Sunday, June 21, 2015

Homily for 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
12th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 21, 2015
St. Ursula, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.

“You never deprive of your guidance those you set firm on the foundation of your love” (Collect).

On Tuesday I’ll be driving to Buffalo to attend the Catholic Media Convention.  I understand that their snow and ice have melted by now.  Some people taking a trip like that would program a GPS device.  I’ll have AAA road maps—I’m kind of old-fashioned—and when I get to Buffalo I’ll take advantage of something I printed from Google to find my hotel and the convention site.

I don’t want to be like the young couple who stopped by my campsite in Harriman State Park on Friday afternoon, to ask me how to get back to the parking lot where their car was.  They’d been hiking for probably 5 hours without a map or compass.

Trail blazes on the tree signal a right turn
for the Appalachian and Timp-Torne trails atop West Mountain
in Harriman State Park.
Guidance is pretty important in our lives, whether it’s a matter of getting to some physical destination, choosing a college or career, dealing with some problem (advice columnists, support groups, etc.), or arranging our legal affairs and investments.

In our prayer this morning, strangely we don’t ask the Lord for his guidance.  Rather, we state it as a fact:  “You never deprive of your guidance those you set firm on the foundation of your love.”  What a statement of confidence!

God set us firmly on his loving foundation when we were baptized, and he has made that foundation stronger with every celebration of the sacraments:  our weekly Eucharist (or perhaps more frequent), our regular Reconciliation (truly an encounter with divine love and mercy), our Confirmation, for most of you the living out of your Matrimony (the sacramental sign of Christ’s love for his spouse the Church, and vice versa), and for some of you probably also the Anointing of the Sick.  For me, of course, the sacrament of Holy Orders is a sign of God’s love—for me, whom he chose to be “another Christ,” however little I merit that, but especially for you, to whom I preach God’s word and for whom I celebrate the Eucharist.

Every celebration of the sacred liturgy firms up that base of God’s love under us.  It does this by connecting us with Jesus, the Beloved Son of the Father.  That connection is our firm foundation.  Or, in the St. Paul’s words, Jesus himself is the foundation on which the Church is built up in love (cf. 1 Cor 3:11).  “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation,” Paul tells us today, redeemed from “the old things” that “have passed away” (2 Cor 5:12), i.e., our sins.  “Behold,” Paul continues, “new things have come,” and those new things are divine grace, divine mercy, divine love, which have re-created sinful men and women—us—into God’s beloved children.

With that “firm foundation” of God’s love, we pray that God “never deprive us of [his] guidance.”  If we are to continue on the path of God’s love, we need guidance, like a hiker following a trail, a traveler trying to get from point A to point B, a senior trying to discern a college choice, a young adult trying to discern a vocational call (marriage? consecrated life? priesthood?), or someone getting advice about an investment or a will.  How does God guide us on our way toward our heavenly destination?

There are many ways.  1st and most important is prayer.  We need to talk to God, ask for guidance, listen to his voice in our hearts.  In this we have the assistance of the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us thru Christ.

2d is the sacred liturgy.  God teaches us thru the Church’s worship:  teaches us his truth—what we are to believe, how we are to behave.  For instance, in today’s gospel we’re taught that Jesus is Lord of creation:  “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:41); and that we need to put our faith in him above all earthly powers.

3d is thru reading and hearing the Word of God, not just when the Scriptures are read in church but in our personal reading and reflection and perhaps in a study or prayer group.

4th is thru the Church’s teachings.  Jesus is very direct, very clear, that he gives his teaching authority—his authority to guide us in what is true and to be believed, on what is right and therefore to be done—gives this authority to his Church, to Peter and the apostles, and implicitly to the Pope and bishops who have succeeded them.  Thus we must listen to the Holy Father’s teaching, e.g., in his new encyclical, and to our bishop (Cardinal Dolan).

If we follow God’s guidance, we’ll be built up in love, as Paul writes to the Ephesians (4:16), built up on the foundation already laid, so that we may—as we pray today—“always revere and love [God’s] holy name,” here on earth and forever in heaven.  In biblical language, the name is equivalent to the person, so we’re praying that we’ll always—forever—revere and love God himself.

May it be so!

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