Tag Archives: optimism

15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2017

You may recall that last Sunday the homily theme was the optimistic spirit that is rooted in our Christian faith. When I began preparing today’s homily early this past week, my mind was drawn to an extension of the same theme when I read these words in the first scripture reading: “(My word) shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it…it shall not return to me empty…”

We know now that the “word” is a person, Jesus, who lives among us to carry out God’s plan for the reconstruction of our world. We can be certain that the Anointed One – Jesus – will not fail, no matter how dark and hopeless things may appear at times.

Who has never wondered how the world and the human race will end up? Big question – and one that preachers are fond of treating with sweeping pronouncements about either doom or eternal glory.

We all need a frame of reference to make sense of what often appears to be a senseless and self-destructive world; the daily paper and the TV newscasts can be relentlessly depressing. “What’s happening to us?” we ask. Some answer that we are destroying the planet. Others say we are in the process of killing each other off. I have heard the judgment that civilization is actually regressing despite the obvious progress of technology.

But back to that ancient proclamation: my word shall do my will, achieve the appointed end, and not return to me empty.

We heard St. Paul say today that the world will ultimately be freed of its slavery to corruption, that the upheavals of the present time can’t begin to compare with the perfect order that lies ahead, and that the turmoil we are witnessing is in part a kind of labor pains of a new world’s birth.

I think you have to know Jesus pretty well to be able to orient your life around such optimism – or else you have to be a Pollyanna.

But how can it possibly happen, this final victory of life and love? As I see it, today’s Gospel contains the answer. Most of the seed, Jesus tells us, falls on hostile, uncongenial soil and adds nothing of value to the life of the earth. But some seed falls on good ground, not only managing to survive, but multiplying itself in enormous proportions.

And that’s how it will happen – how it is happening now. The word of God doesn’t depend on impressive numbers; it produces numbers. Its goodness takes root and grows constantly in power and effectiveness. That growth is not always immediately obvious; sometimes it seems to have been snuffed out until, like the stubborn blade of grass in a concrete crack, it surfaces again, bearing the new seeds of its own future!

We’re supposed to let that conviction show in our lives by our basic optimism, our open love of life, our attitude toward suffering and setback, our willingness to risk what we have and share what we own, our prayers of praise and gratitude, our belief that the smallest good we do or say or think contributes mightily to the rebirth of the whole human race.

That word in good people of any or of no faith will not return empty to the one he called Father. He will ultimately achieve the purpose for which he lives within and among us. Much seed is germinating in good soil even as we speak.

Look around you! Even better: look within you!

14TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, 2017

A man by the undistinguished name of Robert Kent, who had worked for the same company for 33 years, was given several years ago a grand dinner party upon his retirement. At that celebration, several of his co-workers noted that what they loved and admired most about him was his optimism. In an article in a Connecticut newspaper he wrote, “If indeed I am optimistic, I got to wondering where that sense of optimism came from.”

After noting that the firm had gone through some very difficult times, he went on to say, “I finally concluded that whatever sense of optimism I have comes from my Christian faith. Christianity, at least as I understand it, is rooted in optimism. We are optimistic that God is with us and loves us; we are optimistic about life after death; and we are optimistic that God will be with us in good times and in bad. It seems to me that having a life based in faith leads to an optimistic attitude. Without faith, I don’t know how anyone can be optimistic. One of the reasons I like to go to church is that I meet the most wonderful people there. By and large, they are optimistic and caring people, filled with love and concern for their fellow humans. Each Sunday our faith and optimism are renewed through our liturgy…”

It was the enthusiastic exhortation of this Sunday’s first reading, those few lines from the Hebrew prophet Zechariah, that inspired this homiletic approach and the following commentary.

We celebrate Mass every Sunday not to make installments on a spiritual insurance policy, not to beg God to forgive our sins and wrong-doing, and not because we are required by Church law to do so.

No, Sunday Mass is is simply our time-honored way of thanking God for what we are and what we have, of being renewed & strengthened for the next lap of our earthly journey, and, as St. Augustine so well put it, of receiving more of what we already are.

But what are we? We are the body of Christ in the world of our time & place. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so do I send you.”

When we receive Holy Communion, it is not to be understood as reward for good behavior; it is not essentially an act of adoration we are performing. We are receiving into our hearts, minds, and entire lives more of what we already are – nothing less than the body of Christ! We receive his person, his Spirit.

The question arises then: What does my being the presence of Christ demand of me, do for me? It demands of us that we act in all circumstances as he would have us act. It requires us to be open to the direction and empowerment of the same Spirit that directed and empowered Jesus.

Think about that, please. Let it obsess you. Can you imagine how peaceful, how loving, how beautiful our homes and our lives would be if we were increasingly acting according to his example?

Let’s pray that a wave of change pass through our community, transforming every heart and every home precisely as needed!