What Comes Next and “Finding Your Broom” (Homily, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time)
So, what happened next?
In the chapters of Matthews Gospel, following today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is performing an entire series of miracles. After curing the man possessed by a demon, Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law (MT 1:29-31), a leper (MT 1:40-45), the paralytic on the mat in Capernaum (MT 2:2-12), the man with a withered hand in a synagogue (MT 3:1-6), another demoniac in the Gerasene district across the lake (MT 5:1-20), the woman with the hemorrhage, (MT 5:25-34), the daughter of the synagogue official, Jarius (MT 5:21-24;35-43).
What happens next with these people? What happened with the rich young man who went away sad after being asked to sell all and follow Jesus (MT 19:16-30)? What happened to the “other” 9 lepers who were cured and didn’t return to thank Jesus (LK 17:11-19)?
In a video reflection, Fr. Patrick McCloskey, OFM from Franciscan Media.org says that “It’s easy to dramatize the sudden conversion. Look at the incident the conversion of Saul to St. Paul. In Paul’s case, it’s more difficult to dramatize the difference between what happened on the road to Damascus and his full time ministry preaching Jesus Christ.”
Consider Paul’s life after the conversion: A.D. 36 (Acts 9):
- D. 36-39
- Preaches in the synagogue in Damascus.
- Goes into Arabia (length unknown; purpose unknown).
- Returns to Damascus.
- Flight from Damascus, first visit to Jerusalem (three years after his conversion).
- Travels to Tarsus (For safety, Acts 9:23-26; Gal. 1:18).
- D. 39, 40
- Peace (“rest”) for the Jewish churches (Acts 9:31).
- D. 40-43
- Paul preaches the gospel in Antioch, Syria, Cilicia and Cyprus. (Gal. 1:21).
- A period of uncertain length. Perhaps undergoes the chief part of the perils and sufferings he recounts to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11).
- Brought from Tarsus to Antioch by Barnabas. Stays one year before the famine (Acts 11:26).
- D. 44
- Second visit to Jerusalem, with the collection for victims of the great famine (Acts 1:11-30).
- D. 45
- Returns to Antioch (Acts 12:2-5).
- D. 46-49
- Paul’s first missionary journey.
Paul certainly experienced challenges and difficult times, much like any of us. But the story looks rather normal. Nothing sexy; not a lot of drama.
And yet, according to Fr. McCloskey, these journeys form the basis of the ongoing conversion of St. Paul. They might be less dramatic, yet they are no less real, no less tiresome and arguably more important and impactful than the incident on the way to Damascus. Ongoing conversion is hard. Ongoing conversion is a long-term project. Ongoing conversation might not be exciting and sexy. Ongoing conversion is about the history of the person before they meet Christ and perhaps before they meet you. I saw a quote on the Reddit app – “Every person you meet has lived an entire life before that moment.”
This means that YOUR ONGOING CONVERSION story might not be dramatic and might be hard and tiresome and long-term but YOUR ONGOING CONVERSION is no less real and arguably just as important and impactful.
So, we discussed what happened next? In your ongoing conversion,
what happens next? Jesus Christ accepts you where you are – but he does not want you to stay there.
So here are some lessons related to the Gospel story from Jesuit Father William Byron, S.J. in The Word Explained, Year B:
- Evil forces, Satan, the Devil are real. They are real and they are here even if today’s modern, civilized, sanitized, sophisticated, scientific believers don’t believe it.
- You are the target. Don’t believe it? Take Lent seriously and see what happens. You take God seriously – Satan takes you seriously.
- Stop sleeping. For those who are cutting ethical corners at work, dabbling in dark corners of the World Wide Web, cheating on your tests at school, cheating on your expense accounts at work, cheating on your spouse, piling up the goods of the world instead of doing good for the world, this Gospel is a wake up call.
- This is a reminder that the Church has its own “Departmemt of Homeland Security” that is available to you = Word and Sacrament. But you have to make it your own, or it won’t be effective.
I would add three more items – (1) Ongoing conversion takes time… but (2) don’t wait to start. And (3) once you start, “Find Your Broom. In his commencement speech, “The Wisest Person I Ever Met In My Life Was a third Grade Dropout,” Rick Rigsby talks about how basketball coach John Wooden was often seen grabbing a broom and sweeping the gym or locker room floors after practice. Wooden knew that love the the game, love of the people and love of the institution for whom he represented meant doing the little things, even if others felt that the little things were boring and beneath them.
What is supreme in God? It is not power over creatures, rather it’s love that is life giving. Jesus’ servant’s towel was bigger than his ego. Jesus does in time – now – what the Trinity does in eternity. Grace for a long-term conversion is there but grace builds on nature and nature is incarnational and incarnational means it has a handle attached to it.
Figure out what comes next and then…
Find your broom.
Audio version of the homily is here: