Monday, June 28, 2010

13th Sunday - homily

I’m looking for a show of hands: how many of us here today are called to live chastity? (A few hands go up). Let me ask this another way: can everyone raise their hands? All of us are called to live chastity…every single one of us…young..old…married…religious…single…All of us. Ok, please put your hands down. Now, if you mix up celibacy with chastity, then you might be wondering, ‘what did Father just sign me up for?’ Celibacy is the state of being unmarried; chastity is the virtue of living sexual purity. We are all called to live sexuality as God intended – in a good, pure, and holy way.

Many people think it’s impossible to live chastity in this day and age. So many struggle with this virtue because our sexual desire is our strongest desire and we are constantly bombarded with impure images. So, when I introduce the idea of the freedom of chastity, it is very appealing and refreshing to people. The freedom of chastity helps us to control our desires – to use our reason in saying to our sexual appetite, “I don’t want to go there right now. It’s not worth it. This stuff doesn’t make me happy”. It helps us to control our thoughts and to say, “let’s not go into fantasy. Let’s get real. That stuff will never happen”. It helps us to control what we look at and what images we bring to our bodies and souls through our eyes. The freedom of chastity is life-changing. As St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “we are called for freedom”.

We are called to live in freedom, a freedom that comes about through a life in the Spirit. I don’t know how much this means to most people, but for those who live in slavery, it means everything. Scripture says we are slaves. We are slaves to at least two things: sin and a life in the flesh. First, we are slaves to sin. The most confessed sins are sins against chastity. People come to me and other priests regularly to confess sins of fornication, pornography, and masturbation. They are in slavery. They don’t want to be committing these sins. They are in bondage and they want out. They want the chains of their slavery to be cut. Second, we are slaves to a life in the flesh: to worldly desires, attachments, and excuses. Jesus hears a few excuses in today’s Gospel and calls people out on them. He gives the image of someone who pus their hands to the plow, ready to do the work of God, but looks back to see what they are leaving behind. It indicates a slavery to attachments. They should be free to go forward.

We are slaves to our excuses. We have a ton of them and use them regularly, maybe without even knowing it. I hear them constantly. I will suggest daily prayer and hear, “oh, Father, I am too busy to pray”. Or, Sunday Mass even on vacation: “well, no one from my family was going to Mass, so I didn’t want to make it inconvenient for them’. Confession: “it’s been so long” or “I just go to God directly”. Virtue: “I was too upset to be patient”. Evangelization: “I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable or offend them”. Jesus says, “proclaim the kingdom of God” in our words and deeds! Make God #1!

We are called to be free of our excuses and sin. We are called to be freed of our slavery. Slavery is saying ‘no’ to God or ‘hold on, God’. Freedom is the ability to say yes to God and to what’s good. Freedom means choosing the good. It means to living the way we truly want to live and are called to live. Freedom allows us to live as God wants and to live as we want. I work with the GW Catholic students; many of them have told me privately that they really don’t want to be committing the sins they are committing. They truly want to live as God wants them to; they want to be good Catholics. They want to be free to be the person God created them to be. This is true of all of us.

Finally, how do we live the freedom to which we are called? We live a life in the Spirit. We live a life of Grace, centered on the Eucharist. We come here every Sunday to receive the Grace of the Eucharist; to build up Grace in our lives. The more we come to the Eucharist, the more we live a life of Grace…a life in freedom. You might know people who receive the Eucharist more than once a week through daily Mass. Their lives have been changed. They are going to Confession regularly, praying daily (especially the rosary), reading Sacred Scripture, reading the lives of the Saints, and getting involved in service. They are living lives of Grace. They are living in freedom….the freedom that God intends for each one of us. He wants us to be free. When we enter into freedom, we enter more deeply into peace, joy, and happiness.

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