Who Can Know God's Counsel?

(Homily for Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

This has been a terrible week. All of us saw the news about the terrorists who took children as hostages, mistreated them for several days, and then murdered them, together with many adults. It gives you a sick feeling in the stomach that people could commit such horrible acts. Also a feeling of rage and impotence – but we are not completely helpless. We do have the power of prayer, which we should not underestimate. It is the greatest force for changing people’s hearts.

This horrendous event makes us aware of the need for leaders who can deal with these threats which seem to be more common in our world. It is important that we exercise our right to vote to elect good leaders, not only to high offices, but also to “lesser offices.” Last week, like many of you, I got my absentee ballot. I wasn’t too happy with the fact that now we have to choose a political party. I don’t know which one I fall into, but you have to make a choice in order to vote.

At the end is that list of candidates for non-partisan offices. I have to admit I know hardly anything about any of them. Even my younger brother who is very up on politics says that sometimes he has to go by the sound of their name. Well, I wanted something more than that. I did read the voters’ guide, but also this week received the recommendations based on the Washington Human Life questionnaire. I posted the part of it which applies to candidates here in King County, in case you find it helpful.

I am not endorsing any candidate. The Catholic Church does not endorse specific candidates, but as Archbishop Brunett explained well in his four-page letter, it is important for us not only to vote, but also to inform our consciences according to the teachings of our faith.

This does tie in with our Scripture readings. The Old Testament reading asks, “Who can know the counsel of the Lord?” Before analyzing that reading in greater depth, I would like to tell you about an experience in my own life which relates to it.

People have often asked me how I received my vocation to the priesthood. I will recount it to you today because it relates to our Old Testament and Gospel reading. It happened a little over forty years ago, at the beginning of my Senior year. I was alone, working at a gardening job, trimming the edge of a flowerbed with manual clippers. The day was sunny, blue sky with almost no wind. I was thinking about a conversation a few of us had about what we would do after high school.

To be honest, I wasn’t “thinking hard.” I was more just feeling relaxed and peaceful. Without warning, an overwhelming feeling came over me – that I could be a priest, that it was not just a theoretical possibility, but something I could really do. I felt a perfect freedom – yet somehow the outcome seemed determined in advance.

Since I had that experience, I have always had the conviction that being a priest is God’s will for me. The calling was verified when I went to the seminary; the staff and ultimately the bishop had the responsibility to determine whether my vocation was genuine. During my years as a seminarian and priest, I have had my good days and my bad days, my lazy days and my crazy days. But through it all I have known in my heart that this is God’s will for me. Apart from the sacraments themselves, this has been God’s greatest gift to me – the assurance of what his basic will is for my life.

Today the Wisdom of Solomon asks: “Who can know God’s counsel or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” (9:13) In one sense, of course, no one can. As Wisdom states, our deliberations are timid and our plans insecure because the weight of many concerns keeps pulling us down. Nevertheless, there exists a “holy spirit” who can show us the path.

This reading has particular significance as we begin a new school year. We need to ask ourselves what is the greatest thing we can teach our young people. It’s not more knowledge. Our young people have facts coming out of their ears. By the time they turn fifteen, they are exposed to more things than most of us knew at age forty. But they are missing something. Our youth need to know how to open themselves to God’s plan – and how to carry through once it becomes known. Only we can show them – by example - how to do that.

The call itself depends on God's initiative. St. Augustine said:

You called, you shouted and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
Augustine was clear that a person's vocation comes from God's grace. Yet, he also acknowledged the role of others in preparing to receive the call: Ambrose of Milan who helped him overcome his faulty understanding of Christian religion and his mother Monica who prayed for him with an abundance of tears.

You and I can have a role in helping a young person receive his vocation. Jesus speaks dramatically about the cost of being his disciple. He tells us to recognize the demands before we embark: not just giving up certain pleasures or a certain circle of friends. It means giving up all we possess, laying down everything before Jesus. In spite of our own weakness and stumbling, you and I can help young people prepare to hear such a call.


Spanish Version

From Archives (23rd Sunday, Year C):

2013: Seeking God's Counsel
2010: What the Key Costs
2007: Reinvent Yourself
2004: Who Can Know God's Counsel?
2001: Redemptive Suffering and Moral Confusion
1998: Jesus First, Family Second

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Bulletin (Rebuilding Parish, Dr. Ray Guarendi)

Population Bomb or Bust? - New York Times:

Ever since 1968, when the United Nations Population Division predicted that the world population, now 6.3 billion, would grow to at least 12 billion by 2050, the agency has regularly revised its estimates downward. Now it expects population to plateau at nine billion.

Seattle's Liberal Larry on on Bush's comment - can't win the war on terror (warning for humor-impaired: parody)

The Myth of the Flat Earth

Preaching Schedule

Pictures from Orphanage in Puno

St. Mary of the Valley Album

(August 2010)

Personal Reflection on New Roman Missal English-Language Translation

My Vocation Story (23 minute video, made at Everett Serra Club on August 14, 2010)

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