I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis
Bottom line: For today it's enough to lift up our heads and say, "How tremendous are your deeds!" Yes! "He rules by his might forever."
Last Sunday we heard Jesus say: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God. Have faith also in me."
But why do we need faith? When all is said and done, don't we have to take care of our own problems? Aren't we the ones who have to defeat the coronavirus? As one of our politicians said: "The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that."
Bishop Robert Barron wrote an article showing that while that governor may be expert on politics, his theology is weak. In the article Bishop Barron explains "God's noncompetitive transcendence". I encourage you to read the article or watch Bishop Barron's video. For my part I'd like to explore God's noncompetitive transcendence by sharing a personal anecdote and then highlighting key Scriptures from this Sunday.
Here's the anecdote: When I visited my brother last week, I was amazed my brother had baked a couple loaves of bread. I toasted a slice and put some butter on it. It was quite good. "Louie," I said, "how did you do it?"
My brother explained that our niece had bought him one of those bread making devices. He assembled the ingredients and folded them together. Now, suppose I were to ask my brother for a list of the ingredients and he were to say: "You need flour, oil, yeast, God, sugar and an oven." Well, I think you would see that God doesn't really belong on that list. God is not one more ingredient. He transcends them all and makes them possible. God also inspired our niece in her act of care and gave my brother the intelligence and patience to carry out the project. Far from being some kind object out there like a "flying spaghetti monster" God is the source, the one who sustains all things and brings them to completion.
So regarding the coronavirus, crisis God is more than someone we turn to when everything else fails. He is that, of course, but we need to recognize his role at every step and to call on him at all times. Our Psalm says to God, "How tremendous are your deeds!" Then it adds, "He rules by his might forever."
God's role can be seen at extraordinary moments: When matter emerges from nothing, when life emerges from matter, when human consciousness emerges from life. But the truth is that God is involved at every step of the process. As Catholics we do not have to reject evolution - only the version that says everything is random and without purpose. No, we see that God under-girds the whole show and is constantly pulling it forward. We can look at the night sky or at a beautiful flower or at a newborn child and say, "How tremendous are your deeds!"
Besides under-girding creation, God under-girds our lives. As Isaiah says, "You have accomplished all that we have done." (26:12) For sure we did it, but ultimately God gets the credit. When we read the Bible it's like pulling back the curtain and recognizing what's really going on.
The Bible shows that everything belongs to God, but it also makes it clear that you and I can turn away from God. When we do that, we enter a false world. Last week I used the example of slavery. It's based on a lie - that one human being can own another human being. We can belong to another person - like a husband to his wife or a parent to their child. In affection we can say "you are mine and I am yours". But we cannot own another person because God own each one of us. St. Paul says that Jesus has purchased us at the price of his blood. To make another person into a slave is an offense against God. As we saw last week, Abraham Lincoln discerned that the Civil War was God's judgment on us because of the sin of slavery.
We're in a pretty bad situation today with the coronavirus and the worldwide devastation that has resulted. If we are really thinking, this pandemic should humble our pride. A virus so tiny that an ordinary microscope cannot see, that virus has brought us down. We are fragile creatures thrown into a world with dangers on every side. And the dangers from the physical world are like nothing compared to the spiritual dangers that threaten us. It sometimes seems we are on our own in what is ultimately a losing battle. But that is not the case. God does not leave us orphans. We will see more next week as we celebrate Jesus' ascension to the Father's right hand.
For today it's enough to lift up our heads and say, "How tremendous are your deeds!" Yes! "He rules by his might forever." Amen.
Audio Homilies for Mercy Sunday:
From Archives (Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
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