Homily for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Cycle C

posted Jul 8, 2016, 1:23 PM by Church Office   [ updated Jul 8, 2016, 1:23 PM by Michelle Massung ]

         On April 30th I graduated from the Sacred Heart School of Theology, Summa Cum Laude, with a Grade Point Average of 3.76.  This far exceeded my GPA from Penn State almost 35 years ago. It was one of the highest in my graduating class of 18 seminarians from across the country. There is no doubt that I graduated with plenty of head knowledge.  I had acquired a great deal of knowledge in the areas of Philosophy, Theology, Scripture, Ethics, Liturgy and many other subjects. I was very confident that I had acquired enough head knowledge to become a priest. In this way, I am no different than the lawyer in today’s Gospel that knew the commandments to be followed to inherit eternal life. He knew he was to love the Lord with his whole heart, his whole being, with all his strength, and with all his mind, and he also knew that he needed to love his neighbor as himself. This knowledge was firmly rooted in his head. He had a great deal of head knowledge just like I do.

            However, does he have these commandments in his heart? And an even more important question is do I have them in my heart and do you have them in your heart? Just as the lawyer tried to test Jesus, Jesus gives us a test to see if we have them in our heart or are they just in our head. In the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite pass the man who has been beaten and leave him to die. Yet the Samaritan, the true enemy of the person beaten, is the one that comes to his aid and nurses him back to health. The Samaritan has moved the commandments from his head to his heart by taking care of not just a man that needs help, but by helping his hated enemy. This is the true love of neighbor that Jesus calls us to demonstrate in our own lives. Recently, I was tested as well to see if these commandments had moved from my head to my heart.  Cody is a young man that is trying to recover from an addiction to drugs. He needed help from someone to get a new start in life. He needed an apartment, furniture and other essentials to get started over again. Was I going to be like the priest or the Levite and let someone else help him or not? Let’s face it, he lives in Waukesha, Wisconsin and I live in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Wouldn’t it be easier if I just left him in the gutter of his life and let someone else help him? His parents do not have the financial resources to assist him. Besides, he is an arrogant, immature 20 year old and why should I get involved? Well, looking back on his situation, I am sure he is not that different than I was when I was his age. More specifically, the question came down to whether I should spend $ 1,400, or roughly one months salary as a priest to help him or should I pass him by on my way to Johnstown and let he and his family fend for themselves. I knew the money would never be repaid; or was I going to be selfish? I decided to follow my heart and to give him the money to get his own apartment and other essentials. I don’t bring this up to you for any accolades or praise, but rather to point out that a great conversion took place inside of me. You see, I mentioned earlier that I had a great deal of head knowledge, but in order for me, to become a real priest, to truly act in persona Christi, I had to take action and lead, not by head knowledge, but by my heart.  My heart had been moved with pity when I heard Cody’s story back in February, yet, it took until June for me to be able to act upon what had been in my heart.

            Today’s first reading from the book of Deuteronomy tells us that the law, the knowledge is already in our hearts and we just have to act upon what our heart draws us to do and to help our mind to get out of the way of the heart. For instance, how many of us were moved with pity when we saw pictures or read stories about the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and as a result, donated money, food, clothing and other items to help them. I am sure this tragedy pulled at your hearts and as a result, you took action.

            So how are we to apply this lesson to our everyday lives? I am not suggesting that you fly to Iraq or to Afghanistan to help them out. What I would suggest is to look inside your heart to see who your enemy is, the person you are not getting along with and to reach out to that person this week and try to make them feel better in some small way.  For instance, I don’t really get along with my sister-in-law, Melene. Recently, she has had some health problems.  This week I will call her to let her know that I am thinking of her and praying for her and her health to return to normal. Maybe you are not getting along with your brothers or sisters, your parents, or your spouse, or someone at work.  This week, I encourage you to act like the good Samaritan and move the commandments from your head to your heart and to take some kind action toward this person, to show Jesus that that this conversion has really taken place inside of you. Your heart will direct you where you need to go or with whom you need to reconcile with. My prayer for you this week is that you don’t let your mind get in the way of your heart and doing what you truly need to do to show the world that you are a true follower of Christ.