Homily Last Ordinary Sunday before Lent 8th Sunday of the Year “A”
Some excerpts from Sunday’s (3/2) Liturgy of the Word
From Psalm 62 “Trust in him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him.” From 1st Cor. 4 “God judges me…He will bring all things to light…and will manifest the motives of each one of our hearts” From Matthew 6 “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’ But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be given you besides.”
Homily thought: Could we entrust things over to God as readily as we have let the Orange Truck company in here to handle things?
The Asplundh Company that cuts and trims trees has been in the neighborhood. We have seen them everyday for about a month, all along the Mitchellville Road corridor. Their presence posed a Parable of the Tree-Cutter for me. Their work reminded me that God has trimming, pruning and cutting that is necessary for Him to do in our own lives, if we are each to grow.
The neighborhood has been fairly much in agreement with this tree-cutting work. After losing power or having power flicker a lot off and on in recent years in the “A” and “P” sections of Bowie along here, now we are quite open to Asplundh’s measures to upgrade our safety concerns so to keep the Pepco power on for these cold days, without any icy or dead boughs breaking and downing the lines. However, in comparison: Could we be so open as to let God have His Way of Renewal in us, for the sake of what God would say was to be trimmed and cut from any frivolous, careless living of ours? Do we care for our own good and well-being of soul, and our keeping in God’s power and supply of aid? Could we entrust things over to God as readily as we have let the Orange Truck company in here to handle things? Hmmm…
Have you seen just how much cutting and pruning has been going on? Those Asplundh (Gesundheit!) guys are going to town! There are logs and woodchips all over. There are clearings where once there were big heavy limbs looming over power lines. So, in comparison, in the Parable of The Lord as Treecutter, how busy is the work of the Lord in His Church for renewal and how is it going for each of us? What of God’s work on our souls? Are HIS orange trucks of renewal pulling into the neighborhood, too? Well, hello, it’s Ash Wednesday this week, so I would suppose the Lord’s TreeCutter Trucks would be all in purple, in the correct liturgical color! His workers would all be in purple, too. His trucks would be arriving on Ash Wednesday.
I have been pondering how John 15’s Gospel fits into this modern day parable of The Tree Pruner. Jesus said: I am the Vine, you are the branches. Every branch of Mine that is dead and bears no fruit, I take away. Every limb that does bear fruit, but could do better, I prune, so to help it.” You have already been in this operation, being made right, by the Word I have spoken to you. John 15:1-3a. Oh, I guess it fits pretty well!
The Orange Trucks of Asplundh come when there is concern from power supply companies and their customers that tree damage from foul weather could result in power loss. They come to fix the situation–they come to do some positive, “clear-out” preventive work.
The Purple Trucks of the Lord are here, too, and staying through Lent, as God sees our looming limbs of poor discipline to His Word, our laxity or lapsed judgments that have resulted in power losses in the soul before. Jesus also has His concern over our soul’s health, and parish’s health, from having maybe been distracted of our giving too much attention to minor cares to the neglect of the much Higher matters. God offers renewal and righteousness to the situation to those who will let Him have His will in them. It is advised hightly by Jesus in His Sermon On The Mount for us to have a “Kingdom of God First” attitude. He sends this message to us just days before our 2014 Lent.
Here in Matthew chapter 6 He tells us that we worry or over-worry or over-focus frequently on the minor matters of food, drink, possessions, or adorning the body with clothing. For instance, He said: “Do not be oh-so-anxious about what you are to wear.” So, let’s take that to heart. However, if you were an actor/actress or the media coverage for the Red Carpet and Oscars show tonight– The Lord probably would give you a break about worrying on what you are to wear! Like, Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett or Matthew McConoughay will try to be adorned like Solomon tonight, in all array. God says He still thinks His flowers look prettier. Matthew 6:29 says so. Hey, since Sandra Bullock was in a spacesuit for her whole time in her Oscar-nominated film called “Gravity,” she should just surprise everyone and wear an astronaut suit down the Red Carpet. In the film, she looked pretty good in it. In fact, she looked out of this world!
For the parish, God might look all of what parishioners are spending money on, and see some mixed-up priorities here and there, and remind us that “You cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon is the semitic word for money or riches. Jesus says that a full focus can only be properly given to one major thing. What will it be? God or mammon? Matthew 6:33 says we should put attention on our spiritual maturity first and foremost, and “seek first the kingdom of God.” We can still put good attention on money or things, just that it wouldn’t be dominating our lives–as too often it does for people.
But back to the comparison of the Asplundh Tree Service and the Lord’s Renewal Service. If we are to grow, then God the Surveyor of our soul’s condition will want our openness to what will need his trimming, cutting and removal. 1st Corinthians says that “the Spirit scrutinizes us… (and, as what the epistle proclaims to us today) God judges us… to bring all things to light the things hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart (1 Cor. 4:5b RSV).” This verse means that God is a good judge of what renewal we need, and He will offer the way for good growth and development of our person. The result of following 1st Corinthians 4 is concluded in verse 5 which says is that “every person” who lets God work within them “will receive their commendation and praise from God in the final say.” As the Great Surveyor, God can see our lives clearly, with Good Judgment, and He can lead us to the next blessed thing. I’ll repeat that gem: God can see our lives clearly, with Good Judgment, and He can lead us to the next blessed thing. We can trust Him for it. He is trustworthy for trimming, pruning and cutting in our lives. He reminds us how our Catholic-Christian lives are a work in process. Our Responsorial Psalm 62 advises us to therefore “trust Him and pour out our hearts to Him” for renewal. There in that Psalm Line is more advice for a Good Lent.
The Gospel urges us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” God, the High Surveyor of All, would ask us personally: What might be in the way of that Jesus First operation, as in your life? To the Church, God has spoken already of a need for us all. He inspired Pope Francis to write to us and tell us: we need more Joy In The Gospel. Imagine Pope Francis in a purple outfit and hard hat, besides a cherry-picker truck, and saying: “We see what the ‘problem wood’ is for the Catholic Church. We need to be freed up and cleared to have Joy in the Good News of Jesus. There are some icy old boughs are near breaking point inside you, so we are ready for them to be addressed now. The diagnosis is in the papal exhortation called “The Joy of the Gospel” and St. Edward the Confessor parish has many copies by the east doors for you to start reading it. We have Book Clubs and homilies and bulletin inserts coming thorugh Lent to help us apply its words and knowledge to our lives.
So–can we get to work? Shall Ash Wednesday be a good date to commence–for God to bring the purple trucks and all the equipment by for His Lenten operation in His Church, for the cutting off of all that is decaying, unyielding, unfruitful, twisted, drooping over, and unsafe in My Church…and its renewal and improvement to be more fruitful and joyful ahead?
So be it. Amen.
Photo of mine from the front yard of church END