Sunday, September 5, 2010

"All In!"

Homily from the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Quite frequently, on a Friday or Saturday night in the seminary, the guys will get together for a game of cards.  A lot of guys like to play Euchre.  But the most popular game they play is probably No Limit Texas Hold Em.  You’ve probably seen it on TV, it's wildly popular right now.  It's a version of poker played with chips and the player who is holding all the chips at the end of the game is the winner.

One of my buddies from the seminary, Father Andrew Trapp, a priest from the diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, got so good at Texas Hold ‘Em, he appeared on a poker game show a few months ago and played for charity against the top professional poker players in the country.

Now most people, when they first start playing poker, they play their chips very conservatively.  They place small bets because they don’t want to lose their chips.  The problem is, if you play scared, and make timid bets the whole time, you’ll never win, you’ll never rake in a big pile of chips.

If you want to be a successful player of Texas Hold ‘Em, you have to be willing to take a big risk every now and then.  You have to be willing to go “All In!”  That’s when you bet everything you have.  You shove all your chips into the center of the table and say “All In.”  Then, if you have the better hand, you win the whole pot.

See the YouTube of Fr. Trapp going "All In!"
This is what my buddy Father Trapp did. We were watching the show on TV and he’s playing against Daniel Negreanu, who is one of the absolute best poker players in the country.  Father Trapp wasn’t holding an outstanding hand, but he took a risk and he shoved all his chips into the middle of the table and declared “All In!”  The pro’s eyes got really big.  He was a like a shark who smelled blood in the water.  He wanted to take all of Father Trapp’s chips so he went all in too.  However, when the cards were laid down on the table, Fr. Trapp had the better hand and he beat the world pro and won $100,000 dollars which he donated to his Church building fund.  God was on Father Trapp's side!

Jesus wants us to go “All In!”  He tells us in today’s Gospel that if we really want to be his disciple, we have to give him everything.

In fact, he even uses some pretty harsh words.  He says, “If anyone comes to me without hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Now, you have to understand that Jesus is using a figure of speech here.  He doesn’t want us to really hate our family.  I mean, how much sense would it make for us to love our enemies but hate our family and friends?

Jesus is saying that as much as we love our families, we must have a love for him that is on an whole another level.  We must have an absolute love and preference for Jesus above all other things, above all other people, above even our own lives and preferences.

And this is not an unreasonable expectation, because Jesus does the same for us.  Jesus was asked by his own Father, to be obedient to his Father’s will above all other things, even his own life.  So Jesus left everyone he knew behind – his disciples, his mother.  He took up his cross and gave his life to the Father for us.  He went “All In!”  He did this, because it was the very thing, the only thing, that would bring us happiness.

If someone goes out for a sports team, they are expected to give it all they’ve got so we can win the big game.  If someone signs up for the armed services, they are expected to commit themselves completely for the defense of our nation.  When a man and woman enter into marriage, they are expected to enter into an unbreakable bond that lasts all the days of their life. 

Now if we’re willing to commit ourselves so strongly to sports teams and the armed services which are worldly institutions, how much more should we commit ourselves to God?  Worldly institutions such as these last only for a period of time.  Even marriages last only “all the days of our life?”  How much more should we commit ourselves to the one who is offering us eternal life in Heaven?

Jesus says, if you don’t go all in, if you don’t come after me with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, you’ll look foolish like the guy who starts to build a tower then halfway through runs out of resources and is stuck with something that is only built halfway.

Jesus offers us eternal life by committing himself completely to us.  So he embraced his cross and gave us his life.

Jesus asks us to receive eternal live by committing ourselves completely to him.  So we must embrace our cross and give him our life in return.

And guess what, our crosses are not easy, they are heavy.  You can’t carry your cross with one hand.  You have to embrace it with both hands and it requires all the strength you can muster.

And our crosses shouldn’t be easy either.  Because our lives are not cheap; we have infinite value.  And Jesus purchased us at a great price.  So, it is only just that we give back to him, a worthy offering that requires great sacrifice on our part.

So, we’ve got a number of questions to ask ourselves:

“Do I really want to share the eternal life Jesus offers me from his cross?”

“Do I really want to be his disciple and put him above all other things?”

“Am I willing to embrace my cross, and willing to follow all that Jesus teaches through his Church?”

“Do I give Jesus my entire life? Or, am I playing scared and making a timid offering of myself?”

“Am I willing to go ‘All in’?”

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