The Ups and Downs of Our Journey to Jesus 2019-9-15 Fr. Roberto English
Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Church, Los Angeles, CA
September 15, 2019
Title: The Ups and Downs of Our Journey to Jesus
Theme: Making our lives all about Jesus is a journey that has ups and downs.
Readings: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; 1Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
I am sure that many of you have heard the common saying or image that life is like a journey, a journey that has ups and downs, surprising twists and turns and more than a few detours along the way. How many of you would describe your life that way? Me too. And I would also say that our spiritual life could be described in the same way. It too is a journey of ups and downs, twists and turns, of going forward and going backward, because all of us have good times as well as tough times in our relationship with God, our relationship with our Catholic Church and in living out our faith. For example, isn’t it true that sometimes you can feel very close to God, and yet at other times you can feel that God is distant, that he has abandoned you or that he doesn’t even exist? Similarly, I am sure there have been times when you have been proud to be Catholic, and other times when you have been disappointed or even embarrassed by our Church. And, finally, the struggles in our spiritual journey often come from our own sins, dumb mistakes and problems we have created. For all these reasons, our spiritual journey can be difficult, complicated and sometimes even painful. If you notice in your worship aids, the drawing on the first page is my attempt at portraying that our spiritual journey in life is not easy!
This is the second week of our preaching series entitled, “It’s All about Jesus,” and the point I want to make today is that, even when we try to make our lives all about Jesus, it doesn’t mean the journey is going to be easy or straight, without pain, or without sin. And our readings today confirm that because they all speak about spiritual journeys that are filled with problems, mistakes and sins of weakness, anger, arrogance, and betrayal. However, the good news is that our readings also speak of God’s amazing grace, patience, forgiveness and desire to be reconciled with us.
For example, in today’s first reading we heard about part of the journey of the Israelites in the desert. Remember, God had rescued them after 400 years of slavery to the Egyptians and had accomplished great miracles on their behalf through Moses. They had just made a covenant with God and promised to honor and obey him. So, what do the Israelites do in today’s reading? They betray God and their covenant with him by bowing down and worshipping a golden calf! And yet, in spite of that terrible betrayal, at the end of the reading God chooses to forgive them. Sin is overcome by grace.
Then, in the second reading, Paul refers to his own very imperfect spiritual journey toward Jesus. He refers to himself as a blasphemer, a persecutor, arrogant and the worst sinner in the world. Yet, at the end of that reading, he offers God a hymn of praise for Jesus’s patience and forgiveness of him. Again, sin is overcome by grace. And finally in the Gospel we have one of the most beautiful and beloved stories of God’s compassion and mercy in all the Bible with the parable of the prodigal son. My brothers and sisters, the message in all our readings today is hard to miss: our God is a God of amazing grace and unwavering, infinite love! Amen? Amen! Our God is a God who gives us second chances, third chances, tenth chances and thousandth chances! Amen? Amen! This is the God Jesus came to show us. This is the God Jesus wants to lead us to on our spiritual journey. And this is the God who wants us to make our lives all about Jesus his Son.
So, my question for you today is the same as the one I asked you last week: Where are you on your spiritual journey? Are you cruising along doing fine, or have you hit a bump in the road? Are you or have you been like the Israelites in the first reading: guilty of betraying God by putting your time, energy and trust in the false gods of money, job, career, looks, or an addiction of one kind or another? Have you been like Paul in the second reading: guilty of judging, condemning or hurting others, of being stubborn, arrogant and closed-minded and not willing to listen to others or to see some good in them? Have you been like the prodigal son in the Gospel: rebellious, self-absorbed and focused on your own needs, desires and pleasures regardless of how that might hurt others?
Well, all of us are sinners, all of us are guilty of turning our backs on God not just once or twice, but over and over again. But the great news our readings give us today, the great news of our Catholic Christian faith, my brothers and sisters, is that wherever you are in your spiritual journey – going up or going down, going straight, sideways or backwards – God loves you and wants to help you keep moving forward in your journey toward him. This message is for all of us here, but especially for those of us who are struggling in our relationship with God; those of us who are doubting or have walked away from our faith, or have seriously messed up our lives. God is saying to you now: “I forgive you! I love you! Come back to me and let me help you to learn from your mistakes. Let me heal you and strengthen you to keep going because you cannot do it on your own.”
Brothers and sisters, none of us is a prisoner of our past. God’s amazing grace can always overcome any mistake, any awful decision, any horrible sin you and I have committed or will ever commit. And, no matter where we are in our relationship with Jesus right now, there is always hope that we can make it better.
As I finish this homily, I would like us to do something that might be challenging to some of you. I want us to take what I call a “Jesus minute.” I would like you to take a nice deep breath, close your eyes if you like and think of Jesus right now…
Jesus is not so much “out there” somewhere, he is right here with us. He is here with you; in fact, he is in you. The journey to Jesus is not really a journey outward; it is a journey inward to your heart, to your deepest and truest self. So now, I would like you to imagine Jesus inside your heart and soul, and just say his name: “Jesus.” You can say it to yourself, but I encourage you to say it softly out loud. Say the name of Jesus over and over again, softly...Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…
Say his name above all names as an invitation for him to come to you in a deeper, fuller way…Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…
Say his name as an expression of your love for him and your desire for forgiveness, healing and strength…Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…
To close this time of prayer, I ask you to repeat after me: Lord Jesus, help me on my journey to you. Come into my heart in a deeper way. Amen.
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