Hi everyone – here’s my homily for the NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – MARCH 6, 2011 given at MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY at NEWMAN CATHOLIC CAMPUS MINISTRY (www.MSUNEWMAN.com) .
The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/030611.shtml – I appreciate you stopping by to read and sharing your feedback. God Bless – Father Jim
About two years ago, on a regular Friday in New York City… I had just gotten on an elevator and there’s was a woman already there when I got on. Even though it’s against “New York protocol” to actually interact with a stranger, I usually at least smile and say hello. Well immediately this woman looked me in the eye “JIMMIE CHERN.”
I have absolutely no poker face. So she must have seen my clueless-ness because before I could even try to pretend or stall or something, she said “You don’t even know who I am do you? It’s Wendy – Wendy Schultz.” Yeah, it was bad – really bad – this was a person who’s parents were so tight with my parents that my brothers and I called them “Aunt” and “Uncle”. Our families had gone on weekend trips together. As soon as she started talking, I almost immediately knew who this was. I felt awful…
Probably because I know how it feels to be on the other end of that. I remember bumping into this teacher I had in high school. She was one of those teachers that you really admired – you know? I actually liked her class, she made me interested in the material, I wanted to do well because I respected her and she would get me excited just to go to her class, she was just so passionate and fun in her teaching style. She was one of those teachers you look up to. Well a few years after college I bumped into her and I remember how excited I was when I saw her. We were both in Old Navy, I saw her down the aisle – could tell instantly it was her. So I go down the aisle, right up to her, imaging she’s going to be just as happy to see me and to hear what I was doing with my life… so I went up to her and I say, Hello Mrs.Walsh… How are you!!! and she puts her glasses on, looks at me like I was some worker at Old Navy who just randomly walked up to her, and she didn’t even try to hide it… she said“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
No – I just took a stab in the dark and guessed your name and turned out to be correct? Come on, you’ve taught how many years and you’re surprised that someone you might not recognize bumps into you and you couldn’t at a minimum imagine I was a former student?
Yeah it was a bit embarrassing. I’m sure we’ve all been in that situation – one side or the other (and if you’re so young, you haven’t yet… don’t worry… it will happen) In hindsight, neither one of those incidents should’ve been surprising. As much as I think I’m a memorable character, well Mrs. Walsh had 5 sections of History every semester so what that’s like 100 kids per semester – and this was at least 6, 7 years later… I’m not great at math, but that’s a lot of kids (and maybe she didn’t want to remember me or my class for that matter!) And as for Wendy – well, yeah, our families were tight probably till I was in 6th or 7th grade, and then we had kind of drifted off – we were all in different schools, my parents work schedules had changed, so, yeah, I really hadn’t seen, let alone had a meaningful conversation with Wendy in over 23 years.
The reason it feels so embarrassing is because we assume – if I remember this person, why hasn’t this person remembered me? That sentence though, whether verbalized or just in body language, “I’m sorry, do I know you?” just hits our egos in such a dramatic way. It’s hard not to feel it instantly.
Which is what makes Jesus’ warning that much more important for us. Here we assume, well Jesus is God… God’s our creator, he’s supposed to know who we are… If God is all powerful, all loving, all knowing – then how could he not know who I am? And so long as I know and recognize who he is, we should be all good, right?
While we can look at this as a dire warning (and there is a pretty dire warning in there that if you think about it carefully, Jesus is kind of saying that some of his disciples aren’t going to make it into heaven – that’s kind of dire) the flip side of that makes the same point and is even more positive to reflect on.
Jesus deeply desires to have a meaningful relationship with each of us.
He’s not looking for us to get an answer to a question correct like we’re playing a game of Jeopardy: “This is our Lord and Savior” – “Alex – ‘Who is Jesus?”“ CORRECT! No we’re not to be asking “who is Jesus” – we’re supposed to know Him – and know Him not just on a book level or an intellectual level. Not simply someone we admire and look up to. We’re to know him by having a meaningful, real relationship with Him. Here and now…Eternity starts here, and now.
And how does that happen, he tells us – when our words and deeds match up. So if we one day wish to call out “Lord, Lord” – we should be doing that now. And if we’re calling out that now, then He has to truly be my Lord, Lord now. We cannot drive out demons in other people using His name, while we allow those demons to run unchecked in my life (because part of us likes playing with those demons!) We can’t just in a sense use Jesus to do mighty deeds around us, while not asking him to come into our lives and do mighty deeds with us and within us.
Because so often we opt for a mediocre relationship. To know Jesus – on our terms. Sunday Mass- good (hey we’re doing better than over half of the Catholics in the world, because at least we’re here on Sunday) Yet Jesus pretty clearly recognizes that superficiality. And he’s not interested in that. I suppose his laying down his life for us tells us how serious he is about this relationship. Which is why He tells us that we have to build our lives on Him as our foundation. Jesus needs to be a constant companion, someone who impacts all aspects of our lives. We have to come to know Him, yes, here in His word, in the Eucharist where He becomes really present – body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearances of bread and wine. But we also to have to come to know Him and see and recognize His presence in every other person we come in contact with. So when I look at my co-worker, my roommate, my sibling or parent and see an opportunity to see and love Jesus Christ, we deepen our relationship with Him. Our words and deeds begin to match up in a much deeper, more authentic manner.
We might not know everyone’s name, but we recognize and love Jesus Christ in them. And in doing that, we can be sure, Jesus will know us as well.