3rd Sunday of Easter

Date: 
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Speaker: 
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

3rd Sunday / Easter / A

April 29-30, 2017

St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa

Fr. Jon Seda

 

There is a saying that says, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."  I used to have a wall hanging that said, "If at first you don't succeed, you are running about average."  Or another variation by W.C. Fields says, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a stupid fool about it."

 

There are several approaches to failure.  We can fight it and try harder. We can laugh at it.  We can accept failure and the limitations of life.  I think today's Gospel offers a new insight into failure.  With faith, it is possible to actually rejoice in failure when we see it through the eyes of God, and discover it as a part of God's plan for our salvation.  The Gospel is the familiar Emmaus story, which speaks of confusion and hopelessness, then the disciples learn to see things in a new way, and then they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

 

What spoke to me most this week is Jesus' words to the disciples who had lost hope.  They were grieving.  They thought Jesus could change their lives and change the world.  But then he failed.  He was crucified.  Their dreams ended on the cross.  Not only did Jesus die, but so did their hope.

 

Jesus walks with them for seven miles, which would be about two and a half hours, and opened the Scriptures to them---which is a long Bible study.  He tells them, "Don't you see that failure had to happen so I could enter into my glory?"  In other words, in God's mysterious plan of love, failure is part of his plan for our salvation.

 

We think differently, especially here in Ames and Iowa State University.  This is a success driven place to live.  We strive to succeed in business, we work to make Iowa State be the best land grant university in the country, we want to be at the top of our class, and we at St. Thomas Aquinas really want to succeed in all that we do.  We define ourselves by our success, so have a low tolerance for failure and do all we can to avoid it.

 

Jesus say to us, "Can't you see failure as part of God's plan, not only for me but also for you?"  When we fail in our major, it frees us up to discover our real passion and vocation in life.  When we struggle with relationships, especially in our families, it is an opportunity to learn a new and deeper way to love.  When we fall flat on our face morally, we can grow in humility which is the foundation of compassion.  We define ourselves by our successes, but God shapes us by our failures.

 

I had a seminary professor who would sometimes say that the church is the place where people should feel free to fail.  The world constantly judges us, evaluates, us, grades us, and criticizes us.  But the church is the place where we should feel loved not because we succeed or what we do.  Here we are loved because of who we are, the beloved of God and so brothers and sisters in the Lord.

 

Failure was part of God's plan for Jesus, and failure is often part of God's plan for our lives.  In his mysterious love, God makes failure instead of success precisely the thing that brings us closer to him.  He makes failure instead of success precisely the thing that brings us closer to each other.  He makes failure instead of success precisely the way that we grow in authentic holiness.

 

The disciples on the road to Emmaus could only see failure.  They lost hope and were defeated by life.  Jesus walked with them, and showed them how the failure of the cross was needed so he could reveal the resurrection.  

 

At the end of the Gospel, it says the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, in the Eucharist.  May our breaking of the bread together today make us a community where all of us feel free to fail.  Because we define ourselves by our successes, but God shapes us most by our failures.