Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there.
Here’s my homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 15, 2008 – the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/061508.shtml – God Bless all of you, especially to the Dad’s!
“I just don’t like to say ‘No.’”
United States Marine Major Steve Beck, swears he’s not a perfectionist. He has been catapulted into a duty he never trained for, never anticipated in his military career, and after 5 years of serving as a Casualty Assistance Call Officer (which is a professional way of saying he has to give families the news the devastating news that they have feared the most: their son or daughter has been killed in combat) for Major Beck, that seems to be a guiding principle as he does his duty: I just don’t like to say No.
He goes to people’s homes and gives them this news that, as one reporter described it, “has the power to shatter a soul.” Major Beck takes this duty not just serious, but personally. In meeting the families, he has realized that after his breaking this awful news that “they’re falling – either literally or figuratively – and [he says] you have to catch them. In this business, I can’t save his life. All I can do is catch the family while they’re falling.”
So Major Beck, does things that are beyond what might be labeled “standard operating procedures” in order to do this the way he would want it done if he were the one in the casket: A mother who lost her son requests that his best friend (who’s about to be deployed to Iraq) serve as a pallbearer, “Roger That” Major Beck says. When airport officials initially balked at requests by families to see their Marine’s casket unloaded from the planes on the runways, he negotiated with airport officials to have that done. For one family, the wife didn’t want her husband, Marine Lt Jim Cathey, left alone during the days preceding his funeral. Even though the Marines aren’t required to stand watch over a comrades body once the casket is safely locked away at night, in this case, Major Beck told the pallbearers sent for Lt. Cathey’s funeral “Katherine has expressed concerns about Jim being left alone – So we won’t leave him alone” and with that they took turns keeping all night and all day vigil for the next three days.
This is Major Beck’s mission, his duty – and, despite how hard, emotional, painfully difficult this duty is, this Marine seems to always come back to his own personal principle – “I just don’t like to say No.” For that – people of all sides of politics cannot help but admire, respect and appreciate that there are people like Major Beck who honor those of our military who are killed.
When we look at today’s readings, we can almost hear God saying the same thing – I just don’t like to say No to humanity throughout history.
To the Israelites in the first reading from Exodus – when they were enslaved, when they were being oppressed, when they thought they would remain in bondage and imprisoned, God reminds the Israelites what He did for them “you have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians, and how I bore you up on eagles wings and brought you here to myself.” God just doesn’t like to say “no”: He hears their cries. He goes out and saves them.
St. Paul is writing to the Romans, but he speaks a deep truth that goes to all Christians. When we have a fight with someone, and say, for the sake of argument, we are the cause of it, it’s up to us to initiate the possibility of forgiveness by saying “I’m sorry.” St. Paul is telling us – since original sin – since humanity had first (and continues throughout history right to this very day) turned away from God, turned away from His commands, turned away from His Love – He already reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ. God did this before we decided we needed, wanted, or desired that reconciliation. God didn’t say “no” to what Humanity needs and could not achieve on it’s own. St. Paul basically tells us that this new relationship we have with God has come, purely as God’s gift to the world.
And in the Gospel, Jesus’ call of the twelve is yet one more example of God just doesn’t like to say “no” to us. He has come to shepherd us – He has come to guide us now. And He wants all of the world to know this, so he has picked these 12 to be shepherds to go out into the world and do something – go to the lost sheep – bring them Home – and cure them raise them, cleanse them, free them so they can truly experience that The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand…
What makes someone like Major Beck a person that we admire is that his response resonates within us. We realize or recognize that God calls each of us to be equally as selfless. That’s almost instinctive that to truly participate in the things of God means emptying ourselves to accomplish His work. God is probing our hearts in these readings today – what is it that we’re being called to, asked to do, sacrifice for – that, maybe our instincts are telling us to reject, our logic is saying “that’s too hard, too much – let someone else do it” but in light of this generous, loving God, we find ourselves saying “I just don’t like to say no.”