Time to Declutter: 18th Sunday in OT

Below is an adaptation of the homily I delivered this past weekend. In case you need a refresher, the readings can be found here.

Compulsive hoarding Apartment.jpg

Not my clutter, thankfully!

Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity, so Qoheleth! We are called to always “seek what is above” and to keep our focus on things that really matter: namely, God and what comes after our mortal journey here on Earth. Yet, I think that we can have a lot of “clutter” in our lives that can keep our focus from being where it needs to be.

Decluttering definitely seems to be “in vogue” at the moment. There is no shortage of methods, books, and even T.V. shows that purport to reorganize your life and get rid of unnecessary attachments. One such method, created by the popular Marie Kondo from Japan, focuses on keeping only those items that “spark joy” in our lives. To some extent, this is true: we should closely examine those things that we have in our lives and take an honest inventory if they bring joy and happiness, and this rule of thumb can be applied not just to material things but to habits, relationships, and any number of different types of “clutter” we might have in our lives.

Our Lord, as always, challenges us to move deeper than to simply find those things that make us feel good. Our Lord challenges us to stay focused solely on what is above, rather than on Earthly attachments, and so we have the parable of the rich fool who simply could not let go of his earthly wealth.

Perhaps we have all stood in the place of the rich fool at one time or another. I certainly know I have – packing my room from the seminary was evidence enough that I was holding on to too many things! What does the rich fool do when he runs out of space? Somewhat comically, he decides to tear everything down and build a bigger barn, a bigger storehouse for all his things: “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”

Now at first glance, it might seem that the rich fool does the right thing: after all, he is simply being responsible with his possessions, right? In fact, he even makes a resolution to enjoy his time, to rest, but being who he is, this is an empty promise. He will not rest, eat, drink, and be merry: eventually, his possessions will continue to grow, and he will run out of space again. He will have to rebuild again, and the cycle will continue. How often have we been stuck in similar cycles? Jesus teaches us, however, to separate ourselves from some of these attachments, to not be like the rich fool. If we follow the way of Jesus Christ, “Our detachment from worldly goods should mean we have no anxiety about our basic” needs (Didache Bible commentary). In order to live the life we are called to live as disciples of Christ, we must rid ourselves of these unnecessary things and seek things above.

Let’s go back to the modern “decluttering” method mentioned above. We now see that simply asking ourselves whether or not something gives us joy is inadequate. We must respond to the call of Christ to move deeper into our faith. We must ask ourselves whether or not something keeps us from seeking things that are above. We must ask ourselves if whatever it is we are contemplating ridding from our lives gives glory to God. That is the test we are looking for, the question we must ask ourselves: “Does this give glory to God?” If Jesus called me home right this moment, would I hang my head in shame over this thing or would I be joyful that our Lord could see what I have done with this particular part of my life?

Remember that we’re not talking simply about material things. We are talking about applying this rule of thumb, “Does this give glory to God?” to everything in our lives. Let’s look at a few examples: does spending time with a particular person give glory to God in what we say and do together? Will a desired trip to the coast give glory to God? Does buying a new car give glory to God? If you notice, all of these questions can have a yes or a no answer: does the friendship exist to support and encourage each other, or is it spent in gossip and using the other person for gain? Does the trip to the coast consist of spending quality time with family or enjoying God’s creation, or does it consist solely in gorging our mouths and emptying our pocketbooks? Does the new car represent a true need to support myself and family, or is it something that I am buying just so I can keep up with my next-door neighbor?

Glory to God in the highest…

And what is the most profound way that we can give glory to God? Of course in the Eucharist. There is nothing else on Earth so important than being in the presence of God Himself. When we come together in the Eucharist, we more fully become who we are created to be as sons and daughters of God. Our Lord tells us, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”  In the Word of God in Scripture and the Word made present in the Eucharist we hear His voice – what more could we ask for than to give glory to God in what we do in the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist?

In some sense, the rich fool was correct: I believe we are to “eat, drink, and be merry,” – God wants us to be happy, healthy, and holy, but the fool simply did not live out his promise to himself. The key, my friends, is to take what we have, and in the words of Saint Paul, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Our time on Earth is limited and we cannot take any of our riches with us, yet we are still called to be a joyful people. Perhaps it would be good to remember these words from Hilaire Belloc: “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, / There’s always laughter and good red wine. / At least I’ve always found it so. / Benedicamus Domino!” Live life to the fullest, stay focused on things above, and if today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts!

