Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jan 25, 2009: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

One of the blessings of being a priest is that I receive lots of letters of encouragement from our St. Aloysius School students. Children have a way of expressing their thoughts that really touch the heart. One of the second grader drew a stick figure representing me standing in front of a crayon drawn altar and wrote, "Fr. Paul thanks for being my best preest."

How many of you parents have kept your children's refrigerator artwork? There is a reason why we scotch tape our children's artwork to our refrigerator doors. There is something irresistable about a stick figure drawn with Crayola with the words, "To my best mom." To a mom, that's worth more than a professionally painted and framed artwork that costs more than a thousand dollars. We are able to see beyond their talent (or lack thereof) for drawing and spelling. In some way, those thick crayola lines reveal something about the giver of the gift. We sense immediately the immense love our children have for us as they drew those lines. In other words, we see the heart that gave the gift, and that's all we look at--a heart burning with love.

St. Therese of Lisieux, who is also known as the "Little Flower" summarizes this beautifully.
"If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn't lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. And I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the Gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS." (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 826)

At every Sunday mass right about now as I'm in the middle of the homily, a discouraging thought goes through my head. "Lord, I'm losing people's interest. I can see them looking elsewhere. You know you could have preached this yourself rather than asking me to do it for you." It is a great mystery why Jesus asks us to do his work, to delegate his work to us when he fully knows our weaknesses and limitations. Look at Jonah in our First Reading. You know what happened when God first asked Jonah to preach to the Ninevites. He ran the other way. Look at what Jesus does in the Gospel. Knowing the limitation of both Simon Peter and Andrew, Jesus still invites them, "Come after me, I'll make you fishers of men." Jesus saw the love in their heart, and that's all he looked at. As someone said, "God is not looking for our capability, He is looking for the availability of our heart."

It's amazing who God calls and what kind of work God delegates to us. Few months ago, when I was short on time to prepare a homily, I begged the Lord early in the day for him to give me an image or a metaphor to preach on. Nothing came in my prayer, and as the evening mass time drew near, I got antsy. Then when I came back to the office, I found this drawing laying on top of my desk [a drawing of Blessed Mother with the word 'Mary']. A niece of one of the volunteers at the office while she waited for her aunt to finish work drew this with Crayola as a gift to me. At first I said to myself, "How nice for her to draw a picture for me!" Then it dawned on me that this was the answer to my prayer. The reason why this was a divinely inspired picture is that this child did not know that I had a great love for Blessed Mother. That night at mass at another church, I preached on 'Mary.' This child did not realize that she answered God's call and cooperated with His work to assist this poor priest who needed a topic to preach on that night! And sometimes this is how we co-operate with God, unbeknownst to us that we are actually doing work delegated to us by God. Sometimes the work that God delegates to us is prayer, somtimes, it's ministry, and sometimes it's our offerings.

After this homily, we will hear a presentation on how we can cooperate with God's work for St. Aloysius. As with parents who look only at the affection and love in their children's heart as they present their parents with refrigerator artwork, God sees the affection and love in our heart for him, through our prayers, ministry, and offerings.

St. Therese, the Little Flower says it best: "After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the father-land, but I do not lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone...In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2011)