Hearing his Voice

(Homily for Twenty-Third Ordinary Sunday, Year B)

Bottom line: Tom Burnett heard the Lord's voice in an extraordinary manner. You and I must also listen to the Lord if we are to realize our eternity purpose.

In today's readings, Isaiah prophecies a day when God will open the ears of the deaf. Jesus fulfills that prophecy by healing a deaf man.

Jesus wants to do something similar for you and me. In recent weeks I have been speaking to you about salvation: what we need to do to go to heaven. Obviously the first step involves accepting Jesus and listening to him. That's not easy to do. We need to ask Jesus to open our ears to hear his voice. To illustrate this, I would like to tell you about a man who heard the Lord's voice in an extraordinary way.

The man was Tom Burnett. You may not recognize his name, but all of you have heard about what he did for our country. Before telling you about his act of courage, let me give some background: Tom Burnett was a successful businessman in his late thirties. He and his wife, Deena, had two children - and they regularly attended Sunday Mass. He seemed destined for a peaceful life. Early in 2001, however, something happened. He had a strange dream, a premonition. He told Deena about it, saying that he didn't know exactly what it meant, but that it had something to do with the White House and that it would affect many people. He also told her that, on account of the premonitions, he had started going to daily Mass during his lunch hour.

On September 11, Tom Burnett's premonitions became reality. Returning from a business trip, he boarded a plane headed for San Francisco. Also on the flight were four young men, filled with a terrible bitterness. They took over the plane and redirected it toward Washington, D.C. Tom Burnett made quick phone calls to his wife. She told him what had happened in New York - the planes driven into the Twin Towers. Tom informed other passengers they were on a suicide flight. He spoke to his wife one more time. He told her they were going to storm the cockpit, but they were waiting until they were over a rural area. He then spoke these final words: "Don't worry. We are going to do something."

You know the rest. Led by Tom Burnett, a group of passengers stood up and took on the terrorists. From the flight recorder we get some idea of the battle that took place before the plane went out of control. By their courage and self-sacrifice, Tom Burnett and those who joined him prevented the terrorists from crashing the plane into the White House.

Tom Burnett was an extraordinary man - in a very extraordinary circumstance. But his heroic act of diverting Flight 93 did not happen in a vacuum. His courage - and his amazing calm - happened because he had been listening to the Lord, trying to understand what Jesus was saying to him. We too must ask Jesus to open our ears so that we might hear him.

You and I may not do anything so sensational as foiling a terrorist attack. But the stakes are just as high for us. The stakes involve your eternal destiny - and perhaps the destiny of others near you. Tom Burnett heard the Lord's voice in an extraordinary manner. You and I must also listen to the Lord if we are to realize our eternity purpose.

As we begin a new school year, we refocus on our purpose, why we are here. This month we renew our parish faith formation program. For us, faith formation involves every member of our parish - senior, parents, young adults, youth and children. Faith formation is about listening to the Lord. I encourage you to take it seriously. To sign up and participate.

I have dream for our parish. That dream was expressed by Isaiah: that God would speak to our hearts, telling us not to be frightened. To believe that he alone has power to save us. That he can open our eyes and ears. That as Jesus healed the deaf man - and gave him a voice, he will help each of us listen to him.


General Intercessions for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for 23rd Sunday, Year B):

2012: A Work of Liberation
2009: Hearing his Voice
2006: The March of Folly
2003: Lord, Cleanse My Lips
2000: What is Friendship with Jesus?
1997: Real vs. Imaginary Jesus

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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