How about a new homily? This one from June 15, 2008…

The diaconate formation process, that is… the time you spend at the seminary preparing to become a deacon, was, for the most part, a pretty humbling experience for me. But I had one experience that was not at all humbling. A few days after I was ordained as a deacon, some of my classmates and I were asked to go on Boston Catholic Television and talk about what it was like to become a deacon. At the studio, we were in awe of the big lights and cameras surrounding us as we sat with the interviewer in a wide semi-circle. Before we knew it, without much preparation, there was a man behind one of the cameras counting down with his fingers… three, two, one… and the light turned red. The interviewer began by asking each of us to describe “our calling”, our personal story of how we felt called… chosen… to become deacons. So, one by one, each of us in the semi-circle told his respective story. Each story was more impressive and colorful than the one before it. I’m sure everyone was thinking, “hey, I’m on TV… my story has to be really, really compelling and really, really good… ‘cause you know, I’m on TV…”

The readings we just heard tell us about those who have been called forth. Those who have been chosen. Those who have been hand picked out of a crowd and given a very special task. After all, how awesome it is to be called out. To be among the chosen and the selected.

[Call out 4 people to stand, including celebrant.]

In today’s Gospel from Matthew, we hear about the twelve disciples. For the first time, this week… when I pondered and prayed over these readings, I was moved toward a completely different perspective on the selection of the twelve. Previously, I had envisioned Jesus boldly seeking them out. Selecting them. What a great honor. What an amazing testimony to the character of these individuals to have been chosen by the Messiah, the Savior, the Christ. They must have been very, very special people.

But this time… I thought about it differently.

[To those standing:] How are you guys doing? Doing ok? Could everybody take a look at those who are standing? Take a good, long, hard look at them… You see… they have been chosen. They are… special. Frankly, I’d like to know just who they think they are… standing up there like that, while all of the rest of you are sitting down.

[To those standing:] How does it feel standing there? [“Awkward, hard, lonely”, etc…]

This time, when I contemplated the calling out of the twelve, I thought of it differently… not as glorious or impressive… but as… possibly quite difficult. These were individuals who had lives, occupations, interests, people whom they loved and people who loved them. Maybe they liked their lives as they were. Who knows… maybe the fishing business wasn’t so bad. Or maybe they preferred to blend in and not stick out. Maybe they were just like [names of individuals standing] or like you and me.

I do wonder, though, if there was something missing in their lives, however. I wonder if they longed for something else, something more. I wonder if they were searching… in the way some of us are searching. And I wonder if that made them more open to hearing the call…

In reality, we don’t know. We don’t know much at all about the twelve and what their lives were like before Jesus called them to a special mission. This week, as I thought about this, I wondered if their lives, but for the separation of some several centuries, could have been much more like our own lives than it might seem.

Maybe it was difficult to have been chosen. As he chose the twelve, Jesus certainly promised them no glory… not in this life anyways. Later on he would say to them: “If you want to follow me, pick up your cross and follow me.” That sounds hard. Awkward. Lonely.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

The entire first section of the Bible tells the story of a chosen people. In our first reading today, God tells them that they will be his “special possession”. Special yes, but that does not mean that they would be better than any other. What it does mean is that they were called to play a special role in God’s revelation… they were called to be instruments of salvation.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

Jesus himself was drawn to the lost sheep. The Gospel tells us that his heart was moved with great pity for them. These twelve, whom he had taught and prepared, were ready only now to truly begin their work. They were ready… prompted by the pity Jesus felt for others. The twelve chosen ones are given their true mission. Their purpose. Jesus did not empower them to be powerful, he empowered them to serve humbly.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

This is precisely where Church comes from. It does not spring forth from the mighty. It does not proceed from the advantaged or the privileged. It is not built upon the shoulders of kings or even prophets. It comes from the humble few… those who might start out with awkwardness, or difficulty, loneliness, longing, or doubt. But who find courage and inspiration and a willingness to continue onward.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

All of us… are a chosen people. Every one of us has been called. We are the “special possession”. And though we have been called, it does not mean that we are better, mightier, holier, superior, more impressive, more important, more anything than anyone else. What it does mean is that we are called to play a special role in God’s revelation… we are called to be instruments of salvation.

