Monday, October 13, 2014

HOMILY Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A October 12, 2014

My homily today is in parts, like one of those kits you get from IKEA.  Some assembly on your part is required.
          Part One:    For today’s homily I am going to pass over our selection from the Gospel of Matthew.  It is, frankly, kind of a mess.  St. Luke, in his Gospel, tells a similar parable, but it is obvious that St. Matthew has re-arranged and probably conflated it with yet another parable, with questionable results.  As Fr John L McKenzie, who is regarded as the premier Catholic Biblical scholar of the mid-twentieth century;  wrote in the prestigious Jerome Biblical Commentary about this passage in Matthew’s Gospel, “Because the parable does not exhibit Matthew’s usually fine literary unity and coherence, there is no reason to postulate a compilation from various sources;  rather it is a rare example of substantial rewriting by Matthew; and it shows that he did not re-write skillfully.”    
Ouch!  St. Matthew gets a “D”.  I’m glad I didn’t have John McKenzie as a professor in the seminary!               In any case we will pass over the Gospel this week. 

          Part Two:  “Thin Soup”
A long time ago in the Far East there was a king of a small kingdom, who like most such kings, was a tyrant.  He had two counselors, one who always bent his opinion to what the king wanted to hear, and the other who told the king the truth, whether he wanted to hear it or not.  Soon the counselor who spoke honestly of course upset the petty tyrant, and was banished from court.         A long time after the more pliable counselor wondered how the honest councilor was getting along.  So he decided to pay him a visit.  He put on one of his most splendid and luxurious robes, saddled his finest horse with the most impressive saddle and tack, and went to visit his former colleague
          When he arrived at the honest counselor’s dwelling he found a house in disrepair, with holes in the wall, hardly any protection against the elements.  In front of the house on the porch the honest counselor was having his mid-day meal.  He was dressed in a patched, faded, worn-out robe, sitting on a modest stool, eating a bowl of soup that was so thin it was practically just water.  “My old friend” said the duplicitous counselor, “if only you could learn to bend the truth, to fudge on your judgments, at least to hold your tongue when you disagree, then I am sure the king would welcome you back and you would not have to eat that miserable thin soup.”  The honest counselor looked him in the eye and said, “Ah, if only you could learn to eat this soup, you would not have to lie, dissemble, and compromise yourself.” 

          Part Three:  In our second reading today from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, St. Paul states:  “Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance.”  
The Jerusalem Bible states this more forcefully as, “I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich also.”   
St. Paul in our second reading goes on: “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.” 
          What does St. Paul mean?    I believe that St. Paul is talking about being fully alive.  He knows how to live in humble circumstances and yet not be put down, not complaining, not be depressed, but rather to be grateful, to be aware of his blessings, to be open and fully alive. 
St. Paul also knows how to live with abundance, without complacency, without falling into self-absorbtion, without being puffed up and forgetting others, still grateful and open.  Paul knows how to be poor without self-pity and to be rich without investing his real worth in mere things, and still in any case to be authentic, to be his true self. 
          Does that not sound like freedom?  To not have our sense of self be at the whim and caprice of circumstance?   St. Paul is FREE because has conquered circumstances.  He boldly states: In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need
          St Paul has achieved the freedom to determine himself and not be determined by circumstance.  That is pretty neat.   
          Wouldn’t you like be able to do that?  How did he do that?  What was his secret?   Well he tells us:  “I can do all things in him who strengthens me. “  Let me repeat that“I can do all things in him who strengthens me. “
          I want to point out that this is NOT Paul boasting.  I think that rather he is giving us an example and an encouragement.  In effect St. Paul is telling us, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me, “ AND SO CAN YOU!  
          So can you!  You do not need to be depressed by poverty.  You do not need to be stuck up and isolated by wealth.  You can do all things in Him who strengthens you. 
           So, You don’t need to be resentful.  You don’t need to hold onto grudges.  You don’t need to be selfish and inflated with your own importance.  You don’t need to beat yourself up.  You don’t need to be prejudiced and bigoted.  You don’t need to be angry or lustful or greedy or dishonest. 
You can be free to be who you truly are.  Because Christ has freed you. 
          Living free is difficult, like learning to eat thin soup is difficult.  But Christ has freed us.  Like St. Paul, we too can do all things in Him who strengthens us.

          Be free!    

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