Monday, September 06, 2010

23rd Sunday - homily

Imagine if God spoke to you in your dorm or home tonight and said, “sell everything you have and follow me”. What would you do? What would you think? Something very close to this happened to a friend of mine. He was looking for God to speak to him, and so he decided to play “Bible Bingo”. This is where someone flips through the Bible and lands their finger on Scripture passages or verses with the hope of a message from God. Now, this is not an advisable way to read Scripture! But, my buddy did this and the first line he came across was, “sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). He believed God was speaking to him, so he sold everything he had and gave it to the poor. He was left behind much wealth and success to follow Jesus. His name is Saint Francis of Assisi and he became one of the greatest followers of Jesus and lovers of poverty of all time.

God has spoken to us tonight, too. Jesus says in tonight’s Gospel to you and to me, “renounce your possessions”. We think he means all of our “stuff” – our extra clothes or books, gadgets like ipods or cell phones,etc. It may mean material possessions. It also means personal possessions. The Lord makes this clear when he says to “hate” father and mother, wife and children…even our own lives. The better translation is to “love less”. If we cannot love all the people and things in our lives less than God, then we can’t be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We are to love God more than anything…more than any of our possessions.

In today’s Gospel, then, possessions refer to those things that we love more than God. For college students, this could be a boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, athletics, academics, wealth, success, fame, image, etc. Jesus is saying to you tonight: “you have a choice to make this year: to follow me or not. Will you be a follower of mine? Will you renounce your possessions and love me more than anyone or anything? Will you live as a Catholic this year?” Before anything else, you are Catholic. We are disciples of Jesus Christ. That is first and foremost. After that, we are the sons or daughters of our parents, a major in political science or whatever, a member of a fraternity or sorority…we are Catholic first.

To be a Catholic disciple of Jesus Christ starts right here at Mass. It is awesome to see college students choosing Christ over everything else for an hour on Sunday evenings. It is the best way to renounce possessions and to put Jesus first! Keep it up…every Sunday. Not just because you have to, but because you are choosing it. You are saying that Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, comes first. This starts our week. I have often said that the Eucharist is C.O.O.L. - the center of our lives. There is no person or thing that is more important than the Eucharist. If you compare all of our “possessions” to the Eucharist, then you see there is no comparison. Jesus died for you and me; the Eucharist is the living memorial of His sacrifice. You can’t say that about any other thing of this world. Also, the Eucharist is God’s love in the flesh. God’s love is everlasting. One thing we learn about possessions in today’s Gospel is that they don’t last; they are not perfect. God’s love does last and is perfect. He will always love us and never let us down.

So, the general way for us as Catholics to put Christ first is Sunday Mass. Then, during the week, you students can get involved at the Newman Center through daily Mass, Adoration, Confession, Bible studies and discussions, Tuesday dinners, retreats, etc. It takes courage and some renouncement of your image to do this. Speaking of retreats, next weekend is our Freshmen Retreat. You freshmen who haven’t signed up and have put other things ahead of it should sign up by Tuesday. It’s a great way to put Christ first. And, it will be a lot of fun – white water rafting! For all of you, an excellent challenge to renounce your possessions is by wearing the GW Catholic t-shirts we gave you yesterday at the Opening BBQ. These shirts are bold. They say who we are – the Crucifix and Eucharist on the front and “To Jesus Through Mary” on the back. It takes a lot of courage to wear these on campus. It’s a simple (and tough) way to live out this Gospel ; you will be putting your faith in Christ ahead of your own image. Don’t be afraid to say you are a Catholic…it’s a great witness!

Finally, God asks us to love Him more than anything because He loves us more than anything. He has infinite love for each and every one of you. His love for you does not end! My purpose and the purpose of the FOCUS missionaries this year is to show you God’s infinite love. We won’t do it perfectly, but we will give you all that we have. My door is open to you 24/7. I am always open to you for confession, spiritual guidance or direction, or just to talk when you have a problem or question. May you know God’s love through us and each other this year. May you know His love for you this week. May you know God’s love for this night.

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