Only in God

(Homily for Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)

Bottom line: Our hearts are restless because we worry about tomorrow, we fear what might happen or we think that only in some future time we will be happy. Jesus invites us to trust in God, to serve him now. "Only in God is my soul at rest..."

"Only in God is my soul at rest." Finding rest in God is illustrated by the life of a young many from North Africa. He wrote a book called "The Confessions" that tells about his search for meaning. At first he sought happiness in the pleasures of drinking, eating and sex. But those things left him empty, miserable. He began to pursue oriental philosophies. They seemed more sophisticated than the Bible he had listened to as a child. Something about those philosophies, however, did not ring true, so he decided to become a "practical man" - to make money and to make a name for himself.

At certain point he experienced a divine intervention that led him to a deep conversion. He wound up dedicating himself totally to God. The young man's name was Augustine - and after St. Paul he is considered the Church's greatest theologian. St. Augustine summed up his quest for meaning in these words: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

St. Augustine illustrates today's Psalm: "Rest in God alone, my soul..." In the Gospel Jesus tells us how to find rest, peace in God.

Jesus lays it on the line. "No man can serve two masters...You cannot serve God and mammon." Mammon means more than simply money. It is anything that we entrust our lives to - that we place ahead of God. Jesus tells us that we will not have peace until we place our trust totally in God

When a person trusts God, says Jesus, he stops worrying about tomorrow. He uses the example of a wild flower. Palestine has a scarlet poppy that blooms in a single day. No ancient ruler, no Hollywood actress could dress so beautifully. If God can do that for an insignificant flower, why do we worry so much?

Regarding freedom from worry a story is told about a German mystic named Tauler. "God give you a good day," Tauler said to the beggar. "I thank God, sir, that I never had a bad one." said the beggar, "I thank God that I am never unhappy."

In amazement Tauler asked him what he meant. "Well," said the beggar, "when it is fine, I thank God; when it rains, I thank God; when I have plenty, I thank God; when I am hungry, I thank God; and since God's will is my will, and whatever pleases him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?"

Tauler then asked the man, "Who are you?" The beggar replied, "I am a king."

"Where then is your kingdom?" asked Tauler. The beggar answered quietly: "In my heart." The beggar was a king because he had learned how to live in the present moment.*

Jesus want us to live in the present. The devil wants to rob us of our peace by getting us to worry about the future or by telling us that we cannot be happy now, but sometime in the future, then, we will be happy.**

Archbishop Sartain wrote a letter to priests encouraging us to find God's will in the present moment - to abandon ourselves to the will of God. He used the example of Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague. The Communists who ruled former Czechoslovakia had condemned him to hard labor. He couldn't exercise his priesthood - celebrate Mass, hear confessions or preach. At first it was a bitter experience, but Cardinal Vlk gradually realized that Jesus' priesthood reached its height when he was fixed to the cross. He could not walk, work miracles or preach. All he could do was abandon himself to the Father. Ironically, when the Communists took everything from Cardinal Vlk, he realized the deepest meaning of his priesthood.***

The time will come, brothers and sisters, when God will take everything from us: either gradually through an illness or quickly by death. Jesus invites us to abandon ourselves to the God now.

Maybe something holds us back. A person might be clinging to something they know is not of God. Common examples are alcohol, pornography, gambling, anger - the desire for revenge - or over-indulgence in food, video games, shopping, etc. A person can that if he did not have those things his life would be bland, empty. Just the opposite is true.

Jesus invites us to seek first the kingdom of God - and everything else will be added. Put God first and the other things fall into place.

Now is the moment to make an act of trust in God: Seek first the kingdom of God. Live in the present moment. Tomorrow belongs to God. In God alone be at rest my soul. Amen.

************

*This story, which goes back to the fourteenth century, illustrates the similarity and difference of the Christian and Buddhist approach. Both recognize that this world does not offer salvation - that inner peace requires detachment. For a Christian detachment means aligning one's will with God's. For a follower of Buddha - as best as I understand - detachment means to overcome desire itself.

