Sunday, October 23, 2011


Homily from the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Before entering the seminary, I worked for a radio station.  And every year, our radio station hosted a week-long telethon to raise money for child abuse prevention.  It was hosted by our morning show djs from the roof of a local supermarket.  Up they went Monday morning, and from the roof of this supermarket they broadcast their show from 6AM until 10PM everyday until they finally came down from the roof on Friday evening.  They lived and worked up there. They ate their meals up there. They slept in sleeping bags and tents up there. They even had a port-a-potty up there and a hose to take a shower with.

All week long, our morning show would interview people who were brought up to the roof on a cherry picker.  They interviewed victims of child abuse who had the courage to share gut-wrenching stories of suffering, and torment as well as stories of healing, recovery and triumph.  They also spoke with counselors and case workers.

They also interviewed owners of local businesses would be brought up to the roof on a cherry picker and they’d present giant cardboard checks.  Huge amounts of money: $5,000, $10,000, $20,000.  Over the course of the week, the radio station would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for child abuse prevention.

One day, as we were sitting on the roof, we saw the cherry picker rise up over the crest of the roof, and on the cherry picker was Lou, the director of South Bend’s Center for the Homeless.  And in his hands he held not a giant cardboard check but a coffee can.

Lou stepped up the mic and said that the guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless, the homeless themselves, had been listening to the broadcast, they had heard the stories of abuse and how other people were donating money; and they wanted to make a donation too.  So they passed the coffee can around the homeless shelter and they gave what they had and Lou said, “The guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless are pleased to make this donation of $12.41.”

It was the biggest donation of all.

Do you remember the story of Jesus and the disciples sitting outside the temple treasury watching wealthy people make their offerings? Jesus is unphased by their generosity until He sees a widow give two small coins.  And He says, “this poor woman put in more than all the rest; for these others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

That’s what the guests of the South Bend Center from the Homeless did.  These people, who had no job, no place to call home, no possessions except the clothes on their back, gave what little they had.  But the little they had was everything they had.  They gave their whole livelihood.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment in the law is “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”  We cannot love God with half a heart, half a soul and half a mind.  We must love Him completely, holding nothing back, with a love that knows no limits.

Why?  Is God greedy?  No.  God has no need for our love or praise.

Is it because we owe God complete and total love?  We certainly do but I think there’s an even more satisfying answer.

We must love God completely, because we need to.  Unless we love God completely, with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, we will never know true happiness; we will never truly be satisfied.

The guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless gave all they had because they needed to.  They could not stand to stand by while injustice and violence was committed against innocent children.  To give any less than they had would have left them unhappy and unsatisfied.

We need to give God all our love, not just our leftover love that’s remaining after we’ve loved our possessions, our houses, our wealth, our trips, our families or ourselves.  Indeed, we can only love one another if we love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind.

We can love God in this way because He loves us in this way.  Jesus loves us with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his mind.  All we need to do is look to the cross to see this love.  Jesus kept nothing for Himself.  He gives Himself completely to us.

This is the love that we need to imitate.  Loving God in this way is the only love that will satisfy us. Anything less, will leave us frustrated, incomplete and indeed, inhuman.  All our time, all our energy, all our wealth, all our possessions, all of us must be given back to God in one way or another.

Now I’m not saying that we have to drop our whole paycheck into the collection basket.  But we do have to ask ourselves if we use our time, our money, our hearts, our minds, our souls for God or for less than Him.

So, let us ask ourselves these questions:

Is God my first thought of each day? Do I give Him thanks for the gift of my life and the gift of another day?

Do I give God thanks for the gift of the spouse I wake up next to, and my children; my family and my friends?

Do I thank God for the blessings He has poured out upon my life?

Do I recognize my good fortune as blessings from God?

And when I experience misfortune or tragedy in my life do I blame God? Or do I sincerely ask Him for help and trust Him?

Do I share the good gifts I’ve been given with others and especially with the poor?

Do I put the needs of others first or do I think of them only after I’ve satisfied my own needs?

Do I love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind? And do I love my neighbor as myself?

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