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Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: July 3rd, 2016

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

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  Isaiah 66: 10-14c

Galatians 6: 14-18

Luke 10: 1-9

 

On this Independence Day weekend, we thank God for the freedom that we enjoy in this great nation, the United States of America.  And we pray that the religious liberty that our Constitution guarantees will be defended and safeguarded for every person in our country.  We salute and our flag and proudly pledge our allegiance to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

As precious as our flag is to us, there is another symbol that speaks of the freedom that Jesus won for us:  the cross.  Saint Paul acknowledges this in today’s second reading from his letter to the Galatians:  “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

One of the roles of our altar servers is to be “the crossbearer” [or the one who leads the procession by carrying the cross].  Sometimes that server will say to me before Mass begins, “I’m cross today, Father.”  To which I often reply, “But you don’t seem cross today.”

Well, we are not supposed to be “cross” [“crabby”] people.  But, as followers of Jesus, we are all to be “people of the cross.”  It is through His cross that we enjoy the freedom that Jesus won for us.

A person can live in a lovely home and still feel like a prisoner.  A person can have all kinds of money to spend and still feel like a prisoner.  A person can travel the world and still feel like a prisoner.  We look to the cross for our true freedom in life and our release from things that can hold us imprisoned.

Our possessions can sometimes imprison us.  There was the Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania in 1889.  Two fashionably-dressed young women had just boarded a train to spend the weekend in Philadelphia.  The South Fork Dam broke and they were told to get off the train and head for safety.  They did – and then noticed that their brand new shoes were getting muddy.  So they ran back to the train to get their boots.  And that was as far as they got.

Our possessions can sometimes hold us as prisoners.  They can be walls that keep us from good relationships with others and with God.  The walls may be beautiful, but they can still be a prison.  What sets us free?  The cross of Jesus.  The freedom of the cross.

Another thing that can imprison us is our past – sins we committed that we never admitted, amends that we never tried to make.  There is no pain in life that is as acute as that of a troubled conscience.

There was a school on the west coast that was located in a neighborhood where gunshots were often heard.  So to keep the kids safe, they built a concrete wall around the school that was ten feet high.

One day someone wrote a letter to the newspaper asking:  “What if, instead of using that money to build a wall, we had used that money to re-develop the neighborhood and make it a safe place for everybody?”

Our sins:  we try to ignore them.  We try to rationalize them by claiming that everyone is doing this.  We want ignore the consequences of our bad decisions.

But we need to get to the root of our troubles and seek forgiveness and make amends – rather than building walls that imprison us.  Where do we find that freedom and release?  “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our possessions, our past … another thing that can imprison us is fantasizing about the future and not fully living today.

In an essay entitled “The Station,” a writer compared life to a train trip across the United States and how much there is to see, looking out the windows – cityscapes, the countryside, the people, the animals grazing, the mountains, the valleys, the plains.  But sometimes people on a train may only think about the station that is their final destination.  And they don’t see anything that lies in between.

The writer says that we do this in life sometimes.  We have a station in mind and we think that when we get there, all our worries will be gone.  “When I turn 18, I’ll have it made…  When I get the last child through college, my life will be wonderful…  When I get that promotion, I’ll be on Easy Street…  When I get that Mercedes…  When I retire and get to enjoy the golden years…”  [By the way, how are the golden years?]

Our final destination is heaven, where we will be happy forever.  But how do we get there?  By living each day fully with God’s grace, one day at a time.

And where do we find our freedom today?  Where do we find our hope?  Saint Paul tells us:  “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That was his boast – and it is our hope as well.  For we are “people of the cross.