Monday, October 20, 2014

Homily – Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Guatemala Mission Announce

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
1st Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Matthew 22:15-21

          Jesus is in a tight spot in today’s Gospel.  The Pharisees think they’ve trapped Him with a clever question about paying taxes to Caesar.  
But Jesus is no fool.  He outwits His opponents and proves once again He’s filled with divine grace. 
Paying of taxes was a prerequisite for peaceful living in the Roman Empire two thousand years ago. 
The same could be said today.  If we don’t pay our taxes we get in trouble and wind up paying much more than the original debt.  And we can even face jail time.
Now, let’s look at how this works in the Kingdom of God.  Because Jesus says, “Then repay… to God what belongs to God.”
What debt do we owe our Lord?  What form of payment is a prerequisite for peaceful living in God’s Kingdom? 

Today is World Mission Sunday.  It’s no coincidence that World Mission Sunday falls on the weekend of this Gospel reading.  Mission is one of the best ways to repay God what is God’s.  And for selflessly serving others, especially those on the margins, we are given a brief glimpse of the Kingdom in all its glory.
I heard a talk earlier this week by one of our parish school graduates and current senior at Archbishop Murphy High School about how a mission trip to Haiti this past summer changed her view of God. 
I’ve asked Katie Kelleher to share her story with us.  Katie...

I’ve always considered myself to be very independent.  So independent that I used to think I could do it all on my own.  I didn’t pay much attention to God and as I got busier and busier I started to forget about him.  It was just hard to see his influence in my life.  Usually the only time we take a moment to talk to God or look for him is when we need something or when things aren’t going our way.  Being the self-determined person I thought I was, I felt like I really didn’t need God. I still loved Him, I still went to Church and went through all the motions, but when it came down to it, I really didn’t need Him and I really didn’t see Him.
But sometimes when you forget about Him, he’ll find a special way to reappear.  You might
not realize it at first.  To be honest, you probably won’t realize it for a while.  Just like when Jesus appeared to his apostles on the road to Emmaus.  They had no idea it was Jesus who they had seen.  However, when you finally realize it, like the apostles, it hits you like a brick and knocks the wind out of you.
 It all fell into place a little too smoothly.  One day a friend happened to mention how her church was organizing a mission trip to Haiti and before I knew it, there I was at the meetings, signed up and ready to travel with her, her family and a group of complete strangers to Haiti for two whole weeks.

It’s really hard to put into words what we experienced down there.  I encountered what many would consider some of the poorest people in the world.  And I fell in love with each one of them.  Each morning I would crawl off the box spring that served as my mattress and start the sunscreen-Deet application that would protect me from the sun and dengue fever and the chikungunya virus.  After breakfast that was prepared for us by the older girls at the orphanage, we would trek the mile to the girls’ orphanage hand-in-hand with twenty five or so little boys.  When we arrived the first time, when I wasn’t smart enough to wear my hair up in a ponytail, my hair was attacked by the hands of little girls wanting to braid my hair.  They were so sweet.  And I will never forget the day they started to sing for us.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so sweet or so beautiful.  It’s a moment that doesn’t exist on video or audio like so many of our favorite memories are, though I wish it did.  It exists only in my memory and I’ll never forget about it.

While there, we ran Vacation Bible School for the orphans and the neighborhood kids.  And that was when I first saw what one could call a miracle of God.  Eve, an aspiring pastor and teacher, had children from the neighboring village packed into his truck, its trailer and on the roof.  I remember watching them spill out of his truck.  They just kept coming.  It was like Mary Poppins’s bag or a clown car.  Eve could take 30-40 kids in one trip.  Sadly, he could only make three trips so there were always children left behind who couldn’t come.  Because we could only afford to feed so many kids at VBS, we eventually had to close the doors after a while.  I felt so helpless when kids came late, knowing I couldn’t let them in.  The bang, bang, bang on the orphanage doors broke my heart knowing that not only would some kids not get to participate in VBS but also that they might go hungry that day.  Every now and then I would see Pastor who ran the orphanage sneak away to let kids inside because he too could not stand to deny any child the chance of attending Vacation Bible School.
And that was where God revealed himself to me.  Through the orphans, through my team members, through Pastor, I was able to see God working through them.
The funny thing about Haitians is that they don’t know they’re poor.  They see God’s touch in every aspect of their lives and constantly thank him for his blessings.  They pray harder than any group of people I’ve ever encountered.  And that just blew my mind how someone so poor and less fortunate than me could praise God and sing his name a million times louder than I ever could.  I felt ashamed.  Here I had been given so much yet seemed thankful for so little.
So, when my life gets tough, I think about Haiti.  I think about the story my friend’s mom told me.  The first time she visited Haiti, she was passing out lunch when she saw a little boy take half of his rice and wrap it up in his coloring page of Jesus that he had made that day at camp.  When she asked him what he was doing, he answered her saying he was taking it home to his family.
It is truly in the poorest and smallest of God’s people that he genuinely shines through.  I hope that one day, all of you can experience the love that they have for him.  I hope that one day the world can love and give like they do.  I hope one day I’ll be able to worship him the way they do.

As you listen to Katie’s words about her experience, you can clearly see how God used mission to draw her closer to Christ and His mission for us all.
Young people today are leaving our Church in droves.  It’s been suggested by many that faith becomes irrelevant in the lives of young people in the face of today’s cultural pressures.  But take them away from our privileged world and the bombardment of consumer messages and glorification of bad behavior, and set them to service to the poorest and most marginalized in the world, and the vision of God’s Kingdom becomes clearer.  It comes alive in their hearts.
Next summer, let’s share a mission experience with the young people of our parish.  Let’s enliven their hearts with a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. 
We are now organizing a mission trip for families to serve a Catholic Church in the Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala in the summer of 2015.  It’s a beautiful place with beautiful Tzutuhill Mayan peoples.  These are faithful, devout Catholics who will welcome us with open arms.

 I invite you, as a family, to join us in this mission.  I’ll have sign-up sheets in the vestibule after Mass for those interested in finding out more.
If you are unable to join us, perhaps you would consider writing a check to help fund our mission journey.  Please make it out to the ICOLPH Guatemala Mission Fund. 
Let this be an annual journey to build up the Kingdom and help our young people better see God in their lives.
            I have many LDS friends and admire how their young people stay connected to the Mormon Church by serving in mission.  We Catholics can learn a lot by their example.
      Let us start a new tradition in our parish.  Let us start our young people on a lifelong mission to repay to God what is God’s and in doing so find purpose and meaning in life.  Let us help them to find the Kingdom by serving others and serving God and keep the mission of Jesus Christ alive in their hearts forever. 

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