Monday, February 24, 2014
Homily - "Make room for dessert"
Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.
A friend of mine asked me to visit her in the hospital this weekend. I told her I would try, but that it was an extremely busy weekend, and I couldn’t promise anything. Her last message to me (we played phone tag) was, “I know you’re busy saying all those Masses”. Do Catholics really think that all priests do is say Mass! I guess so because that’s all that most of them see us do. So, let me go through the weekend I had…it was busy, and not just saying Mass.
I took students out to Outback Friday night, a tradition we started years ago after our Alternative Spring Break trip. We always joke about fasting for a couple of days so we can enjoy the feast of Blooming Onion, dinner, and dessert….and to expand our stomachs to make more room. After that, I met up with a grad student for a late-night drink. We talked about faith, God’s Will, and vocation. It was awesome. Woke up early Saturday morning to celebrate Mass and Holy Hour which I do every day. Then, had two meetings for spiritual direction. Went down the road to celebrate a baptism; the baby cried the whole time! That was a quick baptism. Visited people in the hospital – first Sibley and then Georgetown. Came back to Newman, heard confessions, then went out with a student to a parish in Maryland to take up a collection for this year’s spring break trip. Brought the student back to campus, then went back out to Maryland to hear confessions for 2 hours at a women’s retreat. Returned to campus around 11:30 pm. 15 hour day which is pretty typical in the priesthood…but not always with all the back and forth. Woke up at 6:45 this morning which was ridiculous (!). Went back out to the parish to continue the collection with two other students, came back to two more appointments, confessions, and now hear for tonight’s Masses. So, yeah, priesthood is a bit more than saying Masses!
I really just wanted to let you know what priests do, and don’t know if your priests back home have ever done that. I didn’t intend to tie this into the readings, but there was a part of this that relates. On Friday afternoon when the hospital visit calls came in, I basically said to the Lord, ‘my weekend is packed, Lord. My plate is full. I can’t do these visits’. What came back to me was pretty much, ‘make room’. Like, the equivalent of ‘leave room for dessert’. This ties in to the readings because to love as God loves – to be holy as God is holy or to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect – is to expand our hearts to love more.
Jesus gives us many examples of how to love as God loves and to be perfect as God is perfect, including love your enemies. We might feel like our plate of love is full. We love people who love us. God is saying tonight to make room for dessert. Make room in your hearts to love your enemies. Expand your hearts, expand your love, expand your charity. This is very hard to do, and so if we start to live this, then we start to believe that we are actually being perfect as the Father is perfect. God loves those who love Him and those who hate Him. “He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”.
The examples from the Gospel are telling us to show love in ways that people haven’t seen before. Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, give your cloak, go the extra mile, and give to those who ask. Let’s take “turn the other cheek” and see what that means to you right now. Fr. Robert Barron in the “Catholicism” video series analyzes what “turn the other cheek” means and uses famous examples of people who responded to violence with non-violence: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Pope John Paul II. His main point was that turn the other cheek adds a third option in reaction to violence. We are used to the other two: fight or flight. Turn the other cheek means to stand your ground and to effect a change in the one bringing violence. Really, it means to turn the other one. To turn the other from violence to non-violence, from hate to love, from lies to truth. He gives specific, creative examples involving Bishop Tutu in South Africa and Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa brought a starving child to a bakery, and asked the baker for some bread for the kid. The baker violently spat in her face. She turned the other cheek, and said, “thank you for that gift for me. Now, how about something for the child”. On campus here, it might happen during class when a professor attacks the Church in the middle of a lecture (which happens more often than I would have thought). Turning the other cheek might mean to raise your hand during class and say, “that’s not true” and why. One GW Catholic did that (and the professor apologized to the class), and another went to a professor after class. In friendships, turning the other cheek might involve fraternal correction when you correct someone in love for something they did or said. The basic point is, “don’t do this to me again”.
Finally, the best example of all of loving as the Father loves is the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. He loved his enemies; he gave his life for those who were killing him! He turned the other cheek, gave his cloak, and went the extra mile….for all of us. We remember this in the Eucharist at Mass, and ask the Lord to give us the grace to love as God loves and to expand our hearts. That, in one way this week, we will love our enemies, be holy as God is holy, and be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.