HOMILY – SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
Acting and Feeling Like God
(Is 58:9b-14; Ps 86; Lk 5:27-32)
“When we act like God, we get to feel like God.”
That is one of Ron Rolheiser’s favourite expressions, which is not only cute, but also very true. When we act as God does, we do get to feel as God feels.
That is what the first reading from Isaiah and even the gospel are all about. They both encourage us to act like God: When we act justly, apologize instead of staying stuck in denial and blame, bless and affirm others instead of curse them, are generous instead of selfish, care for the weak and wounded among us, forgive instead of murmur and complain, repent instead of denying our sin, and if we honor the Sabbath with rest, prayer and worship, then we are acting like God, or certainly as God wants us to act.
Isaiah lavishly outlines the consequences of our God-like behaviour: our light will rise in the darkness, our gloom will disperse in the sun, our bodies will be strong and healthy. We will be guided by the Lord, our needs will be met, and we will be like springs of water. We will be a solid foundation on which generations after us can build. We will experience joy and delight within our hearts, and we will feel as if we are soaring on air. We will be firmly grounded in our Judeo-Christian heritage. In short, we will feel like God.
I believe I experienced this reading in a particular way some years ago. I have been sharing a new venture that I started to help those caught in unfortunate and difficult situations and needing a bit of financial help to get back on their feet. I called it Serene Hope because it will provide some peace and hope to the recipients, and joy to those who make a donation. It involves an interest-free loan until repayment can be made, with the agreement to then make a donation of five percent of the original loan to help someone else.
Probably because this is living out the reading from Isaiah, and acting like God, there is a lot of positive feedback and even joy around this project. A bank teller who helped me open an account for this project, and who is from Rwanda, wanted to be part of it and offered to make a donation. We had a wonderful, joyful and unusual conversation sitting down in comfortable chairs at the bank during which she told me that she attended a local parish, volunteered with Catholic Social Services and was helping out at a home for pregnant women. She was at the counter some months later and remembered the particular person we were trying to help at that time.
In the gospel, Jesus calls a sinner, Matthew, to follow him, and Matthew does, despite the grumbling of the religious leaders who are not acting like God at all – who actually think they know God better than Jesus does. They stay stuck in their “pointing of fingers” while I am sure that Matthew, who repented, changed his ways and followed Jesus, was filled with joy and the feeling that he was soaring above the clouds.
The Eucharist is a great prayer of thanksgiving, and a powerful experience of the love of God in Jesus, who forgives us, heals us and offers us the gift of joy and gratitude.
Let us place our faith in Jesus, follow him by acting like him, and we will get to feel that joy that only he can give us.