Would each person who is standing, please seek out any remaining lost sheep and ask them to stand with us?

This is where Church comes from… for we know that a humble and imperfect few can do great, great things.

As lost sheep who have been found… as God’s special possession, as those who gain salvation because we are called forth… let us together, as Church… proclaim with confidence all that we believe in.

[Profession of Faith…]

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How about a new homily? This one from June 15, 2008…

Homily from August 26, 2007

Luke 13: 22-30

What did you think of that gospel?  I don’t know about you, but I like my gospels to be reassuring and comforting… to give me hope.

My family and I had a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this summer to visit some of the great Western U.S. national parks.  They are spectacular and we feel very fortunate to have been able to see them.  The scenery, the wildlife and the hiking were… simply amazing.  Speaking of wildlife, we were in the Tongass National Forest and came across a sign that read: “Beware of bears.  Never startle a bear.  If you see one approaching, walk away slowly, backwards.”  In Olympic National Park, we were near a restaurant and saw a sign that read: “Do not take an open container of food outside.  Cougars may be attracted to it.”  I like wildlife, but, truth be told, when I’m at Bird Park and a squirrel gets real close to me, I get a little unhinged.  So you can pretty much forget a startled bear or a cougar that wants to attack me because of the pretzel I’m holding.

And the hiking is spectacular there in the parks.  On our trip, we’d stop at the visitor center, grab a map and hit the trails.  But, we typically like to hike in flip flops and in places where you can get four bars on your cell phone and are never more than a mile away from a Starbucks.  I was impressed whenever I saw folks head out into the wilderness with huge backpacks and carrying things like tents and rope and harnesses.

I loved the national parks, but camping out in the wilderness in a small tent and fending off bears and cougars for your life is definitely outside of my comfort zone.

We all have comfort zones.  Places where we feel at ease, relaxed, confident… correct… and maybe even powerful.  What are your comfort zones?  What does it feel like to be shoved outside of them? 

For some, having to speak in public is a shove outside of a comfort zone.  For others, it’s conflict or big looming deadlines.  For some it’s being proven wrong.

I’ll tell you about another one of mine.  I like to talk to you right up here, standing behind this ambo.  And I like to have some notes in front of me just in case I need them.  It makes me feel more comfortable.  Fr. Mike, on the other hand, stands right out there in front without a scrap of notes and, frankly, I don’t know how he does it.  I can tell you that you’ll never catch me doing that.

So… what are your comfort zones?  And what does it feel like to be push outside of them?

In our gospel today, Jesus pushes us outside of our comfort zone.  And, of course, it wouldn’t be the first time.  Do you remember what happened in last Sunday’s gospel?  In that gospel, he told us that he came here to set the earth on fire.  To create division.  To set a father and a son against each other.  I love my son.  The very last thing I want is for Jesus to create any kind of problem between us. 

In today’s gospel, he is asked a simple question: “… will only a few people be saved?”  In typical fashion, Jesus didn’t address the question directly.  Instead, he tells us a story about entering through a narrow gate. 

And here’s the hard part.  He describes a master standing behind a locked door, telling those who are outside that they cannot enter.  The ones outside plead with him.  They tell him that they dined together, they worshipped together, they were friends.  But they were turned away.  Furthermore, Jesus states that those coming in from the east and the west… foreigners… strangers… would be let inside where they will be greeted warmly, recline at table and be in the kingdom of God.

What exactly is Jesus telling us here?  He was merely asked: “will only a few be saved?”  But he doesn’t say whether few or many will be saved.  What he does say is that you should prepare to be surprised when you come to that doorway.  He tells us that those who count themselves among the saved might not be.  And those others, you know, the ones who we’re all quite certain will not be saved, might actually be.

