Deacon’s Homily — 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

When something is important to us we give it our full attention, it becomes part of what drives our every action and thought. What is so important to you, so precious to you, that you would use extreme measures to obtain or protect it? One example that comes to mind is an Olympic athlete. They give up much of what we would call an ordinary life to train many hours a day in order to achieve the highest goal of perfection in a sport or discipline. When achieved they are recognized by all as the best of the best which is confirmed through winning a Gold Medal.

Another example is if we are blessed with a family we most likely would say that they take first priority in our lives. Our goal as spouse and parent would then be helping our family to achieve the highest potential of their personal goals. Recognizing and properly using God’s gifts to our fullest is an honorable goal. But we hear in Matthew 10:37 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” This may bring confusion to us as to what does Jesus mean by this.

Personal excellence and dedication to family are wonderful things to aspire to, but Jesus is telling us today that there is something more precious than any earthly thing we can imagine. If we are not to focus on either family or personal excellence, why did God give us those gifts? This is a key point in the Gospel today. Earthly treasures are not bad, they are gifts from God. They become an issue in how we prioritize them.

The question is what should we all be focused on as the fundamental purpose of our lives? It comes back to the “why” we do things. If we strive to win a medal for self-glorification, then our focus is wrong. If we have a family because we feel it is socially expected of us, then our focus is wrong. If our intent is to honor God, then we are on the right track. Can you be an Olympic Athlete and also honor God, absolutely. Can you raise a loving family that are successful in life which also honors God? Of course you can. The reasons that drive us is what matters. In 1Corinthians 9:25 it states: “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

Is achieving a gold medal, winning the Pulitzer or Oscar, becoming a CEO or President of the US, becoming the first trillionaire, or the first person on Mars, is it all about being remembered as someone special that drives us, or is it to bring glory to God, to make real His presence in the world? The Gospel speaks about what is precious to us. Are we striving for that imperishable crown? If we have the talent for writing, and strive to honor God through His gift of writing and also happen to win the Pulitzer as a result of that, then we get the point. The goal is glory to God not glory for ourselves.

What could possibly be more precious to us then the Reign of God? We also refer to it as the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus tells us in the Gospel today that it should be so precious to us that we would give up all we own to possess it. Yes even family and personal achievements. If we are willing to give up glory as to not lose focus on God, we get the point. He is not telling us that we must give up the glory or awards of achievements, he is challenging us to set the right priorities.

Some may believe that we can only experience the Reign of God after we die. That is not the case. The gates of heaven were opened for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit into the world at Pentecost and we are gifted with the Holy Spirit through our Baptism to empower us to choose God over everything else.

So the question to us is, if we want to experience the precious gift of God’s Reign, what are we waiting for, certainly not death as Jesus has conquered death. In Luke 17:20-21 it states: ‘Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”’ Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven begins with us.

We need to model our life in the way of Christ to carry on the will of God in our everyday lives. Living out the will of God is the Kingdom of God in our midst. This realization would be so precious to us that we would clean our spiritual house to possess it, in essence a spiritual purging. All material desires would be set aside to make room for God to reign in our hearts.

We do not need to wait until we die to start experiencing God among us. He is already here. We just need to open our hearts, minds and souls to see Him through all creation, through every person we meet. It may be hard sometimes to see the wheat through the weeds, the good through the evil, but that is our call by God. If each of us make it easier for others to see the good in the world, Christ in action, God’s will being done, we will all experience the Reign of God among us. Sounds too good to be true? That is what we call heaven on earth. If we do our part we will also live for eternity in the heavenly realm when we are called home by God.

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