**C.S. Lewis expressed this way in The Screwtape Letters:

To be sure, the Enemy [that is, GOD] wants men to think of the Future too—just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow's work is today's duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is not straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts …. We do.… We want a man hag-ridden by the Future—haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy's commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

***Here is a lengthy quote from Archbishop Sartain's letter:

Jesus forever set the standard for sacrifice by giving himself, not something to represent himself. He did so willingly, whole-heartedly, completely, to let the Father's power be known.

 
The Father loves me for this: 
that I lay down my life 
to take it up again. 
No one takes it from me; 
I lay it down freely. (Jn 10,17-18a) 

Just as Jesus held nothing back from his Father, neither did the saints who followed him, nor do the saints we know in our parishes. Their whole-hearted gift of self was accepted and transformed by God. They discovered that they were refreshed and revitalized, even given strength to do what they thought they could never do. They surrendered their all, and their emptiness was filled with God’s All. I often look to the saints for inspiration when I find that I am letting my all be wrenched from me rather than giving it freely. “He who brings himself to naught for my sake discovers who he is” (Mt 10:39).

It is quite possible that some day our all will be taken from us by illness, tragedy, or even by assignment, in a way we never anticipated. During a symposium in 1995 marking the 30th anniversary of the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague said that in order to survive and thrive, priests must keep themselves focused on their identity as men chosen and changed by God.

Cardinal Vlk had once been suspended from public ministry by the former communist government of his homeland; he took a job as a laborer and was not allowed to associate with other priests. He said,

Despite the awareness of being ordained for service, the priest expects to be a leader because of his position (but he often finds he is neither listened to nor followed)... What frequently follows is an attempt to compensate with a quantity of activity in order to feel useful. But when he realizes he is spending 100 to produce one, discouragement and stress and the doubts begin: Was I wrong about my vocation? Is celibacy really a value? Why aren’t priests allowed to have a family? All of those thoughts passed many, many times through my mind and my heart during the time when I lost all of my public activity in the church and became a layman in the eyes of many. My situation forced me to find once again my priestly identity – without a ministry, without any apparent usefulness, without being a leader. [With the help of an underground community of priests, he realized that] Jesus reached the height of his priesthood when, fixed to the cross, he could not walk, do miracles or preach.

Lifted on the cross, Jesus could do nothing – nothing but abandon himself to the love and power of his Father. That’s what we say we are doing – whether we are conscious of it or not – every time we kiss the altar.

A Presbyterian minister friend once gave me a copy of The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections by William C. Martin (Vital Faith Resources, 2001). One chapter asks:

How would you pastor 
if you could not speak? 
How would you love the parish 
if you were immobilized in bed? 
If you can answer these questions, 
you know the truth of your calling. 
If you can do these things, 
you will overcome all obstacles. 

The power of the priesthood rests in our participation in the Lord Jesus’ self-emptying self-offering on the altar of the cross.

Earlier Version

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From Archives (Eighth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Toward a Synthesis - Part 4
2011: Only in God

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Obama distances himself from Planned Parenthood

Here is some background on how this happened:

Before there was a House vote to potentially begin to end funding of Planned Parenthood, as there was Friday; before there was a 22-year-old girl named Lila Rose leading private investigations exposing Planned Parenthood as a safe haven for pimps of underage girls; before there was a Philadelphia prosecutor exposing a “house of horrors” too long protected by abortion politics, there was Phill Kline, a law-enforcement official doing his job. Today Kline remains the only prosecutor in the United States to have brought charges against Planned Parenthood.

And we also owe gratitude to and prayers for Abby Johnson

Bernard Nathanson Dead at 84: "I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age." After putting thousands of unborn children to death, he became one of the great leaders of the pro-life movement.

I invite you to join me in supporting Live Action

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