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Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: August 28th, 2016

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

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Sirach3: 17-18, 20, 28-29

Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24a

Luke 14:1, 7-14

 

Aesop tells a fable about a frog that wanted to fly.  One day a stork landed in the cove and the frog had an idea.  The stork was looking for minnows, but the frog’s noisy voice had driven them all away.  So the frog offered the stork a deal:  “If you help me fly, I will show you where the minnows’ secret hiding place is.”

The deal was made.  The frog betrayed his minnow neighbors and the stork had a feast.  Then the stork asked the frog, “Now, how am I going to help you fly?”

The frog said, “I’ll just take hold of one of your legs with my mouth and then as you fly, I can go with you.”  And it worked out perfectly.

People on the ground looked up and saw the stork flying with the frog on his leg and they were marveling.  One of them said, “I wonder which one of those animals came up with that brilliant idea?”

The frog opened his mouth to say, “It was entirely my idea.”  And the consequence of his pride caused the frog to plummet to the earth.

And Aesop gives us this moral to the story:  “Pride precedes the fall.”

We know that to be true, for pride precedes our falls as well.  Pride attacks us when we are successful and we begin congratulating ourselves.  Pride accepts no criticism.  Pride sees everyone else as a subordinate.  Pride expects to be on a par with God – or even above Him!

In the early days, the Fathers of the Church put pride at the top of the list of the seven deadly sins:  pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth.

The Scriptures today speak about humility.  The first reading from the Old Testament, the Book of Sirach, has this line:  “Children, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.”  And isn’t that true?  Humble people are wonderful people to be around.

In the Gospel Jesus teaches us about humility.  He talks about a wedding banquet:  those who would seek the place of honor at the table and then are moved to a lower place, and those who would seek the lowest place and be invited to come higher.  Jesus says to us, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Imagine how refreshing your work place or school or social circle would be if there were no more games of one-upsmanship, or posturing to be noticed, or worrying about networking with the powerful and popular for personal advantage.

Jesus is teaching us a new way of life where we are not competitors but companions on the journey, where life is not a castle to be conquered but a banquet to be shared, where we do not need to struggle and grab for power because power is only to be used to serve other people.  And Jesus mentions some of them in today’s Gospel:  “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.”

Now you may think that we are making a little too much of first-century table etiquette.  But may I remind you that character is formed and character is revealed in the little things.

In many job interviews there is a golf game or a meal out.  Why?  Because our character comes through especially at moments when we think that nobody is watching.  The ways that we treat the most invisible people in society reveal what we think of human society.

The little things are important.  And a table is a good place to start, and that is where Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel.

In the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, there is a powerful lesson in the shape of that table.  There was no head or foot.  Rather, it was round.  Every knight mattered and could have a place at that table.

In His humility, Jesus chose to be with us at His table, at this altar.  Here we are nourished with His Word in the Scriptures and with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  Here everyone matters and everyone can have a place.

It is here that we grow together as one family in Christ.  For we all need His grace, His mercy and His providential care.

“Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

“Children, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.”

Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: August 21st, 2016

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

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Isaiah: 66: 18-21

Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13

Luke 13: 22-30

 

Someone asked Jesus in today’s Gospel, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  And He answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

A writer diagrammed Jesus’ response this way.  Think about a triangle without a base – like a teepee – and that open space at the bottom is a door that is very wide.  You can enter quite easily, but the further you get in, the more confined and compressed you are.  It looks like it offers absolute freedom, but once inside your freedom is seriously limited.

That same writer then said that if we think about what Jesus is teaching us in today’s Gospel, the diagram would look like a “V” with a very narrow entrance at its base.  It is difficult to get in, but possible.  And once you get in, the promises and possibilities are immensely widened.

The door to eternal life is a narrow door.  “Strive to enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus teaches us.

Many of you are going back to school this week.  Education is a narrow gate.  If you had a wonderful summer, the temptation is to not go back to school and to prolong the leisure.  But where would that lead you in the long run?

“Enter through the narrow gate.”  Go to school and work hard.  Seize the opportunities that come your way.  Don’t just get by.  Strive to excel, using all of your abilities.  It will pay off by opening wide possibilities for your future.

Now, when you have finished school, having gone through the narrow gate, and if you still want to work for a minimum wage, you can!  But there are lots of better choices that you will be able to make.  Education is a narrow gate, and it pays off.

Physical fitness is a narrow gate.  That may be an unexpected topic to bring up in church.  But God made our bodies as well as our souls.  And one day these bodies of ours that will die are going to be re-united with our souls as they are raised up in glory to everlasting life, as we profess in the Creed each Sunday.  The Lord expects us to take proper care of our bodies – not over-indulging them, not neglecting them, and always respecting them.

Someone said that his original goal in life was to have a body that looked like a Greek god.  But later on in life he actually looked more like a Greek restaurant!  Yes, neglect takes its toll.

Marriage is a narrow gate.  Those of you who are married probably had several possibilities for a spouse, but you chose the one that you married.  Eliminating all of the others for the one person that you are with can sound so limiting.  Yet in a graced, faithful marriage look at all of the abundant blessings that come to be.

A little girl had a doll collection.  She was asked which one was her favorite.  She went to her room and came out with a doll that even Goodwill would have rejected.  Most of the hair had come off, one eye was missing and the dress was tattered.

When she was asked why this one was her favorite, she answered:  “Because if I don’t love this dolly, nobody will.”

Well, there is not a single one of us that is outside of God’s circle of mercy and love.  “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love,” as Saint Augustine wrote.

The narrow gate leads to abundant life whether we are talking about education or physical fitness or marriage or anything else.  And the most important of these narrow gates is the one that leads to heaven.

There is room for each one of us at the narrow gate that leads to eternal life.  But we must make the choice to enter it.

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus teaches us.  And be blessed with abundant life here and herafter.

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