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The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Homily

The final saying in today’s Gospel reading about exalting and humbling self is another story of divine reversal. Whoever humbles self will be exalted (by God, of course); and whoever exalts self, will be humbled (by God). It appears here as well as elsewhere in Luke 14:11. Other forms of the wisdom concerning humility occur in Matthew 18:4, Matthew 23:12, James 4:6, James 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:6. Biblical scholar John J. Pilch says that when we see a saying dealing with a particular subject again and again in different places in the Bible, this is known as a “floating saying.”john-j-pilch-3

This divine reversal could also be considered an example of a divine dichotomy. Pilch says that, “most people go through life utilizing a binary measurement. They tally successes and failures.  But God’s ways are not the way humans think and humans plan.” The Cross looked like a failure. In actuality, it was a colossal success.

Believers sometimes discover in their so-called failures examples of divine reversals: a better plan, a bigger future, a more rewarding venture. What looks initially like a set-back can be an opportunity for course correction and a richer destination.

Your life is is an example of a divine reversal.  So we can look at three aspects of divine reversal.

  1. The presence of trouble does not destroy the potential of triumph.

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On the surface, St. Paul might have looked like a total loser.  Read what he writes about his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:22-28:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

It would appear as if St. Paul failed again and again. But St. Paul was one of the most brilliant evangelist, theologian, apostle and lover of Christ ever. In the midst of trouble, Paul realized that Christ had already won the heavenly victory. Nevertheless, Paul also knew that he was called and personally responsible to help implement the human triumph of The Kingdom. This explains the almost ridiculously active dimension to Paul’s ministry. It also indicates your responsibilities and your tasks in moving through difficulties to a better place (For a sermon on “blessings in the midst of difficulties and what your part is” see Bishop T.D. Jakes video here)

  1. Blessing is not a “condition” but a “position.”

No matter what is happening to you, regardless of the difficulties you are facing, you are still an heir of The King. You have a deed to The Kingdom. It cannot be taken away. You stand with the deed in your hand. That’s a position.

You can currently be in high cotton, lots of money in your bank account, car working, mortgage paid. Or you could be in school, getting straight A’s on your midterms, just found the most delicious girlfriend or sexy boyfriend ever, popular with lots of friends.

That’s a condition. It has nothing to do with your stance with God. You still stand with the deed in your hand. That’s a position.

Your life could have collapsed. You’re the straight-A, varsity letter, student council president and you have just been arrested for a DUI which led to a locker search where the crime of drug possession was added to the docket. And if you’re the parent of that child, imagine how you’re feeling as all of the neighbors are reading about this – and talking about you – in all the papers and on the internet. Your spouse just announced they’re leaving. You were in a car crash and you were just fired from your job.

That’s a condition. It has nothing to do with your stance with God. You still stand with the deed in your hand. That’s a position.deed

Just because you’re doing well doesn’t mean God likes you. Just because life is crashing around you doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about you anymore. God has not abandoned you. God is going to use your condition to train you and form you and teach you and use you and your experiences – good and bad – for good. That’s about condition.  You stand in a position of blessing, with the deed in your hand.  (In his video mentioned above and here as well, Bishop T.D. Jakes addresses this as well)

 

joyce-meyers

  1. You Can Begin Again. This is the title of a recent book by speaker and evangelist Joyce Meyers, You Can Begin Again. In a video interview, Joyce says that you might feel that you are in a cycle of defeat and poverty and rejection and defeat and failure. But listen to Lamentations 3:22-24

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him and wait for him. (See Joyce’s entire 2016 presentation in Atlanta here

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But what can you do? Where and how to you start?  Look at today’s Second Reading from 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. Scripture Scholar Anne Osdieck poses some further questions to you help your reflection towards some answers:

Do you feel like you are sometimes being “poured out like a libation,” or that everyone has deserted you? What do you think Paul did to combat these feelings in himself? What do you think would help you?

Paul also trusted that he would be safe from every evil threat. What are the evil threats to the earth? To the Church? What are threats to you? How is your trust?

 

To begin, Joyce Meyer quotes (of all people) Saint Francis of Assisi who said, “Start by doing what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible. Suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Second, stop remembering what God has forgotten. Go to Confession. Get absolved. Get the grace. Then get somewhere else with your thought pattern.  Finally, in order to make today different than yesterday, remember that your history is not your destiny.

 

Christ Our Earth

We are given moments of clarity

which give meaning to what we do ..

– without obliterating the fact of suffering which we have experienced –

and know we can experience a peace, a joy,

… a knowing that what was begun in us

will be completed in us –

– a desire, a wisdom, a love in us

over which we have no control,

but much control.

For this we thank you Father.

(From J. Janda found at “A Poem To Sit With”)

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Audio version of the homily is here:

 

 

 

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