Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
If the past three months, with isolation, quarantine or whatever you want to call it, has taught us anything, hopefully it is this: What we truly value? Three month of not being with our friends; 3 months of people not able to visit loved ones in care facilities; 3 months of self isolation; 3 months of no visitors. In these months of solitude and quiet hopefully we were able to do some sort of ‘self-inventory’ of what is really important or not. I had 3 months to clean up my office at home but I just didn’t get there… yet. Like everyone else, human contact was very limited… work was done from home by Zoom or telephone conference. One thing that I was able to do during these three months was to take that incredible journey into the heart.
Sitting in my prayer room, in the silence, one-on-one with God, I discovered the value of my friendships, of learning, nature (bird feeder outside the window), the budding trees, and the silence. But as well, I was able to come face to face with those things that got in my way of these values… IOW… the very things that try to distract me from God. In many of my self reflections, what I wrote in my journal, showed me that these old hurts and sins had gotten in the way of my relationship with God. Some how, they crept into the very core of my being, taking up too much room in my heart. I was angry at God for the fallout of this pandemic. I don’t blame God for it… and for sure I am sympathetic to those who are dying from this disease. However, I found myself angered over all that we have done so much hard work to build up this community, from ‘welcoming to new sound systems to the many active ministries…’ I found myself asking why now?
In First Reading, a Shunemite woman built an addition onto her house to ensure to have room for a visiting holy man… Elisha. Her actions shows us her priorities… recognizing and welcoming God in this prophet. Because of her (and her husbands) goodness, it led to the gift she prized… a child of her dreams. They had knew what was important… they didn’t let anything get in the way of their core value: recognizing God in others.
Paul, writing to the Romans in the Second Reading reminds us that we constantly need to be making room for Jesus in our hearts. He reminds the Romans (and us) that there is no room for him if our hearts are filled with callousness, prejudices, hatred, or self-centerdness. If we fail to forgive others, than God will not find no welcome in us. And we all have these: they are there… in the heart… tucked away… deeply… we need to be always looking inwards and removing those ugly things that have no value other than to take up precious room from God’s unconditional love. During these months of isolation, I have discovered that God does not come to our hearts empty handed: God arrives bearing gifts of love, peace, compassion and HOPE!! So if we are filled up with negativity in its many forms: where’s the space to receive what God brings?
Jesus reminds us, “whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for his sake will find it.” We need to look after ourselves, nourishing and exercising our bodies, getting enough sleep, making time for play as well as work. But if all we do is look out for number one, than we have crossed the line… into self-centeredness… and we begin to fill the heart with ‘junk’. We need to be well-rounded individuals; to know what is important: what requires self-sacrifice, surrendering our time, attention and resources in service for others, especially for those in need. When we do this, we are giving from the heart… and in turn, making more room for God.
The past few months have been graced moments. Taking inventory of all that we have and the possibilities to where we can go when this is over has given me new hope. The anger that I held for the fall out of this pandemic assures me that we are on the cusps of even a greater and healthier church… new ideas to how to evangelize coming forward and to be shared with you. It was only when I could acknowledge it that I could release it… making room for more grace.
On this 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we need to thank Jesus who shows us how life needs to be a careful balance: work and rest, friendships and solitude, prayer and service. But as well, we need to empty our hearts of all those things that just take up room, in order to welcome our God, who is always there wanting to share in the goodness our lives. Amen.