Asking the Right Question - Week 1

(September 20, 2021)

Bottom line: "If you are going to discover your true identity, you need to put aside distractions and ask the right question: Who is Jesus and what does his suffering mean? "

Good to be back with you after two weeks in Oregon with Bishop Liam Cary and Fr. Jim Coleman. During that time, John Lenac with the help of other Knights, carried out a renovation of rectory. It was like coming back to new home.

This year for my 50th anniversary I am taking a longer break, In October I will lead a small delegation to the Mary Bloom Center, then spend a few extra weeks in Peru. I am grateful to Fr. Francisco Medina who will be here for weekend and weekday Masses. Deacon Leon and Deacon Gene will preach at the English Masses. I am grateful to Sister Carmen - accompanied now by Sister Maria. And of course I am grateful to our wonderful staff who will be carrying out the administration, pastoral care and religious education - especially for our children and youth. This Monday, together with Sister Carmen and our new youth minister, I will be meeting parents of youth in middle and high school. The following Monday we will meet with the young people themselves.

We have a great parish council that is working with me on some vital issues: How can we help our parents, especially in light of the new sexual education program in our public schools? What does the struggle for racial justice and diversity mean for our parish? How as a parish do we align with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan?

These are big questions. We won't solve them in a year or even in three years. Still it's important we ask the right questions. If you ask the wrong question, things can go amuck. We see that in today's Gospel. The disciples ask the wrong question. "They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest." In our society we want to know who is winning and who is losing. Who's up and who is down? Who's in and who is out?

Jesus says that is the wrong question. To make his point he calls in a child and places his arm around him. In Jesus' day children had the lowest place. They represent humility. Children also have a great capacity for wonder. On Wednesday we had the blessing and inauguration of our new fire pit. I was concerned about the ceremony, making sure we had wood for the fire and above all, marshmallows. One of the children said, "look, look!" He pointed to a jet in sky with a stream behind it.

We need to become like little children - to wonder, to ask the right questions. Last week Deacon Gene focused on the questions: "Who do people say Jesus is?" There are a lot of opinions - a great teacher, a powerful prophet, a gifted heal. For sure, but as Deacon Gene noted, Jesus himself asks the big question: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answers, "You are the Christ" - the anointed one, the messiah.

In today's Gospel we hear that the Messiah must first suffer:

"The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise."

When we ask what Jesus' suffering means, we also are asking how our own suffering relates to his. No matter what we do, none of us can escape the cross. You can run, but you cannot hide. We can try to fill our lives with distractions, but the question always comes back. What is the meaning of your suffering and mine - and how do they relate to the suffering of Jesus on the cross?

That's a big question. Next weekend we will hear Jesus declare the reality of heaven and hell. Some are already living in a self-made hell. How do we help them get out? And how do we avoid hell for ourselves?

The following Sunday we will face a question that troubles many people today: Why did God create us male and female? That question will help us unlock the purpose of our lives.

For today, Jesus tells us that if you are going to discover your true identity, you need to put aside distractions and ask the right question: Who is Jesus and what does his suffering mean? To ask those questions we need the wonder characteristic of child. And we need humility. As Jesus says:

"If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Amen


Spanish Version (Word document)

From Archives (25th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):

2018: Combating the Green Eyed Monster
2015: Discernment of Spirits Week 4: Overcoming Desolation
2012: We Are Little People
2009: The Antidote for Envy
2006: The Desire for Wealth
2003: Text in Context
2000: He Placed a Child in Their Midst
1997: Twice as Many Things, Twice as Unhappy

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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

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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru