Father Kastl's July 25th Homily
As many of you know I have been gone a lot this summer traveling from Europe to Chicago to Denver and then to Big Sandy Texas. Movement that has enabled me to experience many different cultures, significant rites of passage such as marriages and religious professions, dynamic conference speakers and summer camp with young Catholics alive in their Catholic faith and love of the Lord.
I will spare you all of the details of this marathon summer of spiritual expeditions, but I would like to frame this homily around two particular experiences I had this summer, experiences which have affected me greatly, experiences which I believe can offer flesh and a concrete foundation for the readings we are given this weekend.
Archbishop Chaput while addressing some 850 people from across the world in his keynote address at the National Catholic Bible Conference in Denver, focused his talk on what he termed, “Wasted Grace.” “Wasted Grace” he said are those shadowed areas from our past that we regret, shadowed areas that even at times can still keep us from fully allowing God’s grace and mercy to enter in and take hold in our lives.
From this conference I then traveled to Big Sandy Texas to attend a week of summer camp at The Pines, a Catholic camp for kids ranging in age from 7-17. This year’s theme was all about creating a “Spiritual Revolution” in one’s life.
Over and over again this theme was imparted to the young campers who are the generation in formation who have the responsibility to create a spiritual revolution in their lives and in turn take it out into the midst of our world, a revolution that has the ability to recapture and continue a Christian worldview in our midst.
These two topics, the call to quit wasting God’s grace in order to create a revolution in the life of the Church are clear and evident themes in our readings from scripture this weekend.
First we start with our reading from the 18th chapter of Genesis. Six times Abraham had the audacity to approach and question God, a God who was upset at the “wasted grace” and the “wasted opportunities” of his chosen people to trust and cling to his ways. God said:
The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me.
God’s intention was to wipe out the people and start over again due to their hardness of heart. He was disgusted with their dismissal of the concept of sin, in essence believing there was no such thing at all.
Some say this story is about the loving and gushy forgiveness of God, yet scholars tell us there is a deeper and more important lesson being taught, the lesson about Divine Justice. Divine Justice teaches that if we align ourselves with God we can expect mutual blessings and benefits, yet there are also consequences for not holding up our end of the deal. Divine justices teaches that yes there are indeed blessings that come from our relationship with God, but there are also expectations that we his chosen people must fulfill if we are to live in such as way that draws other people into the mystery of His Divine mercy and love.
Divine justice teaches us that there are boundaries and when we walk outside of those boundaries we call that sin. This reading from Genesis speaks profoundly to the unchanging reality that sin is real, it exists. The reality is that each one of us sins and in turn we must time and again return to God and to one another seeking reconciliation and forgiveness.
Abraham’s dialogue with God also shows us the communal nature of living a life in God. In those times a person’s identity was not just based on their solitary being or their immediate family, it was also associated with their place of living, in this instance Sodom and Gomorrah. In Abraham’s attempt to sway God he implores him by saying, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty or ten innocent people within it, far be it for you to do such a thing to make the innocent die with the guilty.”
The way in which God responds is both telling and consoling… “If I find fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty or ten innocent people, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
The innocent people God refers to are not people who have never sinned rather they are people who have sinned but recognized it, repented and continued living. By their virtuous act of repentance they spared the whole. Through their acknowledgment of “wasted grace” in their lives they created a revolution, a revolution that saved the guilty, those still caught in sin. So what is God’s point…We as individuals have a responsibility to keep our own house in order and in turn we have a corporate responsibility to save the whole, for to lose some of the whole, would be to lose part of our very own identity.
Some of you may be asking, “How do I know if I am wasting God’s grace?”
In our Gospel from the 11th chapter of Luke we get a very direct and explicit explanation. This Gospel can be split into three parts. First, a lesson on prayer, second a lesson on perseverance in prayer, and third a lesson on the assurance of being heard by God.
In order for us to learn what sin is, in order for us to come to the realization that sin still exists in our world although we at times want to dismiss this as an old and suppressive idea of the Church, in order for us to truly realize our wastefulness of God’s grace, we must devote ourselves to ceaseless prayer.
For some of us, we may trick ourselves into believing that by saying one Hail Mary or one Our Father or one morning or evening prayer a day we are truly praying… although this is a start, true prayer takes time, it takes dedication, it takes sacrifice, it takes a resolve to truly be in union of mind and heart with God, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in that union, a vulnerability that allows God’s all powerful light to shine into and take hold of the darkened and broken areas of our lives.
In our Gospel we are given the great prayer of the Our Father, which not only teaches us about the intimacy God wants with us, a relationship of fatherly love towards his children, it also reminds us of the communal nature of our baptismal call to holiness which we heard about in our second reading. Just listen to the communal language of this prayer. OUR Father, Give US, OUR daily, forgive US as WE trespass against OTHERS, lead US, Deliver US.
He wants us to know Him in and through the other. He wants us steeped in the school of love, for love is the foundational principle of prayer, to know and to be known by God and one another…
Often times we don’t progress in prayer because we don’t “feel” anything. This is a great challenge for us who live in an overly stimulated society. When we don’t feel or experience anything as we do when we turn on the radio or go to the movies or have a conversation with a friend, we get bored or distracted and get up and move on. Or rather maybe there are certain sins in our lives that need to be confessed and removed in order for us to open ourselves up to see that we are worthy of God’s love and presence in our lives…
Just as the man in our Gospel was persistent in getting the loaves of bread, so will our persistence gain us what we ask, if it is according to God’s plan. I sometimes think God withholds his consolation from us in order to test our intention and endurance to see if we are seeking the things of heaven with purity of heart
So much of an authentic prayer life is also rooted in the continued formation of our hearts and minds in the ways of Christ to come to us through Sacred Scripture and Tradition. So many Catholics today have fallen into the secular trap of believing only those things which are convenient and not difficult to believe, rather than submitting their will to the 2000 plus years of Christian Wisdom.
Which do you think is wiser, our little brains and our life experiences of ten, twenty, thirty or maybe ninety years or rather the collective wisdom of the Church which has been under the guidance of the holy spirit for 2000 years…you can guess where I wish to put my trust.
With that said we come to the last section of our Gospel… the lesson on the assurance of being heard by God… “Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you.”
My dear friends in Christ, each second and moment of our lives, God is unceasingly pouring his loving grace upon us. He is showering us with his wisdom and eternal truth asking only that we be open to it…yet, each second, each moment of our lives we often say no. We resist this grace of mercy and truth. Why? From my own experience of resistance it is because of fear, or pride, or lack of trust. Fear that if I accept it, I will have to make certain changes in my life, changes that are risky even to the point of losing friends or status. Pride because I think I already know enough and know better than the teachings of Christ passed down to us through Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Lack of trust— this is one of my pet sins. A lack of trust that God really does care and have a plan for me.
These my friends are lies of the devil which lead us further away from the font of grace, Jesus Christ, further away from this loving community of faith whose goal and mission is to foster and raise disciples after the heart of Jesus Christ.
So what now? I beg and implore you my friends to daily avail yourself and your families to God’s mercy and grace through consistent and meaningful prayer.
Bring your families to confession. Don’t wait until Advent and Lent rather come monthly or as often as you need. Msgr. Dorney, Fr. Swift and I would love to have to add hours to the confession time in order to accommodate the need. (We are by the way adding a Sunday slot from 9-10AM starting in September.)
We shouldn’t approach confession as a place to beat ourselves up rather we should see it as a place of spiritual renewal and accountability, a place to get back up again, to dispose ourselves to God’s life transforming grace. Then without mortal sin on or souls we approach the most amazing gift of all, that sacrament that sets the Catholic church apart from all other Christians…the gift of the Eucharist, the true Body, the true Blood of Christ, that intimate and loving encounter with our Lord who wants nothing more than to ignite within us the passion and fire of God’s revolutionary love.