Time to Retire

(August 28, 2022)

Bottom line: The time for biblical "retirement" is at the door. What matters is that we rid ourselves of sinful burdens, run the race that still lies ahead and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Last year we celebrated my 50th anniversary. Some people asked me if I were going to retire. Well, I do have couple of friends who have retired like Fr Jim Coleman and Fr. Tim Sauer. The only problem is they seem to be working harder than I do!

When I was discerning the priesthood, someone told me this humorous recruitment slogan: Become a priest: the pay is not good, but the retirement plan is out of this world!

In today's Gospel, Jesus make a reference to that retirement plan. He describes it as a group of friends reclining on some kind of sofas. In the middle is a table containing the wedding banquet. In Jesus' day that banquet would have the most delicious food available: roast lamb, fresh baked bread and the finest wine. And then, at just the right moment, you would see the most beautiful sight - the radiant bride and the ecstatic groom. I've done a lot of weddings in my 50+ years as a priest and I have never seen an ugly bride. Each one had a special beauty, but I have to admit some were breathtakingly gorgeous. Well, the bride of Christ will be the most beautiful of all. But soon, very soon, we would not have our eyes on her. She herself would have her eyes were fixed adoringly on one person - the groom, Jesus himself.

You don't want to miss that sight. When you came to Mass, you perhaps bowed your head to Jesus on the cross. In a few moments I will lift up the host which becomes the true Body of Jesus. But these are sacramentals and sacraments. Sacraments are outward signs of inner spiritual realities. They point the way to our true home. The big question is: how do we get there. How do we make sure we are not the ones described last Sunday where Jesus says: I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!

To avoid being shut out, Jesus has a three part plan. We've been hearing about it in recent weeks. First, rid yourself of any burden and sin that clings to you. This refers to obvious things like drugs or pornography. It could include things we might not normally notice, but other people do: for example, spite or racism. Recently a public official claimed, "I don't have a racist bone in my body." Well, it didn't look that way to some people. Psalm 19 says, "From my hidden faults, free me." That's the first prayer: freedom from both blatant and hidden faults.

Second, persevere in running the race that lies before us. One of my Evangelical friends told me, "You don't find the word retirement in the Bible." Even if you have retired from your job, none of us can retire from Jesus' work. And if you remember the wedding at Cana, Jesus saves the best until the last. I think of a priest who recently died after several weeks in hospice. He continued his prayers surrounded by friends. Jesus did his greatest work on the cross. You and I may have a cross of suffering waiting us. Be prepared to persevere in running the race ahead.

To enter the wedding banquet, the third step is most important: Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. I mentioned that when you came out on this field, you may have bowed to the crucifix. When you come into our church, the proper protocol is to bow to the cross when you go walk past it or before you enter your pew. The English historian, Paul Johnson, when he entered his study, used to pick up a crucifix and kiss it. Whatever helps you, keep your fixed on Jesus. If we do that, no matter what sins or sluggishness clings to us, Jesus will open the door.

Well, this Mass and picnic wraps up our summer - and we have a lot to look forward to in September. At the end of summer, most of us say, the heck with cholesterol and calories, we're going to enjoy a juicy hamburger or hot dog - or maybe one of each. They can't compare to Jesus' wedding banquet, but they are a tiny foretaste. The time for biblical "retirement" is at the door. What matters is that we rid ourselves of sinful burdens, run the race that lies ahead and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. amen.

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From Archives (Homilies for Twenty-Second Sunday, Year C):

2019: Nothing More Beautiful/a>
2016: Youth Challenge Week 3: How to Enter Narrow Gate
2013: Why Are We Here?
2010: The Key to the Narrow Gate
2007: The Beauty of Humility
2004: Arrogance and Vainglory
2001: The Guest List
1998: Saved by Grace Alone

From Archives (Homilies for Twenty-Second Sunday, Year C):

2016: Youth Challenge Week 3: How to Enter Narrow Gate
2013: Why Are We Here?
2010: The Key to the Narrow Gate
2007: The Beauty of Humility
2004: Arrogance and Vainglory
2001: The Guest List
1998: Saved by Grace Alone>

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Fr. Jim Northrop
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