Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thirty First Sunday, Year A, October 30, 2011

There are certain things in life that we CAN’T NOT know. These things are clear to anyone as they observe the world. Things like honesty, justice, and love. For example, whether or not you agree with Occupy Wall Street, you probably agree that greed is bad. About the only way we could think greed is good is if we had a PhD. One thing that is self-evident is the idea of the beauty of sacrifice. No one likes war but we are moved by stories of sacrifice. Sacrifice is part of what tugs at our heart when we see a woman expectant with child. We don’t need religion to tell us this. We know that we cannot fully find ourselves except through a sincere gift of ourselves.

But our faith does say something about this natural beauty, truth and goodness of sacrifice. The Catholic Church calls this reality “The Law of the Gift.” Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. How do we see this in today’s Gospel?

What does Jesus condemn? Does he condemn institutions of religion? These verses from Matthew’s Gospel are often used by non-Catholics, especially Fundamentalist or Evangelical Christians to attack the structure of Catholic faith. Does Jesus condemn all structures of religion? No, Jesus does not condemn the structure—and therefore all structure—he condemns the empty and selfish living of those in the structure. The Jewish priests of his time—and those of the time of the prophet Malachi—are convicted on their selfish living out of their roles.

On the other hand, we have the example of St. Paul. He even dares to compare himself to a “nursing mother,” so deeply did he live the Law of the Gift with the Church in Thessalonica. “We were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.

What do so many college students want? Do you not want to find yourself? “What am I supposed to do with my life? Who am I? What does God want?”

God wants you to live the Law of the Gift. You are called to make a sincere gift of yourself. In many ways you and all of us have an uphill battle in our current culture. We are becoming more individualized, isolated, and even self-centered. Instead of asking: “What sort of sincere gift of myself am I called to make?” our culture asks: “What do I need to be happy? What’s in it for me?”

People sometimes ask why there are fewer priests and consecrated religious today than 40 years ago. On some level, it is because parents aren’t asking their children. But it certainly is NOT because God is not asking. Blessed Pope John Paul II would say that 10% of baptized Catholics probably have a call to give themselves as priests, monks or nuns. If God is calling, we not listening, because we are afraid of the Law of the Gift.

Let me tell you then from my own experience as a young man and a priest. When you answer God’s call, he takes nothing of what makes life good, true, or beautiful. When I took a promise of celibacy, I gave up wife and family but God has brought beautiful goodness into my life. Do not be afraid, it is true that man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. Listen today and everyday for Jesus to speak His call into your heart, He says: “See my example, see how I give myself completely for you? Trust me, then, trust that when you sincerely give yourself back to me, I provide everything for you.”

Posted at Newman Center Website.

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