Weekly Homilies

Beyond the "Faith Box" (Luke 9: 51-62)

June 26, 2022 Fr. Mark Suslenko Season 5 Episode 24
Beyond the "Faith Box" (Luke 9: 51-62)
Weekly Homilies

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 24 of Season 5 for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time:: June 26, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 9, verses 51 - 62.

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way, they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another, he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him, Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The Gospel of the Lord

“Beyond the ‘Faith Box’”by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut

From the time we first start making our way in the world, we have many voices telling us what path we need to take in order to be productive and successful. Usually these are voices of our parents or significant others voices, of those in our social groups, voices we hear in other places, all telling us what path our lives need to take. And these voices tell us to follow certain ways. A good education in a great school will land you a better job. Positioning yourself academically so that you could be on the top of your academic game. Working towards success, whether it's on the ball field or whether it's in some other competitive way so that you come out first and don't find yourself last.

These voices tell us that how people think about us and feel about us has a lot to do with our station in life, and how much money we can accumulate, how much success we can gain, the size of the house we live in, where we live in and how many securities we have in the bank, all define us and our goals that you need to work for and attain.

And these voices tell us to follow these ways into the secular world, because then you will find happiness, then you can settle in and be who you are. And as we listen to all of this stuff, we begin to pursue these paths and immerse ourselves in this worldly vision. But then somewhere along the way, we hear another voice. Another voice that says "follow me," and it comes in the way of faith. And perhaps we find ourselves baptized into the faith and somehow associated with this Christian way of life. But that voice, "follow me," can sometimes be very faint and difficult to hear because we're so preoccupied with dealing with all of this secular stuff, but positioning our secular goals and agendas so that the bottoms of our lives don't fall apart and we attain the status that we've achieved.

And so we take that voice, that distant voice, and we put it in a box. And we label that box "faith," untrained, and listening to where that voice is actually leading us is simply there. We pull it out sometimes when it's convenient, maybe at our child's baptism, or maybe when someone we love needs to be anointed. Or maybe on Christmas or Easter, or however it suits us that faith box is available and sometimes even gets tucked away and we forget about it.

As we listen, however to that voice, as you begin to listen carefully to what the voice of God, the voice of Jesus is saying, we begin to open ourselves to the reality of this other option. If we can open that box and be attentive to what is really being said and spoken, and then we hear Jesus say to us, "follow me."

And we say, "what does that mean? Follow me?" And Jesus says, "Well, I have many blessings to bestow upon you, I'm the way, the truth in the life. If you want to find out who you are, you have to come to the kingdom of God. If you wanna truly find security in the world, you have to come to the kingdom of God. If you really wanna understand truth and peace, you have to come to the kingdom of God." But he says, "I warn you, when you come to the kingdom of God, it has to be a full investment, and you're going to experience some hardship and you're gonna experience some persecution and people are not gonna hold you in high esteem all of the time, and you may have to suffer. And if you're really pressed, you may have to die for your faith in me. But what you'll gain as a result of that is a hundredfold more."

And so then we look at the two voices, the voices of the secular world calling us to invest ourselves wholly  and totally into all that it can provide for us, and then the voice of Jesus saying, "follow me." And then our minds go to those words of hardship and of suffering, into persecution and rejection, and to possible death. And we wonder if we really want to take that risk or not. Do we really want to be a full bona fide Christian? 

St. Oscar Romero had a great take on this. He said it's very difficult to live as a Christian in our world. It's very difficult. And he says for the vast majority of Christians, for the vast majority of Christians, mediocrity is the majority. Mediocrity. And then for this smaller portion is the courage of authenticity. The courage of authenticity, that's the minority. So in short, the vast majority of people who believe in Jesus Christ  lead very mediocre Christian lives. And it's the few, the very few who really put their faith into practice, live what they believe and take wholeheartedly what Jesus says and put it into practice.

St. Oscar Romero was one of them. And what happened to him? He was martyred. Jesus was right. It may cost you your life. Because we take sometimes out of that faith box, the stuff that we can use, the stuff that is meaningful to us, purposeful to us, convenient for us. That stuff that's not gonna shake the waters too much or offend people too greatly, but the stuff that I need to feel secure to feel okay, the stuff I need to feel I'm putting something in to this faith that I claim to profess. But yet, the gospel goes unheeded and we don't really listen to the voice of Jesus. 

It's difficult to be a Christian, especially in our world today. You see, somehow we have to figure out how to bring those two voices together. Because no one is suggesting that we abandon our life in the world and pursue some other form of living. No one is saying to give up on securities altogether and invest ourselves in something else, but our faith cannot just stay in the box. Somehow it has to find its way into our everyday life, into the world we live in, it into how we conduct the business of our lives. Through a habit of prayer, every Christian needs to wrestle with how we take the voice of the gospel and bring it into our everyday business.

And it really starts with a priority and a question we all have to ask and answer. Which voice is going to have precedence over my life? Which voice am I going to allow to control me more, the voice of the world or the voice of Jesus? The voice of the world or the voice of Jesus? If we say the voice of Jesus, and that takes all of that other stuff that's important to us, all of that stuff that consumes us and puts it in second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth place and takes the gospel and brings it up front and center. 

And so what does that mean? That means is I interact in the world, I do so with the mind and heart of God. I listen deeply to what Jesus says in the gospel to the fact that we are called to bring justice into the world, to be people of peace, to build up the kingdom of God as our opening hymn directed us today, to be people who advocate on behalf of the poor, to be people who step aside and allow someone else to be first, to be people who are not always consumed with making a buck, but working to advance the beauty and wonder of God's life and love, be people who are able and not afraid to stand up and say that God is our father, and that life is to be respected at all stages. A particular challenge we're facing today.

And so as we begin to live and bring these gospel values into the world, as we begin to not proselytize, so to speak, but to be people who actually live what we profess, to be people who are people of forgiveness and mercy, people who find creative ways through conflicts, people who live life differently so that not by what we say, but by what we do, we stand out. As someone to admire as someone to emulate as someone who has a kernel of truth, that's not found elsewhere.

And so as we have the opportunity to go back into our world, a world that is often confusing a world that is often conflicted, a world that doesn't understand who it really is, let's not leave our box of faith here in the church, bring it out with you, own it and make it a part of your life. Use it to make decisions, use it to frame your priorities, use it to figure out who you are and what is really important in life and what God is calling us to. Because there we will then discover the truth and be able to proclaim the kingdom of God with authentic voices, minds, and hearts.

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.