WHY DO WE GO TO CHURCH?

Here’s my homily for June 8, 2008 - the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time - the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/060808.shtml

Thanks for reading and your feedback - God Bless, Fr Jim

HOMILY:
Every once in awhile, a journalist of some sort will do a story, article, report where they get a sampling of answers to the question “Why do you go to Church?” There’s always a variety of answers that people will give, usually to a bunch of extremes - and all with some degree of truth to them. A couple of the articles that asked people “Why do you go to Church” reported responses like:
- Because my parents make me
- Because I think I should
- Because I don’t want to go to Hell
- Because it’s important to my wife or husband
- Because we want to set a good example for our kids
- Because I have a friend, a relative that’s sick that I want to pray for
- Because I always have and always will.
- Because I’m looking for meaning in my life
- Because I want to catch up with friends and neighbors
- Because I want to be around people who think about things the way I think

Maybe some of us can relate to some of those answers. There’s times in our lives when some of those reasons might be pretty important or even the only reason we come. As Catholics we believe that central to who we are, and why we come to Mass is to receive the Eucharist - to receive not a symbol but Jesus’ Body and Blood and to receive God’s word. That God still speaks to us in these scriptures.
And today’s readings tell us something that should impact not only why we come to Mass every week, but speak to our lives and our relationship with God.
In the first reading we hear from Hosea who is a prophet. It’s Hosea’s job to bring God’s word to the people. And God’s not exactly pleased with what’s going on: the people have been SO unfaithful, made SUCH a mess of things that they don’t even have a real sense of repentance, they lack a sincere desire of trying to make things right with God. They figure, let’s just offer God some sort of a sacrifice, let’s do this “ritual” thing - and we’ll all be “good” with God and we can go back to doing things – like we’re doing now. They’ve made their worship, their sacrifice, their repentance a type of a deductible and God is the insurance policy - do this one good thing so we can continue to do the bad things we want to do. (And hopefully our premium won’t go up with each bad thing we do). Their worship, their sacrifices to God are “like dew that early passes away” because they are less than sincere - they are empty because they lack the desire to really change - they lack meaning.
St. Paul in the second reading kind of gives an exclamation point to that as he continues a theme we heard last week our words have to be backed up by our actions. Think about it - there’s a difference when an entertainer at the end of a concert yells out to a crowd of thousands of people they’ve never met “I Love you” compared to when a husband and a wife at their 50th wedding anniversary says those same exact words to each other.
St. Paul makes this point using the Old Testament figure Abraham as an example. Abraham wasn’t a man who just said “I have Faith in God and I have my Hope in him” - His entire life was governed by his Faith and Hope in God. How?
Abraham and his wife are in their 80's when they find out there going to have their first born son - which has been a lifelong dream of theirs. Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed in these 4 - 5,000 years since Abraham was around - those aren’t exactly prime-child-bearing years for people. But as St. Paul points out in that reading today - Abraham believed - hoping against hope - that he would become the “father of many nations” (Romans 4:18) In their old age they had their first born son, and more than just a biological Father, Abraham became a father to generations of people who call upon God. He had Faith in God’s promises, Hope in something outside what the world would say was possible. God could do great things through Abraham because God is able to work through genuine Faith and genuine Hope.
But God’s not limited to that either (Thank God!) He can even work through sinful human beings. Which is the point that Jesus makes in a dramatic way in today’s Gospel. Matthew is far from what most would think is the “ideal” candidate to follow Jesus - let alone be one of the 12 apostles. He’s a tax collector, which means, as a Jew, he’s been co-operating with the hated Romans - the people who were occupying and oppressing the Jews. In Matthew the Romans were able to use the services of a Jew to collect money from his own people for that occupation, he could overcharge his fellow Jews and keep the extra money for himself. He could cheat his own people and the Romans would back him on it.
This is who Jesus calls to follow him? It’s Jesus way of saying - Believe in God’s mercy more than in your sins - Love God as He Loves you - Say you Love him, not just in your words, not just in your sacrifices - but with your whole life.
Our coming together each Sunday is an important thing and while there’s some less than ideal reasons at times- there can be a lot of good reasons or motivations. But the one that matters the most to God is when it comes from our hearts, when we come not here to get something, not out of an obligation to anyone - but simply, sincerely, and most profoundly because we Love Him.

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