Hi everyone, this weekend the students from MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY and RAMAPO COLLEGE’S (aka MONT-APO) NEWMAN CATHOLIC are on their annual retreat… this year entitled the HOLY HALL OF FAME RETREAT – which is a retreat that the students developed, wrote and delivered on the Saints and how we’re all called to be Saints.
This is my homily from the retreat given at Mount Manressa Retreat Center, Staten Island NY on NOVEMBER 6, 2010 – the SATURDAY OF THE 31st WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME… (readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/110610.shtml) Thanks for reading!
So a friend of mine, has told me that from the time he was really little, he was a great Yankee fan. So a few months ago I got him tickets for his birthday. Somewhat expensive ones (not that there’s any cheap ones there – anyway) So we’re there. And he’s loving the stadium, as am I. It’s really beautiful. These not-cheap seats were all the way up in the Tier, but they were the front section and right behind Home Plate – and they had these really comfy seats – lots of leg room. So we’re really having a great time. Beautiful weather – Yankees were winning, beating up on the Kansas City Royals. All in all to me it was a perfect summer day. As we were sitting there talking about the season, talking about different players I was looking at the scores from the other teams and the standings… when I made some comments about the Red Sox (that I can’t quite repeat here)
That’s when friend says “Oh that’s my other favorite team.”
I mean I really was disturbed by this. I start arguing with him… spilling beer, getting belligerent – demanding money as a reimbursement. Mind you, this is in public, so now people are over-hearing this – In Yankee Stadium… it’s not a great place for people to learn that you’re claiming to be a Yankee fan and a Red Sox fan.
Because ITS KNOWN – that if you’re a Yankee fan, you hate the Red Sox. Not that you hate them in the evil darkening of your hearts type of way (well – usually not…) But they just don’t go together. You’re in competition with them. You’ve got to make a choice, you’ve got to make a decision… you got to like the one and not like the other… Otherwise you’re not really a fan. You might like the sport of baseball and enjoy watching the game, but you’re not really a Yankee fan…
I mean – Fr. Bill and I – we’ve known each other almost 24 years. He’s more than a best friend, he’s truly a brother. I know it’s killing him to hear me even mentioning the name the Yankees because he’s a die-hard Mets fan. But that’s okay -we have an agreement not to get into this debate with each other and because we realize that our fraternity can withstand his obvious ignorance about which is the superior team.
But I wouldn’t want him to pretend to like the Yankees when they are going for the 28th WS championship any more than he’d want me to root for the Mets if they ever… EVER are in a position to go for their 3rd. Being a true Yankee fan, or just a FAN of whatever team it is you’re about your team. You root for them, you’re loyal to them… You suffer through the seasons (like I did, albeit briefly as a Yankee fan) when they fail to even be real contenders. But you stay faithful to your team. So as much as I joke about hating the Red Sox’s, I don’t hate the players or as individuals – I hate their team because they are obstacles to my team winning it all. To being champions of the world.
What are our obstacles to us winning it all? To being champions? To getting to the Hall of Fame? Not for baseball (I stink in that…) But for life. Not for the things of this life- this world – but the eternal life that so often we don’t think about as much… the Holy Hall of Fame we’re talking about this weekend.
Jesus speaks to us in tonight’s Gospel about that. And he’s pretty clear about it. Are we fans of this world – are we rooting, siding with that team or are we with him? Are we fans of the earthly team or Jesus’ team? And Jesus is even more forceful about this choice than a Yankee fan encountering someone who says they like the Yankees and the Red Sox. You can’t be both. You can’t do both. The one is an obstacle to the other… You have to make a choice. No servant can serve two masters he will either hate one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
As we’ve been hearing, the thing that makes the Saints, saints… The thing that makes us as Catholics admire them, be inspired by them is we see they made that choice. They were like
Jesus’ super fans… To the point that they reflected his very presence. In the loving way they served the poorest of the poor or the lowest of the low. In the dynamic way they challenged the Church to be the Church that Jesus founded when some would fail and seemed more of this world than on Jesus team… It was the saints who breathed the fire of the Holy Spirit to renew the Church age after age … They made that choice in a variety of ways. So We recall, we love them because of that.
For us here this weekend, it’s not about this weekend, it’s not about this retreat. We’re here for this brief time, taking a step away from our campuses, our lives, our concerns and thinking about this lifelong decision to be on Jesus’ team, and the call, the invitation we’re being offered to be His true super fans as well. That’s not always easy… In fact it’s hard.
It’s hard when you feel that you’re team is on the losing end not to want to try to hedge your bets and try to do both. It’s hard not to look at all that’s going on around you and the appearance of people “winning it” or trying to be champions in the things of this world – that guy has all that money – that girl has all that fame. The things of the world, the sinful things are constantly trying to lure us to give in. Abandon our team.
But the saints weren’t saints because things were always great in their lives, they often times weren’t. The Saints weren’t saints because things always went their way – usually they didn’t. The Saints weren’t saints because they didn’t have sins or temptations in their lives – if they didn’t then they wouldn’t have been human beings. What the Saints found is that when they chose to be Jesus’ super fan, when they kept their eyes focused solely on Jesus Christ, when they didn’t compromise in their allegiance to Jesus, then Paul’s words from the first reading become theirs – I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me. WHAT AWESOME COMFORTING WORDS FOR US
The Saints were saints because they trusted Jesus when things werent great; they followed Jesus’ way even though the world was moving in a different direction; they went to Jesus when they failed – they were able to turn away from their sinful lives and turn towards him – which led them from being simply sinful human beings to holy hall of fame members. All because of the strength for everything that came through Him who empowered them…
We’re living in some messed up times. Twisted times. The struggles to just deal with our sinfulness in a world where it’s celebrated and glamorized has led more and more people into confusion to the point that at best some are living like they’re trying to serve both God and mammon or the world – and at worst, they’re not even trying… You have campuses where Jesus is being proposed as a nice dude among many others who had some nice things to say.
You and I know better. The saints knew better. They made their radical choice, they lived for God and the radicalness of that choice echoes through the centuries to you and I sitting here on the Isle of Staten this November night. Sts, Peter and Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Joseph, St Francis of Assisi , St. Therese of Lieusex, St. Edith Stein… your devout grandmother or grandfather… or that relative that has passed who was an inspiration to you and was so pumped when you were coming on this retreat… when you go to Mass, when you try to live for Jesus Christ… yes the whole countless hosts men and women, these heroes of our faith are cheering us on. ROOTING FOR YOU RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. They’re our fans encouraging us to be real fans, true fans… for the only game that matters… the game of life. May we renew ourselves in that radical call. May Christ strengthen us to lead us to Him and even to help transform Montclair State University and Ramapo College by our faithfulness to that call.