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Sunday, July 6, 2008

"Whose Will Is It Anyway????"

Below is a homily from Fr. Jim Chern who is campus minister and Catholic Chaplain at Montclair State University. This is an excellent reflection on discernment.

The parts below in black that are in bold are by Fr. Chern, my emphases will be bold in red.

From Father Jim Chern's Blog

HOMILY By Fr. Chern for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time:

This couple I had been helping prepare to get married for the last year or so -well the day they had been anticipating for so long had finally arrived. They got married this past Friday, the 4th of July. It’s one of many great blessings as a priest to be able to walk with people through these life-changing moments and to see and witness how God is active in their lives in different ways.

I had met the groom a few years ago when I was the chaplain to the Fire Department. But I didn’t know Joe that well because he was one of the newer guys, only coming on the job towards the end of my time there before I was transferred to another assignment. But one of the things I remembered was that before becoming a Firefighter Joe had played minor league baseball for the Newark Bears, and the Atlantic City Surf.

Friday night at the wedding reception, his brother, one of the best men, was making the toast - and kind of out of the blue he revealed something I never knew about how Joe’s baseball career has ended. Joe basically had to make a choice a few years ago whether to continue to pursue his own dream his own desires and keep giving a career in baseball a shot or to give it up, because he had taken the test for the fire department, his number had been called up and there was no time to defer and no way to do both - it was a now or never situation.

Listening to the best man talk you could hear how much he loved watching his little brother playing in professional sports. It probably had tapped into the his own dreams - living vicariously through his little brother imagining himself on the playing field. The one line that the best man said in the toast that really stuck with me was “Joe - you had to choose between being our hero (on the baseball field) to everyone else’s hero as a fireman...”

Part of the reason Joe made that choice was that he and his (now wife) wanted to get married and want to have a family. That’s the way he would say it - that he “wants” this - but as I explained to him, as Catholics we understand that those wants - marriage and family - are vocations - that God calls a man and a woman to marriage and one of the blessings, one of the fruits and goals of marriage is children. But in order for this guy to respond to that call, that vocation to marriage, he had to die to his own plans, to some of his own desires for what it was God was calling him to in his own life.

It’s kind of easy to hear that story - or for me to see how happy Joe was during the wedding - and that he couldn’t take his eyes off his wife all day Friday and say - he made the right choice. But, the reality is I’m sure it was a painful and difficult decision for him to make – to align his will to what God’s will for him was.

No matter what it is - when we respond to what it is God is calling us to do, we find (to paraphrase today’s Gospel) his “yoke is easy - and [his] burden is light”

That’s basically the question the Gospel challenges us with today - are we following God’s will or our own?

Everyone of us is confronted daily with opportunities to respond to what ever it is God has called us to, or we are tempted to fulfill some desire that we want... I’ve met more than a few individuals who God is calling to be a priest or a religious, but they jump from one thing to another - one job to another job, relationship to relationship almost trying to dodge God and they can’t figure out why they are still unhappy, still unsettled, still not as at peace.

But responding to God’s will doesn’t always have to be a major life changing decision - often times it can be little things, which gradually can add up:

I’ve heard the story so many times: a choice here or there that put a person’s career over their family - then in time there’s resentment and tension in the home. That’s why a lot of times when I’m talking with a couple who are going through a difficult time, they can’t pinpoint a single event that caused it, but little decisions that seem insignificant at the time that build up. People sometimes don’t even realize that they’ve put themselves ahead of God and their families.

Even in my own life I can see ways that I struggle to follow God’s will daily over the choice to follow my own... It can be something as simple as the choice over my morning prayer against the desire to get A, B or C done first. And when I make the wrong choice, I allow myself to get distracted with paperwork and administrative stuff, all of which is legitimately important stuff, but not as important as my duty, my obligation to prayer as a priest.

The reality is, when I give into those temptations, I’m not at peace, I’m not centered, I’m not happy. In fact it’s the opposite. When I put my own list ahead of what God has called me to do, I can see that I’m more stressed, more burdened.

Which is why Jesus is inviting us to come to Him those who labor and are burdened - not because by following him we won’t have to work anymore. He’s saying let go of the burdens we create for ourselves - let go of the image that we have of ourselves - and see ourselves as God sees us. His creatures, created in his own divine, beautiful and loved image. And how do we do that? By letting go of all the ways we try to manipulate and control our lives and truly living the life God has called us to.

It’s hard because it’s not just a thing where we make one decision - give up that dream at baseball - say I do in marriage or to a religious vocation - pass on that promotion because it will pull me away from my family - and we’re all good and it’s all done....Our desires for things, for control over everything, for the attention and validation that feeds our ego will always come and distract us - promising us a short cut to fulfillment, to happiness.

That’s why it has to be a daily prayer – that we will make God’s will for us - our will for ourselves. Can we hear the invitation Jesus is making to each of us in today’s Gospel - to lay aside the things we’ve weighed ourselves down and trust Jesus’ promise when he says to us my yoke is easy - my burden is light? Sure beats the “yokes” and “burdens” we put on ourselves...

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