3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) – January 22, 2023
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23
THE WHY: Feeling lost in a familiar, yet foreign, place
Buenos días a todos, y buen Domingo. Es un día muy importante para nosotros aquí en San Pablo, porque hoy comenzamos una nueva iniciativa llamada “Rerouting…”. ¿Qué es “Rerouting…”? Por qué “Rerouting…”? ¿Qué significa “Rerouting…”? “Rerouting…” es una forma de ayudarnos a conocer a Jesús. Y más importante que conocer a Jesús, seguir a Jesús, amar a Jesús, abandonarnos en Jesús. El motivo de “Rerouting…” —anybody lost, right about now? You should see the looks on your faces. Although to be honest (and don’t get me wrong), the looks on your faces right now are not much different than the looks on your faces many Sundays: “What in the world is going on up there?” Isn’t that a common experience? Some people are up here readings some readings, saying some stuff, doing some things—and we don’t seem to really “get it.” Yeah, we can understand the words, the homily, but we don’t really get it.
Do me a favor: if you haven’t already, I want you to take out the sheet of paper that you got as you walked into the church today. On one side you’ll see an outline, more or less, of this homily. On the back side you’ll see page for “Notes.” And if you have a pen or pencil you’re free to write on this; yours to keep. This week it has a question that I would like you to answer. And don’t worry, we’re not going to collect these; this is for you. So be honest with yourself. Answer this question: “Why did I come today? What expectations do I bring with me to Mass?”
Maybe the honest answer is: “I have no idea.” Or, “It’s a Sunday. We have to be here.” If you asked me when I was growing up? “I’m here because…uh, well, because…I’m Catholic. This is what we do. We go to Church on Sundays.” Yeah, ok, but why? “I have no idea.”
How many of us have said, “Mass? It’s boring.” I’ve said it, many times in my life! “Mass is boring. I don’t get anything out of it. I don’t get it.” Very common. Well, we know that the Mass isn’t supposed to be entertaining, it’s not entertainment. But what is it supposed to be? Is this just another thing we have to do? Just one more box to check off? Just got to “go to church,” any church on Sunday, because that’s what we’re supposed to do?
If you grew up Catholic, the Mass is familiar to you, it’s a familiar experience, maybe even comforting. But when a non-Catholic shows up—I think of funerals and weddings—when non-Catholics come to Mass, they’re lost. I’ve had people laughing in the back of weddings because of what’s going on up here (especially during the Eucharistic prayer, the part at the altar). Not because they’re trying to be disrespectful or anything, no. But because it’s just so different than anything else in their life, than anything they can find anywhere else—and it seems archaic and ritualistic, and comical looking. And even for many who grew up Catholic, this is just a strange thing to do, and they don’t get it—and they stop coming. People are often very lost when it comes to the Mass.
And we don’t just get lost in here. We get lost out there as well. Isn’t it true for most of us, we have woken up at some point and asked questions like these: “Is this it? Is this all there is? What’s it really all about? Why am I here? Where am I going? And how do I get there? Where can I find real and lasting happiness, not just fleeting moments of pleasure? What do I do now that the football season is coming to an end? Why is there so much evil in the world, so much suffering? Why did that happen to me, to my family member? What happens when I die? What is my purpose? What is my destiny? Who can I trust?”
But as important as these questions are, have you ever really engaged them? You know, our life is like an iceberg. If you know anything about icebergs, you know that what you see above the water is only a small part of it. In fact, ninety percent of an iceberg is hidden below the surface. The story of the Titanic made this famous. When they saw the iceberg, it didn’t look like much. But they didn’t take into account the ninety percent hidden below the surface—and it destroyed them. Life is like that, our life is like that. So often, what we see, what concerns us and dominates our attention is just ten percent. But there’s another ninety percent hidden below the surface! And it has life or death consequences. These questions, these deeper questions are the ninety percent below the surface that we need to take into account!
