06.25.17: God's got your back
Homily from the 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. Masses at St. Mary's Church in Crown Point, Ind.
I’m a little miffed that Easter came so late this year, because today’s Gospel reads like one of those great college or high school commencement speeches. A few weeks ago, the timing would have been perfect. I can almost see Jesus walking on stage with his black robe and scarlet doctoral hood, stepping up to the podium, waiting for the applause to die down. Then, he speaks:
“Fear no one.”
Wow. That’s one of those mic-drop moments, those moments when something so powerful and so succinct just hits you. I thin
k we all have to do a gut check whenever someone opens with a line like that.
Think about the world we live in for a second. There’s a lot to be afraid of. People are being attacked and killed because of their faith, whether they’re Christian, Muslim or Jewish. There are strong allegiances being forged. Around the world, people are backing dictators, insurgent leaders, polarizing politicians afraid that listening to someone with a different voice will be interpreted as weakness and threaten their strength. Our divisions seem to be growing wider.
Now, let’s place ourselves in the time of Jesus: People are being attacked and killed because of their faith. There are strong allegiances being forged. Leaders are afraid that listening to others will threaten their strength. Divisions seem to be growing wider.
Yet, what does Jesus say?
“Fear no one.”
More specifically, he says to fear no man or woman who might be able to come at you because you’re letting Christ be known, because ultimately, your God has your back. Those people who might tell you to buzz off, sure, worst case scenario, they can harm your body, but your soul? If you’re strong in your faith, if you say what you mean and mean what you say, your soul, that belongs to God.
And friends, how do you and I become strong in our faith? How do we put that armor around our soul? How do we become so solid in our relationship with God that we know, against all odds, that he’s got our back? We heed his call.
What you and I hear within these walls, the teaching of Christ, the message of his love and mercy, when we take it outside this building, when we truly glorify the Lord with our lives, that’s speaking from the housetops. That’s not being afraid to love your neighbor, because we have within us the love of the one who first loved us. That love allows us to not be afraid of what might happen when we decide to love those who don’t love us, those people who seem unlovable.
Yet, it’s so easy for us to leave these doors the same as we walked through them. Even with the words we hear, even with the body and blood of Christ that we’ve received into our very being. That transformation of heart, mind and will takes time.
And, I know it’s easy for me to stand here and prepare you to live a changed life, because I don’t face the same challenges you face in life. None of us does. Each and every one of us encounters different people, interprets different feelings, emotions and phenomena in our own way. It’s tough being a disciple in the world. It is. For each of us in different ways. We know people who aren’t ready to be loved. There’s a hurt in their life that’s left a hardened wound. Don’t be afraid to help them heal it.
We can never stop trying to scatter the seeds of God’s love and mercy in our world. Just like the disciples in today’s Gospel, that call is ingrained in our being, it’s part of who we are. Are there going to be challenges? Oh, yeah. We all have those challenges in our lives right now, don’t we? How do we deal with them?
One of the translations of scripture I like to use in my studies is called “The Message,” and the author addresses the issue in 21st Century American English in a way I can’t do better:
“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your body and soul, your core being. Save any fear you might have for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul in his hands. Don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than you think you are.”
Friends, when we live in the light of Christ, no threats, no taunting, no bullying, no rejection can keep us down. Our God has our back.
Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in a commencement speech just two months before he died of Cancer, he told his graduating students this same message.
“We don’t beat the reaper by living longer. We beat the reaper by living well and living fully. For the reaper will come for all of us. The question is what do we do between the time that we’re born and the time he shows up.”
Let’s live the life God has destined for us, live it fully and live it out loud. Let’s shout the name of God from the rooftops of our hearts, with every single act of love.