Homily for May 24, 2020
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Not of This World
GK Chesterton once said, “When you choose anything, you reject everything else.” There are certain choices that are all-or-nothing. When John decides to marry Suzie, that means he can’t marry Lisa or Janet or Anne. Or imagine if a professional athlete says, “I know I play baseball, but I also want to play lacrosse this season, so I’m only going to make it to half of the games of each.” The coaches won’t be too happy!
Likewise, Jesus makes a clear distinction between being His follower and being “of the world”. He says in today’s Gospel, “I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me.” He goes on to say that we are “in the world” but clearly not part of the world.
What does He mean? Well, what does the world value? Money, pleasure, popularity, success, good looks, getting lots of Instagram likes. Some may say, “Oh, but these things aren’t bad in themselves.” Perhaps, but how can one pursue Heaven and this world at the same time? Eventually you will have to choose.
One may try to pursue both money and Heaven, but Jesus says “you cannot serve both God and mammon.” If one seeks after success and Heaven, Jesus would respond, “Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If someone desires pleasure and Heaven, they must hear the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading: “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ.” All of us will eventually have to choose – will you serve this world, or make it your aim to pursue Heaven alone? A Christian cannot straddle the issue! Christ, or the world!
A young man once asked me if it was a sin to work out for three hours each day. I just asked him in response how much he prayed. It was less than ten minutes per day! Our bodies, our money, our success will all rot in our graves – but as disciples we are not living for those things, but for Heaven alone.
So what should we seek? Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “I glorified You on earth
by accomplishing the work that You gave Me to do.” We should seek to do the will of God at every moment. In fact, St. Alphonsus Liguori said, “It would be the greatest delight of the angels to pile up sand on the seashore or to pull weeds in a garden for all eternity, if they found out such was God’s will.”
Doing God’s will means that we do our daily duties to the best of our abilities. If we are parents, we love our children – if we are children, we obey our parents. If we are students, we study hard for the glory of God – if we are employees, we work, not just to make money, but to serve and sacrifice for the Lord. We use our time wisely, we set our thoughts on what is above, we offer our daily sufferings to Christ.
St. Benedict is a man who realized the emptiness of living for the world. He was born to a noble family just outside of Rome in the late 400s. He studied in Rome for many years. But as he grew through his teen years in the heart of Rome, he became more and more disillusioned with the lives of his compatriots. He was disgusted with the political intrigue, the lust, and the greed of both his classmates and the leading men of Rome. His teachers were corrupt, and his classmates were worldly men. It just struck Benedict as so shallow and meaningless – why live in such chaos? Why pursue such useless goals as pleasure and money?
So Benedict, horrified by the situation, sought God by fleeing from the world. He first went to a cave in the mountains, and lived there for several years, seeking God first. Eventually his reputation of holiness attracted others, and he began a monastery. He ended up founding over a dozen monasteries, and is called the Father of Western Monasticism. In fleeing the world, he found the peace he was looking for – the peace of a rightly-ordered life in God.
We might not be able to physically flee the world. After all, many of us work secular jobs and go to public school. But we can live a life that is not steeped in worldly things. We can choose our TV and internet viewing wisely, only selecting that which glorifies God. We can avoid those people who we know will only force us to speak of worldly things. We can spend our time on holy pursuits, instead of wasting time. We can turn our homes and our lives into sanctuaries where God is loved and praised.
We must live in the world, but we are not of the world.