26th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 27, 2020
Christianity is a demotion. Sometimes we think of being a Christian as a promotion, but it is actually a demotion.
We just heard St. Paul’s great hymn calling us to have in us the same mind as was in Christ Jesus. Jesus, “though in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited…”, “emptied himself… humbled himself” Became one like us.
Jesus suffered, wept and died. In eyes of the world he was a complete failure. He lowered himself down to us in order to raise us up to new life. You could say that the life of Jesus was the greatest demotion in history.
If we are to have the same mind as Christ Jesus then we also need to be willing to embrace the demotion of serving others, to lower ourselves down to the least among us. Not interested in fame, success, popularity.
The world pushes us to seek for promotions that put us above others, over others. The mind of Jesus pushes us to seek demotions that lead us down to serve others, to bring life to others.
Imagine how upset the chief priests and elders must have been with what Jesus says to them. He says to them that the “tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom of God before them.” Two groups of people that were rejected by others, seen as immoral, impure, far from God. The chief priests and
elders saw themselves as superior to them, they saw themselves as the ones good with God. How angry they must have been with what Jesus said to them about tax collectors and prostitutes going ahead of them!
If Jesus was here today, who might he say is going into the kingdom of God ahead of us? Perhaps the homeless we see gathered in downtown Hamilton, perhaps refugees, perhaps even an atheist. How upset would we be, perhaps like the chief priests and elders, if Jesus said that the homeless, the refugees, the atheists would enter the Kingdom of God before us!
Daniel Berrigan, the Jesuit priest who was active in the peace movement was once asked in an interview, “Where does faith live? Is faith more in the head or in the heart?” His answer was colourful, and a little crass, he said, “It’s in neither, Faith is rarely where your head is at. Nor is it where your heart is at. Faith is where your ass is at!” In other words, it is not what you are thinking or what you are feeling that is central, it is what you are doing.
Think of the parent caring for their children. When children are being difficult parents do not always have nice thoughts about their children. When they are sick or struggling parents do not always feel like having to stay up with them. But, what matters is not what the parent is thinking about their child, or what they feel at that moment, what matters is what they actually do.
Simply being faithful to that vocation as a parent even when you do not feel like it. Same can be said of a priest. The vocation of a priest is not about thinking the right things, not about good feelings about what we do. It is about being faithful, saying yes to caring for the people we serve even when we do not feel some special consolation from God.
When I am called to the hospital in the middle of the night, my first thought is not about how glad I am. I don’t feel great about having to get up at 2am to go to the hospital. But, what matters are not my thoughts or my feelings at that moment, what matters is that I do get up and go.
For each one of us as a Catholic. It is the same with our Faith. It is not most important what we think, we all face doubts at times. That is okay. We do not always feel the closeness of God. In fact, often we feel dry spiritually. What matters is that we are still here at Mass, still here trying to pray, still trying to be faithful to the Gospel, even when we do not feel anything special.
A statue in my former parish had a quote that said, “Love is not a feeling, it is a choice.” Our vocation as a Christian, our faith, is not a feeling, it is a choice. To live it even when we do not feel much.
Imagine if parents, spouses, priests, Catholics only continued to be faithful to their vocation when they were feeling good about it?
In the parable that Jesus told in today’s Gospel, there were two sons, one said yes to his father, in his head and heart he said yes, but he did not go and do it.
The second son said no to the father, in his head and heart he said no, but he did go and do it. We need to be like that second son. At times when our head struggles to embrace the faith or our vocation, at times when our heart does not feel close to God or good about our vocation, then we need to choose to say yes by our actions. When our head and heart say no, we need to say by our actions.
Christianity is a demotion. We need to be ready to lower ourselves down, to empty ourselves like Jesus to serve and care for others. We need to do this even when our head and heart are thinking and feeling no. Then we choose to say yes by our actions.