THE WHAT: Our Guide to Engaging God and Discovering Our Purpose
It’s because of these questions, because of these experiences here at Mass and out there in our day-to-day lives—these are the reasons why we’ve put together this experience we’re calling, “Rerouting…” It begins today and continues for the next twelve weeks. And during these weeks, we want to take a look at these questions.
Why? Because God gives answers to these questions. He has told us why I am here, where I am going, and how to get there. He has told us how to find lasting happiness, not just fleeting experiences of pleasure. He has explained to us how evil came into the world, and what He has done about it. He has revealed to us us our purpose, our destiny, the reason we exist. And He has revealed to us why we can trust Him like no other.
But we need to know the story. So often, when it comes to our faith and our life, it feels like we’ve walked into a three hour movie…about halfway through. We don’t know what’s going on, and we ask, “What’s happened? What’s the plot? What are we supposed to get out of it?” We need to know the story, the story being written since the beginning. And more importantly—more than “knowing” the story—we need to know, to understand, to experience ourselves as part of that story, His-story; to see ourselves on a common path and trajectory in life. As Saint Paul said in our second reading, “I urge you…be united in the same mind and in the same purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The same mind and the same purpose: to have the same mind, the same vision and understanding; and to have the same purpose, a common mission and goal.
But because we’re often so scattered when it comes to the story, the story Scripture lays out for us—well, when we come to Mass, the readings from Scripture, from this story, often don’t make much sense. Think of today: three readings and that Psalm thing (whatever those are) that don’t seem to have an awful lot to do with each other. And we just hope that the priest will tie it all together, make it not too long, maybe a little funny, and get me back out to my “real life” as quick as possible. We need to know the story, to see ourselves as integrally bound up in the story.
THE HOW: How We Will Follow Him
So in order to do this (as I’ve mentioned before), in order to help us immerse ourselves in the story—we’re going to do this not only on Sundays at Mass, but also during the week as well, especially in the context of small groups. Each Sunday we will have the homily to help us do this. But then on Monday another video will be released, a “Deeper Dive” into the topic from Sunday. And with that “Deeper Dive” video, and the small group discussion guide with it, you can gather with some of your friends, or your spouse and family, and begin to personally dive into all of this. Why? Because real transformation happens when you not only listen to something, but begin to discuss it, work through it, connect it to your own personal experience.
As you know, I just got back from pilgrimage to the Holy Land. And even though I had been there before, for nine weeks—I still needed, still very much relied on our guide, Patrick. Patrick is from Nazareth, grew up there, knows the land backwards and forwards, the history, the culture, speaks Hebrew and Arabic and English. He was great, but he didn’t have all the answers. And on the pilgrimage, even though he was guiding us, it was God himself that was at work in our minds and in our hearts. Patrick was just there to keep us on the road.
Our faith, Christianity is itself a pilgrimage. And like a pilgrimage, we can find ourselves in a place with a different language, a different culture. And a guide is extremely helpful; someone who can give concrete steps forward. That’s what “Rerouting…” is meant to be: a guide, a concrete path forward. I’m not trying to say I have all the answers to everything, no! But I hope to act as a guide, to help all of us embark on this journey. Why? Because I know that God himself will be at work, working on our minds and in our hearts.
THE DEEPER WHY: The Goal of “Rerouting…”
The long-term goal of “Rerouting…” is to help us be in sync with the Universal Church, and with Bishop Kemme and his vision, his hope for the Diocese of Wichita. What’s his hope, what is the Universal Church’s hope? The hope is that we would become a missionary Church. But in order to become a missionary Church, we need to become a missionary diocese. And in order to become a missionary diocese, we need to become missionary parishes. And in order to become missionary parishes, we need to become missionaries ourselves. And in order to become missionaries, we need to truly experience conversion, to become serious disciples of Jesus not just in name but in fact.
