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Homily for August 28, 2011: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Irene New York

copyright the deacon's bench blog

Shoppers stock up on water from rapidly emptying shelves at a grocery store in Far Rockaway in New York, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday urged New York City residents living in low-lying areas to line up a place to stay on high ground ahead of a possible evacuation this weekend due to Hurricane Irene.

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 08/27/11

You may have heard: we’re about to get a little rain.

I’ve been following the stories in the paper and on TV.  They’re encouraging people to be prepared.  I made the mistake of going to Walgreens last night.  It was packed with people.   Stores around the area report that they have run out of batteries, flashlights, bread, canned goods, generators, even water. My boss lives on Staten Island and said he thought his neighborhood grocery store had run out of bottled water – until he checked the ethnic food aisle.

Sure enough, that’s where they’d put cartons of Poland Spring water.

I think we’re all bracing for the worst and praying for the best. Our prayers this weekend are that all will stay safe from harm.

Which, when you think about it, is essentially what Simon Peter wanted in this gospel.

Of course, it’s one thing to try and protect yourself from the weather.

It’s another to try and thwart the will of God.

“Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus told Peter. “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

That’s the heart of the matter, and it’s something we are all guilty of at one time or another.  But how do we change the way we think? How do we think more like God?

St. Paul offered an answer, in his letter to the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Doing that can be the great challenge of our lives as Christians.

Earlier this week, we learned that Steve Jobs is retiring from Apple.  In 2005, he gave a commencement speech at Stanford. If you haven’t read it, I’d urge you to Google it. It’s a powerful, inspiring speech. Jobs talked about success, failure, love and loss.  He described how he learned that he had pancreatic cancer, and how the odds were stacked against him.  Incredibly, six years later, he is still alive.

But he mentioned too, a question that has given his life its focus.  Every day, he said, he has looked in the mirror and asked himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

What a question.  How many of us can say ‘Yes’ to that?

But I’d argue that a better question is this:

“If today were the last day of my life, would God want me to do what I am about to do today?”

It’s so fundamental.  But so hard.  Am I doing what He wants?

Flash back to today’s gospel, and Peter.  We don’t find out how he reacted to what Jesus said to him.  We can imagine.  How would you feel if Jesus called you “Satan”?  Peter probably had to reconsider everything he had assumed – and ask himself some hard questions.   What am I really doing?  Am I helping God do His work?   Or am I helping Satan do his?

Each of us should take time from our lives to look deeply into how we are living them – and what choices we are making.  And as Catholic Christians, we need to ask ourselves if we are fulfilling the mandate of our baptism.  Are we making Christ known in the world?  Or are we making him unknown?

Are we stumbling blocks to Christ?  Are we keeping his work from being completed?

We need to not stand in front of him.  We need to get behind him – in every sense.  To support him.  And to follow him.

We need to let others see him in us, and through us.   In every action, every word, every choice.  Christ must shine through.

The prayer of Fr. Mychal Judge, the first casualty of 9/11, should be the prayer of each of us: “Lord,” he wrote, “please don’t let me get in your way.”

We will all pray something similar in just a few moments:  four words that may be the hardest prayer in the world.

“Thy will be done.”

It is a great prayer of trust and hope – trusting in God’s will for our lives, hoping in His mercy and love.  In those words, we offer nothing less than ourselves – our pride, our ego, our desire to control the world around us.  They are words of surrender, and faith.  With those words, we accept what we may not want to accept.  And we let God do what He will.

“Thy will be done.”

There you have the beginning of obedience – and, I think, serenity.  Ultimately, taking hold of that prayer, and taking it into our lives, is the source of all peace.

That is what will sustain us through any fear, through any doubt — and even through any storm.

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