HOMILY WEEK 30 06 – Year II
Humble Faith and Joyful Fulfillment
(Phil 1:18-26; Ps 42; Lk 14:1-11)
Has the Word of God ever brought you to tears?
The readings today invite us to humbly place our faith in an intimate relationship with Jesus leading us to experience deep joy and the fullness of life.
A friend with whom I was celebrating the Eucharist in our small chapel one day began to get very emotional as she was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and the psalm, struggled to maintain her composure, and finally started to shed tears as she read. That resonated with me, as I was also deeply moved by the readings with which I had prayed earlier.
The homily became a sharing of how these readings were stirring deep emotions within us. The previous evening, she had been with her grandchildren, witnessed how one had been deeply hurt by her sibling, and managed to facilitate a touching reconciliation between them including an “I’m sorry” from the heart and a genuine “It’s okay” that brought peace. What touched her even more profoundly, however, was when her four-year old granddaughter sat on her lap and told her she was scared to go to school because she feared the other kids would make fun of her name. It broke her heart to think of how early the world out there can begin to wound innocent children.
This was such a contrast to the exuberant joy St. Paul was expressing in the first reading about his relationship with Jesus, and the gentle teaching on humility Jesus offers in the gospel. The psalm did connect us, however, with our yearning for a world where children would know they are protected, safe and loved, when we would truly see God face to face, and all would be well, as Julian of Norwich famously proclaimed.
The psalm touches on the human condition in a wounded world – people not really free to love and be loved, not able to accept themselves as they are, longing for something to quench the deep loneliness and fear tainting their lives and relationships, desperate to medicate the inner pain hidden within by drugs or some addictive behaviour, getting caught up in confusion around their human sexuality – all of that masking a yearning for intimacy and for a God they are afraid to trust. All that dark energy is rightly articulated by the psalmist – we are “longing to see your face, Oh God.”
Perusing the first reading is like being lifted aboard a space craft and transported to another realm beyond the ordinary. St. Paul is almost beside himself with joy based on his intimate relationship with Christ, knowing he is deeply and totally loved by Christ, wanting to be one with Christ in the next life, but also so full of love for his fellow believers he chooses to remain with them to share his experience of Jesus with them – to proclaim Christ to them so Christ would be exalted and they would grow in their own relationship with the one who is his all in all.
I believe all this joyful energy in Paul stems from his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that changed his life forever, and transformed him from a zealous Jew to the exuberant follower and apostle of Jesus he was. Perhaps, in moments of a spiritual experience, we might hear a delicate voice in our heads we hope was the Spirit of God speaking to us. Paul, on the other hand, heard Jesus as the Risen Lord he was persecuting, speak to him directly. Paul heard the voice of Jesus with his ears, calling him by name, addressing him with mercy. He also slowly realized how profoundly forgiven he was, and in the end, fell in love with Jesus. After he integrated all this newness into his new belief system, nothing could stop him from proclaiming the good news of this Jesus to everyone he met. Would that we could come even a little bit close to the relationship Paul had with Jesus.
In the gospel, Jesus gives us a nudge along that path – and it begins with the foundational virtue of humility. The spiritual blessings of joy and peace or serenity are not earned or deserved – they are gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the lowly and the humble – those who know they need God, who know and admit their weakness, limitations, sin and sinfulness, and who turn to Jesus who as Messiah and Risen Lord, freely offers us both forgiveness and healing.
We don’t make ourselves holy, just like we can’t make ourselves joyful. Joy is a by-product of humble faith in the depth of God’s love for us, and our caring for and loving others. Holiness comes to us as we, little by little, humbly come to comprehend how loved we are by God, how there is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more than God already does, and learn to rest in the love and let God love us into new life.
I was shocked at the demand for cannabis when it was legalized in Canada, a demand leading to shortages, very much as I was shocked to learn authorities had seized six tonnes of cocaine in a shipment of bananas somewhere in our world. What on earth is that all about? I really believe it boils down to a humanity unaware of how loved it is by God, not really believing in that love, and now, in a lack of humility, trying to save itself by medicating the inner pain of loneliness, disbelief, feeling unloved through the means of drugs. As Fr. Vaughan Quinn OMI puts it, “addiction is using something outside of myself to make the inside of myself feel better.”
The Eucharist, celebrated with humble faith, can extend to us a glimmer of what St. Paul experienced in his encounter with Jesus on the road – we hear him speak to us through his Word, and then enter into a very intimate moment with him as we commune with him through his body and blood.
May this humble celebration deepen our intimate relationship with Jesus, fill us with joy and empower us to be like St. Paul, proclaim Christ to all we meet, each in our own unique way.