Discovering Life's Purpose Week 8: Do Whatever He Tells You

(January 16, 20211)

Bottom line: To discover your purpose, 1) find times of silence each day and each weekend attend Mass. 2) Care for your soul and your body. 3) Hear Mary's gentle voice, "Do whatever he tells you."

This is the final homily in our series on Discovering Life's Purpose. We began at the end of November and have continued through Advent, Christmas, New Years, Epiphany and last Sunday, Baptism of the Lord.

We have seen the paradox of of being surrounded by abundance and being inwardly sad. We sometimes feel like the people in the first reading - "Forsaken" and "Desolate". This is strange. I mean, if our bodies were the only thing that matters we should be fine. Even in the midst of the pandemic, we had Netflix, cell phones and home delivery. Essential workers kept well-stocked supermarkets, liquor stores and bud huts. Along with this external abundance, however, inside people felt forsaken - that is lonely and abandoned. And they felt desolate - that is empty and despairing.

Part of this comes from the cynicism about religion than affects so many, especially our youth. Last weekend we began the distribution of John DeRosa's "One Less God Than You." The book answers many of the slogans atheists use to challenge the faith . These challenges can be useful if they cause a person to go deeper into their faith.

For this final homily I propose that Mary shows us the way out and the way forward, First she says to Jesus, "they have no wine." This is more than a simple observation. Wine in the Bible is associated with joy. For sure, to drink wine to excess was shameful, but the enjoyment of wine with family and friends was a great gift. We have this prophecy from Isaiah. "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich foods and pure, choice wines."

Isaiah says that eternal life will be like a wedding banquet. We will have resurrected bodies so there may be some type of true physical enjoyment. Mary, the mother of Jesus and the mother of Christians, wants her children to have joy. But how do we get there?

Well, consider Mary's next words, "Do whatever he tells you". If we do what Jesus tells us we will in fact have joy. In this series we have seen that God made us composite creatures with a physical body and a spiritual dimension, a soul - that inner core that enables us turn toward God or away from him. When we turn to God, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we experience peace.

Some things don't bring peace - for example, hours of scrolling on a cell phone. Turning to God in silence however does lead to tranquility. That's the reason why during the pandemic, while overall mental health declined, one group did experience an overall improvement of mental health - those who attended religious services weekly. Turning to God causes things to find their correct place.

Regarding our bodies we have seen that people fall into extremes. On one hand, people say their bodies don't matter. Only their mind counts. On the other hand, some simply abandon themselves to bodily urges. Finding the right balance is hard. I think St. Francis got it right. He referred to his body as "Brother Ass" or "Brother donkey". To be useful, a donkey has to let its owner guide it. Just so, things go right when a man guides and controls his body - and when God guides and controls his soul. That why Mary said, "Do whatever he tells you."

Now, I admit am far from that ideal. I've stumbled along, trying to get up when I fall. Still, I know the truth of what the headwaiter says, "you have kept the good wine until now." The joy I've experienced up to this time seems small by comparison. I think a lot of married couples experience something similar. In spite of the increasing infirmities of old age, they know a peace they didn't imagine earlier. It's worth keeping doing what he tells you. People who try to construct their own happiness, more often wind up with vinegar rather than choice wine.

I think of poor Madonna. I don't want to pick on her, but she does exemplify so much our culture. She's now in her mid-sixties and like a lot of women that age she continues to be beautiful (like the ladies here). But in one photo meant to shock people she's wearing a provocative outfit, trying to look enticing. Instead she looks lonely and desperate. I pray that she will return to Jesus who her parents introduced her too - and to Mary, the Madonna she was named for.

In contrast to Madonna, we have the picture of a woman or man holding their grandchild. They may not have had a perfect marriage and like every family they have their dysfunctions. But they kept asking Jesus' help to build a family.

When we turn to Jesus we find our true purpose. Today we see Jesus at a wedding banquet, celebrating with a young married couple. Most discover their fundamental vocation in the sacrament of matrimony. Some are called to spiritual marriage of priesthood or religious life. Still others to consecrated single life at service of others. We each have something unique to offer. As St. Paul says, "To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit." Jesus is counting on you for something no one else can do. You have a unique purpose.

To sum up: To discover your purpose: 1) Find times of silence each day and each weekend attend Mass. 2) Care for your soul and your body. 3) Hear Mary's gentle voice, "Do whatever he tells you." Amen


Spanish Version

From Archives (Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C):

2016: New Beginning: Marriage
2013: Why Jesus Loves Marriage
2010: Each Holding Twenty to Thirty Gallons
2004: We’re Eating Grass!
2001: Like a Bridegroom
2005 (Year A): Most Shocking
2004 (Year C): With Whom I Am Well Pleased
2003 (Year B): The Membership
2002 (Year A): The Grace of Baptism
2000 (Year B): Limits of Solidarity

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Summer - Kings and Prophets*

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

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

Parish Picture Album


MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru