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 29 for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 29, 2021. Our Gospel reading is from Mark, Chapter 7, verses 1-8, 14-15, and 21-23
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. —For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. — So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.’”
He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Rediscovering the Child Within” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
I would like to invite you on a journey back in time. And for some of us gathered here today, depending on the number of our years, that journey may require going back a little bit further than others, and maybe also require the removal of some cobwebs to get back to a time in our life when we were children innocently, bounding through life; children, bounding through life. Get an image of yourself as a child in wonder and awe over all that was around you. Life is an adventure. It's a whole embodiment of self discovery. You're learning about new things all the time, and every day is another opportunity to learn and to investigate.
You know, some of you, perhaps the ladies in our congregation this morning may remember a time when you were able to somehow as a child, convince your grandfather to wear some kind of a ridiculous outfit, and to be a part of this tea party that you wanted to construct and orchestrate with the little plastic tea stuff that you guys had, and you would sit around and have this imaginary tea party, bonding and sharing memories on a level beyond just the rational with this significant person in your life - a very special moment. Or maybe others of us, remember it being a Saturday and having your friends around and scurrying through the house to find an old blanket or something that could be used to throw over the limb of the tree in the backyard to construct your tent for the day. And you went and you got all these other trinkets and you had this wonderfully imaginary time of this is our space to do whatever on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Or, I remember explicitly being able to go out into the woods with my buddies and we had these expeditions and adventures that would rival Lewis and Clark finding all kinds of stuff, investigating what we thought was stuff for the first time, but constructing this whole imaginary expedition of accomplishment, of investigation, of fun, of engagement.
Maybe some of you even had an imaginary friend growing up that was your soulmate, your partner. Nobody could see them, but you, but they were the person that you relied upon most, who saw you through those very scary times in your life.
But childhood, if we allow ourselves to be children, is filled of wonder and awe and imagination. It's as important to engage our imaginations when we encounter the world as it is to learn about the world itself. And all of us, if we go back can probably relive and discover again these moments of imaginary wonderment.
And then at some point, someone came along and said to us all of that, imaginary stuff: the tents, the forts, the imaginary friend, all of it is untrue. You really need to learn about the world and we're going to teach you facts. We're going to teach you how the world is constructed. We're going to teach you what's important. We're going to teach you how to conduct business. We're going to teach you how to present yourself in the world.
We're gonna teach you what's right and what's wrong. And we leave the childhood behind and pursue the life of adulthood, which is the life that is based on reason, a life that is based on fact, a life that is based on predictable outcomes. And so in doing so, we leave the world or the imaginary and move into what we then call the world of the real.
What's interesting here is that one of the greatest minds that's ever lived, Albert Einstein, said that the true measure of intelligence isn't found in knowledge. Imagine that. It is not found in knowledge. He said the true measure of intelligence is found in imagination, imagination, not knowledge. So if you take that definition That he points out for us, and you put it into practical terms, it's possible to know a lot of things about different subjects, but still truly not be wise or intelligent. So knowing the facts about things doesn't necessarily bring us to an intelligent place. He says intelligence is born of imagination.
And you know he's right, because if you look at folks who are really successful in life, you know, people who have, you know, built incredible things, you know, and, and investigated and accomplished incredible feats, they all started, if you listened to their story with very rudimentary things. You know, they started in the basement of their house, perhaps. With just some few little minor things with an idea, with an imagination, with a thought that I could take this and dream and wonder and create something. And when they were first talking about this, many of them will remark that they were told that they were ridiculous, that what they were talking about was not possible. That it was unattainable. But they fought all odds, fought what was being told to them, and pursued it anyway. You know, much in the same way we're told we have to leave our childhood behind and grow into adulthood. That what we had there isn't going to sustain us in the world. We need to learn something else about ourselves and leave that behind. But yet Albert Einstein is so true: imagination is where the true intellect lies and there is, in the imagination, great power, great power.
And this is true even in terms of our faith. In fact, it's very true in terms of our faith. You know, we can know all of this stuff about being Christian, and most of us can give it back verbatim almost today. We hear what Jesus says. We know what it is to be Catholic. We know what it is to be Christian. And we've heard all of the knowledge before, all of the prescriptions: love God, love neighbor, love self. We've heard Jesus say, "Be peacemakers." Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn." Jesus has instructed us to love our enemies. Jesus says, if somebody hurts you, do not retaliate. Jesus has said forgive and forgive and forgive.
Jesus says, "Blessed are the merciful." Jesus said you must die in order to find life. You must die in order to find life. You must leave this world in order to discover the truth of who you are.
We hear all of those words and we hear them over and over again, and we can give them back verbatim. But yet when it comes to doing some of those things, we find ourselves in a different place because then as we're in the world, interacting with things as we know them to be, and someone hurts us reason kicks in, not imagination, and we begin to say, well, he says, forgive those who me, and do not retaliate, but not in this situation. I'm going to fight back.
Where we see something happening in the world that requires us to forgive someone and reason kicks in and it doesn't make practical sense. And so we consider what Jesus says and we turn our back on it because it's not a practical wise solution in our minds to what is happening before us.
And so we jettison the gospel in favor of what we're told is reasonable and true, and we often look at it as something that is unattainable, impractical, or maybe he meant something else for another time, but not now. And so we become hearers of the word. We've certainly heard it over and over again, but the doing of it often gets cut short. We're not the doers of the word. But when you do take that step and allow the creative imaginative process to become a part of your life of prayer, that's when incredible things can happen.
Here's a prime example of that: Saint Francis of Assisi.
Now here you have a guy who grew up in a very, very prestige time and prestige lifestyle. His father was a merchant. He had a lot of money. He had a lot of power. He said to Francis, all this is going to be yours. All you have to do is work for this company. And when I'm gone, this is going to be yours and you're going to have a life of leisure and you're going to have everything taken care of.
But Saint Francis was listening to the Gospel. Listening to the words of the Gospel, and in his imagination was able to envision a life that was different than the one that he knew; was different than the one that he knew. It was a life that was filled with the love and power of God. A world that radiated with joy. A world where you could communicate with creatures. We're one with creation and pursued a gentler life. And so he felt propelled through what he imagined and what he thought and where he was being driven to leave all that behind, face ridicule. He was told that he was wrong, that this was ridiculous, but he went off anyway, went off into the unknown and we know how the story ends.
He did incredible things, and was able to put into the practice, the truth of the Gospel through his imagination, through allowing God to work through him, to bring him to a different place. And that's how it works. If we bring into our prayer life what we know to be true about the Gospel, then we can, even though we know it's difficult to accomplish, we can begin to imagine a life where the lion lays down with the lamb. We can imagine a life where we actually do forgive those who hurt us. We can imagine a life where no one goes to bed hungry. We can imagine a life where everyone has a place at the table. We can imagine a life we're all people give praise and worship to almighty God. We can imagine a life where all people know that they are a son or a daughter of God.
We can imagine a life where there's no need for fear or anxiety because we know that we're on a journey to a much better place, and this is just a drop in the ocean of our life, to becoming who God will one day bring us to be. We can imagine this Gospel life. We can imagine the Gospel put into practice, and then maybe if, all of us began to truly imagine a life different than the way it is now, a life that is gentler, a life that is more creative, a life that is more joyful and fun, a life that is more reflective of God's love, then maybe, if all of us are imagining this other way of living, it might just come to be. It might just come to be.
And that's the way it is in our own personal lives as well. We may look in the mirror and say, gee, I want to lose 25, 30 pounds. And so we know that we always try to do that, and it's just not gonna work. And we begin to imagine ourselves as a thinner, more healthier person. And imagining ourselves in that way helps us to then do what we need to do to achieve that goal. You know , I may be having a difficult time in my relationship with my spouse, struggling with communication. Well, imagining how that relationship would be better, it could be improved, helps us a great deal with taking the steps to achieve that improvement. But if I'm struggling with fear or anxiety, getting caught up in this stuff of life, imagining myself free of all of that and living a different kind of existence helps me achieve that goal as well.
So there is great power in the imagination for us personally, and also for the Gospel in order to flourish and succeed. And then maybe just maybe what God had intended to give us will actually come to fruition and we can have here and now what God desires to give us: a life of harmony, a life of peace, a life where the lion does lay down with the lamb.
It's something to dream about. Something to hope for. Something to imagine and something certainly to engage in our life of prayer.
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.