Preached at St. Catherine of Sweden Parish on June 30, 2013 for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C at the 11:00AM and 6:00PM Masses, my last Masses before my new assignment at Holy Sepulcher Parish
How many of you know who Nik Wallenda is? Nik was the star of the most watched show on cable last week, the Discovery Channel special Skywire Live. For those of you that did not see it, a quick synopsis: Nik journeyed from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other on live TV, not by the traditional two days and twenty miles of down and back up, but by crossing the 1,500 feet gorge by walking a quarter mile across a two-and-a-half inch cable, without any safety equipment, no tether, no nets, nothing! It was just him in a shirt, a pair of jeans (an odd choice if you ask me), some wire-walking shoes (his mother made), a very large pole for balance, and a camera on his head that recorded his footsteps on the wire and the river below. I was so nervous I could not even sit down: my heart was pounding, I was sweating, and my legs were shaking. But I must admit that I was completely fascinated by the show and Nik’s journey across the Grand Canyon.
The Bible details many fascinating journeys throughout its pages, of course not high wire stunts across the Grand Canyon, but no less fascinating and each story gives us insight into our personal journey of faith. In today’s Gospel Jesus begins his journey toward Jerusalem and the Cross. This story is a follow up to last week’s Gospel in which we were told we are to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. Today Jesus shows us how to bear our crosses, with Christian virtue.
As Jesus and the disciples are making their way to Jerusalem, Jesus is rejected by some Samaritans and so James and John ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Not a very Christian attitude to have, is it? Could you imagine if God gave us such power? Lady going through the express lane at the grocery store with a full cart, BOOM! Fire from heaven! Slow service at a restaurant, BOOM! Fire from heaven! Trouble with a coworker or a classmate, BOOM! Fire from heaven! Man cuts us off in the parking lot, BOOM! Fire from heaven! Jesus quickly rebukes the disciples because, as St. Paul reminds us in today’s second reading being a follower of Jesus means that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Early in Chapter 9 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had sent the apostles out on a mission of Christian love to cure demons and heal the sick and they had worked many wonders. Jesus gave them great power to do good, and he gives us power to do good when we bear our crosses with Christian love.
In today’s Gospel, there is are several men who want to follow Jesus, but they want to go back to bury the dead and say goodbye to their families, but our Lord says, “No one who looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God,” for Jesus wants the men (and us) to see that the kingdom of God is about moving forward. Last week our Lord did not say, “pick up your crosses and stay where you are” or “pick up your crosses and go back.” Jesus says, “Pick up your crosses daily and follow me”. Whatever sin we are struggling with, whatever problems we are having in our families or relationships, alcohol, drugs, or other addictions, serious illnesses, job losses, the loss of loved ones, or whatever the current crosses we are bearing may be, they often seem as difficult as a quarter mile walk across the Grand Canyon on a two-and-a-half inch cable. But our Lord gives us the power to bear our crosses when we do so with Christian faith and hope.
Nik Wallenda had tremendous faith, hope, and love in the Lord as he made his way across the Grand Canyon. In fact Nik prayed 152 times during his journey, just about a prayer every ten feet, trusting that the Lord would see him through. At one point he even thanked Jesus for the incredible view! But he made it, one step at a time, putting his trust in the Lord.
Now I am not suggesting that we can cross the Grand Canyon on a two-and-a-half inch wire by simply praying our way across, so please do not try it! Disclaimer: Nik is a trained professional and has trained for his trip across the Grand Canyon since he was 2 years old. But I am suggesting that there is incredible power in Christian faith, hope, and love. It gave the apostles the ability to cast out demons and heal the sick, and it can give us the power to bear our crosses and do incredible things: move from sin to virtue, addiction to recovery, job loss to employment, unbelief to faith, despair to hope, and from hate to love.
So as we come forward to receive our Lord in the Eucharist today, let us ask the Lord to help us grow in Christian faith, hope, and love, so that we can bear our crosses and do incredible things as we bear our crosses and follow our Lord one step at a time, trusting that he is guiding us and leading us from one side of our life to the other.
I put faith, hope, and love of our Lord throughout my five years of formation in the diaconate and it has made all the difference for me. But after five years of tremendous support from Father Steve, Father Regis, Father Pat, Deacon Cliff, the staff, and all of you parishioners of St. Catherine of Sweden Parish, our Lord has asked that I pick up my cross and follow him to Holy Sepulcher. But I know that if I grow in Christian faith, hope, and love, the Lord is going to give me great power to do great things there. I’m leaving St. Catherine of Sweden for Holy Sepulcher, but even so…
This is a day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!