The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Homily
I was speaking recently to an engineer who specializes in the inspection, evaluation, repair and reconstruction of dams. Now, this doesn’t seem like very exciting stuff. But he told a story that he was one of the members of team who had visited New Orleans to inspect and provide advice on the levee system there several times before Hurricane Katrina. Now the story takes on a whole different significance.
One of the issues with levees and dams that can cause catastrophic failure is a phenomenon called “piping.” This is when moisture and water begins to erode away any weak sediment at the base of the levee/dam. Thus, small tunnels or “pipes” begin to form in the foundation until eventually the foundation gives way and the dam/levee collapses.
The keys to preventing this are:
- Original dam construction: build it correctly in the first place.
- Regular inspections.
- Regular routine maintenance.
- Inspectors should never “do it alone.” Always bring somebody else with you.
- If you see something – say something. Tell someone if you notice something is amiss.
- Fix it early.
- Have emergency action plans in place.
This seems to relate to today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings. The decline of the moral fiber in the stories is not a sudden, catastrophic event. The readings describe situations where the moral decay happened slowly, bit-by-bit over time until the situations finally collapses. Scripture scholar, Joyce Ann Zimmerman says that “In the everyday humdrum of life, we rarely think about the ultimate future. Life itself pressures us into shortsighted choices for living.”
For example, there is a story told about a young graduate of a Jesuit university, who visits upon one of the community’s “recreation areas.” It was filled with refrigerators of beer and food, fine furniture, top shelf liquor and and inviting television rooms. After seeing this he quipped, “If this is poverty, show me chastity!”
Now this isn’t something that happened overnight. A little here – a little there and then suddenly you are in a place where you did not intend to be originally. Joyce Ann continues that, “Discipleship, on the other hand, calls us to live in such a way that our daily choices form long-term patterns of behavior that move us toward God’s promise of life eternal.
So what is the parallel spiritual plan to build a dam against the spiritual storm waters?
First is to build a solid foundation first of a regular practice of daily prayer and reading of Scripture.
Next, we must engage in regular “inspections” self-reflection which encourages healthy self-awareness revealing strengths which should be celebrated and emphasized as well as sinful tendencies, weaknesses and areas for growth.
There must be a desire to not merely recall these items to mind but also have the drive to actually do something about it. This is the step where many fail and where the spiritual “piping” can occur.
To counter this, one must use “accountability” by regularly meeting and talking with someone about such spiritual matters. This person can hold your feet to the fire and constantly remind you of the actions you promise to do in order to grow in your relationship with Christ.
The Sacrament of Confession can repair any breaches in the foundation.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist strengthens the entire structure.
This isn’t easy. This isn’t sexy. This isn’t necessarily “fun.” Church and spirituality can be very VERY boring. But it lays a foundation that protects us once the storm hits.
Audio version of the homily is here: