Monday, February 17, 2014

Homily - "In search of the eternal buzz"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Tonight, I’d like to do a little Q & A with you.  Don’t worry, I won’t be asking you the questions.  This isn’t Confirmation, and I’m not the bishop! These are questions I’ve been asked repeatedly here at GW the past five years.  And, they relate to tonight’s readings.  This will be intense because the readings are intense.  First question, how can we reconcile God’s omniscience with our free will?  If God knows all things and knows what we will choose in the future, then our choices are not really free.  If we’re really free, then God doesn’t know what we will choose in the future.  How do we reconcile all of this?  I found a good answer online from a Dominican, Father Serpa.  He says: “There is nothing to reconcile. Because you know that the sun will be in the sky tomorrow doesn’t mean that you will have caused it to be there! Even though God already knows what our free choices will be in the future, our choices are still ours and are still free. If our free choices change how the future will be, God already knows that and has known it for all eternity.”  I think of parents who know culturally what’s going on…maybe not all-knowing, but knowing.  They raise their kids to make the right choices.  By the time their kids leave home, they pretty much know what bad they choose, good or bad.  Just because they might know, their kids still make free choices.  Just because God knows what we choose doesn’t take away from our freedom.

Second question…well, more of a comment.  Jesus talks about divorce in tonight’s Gospel (Mt 5:17-37).  I know many of you are children of divorced parents.  You have experienced many wounds and hurt.  I want to make myself available for you to talk about it.  You probably still have a lot of questions.  There are many misconceptions about divorce, divorced Catholics, and annulments.  You probably heard the words of our Lord tonight with a particular attention; maybe it prompted more questions.  My door is open to help tackle your questions or just to talk.

Third question: how can an all-loving, all-merciful God send anyone to Hell?  He doesn’t.  Hell is a choice.  Heaven is a choice.  We hear much about choice in tonight’s first reading (Sir 15:15-20). “Before man (male and female) are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him”.  Pope John Paul II said that “hell is not a punishment imposed by God.  It is the natural consequence of an unrepentant sinner’s choice against God”.  You all know people who are choosing against God.  You are hoping and praying that their choice will not hold up until their death.  The key word is unrepentant which means that they have no desire to change.  If that holds up until death, well, that’s what we’re talking about.  I know people who have told me they are choosing hell over heaven.  Hell is a lack of heaven just like evil is a lack of good or cold is a lack of heat (as we’ve experienced much in the past few weeks here).  It means being away from God, what’s good, and others.  I think Hell is loneliness.  Some people choose to be alone rather than with others.

Anytime we choose mortal sin, we choose Hell.  Jesus gives a few examples of that in tonight’s Gospel - sins caused by the eye or hand can lead to Gehenna (Hell).  But, in general, hell is a result of free will, and ultimately, God’s love.  God has created us to choose Heaven…to choose life…to choose love.  But, He won’t force us.  Love can’t be forced; it has to be chosen.  If God intervened to keep people out of Hell, then it wouldn’t be love and we wouldn’t be free.  We really are free…to choose Heaven or Hell.  If all this talk about Hell is scaring you, well, that’s what Confession is for.  Confession keeps us out of Hell.

Fourth question, and more positive: what is Heaven like?  I love this quote from Isaiah to which St. Paul refers in the second reading: “eye has not seen, ear has not heard…what God has prepared for those who love him”.  In other words, we cannot fathom how awesome Heaven will be!  I like to think of Heaven as the greatest party or event we’ve been to.  Maybe all your friends or family are there.  It’s not too crazy, just a really good time.  And, it lasts forever.  That’s Heaven.  There are no regrets…no hangover…no last call…no closing time.  (Can you tell that I worked in a bar in college?!).  Heaven is an eternal buzz!

Finally, when you come here, you choose Heaven.  It’s amazing how committed you are to Heaven by coming to Mass every Sunday…in college.  It’s so inspiring / heroic...keep it up!  And, when you specifically come to the Eucharist, you choose Heaven.  Christ Himself says that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”.  I’d like to close with a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux (it’s more of a poem):

"Living Bread, Heavenly Bread, Eucharist Divine
O Sacred Mystery! founded on Love's play...
Jesus, my white Host, come in this heart of mine
If only for today.

Here below our sweet office
Is to prepare for the altar
The bread and wine of the Sacrifice
Which brings ‘Heaven’ to earth!”


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