Monthly Archives: June 2016

Homily Sunday OT 13 C – Confessions of a Band Geek


1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21
Ps 16   R/. You are my chosen portion, O Lord.
Gal 5:1, 13-18
Lk 9:51-62


Audio.

As a teenager, I was different than the other kids: I was a ‘band geek’.

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Me, May 1994.

Yes, I was big into band: school band, concert band, jazz band… and my favourite of all, marching band; but not the typical kind of marching band, doing parades. No, I was in a ‘hard core’ marching band, and the best part of it was the marching, or rather the drill. We would do choreography, different movements and patterns, on football fields all the while playing our instruments making music. Every summer we’d go on the road for three weeks doing tours and competitions throughout the western U.S., performing for crowds numbering even into the thousands. And we were pretty good: we always ended up in the top three of our tier. It was a blast!

But one of the key concepts I remember learning very early on was that you couldn’t just follow the person in front of you. If all you did was focus on the person in front of you, you were likely to hit them, but you were certainly going to lose the shape you were trying to show. In order to keep your instrument up straight and keep the choreography in step and in flow, you had to know the overall picture of the shapes and look down the line and out toward the boundaries of the fields. This was the only you could keep a straight line or keep the shape flowing. This meant you had to constantly check everything around you, without turning your head, and still keep playing the music. It required a lot of concentration and effort, but especially a lot of training and practice.

In our Gospel today, the Lord is giving us a very similar message: No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62). In other words, if you plough looking backwards, you’re going to lose your sense of direction and have crooked rows. That’s because we go where we’re looking: our eyes fix on a point of reference, and that’s where we head. So if you’re looking backward, you can’t plough straight because you’re not looking where you want to go: you lose your proper point of reference.

This is all the more true in the spiritual life. If our life of faith isn’t focused on Christ, then we won’t reach Him. It’s the same message He tells us elsewhere: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt 6:21). In the spiritual life, we go toward what the eyes of our hearts and minds are fixed upon. If that’s Christ, then we’ll become holy; but if it’s the world, or distractions or sin, then we shouldn’t be surprised that that’s where we end up, very far from God and grace. With these words, Jesus is reminding us to keep the eyes of our minds and hearts fixed on Him, so as to arrive at our destination of holiness, peace and joy — the Kingdom of God.

But there’s also a second aspect to these words. No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. These words also speak of our conversion process. If we put our hands to the plough, that is, if we turn toward Jesus, we can’t look back to what we’ve left behind. How many times do we encounter Christians who lament that so-called ‘good things’ they left behind in order to follow Christ, or worse, who long to return to those things? ‘Oh, I wish I could lie and manipulate like I used to; I always got my way…’; or, ‘How I wish I could watch porn and have casual sex like others do; it looks like so much fun…’; or, ‘Why do sinners look so happy and free?’.

These questions and attitudes reveal a ‘looking back’ while still trying to plough forward. This is what St. Paul called self-indulgence and desires of the flesh (cf. Gal 5:13, 16f). Not only do they lead us off course, but they also increase our desire for these things and lead us into slavery to them.

But Christ, on the other hand, as St. Paul tells us, has made us free! He’s freed us from our base passions to lead us into the ways of holiness, but we’ll only arrive there through grace if we keep the eyes of our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus. Because, in truth, we haven’t left anything ‘good’ to follow Jesus, we’ve only left what hurt us, what enslaved us, what brought us pain and suffering. If we look beyond the veneer of the so-called happiness the world presents — wealth, pleasure, power, etc. —, we won’t find joy, but only pain, sorrow and selfishness, which lead to death. And this is precisely what the Lord Jesus has come to grant us freedom from: freedom so that we might be able to walk in His path of love. His is the only path that leads us forward to true joy, love, happiness and the Kingdom.

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Carolina Crown, 2004.