This can be a giant shove outside of our comfort zone.  But you know, sometimes it’s good to be shoved outside of your comfort zone. 

<<< leave ambo, walk to front >>>

We have the playbook.  We follow the rules.  Then we get saved, right?  Isn’t it enough to come here on Sundays, receive all the sacraments we’re supposed to, work hard to follow Jesus, listen to our leaders in the Church, pray every day?  Isn’t that enough?  And what about all those who don’t do any of these things?  What about those who believe in God in a different way?  Or who don’t believe in God at all?  What about those who are cynical or critical about our faith… or who mock it?  What about those who we know absolutely will not be saved?  Cannot be saved?

Jesus tells us that we should be prepared to come to the doorway… the narrow gate… and look inside and see some who we did not expect would be there.  And though we might feel good about our chances, Jesus is also telling us that the master might lock the door on us and not let us in.

This is, I believe, a call to humility.  A call to be less certain.  It’s absolutely not a call to abandon the message of Christ or to ignore the playbook, but it is a lesson in making sure we don’t cast a divide between us and them because you never can be sure whether we’ll end up being an us… or a them. 

In short, we should not judge.  This is said to us by a man who had many opportunities to judge, including a golden one… but who instead scribbled in the sand and then muttered some words about casting the first stone. 

Being shoved outside of our respective comfort zones can make us feel not very powerful, not very correct, not very comfortable, not very great.  But the greatest one of all time… the most powerful ever… the most correct to ever walk among us did what is depicted in the profound symbol just up behind me.  He emptied himself.  He took on the form of a slave.  He came forward, with immense love, and he humbled himself.  And though it could be uncomfortable, he asks us to follow him there.

Homily from August 26, 2007

A Reflection for Chaplains

        I was asked to give a brief reflection (on the indicated scriptural reading) for a group of hospital chaplains.  It was a humbling experience…

Matthew 16: 15-18

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

***

        Imagine you are that rock.  Imagine you are that rock… upon which church is built.

        I don’t know about you, but there are days when I am like a rock.  I am like a precious jewel that gleams on a royal chest plate or shines at the edge of a golden goblet.

        There are days when I am like the rock that anchors a base and upon which others will depend.  On those days, I call myself “capstone”, “cornerstone”… “the foundation”.

        There are days when I am like a rock that is a living stone and on those days I build myself into a spiritual house.

        And speaking of my house, there are days when I am wise and set it up upon rock so that it can withstand the rains and the floods… and the winds and the storms.  And on those days, I do not fall.

        There are days when I am like a rock that forms a stone pillar… and I do not topple over.

        And on all of those days… I feel strong and complete and ready.

        I don’t know about you, but there are days… when I am like another kind of rock.  I am like the stone in a wall and I stand between and I separate and I guard.  If I wore a sign, it would say “No Trespassing” or “Keep Out” or “Beware of Dog”.

        There are days when I am the rock that crumbles, when no safe thing should rest upon me.

        There are days when I am the rock that is hurled at others… and though I am not without sin, I can be the first to be thrown.

        And I’ve never envisioned a hammer colliding with the nail… but rather a large and heavy stone that is grasped in a strong and muscular hand.  And I am so aware of a loud and piercing crash of that stone upon a nail and through a hand and into the wood.

        Paul said… Paul Simon said: “I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty.  That none may penetrate.  I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.  It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.  I am a rock.  I am an island.”  And there are the days like that too.

        But you… you stand outside of the heavy wooden door.  You pause and there are days when you know exactly what awaits… but there are days when you do not and so you breathe deeply and you knock and you walk right in…

        And on those days you approach one who has stood outside of a stone wall.  Or one who has rested upon a wall that crumbled.  Or one who has felt the sting of a rock that was hurled.  Or one who understood the piercing crash of a stone upon a nail and through a hand and into the wood.  Or one who has built a fortress deep and mighty.

        And on those days…

        Imagine you are that rock.  Imagine you are that rock… upon which church is built.

