Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oct. 5, 2014: 27th Sunday in Ordinary A

Click to hear audio homily
Do you like hot sauce? Do you like to sprinkle hot sauce on your meals? Have you ever tried Tabasco ice cream? With the first bite, you taste the sweet and creamy ice cream, but with the second bite, you taste the mild and tangy jalapeno pepper. Does that sound good to you? Last year I visited Avery Island where Tabasco Hot Sauce is made and took a tour of the Tobasco plant. It was a fascinating tour and I learned that Tabasco Sauce is also known as Cajun ketchup. Another remarkable fact I learned is that one family for five generations has been running the Tabasco Company since 1868. They say that most family-owned businesses do not survive beyond the second generation. The current CEO's great-great-grandfather founded the company 146 years ago, and somehow the next generations have kept the founder's original vision as they expanded the company. They haven’t sold out to another company, nor has the company been embroiled in in-fighting and division. That's quite remarkable.

If you were to inherit a family business, what would you do to ensure that the business would thrive through the next generation? You would need to instill the mission of the founder upon the next generation; without being connected to that mission, the next generation loses the purpose of why the organization exists. Often what happens in a family business is that different family members vie for leadership; the unity is lost as they fight for what they think is the right direction. Jesus challenges us to be connected to him and live out our Heavenly Father's mission for us. However, what happens when we disconnect from that mission? We can easily adopt the principle, "I want what I want."  Even when what we are doing is good and praiseworthy, if we become entrenched in our will instead of following the Father’s will for our lives, then we become disconnected from our true mission.  That's what happened to the people of Israel and the religious leaders. Through the parable, Jesus showed the people that their will--which was disconnected from the Father's will--failed to produce the good fruits for the Kingdom of God. They promoted their personal agenda at the cost of fulfilling the Father's will.

In many ways, this parable is a reflection of our own faith life. At the beginning of our life, we are baptized and the Holy Spirit begins to dwell in our hearts. Each of us is given a guardian angel to guide us on our journey toward God and to protect us from harm during our earthly pilgrimage. Each of us is given a unique mission to make Jesus known to others through our life--our life of humility, charity, and faith. When we live a life of prayer where we listen to God and carry out his will for us, we bear fruit for his kingdom. Galatians 5:22 describes these fruits, "love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." We are then like the good tenants in God's vineyard, helping to produce good fruits. But somewhere along the way in our faith life, we become distracted, preoccupied, and anxious about earthly concerns. We get quite busy, busy producing much earthly fruits--money, respect, comfort, success. Yet, these earthly fruits can spoil and vanish in an instant. Those of you who are daily checking the persimmon trees in your yard know this; those pesky birds and squirrels come and eat your delicious persimmons that you've been waiting to ripen. And how many of you who daily watch the stockmarket have to take blood pressure medicine to keep yourself calm?

I shared with you before how I was raised Catholic but my prayer life and faith went out the window
in high school. When I didn't pray, I no longer listened to Jesus; eventually, I forgot what his voice sounded like. I no longer believed that God had a vision or a plan for my life. Then other impostor voices began to inspire me, through my fascination with New Age beliefs. One of my classmates, who was a Christian, approached me to talk about Jesus. I vehemently rejected him and his message. It was a personal crisis that brought me back to praying again to God. With my heart humbled--without arrogance or pretension--I began to hear God speak to me again about his plan for my life.

Prayer is our way to know and understand the Father's will. It is through prayer that we begin to see God's mission for us and whether we are carrying out that mission. This is how Blessed Mother and saints of our Church came to know the truth and to trust the Father. Father has chosen each of us to continue the work of His Son, and the He has given us every gift necessary to do His Will. We allow the distractions of our world to keep us from our true calling--to be His Son's presence in the world. Just as the Tabasco Company kept their founding vision for over 146 years, we need silent, intense prayer life to allow God's vision to bear fruit in our lives. We also need to call on Blessed Mother, our guardian angel, and saints to assist us; they are ready to help us if we call upon them and trust.