Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 11 of Season 5 for the Third Sunday of Lent: March 20, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 13, verses 1-9.
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Faith is the Key” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
Looking out at the world and our action in it using only human eyes, only human in eyes, what becomes the reason for doing good? Or for bearing any fruit? Using only human eyes, what becomes the reason for doing good or bearing any fruit?
If we see ourselves as only on this random human journey with no rhyme or reason to the order of things, then we begin to look at ourselves as if we are our own universe around which the rest of the world rotates. Therefore, any reason that I have for doing good can only be motivated by its self-benefit; that if I can profit by something positive, then I can justify doing it. If loving someone so that I can receive love in return will ease my loneliness, then I can justify the reason for loving, and invest in love.
You see when life begins and ends with simply what we see, then it's very easy to live a very self-focused life where all I do is really just about me
We live in a world that is very war-torn and a world that is suffering. As we see people responding to that suffering, as we see people truly moved by the agony of others, could there be that there is something deeper going on in their hearts and in their souls? Are they being motivated by something other than just their own personal self-interest and satisfaction?
Perhaps within the heart of every human being, within the depth of every human soul, is someone or something calling us to something more; to something bigger than just what we look at in the mirror.
Maybe the motivation for doing good and bearing fruit is faith. Faith.
A French author by the name of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, best known for his work, The Little Prince, remarks about his love of the desert and how he would venture into the desert and sit on a sand dune in the midst of nothing. And as he sat there, he could hear nothing and see nothing.
But he remarked that the silence throbs and gleams; throbs and gleams. That even in the midst of nothing is the presence of something or someone.
That presence is God, and the extension of himself to us is faith.
As you look out on the world, without the eyes of faith and using just our human references, the world is simply a bunch of chaos, where nothing is really interconnected. Where a thornbush no one would expect out of which to hear the voice of God, where all is simply what it is with no deeper understanding.
I'm sure we've all had experiences in our life when we've had to engage with another human being who spoke a language different than our own. And the wonderful gift of an interpreter allowed us to really listen to and hear what that person was actually saying to us. Without that interpreter, we would miss most of what they were communicating and, miss the beauty of who they are.
In every sense of the word, faith is God's interpreter. Through the eyes of faith, we begin to see the world with bigger eyes. And maybe those folks who do not yet know God but know the voice deep within, respond to the suffering of others, respond with generous hearts because instinctively they know there is more to who they are than meets the eye.
In our life's journey, we encounter many blessings and many struggles: witnessing the birth of a child, welcoming a son or daughter into our family, witnessing the birth of a grandchild are all wonderful, joyful things that lift us up. But there are others in our life that aren't quite so joyful, and cause us to stumble and fall: illness, the death of someone we love, especially unexpectedly so.
Bumping up against our own inadequacy and our weakness, encountering struggles and difficulties in our lives when we find ourselves as that big question of "why?" And consumed with what's happening in and around us, our vision becomes somewhat myopic and focused on the here, and we can become blinded to anything bigger than what we see right in the perimeter of our present time.
And so it's often beneficial for us to at least, even spiritually, bring ourselves to a mountaintop, because anyone who's ever physically journeyed up a mountain realizes that as they begin to climb that ascent, what they left behind suddenly looks a lot smaller, and what they gain by the height that they experience brings a much wider perspective of things that one can see more vastly, more largely. And soon what was important just a short time ago no longer seems to be as much.
And finding these mountain places in our lives armed with the gift of faith allows us to see things with the eyes of God rather than our own. To see the bigger picture of life because faith is the key to understanding the world. Faith is the key to being able to hear God's voice booming through the burning bush, calling us to understand and see him as the ground of all beings, of all life.
Faith brings us to the reality of truth and uncodes and makes sense out of that which is disjointed. It truly is faith that points us to truth, and the eternal reality of not only who we are, but of who God is. When we gain that bigger perspective of things, we realize that the small pieces of our life really aren't as important as they can sometimes be made to be. That we're on this much bigger journey, an eternal one, of which this is just one part of the bigger picture. That our smallness in regard to the bigness of life, really comes in focus.
The eternal reality of who we are: with the eyes of faith we're brought to truth, and human beings begin to see the motivation for doing good. The motivation for bearing fruit. Because they know instinctively within that they're on a much bigger journey and they have a greater focus and find freedom when they realize that their true mission and purpose in life is to be a vehicle, used by their Creator, to bring about the kingdom of God.
During Holy Communion today, and after, David and Vincent are going to lead us in an instrumental meditation. Its simplicity and its beauty have the power to lift us and help us touch that eternal dimension of ourselves and God. Listen to that piece, allow it to move you and lift you to your Creator, and the truth of who you are.
Music by Arvo Pärt (1935)
Piano: David Garrido-Cid
Violin: Vincent Barile-Kaverud
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.