A Reflection for Chaplains

What’s with all these old homilies?

As I port some of my past homilies over from my prior website service, you’ll notice that there are a lot of “old” homilies showing up here.  Rather than show them as brand new posts only, I’m including these brand new posts with the original dates that the homilies were given in my church.  I have a bunch more to add, going back to 2004.  I’ll try to add one every few days. 

What’s with all these old homilies?

Homily from December 16, 2007

        What are you anticipating this Advent season?  What exactly are you… waiting for?

        I have been interested in photography ever since I was about 15 years old… when my brother’s friend gave me an old, beat up rangefinder camera.  I remember it well.  It was a solid hunk of metal and glass and it contained about two dozen buttons and dials.  I had no idea what any of them did but I was fascinated by it.  Ever since then, I’ve loved taking pictures.  People who know me well know that I almost always have a camera with me and that you never know when I might take it out and start shooting.

        Anyways, in today’s Gospel…

        Actually… could you just wait one second?         

        <Take camera out and take a number of photographs>…

        Yes, ever since that first rangefinder camera, I have been fascinated with photography and I’ve been taking pictures ever since.

        Since this is the digital and internet era, about five years ago, I put together several of my very best photos into an electronic portfolio and uploaded them to a popular photography website so that I could gain the comments and feedback from other photographers.  I had often provided comments to others on that site and so, I wanted to put some of my own work out there to see what kind of reaction I’d get.  I remember posting the pictures and then waiting by the computer for comments.  And I waited.  I checked every half hour for a while, then every few hours… and days went by.  No comments.  “What?” I thought… “I’ve seen beautiful photos generate compliments and even awful ones generate tons of helpful suggestions… why isn’t anybody commenting on mine?”  Days went by, then weeks.  No comments.  Months went by… nothing.  The conclusion was obvious to me.  I had to face up to it… I stink.  All these years of practice.  All the books.  All the courses.  All for nothing.  It was very discouraging.

        Then, many months later, I went in to check one last time.  There was one comment posted… and I’ll never forget it.  It was from someone with the screen identity, “Betty555”.  With great anticipation, I opened the comment and read… and I quote: “Your work is technical perfection.  But in looking at it, I learn nothing about you.  Try harder.”

Huh?  You learn nothing about me?  It’s a picture of a mountain… what do you expect to find out about me?  I didn’t get it…

I thought about that for a long, long time.  And over time, Betty555’s wisdom became clear to me.  I was all about technical perfection… but not about beauty.  I was emphasizing things like sharpness and white balance, but missing out on things like texture and movement and beauty.  My photos had none of those things.  My photography was about science… not about art.  And it was not personal.  It revealed absolutely nothing about me.

        And so, I’ve spent the last five years… trying harder.  Thank you Betty555, wherever you are!

        Our faith, in some ways, is a lot like… photography.  We can study it, take courses, read books about it and practice it all of our lives.  And we can obtain technical perfection… but little else.

        To be a good photographer, you do need to know how to use a camera.  But to be an artist, you need more than that.  It needs to be… personal.  To be a faith filled person, we need to understand our faith.  But to have a true relationship with Jesus, we need to put ourselves into it.  It needs to be personal.  Really personal…

        Remember that the very first felt presence of Jesus on earth came to the fingertips of a young maiden whose hand was placed upon her own belly.  What could possibly be more personal than that?

        And so here we are… just days before we celebrate the birth of our savior.  We are anticipating him and we are awaiting his presence in our lives.  But what exactly is it we’re anticipating?  And what is it that we’re waiting for? 

        I remember being a young boy.  One of our family Christmas traditions was going to my aunt’s house for a big celebration.  I remember that every year, when we went there, the minute we walked into the house, she would tell the children not to touch the crèche.  It was a beautiful, and I’m sure very expensive, nativity set that my aunt placed on a small table in front of the fireplace.  She always told us every year, “the crèche is to see, not to touch”.