May we, then, as His disciples, truly put our hands to the plough of Jesus, and not look back at our old lives with envy or desire, but look forward, earnestly focusing on Christ crucified and walking toward the Kingdom of God. Anything else will leave us bitter, sad and resentful, and God knows, we already have enough people like that in the Church and in the world. What we desperately need today are joyful Christians committed to life in Christ, joyfully walking toward Him in the ways of holiness and love. Only in this way will the world be able to see the true patterns of His love and mercy, and be moved by them to join the ranks of the saints and make joyful music to the praise of God the Father. Amen.

 

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For a great example of what we used to do,
check out this exceptional performance and this one.

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Homily Sunday OT 12 C – Altar Crucifix


Zech 12:10-11
Ps 63         R/. My soul thirsts for you, O Lord my God.
Gal 3:26-29
Lk 9:18-24


No. 308 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which provides the rules for Mass, states that,

“…either on the altar or near it, there is to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, a cross clearly visible to the assembled people. It is desirable that such a cross should remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations…”

 

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Sanctuary, Holy Name Church, Christmas 2016

That’s why, whenever you enter a Catholic church, a crucifix is the focus of your field of vision (or at least it should be).

 

So why an image of this cruel day, of this moment of torture, pain and death? Why not just an empty cross, clean and elegant? Well to put it simply: it’s not the Cross that saves us; it’s Christ! So then, why not an image of the risen Christ? Because it’s by His Death on the Cross that Jesus saves us, a Death He freely accepted. The Cross is His throne of glory! And so a Crucifix is a statement of faith, a proclamation of the divinity of Christ Jesus.

This is made clear in today’s Gospel reading, for as soon as Peter makes the confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God, Jesus begin to talk about His upcoming Passion and Death. And not just any kind of death: but specifically the Cross. The man who never sinned, the man who didn’t deserve to die, was to die a most horrible and humiliating death. And Jesus knew this was to happen; He knew this was His mission.

And it’s this very Passion and Death, along with His Resurrection, that we celebrate on the Altar at every Mass. And the Crucifix is there to remind us of that one sacrifice and of our participation in it. That’s why we gather and celebrate Mass facing the Crucifix; ideally I, too, would be facing it with you, when celebrating, offering with Christ His sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving and worship.

But it’s not just for this reason. In today’s Gospel, as He predicts His own Passion, Jesus also tells us that we, His disciples, must also share in His Passion, because, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading today, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27). We’ve been joined to Him by this wonderful Sacrament; therefore we, too, must take up our cross (Lk 9:23).

We must follow in the footsteps of our Lord, offering ourselves to the Father, growing in discipline and virtue through self-denial, bearing patiently with suffering and persecutions, all the while remaining faithful to the Father’s love for us. This is the only way to Heaven: the way of the Cross.

And no one said this would be easy! That’s why elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus refers to it as the narrow gate (Mt 7:13). But that’s why Jesus spent so much time in prayer, to show us how to do it, and that we cannot do it without Him. So we, too, must spend much time in prayer —everyday —, asking the Father to give us the grace to persevere; asking Jesus to forgive us our sins and strengthen us with His grace; asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom; and asking blessed Mary to comfort us along the way.

But it’s also why we journey as a community, because we’re not alone in carrying our cross. Just as Jesus had the help of Simon of Cyrene, so, too, we have each other to help us along the way. So it’s okay to ask each other for prayers and for help; it’s okay to offer someone a shoulder to cry one; it’s okay to speak of our struggles and ask for advice. In fact, it’s necessary for us to do these things!

This isn’t always easy, and it makes us very vulnerable, but this is how we grow closer to Christ and to each other; this is how we become a community in the true sense of the word: a group of people united to each other in truth, in faith, and in love. This is the way of the Cross; this is the way to Christ.

Jesus isn’t some mere prophet, teacher or leader; He is the Son of God, our Lord and our Saviour. He gave His life for us while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:8), and He invites us to give Him our lives in return. Through His grace, may we have the courage and the faith to embrace the Cross He shares with us for our salvation. Amen.

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