November 17, 2022 – Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Malachi 3:19-20, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12, Luke 21:5-19
I am not preaching today, but the following is a homily I delivered on these same readings BACK IN 2013:
In today’s second reading, St. Paul writes: “…we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.”
Back when my oldest daughter, Mary, was in kindergarten, I would occasionally have the job of picking her up from school. As I was waiting in the parking lot one afternoon, I saw the line of kindergarteners being escorted to the lot by their teacher. I spotted Mary, and it was clear that she was very excited about something. She shifted from foot to foot, literally jumping with excitement, all the while trying to stay in line and follow the teacher’s instructions.
Finally it was my turn to pull up, and Mary ran-walked to the car, carrying her lunch box and several art papers. She was about to burst and was obviously anxious to tell me some big news. I thought maybe she had been chosen as a line leader, or perhaps was picked to be on a kickball team at recess.
She jumped into the car, strapped on her seatbelt, and turned toward me, waiting for me to ask her how her day was.
“Did you have a good day?” I asked her.
“Yes!” she said, bouncing in her seat.
“So what happened?”
Nearly yelling, she said, “An eighth grader said ‘Hi’ to me today!”
I have led a number of junior high leadership retreats, and I often share this story. I try to get the junior high students to understand that they are always being watched, and that what they say and do matters.
Paul sends this same message to the new Christians in Thessalonia – made them aware that what they said and did mattered. He told them, and he tells us: Don’t profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ and yet choose to ignore His message.
It was a challenge then, and it is a challenge now. It is increasingly difficult because the modern world revolves around choice.
I have a satellite dish that allows me to have access to hundreds of channels at the click of a button. I can start watching one program, and if I don’t like it…click…I pick something I do like. Occasionally I have a free Sunday afternoon to watch football. I have NFL Sunday Ticket, so I have 8 games showing on my screen at once. I watch one game till it gets boring or until there is a commercial…then, click…I choose a game I like better.
Remember back when Arby’s only had roast beef sandwiches? And Dunkin Donuts just made donuts? Not anymore! I can get anything I want at any fast food place I go. Two blocks from my house, I can walk into a Steak and Shake and order “All I can eat” pancakes. It should be noted that a pancake is neither a steak nor a shake.
Back in the day, I needed to get to the bank Monday thru Friday between 9:00 and 2:00 to handle all of my banking needs. Most of us wanted to be bankers so we could work those hours. Today, many banks have extended hours and Saturday hours. But that’s not enough choices, so along came bank machines.
First ATM’s were only found at banks. Now, because we require choices, they are everywhere. If we don’t want to go the bank, or to an ATM, we can just stay at home in our pajamas, and deposit a check in the bank by taking a picture of it and sending that to the bank.
If I wanted to, I could go to a gas station, a place that used to only sell gasoline, and while I was there I could use an ATM to get money to buy my gas. I could purchase a fountain drink and a hotdog, two lottery tickets, a quart of oil, a magazine, and a hair brush (if I were a person who needed a hairbrush).
I could go on and on with more examples. We expect to have choices, or I should say, we demand choices.
It is for this reason that so many have turned away from their faith. The Church is one of the few constants in life, having remained relatively unchanged for 2000 years. That makes us uncomfortable.
We want everything that comes along with being Catholic to be available to us, but we want to view them as options. We want to pick and choose the pieces we like and reject the ones we don’t. On high school retreats, we refer to this as being a “cafeteria Catholic,” just picking and choosing what looks good.
I choose this part of being Catholic, and this part, and this part, but this part of being Catholic really cramps my style, so I choose to reject it.
I choose to believe what the Church teaches us, but those teachings that are controversial, I choose not to defend in public.
I am pro-life when it comes to abortion, but choose not to concern myself with the elderly, or the homeless, or the imprisoned, or the marginalized.
I absolutely believe in loving my neighbor, but I choose to define who my neighbor is in very narrow terms.
I choose to worship in community, but going to Mass every Sunday just isn’t going to work for me
The Church does not say, “Here are a bunch of options, pick the ones you like.” Rather, the Church reminds us that faith in Jesus Christ requires sacrifice, and is guided by truth.
The Church and our faith are the only constants in a world teeming with what appear to be many desirable options, but in reality these options only serve to distract us from a life focused on Christ.
We return then to our opening thought from St. Paul: “…we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.”
We are being watched. Parents, your children are watching you. They may not listen to you, but I can guarantee they are watching you. Would you want your children to imitate you? Would your children say, “My parents really love God?” or “My parents are people of strong faith”?
Your neighbors are watching you. They are wondering what it means to be Catholic so they watch you to learn more. Will they learn what it means to be a Catholic by watching you?
Your fellow parishioners are watching you. They stand next to you at Mass or see you across the Church. They see you professing your faith. When they see you outside of Mass do they see you living your faith?
In a world of choices, we must choose to model our faith. We must make ourselves worthy of being imitated.