        Well, wouldn’t you know it… one year… I became intrigued… fixated actually… by a small figurine depicting a young shepherd boy.  I remember staring at it and… wouldn’t you know… I just had to touch it.  So I did.  No sooner had I reached out my index finger than I heard a booming voice… “Stop!  The crèche is to see, not to touch.” 

        There is an Ignatian spiritual exercise where we are invited to consider… to imagine… the nativity scene… the actual nativity scene… and to imagine that we are there and part of it.  We are encouraged to look around… to notice the many sounds and smells.  And then we are asked to do something very extraordinary.  We are asked to approach Mary who is holding the tiny infant.  Mary looks at us and then slowly hands the infant to us.  She is tired and wants to rest.  And we are left there holding Jesus in our very own arms.  Our savior, our redeemer… there, cradled in our own arms.

        Christmas is coming.  As each of us prepares for it, we have a basic choice.  It is our Advent choice.  We can approach the birth of our savior as though it’s a precious, porcelain set that’s meant to be seen, but never touched.  Or we can approach it as though we’re crouching by the infant’s manger… and then are asked to take hold of him.

        During Advent, if Christ’s coming is distant… and we approach it they way we would an expensive porcelain crèche. then in a way, it’s easy.  We can go through the motions… because we have nothing at risk.  We can focus on the happy traditions of Christmas because we have nothing deeper at stake.  And when Christmas is all over, we can put away the lights and take down the tree and before too long, act as though it never even happened.

        But if Christ’s coming is like holding a tiny baby, then we have to put our entire selves into it.  We have to consider whether we are living the message of Christ… to the very best of our ability.  We have to confront our own weaknesses and our own sin.  And we have to ask ourselves difficult questions, like: am I worthy to kneel by this manger and to hold my Lord and savior in my arms? 

        And finally, we have to be ready for when Jesus tells us, and he will tell us: “You know… this is personal.  I want you to be mine.  I want you to hold me in your arms so that I can forever hold you in mine.”

Homily from December 16, 2007

Homily from March 2, 2008

A man, blind from birth, begging by the side of the road… has a chance encounter with Jesus of Nazareth… and is healed and given eyesight for the very first time in his life.  It is a cause for celebration… a moment of great joy.  Yet today’s Gospel story reads like a classic Greek tragedy… because as the man, blind from birth, steps forward into light… all those around him fall desperately into darkness.

There are three groups who confront the man who is given sight.  The first are his neighbors… those who saw him begging every day.  Every day they watched him there, by the side of the road… begging.  But on this day, they are approached by that same man, now with sight… and while some recognize him as the blind beggar, others do not.  Who’s blind now?

The second group are the members of the church, the Pharisees.  They were not happy that Jesus violated one of the sacred laws of their community…. healing on the Sabbath.  As they confronted the man, blind from birth, they said that Jesus could not possibly be from God because he didn’t keep the Sabbath.  And so, who’s blind now?

Finally, the man’s parents are called to the scene.  They are asked to identify their son, which they did, but… they were afraid to say how he was healed because they were terrified of losing their status in the community.  Since it was commonly held that being afflicted in this way was the result of some sin, they must have somehow successfully established that it was their son’s sin that caused his blindness, not their own.  That’s probably how they earned their place in the community.  But perhaps their place in the community was tenuous at best and perhaps they wanted to protect it at all costs… even if it meant basically throwing their own son under the bus.  Fear can make you do all sorts of crazy things.  And so, who’s blind now?

Each time the man is confronted, he is asked who healed him.  The first time he describes the one who healed him as “that man they call Jesus.”  The second time he describes him as “a prophet”.  And finally, he describes him as “from God”.  He understands Jesus to be “that man”… then “a prophet”… then “from God”.  In the course of a just a couple of lines in today’s Gospel, the man gains his physical sight.  But over the course of the entire rest of the story, he gains something much more important.  Understanding.  Wisdom.  Truth.  And ultimately… salvation.

It’s a transformation.  At the beginning of the story, he is a beggar.  At the end of the story, it is he who is teaching the Pharisees.

