15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Father Brian J. Soliven on Sunday July 14, 2019
Homily on the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The Pastor's Prayer Journal
Being a practicing Christian is not easy. It’s precisely hard in the same way that married life is hard. Namely, your life is no longer about you and your desires and wants. Each decision must be made in light of the other. Add a child into the picture and the complexity explodes numbingly so. Every relationship by its nature, forces us to let go of some part of ourselves that we cherish for the greater good. Over the past two months, I’ve had the great honor and privilege of presiding at four weddings. These couples could have easily married on the shore of some beautiful sandy tropical beach, on top of a granite mountain with amazing sunset views or a four-star lodge in the middle of an alpine paradise. Rather, they choose to follow the narrow way and exchange their vows in a tiny traditional-looking church. Why? It is not any more beautiful than the places listed above, nor is the process of getting married in the church easier (in fact, engaged couples must go through a rigorous amount of formation and forms). We get married in church because it reminds us that the love that the couple professes is bigger than them. Their love now, consecrated until death, participates in the very nature of God, who is love itself. (See 1 John) Moreover, this love which each of these four couples professed, takes place in front of an altar – the place of ultimate sacrifice! Each of them now will be called for the rest of their lives to sacrifice themselves for the good of their new family.
No matter how hard we may try, this process will always hurt. It cannot be otherwise. Yet strangely at the same time, from this death to our own desires, our hearts can begin to expand; our vision gets wider. Our capacity to love increases.
By the time you read these words, I would have just returned from a wedding of a dear friend who played a dramatic life-changing roll in my life. We all have those people that we encounter, who change us forever. Without their amazing influence on us, all would be different. Leslie was and is one such person. In fact, she was the one whom I thought God had prepared me to marry when I was in college. It would not be so. As my heart grew to love her, God was also preparing my heart to love Him and his Church. No matter how hard I tried to ignore the nagging voice of God, he relentlessly called me to the priesthood. “Let me please serve you in any other way!” I begged him in tears. I had just found the love of my life and now He was asking me to let go. If the choice were left up to me, I would not have chosen this path but it was blaringly clear of what God had created me for. That is why the Gospel reading that we hear today is radically demanding: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength…” (See Luke 10:25) God was asking me to sacrifice Leslie, for something greater. I am happy for her, truly. She’s found a Christ-centered man to love her and cherish her in the way she deserves to be loved. Now do you see why being a practicing Christian is not easy. It’s precisely hard in the same way that married life is hard.
“Real holiness doesn’t feel like holiness; it just feels like you’re dying. It feels like you’re losing it. And you are! Every time you love someone, you have agreed for a part of you to die. You will soon be asked to let go of some part of your false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and essential! You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile and trust that what you lost was something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real.” –Richard Rohr