Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary
Saint Gabriel Parish, September 26-27, 2015
I convinced myself that I did not want to do it, that I could not do it. “It’s impossible,” I said to myself, how could I have been so stupid ever to think I could do such a thing! Such thoughts were common for me many as I agonized over the idea that God might just be calling me to be a priest. “I could never get up and speak in front of that many people” I would think to myself. Another hurdle was talking about money, the thought of doing a finance campaign terrified me. I’m not holy enough; I don’t want to give up my dog, what would my friends think, what would my family think? So many anxious thoughts held me back, kept me from answering God’s call. That call remained and in the depths of my heart and the back of my mind the message was there: follow me, follow me. Such self-doubt infects us all, I imagine. The world presents us with so many choices it makes it difficult to say yes to one thing, especially when it means saying no to another. Why make a choice, one might ask if there is a chance to wait for a more comfortable time? Anxiously worrying about all the decisions that need answers can clutter one’s mind so much that it seems nothing else can get through.
|Christ calling Peter|
The two men in our first reading, Eldad, and Medad, they were not at the gathering with Moses. They were on the list; God choose them, but they were not there. They simply did not show up. We do not know the reason they were not there but not being ready in time does not mean God’s will lost out. God had decided that they would be prophets even if they resisted. It’s a pretty big job to be a prophet of God, and they may have quickly thought themselves unworthy, yet God called them as they were. Eldad and Medad started to prophesy even though they were not present when they were supposed to be. The followers of Moses must have thought “who are these guys” and they tried to stop them, but Moses commanded that they be left alone. God gets God’s way even if we are late in making the decision.
The story is similar with the man at the beginning of the today’s Gospel. The one who was driving out demons without following along with the disciples. I wonder if anyone would just start driving out demons in the name of Jesus without first encountering the man? I think it entirely possible that this man had heard Jesus’ command to leave everything behind and follow him. Either that or he had heard of this command from someone who had encountered Jesus. Perhaps that man went away, upset for a while, thinking of all the things he would have to say no to answer Jesus’ call to follow him. And yet the call remained: follow me, follow me. After answering this call, he dove right in and began to call out demons in the name of Jesus was, and the disciples of Jesus confronted him for doing so. The disciples who were with Jesus would not have known of the man’s delayed conversion, but Jesus would have known that man’s heart. I imagine that Jesus told many men and women to give up everything to follow him. It is his challenge to all of us. Here again is an example of those who are a little late to the game receiving the same call as those who answered more quickly.
Now if you ask me driving out demons and prophesying are pretty high up on the scale of ways to follow Christ. Not too many people are called to do such ministries. Compare this with the next section of the Gospel where Jesus describes the goodness of giving a drink of water to another. That is much easier to do. I think we all can offer another person a simple drink of water. Try and not be so easily convinced. While giving a drink of water is simple it is full of meaning. For one, water was not as common to Jesus and the people of his time, as it is with us. They were not able to go over to the nearest faucet and simple pour out a drink of water. There is also the fact that Christ called himself the living water, that which once drank keeps one from ever thirsting again. Both of these combined and it moves what might seem like an ordinary act further up the scale in ways to follow Christ. In the end, it appears, whatever call we receive from Jesus none of them are simple or altogether comfortable.
When Jesus calls upon you to make a choice you might not answer the first several hundred times you hear the call, and that is ok, Jesus will continue to call you. The Gospel goes on to talks about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands and feet; it is so easy to hear church talk about feeling guilty for the imperfect parts of our lives. Perhaps we're being asked, not to punish ourselves, but to cut away our buts. No not the body part - the stumbling blocks that keep us from answering God’s call. So often money is the biggest but of all. Money is not the most important thing, but it often holds people back from giving their entire selves, and our whole being is what Christ wants from us - not just a part - our entire being! It is time once more for the Catholic Services Appeal: the posters are up, the temperature gauge is out, the video is on Facebook and the website, and here I am talking to you about money. I stand before you today unashamed to ask you to help support something that I believe to be genuinely worthwhile. Past appeals paid my way through seminary, and priestly studies helped me gain the confidence to answer God’s call. The CSA also maintains the diocese in doing so much good work. I’m sure you’ve heard a bit about the Holy Father’s visit. He’s asking us to do a lot to assist those around us. He is asking us to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth - to drive out the demons of prejudice, violence, injustice, and attacks on human life. We can not drive these demons out alone. We must stand together, a unified Church, each fully engaged in the work that Christ has set before us.
|Between you and God|
Money - one of the basic ‘buts’ that gets in the way of following Christ. Such a thing lends itself to consistently avoiding God’s invitation to say yes totally, fearlessly, to Christ’s call to discipleship! Money keeps us from uniting, from living more fully as the Body of Christ. It’s time to get out of our own way. The Gospel invites us to cut away those fears that stop us. I believe in the work of the parish, I believe in the work of our diocese, and I believe in the mission of the Church. Ask yourselves, what is stopping me from committing myself entirely to a life of discipleship with our Lord Jesus Christ? Find where that no is, that but is, cut it out, and replace it with a yes so that you can continue to answer Christ's call to follow.