Corpus Christi: Miracles Happen

corpuschristithumbNote: Below you will find the homily I delivered for this Sunday, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. My hope is to post homilies here regularly, in slightly edited form since they don’t always translate well from spoken word to the screen.

Also, the readings can be found here: Readings for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Do miracles happen? Sometimes, I think we’ve lost a sense of the miraculous, so we don’t know how to answer this question. Our society at large has certainly lost a sense of the miraculous. After all, science and reason can explain everything, right? For many people there is no room left for wonder and, I would argue, no room left for grace, because we have such a difficult time believing in true miracles. And yet, we still hunger for miracles every single day of our lives. Our culture denies the possibility of miracles found in scripture, found in our faith, and then people turn to other places and other practices looking for, expecting, miracles.

Case in point, I was in San Diego these past few days for a friend’s ordination to the priesthood and one evening, as I visited a local street market, I noticed all sorts of vendors and artisans. It was a great experience, but I also noticed many of these vendors and some of the shops promoting things like crystals, reiki, tarot, and other New Age practices. Many of these booths and shops were filled with people, looking for miracles. I wondered if I were to walk up to them and offer them the greatest miracle of all, the body and blood of our Lord, if they would accept it? I think most of us know the answer to that question, since, in our society, Christian belief has become somewhat passé, if not outright opposed, in many places.

People look for miracles all around them, but we miss the ones right in front of our faces, or we see them and we say, “Yeah, OK, that’s not really a miracle.” For example, we have today’s Gospel. With five loaves and two fish, Jesus feeds five thousand people. In fact, there are even leftovers: we read that “they all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.” Here we have a true miracle, a working of God’s grace, but from many places, you will hear that it didn’t happen, that Jesus was simply encouraging people to share what they already had. In this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand from just a few loaves and fishes, Christ doesn’t encourage people to share; he literally multiplies what he has many times over, showing the people the power of God’s grace actively working in their lives, foreshadowing the Eucharist that is to come. Yes, sharing, compassion, and generosity are good things, holy things that we need to integrate into our lives, but that is not the lesson of today’s Gospel, nor is it the lesson of today’s feast day, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

The lesson we find in today’s scripture and in today’s solemnity is one of trust. Trust in the power of God to do amazing things in our lives, especially when we least expect them. The crowds were hungry and despondent; they didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from. No, this account that we read is a lesson of trust: trust in God’s grace that He will provide, and he does provide for the people, just as He provides for us here with His Body and Blood. This is a lesson in trust that yes, miracles do happen.

Miracles do happen my friends, and we will have another one right here at the altar. We have already prayed today that we may, “revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption” and in a short time, we will come face to face with Jesus Christ in his body and blood which will become present here on the altar. Some people say that feeding of the 5000 was symbolic, not a real miracle. It was real, and it wasn’t symbolic. Some people also say that the Eucharist is symbolic, not a real miracle. The Eucharist is real, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and we, you and I, have the blessed opportunity to experience this miracle first hand, just as the first disciples experienced it at the Last Supper. The world offers many so-called miracles for our lives, but here, we have a true miracle, the Eucharist, which we celebrate today on this feast of Corpus Christi. In this miracle, we are reminded that Jesus is “the living bread that came down from heaven… [and] whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Miracles do happen.

Miracles do happen – it happened when the five thousand were fed, it will happen again here when Christ is made present in the Eucharist. One more miracle that will come to us, if we allow it when we come forward as one Body of Christ and are sent out into the world, is the miracle of transformation. On this feast of Corpus Christi, we venerate the Body and Blood of Christ, but we also need to recognize what this means for us personally. When we receive the Eucharist, Christ enters us and renews us so that we can take that renewal back out into the world. The Eucharist and the graces we receive from it is not something we keep here in the church, nice and tidy, ready to be revisited next Sunday. Instead, we receive the miracle of our Lord and we can become miracle workers out in the world, working as the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, bringing His message of mercy and redemption to the four corners of the Earth. We become walking miracles of sorts because, without the grace of God, without the Eucharist, without Jesus Christ, none of this would happen and yet, He makes it happen in each one of our lives.

As we prepare to receive this Eucharist, a true miracle and that feeds and nourishes us, just as the 5000 were fed and nourished by Christ, let us pray and consider how God might be working in our own lives, how He might want to use us to be miracle workers in the lives of others. Brothers and sisters, miracles do happen, if we trust in the Father and the action of the Holy Spirit, praying with the words of Melchizedek, that we will be “blessed by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High”, who has given us a gift beyond all miracles we could possibly imagine: the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.