But… it’s also a tragedy.  A tragedy for his neighbors… who don’t recognize who he is.  For his church community… who refuse to acknowledge the true identity of the healer.  And for his parents… who choose not to save their own son because of fear.

A man, blind from birth is saved.  Everyone else in this story… also, in a way, blind from birth, gain no sight.  Find no understanding.  Obtain no wisdom.  Discover no truth.  Achieve no salvation.

They were all blind from birth.  Just like… all of us are.

Are you and I like the neighbors, staring right into the miracle of Jesus healing power all around us… but don’t recognize it?

Or… are you and I like the Pharisees, so certain of something… so absolutely certain… that we don’t recognize that the opposite of what we believe in is actually the truth?  Does our certainty make us blind?

Or… are you and I like the parents, terrified of something… like maybe losing our place in our communities, whether that community is our school, our jobs, our friends, our family, even our church… are we so afraid that we deny what we believe in so deeply?  Does our fear make us blind?

Or does something else make us blind?

Did you see the “Boston Globe” this past Tuesday… the front-page article about the changing religious identity of the US?  One line really caught my attention.  It was: “Americans are not only changing jobs, changing locations, changing spouses, but they’re also changing religions on a regular basis,” said Luis E. Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum, which conducted the study. “We have nearly half the American public telling us they’re something different today than they were as a child, and that’s a staggering number.”

Nearly half.

Mr. Lugo has a point.  In our society… we, in his words, change jobs, change locations, change spouses… and now change religions on a ‘regular basis’.  Why?  What is it we looking for?  What are we searching for?  Maybe this is another form of blindness.  Intense restlessness, dissatisfaction and a devaluing of what we already have.  Is it a form of blindness to be constantly striving for something more, something new?

In this same newspaper… there are endless stories about the sub-prime lending crisis in our country.  Forclosures galore.  Loans defaulting everywhere.  A financial system imploding because, simply put, we spend more money than we have… all because of this unyielding pursuit of… something more, something new.

And so it seems that blindness is all around us.  You could say that there is blindness… everywhere you look.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me blind.  What makes you blind?  In Lent, we are called to go inside, maybe way inside, and to think about all those things that make us blind.  And then, we are called to look ahead at the only one who can open our eyes. 

We began this season of Lent with a black stain swiped across our foreheads and we’ll end it at the Easter Vigil when a single candle emerges in through the back door of this darkened church.  And we encounter Jesus of Nazareth, ourselves like a blind beggar on the side of the road.  We seek his understanding.  His wisdom.  And his truth.  And when we do so, our eyes are opened.  The light shines brightly upon us.  And we too… are healed!

Homily from March 2, 2008

Homily from May 18, 2008

Our Gospel today includes this statement: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world…” 

Our three readings today contained so many points worth reflecting upon… but this one line, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world” is the one I kept coming back to over and over again.  And contemplating this over the past week made me think about Kevin.

When I met Kevin, he seemed like a… pardon the expression… regular guy.  Friendly, a little soft spoken, maybe even a bit shy.  He was very articulate.  I remember thinking that he was likable.  Personable.

Kevin told me and a few others who were there, his story.  He described how he often experienced great anxiety… and some sadness.  He said that during his life, he frequently felt all alone.  And completely lost.  Kevin described what it was like knowing that he will never again leave the prison that he calls his home.

He described why he was there and the crime he committed and it did not seem to match at all with his likeable personality.  It was hard for me to reconcile all that.  Someone asked him about God and Kevin said, boldly, that he was certain that God exists… but also that God had left him to be all alone and lost.  He said: “I know that God gave up on me…” I’ve always remembered that expression.  “I know that God gave up on me…”

It occurred to me recently that I’ve been driving a car for 30 years… give or take about a month.  For 29 of those 30 years, I would have stood right here and said with great confidence: “I have an excellent sense of direction.”  I would have said that and I would have believed it completely.  But about a year ago, I went to Portland, Oregon and spent three days looking for the spectacular Mount Hood peak in exactly and 100% the opposite direction of where it actually was.  In a homily after that happened, I stood here and told that story.  I won’t repeat it today because that’s not what this homily is about.  Rather, this is about what happened afterwards. 

