Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Sunday, February 4, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     This past Thursday, I went to Dubuque to meet with Archbishop Jackels about vocation ministry.  A group of us share some ideas, and noted that one obstacle to vocations today, whether to priesthood or religious life or Sacrament marriage, is how many people define a successful life.  Many today define success by what we have, and so we work hard so we may have a comfortable life.  But Jesus defines success in a different way, not by what we have but by what we give away.  So it is a challenge today to invite people young and no so young to a way of life that is marked not by comfort, but by giving our life away.

     Today's Gospel has a strange sentence which struck me.  Peter's mother-in-law is cured of a fever, and she gets right out of her sick bed and waits on them.  Are you kidding me?  Give her a break!

     Pope Francis once said this about mothers:  "Mothers in their unconditional and sacrificial love are the antidote to individualism.  Then he used a term first used by Blessed Oscar Romero of El Salvador, the "martyrdom of motherhood."  In the daily giving of themselves, mothers help society overcome our self-centered tendencies.

     When we are young, it is normal to pursue our own plans, to seek control over our lives, and have a bit of fun.  Our time is often focused on our next vacation, haning out with friends, and getting ahead at work. Many couples I marry are in this stage.

     Then God does his trick on us to make us grow.  He gives couples children.  It begins with sleepless nights, changing diapers, and trying to keep the house from being destroyed.  Then it continues with sitting in the bleachers, helping sell the latest school project, and being on committees at the school and church.  All of the sudden we realize, "My life is no longer my own."  And that is exactly how God wants it to be.  In a way we do not fully anticipate or even want, parenthood is how God moves us to grow in holiness.

     In the same way, those of us without children need to structure into our lives being inconvenienced and stretched.  Pope Francis often speaks of the danger of being a "bachelor priest."  Yes, they keep the vow of celibacy, but do not sacrifice much and so do not generate life in others.  There is nothing virtuous or heroic or holy about such a life. It usually ends in being a self-centered and lonely way to live.

     The saddest funerals I have had in all my years of being a priest are of those who never seem to have gotten involved in the messiness of others lives, who resisted being inconvenienced or taken out of their comfort, who never seem to have found a way to give their lives away.  It is sad to see someone die and never be able to truly say, "My life is no longer my own."

     It is odd that the first thing Peter's mother-in-law did after being healed by Jesus was the serve the needs of others.  God did not put us on this earth to pursue our own comfort.  He put us on this earth to learn to love others in a self-forgetful way, and to find a way to serve in our marriages, homes, parish and community.  

     May our Eucharist today led us to live lives where we say, with a big smile on our faces, "My life is no longer my own."