Saturday, January 19, 2019

Changing the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 20, 2019:

When my parents got married more than 50 years ago, my Mom came from a practicing Catholic family, but my Dad was generally unchurched and had never been baptized. If you remember the church in the 1960s, this was somewhat of a scandal. You simply didn’t marry outside of your faith. My parents were not allowed to have a Mass. They had to stand outside of the communion rail. And, my aunt, who is a religious sister, was not allowed to attend. As you can imagine, this was a somewhat negative experience of the Church, so becoming a Catholic was not high on my Dad’s list at that time.










Dad, though, was always the best non-Catholic church goer you could imagine. He attended Mass with us as a family. He ran most of the pancake breakfasts, spaghetti suppers and other things events in the parish. Mom, of course, constantly begged him to become a Catholic to no avail. When I entered religious life, I added my voice to that chorus. As a person of Irish heritage, of course, my favorite tool of persuasion was good-old guilt. I can remember saying to my Dad, “You know Dad, it would be so amazing if I were able to give you communion on the day of my first Mass as a priest.” Now, that is some grade-A guilt, but it didn’t work.

The situation seemed impossible, and it didn’t seem like it would ever change. I had my own secret plan that if Dad ever got ill and it didn’t look like he would make it, I was just going to baptize him! (And then go to confession!) In the meantime, I would just pray. After receiving Communion each day, I would just say, “Lord, I offer you the grace of this Eucharist and ask that you place a desire for baptism in my Dad’s heart.” Of course, as always, Mom was also praying the rosary every day for this same intention. But I don’t think that either one of us believed it would ever happen.

And then, one day, 12 years ago, a month before my Dad’s 69th birthday, he called me and said only two words, “I’m ready.” And, I knew immediately what that meant. And in the joy and honor of my priesthood, I baptized, confirmed, and gave first communion to my own Dad.

But, in the midst of that joy, I also heard God chastising me. He was saying, “Didn’t you know that all things are possible with me. Didn’t you know that all things unfold according to My plan, in My time. Why didn’t you trust Me?” All the while, I thought it was my job to bring Dad into the Church, and I was failing. God reminded me that my job was just to be faithful, to be prayerful, and to have trust in Him – and that great things would happen.

Now, while most of us haven’t been in exactly that situation, I’m willing to bet that each one of us has something in our lives that we wish would change, but at the same time feels impossible. Maybe we desperately wish that our spouse, our children, our friends, would find a deeper place for God in their lives. Perhaps we know someone – or maybe even ourselves – are caught in the throes of addiction and it just feels like nothing can ever change that situation. Maybe we have some broken relationships in our lives – words we wish we could take back, or words that others have used to wound us – and we just don’t know how to find reconciliation and forgiveness. It is natural for us to feel overwhelmed sometimes by what the world throws at us.

Into the midst of these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, our Scriptures give us hope. “Do whatever He tells you” the Blessed Mother utters. We know this story of the first miracle at Cana so well that we can lose its impact. After all, we know how the story turns out. But think about the horror of this moment for the family throwing this wedding party. When members of a family get married, the celebration is among the most important kind of celebrations we hold. They celebrate not only the love of the two people getting married, but the feast also says something about the family throwing the party. Families go all-out when holding a wedding feast; often beyond their means. It is an act of love, an act of celebration, and a public act of honor. So imagine this family and just about the worst thing possible has happened. Imagine the terror when they realized that there was no more wine. This would disappoint their children, and certainly bring a level of public shame to the whole family for their failure. They would become the “family who ran out of wine at the wedding” and would probably never live that down.

But, Mary says so simply, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” An act of trust that when we invite Jesus into our impossible situations, amazing things can happen. Jesus not only solves the problem and miraculously turns water into wine – but it is in fact the best wine anyone had ever tasted. Trusting Jesus is an invitation to allow the amazing power of God to change even the impossible situations in our lives.

And Jesus has not stopped doing the impossible. After all, just look at what He did in my Dad’s life when we stopped badgering and instead entered a space of prayerful trust. The impossible became possible. I want you to think about the impossible situations in your life today. Have you been trying to fix them all by yourself? Have you given up hope that they could ever change? Have you simply learned to live with them and allow the wounds simply to remain? Take a word of advice from the Blessed Mother today, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Today, as Jesus once again miraculously appears on our altar, I encourage you to hand over your impossible situations to Him. Invite Jesus into the messiness of your life; invite Jesus into the messiness of certain relationships or challenges. Because inviting Jesus in changes everything; and cooperating with Him leads to greatness – it leads to miracles. Hand over your impossible situations to Him in full faith and trust and then watch what unfolds – it might be nothing short of a miracle.

And, just imagine what our world could look like, what our lives could look like, if we lived with the same kind of trust in Jesus that Mary had. Imagine our impossible situations turned around; our relationships healed; our addictions cured; our problems resolved – all in the way that God intends. Mary didn’t beg, she didn’t hedge her bets. She simply knew that Her Son could do this. We should know this too. Whatever is impossible in our lives – Jesus has got it; He can do this. So, do whatever He tells you.

May the Lord give you peace.

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