Homily Ė 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Today Godís word lays before us a test of our priorities. What comes first in our lives? Is it what should come first? Do we need to make some changes? It is an incredibly important question because our very salvation depends upon it. In todayís day and age many people think they are assured of salvation no matter what they do. If they believe in Christ then they go to heaven. The scriptures are clear that this isnít the case. The scriptures say: The road to destruction is wide.. In the Gospel of Matthew: On that day ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Or in Revelation: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. 11 I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.Ē
You cannot be a Lukewarm Christian or Catholic and expect to go to heaven. God even says it is better to be cold than to be Lukewarm. Why? Because the Lukewarm people, like those in Matthew, think they are doing well. They have fooled themselves into thinking they are ďdoing okayĒ; they are basically good people; and about the same as everyone else. The Scripture is clear that this is not enough. At least the person who is ďcoldĒ knows they are rejecting the Gospel and have a chance to change their mind later. The Lukewarm have deceived themselves into thinking they have accepted it when their lives clearly show they have rejected it.
For the Catholic the priorities are clearly set. God and Christ must be the first priority in our lives. Not just in some areas, but in all areas. Hot in some areas but cold in others makes you lukewarm and those consequences are clear. God must be our first priority.
In our Old Testament Reading we hear that we must love God with all our heart and soul, not just with parts of our lives. The young man in the Gospel repeats this as well ď”You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus affirms this as correct. Giving God his rightful place demands that our whole hearts, being, soul and strength be focused on that task. The second reading says Christís rightful place is as head and that he is preeminent, that is first in all things. The question we need to answer ďIs he in fact first in all things in our lives?Ē If not he needs to be. Why? Our second reading say that all things were created for Christ. That is the reason you exist. Many of you remember your Baltimore Catechism. Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. This is the reason for which we exist. If we work apart from that God is denied his rightful place and everything falls apart. Our second reading says just that. ďIn Him all things hold togetherĒ. Without Christ in his proper place, all things fall apart in the long run. He needs to be before all things in our lives the scripture says. The question we need to answer for ourselves is whether or not that is the case. The choice is ours. Do not be deceived into thinking it isnít. There is no excuse. Moses himself says it in the first reading. Putting God first in our lives is within our power. “For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” We have only to carry it out.
It is here that I want to offer the Gospel. We can deceive ourselves. In an attempt to justify our behavior we can convince ourselves of many things? Who is our neighbor? We can conveniently redefine terms in order to allow ourselves to think we are doing well? We can deceive ourselves but we canít deceive God. There were three people in the Gospel today. Two of them believed in Godís law or so they said. The priest and the Levite (both Jews) professed Godís law with their lips denied him in their actions. It was the Samaritan, the one the Jews considered their enemy, that lived that law. He was truly the Neighbor. It isnít what we profess with our lips that will save us but what we live with our lives. Jesus indeed says that it is the one who lives the law that mercy will be given to. We are to show mercy as the Samaritan did. Not as those who professed something with their lips.
In our current culture there are a lot of people who call themselves Catholic. They profess the faith with their lips but deny it by the way they live their lives. Or, they selectively choose what teachings of the Church they believe. They are lukewarm Catholics yet still have the gall to call themselves Catholics. They lack integrity. What they profess is not what they live and as the scriptures says ďby their fruits you will know them.Ē Let me make it clear. In order to be Catholic and call yourself Catholic with integrity you must believe everything the Church teaches and struggle with your whole being to live it. Christ is the Head of the Church and in all things he must be preeminent. Does that mean we are perfect in practice? No, we all fall in practice every day. But we must be perfect in faith, acknowledging Godís rightful place and we must always strive to be perfect in practice. If we fail we confess our sins, do our penance and make a firm purpose of amendment to bring our lives back into order with our whole, heart, being, strength and mind. Profess the whole faith or deny it. Be Hot or Cold but donít be lukewarm.
If we want to love our God and neighbor we must not only profess the faith we must live it. That is what we call Stewardship. Stewardship recognizes God as having first place in our lives and acknowledges that everything we have is from him and to him belongs the first fruits of our labor. To be a good steward means we put God first in all areas of our lives and use the gifts he has given us for his greater glory. In our Time which is given to us by God. In our Talent which uses all our God given gifts to further his Kingdom first. And in our Treasure Ė for all things were created for God and we must use them to know Him, to Love Him, and to Serve him first in this life. Then and only then will we spend eternity with him in Heaven.
You will know a tree by its fruits. We all need to sit down and ask ourselves if God has his rightful place in these three areas of our lives? Does he come first in Time? Do we worship God on Sundays as he commanded? Every Sunday or just when something else doesnít come up? Is Sunday Mass the Source and Summit of our lives? Are we Hot, Cold or Lukewarm? Do other things take the place of God? Does sports come before Mass or religious Ed. If sports ever takes the place of one of these two then God isnít first in your life; Sports is.
Is God first in our life in the area of our Talents? Do we give our best to God? Do we use our abilities to further his Kingdom and serve him or to serve ourselves? Do we use our talents to spread his Kingdom or is God isolated to one day a week? Do we volunteer at Church, or serve in the ministries at Mass or is it the same people who do everything, every week? Are there some weeks where no one is willing to use their gifts to serve the community?
Is God first in the area of our treasure? Scripture demands the first fruits of our labor. Do we pay God first from the treasures he has given us or do we pay ourselves or Uncle Sam first and see if there is anything left at the end of the month for God? God speaks about this in Malachi 3: Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! And you say, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and in offerings! You are indeed accursed, for you, the whole nation, rob me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, That there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the LORD of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?Ē The Biblical tithe is the first 10% of our income. Our Diocese recommends that 4% to our Local parish, 1% to the Diocese and 5% go to other charities of our choice. You can see in the Bulletin how we are doing on a average per family basis. Do we think this is too much? God says we should try him, put him to the test and see if he doesnít open the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you with out measure?
To be a good steward means that God is our first priority in every area of our life. It means God is preeminent, he is first and foremost in every areas of our lives. He is first in what we do with the time he gave us. He is first in how we use our gifts he has endowed us with. He is first in the use of the material blessings he has bestowed on us, for they all come from him.
We are called to know, love and serve God in this life. We can do that with our whole heart, being, strength and mind. We can reject him completely. Or we can do things lukewarm. Our Salvation depends upon the choices we make. There is only one first place and that place rightfully belongs to God. Whole, none, or half? Hot, Cold, or Lukewarm? Does God have first place in every area of your life or does something else occupy that spot. If it isnít God, then what do you think you should do about it? The choice is yours. Choose well.