The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes
Homily for the
Thirteenth Sunday of the Year
Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
July 2, 2017
I have a question for you. It’s a simple question, but maybe the answer is not so simple. Why are you here? Seriously. Why are you here? Why are you sitting in church, at Mass, right now? You could be doing anything else. So, be honest with yourself...why are you here? Is it an external cause or an internal cause? You’re obviously here for a reason…so what is it? Is mom making you come? Maybe your wife or your husband? Maybe you’re here because it’s a habit…you just always come? Maybe you’re here because someone invited you to come check out this “church” thing? Maybe things aren’t going too well in your life and you’re looking for some answers or at least some consolation? Maybe you’re here out of a sense of duty…God asks us to worship Him and that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Why are you here?
For whatever reason, or for whatever reasons, known only to each of us personally, at least we can say that we are here…right now. There are 168 hours in every week and we’ve chosen to spend at least one of them parked right here. And whatever our reason is, it’s good that we’re here…very good. Something has brought us here…something has called us out of ourselves and dared to present us with something much bigger than ourselves. And whether it’s because your wife dragged you here or even because of base curiosity, the cause, ultimately, is the same: God. Before we ever start seeking Him out, He has been long at work seeking us out and drawing us to Himself. The poet Francis Thompson, drawing inspiration from the great Saint Augustine, calls God the “Hound of Heaven” because He won’t leave us alone. He hounds us, chases after us, and is almost desperate for us. He’ll use any means necessary to get our attention…He’ll use any reason, even a nagging from mom or our sense of duty, just to get us here so that He can not only tell us, but show us how deeply He loves us. In the Mass, He gives Himself entirely to us…all that He is flows from Heaven onto this altar and into the Eucharist…His very flesh and blood. The union between God and humanity is never greater than it is right here.
And so He brings us here, giving us all that He is, but with one string attached. He wants all we have to give as well. Not from our wallets, or from our time, or from our talents – although all of that is important – but from our hearts. He wants us to give ourselves to Him as fully and as completely and as selflessly as He gives Himself to us. That longing that we have deep within our hearts…that longing for fulfillment, for lasting love, for happiness…no other person or thing will ever be able to fill it. And the reason is because that longing is a longing for God. He put it there…He put it there so that we’d come to Him.
In our Gospel today, we hear some very serious words come forth from the mouth of our Savior. They’re serious, but they are beautiful, they are true, and they are good. He tells the Apostles – and by extension all of us – quite plainly that He wants us to be as absolutely attached to Him as He is to us. God spared not even His own Son to draw us to Himself, and He wants us to spare nothing in return as we journey towards Him. This is the great work of the Christian life: to get our priorities straight and to know, love, and serve God above all else. Above mother and father, above son and daughter, above life itself.
This is risky business, though, isn’t it? If we spend our lives forsaking the things of earth for the things of heaven, we lose out don’t we? Every minute we spend in prayer we could be spending having fun. Every moment we spend in church we could be spending building up other friendships and relationships. Every moment we spend loving the unseen God, we could be spending loving someone else that we can actually see and hear and touch. Right? This is how we typically think about things, and so we calculate and weigh just how much or how little we’re willing to invest in our spiritual lives. But the beautiful thing, my friends, is that when we give our entire selves over to God – Who is the author of all good things – we don’t lose anything, because in Jesus Christ, what we think is loss is really gain and what we think is death is really life. That is why St. Paul tells us in our second reading today that “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” By dying to ourselves, and to everything else, in order to enter into communion with God first and foremost, He brings us in His grace to new life and gives us the ability to live and love in ways we would never be able to. He makes the good things we died to even better and the relationships we died to even stronger. By sacrificing ourselves to Him, by taking up our crosses, He draws us into Himself, and gives us the means to love all things and all people as He does.
Coming to Mass, going to confession, praying daily, fasting, reading the Scriptures, dying to ourselves daily in order to live solely for God…it’s a sacrifice, it kills us for sure, but then raises us to life. It makes life sweeter and it makes our love deeper. It makes a father’s love for his son stronger and a son’s love for his father greater…it makes a mother’s love for her daughter more intense, and a daughter’s love for her mother more robust. In other words, it makes our earthly love more Godlike and begins to orient us towards eternal life in heaven. We lose nothing that is good in loving God above all…we gain everything that belongs to Him.
So why are you here? Because God loves you to death. Now it’s time to step up to the plate and begin loving Him to death as well. Today, at this Holy Mass, we pray for the grace to do so.