Saturday, August 27, 2016

Aug. 28, 2016: 22nd Sunday Ordinary C

Aug. 28, 2016: 22nd Sunday Ordinary C

Click to hear Audio Homily
Are you familiar with the TV show, “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe”? It’s a show where the host is invited to work alongside ordinary folks whose job may be a bit more messy than a desk job.  I think they should film a special episode on many of the families around our flooded area who are performing the very difficult work of gutting out homes handling stinky, funky, water soaked carpet, drywall, and furniture. Better yet, they should also film ordinary folks who cook and distribute free food and who off-load and package relief goods for neighbors in need. During this time of great distress for so many, no job is too low for anyone to assume. Pride has no place when each person has something unique to contribute to alleviate the suffering of others.

What the aftermath of this flooding has taught us is that each one of us is merely a small instrument. Mother Teresa liked to use the image of each person being an electrical wire. Until the current passes through the wire there will be no light. The current is God. Each person has the power to let the current pass through her to produce the light of the world, or each person can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.

Jesus describes the Kingdom of God as a wedding banquet where the place of honor is not according to the earthly logic. On our side of the earth, ones who are talented and accomplish great things are invited to sit at the head table. Yet on God’s side of Heaven, things work much differently. The guest list at the banquet in heaven may include people who may not look religious, who may not have all the right table manners, who may not wear the best clothes or live in the best parts of the city. When we, like the Pharisees, think that we have a special place in God’s family because of something we’ve done, because in our own minds we belong to the “right” church, or because the length of time we’ve been followers of Jesus, Our Lord says, “Guess what? These other guests of mine are just as important as you are”. All of the guests will be equal. Rich and poor will sit side by side because they are the same. Look at our cemeteries, for example. Rich and poor are buried side by side in the cemetery. Even the flooding did not discriminate between rich and poor.

Mother Teresa said, “Even if you’re just a dishwasher in the kitchen, do not think that sitting, standing, coming, and going, that everything you do, is not important to God. God will not ask how many books you have read; how high of a salary you received; or what position you were in the society. He will ask you if you have done your best, for the love of Him. Can you in all sincerity say, ‘I have done my best’? Even if the best is failure, it must be our best, our utmost. If you are really in love with Christ, no matter how small your work, it will be done better; it will be wholehearted. Your work will prove your love. You may be exhausted with work, but unless your work is interwoven with love, it is useless. To work without love is slavery.”

God calls us to kingdom values and blesses us when we seek to please God instead of pleasing other people. We please God when we act humbly and unselfishly and in particular when we help those who are vulnerable. Anything that we do for someone else, especially when we do it for Jesus’ sake and without selfish motives, will be blessed by God. This might require us to move out of our comfort zones. It’s been heartwarming to see folks from Lake Charles, students from Biloxi, Mormons from all across the U.S., seminarians from New Orleans, volunteers from Habitat for Humanity and countless other volunteers leaving their comfort zone to be with us, gutting homes, distributing goods, and praying with people. It’s heart breaking to see hundreds and hundreds of elderly who after two weeks since the flooding still have no one to help them clear their home of muck, mud, and their belongings. We must all be humble servants able to seek out those most vulnerable in need of help and be the hands, feet, and heart of Christ.

Refusing to linger long in any comfort zone, no matter how well appointed, but looking for the low seat and making room for the unseemly guest, moving always past safety to encounter unexpected challenge––this is what it means to follow the crucified and risen One. This is what it means to live the life of faith. May we be the one to seek the low place rather than the high place.