27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sunday, October 8, 2017
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     The fall is my favorite time of the year.  I like the cooler weather, the changing of the leaves, and college football . . especially yesterday.  Yes, there is a God, and he is a Cyclone!  A few weeks ago, the college students returned, with a little money in their pockets, no big projects hanging over their heads, and happy to see their friends again.  Many families returned refreshed from vacations.  So many of us were carefree and happy.  Then this time of year hits.  Midterms hang over students heads, roommate are starting to really irk us, and family now run non-stop from one activity to another.  And our stress level goes up.

     So perhaps it is providential that the second reading we just heard occurs this time of the year.  St. Paul writes to the Philippians and says five amazing words:  "Have no anxiety at all."  We who are stressed out wonder if this is possible, and how is this possible.

     Now much of our stress is self-imposed, the result of a certain stance toward life.  Our stress level increases significantly when we try to control what we cannot control, and do not focus on what we can control.  My rule is that if I can't control it, I don't worry about it.  Now I don't always do that very well.  But that is my goal.  If I can't control it, I do not worry about it.

     St. Paul goes on to tell us how it is possible to have no anxiety at all.  In the second part of that same sentence, he tells us to do three things.

     The first is to pray.  Not just in times of crisis, but to structure prayer into our daily life.  This puts us in relationship with the Lord, and we find our deepest identity not in our successes and failures, but in him.  And that makes a huge difference in our daily stress level.  Our day goes a lot better when we pray.

     The second is to pray with thanksgiving.  To train ourselves to focus on God's blessing more than life's challenges.  Especially on days when we are down in the dumps, and we all have them, we need to be more intentional about giving thanks.

     The third step is to make our requests known to God.  To stop trying to do it all ourselves and let God help us.  We ask God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, knowing that our prayers are answered not be making life small enough for us, but making us big enough for life.

     If we do this, St. Paul promises us the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, a sense of serenity that overpowers the stresses and anxieties and worries of life.

     Now we may think, sure, Paul lives 2000 years ago, and he was a saint.  That is why we call him St. Paul.  But this nice idea is not connected to our real lives today.  It is helpful to know that Paul did not write these words from some nice, comfortable, cozy room.  He wrote this from prison, and he did not know if he would live or die.  He had no control at all over his life.  Yet in the midst of this stressful situation, Paul experienced great peace which came from God.

     This week I have been thinking about who are the St. Pauls in our lives?  Who shows us this kind of life is possible?  They are people who are truly happy, who laugh a lot, and are calm no matter what difficulties they face.  They are people who show us that it does not matter what happens to them on the outside, because of who they have in them on the inside.  The Holy Spirit lives in them.  So it does not matter what happens on the outside because of who is in the inside.

     Often the St. Pauls in our lives are people like grandparents who have well worn Bibles or prayer books next to their beds.  They are people who daily do three simple things:  They pray.  They are intentional about thanksgiving.  And they give the worries of their lives over to the care of God, and let him worry about them.

     St. Paul wrote these words, and he lived these words.  What he says to us today in Ames can be summarized in six words:  Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.