Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time – March 3, 2019
Saint Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
Sirach 27:4-7; Psalm 92:2-3, 13-16; 1 Cor. 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
Living the faith can be difficult, especially because of the day-to-day things, the reality of our lives. And it is easy to get mad at God, but really—when we stop and think and are honest with ourselves—we are just mad at the imperfections of others. No one is perfect enough for us, we’re not perfect enough for ourselves, and (God forbid) the parish isn’t perfect enough. And usually we stop there: we just blame other people, we blame ourselves. And then we settle for what we can get. Even though this leaves us feeling uneasy, we just stop expecting anything from anyone, and decide to “do whatever makes us feel good.” But that never works, it always leaves us feeling uneasy.
“at the same time, this very unease reveals something in us. Something that feels the lack, aches for meaning, [seeks fulfillment]…Something that makes us long to be looked at, listened to, understood, forgiven, valued just because we exist. Something that perceives a promise even within these challenging times and urges us to respond…[And this is] marked by a stubborn expectation.” And we start to ask ourselves: “Has anyone ever promised us anything? Then why do we expect something?” (Caesar Pavese). Why do we expect everything?
And that’s just it: we expect everything. And that’s a good thing.
But at the same time: we tend to settle for anything. And that’s not great.
Jesus Christ is offering us everything, not just anything.
We always start with the wrong question. We ask, “Why do I have to come to mass?” Or we ask, “Why does the Church teach this? Why do I have to do that? Why can’t I do that?” The Church proposes a way of life and we immediately think, “No, that’s too much. They’re crazy if they think I’m going to live my life like that. Those are dumb rules.”
So first, I want to say “sorry.” I am so sorry that this is the “gospel” that has been presented to you. I am sorry for all of the times that I have presented the “gospel” to you in this way. I am sorry for all of the times I have made the Church, made the Gospel, made Jesus Christ nothing more than a bunch of rules. I am sorry.
Because Jesus Christ is nothing more than the response to the unquenchable, insatiable, stubborn expectation we have within ourselves. And I can tell you from experience, my own and from so many others I have spoken with—I can tell you that this is true. I would stake my life on it. I have staked my life on it. I have come to know and believe that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
We took the youth group ice skating last week. And for many of them, it was their first time on the ice. Many had excuses about why they didn’t want to go, or said they were just going to watch and not skate. But even though they were terrified, they came! Even though it was something they had never experienced before, they came! They took a risk and decided to go for it. And even when they got on the ice, they were still terrified. And it wasn’t easy or fun in the beginning. They didn’t want to fall. Some asked me, “If I fall, how will I get back up?” But for those who went for it, those who came and fell down and got back up and kept going—for those who plunged themselves into this newness, it was a great experience, it was a time of joy, there was excitement and newness in life! But for those who came and just sat on the side and watched, the experience was completely different.
The next day, though, I’m sure all of them still wanted more. They were already in search of what could give them that feeling once again, what could give them the feeling of life once again.
We’ve all done this. We have all gone searching for this fulfillment. We have found it, but it always fades. We go to that amazing dance, but then we wake up the next day, just as expectant and unsatisfied as the day before. We finally have the girl we’ve always wanted, but after a while not even she seems to be enough. We’ve tried providing for our own happiness, following the rules we like and ignoring the ones we don’t. We’ve all tried showing up here half-heartedly, coming because we have to, and then leaving without feeling any different. But time and time again, we seek more.
And so I say, once again, the response we seek is called Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is nothing more than the response to the unquenchable, insatiable, stubborn expectation we have within ourselves. And those who experience this? Those who experience this are the ones who embrace the newness and the terror, and take a risk. And they fall, but they get back up and keep going. They continually plunge themselves into the newness and experience nothing but joy. “They are happy who, putting all their trust in the cross, have plunged into the water of life” (An Author of the Second Century). They are happy, life has a new meaning, life is full of meaning.
But we cannot experience this until we convert. As we heard in our Gospel today, “From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” And so the question is: what fills your heart? And do you find the fullness of life you truly seek from what you have filled your heart with?
Lent begins on Wednesday. And this year, instead of giving up chocolate or “the usual,” what if you took this Lent as a time of real conversion, as a time, just like the youth group, to take a risk, to try something new: place all of your trust in the cross and plunge into the waters of life. No matter what situation you are in, allow this Lent to be the time to step out of the comfortable life where the Lord is just another thing, and take a risk, plunge in, and allow the Lord to give you the fullness of life.