St. Dominic Catholic Church

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Everything Belongs - the Good and the Bad, 2021-9-12, Fr. Roberto



Homily for 24th Sunday Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic Church, Los Angeles, CA
September 12, 2021

Title: Everything Belongs – The Good and the Bad
Theme: We “win” at life by surrendering to Jesus and accepting that everything in life – the good and the bad – belongs.
Readings: Isaiah 50:4c-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35 

Dr. Edith Eger was just 16 years old when the Nazis sent her and her family to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The very day they arrived, her mother and father were killed in the gas chambers. Miraculously though, somehow, Edith survived Auschwitz and, eventually, she was freed; however, as you can imagine, she was terribly scarred by the trauma she had experienced there. After WWII, she moved to the United States and became a therapist. Many years later, she was invited to return to Germany to teach. During that time, she decided to visit Auschwitz for the first time since the war. It was at that moment that she was finally able to forgive: to forgive the Nazis, to forgive life, and to forgive God. This is how she later described that experience: 

“Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond. And I finally [began] to understand that I, too, [had] a choice…the choice to be responsible for my own happiness…And to finally, finally stop running from the past. To do everything possible to redeem it, and then let it go…and so I [uttered] my final words. Goodbye, I [said]. And, Thank you. Thank you for life, and for the ability to finally accept the life that is.”

What a transforming moment that must have been for her! She was finally able to let go of all that physical, emotional and spiritual pain and baggage that she had been carrying for so many years. This story is a great example of what I am going to be preaching about during these next few weeks in this series entitled, “Surrender to Win.” And it is an especially appropriate example of the title of today’s homily: “Everything Belongs – the Good and the Bad.” Because, you see, an essential part of Dr. Eger’s transforming moment of forgiveness and healing, was precisely her ability to accept that everything belongs, that every moment of her life – even the hellish trauma of Auschwitz she had gone through – somehow belonged in her life. Once she surrendered her desire to change the past and to have a different life, she was able to deal with the life she did have, including its terrible past. And so, she won, so to speak, because she was set free. As she said at the very end of her story: “Thank you for life, and for the ability to finally accept the life that is.” She surrendered…and she won.

My brothers and sisters, what I want to say to you today is that, if you and I want to find peace, freedom and happiness in this life, in other words, if we want to win at life, we have to make the same choice that Dr. Eger did on that day of her transformation: we too have to choose to surrender by accepting our life, exactly as it is, with the good and the bad. We have to surrender our desire for things to be different than they are and be at peace with the reality that is. 

To me, this is an important part of what Jesus said in today’s Gospel: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” Certainly, our crosses can be any number of things, but one of the main crosses we must carry is accepting our life just as it is, including our struggles and sufferings. That means we have to deny our desire to run away from our past or to reject our present so that we can deal with them in a healthy way with the help of the Lord. 

And the only way we are going to be able to do all that is by believing what I am going to tell you right now which is the most important thing I will say today: everything that has happened to you in your life – the good and the bad – is God’s will for you (repeat). One of the greatest theologians in the history of our Catholic Church, St. Augustine, said this very same thing in the 5th century. He said it this way: “Nothing happens that the Almighty does not will should happen, either by permitting it or by himself doing it.” 
In other words, God has either directly wanted or at least permitted everything that has happened in the history of the world and in your life. 

Now, as I have said a number of times before, God does not want evil things to happen in the world or in our lives. God does not create evil or send evil to us. But God does permit evil. And one of the reasons God permits evil is to use it to bring about something good through it. Again, St. Augustine said the same thing, and he said it this way: “God is so good, that, in his hand, even evil brings about good. He would never have permitted evil to occur if he had not, thanks to his perfect goodness, been able to use it.” 

That means that, even though God has never caused or wanted our current pandemic, /11, any natural disaster, tragedy, war, human conflict, poverty, famine, sickness, injury, death or loss we have experienced as a human race or as individuals. However, God knew about all these things beforehand and permitted them to occur. And, from all eternity, he has willed to use every one of these evils and all this suffering to accomplish something good in our world and in our lives. This is exactly what St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans 8:28: “God makes everything work for good for those who love him.” That is a Scripture that is worth memorizing and repeating to ourselves whenever we are struggling: “God makes everything work for good for those who love him.” The question is, do you believe God has that power? And then, do you trust God to use that power in your life, to bring something good to you or to others through your suffering? 

Now, this does not mean that we are supposed to look for suffering, or that we have to like the evil that God has allowed, or that we cannot try to do something to improve a difficult situation in which we find ourselves. By all means, God wants us to use our faith, our strength, our brains and our determination to make things better – yes! But, at some point, we have to say, like Jesus did the night before he was crucified, “Father, not my will, but your will be done,” and then let go and trust that God will bring good from our suffering. 

As I told you last week, this preaching series – and today’s homily – are based on the insights and healing I received in reading, one of the greatest spiritual books I have ever read, entitled: “Into Your Hands, Father.” I encourage you to read that book; copies are available in the parish office. There is also a powerful prayer called the “Prayer of Abandonment” in these homily reflection guides [hold one up] that are available outside after Mass. I invite you to try to pray that prayer throughout the four weeks of this preaching series.

So, my brothers and sisters, as I mentioned earlier, this preaching series is called “Surrender to Win.” God wants you to “win” at life by finding peace, freedom and happiness. But the only way you will do that is by surrendering to Jesus first of all, and then by accepting the life God has given has given to you, by accepting that everything belongs in your life – the good and the bad. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, surrender to win.