Scoring for God’s Team

Scoring for God’s Team

November 11, 2018 | N W | Generosity, Guest Celebrants, Repentance, Sacraments, Self-Reflection, Sin, Trust

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 11, 2018 – Year B
Readings: 1 Kgs 17:10-16 / Ps 146 / Heb 9:24-28 / Mk 12:38-44
by Rev. Paul O’Donnell Duggan, Guest Celebrant

A couple of months after I was ordained, I was sent to New Zealand, down to the South Island and Christchurch, over to a wee town on the west coast called Hokitika. When I got there, the west coast of New Zealand had no soccer. So I introduced soccer to the west coast, and the team (I was the coach and the captain of the team) was called the Corinthians. I don’t recall why. There was always a little titter on a Sunday morning, when the lector would get up and say, “A reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.”

Then I went over to Christchurch. I was there at the cathedral, and someone noted a great hidden talent I had, and brought it out as a semi-professional soccer player in Christchurch. My last three years, I went back to the west coast, to a big parish called Greymouth.

As soon as I arrived in Greymouth, I went to see the parish priest, whose name was Father Miles O’Malley. (Around that time, New Zealand had changed to the metric system, so the nickname the kids gave him was Father Kilometers.) The doorbell rang, and when he went to answer it, they said,

“We’re here to see the new parish priest.”
“What? He just came.”
“Yeah, we know. We’ve been waiting for him.”

So they said to me, “Would you be our new coach and captain? Our old coach resigned.” I said, “Mmmm. Well, I want to say yes, if it is on my terms,” to which they agreed.

So in a sense, our presence here today is like we’re on God’s team. In Baptism, God has uniquely chosen you and me. I have lots of questions for God when I get to heaven. One of them is, “Why did You choose me?” Those of you who are captains or have to choose teams know how awful it is – soccer has only eleven people on the pitch, and there could be fifteen to twenty on the roster. So it’s awkward.

One of the great things about God’s team is: There’s no benching. Everybody plays. And God never fires anyone from His team. We’re all playing on God’s team all the time, which is great.

God’s Word today talks about giving. The first reading was about this woman and the prophet Elijah, “Give me water, give me food.” Little she had, she was obedient to him. And great things happened in her life because of her obedience to the prophet, God’s anointed one.

Then in the gospel, this unnamed woman – That’s one of the questions when I get to heaven: Where is that woman who put all she had into the treasury that went to the maintenance of the temple? I wonder what happened to her. She gave everything she had. What did she do afterwards? Obviously God provided for her, but I’m just curious about what happened there.

So today’s homily, you might think, He’s going to talk about giving money. No, no, no. You are already generous, so it’s not about giving money, but in the magnificent letter of Pope Francis just published in June, Exultate et Jubilate – all those documents from Rome are originally written in Latin, then translated into the variety of languages, but the title goes by the first two words in Latin: Rejoice and be glad. It is a magnificent letter on how to grow in holiness. There’s just one wee line in the letter that caught my attention, that I want to speak about today in terms of giving. Pope Francis says, “Do not be afraid to allow the Lord to love you and liberate you.”

So the question is today, where do I not give to God? Where do I not allow God to love me and liberate me? And your giving of your material possessions, whether it’s the food, the money, or yourself and all the variety of all the wonderful things that happen here in Holy Name of Mary Church, which is fantastic for a small church to have so many ministries. It’s unbelievable. The church I had in New Jersey was about four times the size of this church, but we didn’t even have half the things that you have here. You are a generous community in giving.

But for some, maybe there’s a wee area where we do not allow the Lord to love us and liberate us. And that’s in the area of our sinfulness. We’ll give God anything but our sins. When you think of the angel to Joseph, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. You’re to call the baby Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

So there’s that tendency within us to want to be a bit like Frank Sinatra. When he died and went up to heaven, all the angels were singing that favorite song of his, but they had to change one word. What the angels were singing was, “I did it His way.” “That’s fine,” he said. “I have no problem with that, because we have to do it God’s way.” And God’s way is that sometimes we’re not comfortable in our sinfulness, and we want to hide it, like Adam hiding from God when he sinned. He backed away from God.

I’ve never been to a church before where on a Wednesday, last Wednesday, quarter to six until five to seven, confessions, then seven thirty to nine thirty, confessions as well, it was unbelievable, really a touch of paradise to have been there last Wednesday. One person came in, very sad looking face, very down, and when he left the confessional, What just happened to him? It was like glowing. He allowed Jesus to love him in his sinfulness. He allowed Jesus to liberate him from his sins, and when that happened, he looked totally different. It was so beautiful, so wonderful.

So the last time I spoke to you last year, you remember we put out the three chairs for confession. One chair is for you, the second chair is for the priest, and the third chair is for Jesus Christ, just to let you know you are confessing your sins, never to the priest, always to Jesus Christ. Today I want to take a wee rippling effect of that. First of all, Satan hates your going to confession. Hates you for going to confession, because two things are happening. I’ll put it in secular terminology: First of all, you are scoring goals on God’s team against Satan’s team. Life is like a battle between God’s team and Satan’s team. Every time you go to confession, one more goal for God! Is that great? How many goals have you scored? Here’s the religious dimension of it: You are destroying the kingdom of Satan every time you go into that confessional. That’s why he hates you.

And so we think about the generous woman who gave to Elijah. We think about the generous woman who put all she had into the treasury. Today we want to think about what we may be hiding from God. He wants you to give what you’re hiding to Him, but you can allow Him to love you and to liberate you from that. And when we do that, as that woman discovered in the first reading, she had flour and oil for the whole year until the rains came again.

When we give to God, whether it’s our money, our hospitality, but especially when we give what we try to hide, when we give our sins especially, great things will happen in your life, because the kingdom of evil is now being defeated, and the kingdom of God is beginning to reign in your life. Amen.