Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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June 30, 2019
[Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Ewa Beach (50th Anniversary of Parish); St. Augustine Church, Waikiki (Confirmation & First Communion); Holy Family Church, Honolulu (Confirmation)]
For those of you who are married, are you partly married or fully married? For those of you who are parents, are you partly parents or fully parents? These questions may bring a little chuckle to us, but when you think about them, they are really not such bad questions. I know many couples who are married, but they are not fully committed to each other. They put other responsibilities and even other people before their spouses; or they have a tacit agreement that if one steps beyond certain boundaries that will be the end of the marriage; or they live in the same house and share the same bed, but they are really strangers to each other. We all know parents who neglect their children for their own pursuits, and we know the serious negative effects this has on the children. While we realize that no one is perfect, if at least the commitment to be fully engaged is not there, then there will inevitably be a drifting away, or worse, a sense of simply not being loved in what are meant to be the most loving and stable relationships in our lives.
We might also ask, if you are a Christian, are you fully Christian or just partly Christian? Are you all in, or just a little committed?
The Word of God is very clear today that God wants nothing less than a full commitment from those he has called to be his servants – and that is all of us! Elisha, when he was called to be the apprentice of the prophet Elijah, was all in to the point that he killed and cooked the animals that were pulling his plow with the wood of the plow itself, so that there would be nothing to turn back to once he committed to following Elijah. And Jesus makes it clear that following him may have some rewards, but if you are in it simply for the rewards, you may be very disappointed. The Son of Man himself, who is Lord of the Universe, had nowhere to lay his head. He demands that those who put their hand to the plow not look back, but go forward in their commitment.
[For Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish: As we think of the patroness of this parish, she is not Our Lady of Once-in-a-while Help, or Our Lady of When-I-feel-like-it Help. She is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, always there for us, always loving us, comforting us, and challenging us to be better disciples of her Son Jesus.]
Sometimes we compartmentalize our lives and our time. We obviously find our faith important enough to be here at Mass, but are we fully devoted to the Lord in our work practices, in our sexuality, and in the way we involve ourselves in the community? Or do we consider ourselves devoted to the Lord on Sundays, while during the rest of the week we hardly give the Lord much thought? We may be fully committed to helping ourselves grow spiritually so that we can gain all the riches of grace available to us, but we stop short of our mission of evangelizing, of sharing the Good News of Jesus with others.
When married couples celebrate their weddings, they still pledge to each other “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” but what they actually live is, “I will be with you as long as it is not too inconvenient for me; as long as you don’t make any demands on me; until I find someone more interesting than you.” When we play this attitude out in our actions, we know how devastating it can be to the life of the couple, to their children, and to all the community.
God wants us to be free, as St. Paul reminds us, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” And we can easily interpret this to mean that we are free to do whatever we want. Yet the Spirit leads us to a commitment that will truly make us free, a commitment to service of the Lord and his beloved people. Unless we are all in with this commitment, we will never truly be free. It is a paradox that to become most free, we must first give ourselves 100% to the service of the Lord, no matter how difficult it may be or how much it may cost us. If we put our hand on that plow and never look back; if we commit ourselves fully to the Lord, we will know the tremendous joy of Elisha, who followed the Lord with everything he had; of Paul, who gave himself tirelessly to the hardships the Gospel entailed; and of Jesus, who set his face firmly toward Jerusalem, where he would give his all for us. It is that kind of joy God wants for everyone one of us when he urges us to be fully committed to him and to his beloved people.