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 you're listening to Season 4, Episode 26 for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary time. : August 8, 2021. Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 6, verses 41-51.
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven, ” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Life’s Simple Little Gestures” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
How do we learn about life? How do we learn about life? Well, the obvious beginning answers to that question would be things such as from our parents, from our educational process, from experience. All of those things go into building our understanding of what life is all about, about who we are and what our responsibilities and our role in the world is all about.
That understanding comes with an influence from the history that is brought to us in our families: that is passed on generation to generation. The strengths as well as the unchecked weaknesses. But there is another, even more significant place we need to look in order to learn properly about life, especially you and I, who are people that faith, and especially the young people who are here with us today. And that place is from God.
Ultimately, as people that faith, we believe that our truth rests now in the stuff of this world, but the truth of who we are rests in God. So if I have my being that comes from God is the essence of my soul as a gift from God, then it then stands to reason that how I live in this world is going to be determined about by what God wants to teach me. And so I have to be willing to put my agenda aside and look to God to teach me about what it means to live.
So once we make that decision to allow God to teach us about how to live, it then begs the end of the question: how does He do it? What's the practical way that God can show us right here, right now, today, how to live as human beings. Well, there's three ways that God teaches us about life. Three very practical ways that are accessible to us right now, right here in this place. And there are three gifts, fundamental gifts, that are at the center and focus of our spiritual lives at the center and focus of who we are as people, as God's children.
The first gift, and the way that God teaches us about life, is faith. Faith. God places the gift of faith in each one of our hearts. And it's a gift that, when it's allowed to flourish and grow and we allowed it to develop and mature, has the ability to teach us how to see; how to see.
And so through the eyes of faith, what is ordinary one moment becomes extraordinary the next because it now begins to glisten with the presence and the power of God that purely secular human eyes can easily miss. It is through the eyes of faith that I begin to see all that is around me in a different, more profound way where things aren't always what they seem to be. But there's always something deeper, more special, more profound about every human experience we can possibly share. It is through the eyes of faith that we're able to gather here and believe with all of our mind, heart and soul, that the bread and wine that we see at one moment in the Eucharist, through God's power and transforming presence, has changed into the body and blood of his Son. It is through the eyes of faith that we are ,able to see God's presence in all corners of our world, where a mountain is no longer a mountain, but becomes a great tapestry in the creative plan of God. You see, through the eyes of faith, God teaches us about the giftedness of life, the beauty of life, the abundance of His presence and the sparkle that can come when we approach our lives with that gift of faith. Faith teaches us how to see.
The next way that God uses, the next gift that he gives us to help us learn about life, is hope. Hope. It is through the gift of hope that God teaches us how to be; how to be. You see, hope can direct the quality and depth of our presence in the world. Hope helps us present ourselves not as someone who is burdened by the complexities and struggles of life, but as someone who is centered on a greater goal, namely the goal of life eternal. It is through the gift of hope that I present myself to the circumstances of our lives with a joyful spirit, where I'm able not to be so moved by the struggles that befall me, I'm able to look beyond them to something greater.
It is hope that tells us that God is always creating and recreating that there is never a closed door, that tomorrow is never an end, that even if I am facing my final moments in this world, I, as a creature, as a child of God, do not cease to exist; that God takes me and transforms me and brings me to a deeper, more perfect place. That I'm not finished yet, but I'm very much a work in progress that God is still very much involved with as the author and master and Creator. Hope teaches us that what we see around us is not the sum total of our existence, that there's always more.
The third gift that God uses to teach us about life is love. Love teaches us how to act; how to act. It is through the gift of love that our relationships are clarified; that we learn how to approach our Creator, our loving Father; that we learn our way to one another; that we realize that we're not just individuals on this journey of life, but that we have a relationship with one another as brother and sister; that my focus am I desire in this life is not purely about myself, but then I'm called to be more concerned about the other to learn how to set my own needs aside, and open myself to being used for the benefit of someone else. It is through the gift of love that the poorest of poor find a home. It is through the gift of love that we learn how to live in this world; where we learn how to be forgiving and merciful and tolerant and accepting. Where we learn how to create a home for all and a path to peace.
And so the three pivotal gifts: faith, hope, and love they cannot be taught in school. The only way to acquire them is to ask God for them. To ask God to increase them within, to deepen their presence within us. And to give us the courage to rely more on them than our own designs. Because as we journey through life, it's often the case where we think we have more to teach God than we have to learn from him. We often struggle with convincing God that we know better about ourselves; to come over to our plan for what I need to happen and what I want to see rather than humbly placing ourselves before him, asking him to increase the three gifts that will give us the power to see our through selves through even the darkest moments.
The world is brilliant with God's presence. Things are not always what they seem to be. And there are moments of grace around every corner in every moment of every day. All we have to do is open our eyes to see, to open our hearts to have hope and to open ourselves to love.
A very simple story, which after I tell it, you may conclude, oh, that's corny. Why is he even saying that? But with the eyes of faith, perhaps you can see why something very ordinary becomes something very profound.
About a week or so ago, I was in the backyard with my dogs, Harry and Oliver, kind of just putzing around a bit ,and something jumped in the middle of the yard. And of course, Harry was on it right away.
So we got that settled, and I realized that it was a bird. And I couldn't determine at that point whether it was a baby bird who was kind of having a hard time learning how to fly or whether it was an adult bird that had some kind of a problem with flying. But either way, this bird was struggling and was crying in a way that I haven't heard an animal cry before.
And in the midst of all of its yelling, I went over to the bird and my impulse was to pick it up, as which I did. And this bird, which happened to be a tit mouse, clung to me with all its might empower, so much though that it hurt. And then attached its beak to my thumb to the point where there was piercing like a needle.
And again, one's first impulse would be to think the bird wants to hurt me. I want to get rid of it. But I resisted that, and I allowed myself to encounter this creature of God, this friend of God. And I realized in very short order, the bird wasn't trying to hurt me, the bird was looking to me to help; was looking to me to be a source of consolation.
It was almost as if he was looking for me to simply soothe him and hold him, which is what I did. And I brought him to a safer place in the woods and remained with this little guy for awhile, this friend of God. And it became such a moment of connection, a moment of grace, where I really felt myself connected with the bigger presence of God, with the bigger order of things. And realizing the specialness and the brilliance of even the simplest little gestures of life that take on such a greater depth through those eyes of faith and hearts of love.
And in short time, the bird released its grasp, became very comfortable in my hands and began to settle down a bit. And so I put him down and I said, okay, you can go and do your thing. St. Francis, come on and help this guy here. And he came over for a quick visit skirt all about and then flew away.
But it was a unique little moment and again, insignificant to many powerful to me. But all of these little moments that can seem useless at one point or dispensable at another, it's only a bird, one could say, who cares? But in the realm of God's kingdom, in the realms of God's world, everything matters. Everything has importance and everything is a moment of encounter. Yes, life does pose many struggles for us, and it can get very difficult to say the least. And as we negotiate our way through that, we look for God's intervention, God's presence, God's way through a lot of those challenges that befall us.
And many of us have been very familiar with a very popular phrase. Perhaps we have it hanging on a wall or we've seen it in a card and it goes something like this: God does not give us more than we can handle. God does not give us more than we can handle. We've all heard it. But now I'm going to ask you to do me a favor, and I'm very serious about this with all my heart.
Don't ever say that again.
It is the most incorrect vision of who God is. God is not the master puppeteer in the sky. He isn't saying, Donna, I need to have your faith tested. So I'm going to cause this to happen in your life to see if you're still faithful to me. Bill. I'm not going to really trust that you love me so I'm going to give you this challenge to see if you pass that test. And if you do I'll know that you love me. Or Martha, I know that you really want this particular thing in your life and if you accept this challenge, I will grant that to you. God does not do that. That's not the God of the cross or the gospels. It's not the God of the love relationship of the Eucharist.
Here's the more correct way to think about our difficult journeys. It is life, life, and understand this very clearly, it is life that often gives us hurdles, stumbling blocks, disappointments anxiety, fears. It is life that often becomes challenging, overwhelming.
It is God who, as he does with all of creation and with all things, and even the simplest little creature of a bird can transform and make new anything that happens to us. Anything that we encounter it is God who can bring it to fulfillment. God who can open the door. God who can create tomorrow. God who makes all things new.
It is true that creative energy of God that we begin to see that life glistens, that life has purpose and meaning.
Allow God to transform you. And rather than ask for him to fix all of the missing pieces in your life, all that is wrong, ask him for the three gifts, faith, hope, and love. It's a perfect prayer.
Deepening our sense of those three things will equip us to deal with anything that life brings, even our final hour, because we will know that regardless of what happens here. There's a lot more in the next life for us to look forward to.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community 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.