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Homily: Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ephesians 1: 3-14)

          No one gets anything for nothing. We have all heard that at some point in our life. Usually, we hear it from an authority figure who wants to motivate us to be the best we can be. We can get a sense that this is the way it is with our salvation. In other words, our moral lives determine whether we will be with God for all eternity. But is that the whole story?

            Our readings today are all about being chosen. We hear about Amos being chosen as a prophet of for God in the Old Testament reading. He points out that he is the most unlikely of prophets. He is not a trained religious professional. He is a farmer. He doesn’t ask to be a prophet, but he is picked to be a prophet by God. Amos doesn’t consider his occupation as detrimental, but he looks at it as what makes him a true prophet. His main qualification is that God has asked him to proclaim the divine message.

            In the Gospel, Jesus sends the Apostles out to minister in his name. We are told that they introduce Jesus to the world by preaching repentance, by curing the sick, by casting out demons. The apostles are delegated by Jesus. The disciples do the exact sort of things Jesus was doing. He has chosen them to be his agents.

            Now most of us aren’t going to be prophets. We aren’t going to be missionaries, so how do our scriptures today relate to us? Perhaps if we look at the reading from Ephesians, we can get an idea of what it means to be a believer in its most rudimentary sense.

            We all want to understand our Christian vocation whether we work for the church or not. We are interested in whether we are going to make it to heaven or not. We have a sense as 21st century Americans that salvation is a transactional undertaking. Again, it goes back to that first statement of this homily. We don’t get something for nothing.

            Our faith is all about our choices. At a certain point in our life we decide whether we choose to have a relationship with God. When we choose, we begin to follow a Christian moral path. We think if we keep the rules well, then we will earn favor with God. If we are constantly breaking commandments, we will lose our place with God for all eternity. And this is the way it works. We, in a sense, pay for our salvation by our virtuous actions.

            The passage from Ephesians in our second lesson challenges this whole idea. First, we aren’t the prime movers in our relationship with God. God is the prime mover. We read, “God chose us to be Christian before the foundation of the world.” We don’t earn a good relationship with God. We have been given it from the start. We just fail to recognize it. We can’t see. What causes our blindness? Sin.

            Paul says the effects of sin are different than what we might think. Sin, first of all, causes us to lose our innocence. As children we trust the fact that we can always go home again. Home is a place we are accepted no matter what we do. But somewhere along the line we get the idea that if we have a moral failure that we can’t go home. The door is closed. We have a sense that sin cuts us off from God. The truth is, that the door is never locked, no, the door is always open if we want to go home to God again.

            The second way sin touches us is that sin causes us to cast aside our ideals. We begin to feel like we are worthless in God’s eyes. We give up on living right. A story is told of a riverboat captain who did not care about his ship anymore. The paint was chipped and the brass on the engine was dirty. One day the captain had a conversion. He understood God’s love for him for the first time. He painted his ship. He polished the engine. People asked him what was going on. The captain said, “God has enabled me to care again.”

            The third ramification of sin is that it destroys the will. What is a bad habit becomes an addiction and can become the way we define our life. We begin to see ourselves as horrible people. Jesus brought a message to the world, which is that we are loved, and we were loved before we were ever born. We have been loved from the beginning of time. If we accept the message, we can find the will to resist evil.

            Sin distorts our perception of God. Jesus can help us to see clearly that God has entered into a relationship with us that can never be destroyed. Jesus freed us from shame and guilt. God always loved us and always will. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Is there a sin that I think is unforgivable? What would Jesus say?
  2. Is the object of Christian life to make it to heaven? Is there some benefit to my Christianity in the here and now?

 

Dear Parishioners, 

          We are the midway point of the summer, so we need to think about the fall. One of the programs that begin in the fall is Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Do you know someone who does not have a church who would like to be a Catholic? Is there someone you know who is an adult Catholic who has not been confirmed? If you know of someone who falls into these categories have them call our office and contact me. Sr. Kathleen and I are starting to plan the RCIA program for next year.

          I would also encourage those who have older children who are not baptized or who have not received other sacraments to contact Debbie Patronagio our Director of Religious Education. We will be having the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children once again this fall. Sometimes children who are in school have not had the Sacraments of initiation (Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation) yet. We want to prepare them for these sacraments.

          The overall message is that it is never too late to receive the sacraments of the church. Great graces can come to those who celebrate the sacraments. Hope and strength can come to the person who chooses to make a Christian Commitment. Share your faith today, by inviting someone to join our church.

          May Our Lady and All the Angels and Saint watch over you today. 

          Fr. Mark