Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Final Bell (2010-08-08)

This is my homily for Sunday 8 August 2010, 18th Sunday in ordinary time. On-campus Mass at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ resumes 7:30 p.m. Sunday August 29 for the 2010-2011 school year. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01] We have bells and alarms timed to tell us what to do.

We are accustomed to such bells … (or alarms) – when we wake up in the morning, when we go to school, when we watch or play soccer and basketball.

Recently, in the World Cup in South Africa, we became aware of the way that time is kept for the end of the game. That is, we cannot simply watch the clock countdown and expect a final whistle. In soccer, the referee keeps track of all the injuries during the game and adds time to be sure the full game is played.

In this regard, the official time or final whistle (or bell) is a big secret, known to the referee alone. The players are not sure when the game is up.

And, the servants in the parable are not sure either when the game is up or their lives are over.

[__02] They do not hear or see anything ringing or wrong. They might benefit from a system of alarms. Jesus cautions us that they “the servants” – in particular one servant - lack a sense of urgency.

[__03] Sometimes, we also wish the bell would go off and solve the problem.

But the bell does not solve the problem for the servants who see nothing wrong in their lives… who are not sensing anything in their consciences.

Sometimes, we can be the same way. We need more than the publication of the laws, the rules. We need someone to deliver a personal message.

Even if the players receive a yellow cards and red cards from the referee, they still might not behave.

It has to be more personal. We receive this personal message through Jesus himself and through the New Testament.

• For example, Jesus confronts the money changers at the Temple. He could have simply spread rumors about them.

• Jesus also talks to to Peter, James and John about their envy and jealousy. He does not wait passively for them to change. He confronts them.

• And, he also confronts Temple officials who will arrest him for his views.

This is a personal message… and, it’s risky to deliver a message personally.

For you and me, this may mean sacrificing or risking our reputation or popularity.

It could mean challenging others … even confrontation … trying to correct someone in a loving way.

For example, if we have a co-worker who is objectively failing to do his or her job… we might have a responsibility to tell this person.

Or, we have classmates at school who are doing something dishonest … or harmful, we have a responsibility, at least, to avoid the same behavior. However, we also may have a responsibility to tell them.

Our first reaction might be not to tell – but to tell on – the other person. However, the loving thing can be to tell them.

In the parable, the problem – the chaos among the servants increases because no one ever says anything…

[__04] It is not easy to confront someone who is doing something wrong. We often wish someone else – with more authority – the teacher or the boss would do it. Or, we wish the bell would ring.

Or that the referee would stop the game and throw someone out of the game.

But, sometimes, it falls to us. And, it can be a great and loving service we are doing. The person might be angry… the person might not want to be your friend anymore. But, on the other hand, you may be rescuing the person from some much greater punishment.

It is certainly a risk. At such times, we need to say at least 2 prayers…

(a) pray for yourself that you will hear the Holy Spirit …understand what to say..when to say it…
(b) pray for the other person….that he or she will be willing to listen.
(c) And .. it’s also OK to continue praying …in your head while you are having this difficult conversation.

[__05] It would be nice if a rule book or other authority figure would keep everyone in line… but, that does not always happen. As the parable says, we are the servants entrusted with the house. We are also called to keep peace even if this is risky at times, to do the loving thing

We do so because the Master may show up anytime now, ringing the bell. [__end_]

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