the present moment. In this present moment, he said—this is where Jesus dwells. Jesus doesn’t dwell in the past, because the past is dead. Nor does He dwell in a distant future, because the future doesn’t even exist yet. Right now, this moment, this is where Jesus comes to us and wants communion with us. Not down the line in heaven, but now.

Yet, it’s the present moment that is so elusive for us. The devil and the world seem to be pushing us into any moment but Jesus and the present moment.

So we dwell on the past. The what if’s and the if only’s. The regret. … And that translates into anxiety in the present moment. We are anxious because we don’t want to make the same mistakes again—the mistake of messing up or the mistake of missing out. That translates into being exceedingly busy and trying to do as much as we can (so we don't miss out or regret what we missed) and we pressure our children so that they don’t miss out or we are quick to correct their mistakes. Shoot, we can be so anxious about the past that we simply busy ourselves in this Now so that we don't have to deal with it. I don't want to think about the past; I'll avoid it; ... and while we might not say that, underlying our busyness in the Now is this avoiding.... 

But you see, Jesus wants to heal us in the Now. He wants you to sit with Him, right now, and give Him your past. Perhaps this is what Mary is letting Him do: to heal her, to say to her, “hey, the past is behind us. Let it go. You are forgiven.” That’s what Jesus is bringing in this Present Moment; He is bringing healing to our past—if only we would slow down and allow Him entry to our heart in this present moment.

*          *          *

Or maybe you’re anxious about the future. We’ve seen a terrible month of terrorist attacks—and that gets us all worried. We start thinking: when’s the next one going to happen? Will it be here? What if it’s a biological attack or nuclear weapons? What if our society collapses? What if it’s the end of the world and Jesus comes? – and we can quickly get ourselves into a panic attack about it all.

But the future doesn’t even exist. Stop worrying. And maybe that seems simplistic and easy for me to say. But consider who is here in this Present Moment: we have Jesus and our Father. I mean, didn’t Jesus calm the storm?

(If I were at a Pentecostal church, I’d be asking for an Amen!) Amen?

Didn’t Jesus feed the five thousand who came to him hungry? … Amen?

Didn’t Jesus show Himself to be King and Lord and Messiah and Savior when He powerfully conquered the dead? 

So, what are we so worried about?

I know: we’re fragile. We’re afraid of dying. But aren’t we already dead—were we not baptized into the death of Christ such that neither “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword”—nothing will separate us from the love of Christ. Indeed, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (cf. Rom 8:35-39).

So stop worrying. Avoid the despair that always comes with worry (yes, they are connected!); for Jesus Himself said: “do not be anxious about tomorrow… let the day’s trouble be sufficient for the day” (Mt 6:34). For don’t we have a Father in heaven who is going to take care of us; for “even though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are at my side” (Ps 23).


And perhaps Mary was worried. The crucifixion was on the horizon. But it was this moment, this Present Moment, when Mary would take a deep breath and Jesus would remind her of His love for her and how He is going to take care of her.

*          *          *

So I want you to do something right now. I want you to take a deep breath. Go ahead…  And exhale.

That’s grace.

God gave you that breath. And He’s going to give you the next one. And we’re going to take it one step, one day at a time, trusting that the Lord will “give us this day our daily bread.”

Because this is what happens in this Present Moment when we stop and let Jesus in: we start to realize that we are important to Him. He cares about us more than we care about ourselves. He’s saying: let me be anxious about your life. Let God be God… Let me be the one who serves you.

And notice: at the end, Jesus makes a promise. He says, “Mary,” who “has chosen the better part”—that is, this freedom, this peace, this “will not be taken away from her.”

If we live aware of Jesus in this Present Moment, if we slow down each morning and start the day with Him, the Prince of Peace, then no matter what happens, we’re going to be ok; we’re going to be at peace; we’re going to be with the Lord.

And He’s going to be with us.

Amen? Amen.

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