That’s why I think it’s providential that the Gospel passage that is given to us as we begin this whole thing is the one we just read today: Jesus’s first proclamation of the gospel, and his calling of the first disciples. Jesus’ first proclamation, his first and continuous proclamation, is “Repent,” his first and continuous proclamation is for conversion. I’ve told you many times before, “Repent” doesn’t just mean, “Stop doing bad things.” “Repentance,” “conversion,” “metanoia” in the Greek, means, “Change your way of thinking. Begin to see in a new way.” Why? Because how you see, how you see the world around you, how you see yourself and your life, how you see Jesus and his Church—this determines how you respond. So that’s Jesus’ first call, “Repent”; he calls for conversion.
But then Jesus does something else. He doesn’t just call for conversion. What does Jesus do? “As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers… [And] he said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” What does Jesus do? He sees us, and calls us, he calls us to respond. Jesus has seen you, he has seen me: he knows us and our situation, our struggles, he knows us by name! Jesus sees us, and calls us, each by name.
And he calls us in order that we might respond! Like, it sounds ridiculous to even say. But I’ll say it again: Jesus calls us in order that we might respond to that call. Jesus doesn’t just call us by name so that we know that he knows our name. He calls us in order that we might respond to his call. And that’s what Peter and Andrew, James and John demonstrate: they drop everything else and respond. They make this man the priority of their lives, they follow him. Their response should be ours: to follow him, to become his disciples. Again, as Bishop Kemme is fond of saying, his vision, his hope is that we, you and me, all of us, “will respond to Christ’s call so as to become fully alive as missionary disciples.”
So if I were to sum up the goal of “Rerouting…” I would say it like this. The goal is to help those of us who have not yet made a decision to live our life for another—that is to say, for those of us who have not yet made a decision to live our life for Jesus—to begin to do so (and for those of us who have, to make a decision to surrender ever more fully to him): to respond to Christ’s call so as to become fully alive as missionary disciples.
Because that’s the desire we all have: the fullness of life. The goal isn’t oppressed slaves forced to go to Mass and follow the “Catholic rules.” That’s not why Jesus calls, that’s not what he is offering. He offers the fullness of life! For everyone! As our first reading said, “Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing” (Isaiah 9:1-2). Jesus wants to bring you light, abundant joy, great rejoicing—fullness of life. This is what he offers.
MY HOPE: To Know Christ Jesus
But it begins by following him, getting to know him. If you haven’t seen the movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” I would really encourage you to do so. “Hacksaw Ridge,” for those of you who don’t know, is a true story about a soldier in World War II by the name of Desmond Doss, who enlists in the Army, but (because of his religious convictions) refuses to touch a gun; he wants to serve on the front lines as a combat medic. But because of these convictions he is considered by his commanding officer and his fellow soldiers as a coward. But he is no coward. And at a certain point in the movie (and in real life), at the Battle of Okinawa, after some incredibly intense fighting, his company retreats. But he stays. And over the course of the night, he singlehandedly rescues seventy-five men who have been left, wounded on the battlefield. And every time he rescues another man and lowers him to safety, he prays, “Lord, please, let me get one more. Just one more, Lord, please.” And he goes back and rescues one more.
And after he has rescued them all, and he is reunited with the rest of his brothers in the company, his commanding officer (who had thought him a coward) comes to see him, embarrassed, ashamed, apologetic. And he stands in front of him and says these words: “All I saw was a skinny kid. I didn’t know who you were.…I’ve never been more wrong about someone in my life. I hope one day you can forgive me.”
I think the reality is there are a lot of us here today who in all honesty could and can say the same thing to Jesus, “I don’t know who you are. And I don’t know what you’ve done for me.”
Se we invite you to come along, and to journey together as a parish family over these next twelve weeks. Bring a pen, bring a Bible especially starting on week five, but most of all bring a true spirit of openness to whatever God might want to say to you. Because Jesus is here, really. He has called us here. He wants to speak to us. He has answers to all the truly meaningful questions in life. In fact, he is the concrete answer to the actual, real, daily needs of your heart.