Readings at Mass
|First reading||Amos 7:12-15 ©|
|Psalm||Psalm 84:9-14 ©|
|Ephesians 1:3-14 ©|
|Gospel||Mark 6:7-13 ©|
Transcript “Agere Sequitur Esse” – Homily 15th Sunday OT 2015:
A story, hopefully, that will help to illustrate this. Because sometimes in the world as Christians, we stop to put on the mind of Christ, we stop and we start to think moreso in the ways of the world, through even our ideas of what’s right and wrong, of how to live our lives. Well, there’s these two rivers in Europe. One is named the Rhône and one the Argeș. The Rhône is this beautiful, pure river with fresh, clean waters cascading down from snowcapped mountains.
The Argeș river, however, is a muddy waterway, wandering like a slimy, dirty, brown snake through the countryside. For many miles actually the rivers even run parallel, run right beside each other, and even when they finally merge, they come together but for awhile the clear, blue water on the one side and the muddy water on the other side stay apart and they run beside each other. Well, what do you think happens eventually? A little bit further down, that putrid, dark water of the Argeș consumes the pure brother and they too become dirty.
And that’s the sort of thing sometimes that happens. What do I mean? The more we move away from our source, just like that river analogy, the more we move away from that source, the more we encounter the things of the world. Sometimes we start to resemble more of the world than we do of what Christ has called us to. Even the purest, the most loving heart in any land, every, any generation can’t always stay pure very long. Working in most offices or places of work, attending most schools or going to college for the first couple of years, living in most communities, especially Nackenheim, right?
It’s hard not to just sorta get muddied with all the stuff we encounter daily. We begin just to take on the attitudes, the values of the society around us and often they are very opposing values. And the views of others and ourselves and even of God become distorted. That’s what I want to share with you today. As Christians, we of course are called to be, of course, in the world but remember our identity, our calling. For this, I want to reflect with you with. The world today needs an enlightenment of that. We need an evangelization. We need our eyes to be open again to our true calling, our mission here and now, and our final destination.
There’s a story of a young boy who had been blind from birth and he had just been operated on with a new procedure that allowed him to see for the first time. The parents were filled with joy and anticipating for the doctor to remove the patches from his eyes. And they were uncertain what his response would be, if he would be terrified or confused. The boy suddenly began to take it all in. All, everything he saw. Blinking his eyes. The colors and beauty around him. Full of excitement his parents said to him, “Why didn’t you tell me it was so beautiful?” This too is the work of the Evangelism.
In this story, we get so used to the things that are of God or of our faith that sometimes we forget to even tell the story anymore. Of who we are and this time, this period, more than anything, our young people, we need to hear an evangelism that enlightens our eyes again to our identity. We are beloved sons and daughters of God. We need this more than ever today. So what is the trouble then today if I keep saying today there’s a challenge with the way we see ourselves? The way we see truth and what is right or wrong in this world. Well, what is the cause of that? Okay, so right now your are going to put on your philosopher or philosophy thinking caps. Okay. And don’t worry, I don’t do this every week but you’re gonna get a little bit of history here of why our modern mind thinks in a particular way.
So there is this basic tenet in what’s called existential philosophy . . . which is just a fancy way of saying those that wonder about the truth of who we are, where we are going, and where we’re from . . . that’s existential philosophy. Why do I exist? Okay. You have asked that, so you’re a philosopher. Good. And there is this basic tenet that we invent ourselves. That existence precedes essence.
This is a new philosophy. For me, it’s a stupid philosophy but it’s the philosophy that’s underpinned everything that has happened in the last hundred years. Politically. Culturally. Socially. All these different moral discussions we have. This is existence precedes essence. What’s this mean? A key point for the modern mind is that our freedom is first not even freedom, just license. The ability to be able to choose whatever I want. This is the most important value for the modern philosopher, the modern mind. In other words, we choose. We decide. We decide who we will be. Who we will become. So existence, we exist but we choose and become who we want to be.
See, now you start to see why all these different moral things that come on, like where you hear the United Nations have declared there’s 32 different genders. And how do you determine what gender you are? Not male and female, but it’s what someone identifies themselves as. And 120 years ago, no one in their right mind would even thought that way. But now we just, that’s just pretty much commonplace. When we go to high school, say I mentioned last year I was at Holy Cross, or I go to my old high school, or I go to even when I was in school, just ten years ago. This is what most kids think. It’s like, “No.” It’s like, “Who am I to judge, you know? You just choose how you want to live. You identify, you can be whatever you want.” This mentality comes from bad philosophy and it’s also produced some bad fruit. But it’s important to know where this comes from. Who’s to blame? You say. Okay, who? Let’s get a lynch mob going. Who are we going to blame?
