Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homily for 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for
the 21st Sunday
of Ordinary Time
August 22, 2010
Luke 13: 22-30
Ursulines, Willow Dr., New Rochelle

“Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise, make us one in mind and heart” (Collect).

Jesus uses a mini-parable today about “entering thru the narrow gate” (Luke 13:24), and he also speaks of the Lord’s rejecting people whom he doesn’t know, evildoers (13:25,27). When “the master of the house” says, “I don’t know where you’re from,” i.e., “who you are,” this really means heart-to-heart knowledge, not intellectual knowledge; thorough knowledge of the person—a relationship. Anyone with whom the Lord has no relationships is, by his definition, an evildoer.

So we’ve prayed this morning that we might seek those values that will help us to get thru that narrow gate, help us know and be known by the Lord, help us reach “lasting joy.”

The lasting joy we seek is contrasted with “this changing world.” Evidently, what changes isn’t lasting. We seek something that does last, something permanent, ultimately something eternal—or, more properly speaking, Someone eternal with whom we can be in a lasting relationship.

There are “values,” the prayer posits, that will bring us to “lasting joy.” These, too, are contrasted, implicitly, with “this changing world.” We know well what those values are, the values proper to God’s kingdom; I hardly need catalog them for you, or mention the vices that “this changing world” embraces and that would cause us to miss the narrow gate, or so bloat our hearts with evil that we couldn’t possibly squeeze thru it; vices that would keep us “outside knocking” and begging the Lord to let us in (13:25).

“The values that will bring us lasting joy” are linked to “our desire.” They’re more than wishful thinking on our part. They’re more than some vague object of hope: “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if….” Desire is a stronger word. We really want what these values lead to. We long for what these values stand for. Our hearts are set on all this.

And what is it we desire? “What you promise,” what God promises: lasting joy, a happy eternity, Someone who will make us happy forever: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Augustine, Confessions). Our desire, our longing for a joy that can’t be dissipated, a happiness never to be shadowed by sorrow or regret, impels us—so we pray—to seek values for our lives that are consistent with such joy and such happiness because they’re consistent with what Christ has taught us, because they keep us close to himself, lead us to his Father.

And there’s the final piece of the prayer of the day: “Make us one in mind and heart.” “Make us one” with yourself, Father, thru your Son Jesus, who shows us how to approach you, in the Holy Spirit whom Jesus gives to us as a bond of union with himself and with you. Being “one in mind and heart” reminded of a quotation from Cicero that our director in the high school aspirantate, Fr. Bernard Justen, often used—he had several favorite quotations, including that one from Augustine on our restless hearts—Idem velle atque idem nolle: ea demum firma est amicitia (“To like the same things and dislike the same things—only this is a strong friendship”).* That’s another way of saying “oneness of mind and heart.”
Students of the Salesian College in Saragossa, Spain, form a large heart full of joy and happiness as part of a festal celebration.

“Make us one,” we pray, with all the disciples of Jesus, to live in harmony with them, to love them as sisters and brothers. “Make us one” as part of that great “unity of the Holy Spirit” to which we allude in the prayers of our sacramental rites, including all the Opening Prayers of the Eucharist and the Great Doxology of the Eucharistic Prayers. That unitas Spiritus Sancti is not only the Divine Trinity but the Universal Church, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, bound heart and soul to the Triune God by the spiritual glue of the Spirit.

“That they may be one just as we are one,” was Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper (John 17:11); “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us…” (17:21). That we might be “one in mind and heart” with the Father, with Jesus our Savior, by the grace-ful power of the Holy Spirit linking us to them, and that we might be one with all who belong to Jesus, by that same spiritual power, is our prayer—so that we might be “one in mind and heart” with them in “lasting joy” forever and ever.

* Sallust, Bellum Catalinae, XX, 4. My memory always had Fr. Justen attributing it to Cicero, but the Google citations disagree.

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