Working with college students sometimes puts me ahead of the curve in seeing changes and shifts in society … and not necessarily leaps ahead for mankind. One thing over the last few years we’ve been bemoaning in Campus Ministry is how these kids don’t seem able to commit to things. For example, we would invite them this great conference in Baltimore that we had an opportunity to go to – 3days/2 nights at a hotel – all for about $250. When we’re talking to them, they’re all excited and interested and saying they totally wanted to go. We would put the invite on Facebook and you’d have 5 people say yes right away, 3 say no, 35 not respond and 50 “maybe’s.” You have any idea how fun it is trying to arrange a bus trip, get hotel rooms with 50 maybe’s? So we’d break down the list and start reaching out to them individually and a conversation would go like this: “Hey John, saw that you marked maybe for the trip – when we last talked you seemed really interested” “Oh yeah Fr Jim, I am – I just gotta check with [fill in the blank – Mom and Dad, work, my dog ] to see if I can go.” “Ok, do you have an idea when you might know?” – Silence… “Hello?” “I’ll get back to you Father Jim -“ “No pressure John, and if you don’t want to go, it’s totally fine, we’re just trying to figure out getting busses and stuff…” “OK Fr Jim – I’m really interested!” Days go by and then you reach out again – “Hey John, just so you know the cut off date is tomorrow – not sure what you’re thinking” “Oh crap Fr Jim, what time do I have till tomorrow?” I’m not even being overly dramatic here. Even if John is a composite character of a great number of the students we work with. I had to laugh even last year some of our students argued that our Sunday Mass time on campus was too late in the day at 8:30 PM. I explained 8:30 wasn’t the “Father Jim preferred time” if they wanted it earlier in the day, that’s fine, but we needed to find a time that worked for the community – try to come to a consensus and commit to it as a group. As we went around the room discussing times, one student rattled off a variety of times that worked from early evening to early morning to noon. After about 10 minutes of hearing this one student rattling off about 5 different options that worked for her personal liking depending upon the ebbs and flows of every week of the semester I said “I hate to break it you – Mass isn’t an “on-demand thing” – I’m not like Netflix where you can come to the Newman Center, ring the doorbell and I’ll just come down and offer Mass for you.
Hi everyone. This is my homily for June 30, 2019 – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings for today’s Mass can be found HERE Thanks as always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week – God Bless – Fr Jim. AUDIO Also you can get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2
The reality is though, that’s become more of a common experience outside of my work with campus ministry. Friends will tell me that when there’s a deadline for something at work, it’s beyond rare that someone would respond to you before that date. Family gatherings even have gotten way more flexible which growing up would’ve been unthinkable. Dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s on Sunday you might be excused if you were violently sick with a stomach bug (although I can remember a couple such times lying on grandma’s couch sucking ice chips and flat coke) When I’ve planned a New Years Day gathering for my family, I’m completely prepared now that the number of guests will go from 20-50 in the course of a few days.
There’s all the usual suspects for this new reality. Social media – people being more mobile and having more options and opportunities thrown at them on a constant basis has given us “option overload” – that we can almost be afraid to commit to a dinner lest something else comes up that we all of a sudden deem more important.
Those thoughts came to mind with two words from today’s Gospel – resolutely determined. We heard that right at the beginning of this passage where St. Luke shifts the narrative to talk about how Jesus was heading towards Jerusalem where he knows the upcoming passion, awaits Him. And Luke observes that Jesus was resolutely determined to embark on this journey of eternal significance for you, me, for all humanity. He’s resolutely determined to save us from our sins. He’s resolutely determined to save us from death. No maybes… no let me get back to you’s. His vision is clear. His love for us will not be compromised or delayed.
In response to that, Jesus is looking for some reaction on the part of those He’s willing to die for. That’s what makes the second part of this passage so jarring when we hear: Foxes have dens…birds have nests… the Son of Man has noplace to lay his head … – Let the dead burry their dead … – No one who sets his hand to the plow and looks to what he left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.
To our modern sensibilities where we like the sense of freedom we think we have by not committing to something right away, those words seem harsh and off putting. “We’ll get back to you Jesus…” But Jesus is being clear, honest, upfront about all that’s required in following Him. It’s not enough to buy into a romanticized notion of discipleship. It’s a serious commitment with great demands. So we need to ask ourselves:
-Are we willing to give up security and sign on for the unpredictable adventure that comes when we set our feet on the path and follow Jesus? That means our mind has to reject the natural impulses – that even foxes and birds have – of their instincts, their habitats in order to make the choice to let Jesus direct our paths, our agendas.
– Are we willing to risk the comfortableness of our lives – the relationships, the projects the plans, that we’re attached too when Jesus is calling us to something that upsets them? Jesus telling the young man to “let the dead bury their dead” isn’t an insensitive response and an unreasonable demand made to a grieving son. Most likely, the young man was saying I want to follow you Lord – but I have things to do, things to attend to here – once my father gets old and dies, then I will follow you. Christ wants us to heed him without delay.
– Are we prepared to expect difficulties in following Jesus? When we see fields of crops or flowers – we see the beauty of the finished project. Rarely do we pause to reflect on the difficulty, the dedication, the perseverance required day after day, week after week to get those fields from seedlings to an abundant bounty. In a similar way, once we start pursuing Christ, it’s tough, it’s hard – particularly in a world that is growing increasingly hostile to Him, to His message, to His followers. Jesus isn’t asking for a perfectly cultivated field but that we keep pushing, keep plowing with all that we have within us.
Very beautifully, in today’s second reading, St. Paul made the point that Jesus has set us free from the “yoke of slavery.” We’re given the opportunity, the freedom to choose who to follow, what impact that will have on our lives and direction, how we will let that choice determine all the opportunities that we’re asked to make yes’ no’s too. Jesus’s gift of Himself has raised the bar… and He hopes that we will strive to resolutely determine to use that freedom to be clear, unhesitating, unambiguous and whole-hearted in our commitment to be his disciple. The work of establishing God’s kingdom of justice, reconciliation and peace has no time for “yeah but first…” “In a minute” or “Maybe”. The Gospel is not some noble ideals we aspire to or words that we memorize – but a mandate that we commit ourselves to. When we struggle, when we get exhausted, when we feel discouraged, we’re not to give up – but to call on one another as brothers and sisters to strengthen our resolve. In those moments we do fail, we need to call on the Lord to experience his mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we confess our sins, and they are forgiven and we start over re-committed.
Discipleship isn’t being spectators to God’s presence -but a commitment to engage in the hard work of building up the Kingdom of God, no matter the cost to us. Knowing that when we do, we’re following the one who always has us in mind, and always has our good in mind.