Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sept. 4, 2016: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Sept. 4, 2016: 23rd Sunday Ordinary C

Click to hear Audio Homily
A weekend ago, a group of parishioners from Ascension, St. Francis, and St. Jules parishes helped clean and gut out a home of an elderly man near St. Isidore Catholic Church in Baker. When we arrived, there were not that many things on the curb where the debris should have been because he was reluctant to throw away his possessions. When asked how many years he lived there, he replied, “I got married 64 years ago, and we bought this house a year later, so we’ve been in this house for 63 years.” In that small 3-bedroom home, he and his wife raised 10 children. Can you imagine 63 years of memories being carted away one by one by strangers pushing a wheelbarrow to the curb?
           
Some flood victims were able to find humor amid devastating tragedy. Chuck and Karen Craft of Walker, Louisiana were among the thousands of flooded residents dragging furniture, appliances, and other belongings out of their home. Chuck and his wife thanked God that their family survived and had a long cry about their condemned home. Although they threw away most of the contents of their home, they were trying to salvage photos of their four children and 16 grandchildren. Chuck said, “I guess God wanted me to de-clutter. I was too pig-headed to do it...My story is no different than anybody’s down the road. Everybody’s life is out on the curb to be picked up by garbage.”

The Book of Wisdom from the First Reading asks, Who can know what the Lord intends? Our human reasoning and intellect are not adequate for the task. Faith is not so much making guesses about inexplicable things that happen to us and gloss over it with a statement like, “Oh well,” where we begrudgingly accept a situation. Faith means that in the midst of chaotic moments in our lives we make a choice to trust Jesus. He challenges our most precious loyalties. There can be no other loves before him. There is a cost to following Jesus, and the curious and half-hearted should take notice.
             
Mother Teresa who is being canonized this Sunday knew well the cost of discipleship amid challenges. She said, “We must deliberately renounce all desires to see the fruit of our labor, doing all we can as best we can, leaving the rest in the hands of God. What matters is the gift of yourself, the degree of love that you put into each one of your actions. Do not allow yourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as you have done your best. Neither glory in your success, but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness. If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people's opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. The Lord has willed me here where I am. He will offer a solution.”
         
The flooding did not spare churches either. In our diocese, Holy Rosary in St. Amant, St. Ann in Sorrento, St. Anthony in Darrow, Immaculate Conception in Denham Springs, St. Alphonsus in Central, and St. Jean Vianney in Baton Rouge were all flooded. The past three weeks have been difficult for the pastors and parishioners alike for all faith traditions.  Imagine what we would be feeling and doing if our beloved churches and parishioners of Ascension and St. Francis were under 3 feet of water. Would we find joy in the midst of suffering?
         
This flooding that came upon us unannounced has challenged all of us, even those whose homes were not flooded. As we drive by streets filled with debris that was once precious possessions, we cannot help but wonder why this tragedy had to happen. Perhaps we feel helpless and overwhelmed by the sheer scale of destruction. Yet at the same time, we may feel the call from Jesus to think about what we are doing and decide if we are willing to trust Jesus all the way. Our faith should strip the mask from the world and reveal God in everything, even in this tragedy. Faith makes nothing impossible and renders meaningless such words as anxiety, danger, and fear, so that the one who trusts Jesus goes through life calmly and peacefully, with profound joy — like a child, hand in hand with his mother. Although in this time of upheaval it may be difficult for us to pray, we try, giving our best as St. Paul reminds us, “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
 
Would you stand now and turn to the Gather Hymnal and sing this song with me?

Though the mountains may fall and the hills turn to dust, 
yet the love of the Lord will stand / as a shelter for all who will call on His name. 
Sing the praise and the glory of God.

1. Could the Lord ever leave you? / Could the Lord forget His love?
Though a mother forsake her child, / He will not abandon you

2. Should you turn and forsake Him, / He will gently call your name.
Should you wander away from Him, / He will always take you back.

3. Go to Him when you're weary, / He will give you eagle's wings.
You will run never tire, / For your God will be your strength.

4. As he swore to your Fathers, / when the flood destroyed the land.
He will never forsake you, / He will swear to you again.