Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless you all!
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Dt 4:1-2. 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22,27
August 28/29, 2021
Jesus is rather clear in the Gospel that we have to get this (the heart, the inside) right before we can expect to get the outside right. He tells us that all the outside stuff is only “human traditions” if the inside stuff is not in good order. What does this mean?
I have been thinking a lot about what is at the heart of being a real Christian, a real Catholic. What is it that makes men Catholic men, women Catholic women?
For some people, being a good Catholic means obeying the 10 Commandments and the Precepts of the Church. No doubt these are basic and necessary, and we cannot call ourselves good Catholic men or women if we do not obey them. But they seem to be the same kind of things that go into making us good American citizens. There must be something more to Christianity than that .
I have discovered there are three additional things that make a good Catholic, a good Christian. They are: Relationship, Identity, and Mission.
Relationship is the beginning and the end of a good Christian. If we don’t start with relationship, we get everything else messed up. When we draw our last breath on this earth, this will be the one thing that will take us to heaven, i.e., being in relationship with God and the Church. We Catholics call this being in a state of grace. Our evangelical brothers and sisters call it knowing Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. They stress the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus as the means of salvation. At face value, they are correct, although not complete. Yes, we must be in a good relationship with God if we expect to get to heaven and if we expect to have good lives here on earth. We have to be in a state of grace, in a good relationship with God and the Church. Too many of us nowadays underestimate the importance of this and we live with a broken relationship with God, and estranged from the Church, and for some reason we still expect everything else to be right, and we assume we’ll get to heaven anyway. It simply doesn’t work that way. We have to get our relationship with God and the Church right. That happens when we pray, when we are baptized and keep our baptismal promises, when we keep returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then worthily receive Holy Communion, and when we beg God to be with us in all things. Prayer and the sacraments of baptism, penance, and Eucharist, keep us in a good relationship with God and the Church and are the foundation of being a good Catholic man or woman.
Identity. Question: Who am you and how do you find out? Answer: God will tell you! We know who we are only through grace, and through our relationships with God and Church. God knows who we are and tells us through the Church. We don’t tell God who we are. God tells us and we must listen. We don’t define ourselves; God does and the Church confirms it. The only way we really know ourselves, our identity, is through our relationship with God and the Church. This is so hard for us Americans to understand because our culture tells us we should define ourselves however we want. This is not the Christian way. This is not the Catholic way. We are not God. We must be humble and accept who we are and what He wants us to do in life.
Mission. Mission has to do with the outside. If we are in a state of grace, in a good relationship with God and the Church, and are using the sacraments frequently, we will know who we are, and then we will know what we must do. It concerns me to see people out there doing a lot of Church or charitable work when they are not in a good relationship with God and the Church. It concerns me to see them confused about who they are, their state in life, their ethnicity, their gender, their age, or their God-given abilities. It concerns me to see people out there doing a lot of Church work who seem to not really accept that God loves them as a son or daughter. It scares me to see people doing a lot of “mission work” but not praying, or frequently using the sacraments, and avoiding taking time with God in silence. How can we know what to do if we don’t listen to God and accept His plan for us?
Jesus warns us against this. He tells us to get the inside right before doing a lot of outside things. He tells us that the inside must direct the outside. If it is the other side around, we end up doing a lot of things that are mere human traditions that do not come from God, and we heard today in the Gospel what Jesus thinks of that.
So what makes a good Catholic man or woman? I think it is someone who, yes, keeps the 10 Commandments and the Precepts of the Church, but also prays, and relies on the grace of the sacraments, and confesses his sins regularly and receives the Eucharist worthily, and knows himself through the eyes of God and not his own, and is humble in accepting and living out God’s plan and purpose for his life.
Never break relationship with God or the Church! Remain in grace! Accept yourself as God knows you! And then live as God tells you live!