Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 9, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Zec 9:9-10 / Ps 145 / Rom 8:9, 11-13 / Mt 11:25-30
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
“You was my brother, Charley. You should have looked out for me just a little bit. You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. Instead of a bum.” Anybody recognize that? It’s Marlon Brando, the actor, and he’s portraying Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, a movie from 1954. If you haven’t seen that film, why not?
Terry is striving to be somebody. And his route is boxing. Fighting. Winning. His goals: money, fame, respect, accolades, honor. Maybe he could have been a contender. Maybe he could have gotten that title fight. But we know that he put his faith in these goals, the money, the fame, accolades. And he put his faith in those people wrapped up in that world, including his brother Charley.
I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, if by some miracle you haven’t seen it. But his faith in these goals? Well, they let him down. The enticements. The allure. They became false burdens on his soul. And their contradictions labored his moral sense. He hitched himself to glory, and the weight took him down.
You’ll have to watch or rewatch it to learn of Terry’s redemption, but for now, I could have been somebody. I want to be somebody. Deacon Barry, I want to be somebody. All of us want to be somebody. It’s in our nature. And so we strive and we work. And we work and we push, and we push and we learn, and we learn more, then we strive again. Progress, progress, progress. If we’re not doing it, if we’re not progressing, we’re going backward.
And for what? The end game is money. The recognition. To reach the top or the pinnacle. To get all the accolades, the attaboys. That’s what our culture wants. Our culture affirms these as our primary goals. Our culture wants us to become a contender, at the very least. And our stories are how we are becoming somebody or how we became somebody.
But I’m telling you now, today, right here in this homily: You are somebody. You’re absolutely somebody. You are somebody because Jesus loves you, and He wants you to be with Him. He knew you before you were stitched in your mother’s womb. In last week’s gospel, we heard that even all the hairs on your head are counted. Do not be afraid.
You and I, we have a terribly difficult time realizing just how “somebody” we are to Jesus. And even at times when we realize it, we forget it. And we hitch ourselves right back onto Charley and the glory and the things of this world in our rise to be a contender. And that carries a heavy, heavy burden. In last week’s gospel, we also heard: Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up his cross.
That sounds hard. I want to say, Oh Jesus, please take me, but without a cross. Give me a mission or project. A goal, something I can strive and push and push and learn and strive again to achieve. But not a cross. That sounds like a burden.
But this week in the gospel we hear: The burden is light. His yoke – His cross – is light. That is not a burden. My burden is light. What a relief. My burden is light. How liberating is that? We don’t need to reach; we don’t need to strive to become somebody. Really, it’s the closer we get to nobody, the more we become who we’re truly meant to be: this somebody that Jesus knows and loves and wants to be with. When we stop trying so hard to become somebody, that’s when we become who we truly are.
Letting go of pride. Letting go of ego. Let go of the striving and make room. Create some space for Jesus to enter and pick up the weight with His yoke and remove the burden.
Who is Jesus talking to? Who’s this message for? He says we have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and yet revealed them to the little ones. Of course, His message is for every human who ever existed. Everyone. But we are so full of ourselves. So caught up in this worldly striving for power and honors, the message is hidden, it’s out of reach. We’re like know-it-alls, not open to the spiritual and mystical and the unseen.
But the little ones, the little ones are his disciples, those that have chosen to follow Jesus, those that are childlike. Seeking wonder and open to the amazing. Low and humble in their hearts. Let go. Surrender to His will and make ourselves low. Jesus did it. God on Earth did it. The creator of everything became the servant to everyone. And He’s our example. He said meek and humble of heart. Die to self, become nobody. Strive to become nobody, and as we approach “nobody,” we gain everything. And recognize deeply that we are somebody.
The paradox, let go and let God. Let go and let God. Then life becomes a miracle. Everything, every day, every person becomes a miracle. My burden is light. I am the light of the world. Light from Light, true God from true God. Take heart, dear friends, for you are somebody. When you empty room for Jesus and you are more than a contender, so much more than a contender, for the victory is already won by Him who conquered death.
Faith in Him, faith in Jesus Christ. That is the victory. That is the victory that overcomes the burden and labors of the world. Amen.