Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – July 31, 2016. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/073116.cfm Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, twitter, Reddit and elsewhere on the Internet – and for all your feedback and comments. God Bless You and Yours and have a great week! Fr Jim
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Not being a botanist, it shouldn’t be surprising that I had never heard of one of the worlds largest flowers – the AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM which is a part of the NY botanical gardens in the Bronx. On top of it being one of the worlds largest flowers, it’s unique in two other ways. The first – which seems to be driving the most interest, the most press at the moment is the Amorphophallus Titanum’s reputation as having the smelliest, foulest, most repugnant of scents. It is for that reason that is more commonly known by it’s nickname “the corpse flower.” (Kind of says it all, doesn’t it) Capitalizing on that, The Guardian, a newspaper from England, sent a reporter to NY to ask people to describe the smell of the Corpse flower. There responses kind of said it all: – it smells like lettuce when you take it out of a bag; It smells like an aquarium – like the penguin enclosure… It smells like my cat’s liter box, only stronger – it smells worse than a thousand pukes.
Those – colorful – descriptions seem to obscure the other amazing thing about this plant. The Amorphopallus Titanum takes over a decade to grow for it’s huge lily like – flower to finally bloom. After that, it’s bloom lasts 24-36 hours before it dies. In fact it started to bloom on Thursday – and they had a Youtube live feed so you could see it online (http://time.com/4430658/corpse-flower-bloom-live/) – so it is probably already in decline by now. Having first read about this on Friday, I had considered driving into the Bronx for my first -non Yankee related trip to the borough today just to see it – but unfortunately didn’t have time to do so.
There’s something so beautifully simple when you think about it – this plant has been nurtured, grown, cultivated, all for this one moment – these 24-36 hours where the fulfillment of it’s life will be on display for all to see – and then it will fade away.
Hearing about this plant and reflecting on this Gospel throughout the week, the message that kept hitting me was not particularly earth-shattering or breaking news to any of us – Life is fragile. Our time on this planet is unpredictable. For a vast number of us, that reality often hits us in dramatic, unexpected ways that are jarring
– like when we heard the horrific story this past week of an 84 year old priest who was killed by Islamic Terrorists while celebrating Mass in France before a horrified congregation
– like when any of us have heard a loved one with a terrible diagnosis, or when we have had an unexpected loss in our families.
Those moments snap us out of the ordinary, routine, day to day busy ness of life that we so easily allow to manipulate all of our mental, physical and sometimes even spiritual energies. Most of us don’t like to think about the end of our lives – let alone talk about it. It can be upsetting and heavy, particularly on a hot day at the end of July where we’re on the cusp of August (forget the end of our lives, we’re probably wondering where is the summer going so quickly?) It’s jarring… and that’s why this gospel kind of catches us off guard tonight.
Jesus sounds somewhat frustrated in this Gospel reading. Some guy in the crowd yells out to Jesus – “tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” This guy has probably seen or heard or experienced something that made it evident that Jesus has power, has authority. Maybe it was a miracle… Maybe it was Jesus’ preaching… Maybe it was just being in His presence – something made this guy discern that many people who’ve had problems, difficulties, struggles, questions about life went to Jesus and found what they were looking for. So he decides to go to Jesus to share what was on his heart, what was troubling him in life. And what was that? His anger with his brother over his inheritance.
That’s where Jesus hits him with this short parable about the rich man who obsesses about his wealth, his possessions, his goods. He has such an abundance of them that he worries what to do with this abundance. How can he better store everything? How can he find bigger barns, warehouses for all his possessions. Not realizing that all of that will be meaningless that evening as his life will be at an end – and very starkly, Jesus tells him – none of that will matter to God.
In God’s creation, plants are fortunate. Their entire existence glorifies God by their very lives. They don’t have to make choices or decisions. They’re programmed in a sense to do what they do. The unique Amorphophallus’ entire existence for 12 years builds to this beautiful climax where the bloom is revealed (the scent is smelled) and God is glorified by it. And it’s over so quickly.
For you and I, this Gospel is a reminder that we do make choices, decisions that either glorify God or not – that preach his Gospel or diminish His presence to the world. He gives us the tools, the talents, the gifts, the abilities – the opportunities – to determine how we will bloom. But – none of us knows the length of time. That’s a part of the mystery of life and being apart of God’s creation. Heavy stuff – I know, particularly in the middle of the summer.
Yet maybe that’s why its good that this Gospel reading itself catches us in such a sudden, unexpected manner. How many New Year’s Resolutions have fallen by the wayside for us. How many Ash Wednesday with our Lenten promises didn’t quite turn out the way we had expected or hoped… There seems multiple opportunities we’re given in our lives to “clean the slate” – to start over again. Rather than focusing on the past failures — all the opportunities we’ve had up to this point to change something about ourselves, our relationships with God, our relationships with our family and friends – the Gospel message is meant to constantly remind us of a Loving God, a forgiving God who never stops encouraging us, calling us again and again to try again – try again to make things right that need to be made right….
Those opportunities continue to be there. Maybe someone is coming to mind right now that you feel a nudge to make ammends with. Maybe there’s something that’s been weighing on your heart for some time that you want to bring to confession. Maybe this call to examine how much I own, how much I possess and how much I share – especially with the poor, those near to me – and those who are strangers is resonating in a way it never has. The Holy Spirit is going to hit each of us in a different way with this proclamation.
Whatever it is, we can be confident and are guaranteed that each and every day we wake up God our Father is patiently there waiting for us to choose to Glorify Him by our very lives. But where a sense of urgency comes from is that we don’t have a guarantee on is how many mornings we will wake up… how many opportunities we have left to glorify God and choose to be a beautiful bloom in his Creation.