Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Joe
July 8th, 2023 - 5:00 PM, July 9th,2023 - 8:30 AM

Audio Recording


Today’s readings are about God re-establishing his kingdom.
And so in the readings,
we get presented with various promises, and reminders, and welcoming invitations,
all of which are meant to encourage and lead us into relationship,
with the Father through His Son.
It’s all very nice.
It’s a nice message, but does it communicate to everyone?
Can it communicate to everyone?
If one of us were to go to one of the millions of trafficked human beings in the world and tell them that they can take off their yoke of slavery and put on the easy yoke of Christ, would this really make a difference?
Would saying this to them really change anything regarding their situation?

Speaking of slavery, St. Paul reminds us of the former slavery we belonged to, when we lived according to the flesh.
But now, he says, we live in the Spirit.
At least, he tells us that we live in the Spirit, so long as we have the Spirit of God.
And we have the Spirit of God, so long as we put to death the deeds of the body.
This means that we have the Spirit of God, so long as our faith aligns with our works.
Life according to the flesh is slavery.
Life according to the Spirit is freedom.
And we have life in the Spirit,
so long as our faith in the Spirit corresponds with our works.
In reality, of course, none of us does this perfectly.
For instance, I believe I can become a bit healthier if I start lifting weights and stop eating powdered donuts.
In fact, I know I can become healthier if I do these things.
I can go so far as imagining myself in the gym, putting chalk on my hands to ready myself
to do an exercise,
but then the thought of having that delightful powdery sugar from a donut on my hands comes to my imagination.
And so I have a choice, gym chalk and exercise, or powdery donuts and a tv show.

As is apparent,
having a correspondence between belief and works, is easier said than done.
And it’s easier said than done, because of what’s valued.
I know how to be healthier.
But then I go ahead anyways and make what I hope is a small sacrifice of what would be an improvement in health,
I make that sacrifice in exchange for the relaxing enjoyment of a snack and a tv show.
Surely once in a while isn’t detrimental.
But this can quickly become a habit.
And when it becomes a habit,
and it’s been a few months of no exercise and lots of snacks,
the result becomes apparent:
I’ve made a huge sacrifice in the form of many smaller ones.
And as easy as it can be to fall into unhealthy physical habits,
it’s even easier to fall into unhealthy spiritual habits.
And it’s easier to fall into unhealthy spiritual habits,
because it’s not so readily apparent, when we’re making larger sacrifices
on the spiritual level as compared to the physical.
It’s obvious when someone decides to pass on exercise and eat a snack and watch tv instead.
But, when a habit forms,
oftentimes even the presence of that moment of decision-making
between exercising or not exercising,
that moment of decision-making may go away,
because the decision is already well-informed by the habit.
The habit removes the capacity to make a decision that is truly free from the habit’s influence.
And then suddenly, a spiritual sacrifice has been made, without any awareness.
The option of getting to choose to be healthy, in a sense,
dies to the formed habit,
that convinces one of an already-made decision,
a decision made according to the habit’s preference.
Such is one example of the blind ease
at which a spiritual sacrifice can be unwittingly made.
But the fact remains, some yokes of slavery are easier to remove than others.
Recall again the millions and millions of modern-day slaves who,
when hearing the words of Christ to take on his yoke, don’t have the option to take off
the yoke they currently wear.
The consideration can make the decision between gym chalk or powdery donuts pretty pathetic.
Some spiritual battles are undoubtedly much, much greater than others.

Today’s readings are about God re-establishing his kingdom.
Our first reading promises a time when war and strife will end,
when the Lord will conquer all evils with his peace,
not rendering evil for evil, but conquering evil with goodness.
And when we pray the Our Father, we say the words, “thy kingdom come,”
in hope of that time when Christ’s peace will reign in its fulness.
And certainly, these words from the Our Father can be said in hope
for a time when it’s easy to make the right decision
between exercise, or tv and a snack.
But perhaps it’s even more spiritually important
to think a little bit less about my own minor struggles,
and to think a little bit more about those who live
in the worst forms of slavery.
Perhaps it's more spiritually important to think of those people,
when I’m praying the Our Father, and hoping for that time
of everlasting freedom and peace to finally arrive.
What a minor sacrifice, in the hope of a great good, that would be.