Do we give God time in our lives or are we too busy?

Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said, “We can’t keep Christians from turning against God but we can distract them from God. Let them go to church, but let us steal their time so they don’t have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do,” said the devil: “Distract them from maintaining that vital connection with Jesus throughout their day!”

“How shall we do this?” his demons asked.

“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear the still, small voice of God. Entice them to play the radio or iPod whenever they drive, to keep the TV, DVD, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, and every kind of newsletter and promotion offering free products, services and false hopes. Let them stand in lines for hours for the latest cell phone or Harry Potter book forgetting about God. Let them be seduced by glitzy advertising that will lure them away from God. Fill their world and their minds with trash so that they will not have room for God. Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.

Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep wives and husbands too tired to love each other after their work. Give them headaches too! If they don’t give each other the love they need, they will begin to look elsewhere. That will fragment their families quickly! Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!

Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so they will believe that outward beauty is what’s important, and forget that loving God and neighbor is what is really beautiful.

Give them Santa Clause to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas. Give them an Easter bunny so they won’t talk about his resurrection and power over sin and death.

Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Let them think that attending a sports event is more important than keeping holy the Lord’s Day and treating the sport stars as if they were bishops. Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God’s creation.

Keep them busy, busy, busy! It will work! It will work!”

It was quite a plan! The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there, having little time for their God or their families. Does “BUSY” mean: Being Under Satan’s Yoke?

(The above story is a modified version of the original written by Geraldine Harris and Kristen Maddox © 1998 - 2008 and used here with permission)

Jesus said to Martha,

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Martha was busy instead of spending time with Jesus. Sometimes we can all be busy instead of spending time with Jesus. What a pity that is. A day without Jesus in it is a day wasted. We live in a privileged time. God could have decided that we would live in Old Testament times before the coming of Jesus but God has given us the privilege of living in this New Testament time, when as we heard in our second reading,

the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past [Jesus]…has been manifested to his holy ones [you], to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you…(Col 1:26-27)

Yes, we live in a privileged time when the mystery of Jesus has been revealed to us. On one occasion Jesus said,

Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matt 13:17)

We live in a time of grace; we have the sacraments that Jesus gave us, and the new relationship with the Father that Jesus has opened up to us. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on all of us at Baptism and Confirmation. In the Old Testament only the prophets had the Spirit. Before Jesus the Jewish people were relying on the slaughter of animals in the temple in Jerusalem to make them holy. We live in a time of grace, and how do we live? Sometimes we are too busy to realize that we live in a time of grace and live as if we live in a time of drudgery.

In the first reading (Gen 18:1-10) Abraham made his three visitors welcome. By reading ahead we discover that two of them were angels in human form and the third was God. [This is confirmed in Gen 18:22 when two of the three left Abraham and went to Sodom and the one remaining is Yahweh. We know from Gen 19:1 that those two who went to Sodom were angels.] So in both the Gospel and first reading today there are people making time and space for God, not being too busy to listen to God.

Of course suffering will come our way as we heard in the second reading that suffering came to Paul. In the second reading Paul (or somebody writing in the name of Paul and with his thinking) wrote to the Colossians,

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God…(Col 1:24-25)

Because this passage is so misunderstood, especially “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” I wish to explain it briefly. Jesus’ passion and death was the perfect atonement for our sins but Paul said he was offering his sufferings up for the Colossians. To use our traditional Catholic phrase, Paul was “offering it up.” Pope John Paul commenting on this passage, in particular on the phrase “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” explained in his encyclical Salvifici Doloris.

“Does this mean that the Redemption achieved by Christ is not complete? No. It only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering. In this dimension - the dimension of love - the Redemption which has already been accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished. Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limits but at the same time he did not bring it to a close. In this redemptive suffering, through which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so. Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ’s redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed” (§24)

“Suffering is, in itself, an experience of evil. But Christ has made suffering the firmest basis of the definitive good, namely the good of eternal salvation…Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: “Follow me!” Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering!” (§26)

It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. (§27) [Summary of the teaching of the encyclical Salvifici Doloris]

In the Gospel Mary made time for Jesus. In first reading Abraham made time for God. In both the Gospel and first reading there are people making time and space for God, not being too busy to listen to God. We live in a privileged time, so many before the time of Jesus longed to live in our time with all of our graces. Do we forget the graced and privileged time in which we live? Do we give God time and space in our lives every day? Do we welcome God into our homes and lives and hearts every day?

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2007

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Sixteenth Sunday Year C

Martha, Mary and Prayer

Martha, you worry and fret about so many things - Mary has chosen better

Slow Down to Enjoy Life and Spend Time with Jesus

Mary at the feet of Jesus - Consecrated Contemplative Life 2010

Homilies on listening to the Word of God:

Your Word is a Lamp for my Steps and a Light for my Path

They have the Scriptures, let them listen to them!

Second Reading: The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering 2008

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