The title of my homily for this 33 Saturday in Ordinary Time
is, “The Top Five Messages of Christianity!”
Last night as I read today’s gospel [Luke 20:27-40] what hit me was this: The Resurrection is a key
Based on today’s gospel, different people in Judaism didn’t believe
in life after death. We heard the opening words in today’s gospel from Luke, “Some
Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection….”
Luke sets the stage with the Sadducees coming to Jesus to
challenge him about the resurrection. Then they hit him with a funny - but they
were deadly serious - example or imaginary story about the woman who had
married 7 brothers and all died without giving her children. “If there is a
resurrection, who will be her husband in the afterlife, if there is one?” That
was one of their ways of challenging Jesus on his message that there is
As I began to think about that I realized and remembered the
difficulty at the time of a funeral in coming up with Jewish Scriptures that talk
about resurrection after death. There are texts - as we hear in today’s gospel
- that were used by those who taught there was life after death. Do I say based
on the fewness of those texts, the resurrection was not a central teaching in
Judaism? On the other hand it’s easy to prove that the Resurrection is central
to Christianity - based on the number of times this theme appears in the New
Next I wondered if the Resurrection was the # 1 Christian
teaching. It’s certainly central, but is it the # 1 teaching - as Paul might be
indicating in 1 Corinthians 15 - when
he basically says if Christ did not rise from the dead, the whole enterprise is
a house of cards - that falls.
A NUMBERS’ TEST
However, as I thought about that, I concluded for the time
being, I couldn’t say for sure that the Resurrection is our #1 teaching. Could
I say it is one of the top 10 Christian teachings or beliefs? Then I asked:
could I say it is one of the top 5? How about one of the top 3?
Next I concluded that would be a practical question for a
Saturday morning homily.
I would frame the question this way. If someone came up to
us and said, “You’re a Christian. What would you say are the top 5 beliefs in
THAT WOULD BE
The first step would be to make a tentative list and then
pick out the top five. It’s call the “Brainstorming Step.”
So that’s the homework I gave myself last night. I suggest
you try it.
For starters I would write down:
Jesus is Lord,
the Eucharist, Salvation,
Love one another.
Then it hit me that using the number 5 would be a smart
step. By making it 5, I would be forced to think. I would be forced to talk to
others about this. I would be forced to understand better the five I picked and
those I didn’t. It also hit me to wonder if anyone else did listed the key Christian
teachings or beliefs.
MY TOP FIVE
My top 5 are:
Caring for One Another.
Surprise! At first I had the Resurrection - but that bumped
out - one of my other beliefs.
It would be six on my
list. That’s on first thought. I have to keep on reflecting on this question. I have to wonder:
“How would our everyday life be if we didn’t know and didn’t believe in life
after death?” I have to wonder about
that. Perhaps - as I reflect upon the repercussions of not believing in the
resurrection - I’d put that up in the top 3.
Time and reflection with tell.
In the meanwhile I pray the old prayer that was dropped from
the Mass: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”
Quote for Today, November 24, 2012 "To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be." Rachel Carson, Foreword, Under the Sea-Wind, 1941
The title of my homily for this 33 Sunday in Ordinary Time B
To be honest these readings at the end of the Church Year
are tricky. They are sort of all the same. Then they show up again in Advent -which
is just around the corner. So I don’t
look forward to the end of the year readings. However, I like the Advent
readings. To me that’s strange. So I have to be patient with these readings. What
to preach on? I began working on a few
different themes - but then said, “They are not too practical.”
Then the theme of “Patience” hit me. That’s practical. We all want more
patience - yet what does one say about patience other than saying, “Be
patient!” and “Learn how to be patient”?
Maybe for starters it would be helpful to list situations
that call for patience.
waiting to get a table. Then there’s wanting the waitress or waiter when we
want the waiter or waitress.
Church: there’s those long or meaningless sermons or people
who won’t move in or babies crying or slow priests or an extra verse in a hymn
that puts over the edge.
Doctors offices: it’s now 25 minutes after our scheduled
time and then it’s 35 minutes - then 40 minutes - and we’re still waiting….
Phone calls for information or to buy something: a fake
voice puts us on hold and we don’t like the music and then the voice says, “We thank
you for waiting” and the music starts again. Then the phone suddenly goes
dead. Do we redial or just give up?
Politics: there’s those we don’t agree with. Then there’s
politics in church. There’s bumper stickers - or road signs. Or it starts too
early or every conversation becomes politics or what have you. "Help!" we yell inwardly.
Kids: they are who not growing up or showing up or they are throwing up and we are inwardly screaming,
“Why are so and so’s kids so perfect and ours are so messed up?” She’s dating a
jerk. He’s not going to church. She’s not studying and we’re paying for an
expensive school. He’s on drugs or drinking too much. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
Old People: they are too slow in step or in driving. They
won’t give up their license. They are too demanding - or other members of the
family won’t or don’t pitch in with regards be the care of aging parents or
other family members - and we want a break.
