February 12, 2017 – Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
The following is the homily I am delivering this weekend at St. Pius X Parish, Indianapolis
I have a sad story to share.
When our son was in high school, the school staff conspired against him. They intentionally went out of their way to keep our son in the dark. For instance, the school hosted major events for the kids, such as dances and bonfires and movie nights, and told everyone in the school…except Robby.
Here is one specific example: Robby was a sophomore in high school. It was a Saturday night. Carol had read in the last few school newsletters that there was to be a dance that night, so she asked Robby why he wasn’t going. He knew nothing about it. The fact that there was a dance that night was completely foreign to him.
Thinking she had misread the information, Carol double-checked herself. Yes, the newsletter confirmed there was a dance that night. Robby’s response, “Well, they didn’t tell us about it.”
We were fascinated by this, so we asked, “You’re saying there is a dance at your school tonight and the students weren’t told about it?”
Carol challenged him: “I’ve talked to a few of the parents. I know some of your friends are going to the dance. Someone must have told them.”
Then came Robby’s familiar response: “Well, no one told me.”
An interesting side note: Over 400 kids attended the dance.
One of our friends was a teacher at the school and we shared the dance story with her. She laughed. She told us there were hand-written signs broadcasting news of the dance about every five feet throughout the entire building. She said it was publicized on the daily announcements each morning and tickets to the dance were sold everyday during lunch periods for nearly a month.
I may be going out on a limb here, but I am going to guess that some of you have a child similar to our son – the child whose backpack you have to clean out on a regular basis to gather up the crumbled permission slips and health forms; the child that often seems oblivious; the child that needs a one-on-one personal invitation to engage with what is going on around him.
Hold that thought.
Very seldom in scripture do we see a reference to free will – man’s ability to make choices. In today’s first reading from Sirach, we heard: “…he has set before you fire and water…to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
God gave man the gift of free will. However, free will is a double edged sword. On the one hand, we are blessed with the ability to make our own choices.
On the other hand, there are many paths that lead us to the wrong choice:
- Perhaps we make our decisions based on what society tells us is acceptable.
- Maybe we simply respond to our own immediate needs and desires.
- Or, we fail to discern God’s will for us; we don’t take into account His
There is a piece that often gets lost when considering the God-given gift of free will. That is, we have a responsibility to make informed decisions.
We must inform our minds. We do this by:
- Using prior experiences to inform future behaviors – learning from our past.
- Doing our due diligence – thinking through the impact of the decisions we face.
- Or, drawing on the wisdom and expertise of others we trust to help us make informed decisions.
We must also inform our hearts. We need to spend time in prayer and reflection in order to discern God’s will for us.
What do you believe God’s plan is for you? Do you think you are using your God-given gifts as He intended? How can you incorporate God’s will for you into your decision-making?
You may be sitting in the pew wondering, “What does this homily have to do with me? I don’t have a child like Deacon Rick describes and I am quite capable of making informed decisions on my own.”
You may be right; and if you were a disciple only, watching out for yourself might be enough. However, we are part of an apostolic Church. As apostles, we have a responsibility to teach, lead, and guide others. We are called to help inform the minds and hearts of those around us.
We must be a voice of faith and reason in a society spinning out of control. We must model selflessness. We must bear witness to God’s presence in our lives by sharing our experiences with others. We must pray that God’s will be done, and encourage others to do the same.
Even doing all of that is not enough. If you want your child to learn to cross a street safely, would you simply show him pictures of a street? Or read him a news story about a pedestrian being struck by a car?
No, you would take your child by the hand, stand at the side of the road with him, teach him to look both ways, and then walk with him. You love him and care for him, so it requires personal contact. In so doing, you increase the likelihood that he will make good decisions when crossing the road in the future.
We must remember that there are some that do not pay attention to the hand-written signs or listen to the daily announcements. They need personal contact from someone that cares about them. They need to be invited.
The timing of the reading from Sirach – talk of choices and discernment – coincides with an Archdiocesan vocations initiative referred to as Called by Name.
It is program that encourages people of faith, all of us, to identify and nominate men and women we believe would make good priests or religious. Those who are nominated then receive an invitation to a special dinner with the Vocations Director of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, where they will hear from priests, religious, seminarians, and others in formation.
There is information about these dinners on the Archdiocesan website and in The Criterion. That may work for some. However, Called by Name attempts to make it personal.
I know that I would not be a deacon today if people I know and trust had not told me they saw something in me and encouraged me to discern God’s will.
There are cards in the pews for you to nominate someone. We ask that you carefully consider who among us may have a calling to serve God as a priest or religious. You may drop the card in the collection baskets either today or next weekend.
Apostleship calls us to inform the minds and hearts of others. It may need to get personal.
Sometimes we need to invite others to the dance.