Monday, October 1, 2018

HOMILY Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B Sept 30, 2018

HOMILY   Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time   Cycle B    Sept 30, 2018

[Show Box]   I have here a BOX.  Anyone want to guess what is inside this box?   ???
          It is GOD.  I have God in a box.  Got it special on Amazon Prime.   Just kidding.  Want to see?   Of course you do!    (open the box – empty)    Awww.  It is empty.  Well, of course I don’t have God in a box.
          Everyone knows that you cannot put God in a box.  Except people keep trying to do that.
          In our first reading God decides to give Moses some help, and appoints 70 elders to assist.  68 of them show up at the appointed spot at the appointed time, at the meeting tent, fill out all the requisite forms, give proof of their Jewishness, etc, and the Spirit of God comes down on them. 
          But two of these elders, Eldad and Medad, perhaps with a touch of senility or the beginnings of Altzheimers, forgot to set their alarm clocks, forgot about the meeting, got intrigued in their favorite soap opera, whatever, and failed to show up at the meeting tent. 
          NONETHELESS, Eldad and Medad were on the list, and the Spirit of God came down on them too.  Even though they did not go to the meeting.
          Joshua, hearing of this and jealous of Moses’ prerogatives, tells Moses to stop them.  They haven’t done all the requirements. They haven’t filled out the proper paperwork.  Stop them or this will get totally out of hand.
          But Moses refuses to try to box God in.   God is free to act.  And frankly, God doesn’t need all the paperwork.
          In the Gospel we see something similar.  Some guy, NOT a part of the official disciples of Jesus, is driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But he is not board certified.  He hasn’t completed EIM.  He belongs to some competing denomination.  And John tries to stop him.  He tells Jesus, “we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  It is interesting that John does not say, “because he does not follow YOU,” but rather, he does not follow US.”  John is taking this personally. 
          But Jesus does not get upset, and tells John to chill. 
Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.”
Both Joshua in the Old Testament and John in the Gospel are trying to put God in a box.  They are trying to restrict how God acts.  But God just doesn’t fit.
          There is a lesson here for us.  When we think we have God figured out, and know what God is going to do and what God is not going to do, we are in trouble.   St. Augustine, of Hippo, not our St. Augustine of Canterbury, a long time ago said, “whatever you think God is, that is NOT God.”  You can not box God in with our categories and concepts. 
          She is way beyond that.  So don’t try to put God in the box labeled “He” or “Male”.  Don’t try to put God in the box of “old” or “White” or “long bearded”.  That is not God.
          God is free to act in ways that we don’t foresee, that we don’t expect, and even that we don’t like.  God’s definitive act in Jesus Christ was not at all what anyone expected in a Messiah.  And how God has acted in my life was certainly a surprise.  I wanted to be a lawyer.  But that would not have been nearly as exciting, nor nearly as much fun, as being a priest has been. 
          It is hard not to put our expectations on God and prescribe how God is supposed to act.  All of us have some of Joshua and John in us, and want God to conform to our expectations.  But that is just setting us up for a fall, for disappointment.  God is always free.  We cannot control God.  We cannot even understand God.  God is always up to something new.
          A much holier and better way to approach God is the way that Mary did.  She did not put her expectations on God, but opened herself to freely and graciously accept God’s Will for her.  She trusted that God would not want for her anything but the very best.  And she was right.
          And so Mary prayed, “Here I am, the maidservant of the Lord.  Let it be with me according to your word.”  For Mary knew, and understood, that God loved her and wanted only the best for her, even if it sounded crazy and weird and not at all convenient. 
          So for us, God wants only the best; the fullness of everlasting life.  But we cannot control that.  It is God’s free gift.  And God has possibilities we cannot even imagine.  So don’t hamper God.  Don’t restrict God. Don’t try to put God in a box. 

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