You can blame a French guy. Okay, his name is John Paul Sartre and he was in the beginning of the twentieth century. And he was, like most people who cause a lot of problems in the world, a really bad former Catholic and he became atheist. Sartre, John Paul said, “How about freedom?” Said, “If God exists, I can not be free. And I am free, therefore God cannot exist.” All wonderful. And most first year university students take one class of philosophy and they’ll get some Sartre, they get some Nietzsche. God is now dead. All that stuff, that’s not true philosophy. That’s garbage, okay?
Plato. Aristotle. Saint Thomas Aquinas. That’s philosophy, okay? This is where this comes from, unbridled freedom. I choose. I. If I am this, this, therefore I am. All this nonsense it comes and ultimately then God becomes an obstacle to my free will. My own happiness. Because God is this obstacle for me. There’s rules, there’s things that I should, I ought not to do. Right? And how frequently we begin to live our entire life with ourselves as the center of the world. It’s a ago ego drama. It’s the I world. Right? And you start to say, “Ah, yes, yes, yes.” You look, you go, “My grandkids or my teenage daughter.” Right? It’s all about them. Right? Well, guess what? You baby-boomers, you started it. Okay, so let’s not get into that. But it’s not all about us. This is not the Christian message. This is not the message from faith. So what is the response? What does God tell us about this reality? About who we are?
With this in mind, let’s look at the second reading of Saint Paul. He gives this answer. He goes to this city of Ephesus in Greece, which is still around today. It was this port city where it had all these different cultures and philosophy and intellectuals and tradesman. So it was a very educated group of people. And they would be asking these deep questions about existence. And he comes there and he doesn’t begin with saying, “You know, you’re called to blah, blah, blah.” He says first, “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. To be holy and blameless before him in love.”
So the starting point, with this in mind, the starting point is this. The first focus is not on ourselves. It’s not an ego drama. It’s a feel drama. God loves us and knows us even before we are made. Even before, as Saint Paul says, before the foundation of the world. So God first calls us. This is an important lesson for us today. Saint Paul also talks about, Christ is the Lord, the Kairos. So those first century Christians, when they hear Kairos, they would have thought only of Caesar. They used to say Kaiser Kairos Caesar is the lord. But Saint Paul is saying, “No, there is one Lord. Christ is our Lord and God.”
So the first question, the first of two I leave you with today, is this. What is the great Lord of our life? If it’s anything short of Christ, if it’s anything short of God to be the first Lord, the first love of our life, everything becomes distorted. What of the things that we place above God, do they end up being some sort of Gods of our own making? Or is it Christ?
The second, which is really an important lesson for us to remember, is that we did not choose God first. God chose us in love. The modern trend and what I was kinda critiquing in that kind of modern culture, is that I choose. I make myself. So we have a whole generation of young people, we have multi-generations now, that are lost in this world. Okay. They are questioning, “Who am I? What am I about? Where am I going?” And the answers we give, the answers we give in a secular culture, a culture that’s sort of post-Sartre, is that you are what you are. Right? What you make of yourself.
And therefore that works well for selling stuff. Especially to young people who are empty inside or lost inside. To sell a lot of cool things, because we start to identify with what we wear, how we look, or how we’re esteemed amongst our peers. All these different things begin to creep in. You wonder why there are 40 to 50-year olds are on the news trying to figure out, why are all these teenage guys, why are all these young guys flocking around the world to fight for this Islamic State? You know, they’re playing for 15 years and they wanna go. Because they have no purpose. They don’t know who their identity is. And finally there’s this anti-Christ. There’s this movement that gives them a sense of belonging. Sense of identity. That’s why gangs are so popular amongst the youth everywhere, especially today. It’s because we don’t know who we are.
So back to that image I gave you earlier with the rivers. The further we move away from our source, eventually we get diluted. And so we have to remember, as Christians. of who we were made. Where did we come from? Then what are we called here to be? Here and now. And where we are called in the end to go. And when young people hear that message, it will inflame their hearts. But if we don’t give that message, we are just going down a dark path. Where we try to fill our lives with a whole bunch of things that don’t bring any meaning. This is the challenge for us today. And the second one is to take comfort. Right? That you are chosen. It’s not something I do for myself. God chose us first. He loves us. We are just needing to accept. To capitulate to that love. To surrender to God who loves us.
Jesus says, “It’s I who chose you. You did not choose me. I chose you first,” and so we can be at peace with that. That we can trust in Him. Friends, as we continue, we are reminded by Saint Paul again, in Him, we are chosen, we are destined, created according to His purpose, according to His will. Again, again, and again. In other words, he’s simply saying, “It’s not you, not you, not you. It’s not all about you.” It’s not all about Father Jepia [SP]. It’s about Him. It’s about Christ. So we do that when we come to the mass. We tap in, if you will, that fresh water. We are reminded of who we were. The water that fed us and washed us in baptism. We’re nurtured in Christ Jesus’s body and blood. And we know that, here and now, we can fulfill our mission in this world. We know where we came from. We also know our final destination. And that is to become saints one day. Amen.