What happened afterwards was the feedback I got when I told the Mount Hood story.  My family, my friends, people who know me all made comments about how awful my sense of direction actually is.  After hearing this story, someone I went to college with told me that they always worried that I’d get lost going from the dorm room to the bathroom.  I actually thought that when my friends in college called me ‘Magellan’, it was a compliment.

This was all very, very eye opening to me.  So… flash forward a year and now, I have a GPS device.  This is a technological miracle.  I cannot believe that a little antennae in this tiny thing picks up signals from several satellites in space and can tell me exactly and precisely how to get from one place to another.  It’s amazing.  And I’m convinced that it will be standard equipment in all cars someday.  Just as some people wouldn’t get air conditioning in their cars for whatever reason back in the 70s, now today, I don’t think you could buy a car without AC.  So will it be with GPS.

A month ago, I went on a weekend retreat at the Campion Center in Weston.  Though I had been there a few times before, I didn’t remember exactly how to get there, so I programmed the address in and away I went.  Unfortunately, as I drove there, I was listening to the new Counting Crows album… loudly… way too loudly… and I completely failed to listen to the voice telling me where to turn and how to get to Campion.  No problem, as the GPS instantly recalculates and wherever you end up, it redirects you and it tells you exactly how to get back on track and to reach your destination.

When I realized that the GPS was screaming at me, I lowered the music and paid attention.  I had no idea where I was and even though I had the GPS, I worried a little bit because it looked as though I had gone far, far past where I should have been.  The voice directed me onto what looked like a side road… a narrow country road.  It turns out that this was a little used pathway… full of huge bumps and twists… my car rocked and creaked as I went along and I was convinced that the GPS had messed up and that I was going to end up at a dead end or a bridge that was out.  But after a while, the voice told me I had arrived at my destination and to my surprise and delight, I was at the back entrance of the Campion Center… safe and sound.

To me, the GPS analogy fits perfectly with my concept of how God talks to us.  And my trip to Campion last month, getting lost and then redirected… even over a bumpy, twisty road, fits with my concept of how God doesn’t give up on us.  And that no matter what we do or where we end up… God recalculates our route from where we are and brings up home… safe and sound.

The GPS analogy fits with my sense of how we do sometimes get lost in life.  Often times, we get lost because we forget to pay attention… we stop listening.  And we stop hearing the voice of the one who created and loves us.  For me, there are things I do that prevent me from listening.  There are too many things I do that prevent me from listening.  For example… I’m a busy guy.  I have a good job and a lot on my plate.  Many days, I get up early… hit the road, run from meeting to meeting, race home at the end of the day and just crash.  In reality, I think that this busyness makes me feel necessary, important, needed.  It makes me feel like I’m successful.  But… it also makes me stop listening.  And when I do, I mess up, I miss the turns, I forget where I’m headed and I get lost.

So what do you do that prevents you from listening?  What do you do that fills up your life, clogs up your ears, makes you take your eyes off the road in front of you and makes it nearly impossible to hear the voice?

My prayer is that I always stop and listen.  Listen for the voice.  My prayer is that you always stop and listen.  Listen for the voice.  Thankfully, God doesn’t give up on me.  He doesn’t give up on you.  And though Kevin did something awful… truly, truly awful… He doesn’t give up on him either.  He gives him another chance… He calls him home.

We can learn a lot about the one who created us by considering the manner in which he chose to reveal himself to us.  When we describe that revelation, we don’t’ use words like majesty, power and might.  We do use words like sacrifice, suffering and mercy.  When we talk about how the one who created us judges how we’re doing here… today’s Gospel tells us to use words like love and not condemnation.

How much does the one who created us love us?  So much so that he never, ever gives up on us.

Homily from May 18, 2008