Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
On a Saturday morning, my friend Becky and I took our daughters for breakfast at a local restaurant. Standing outside was a familiar character, who often meandered the sidewalks of the strip mall nearby. He was a noticeably homeless man: stooped over, dark hair greased back, pop bottle glasses, tattered coat, and scuffed black shoes. Becky and I eyed each other, and then simultaneously invited the man to join us for breakfast. He refused repeatedly, but finally acquiesced to a cup of coffee and introduced himself as Charlie. What followed was one of the most interesting and meaningful table conversations—ever. As the girls gobbled syrup-saturated pancakes, he held his coffee cup while sharing hard-earned wisdom: “When I was ten years old, about your age girls, my father gave me my first drink. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’ve been an alcoholic ever since I was twelve. It’s been a hard life: I flunked out of school; I couldn’t keep a job; I’ve never had a family of my own—all because of that very first drink. To have a good life, girls, stay away from alcohol.” The girls, wide-eyed, were now silent, listening to every word. Shortly after sharing his story, Charlie graciously thanked us and headed out.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus encourages His followers to invite those who cannot repay you. Well, here we were, following the Gospel, thinking we were doing something for this poor man. But in reality, as it always goes, he gave us so much more. Life had humbled Charlie and he became a sort of a sage, sharing his wisdom, as the girls listened with attentive ears. We were humbled by Charlie’s life story—his struggle. We learned the true value of this man, who others perhaps saw as a bum or drunk. The dollar spent on a cup of coffee taught us priceless life lessons, especially the great worth of Charlie as a beloved child of God.
My Grandpa Golinvaux often said, “You’re no better than anyone else, but you’re no worse.” He taught us that true humility rests in knowing ourselves through God’s eyes: beloved, cherished, accepted. We are all created in God’s image and likeness; the only difference lies in our life circumstances, experiences, and our willingness to humble ourselves before God. When listening to Charlie, we were struck by his humility—his utter lack of self-sufficiency.
We name grace—God’s presence--in the domestic church when we remind our children/grandchildren they are not gods, but they are God’s beloved. We name grace when our children realize they are no better—and no worse—than anyone else. We name grace when our children understand they will find favor with God through humility—by putting God first and by treating each person with respect and kindness.
Jesus welcomes those who humbly take the lowest place, for they clearly recognize their need of God’s mercy. St. Augustine wrote, “No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility.” For a time after our encounter with Charlie, I spotted him shuffling near his usual spots—and then he was gone. I assume he died, without fanfare and in poverty. I also imagine after living a mostly lowly life, Charlie must now be seated in a place of honor—for the humble will be exalted. Now, that’s good news!
When will you invite someone who can’t repay you?
How will you help form your children in humility?
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/08141
I watched athlete after athlete stream into the Olympic Stadium from the comfort of my own sofa. As one young woman entered excitedly, a commentator remarked, “She’s got a fire in her belly!” It takes fire to compete at the Olympic level—a desire so great that top athletes are willing to sacrifice home, career, leisure and many comforts.
This Sunday’s Gospel is all about fire—a passion so hot and fierce it will set the earth ablaze. Jesus longs for its completion to release the fullness of God’s redemptive love. So great in mercy, Jesus willingly undergoes the baptism of death to alleviate humanity’s suffering. Disciples plunge into the waters of baptism and rise to expend their entire lives participating in Christ’s passionate love of dying to self and living for others. Discipleship demands a fire in the belly for sharing Christ’s love and serving God’s people.
In the Spirit, Christians burn with Christ’s heart to alleviate suffering in others. A couple reads of abandoned children and become foster parents. A retired woman sees injustice and commits her life to prison ministry. A man witnesses intolerable working conditions and advocates for immigration reform. A young woman joins the Jesuit Volunteer Corps to alleviate poverty in the inner city. A young man discerns the priesthood, eager to bring God’s mercy to spiritual suffering. Discipleship demands a fire in the belly—our hearts ablaze with love—as it costs our entire lives.
Pope Francis exhorted young people at World Youth Day: “Get off your sofa. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths."
Olympian turned Catholic priest, Father Joe Fitzgerald, heard and responded to Jesus’ challenge and traded in his athletic shoes for black walking shoes. He gives experienced advice: “There is a price for everything, and the price for the Olympics is high. What I would say to those getting ready to compete in Rio is, despite all the work put in and the attention it draws; the practices, games and medals do not define who they are. Their greatest title, no matter how many medals they win, is being a beloved son or daughter of God. Knowing this, they should compete, not for their own glory, but for the glory of God.”
As parents, we name grace when we acknowledge Olympic competition is admirable, but reiterate that only Jesus is worthy of our entire lives. We name grace when we teach our children to act on love for anyone who is hurting. We name grace when we witness to Christ—even when controversial. We name grace as we help our children define themselves as Christians over any worldly achievement.
The Holy Spirit propels us off of our sofas and into the race of faith. We’ll need a fire in our bellies, as discipleship often requires running through mud, uphill, and against the wind. But we are not alone; we have the cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we persevere in running the race that lies before us by keeping our eyes on Jesus! Now, that’s good news!
How is God calling you to help alleviate suffering?
How will you kindle a fire in the belly of your children for Jesus?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.