Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sept. 13, 2015: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Sept. 13, 2015: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
Recently I was in line at a movie ticket counter waiting to buy a ticket. Ahead of me in line were a husband and his wife arguing about which movie to see. The husband apparently did not want to see a movie that his wife wanted to see. He said, “That’s a chick flick. I don’t want to watch a religious movie about saving a marriage.” Instead he wanted to see a movie about a young, attractive, professional woman breaking up with her boyfriend and getting romantically involved with a handsome stranger. The couple argued for several minutes at the counter. I left the line to let the dust settle. The husband was definitely not going to give in to his wife. In a strange way, the plot of the movie that I went to see was unfolding before my eyes in that arguing couple.

I saw the movie that wife wanted to see. It was a movie about a financially successful married couple whose lives were crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. The husband was busy chasing money and chasing a temptation that would compromise his marriage. Both were occasional church goers, but if Jesus ever appeared to them and asked the same question he asked Peter in today’s gospel, “Who do you say that I am," their answer would have been, "You are Jesus whom we visit occasionally on some Sundays." The wife complained to an elderly lady who later became a mentor, “If there’s one thing we do well [in our marriage], it’s fight. ” The lady replied, “Just because you argue a lot doesn’t mean you fight well. I bet you never feel like you’ve won. Very few of us know how to fight the right way or understand who we are really fighting against. We need to have the right [plan] and resources because victories don’t come by accident...Tell me, how much do you pray for your husband?” The wife admitted, “Not much.” The lady replied, “Your husband has his own issues but he’s not your enemy.” The elderly lady went on to say that the devil is the real enemy who divides marriages, steals, kills, and destroys joy.

Most of us expect good things from God--financial blessings, happy marriage, and healthy children. Some of us may even approach faith as a feel-good experience that complements our desire for a buffet of life where we pick and choose pleasant experiences. But Jesus lays out a very different path for his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

As followers of Jesus, we will face trials and suffering, both ups and downs of life. We may not be asked to die for our faith, but we will be asked to live our faith with courage and full faithfulness. And in times of difficulty, we are to trust Jesus and surrender our own understanding. St. James says in the Second Reading, "faith without good work is dead." Our ‘faith’ has to be backed up by ‘works,’ practical behavior. That is to say, our way of life should correspond fully to the faith we profess. Our faith in Jesus should compel us to reach out compassionately to other people, to give our time, talent and yes, perhaps even some of our treasure to the people around us, especially the needy; else, we are just pretending, or even lying. What good is being deeply religious, if one does not reach out to a world in need?

In the movie, despite being aware of her husband falling into temptation of infidelity, the wife begins to pray earnestly for her husband. At one point she tells her husband, “I would rather have a man chasing Jesus than a house full of stuff.”  To be a Christian disciple is not primarily to 'save my soul' or 'go to heaven,' but to immerse into human concerns, to become part of it through loving and sharing and building up with 'others.' To truly know “who Jesus is,” one has to fulfill the conditions of discipleship in which Jesus calls forth each disciple to deny oneself and take up the cross and follow him. Does our belief in Jesus and our behavior correspond? If we are merely pretending to follow Jesus, we need to look within and find the resolve to follow him once again. We can’t afford not to follow Jesus’ footsteps. Embracing and carrying our cross will bring us true freedom, joy, and fulfillment.
-Fr. Paul Yi