27 Aug 2012
Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 26, 2012
August 26, 2012
By Father J. Daniel Atkins, Holy Family Catholic Church, New Albany, Indiana
“Many of the disciples of Jesus remarked, ‘This sort of talk is hard to endure. How can anyone take it seriously?”…From this time on, many of his disciples broke away and would not remain in his company any longer.”
I remember a morning at St. Paul Newman Center in Bloomington when the parish phone rang and Pat, our secretary, said, “There’s a young man on the line who would like to speak with a priest about being a godfather.” This happens a lot. Parishes today generally require first-time parents and godparents to have preparation for infant baptism and a testimony from other parishes that the parents or godparents are practicing Catholics. The young man on the phone introduced himself and said, “I’ve been asked to be a godfather for my nephew, and the parish requires some preparation. Do you all do a program there?” I assured him that we did and would be happy to help. Then I stepped out on the ice…
“Are you registered at a parish here in Bloomington?” There was a pause and then with uncommon honesty he said, “No. I was raised Catholic, but I don’t practice. I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. I was confirmed, but I disagree with many of the rules and policies of the Church. I feel like I’m close to God but I don’t feel that I need to go to Church.”
We discussed at length what the Church requires of parents and godparents which is summed up in the baptismal rites as “bringing the child up according to the laws of Christ and his Church, loving God and loving one another.” He said, “I don’t have a problem with the last part. It the laws of the Church that are the problem.”
I responded, “Well, I think you are in a special place in your life, a holy place. God is calling you to make a decision. I think you need to imagine what life will be like for you if you say, “I am going to accept this responsibility of being a godparent and I am going to start living as a Catholic Christian.” I also think you need to imagine what your life will be like if you say to your brother and sister-in-law, “I really appreciate the honor of being asked to be a godfather, but I can’t take on that responsibility because I am not practicing the faith. I would not be a good model for your son in that regard. I will do everything I can to show him how to be a good human being.” The conversation ended not too long after that. He told me his name and asked mine. I remember thinking about him for several weeks after that, wondering if he had made a decision one way or another.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I truly believe that every one of us stands in the same gospel moment as the disciples. Jesus asks each of us, “What about you? Do you want to leave me, also? I cannot force you to accept my words or me. I will not be less than who the Father needs me to be. So you must make a decision.”
Deciding to abide in Jesus and in his way of life is not a once-and-for-all decision. Every day, hour-by-hour, even moment-by-moment, we must decide who Jesus is and who we will be in relationship to him. Joshua put it bluntly, but well: “Decide this day who you will serve.”
Sometimes the choice will come as we are faced with decisions about personal integrity and prestige; between character and public image. Sometimes the choice will center on how we face pain, illness, even death. Sometimes the choice for Christ will come in deciding whether or not to trust enough to love again. Sometimes the choice for Christ will lay hidden in our decision whether or not to remain in his oftentimes seemingly irrelevant and impersonal church.
Will we recognize that, below the situations – be they problems or possibilities – our Lord is there asking us if we will stand with him and trust that his words have eternal life?