Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dearly Beloved, reflecting on the readings this weekend, my mind went to this old movie series watched in the 2000’s (The Lord of the Rings). How many of you are familiar with that movie? In this adventure movie, the future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces are unrelenting in their search for it. But fate has placed it in the hands of a young Hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), who inherits the Ring and steps into legend. One day Gandalf, the wizard comes to Frodo and tells him that he is in danger. He tells Frodo about the history of the ring and the need for it to be destroyed by tossing it into a volcano at Mount Orodruin.
Frodo tries to give the ring to Gandalf, but the wizard tells him that he (Frodo) was chosen to bear the responsibility; it is his fate. Unlike many other movie characters where such responsibilities fall on the well-skilled, well-built, the well-experienced in warfare and engagements, the Frodo character was just the direct opposite. In the three or so series movie, we see how this young and innocent character was able to fulfill this responsibility. With the support of a faithful friend named Sam and the wise wizard, Gandalf.
The point is, one harmless and innocent soul like Frodo, against all odds, had the will and determination to fulfill a destiny to save the future. Since he had been chosen, then he would be supported to accomplish this task. That’s where faith becomes important. You are equally chosen for greatness through your willingness to put the good of others first especially when it requires going through suffering, pain and discomfort.
In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies about the suffering servant of Yahweh. Isaiah, even in the Old Testament, was able to understand that one person can accept suffering and pain for the good of others. In giving his life up to save others, the servant has a conviction. A conviction that you must equally have. Take a moment to see if you have such a faith and conviction as presented by Isaiah.
The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let that man confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong? -------- Do you have such faith and conviction?
The Gospel chooses this same theme of suffering. It is Jesus Himself who tells His followers that He must suffer. The paragraph put it in these words:
He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
Jesus did not only accept to suffer and die, he equally had a conviction of coming to life again. What kind of conviction characterizes the events in your life? When a situation of suffering and death was presented to the disciples, they respond and react in a normal way. Far be it from you. This should not happen. The normal expression of the carnal man or woman whose focus and attention is only on himself or herself, selfish and egoistic; as a husband, wife, son, daughter, colleague at work etc. How difficult it is to accept discomfort for the good of others?
Jesus however, turns and makes it clear to them. As if telling them “I am not the only one who has been chosen for this course”. However, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” This is both an invitation and a challenge to us. We tend to concentrate so much on the pain and discomfort that comes with suffering rather than the hope and good that they bring to others around us.
It is not as if we do not have individuals who have chosen this path, not for themselves but for their loved ones and even strangers. We can find examples of such heroic acts across cultures. Even today there are many stories of people in the army, fire and police departments who go to rescue others and die attempting to save someone else. Someone, in most cases, they will never know or meet in person; however they consider this as a duty, a call, a vocation. Do you put your life on the line as you work simply for the salary or for the betterment of others? Always the challenge is there for us: Am I willing to give up my own life so that others can live?
This is a choice you make toward the good and wellbeing of others over and above your own. As a husband, be willing to go through some kind of discomfort if that will bring about some peace at home. Wives should be willing to do the same. Children, for the sake of the peace of the family, try not to have your way all the time. Like Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings, like the suffering servant Isaiah speaks off, like Jesus in the Gospel, all should be willing to make sacrifices. Be assured at the same time that ultimate victory is on the side of those who choose the good of others over their own. What situation at home, or work or school is the Lord calling you to put the needs of the other to achieve the ultimate good. It is only when our faith is challenged to do the impossible when we grow.
Do not be deceived, you do not need to be extraordinary to accept this heroic life for your family and the people around you. All you need is the acceptance and the faith that you are not alone. The one who has called you is faithful. He is trustworthy and he will see you through to the very end. Your sacrifice for your family and those around you will never be in vain. It shall be rewarding at the end of everything, in this life and in the one to come.
Now looking at our second reading from the book of James, (permit me to find out how many of you have read this book already. It is not too late to start reading if you have not done so already.) he reminds us of the commitments that true faith requires. True faith is that which is put to work. ‘’Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” It does no good at all to talk about faith if we never do the works of faith. Words by themselves are just words—and it takes actions to change the world. It takes someone who is willing to suffer for the sake of others.
This particular passage in the book of James has been misread and misapplied over centuries. It was one of the focal points of the protestant reformation. It calls our attention to reflect on the relationship between faith and works in terms of salvation. There is no way to do a good explanation considering the time available. I am therefore including a few youtube links that you can have some kind of in-depth study on the subject. Please find time to check on them on our facebook page @holy spirit catholic church, Christiansburg. That will be your assignment for the week.
Dr. Marshall Taylor - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H37H1Vh7t4
Steve Ray -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY0MIEsvOes
Steve Ray -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZOt7dbrpOY
Debate 1 --- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnVtZRfAioo
Debate 2 ---- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEa7Try-V2Q
Debate 3 --- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdXvToMCV9I