Bottom line: Faith requires taking a risk - getting into the wheelbarrow.
The past two Sundays St. James has urged us to care for the afflicted and to show no partiality, that is, don't treat someone differently because he can do something for you. This leads into Jame's message for today: that faith, if it doesn't have works, is dead. We not only have to believe but to act on our faith.
To illustrate this I'd like to share a story about the great tightrope walker, Charles Blondin. Once Blondin gathered a crowd at Niagara Falls. He stretches a tightrope over the falls and asks them if they believe he can walk across. The crowd cheers their assent. The he asks if they believe he can do it blindfolded. Once again a booming cheer. Finally he asks if they believe he can do it pushing a wheelbarrow. They crowd goes wild. Blondin then approaches a man cheering loudest. "Do you really believe I can do it?" "Of course," the man says. "Then," says Blondin, "Will you get in the wheelbarrow?"
That man is like you or me, at least me. I do believe Jesus is God. He can do all. Still, I'm a little reluctant to get in the wheelbarrow. It's one thing to believe; it's something else to put your body on line.
The wheelbarrow represents the Church. I admit it looks rickety, especially after our summer of shame. I am grateful we have people brave enough to get into the wheelbarrow. Some remarkable people have come forward for our RCIA - Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. We will begin using the Bishop Barron's six short videos on the Mass. We will also use the Handbook for Today's Catholic which presents our basic beliefs, prayers and practices. This will tie in with Generations of Faith which this year focuses morality. As we see in James, morality involves care of the afflicted and avoiding traps (defilement) like adultery, greed, deceit, envy and arrogance. Morality means we trust Jesus and don't go after illusions.
In today's Gospel Jesus places the cross at the center of following him. Peter, however, takes Jesus aside and tries to dissuade him. Peter wants a messiah - a savior - but not a suffering messiah like the one Isaiah describes in today's first reading. Jesus minces no words. "Get behind me, Satan."
Jesus knows how Satan works. He can orchestrate huge evils like the Nazi concentration camps - and the clergy abuse scandal. The devil can also work through basically good people - like St. Peter. He does it by getting us to turn away from the cross.
Some of you remember The Lion King. Simba, fleeing his own guilt and shame, finds an apparently happy world. His new friends, Timon the Meercat, Pumbaa the warthog, teach him the philosophy of "hakuma matata" - no worries. When a lioness arrives to call him back to his true destiny, Simba balks. The lioness eventually convinces him that others need him. Simba, in a sense takes up his cross.
He has to confront Scar - the King of Pride Lands. Scar tries to dissuade Simba by reminding him of his failures and shame. Simba resists Scar and takes up his burden. When he does it becomes joyful. In the movie Simba explicitly embraces his father's will.
We'll see more about the Father's will when St. James addresses a sin that in our culture has become even more destructive that lust. That's for next week. Today we see that faith requires taking a risk - getting into the wheelbarrow. Or to put it more directly, take up your cross, that backpack whatever it is. "Whoever loses his life for my sake and the sake of the gospel will save it." Amen.
From Archives (24th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Summer - Kings and Prophets*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru