Saturday, September 25, 2010

Compete well for the faith!

HOMILY FOR THE 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, September 26, 2010


A priest was standing at the Church doors shaking hands with the people as they left after Mass. As Joe tried to pass by, the priest pulled him aside as said, “Joe, you need to join the Army of the Lord.” Joe replied, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Father.” “Well, then how come I don’t see you in church except at Christmas and Easter?” the priest asked. Joe whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

In today’s second reading, St. Paul gives instructions to Timothy as a soldier of the Lord, urging him to fight the good fight. Paul is not asking Timothy to wage a war against his adversaries and rivals, as one would expect. He is asking him to fight the only battle that really matters in the end – the battle of faith; the struggle of holiness. As he instructs Timothy, “Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called.”

That statement really stands out, “Compete well for the faith.” It is a statement of the passion that God call us each of us to have for our faith. Sometimes we think that all we need to do in life is be a good person. That’s a statement we hear all the time, “I’m a good person;” as though being a good person were enough. Don’t get me wrong – being a good person is fantastic, we need good people in the world. Good people are always more beneficial to the world than bad people. But, in the quest for eternal life, being good isn’t enough. God doesn’t want us to merely be good. There are a whole lot of “good” atheists in the world. God wants us to be holy. And that takes some work. “Compete well for the faith….Lay hold of eternal life, to which you have been called.” It sort of has the ring of “carpe diem,” or “seize the day.” St. Paul is telling us “carpe fidem” or “seize your faith.”

Our world could use a little more competition for holiness. We compete all the time in life, don’t we? We sure don’t have to look much further than our good-natured Red Sox-Yankee rivalry to see a healthy and vigorous competition (Wasn’t last night’s win awesome!). Let’s say a prayer that John Lester can make it back-to-back today (Dice-K go for three). We compete in all kinds of areas in our life. How many of us compete in the workplace, trying to do just a little bit better than the next guy to put ourselves in a better position, perhaps secure a promotion, make more money, hold a more prestigious position? How many of us compete in the academic realm trying to get better grades, to secure entry into a better school, gain a scholarship, etc.  We compete for friendship, popularity, for love and so many more things? What are the results of those competitions? Things are better for us day to day; probably better for our families. But, when we complete in faith – things are better for us eternally, “lay hold of eternal life,” and things are certainly better for the world. A competition of faith leads to a more full realization of the Kingdom of God in our midst. How many of us compete for faith? Or how many of us simply take our faith for granted?

God wants to shake us out of our complacency today – He wants to get us out of the “secret service” and make us one of His foot soldiers fighting the good fight, actively pursuing our faith, being not only good, but striving for holiness.

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was talking with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. “I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. Lax stopped him in his tracks. “What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!” Merton was dumbfounded. “How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him. Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

My brothers and sisters, “Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called.” My friends, “Carpe fidem” – seize your faith, let us all strive for holiness, to be saints!

May God give you peace.

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