Bottom line: You and I may not feel like stars right now, but God sees things differently. If we humbly offer ourselves to him - not just a few good deeds, but every aspect of our lives - God will transform us and make us like the stars forever.
This Sunday we preview the final scene of human history. Jesus speaks about frightening signs in the heavens. The prophet Daniel tells about his night vision: All people who have existed will be reunited with their bodies. Some will go to everlasting horror and disgrace. Other, he says, will "shine brightly." The wise, those who practice justice will "be like the stars forever."
The question before us is: How do we avoid becoming a disgrace, an everlasting horror? How do we become like a star?
Before giving a more complete answer, I would like to address a common misconception. Many people believe that you are sure to get to heaven if you perform a few good deeds. We saw an extreme example of that misunderstanding here in Monroe. On October 21, our town was one of 38 cities targeted by a federal drug bust. Those arrested had connections to "La Familia," an international drug cartel. What makes "La Familia" unique, according to news reports, is their self-righteous philosophy. They consider themselves very "moral" because they "pass out Bibles and money to the poor" and "support community projects."* As a sideline, they do traffic cocaine and methamphetamine - and they do kidnap, torture and behead their enemies (but that should not obscure all the good work they do...).
Now, this drug cartel is obviously an extreme. But we can also get the idea that if we perform kind acts, the rest of our life does not matter. No, a few good deeds will not save a person. God requires a life of integrity.
When the Bible speaks about justice, it means giving each person their due. I have a certain duty to my dog, but a much different one to a fellow human being. I have an obligation - in justice - to treat each person with dignity, respect and courtesy. I have further duties to family members: obviously to treat them with courtesy and respect, but other things beyond that because have common parents, whom we honor. As a priest, I have specific duties to you as my parishioners. And you - in justice - have certain duties to your parish. Above all, we have duties to the one who made us. Justice means that I give each person - including God - their due.
Those who practice this justice will be like the stars forever. Justice involves a life of integrity, not simply a few kind actions. That's the reason why last Sunday we asked you to make a broad renewal of Stewardship: not only financial giving, but your time and abilities. God wants your complete self. A few isolated acts will not save you. God wants you. That of course includes good acts, but it involves much more.
Last Sunday I invited you to make a conscience commitment. The way we grow is by making commitments and keeping them. It involves small commitments such as showing up on time and huge, all-consuming commitments such as marriage or priesthood. The Stewardship brochure was designed to help you look at your life and make a commitment. Then ask God's help to follow through.
Our parish needs your time, talent and economic support. But even more, you need to give. It is fundamental to salvation, eternal life. You and I may not feel like stars right now, but God sees things differently. If we humbly offer ourselves to him - not just a few good deeds, but every aspect of our lives - God will transform us and make us like the stars forever.
*As the Catechism puts it, "A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just." (#1753)
General Intercessions for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (from Priests for Life)
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From Archives (Homilies for 33rd Sunday, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
St. Mary of the Valley Album
Pictures from Peru
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
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