32nd Sunday Year A - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2017

Euthanasia has raised the topic of palliative care; and both, perhaps, have raised the issue of preparing for death. But that, I think, is the wrong issue. For us Christians, the concern is rather how to prepare for eternal life.

How we prepare for eternal life will be a question, in its turn, of our over-riding experience of God already, and also of the degree to which we are now alert to, and living within, what the Creed calls the Communion of Saints.

Let’s look at these two matters one at a time.

Firstly, our over-riding experience of God. If you were a bit like the writer of today’s Responsorial Psalm, you would have no worries. As we heard, he yearned to see God: “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.” His constant experience was a longing “to gaze on God” and to “see God’s strength and glory”. He knew his God. He knew his God as a God of love. “Your love is better than life”. What beautiful faith!

It saddens me that, somehow, we have let the waters get muddied. So many good, excellent, Catholics are frightened of God [or have a bet both ways]. With all their praying, some are still to encounter the extravagantly loving God. They focus on themselves and their own unworthiness. As if that mattered! Every time we receive Communion, for example, we first declare, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under under my roof; but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed!” Is that our experience of God? And if not, why not?

Too many of us are far too self-focussed – rather than God-focussed. Our sense of God can be far too miserable. Of course we are unworthy, imperfect – but what has that to do with love? Any parent knows their child is imperfect. Every spouse knows that their partner is imperfect, indeed, that they are themselves. But everyone in the family keeps loving, just the same. Certainly God judges us all, but only to set us free, to heal us – if we will only allow it. “Say but the word and my soul shall be healed.” Do we believe that? What does mercy mean, otherwise?

The second factor relevant to our experience of eternal life flows from the same issue of our being far too self-focussed, far too absorbed in our own little selves. I believe that, as we let God love us, as we surrender to the flow of God’s love, we begin to see and to love others as God sees and loves them. We forget about ourselves and love others instead [or is it, as well?] – anyone, everyone . The Communion of Saints begins to mean something. And with love and belonging come joy. Listen again to the psalmist, “My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy”. Apparently, introverts will extend their range; extraverts will extend their depth.

So, how do we “stay awake, because [we] do not know either the day or the hour?” I think that the first thing is to keep getting to know God better. If my sense of God is that of one who ultimately frightens me, then I need to lose faith in that God – because it is a false God. Then, as I progressively come to know God’s love for me, I need to let myself recognize that God loves everyone else with the same love. And that does not mean that God loves me less, but simply that God’s love is infinite and can be infinitely divided and remain infinite. Learning to let God love the imperfect, quite unworthy me allows me also to begin loving the imperfect, unworthy anyone, everyone else.

With a bit of luck, the process might start well before I die.