The 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Homily
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Why would Jesus go back to his hometown, say what he did and provoke a fight? Because Jesus had received his call from his Heavenly Father. Jesus’ mission was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was gifted by God with resources: i.e., the charisms, skills and talents to fulfill that mission. He knew who he was. He knew what he was all about and what His mission was. So He simply went out, announced the plan, and then did it.
But mission changes as you move through life:
In the Gospel two weeks ago, we heard Jesus’ mother Mary seemingly convincing her son to change direction – and his mission – during the wedding feast at Cana. His time “had not yet come.” Yet he discerned and shifted and performed His first recorded miracle of changing water into wine.
The mission for each of us needs to be examined and discerned from different perspectives at different times in one’s life. The mission of St. Monica Parish is different now than it was in 1870 when the Augustinians arrived here from Villanova. The mission for older people is different than the mission for a young person and when your mission changes, you sometimes experience the gift of “disciple disorientation.”
Lyle Schaller was an American parish consultant, workshop leader, speaker, author of 55 books and co-author of 46 others. Christianity Today once called Schaller “the dean of all church consultants.” Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor of Life.Church, considered by some to be one of the largest churches in the United States with 25 locations in 7 states.
Craig tells a story about a conversation he had in an airport with Lyle Schaller when Craig was a new, young pastor. At the time Craig’s church had three Sunday services. They were considering adding a fourth. Groeschel asked Schaller what he thought. Schaller answered by saying,
“Oh you young pastors, you’re always thinking so small!” Why not seven services on a Sunday? Why isn’t your planning committee considering opening up three new churches in three different cities over the next three years.”
Groeschel said that he left that airport conversation with a headache. He thought that what other people said about Schaller was true – the guy was nuts. But Schaller was not nuts – Schaller was correct. He was calling Craig Groeschel to a new, different and bigger – mission. Schaller had caused a sense of “disciple disorientation” in Groeschel. Through Schaller, God was saying,
“Will you let me be God? Do you think I am that small, that weak, that limited, that uncaring that I won’t give you the people, the means, the resources, the money to fulfill the vision that I have planted in your heart?”
Let me give you two examples of disciple disorientation.
Last year we held “Called and Gifted 2” at St. Monica. There was definitely one example of disciple disorientation for older people in thinking that, now that the kids are raised, the grandkids are here, there’s nothing BIG for me to do for God. I was listening to Schaller talking about “mature mission” or the call to people who are “north of 50 years old.” He has a great line when talking about “mature mission:” “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”
And what about disciple disorientation for young people? There was a survey done recently where people – both young and old – were asked, “What is the one word that best describes young people today? “The answer given started with the letter, “E” Young people said, excellent, exceptional, enthusiastic. The real answer was: Entitled.
Young people want to please. They want to please parents; they want to please friends; they want to please teachers; they want to please God. And how do they do this? They get active!
Why? Because everybody tells them how special they are. Deep down, they KNOW it’s not entirely true. And their parents – deep down – are afraid that if they can’t prove their children are spectacular, that means they are not ideal parents and are not ideal people. So they do a million things, to try and prove something …. Right?
Meanwhile God is saying STOP!
God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) You are already special NOT because of what you do – but because of who you are,
… and because it was I who created you
… and because of how I made you
… and I created you exactly as you are for a reason – for a purpose – with a mission.
Find out what THAT is.
Here’s the problem with finding that out however. The media and technology shape our culture. It also shapes our identity, which – in turn – shapes your way of life. Society offers conflicting messages that often pull us in many directions. In the midst of all these competing words and ideas, prayer and God’s Word is the true source of our identity as Christian people.
Jesuit Scripture scholar Father John Foley says,
“Look at Christ. Immediately after receiving His call and realizing his missions what did He do? He fled into the desert to brood and to pray and connect with the Scriptures to figure out how to “do” his mission. Why? Because His divine side was informing Him in the depths of his human heart. Then it had to be drawn up further into mindfulness and dealt with in his human dimension.
You must do the same.
And in the midst of society’s conflicting messages, any confusion you experience doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong. On the contrary, you’re experiencing “discipleship disorientation.” God is messing with your mind to get your attention He is saying – “You need to adjust. You need to stop doing what you are doing now – it’s just water. I have a new or a different mission for you now – to change that water and offer you wine.”
To close, here’s a prayer:
Lord, at times you speak words that are so unlike the ones we know,
or tell us to love people in places that we shudder to think about.
Help us to master our smugness,
throw off our desire for safety
and delight in the new and mysterious.
Let us be your prophets, with wide open arms.
Audio version of the homily is here: