Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: June 26th, 2016

13th  Sunday in Ordinary Time – C


 1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21

Galatians 5: 1, 13-18

Luke 9:  51-62


“I am really looking forward to that!”  We all know what it feels like to look forward to something so much that we just can’t wait until it happens.

We hear in today’s Gospel about people being invited to follow Jesus.  One of them responds to Jesus:  “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  “Yes… but,” was that person’s objection.

And Jesus answers:  “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

That is a farming image that we have no trouble visualizing.  Trying to plow in a straight line while constantly looking back…  Imagine what a mess that field would be.  Jesus was asking that man to follow Him right now, leaving the past behind and looking forward to a future with Jesus.

Sometimes people’s plan for the future is merely preserving their past:  wanting a Williamsburg that is not simply a nice place to visit but a permanent address to live in.    We have expressions like:  “It is very difficult to move ahead if you keep your eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror.”  And:  “Hope is a rudder to take us forward, and not an anchor to hold us back.”

The past:  “The past is a guide post and not a hitching post.”  “The past is over and the future is not here yet.  All that we have at hand to work with is today.

I remember getting a new alb to wear in church for Mass.  [“Alb” comes from the Latin word for “white,” from which we get the word “albino” in English.  It is this white gown that I wear underneath the other vestments.  It is a baptismal garment that reminds us that all that we do and are in the Church is due to our Baptism.]

I wore that alb for the first time one Sunday and it turned out to be a bit too long.  As I processed up the aisle to the first of many steps leading into the sanctuary, I caught my toe in the hem of this garment.

Instead of just admitting my circumstances and backing up and starting over, I kept going.  As I climbed the sanctuary steps, I also climbed higher and higher into the inside of the alb.  When I got to the top, I was all hunched over and in terrible straits.  And I had fooled no one!

Sometimes in life we are like that.   We get all wrapped up in ourselves.  And we get all tangled up with our worries and our woes and become oblivious to present opportunities that offer a solid hope for the future.

There was a lady who had been badly hurt emotionally earlier in her life, and had never really dealt with this.  Ever since, she tended to see people and events around her through a lens of rejection.

Someone at work said to her, “My, don’t you like nice today!”

She responded sharply:  “What you are really saying is that I looked lousy yesterday.  And what you probably mean is that I look a mess most of the time – except for today!”

There are people who see today in the light of yesterday’s pain.

We need to take care of the past.  If forgiveness or amends need to be sought, then we need to do it.  For wonderful memories and experiences, we need to be grateful.

But living in the past is like visiting the old neighborhood, from which we moved away long ago, and expecting it all to be just as it was.  We learn from the past, we seize the present moment, and we move on to a future that we are called and graced to help shape.

Jesus calls people to follow Him in today’s Gospel.  He has personally called each one of us, with all of our histories, to be His disciples.  And Jesus gives us sure direction when He says:  “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is with us today, and He gives us hope for tomorrow.  For God is faithful to us, always.

As one of the great hymns of the Church puts it:

Great is thy faithfulness!  Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided.

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

God’s faithfulness to us is something that we can count on – and really look forward to – every blessed day.