Saturday, September 25, 2010

It’s a Miracle (2010 Sept 26)

This is my homily for Sunday 26 September 2010, 26th Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Readings: Amos 6:1a, 4-7 | Psalm 146 | 1 Timothy 6:11-16 | Luke 16:19-31

[__01] The 2010 NFL Football Championship, the Super Bowl. It was a miracle, the victory of the less favored New Orleans Saints over their heavily favored opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. The Saints were representing New Orleans, a city, still facing the misfortune and obstacle of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. A victory would increase confidence. Apparently, saints can still pull off miracles. It was a tremendous game, and a boost of confidence.

[__02] An important question for us, however, is – about the connection between miracles and confidence …between miracles and faith.

[__03] Are they connected? The Saints of New Orleans might say so … but, the Saints of New Orleans had to be very well practiced to pull off victory…
And, in the Gospel today, Jesus cautions us about miracles may have – or not have.

What does the rich man ask for, as he suffers in the afterlife, for a miracle, for
divine intervention?

It seems he is asking for this by this statement -- “If someone were to go to my brothers [and sisters] and warn them, they will repent.”

Then, he is told divine intervention is not enough. Then Abraham [replies and ] said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

Then, what is the rich man being told?

“Wondrous events, even resurrection from the dead, do not automatically produce salvation.” (Jerome Biblical Commentary, 44:122)

In other words, miracles may not necessarily increase faith. Surely there are some for whom this is so. There were some among the ancient nation of Israel, the Hebrew people who had been rescued from Egypt and who did not not harden their hearts. There were some, among Jesus’ own disciples who believed the miracles. But, for the most part, the Lord will complain about the lack of faith among those
who see the miracles.

Even Moses was found to be stubborn even at the actual site of a miracle. This was at Meribah has as God was -- miraculously – making water come out of the rock.
The Lord asks Moses, " How long will this people provoke Me? and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?" Numbers xiv. 11.

[__04] We might conclude that the Hebrew people – and the rich man in the parable who steps over poor Lazarus – are extraordinarily selfish and greedy.
Is it because of their selfishness that the miracles made no impression upon them? In a sermon on miracles and faith, Cardinal John Henry Newman says otherwise. He is suggesting that we do not need the spectacle of miracles but something much simpler…that is we need the miracle of love and mercy.

As Newman says -- “But, you will say, a miracle would startle you; true: but would not the startling pass away? could you be {82} startled for ever? And what sort of a religion is that which consists in a state of fright and disturbance? Are you not continually startled by the accidents of life? You see, you hear things suddenly, which bring before your minds the thoughts of God and judgment; calamities befall you which for the time sober you. Startling is not conversion, any more than knowledge is practice.”

What we are reminded of here is that miracles can help to focus our attention. However, they are only the starting point to our relationship with the Lord. However, they are not the endgame.

Is it also not true that – at times --- we not have received the precise miracle for which we hoped, the miracle of healing for a loved one? As a result, we may feel defeated, even angry.. But, even under these circumstances, are truly without faith? Only a believer could express anger to God?

[__05_] Is it not inspiring – miraculous -- to see the person in grief and distress who continues to pray. The stubborn rich man of the parable could learn from such an example. Unfortunately, he is too busy making victorious leaps over
Lazarus on his way to the end zone.

Loving as Jesus wants takes not just a miracle, it takes practice… as we may recall…

This too is a miracle, in things large and small.

[__06_] Super Bowl 44. With New Orleans behind on the scoreboard – to the Indianapolis Colts -- by 4 points and kicking off to the Colts to open the second half, the New Orleans coach Sean Payton called for an onside kick.

The onside kick is a rarely used in professional football …and if so, is only used at the very end of a game by a team who absolutely needs to retain possession.

But, Coach Sean Payton used this play under different circumstances …not in weakness and desperation … but in a show of strength. Coach Sean Payton of New Orleans calls the play “ambush” and that was what it was. The Colts players admitted after the game that they did not see it coming. Was it a miracle ..or just the confidence of a team that had practiced …was really prepared ..not nevertheless concerned?

Thomas Morstead, the New Orleans kicker on the play, said: “I wasn’t worried. I was terrified.”

If the kick had failed, New Orleans would have surrendered the ball to Indianapolis who would have had a short field to start the second half. But as the New York Times reported, New Orleans is a team that travels with nuns and priests in the owner’s entourage, and after years of horrible football and terrible tragedy in New Orleans, the city’s prayers were answered at long last.

[__07_] Miracles – whether it is an onside kick – or a victory – can increase confidence.

Miracles are still possible. However, they also invite us to do more than sit back and watch. The miracle of God’s love and forgiveness also calls us to practice. There are many opportunities out on the field…or maybe in your neighborhood… in a person who sits right next to you ..or who is on your team or in your class ..or on your doorstep. Those opportunities are out there. Check your local listings.


Note: Super Bowl 44 Info/Reporting by Judy Battista, “Champs? The Saints, Dat’s Who”, The New York Times, February 7, 2010.

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