Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Recent Homily

Drew Marquard, SJ, delivered a homily last week that I was particularly moved by. Drew has graciously allowed me to edit it to make it more suitable for a broader audience - it was preached to fellow scholastics - but I believe I have preserved the content wholly. I commend it to you for your spiritual reading.

What would our life be without the grace of God? We all have or will experience spiritual loneliness in our lives. It can come in the dryness of prayer, in depression, or in the loss of desire. We’re all here, I would imagine, out of a desire to be in this place at this time. We want to be Jesuits. It’s this God-given desire that gets us through the day-to-day hardships encountered in our lives. Without a firm aspiration to be a Jesuit, these struggles can easily become magnified: community annoyances evolve into distracting issues, the vows become unbearable, school seems pointless. This desire grounds any vocation, whether it be to single life, religious life, or married life. When we ignore our holy desires, our lives can become unbearable; when we lose sight of God’s grace, we become too caught up in ourselves.

As Jesuits, as Christians, we are called to be in the world. Often, we contrast this to being “of the world.” I believe, however, that as disciples of Christ we are all called to be a very serious part of this world. We’re called to engage it and use it to bring others to God as Jesus did. There’s nothing wrong with taking part in the world. The world is how we know love and thus how we know and have come to know God. Sin enters into the equation, not when we are in or of the world, but when we abandon the world, when we turn our back on God’s creation. We leave God’s creation to keep ourselves solitarily hidden in our own world. We become the creators of a world with our own rules. We’re closed off to other community members or friends or jobs or hobbies or love. Sin creeps in and tells us that the world is a bad place for us to be. We can’t live in it perfectly, so we shouldn’t be there at all. It’s better to be cut off from love than to love poorly. We instead set ourselves up as perfect beings in our own universes.

The Gospels are filled with the imagery of a God who reaches out to us in our weakness, our weariness, our sinfulness. God reminds us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. All we have to do is come to him. When I think of following my own calling by living our vows, the last thing I think of is easy. It can be terrifying at times. But I think that it gets the hardest and the heaviest when my connection with God weakens. When I close in on myself by not praying or not being open and loving to those around me. When I cut God out of my life, I lose my desire to be here and the weight becomes unbearable. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that “young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall.” I think here that a “youth” could be translated as anyone not yet dead. We all stagger and fall. It’s prayer in a loving relationship with God, and thus with God’s creation, thus being in and of the world, that gives hope and lifts the burden. The Dominican priest Herbert McCabe reminds us in his writings to pray for what we want and need. It doesn’t do any good to feign piousness. It helps us to bring our real concerns to God. In the Gospel, Jesus calls us to come to him. Only through him can our burdens be lightened and can we find rest. I’m shocked at how often I can deeply struggle with a problem only to later realize that I should ask God for help. In asking, the problem doesn’t always disappear, but the weight of it eases as I have shared it with another far more powerful and responsible than I.

We must never forget God’s gratuitous grace – the love that pardons our iniquities, heals our ills, redeems our lives, crowns us with kindness and compassion. God created us and gave us our talents to be shared with the world. He gave us the desire to be in a situation where we have the potential to do that. It’s through bringing these gifts to God that we can ease our struggles. We’re all called to be a serious part of this world through our relationship with God. The world is a hard and broken place. Through the strength and the grace of God, we’re called to soar on eagle’s wings, to run and not grow weary. We’re called to be a part of this world so that we may recognize our place in the next world.
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