Hi everyone... here's my homily for FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2016 - for our monthly intercollegiate Mass and Adoration here in the Archdiocese of Newark. We at Newman Catholic here at Montclair were blessed to host tonight - and I was touched when a couple students asked if I was going to post tonight's homily, so here it is. The readings for today were at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/091815.cfm (the homily focused primarily on the first reading)
Thanks again for reading, sharing and your feedback - Fr Jim
How powerful is a person’s desire... that force within each and every human heart?
Think about that. What are some of the things you desire most?
Sometimes they might be trivial - I wish I could find a parking space... I desire there not to be traffic on the Garden State Parkway tonight as I try to get to Montclair State University.
Sometimes they are influenced or encouraged by our friends, our families: we start to see things that people we’re close to are able to do and desire the same thing. I wish I could be as athletic as my brothers... I wish I was as smart as my best friend. If they are grounded in a good self image with love of God, love of others - those aren’t necessarily bad things. Then desire can be turned into motivation to strive, to achieve, to dream new things for yourself.
Unfortunately so many of us get caught up in the things of this world, this life, we allow ourselves to be distracted by the things of this world... desiring them to the point that it makes us do silly things. Oooh.. The new iPhone goes on pre-sale at 3 am eastern on September 12. Let me wait up till then for the privllege of giving Apple a couple hundred dollars!!! (I know that because that was me a week ago - and I felt so stupid about it that I needed to confess that and publically share my shame)
Hopefully when we see how trivial and ridiculous those things can be - and how much energy and focus we can waste on them opens us to look at the truest desires that are somewhat universal, the things that every human beings seeks: The Desire for Love, for Health, for Happiness, for Peace... and the more we probe, and reflect and think, we see we’re desiring not the fleeting emotional highs that give us glimpses of those things, but the lasting, enduring things: real health and wholeness, true happiness and peace, everlasting love...
To want, to seek after, to desire . . . these are some of the most powerful forces within the human heart. Our wants and desires give shape to our days and nights. They are the power behind our motivations.
Sometimes, mistakenly, people identify growth in the spiritual life with the absence of desire. One student talked about this at an inter faith gathering and I was struck by it when he said “If only I could just be and not want anything, I’d be further along in relationship to God.” In truth, growth in God is not a matter of eliminating desire; (if it’s such a powerful force of the human heart and we are created by God - why would He want that eliminated?) Rather it is about letting our desires be right ordered—by God. Then, the more we desire, the closer we grow to God.
That’s why this first letter of Paul to Timothy is so, so powerful - for all of us to really reflect on and sit with. For you students at the start of the School Year, (for some of you at the start of your college careers!) for us non-students as a pulse check of our daily lives. Think about what Paul is saying. He warns that there are “foolish and harmful desires” - things that are not of our Lord Jesus Christ. He’s especially concerned with those tied to the desire for wealth... but as most of you are poor college students, don’t worry, there’s plenty of other ones that we can identify... The desire to be popular, to fit in... The desire simply for pleasure.... The desire to feel affirmed, validated, acknowledged... From these and countless other unhealthy desires pursuits that are not of Jesus Christ, Paul warns us brings about“ envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth.”
Think about how often we complain, are scandalized are weighed down by those things. We hear people insulting someone else. We feel that jealousy, that envy, that rivalry... it twists are our own hearts. It twists others hearts. That powerful force of the human heart becomes distorted as we desire foolish and harmful things. Which is why Timothy is warned by Paul avoid them... (when we don’t, how blessed we are to have the opportunity to receive the loving mercy and healing of Christ which we will offer after Mass tonight in confession to be freed of our missteps, to start anew)
But more than just an examination of conscience, Paul reminds Timothy and each of us of what it is we should desire... a whole list of things to be sought after:
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life,
to which you were called when you made the noble confession
in the presence of many witnesses.
May we heed St. Paul’s words... not settle for what is trivial, what is destructive but rather...
Seek after all these things.
Want them with all our heart.