Homily: Father Mike Kuse
Blessed Sacrament Parish
September 16, 2012 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
10 AM Service
What's your image of the devil? Most of us have the image of going to a Quincy High basketball game and seeing a young man painted in blue, and dressed in blue, and holding a pitchfork, and running around in the lights and fire. Or we will see the image of someone dressed in red and he's ready to go after you with a pitchfork. Watch out for the devil!
Jesus didn't create that.
Jesus says to us, “Satan and the Devil is any obstacle in your road to holiness.”
That's why he tells the disciples, as James says in his second letter, “It's not enough to have the words. You must have the actions. It has to be in your heart for others to see. They won't believe your words. They're not believing my words so why would they want to believe your words.”
Then Jesus comes along and says, “If you are going to follow me, then you must deny yourself, and you must take up your cross.” Sometimes we use that phrase if something difficult happens to one of us we say, “Well, that's the cross I have to bear.”
Jesus says, “Don't look at it as a punishment. That event might really change your whole life to discover God.” He's asking us, “How do we take up our cross, and how do we do good works?”
Just look at life. Several decades ago - I think this might be the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic - one of the interesting things in the story, and perhaps you saw this event in the movie - is when they lowered the lifeboats. The men on the Titanic made sure the woman and the children got into the lifeboats. At that very moment the lives of those families were changed forever, and soon the women became widows and the children fatherless. The men didn't sit around and say, “Has anybody got some dice? Let's throw the dice. Let's see who should get into that life boat?” It was just spontaneous.
This is why God created us, and why we must take care of each other. In our community, and in almost any community of this country we have what we commonly know as the First Responders. When you see a fire truck, or an ambulance, and you see a squad car zipping through town going to some destination, something is wrong and someone is going to need one of those First Responders. One of the First Responders may have to rush into a house and rescue a baby. Another may have to give CPR. Another one may just have to be there.
When they arrive they don't ask you, “What's your religion? What's your Social Security number?” They just want to make sure you're living. They're giving something of what they have.
And we all have something to give.
There are thousands of people out there. When you leave church this morning you could go to any street and knock on the door of a house and ask, “Has your family gone to church this morning?” Chances are you're going to hear the answer, “No. We just didn't get up this morning.” And your response might be, “If you ever would like to go to church, I'll see that you get there. You just tell me if you're Catholic, or Baptist, or Episcopalian, Presbyterian, whatever. I will take you because I want you to have that. I know what it is.”
These are the crosses that Jesus is talking about.
Every one of us sitting here today - we all have a cross to bear. It's not going to be the same cross. You don't have to call anyone up to compare notes, but we are all living with something in our lives. Jesus says, “You don't need to be frightened by that. That's life, and you live your life. But the important thing is, you don't have to go around and tell everybody, 'I have a cross to bear today.' ”
You might reach out to someone else and do something for them - and it will change their life. So the cross that you thought was not good has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in your life. We have to learn how to carry our crosses - and look within the mirror and say, “Who am I?”
Take all the makeup off, take everything off, just look in the mirror. “Who am I? Is my faith on the outside, or is my faith on the inside?” If it's on the outside, we need to listen to this Gospel. If it's on the inside we know that we are inching our way to holiness. We're discovering who God is. And that's why when we leave Mass we say, “Get out of here and proclaim the Good News.” But do it by works and actions.
We do this in our faith through the gift of stewardship. We ask everybody to respond. Do something to keep your faith alive.
No matter what it is. If you are in pain, ask God for the grace to accept that pain until the pain goes away.
People might say, “I don't know how you do this. I would be climbing a wall.” The response would be, “This is a gift from God. It's not comfortable, and I didn't pray for it. But I'm just asking God to use the things that are uncomfortable in my life to make things better for everyone else.”
Jesus did the ultimate. He discovered his disciples were clinging to his words. They liked all that he was doing. “You're the Christ. Man, I couldn't feed five thousand. I couldn't heal the deaf here. You're just superb.” And he said, “Get behind me. I want you to see the last act.”
He physically picked up his cross and allowed himself to be hung on that cross. And then he is asking us, “If you're going to stay with me - this is what it's all about.”
Being a Christian is the most beautiful thing in the whole world. But there is a price tag attached, and Jesus says, “That price tag never goes on sale. It's always the same price. That's what it is worth.”
So may you and I, as we absorb these readings, just know that the devil - and I don't need to be excited about someone jumping around in red and blue with pitchforks - I just need to be aware of the things in my path to holiness that stop me from proclaiming to the world, “I do know who Jesus is - and I want you to know as well."
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.