Sunday, February 26, 2017

Homily Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A February 26, 2017

This past week I had the great pleasure of viewing a movie I have been wanting to see for a while, starring Tom Hanks, called “Bridge Of Spies”.   Anyone else here ever see it?
In the movie Tom Hanks plays an attorney defending a Soviet spy during the height of the cold war.  The spy is convicted, and during the sentencing phase, as the spy faces probable execution, the spy is calmly sitting at the desk next to Tom Hanks awaiting the judge to pronounce sentence.   Hanks turns to the rather placid spy and asks, “Aren’t you worried?”  And the spy looks at him and responds, “Would it help?”
          “Would it help?”   Well, no.  Worry doesn’t help.  In fact it can get in the way and detract us from dealing with a problem, only making things worse.  Worry doesn’t help.
          In the Gospel today Jesus tells us not to worry.  "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”   So don’t worry!
          But that is easier said than done.  It is very hard to turn off worry.  It is extremely difficult to not worry by sheer force of will.  “I will not worry!”””  
          Rather than trying to not worry, and then worry about whether or not you will be able to stop worrying, it is better to replace the worry with something else.   Worry comes from fear, and the best strategy is to get rid of the fear.
          The opposite of worry is PEACE.   Well, Jesus helps us because that is the gift He promised us.  “My Peace I give you, my Peace I leave you.”   Remember that?
The peace of Christ casts out fear and worry from our hearts.  When we are at peace in Christ, we are able to resist fear and the worry that accompanies it.
          I had a striking example of this when I was a seminarian many moons ago.  For the Summer of 1975 I was assigned to assist in Nome, Alaska.  I was going there to help on a radio station, KNOM, the Bishop of Fairbanks had and still has.  It broadcast all over Alaska to scattered Eskimo villages.  It was stationed in Nome, close to Russia, because it also broadcast into the Eskimo villages of Siberia.  I was excited to go to Nome and to work on the radio.
          However, when I got to Nome the first job I was given was to assist the Little Sisters of Jesus with a salvaging task.  Their home, and many of the Eskimoes homes, which were beyond the seawall that protected the white’s part of town, had been demolished in a terrible Winter storm.  When I showed up in late May things had thawed enough to start salvage operations.  And so I was assigned to help the Little Sisters see if we could find and save anything from their former home, which was now destroyed. 
          So we went out there to pick through the muck and the ruins to see if anything could be saved.  We found some pots and pans, some photographs, a few pieces of a broken Ivory crucifix, not much.   They didn’t have much to start with.
          I was a VERY UNHAPPY character.  I was brooding and sulking and P.O’ed because I had come to Nome to work on the radio, NOT to be picking through the muck and rubble.
          Then, DUH, it finally dawned on me that this was the Little Sister’s home we were picking through.  This was their stuff and their possessions, the few they had, and their home.  But they were not grumbling and upset and unhappy, like I was.  They were in a much better place than I was.  They were like on a picnic.  They were full of joy, even happiness.  You see, they had such confidence in God’s care for them, such freedom from possessions, such total trust in God as their loving Father, that they had no room left for worry or for regret.  They were free from worry and fear.  It really made an impression on me. 
Today’s reading calls us to that kind of confidence in God’s care for us.  Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah puts it very movingly.  God says to God’s people:  “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”
God cares for you even more than a loving mother for her child!
And our second reading also surprizes us:  St Paul assures us:  Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive….. “   
And we might be tempted to think we are going to receive judgement from God, or maybe justice from God.  What is hidden in darkness in our hearts will be revealed and we expect it to be something bad and evil.  But that is not what St Paul says.   Rather he states:  “and then everyone will receive praise from God.”  Praise from God!  How wonderful to be praised by your heavenly Father.  Children love to be praised by their parents, when it is well deserved.  How much more beautiful and moving and affirming to receive praise from your Heavenly Father!  It will be FABULOUS!

          Jesus today teaches and challenges us to let go of Worry, and to replace it with His Peace, based on trust of our loving Father.  " Seek first the kingdom of God and his righeousness, and all these things will be given you besides."  And that is Good News!

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