Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 27, 2015
Larry Bird was perhaps the greatest basketball player in history, but it didn’t always come naturally. Every morning before school, he would go to the gym and shoot 500 free-throws. Rain or shine, no matter what else, he would shoot those free throws. He was so dedicated that even when he sustained a severe ankle injury in a game, the next morning he was back out on the court shooting his free throws while balancing on his crutches!
Some might call that crazy. I’m sure his friends said, “C’mon, Larry, you don’t need to practice every day. Why not take a day off? Why not shoot only 100 free throws today, not 500?” But Larry had a goal – to become the best basketball player ever – and he achieved it!
So, if holiness is our goal, what do we need to do to accomplish it? Today’s readings seem pretty harsh. Really, Jesus, do we need to cut off our hand if it causes us to sin? Really, St. James, you tell us that if we use our money for self-indulgence instead of generosity, then we will be judged worthy of Hell, as our second reading states? All that seems pretty severe! But it emphasizes how we have to be radical in order to become saints.
Recently I came across a website that had the 10 Best Wedding Proposals. They included a man who proposed to his fiancée while they were both skydiving, another man (who was a professional stuntman) who lit himself on fire before saying to his future spouse, “You light up my life. Will you marry me?” And finally, a man who paid $85,000 to produce a TV ad asking his girlfriend to marry him. All of this sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it? Kinda makes dinner and a movie seem dull by comparison! But the reality is, love is radical. When you love someone, you don’t just want to give them a little bit – you want to give them everything, go to extremes to show your love!
And this is what the saints did. One time St. Francis was being strongly tempted by lust…so to rid himself of the temptation, he threw himself into a thorn bush. St. Philip Neri was so in love with God that his Masses used to take up to eight hours, as he would get lost in raptures of love. St. Marianne Cope (who was from Syracuse, NY), had so much compassion for the sick that she moved to a leper colony in Hawaii to spend her life serving those who were dying. St. Thomas More had the chance to become the second-most powerful man in England…but he chose his Faith over his King, and died as a martyr for Christ.
The saints lived radical lives! No saint was a half-hearted follower of Christ. Their love for God was so intense that it drove them to do crazy things…like the extreme things our Lord is requiring of every Christian in today’s Gospel. Heroism isn’t just for saints – it’s for you and me, because we too are called to become saints!
So, while Jesus doesn’t mean literally cut off your hands to avoid sin, He does mean be radical in following Him. If your iPhone leads you into porn, get rid of your iPhone or at least put an internet filter on it – no excuses! If going to certain parties means we’re be tempted to get drunk, maybe we shouldn’t go to such parties. If your kid’s sports games cause you to be too busy for Mass on Sunday, get rid of it! (The sports, not the kid). That is how radical Christ is asking us to be!
If we’re not willing to be extreme, then our love is very small. You and I were created to be heroic saints, not mediocre people, living life on the fence. Jesus wants our whole hearts, our whole lives. After all, God’s love for us is foolishly radical – that God would want to become one of us, and allow us to crucify Him. He held nothing back. Will you?