How often have you had an experience of being at the “right place at the right time?” You go to a restaurant with a friend, you sit down and one of your all time favorite players, Derek Jeter, happens to be sitting at the table right next to you. You didn’t plan it. You had no knowledge that this was even a possibility. It just happened that you happened to be at the right place at the right time. (That actually happened to me… I’ll tell you about what an epic fail it was some other time). That’s kind of a trivial example… the other night there was a commercial for the Clint Eastwood film 15:17 to Paris on television. It brought to mind this true story of three American Heroes from a few years ago. How these three men, including two guys who were in the military – had all kinds of specialized training. How the three of them knew each other… how they’re vacation plans somehow came together in such a way that they found themselves in Europe – and eventually on this particular train – the 15:17 to Paris – when an Islamic Terrorist took out his arsenal of weapons, began to shoot. The three were there to quickly subdue the guy and save one of the victims. It was an amazing story of how all these things came together up to this this moment where they happened to be at the right place and the right time to prevent unimaginable death and destruction on who knows how many people.
Welcome to my blog! This is my homily for January 26, 2020- the 3rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME . It means a great deal to hear from people, sharing how the Lord uses these reflections and the ability to share them online to speak to so many people all over the place! So thanks for your interest, for sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again – I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
A little bit closer to home… A priest friend told me how on Christmas Eve this past year at his parish’s Midnight Mass – one of the parishioners right after the Prayer of the Faithful collapsed and had a heart attack. You hear that as a headline and our impulse is to think how awful. How awful for the man and his family to have such a serious emergency at one of the most crowded Masses of the entire year. How awful for the parishioners and everyone else at Mass to have this traumatic thing happening right there in the Church. But then you hear that 2 doctors – a husband and wife were there serving as Eucharistic Ministers that night… along with three nurses who happened to be in the congregation… in addition to another person who happened to be an Emergency Medical Technician… That the Church had an Emergency Defibrilator on site… and how when this happened everyone stopped what they were doing, and prayed for the man as one of the priests gave him the anointing of the sick. The medical professionals were able to revive him, they got him to the Hospital and three days later he was able to get bypass surgery and has recovered. It was a chaotic thing and something no one necessarily wanted to happen or even expected. But had this happened to him at home that evening it’s pretty likely he would’ve passed away on Christmas Eve. If he was going to have a heart attack, it’s hard to argue that the man happened to be at the right place and right time.
The question people are left with is were these things merely a coincidence? or a part of God’s incredible design? It really depends upon your perspective… on what you believe… on where you put your faith. In some of the more dramatic examples people find it hard to deny that there’s something at work, that somehow things came together in such a perfect way seems hard not to see it as being divinely orchestrated. The naysayers will argue citing all the times where such perfect results didn’t occur and say these examples are just coincidences – opportunities where people got “lucky.”
But as People of Faith – the longer we’re blessed to be on this earth and attentive to what He has done and what He continues to do, its hard not to see how God is constantly at work… but that it’s always invitational. He’s constantly inviting each and everyone of us into his divinely orchestrated plan. He wants to use and utilize each and every single one of us. But He doesn’t want to control us like were pawns in a game or characters in a play that’s already been written out. We still have freedom to choose to go against His will – and then He’ll provide new opportunities for others to be involved, for others to experience His blessings and be a blessing, as all the while he keeps inviting us back, keeps enticing us back to Himself, to the love our hearts were truly created for.
That’s one of the lessons we learn in today’s Scriptures. In that first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah was first speaking to people who were experiencing incredible suffering and oppression. They had been conquered, they had been maltreated, they had been experiencing desolation and lived under this heaviness, this uncertainty, a cloud of darkness. The prophet shares this hopeful promise: the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone… That first day, that first time those prophetic words were declared, There was probably a mix of reactions: some felt renewed – others were skeptical or doubtful and I’m sure there were some who outright dismissed them. In time though, things unfolded, as different people responded to different divine promptings… as God raised up other “David’s” to conquer other giants, other “Goliaths”
– what was a hope became a reality –
– what seemed impossible, what seemed a pipe dream through a patchwork of people and incidents who appeared to be at the “right place at the right time” were in fact helping to fulfill God’s promises –
In hindsight- as they reflected on how God restored them and made a new way for them – these people who had walked in darkness recognized the truth of these prophetic words when they did in fact walk in this heavenly light that transformed their lives. Which is why millenium later these words remain sacred to us here in 2020 A.D. In a very different time, different place, facing other challenges and seeing other signs of darkness that can seem overwhelming – we know the truth of those prophetic words are being spoken over us as well.
Especially in light of the Gospel – which personalizes things even more. Matthew recounts those prophetic words from Isaiah and talks about how Jesus is the fulfillment of them. He is that light that will dispel the darkness overshadowing people. He will continue to be the light for people to lead, to navigate us. How does He accomplish this? By calling and inviting people to follow Him.
Peter and Andrew – James and John didn’t just happen to be at the right place right time for this encounter, this opportunity. God had ordained it. He had planned it. He intended this. For the fishermen on the surface it seemed shocking. We will hear throughout scripture how they lacked confidence, or misunderstood things… struggled with self-doubt. We will even have instances where Jesus invites others to come follow Him that people will say “no.” But to me that just reinforces that God is constantly acting in our lives, active in our world. He will continue to look for help in “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and curing every disease and illness among the people.” (Matt 14: 23)
Whether we are going to cooperate, participate in this great commission ourselves is the question… and what needs to be our focus – for today but even more importantly for our entire lives. No it’s not some accident we’re hearing this right now. God is speaking to each and every one of us. Each and every one of us needs to hear this, His divine invitation anew. For some it might spur us to make a life-changing decision… others it might re-affirm and refresh us in what we’re already doing. Or it might be somewhere in between. But the reality is, we’re all meant to be participants in unleashing the power of God’s love, bringing His eternal, life-giving light into the darkness that still causes distress and fear and despair. Jesus needs us… He knows the particulars of each and everyone of our situations. He knows the fears, the doubts that inhibit us. He knows the gifts, the talents, the favor He has already poured out on us. But even more, He knows our hearts – and the great potential that exists within. It’s no accident we are here – It’s no coincidence we are hearing Him call out to us “Come after me.” Indeed we are at the right place at the right time.