I know Christ threw the money changers out of the temple and
got totally frustrated with the Pharisees and the Scribes. So he wasn’t always
Yet one of the things that hit me about Jesus was his
patience with his disciples - including Peter, including Judas - including me.
A nuance that hits me comes from my experience with a priest
I know who has a great musical ear as well as the ability to play the piano -
etc. I have a tin ear - can’t sing - lasted on the trombone for 2 weeks - so when
someone is off key, it doesn’t bother me. It drives him nuts when he hears
crummy singing or music that is off key. He’s also a type A driver - so the rush hour is not the
best time for him to drive - even if he has music playing in his car.
Reflecting on that, it hit me that people who have talents,
have a difficult time with those less talented. Those who are smart have to be
patient with those who are dumb - much more than I have to deal with dummies.
It would be the same with sports, art, cooking, etc. The
more the talent, the more that person has to be patient with anyone weak in one's area of expertise.
So I figure, Jesus - with his mind - and sensibilities - had
to be very patient with his disciples when they were slow on the uptake.
One way to become more patient is to watch other people and notice how they deal with the stuff of everyday life.
Comparisons can crush. Comparisons can also teach.
I was once visiting a niece as she was feeding her first
baby with a spoon out of a baby food jar. I was just sitting there in the
kitchen talking with her. She was making the experience a wonderful funny game
with her baby. She would fake it with the spoon putting it over here and then
over there. It became a game to get that ugly looking food off that baby
spoon into the kids tummy. The kid would start laughing and laughing and loving this moment with
Her husband came home from work during this. She asked him
to finish feeding the baby, so she could turn to pull supper together for the 3
of us. Well, he was all business and wanted the kid to lick the spoon - eat the
food - and finish the jar - immediately. A pleasure became a job. The kid
wanted fun. The father didn't. So the baby started to scream.The father - he
must have had a tough day or a tough drive home - didn’t want any tears. Just
eat the food - just lick the spoon.
I said nothing and wondered what kind of a father I would
have been like.
TODAY’S READINGS: A DILEMMA IN THE
These end of the year readings give us evidence of a dilemma
in the EarlyChurch. At first they thought the end of
the world was about to happen. It wasn’t. It didn’t. So slowly different folks had to
figure out what Jesus meant - as well as get back to work.
Today’s gospel has as its last sentence, “But of that day or
hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the
The readings tell us it took a lot of time and patience to
come up with a decision about when the end would happen.
If we know the history of the world, we know from time to
time people predicted that the end would be coming.
The one we’re waiting for this year is next month, December
21, 2012. Some folks are saying the Mayan
Calendar is saying that’s when the end of the world is going to happen.
If you’re into these kinds of predictions, don’t start
buying and doing your Christmas cards and Christmas shopping till December 22nd.
3 MORE WAYS TO DEVELOP THE
GIFT OF PATIENCE
Besides watching others and learning from them, here are 3
more ways to develop the gift of patience:
1) Pray for it.
2) Learn how to do other things while waiting. I remember
hearing a priest psychiatrist in a workshop tell us about a heart specialist
who tells patients to go into a bank and get on the longest line. Then when
almost to the front, get off that line, and then go to the back and get on
another line. While on the line do things like trying to recall as many of your
high school senior class that you can remember - or as many of your high school
teachers as possible.
3) When antsy, when angry, put yourself in the shoes of the
person you’re antsy or angry with - for example a waiter or a waitress. Of if
you’re a waiter or waitress, put yourself in the shoes of your customers and
serve them well.
A FEW QUOTES
Let me give a few quotes - in case they help you - because
you’re the type that wants substance not fluff in a sermon.
“Better to be patient on the road than a patient in the
“The end never justifies the meanness.”
“Investigate mistakes only when you are calm.”
“Patience is accepting a difficult situation without giving
God a deadline to remove it.”
“Be patient and you will have patient children.” Is that
“The herb patience does not grow in everyone’s garden.” [How
‘Who has patience sees his revenge.” Italian proverb
“Patience: a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.”
“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in
the end.” Margaret Thatcher
“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at a rock, perhaps a
hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first
blow it will split in tow, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but
all that had gone before.” Jacob Riis. Ben Franklin said it much simpler:
“Little strokes fell great oaks.”
Today’s gospel tells us to learn a lesson from the fig tree.
To learn patience plant a tree. Learn from the experience. Trees
are notoriously slow. Watering helps. Time helps. They learn to deal with
seasons. And I’ve noticed, trees don’t have mouths! They just stand there.
Quote for Today - November 18, 2012 "Have you seen a room from which faith has gone? ... Like a marriage from which love has gone .... And patience, patience everywhere like a fog." Graham Green [1904-1991], The Potting Shed