It’s the night of the last supper, the first mass. It's also the night we commemorate the ordination of the apostles to the priesthood and their commission to “do this in memory of me.” So it’s a special feast day for all priests and a special night to contemplate my vocation. It is the tradition, then, to preach on the priesthood. I am, afterall, a priest for you. Also, there are certainly other men here called to this great vocation, so it is worthy of our meditation.
We learn today that the things happening in silent monasteries, the things happening in your homes, the things happening on the streets of Missoula amongst our homeless are of much higher consequence in eternity than the endless power grasp we witness daily on the news. The home, the monastery and convent, the streets, that’s where the action is.
In the beginning, some 13.8 billion years ago, our universe was empty. Perhaps we can’t even say empty because there was no time, no space, no matter; there was nothing. Then came that wonderful moment we have titled The Big Bang, when there appeared the whole of our universe contained in a concentrated ball of energy smaller than an atom. That ball exploded outward in every direction. This explosion began as pure energy but quickly congealed to produce matter, and after some time (400k years), atoms appeared. Where these atoms were more densely compacted, the power of gravity increased and produced clouds of matter. As the density increased, temperature increased. When the temperature rose above 10 million degrees, protons fused, massive energy was released- boom, we have our first batch of stars.
Our first reading today speaks of God’s wisdom, saying “She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.” God yearns to know us, he sits by the gate awaiting us while we insist he is far away, that we must go on a great journey and hope against hope that we might find him.
Growing up, perhaps more than any other thing in the modern world, is the difference between us (me) and the saints. If we look at the beatitudes, we see a collection of simple and mysterious blessings. We see Jesus raising up very particular states of life as makarios. This is hard to translate but we generally say blessed or fortunate. The word suggests those who possess these beatitudes possess something others desire but cannot, for whatever reason, attain. It is not some psychological state but a state of being.
It’s a subtle thing, a rising tide that fascinates us until it overwhelms us. Because again, we may grow in worldly respect, outward success, and education, yet we are nonetheless slaves to the world. What are we to do? What did the saints do? Soren Keirkergaard, the great father of Existentialism, when speaking to the beatitudes, said the saint is the one with a pure heart, and “purity of heart is to will one thing.”
We speak of women making the heroic choice to keep their child. It is heroic because they are moving forward into an unknown world- most likely poor and alone. Having a child is terrifying when you have a spouse, a stable home and a job.
If we are going to win the battle for the protection of the unborn, this most important and fundamental of issues, we have to step forward heroically, we have to sacrifice so women who find themselves poor and alone can do so confidently.
What does Jesus say today? “Whose image is this on the inscription? (Ceaser’s) Then render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” What belongs to the state? The things of the world. If we put our hopes in worldly things, we will put our hopes in the state and every new failure- the state always fails- will bring bitterness, rage, and resentment.
Jesus appears when the storm is peaking, casually walking upon the waves, and when they cry out in terror, he calls to them, “<em>Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”</em> When he steps into the boat, the storm dies. There is no battle, and Erasmo points out that this story is “restructured to deploy only one truth, the unquestionable and eternal supremacy of the incarnate Word.”
The only battle left is the battle within our hearts. Do we believe Christ has already won? Are we convinced the powers of evil have been overcome and subdued? Or are we cowering before the storm wondering if Jesus will ever show up? Look at the shift in the gospel when Peter realizes the implications of Jesus words. He yells out “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Power is a fact of life, it’s a part of nature and will always be acquired by the capable and the ambitious. How we employ it will change the world. Do we employ the power we possess as Christ shows us? Do you wield it with charity, with mercy, and always with an eye to the poor? Or do you let your passions dictate your actions? Do we use the power we’ve been given to preserve our reputation, raise ourselves up at the expense of those around us?
Yesterday I had the opportunity to do the Butte 100 mountain bike race. I decided to give it a shot when quarantine hit and everything else had been cancelled. Still, until yesterday I had never ridden more than 57 miles. It was fascinating to see how my body handled the prolonged grind, because with experiences like that you are just running an equation. You burn more calories than you can take in, so it’s a matter of time before you are depleted. All I had to do was ride 100 miles before I was toast, and I made it. But this homily is not about the Butte 100...