The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homily: Wednesday, 29th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Romans 6:12-18; Psalm 124; Luke 12:39-48

Power’s really a strange commodity, isn’t it? Lord Acton warned us that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And we’ve seen enough evidence of that in the world in recent years.

Jesus certainly knew this as well, and wanted to ensure the Apostles would exercise their power – really His power – and exercise it well once He left them in charge of His Church. Indeed, their job would be less about power and more about service.

Today's Gospel passage from Luke 12 is, then, a telling parable for all who hold leadership positions in the Church, but it applies as well to all of us. After hearing Jesus’ response, I suspect Peter might have regretted asking his question. You know what they say, don’t ask a question if you think you might not like the answer.

Of course, the Apostles were always doing this. Remember when James and John were dreaming of power? And remember what Jesus said to them: ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.’” (Mark 10:42-44). And then added that even He came “not to be served but to serve.” 

This is the remarkable thing about our God. We call him “God Almighty” for good reason since he is the creator and sustainer of all that exists. And yet, Almighty God chose to become powerless in Jesus.

How did St. Paul describe it in his beautiful hymn? “…though he was in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

Yes, God is love, and love, at least in worldly terms, is powerless. Indeed, there’s something about God that is better expressed in weakness than in strength. This is one of love’s great paradoxes: although love in itself is powerless, it always empowers those who love. It’s the distinctive blind spot of people who crave power but are unable or unwilling to love. Love always empowers, it never disempowers.

And so Jesus is telling the Apostles and He’s telling us to love, to love as He loves. Through a remarkable act of Love, God gave us life. And through an even more remarkable act of love, through His death on the Cross, He gave us new life. He poured out the Holy Spirit on us and filled us with His power. He gave us each other, our families, the Church, and our mother Mary.

Jesus loved us when we didn't love ourselves. He freed us from the slavery of sin. He’s taken us back again and again. He’s healed us, been perfectly faithful to us, unfailingly given us our daily bread, and delivered us from the evil one. Without Him, without His love, we are truly powerless.

We’ve all been given so much, and the joy and privilege of being a child of God carries with it an awesome responsibility. God expects us to make good use of the gifts and graces He gives to us, and the more He gives, the more He expects. Before the Master returns the temptation is to put off what we know the He expects of us today!

And so today maybe each of us should do something for God, perhaps something we’ve been putting off for a while. We all have something like this. I know I certainly do. Do it today! Don‘t wait for tomorrow.

Cardinal Newman said it best: "God has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission -- I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next...therefore I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him...for God does nothing in vain..."

After all Jesus has done for us, the least we can do is…well, everything.

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