Homily: Barn Loft Faith

April 17, 2016

Homily delivered at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:

In our 33 years of marriage, Carol and I have discovered that when it comes to deciding how we spend our leisure time, we don’t have all that much in common.

I like to go fishing. Carol doesn’t even like to eat fish, much less catch them.

Carol likes to draw and paint. I have neither the talent nor the patience for either.

I could spend an entire day watching a Seinfeld marathon and laugh at every episode. Carol didn’t think the show was funny when we watched it in the 90’s.

Carol could sit on the beach for days. I get restless within minutes.

However, in recent years Carol and I have discovered a hobby that we both enjoy and can do together. We like going to flea markets, thrift shops, and yard or barn sales. We both enjoy this activity, but for different reasons. I like digging through piles of stuff to find the diamond in the rough. The deeper the piles are and the dirtier the stuff, the more enjoyable it is for me.

Once I’ve had my fun, I turn it over to Carol. She doesn’t like the digging through dirty stuff so much, but once I have found a hidden treasure and presented it to her, her creativity kicks into high gear. Her thoughts turn to how she can restore this item that has lost its luster, or give it new life by giving it a new purpose.

Occasionally she will sell the re-purposed item, at a much lower price than it would cost at a store or in its original form. We usually take that money and go out looking for another hidden treasure. It’s not about the money. For us, it’s the idea of turning one man’s trash into another man’s treasure.

For example, in the loft of a barn we might find two worn out dining room chairs that the owners believe have lost their usefulness. We buy them for $5 each. They are cleaned, refinished or repainted, reinforced where weak, and given colorful new seat padding. Then they are fastened together; they are no longer two chairs but one bench.

The person who had given up on the chairs might have a new appreciation for them. The person who did not have a need for two chairs might be attracted to the newly-created bench. For the person who could never have afforded a new bench, it is now within reach.

We like restoring the value of something – both the value of the item itself, as well as the value it may now hold for a number of different people.

The first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles is about the re-purposing of faith. The Apostles told the Jews, “We brought the Word of God to you first, but you rejected it.”

The Jews, entrenched in years of tradition and stubborn in their beliefs, stored their faith in their barn loft and they were fine with that. Most of them rejected the re-purposed faith the Apostles were offering.

A few, referred to as Jewish Christians, had a new appreciation of their faith. They were grounded in the traditions of the Jewish faith – the two worn chairs – but accepted and appreciated the re-purposed faith – the bench. They formed a small community of Jews who accepted Jesus as the Christ.

Rejected by so many in Jerusalem, the Apostles announced: “…but since you reject it, we now turn to the Gentiles.” They traveled outward from Jerusalem, making themselves available to a broader audience.

The Gentiles had an appreciation for what Peter and Barnabas were bringing to them. They never expected to be included, or to be invited into a faith community. Gentiles were considered pagans who did not know the true God. Many Jews took such pride in their own culture and religious heritage that they considered Gentiles “unclean,” calling them “dogs.”

The Gentiles were unchurched. They didn’t even own chairs and now they were being offered two newly restored chairs in the form of a bench. Scripture tells us: “The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord.” One man’s trash was another man’s treasure.

The Apostles realized that their re-purposed faith was not appreciated in Jerusalem and took it to the streets, making it accessible to the common man, to the masses. The second reading from the Book of Revelation also speaks to the idea of gaining a broader audience: “I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.”

This strategy apparently worked. From its humble beginnings, there are nearly 2.3 billion Christians in the world today.

In his column in this week’s edition of The Criterion, Archbishop Tobin discusses how we should view our faith:

 Christians shouldn’t act like our faith is a burden, or that Christian life is made up of an endless series of oppressive rules and regulations. We should be joyful—rejoicing in God’s love for us.

Easter joy should give us the confidence we need to overcome the negative voices that are around us all the time. It should help us smile, enjoy ourselves, and give thanks to God always.

Christians can be joyful because God has reached out to us and loved us. We are not alone; we are God’s people who gather into the Church and are united in Christ.

Our faith should bring us lasting joy. 

Does your faith bring you lasting joy? Perhaps the totality of your faith was routinely going to Mass on Sundays. After a time, it transitioned to usually going to Sunday Mass, then sometimes going, and finally, going to Mass twice each year.

How can something we do so seldom bring us joy?

Or perhaps you continue to go to Mass every Sunday, but it is nothing more than a ritual. You are simply going through the motions.

How can something you do with no passion bring you joy?

If your faith is worn out and gathering cobwebs in the barn loft, it is time to bring it back to life. Dust it off and appreciate it as you did when it was new. Stabilize it where is has grown weak. If your faith is only defined by attendance at Sunday Mass, make it into a bench, add something to it to make it more meaningful and useful: Try going to daily Mass occasionally, add the Liturgy of the Hours to your day, pray the Rosary, read Scripture, join a bible study, volunteer, serve others. Live your faith!

How could a life built on faith not bring you joy?

Many of you know that a young teacher at Bishop Chatard, Kyle Guyton, died suddenly and tragically about ten days ago. Just a few days after his death, in a memorial service we held in a packed gymnasium, this is what Kyle’s Mom had to say: “God has a plan, a purpose for this. Who knows what it is? I surely don’t. But I’m thankful. I’m thankful and blessed and have joy in my heart to have been used as a vessel to be Kyle’s mom.”

This came from a single parent who had lost her only child. She is a witness to all of us. She is living a life built on faith, and experiencing lasting joy even in the darkest of times.

Is it time to re-purpose your barn loft faith?

Make an effort to restore its value. Allow it to bring you lasting joy!

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