Hi everyone – here’s my homily for SEPTEMBER 8, 2013 – the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings for today can be found at Thanks for reading! Have a blessed week!
Fr. Jim


Whether you’re a student in school or it’s been some years since you’ve been in a classroom, you can’t get away from that sense of September being a “New Year.” Perhaps it’s years of that experience – a nice two month “summer vacation” (which even if you worked, was just a completely different experience from the day to day routine of school life) – that those feelings of the start of something new year every September stays with us. Most of you know that I work with college students in Campus Ministry at Montclair State University. So this is an incredibly hectic time of year for us. We spend the first two weeks gearing up with outreach events to meet new students, as well as reconnect with returning students. All with the hopes that they will get connected and start to come to Sunday Mass here on campus. With that in mind I was eager to see what the Gospel reading was going to be… What words of Jesus would we have to welcome all of our newcomers… and to welcome back all of us as we gather together for this first Sunday night. And as I read the Gospel I kind of was like – Really? That’s this week’s gospel???

“…Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” That heavy expectation comes right after we heard this jolting line about “hating” father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters – and even our own lives – (which, really quickly – Jesus isn’t saying “hate” as in not love those people, or treat the gift of life we have with lack of gratitude… basically He is saying that if we want to follow Him, nothing can take priority over Him – Christ).

Just hearing all of that, I’m thinking GREAT! They’re really going to want to hear all of that, aren’t they? I mean, it’s the first week of class. They have been through so much already that it’s not uncommon that they (like all of us) come to Mass and might be looking for a “gentle Jesus…” “Understanding Jesus” proclaiming some new Beatitudes – you remember the “Beatitudes” the “Blest are they” statements… Well, I’m sure there’s part of us that wants him simply to look at all we are struggling with and say:

Blessed are they who cannot find a parking spot on campus
Blessed are they who has a roommate they can’t stand
Blessed are they whose schedule is atrocious with early courses that start at that dreaded 8 AM hour and go until 10:30 PM
Blessed are you when you have a professor who you think is terrible.
And then concluding with something like: REJOICE AND BE GLAD! You will one day win a prized parking spot in the midst of the campus behind the Student Center; get a single room with no roommate; have a schedule with classes on Tuesday Wedensday and Thursday that shalt not start before 11 am and be finished by 4:00 (with at least an hour for Lunch in between) and have the greatest, most entertaining, understanding of professors ever.

That’s true not just with all of our students here. A lot of us (most of us ?) come to Mass on a weekly basis with our lists of things that we have that’s troubling us, bothering us, annoying us that we are looking for that concept of “understanding gentle Jesus” that we’ve come up with in our minds to look at those things, call us blessed and promise to fix them for us. Blessed are you Fr. Jim when you already have a hectic schedule and have a meeting scheduled tomorrow that you don’t really want to attend – Rejoice and be glad, it’s been cancelled.

We often look to Christ – we often come to Mass looking to unburden ourselves, not wanting to add stuff on. So hearing this “carrying cross” stuff can really seem to be just that – another thing, another obligation, another burden that we’re being forced to take on. If it becomes simply that, then no doubt many will find it overwhelming or inconvenient to our lives, our schedules. We can’t or won’t seem to be able to fit that in to everything else that we need to do and will kind of get exasperated and drop away. Or perhaps we’ll try to delay a response saying something like “I know I gotta do that, but…I can’t right now, I’ll do it later.”

So often we don’t realize what the problem really is here. We are trying to make Jesus fit into what our schedules already are. We are trying to plug him into an aspect of our lives. We know He’s good – or maybe we think we know that, like on an intellectual level we’ve heard Jesus is good and we want to believe that, but don’t really know that in our heart of hearts… in our lives and experiences. And that’s the problem.

Jesus Christ so desperately, recklessly, loves us… loves you. He’s so madly in love with each and every one of us – even more deeply than our friends, our families – even our parents ever could want to Love us. So much so, that it’s been said that were you the only person ever in the world that needed to be saved from your sins, Jesus would do that, die on the cross, just for you…. whether you asked Him to do it or not… whether you know Him or not… whether you love Him or not.

Yes, He does look at all of us, at our busy, hectic lives. He sees the things that stress us out, or worry us. He knows those things that we’ve allowed to occupy way too much of our lives along with some of those legitimately serious frightening and troubling burdens we’re already carrying… And in all of that, He asks us to trust Him. To put Him first in our lives and all those other things aside. To love Him as selflessly and completely as He once did when he carried and was nailed to His cross for us, by looking to be selfless and sacrificially loving in our own day, our own time, in our own spaces – right here in our corners of the world – in our homes with our loved ones and families and friends in our workplaces with our colleagues and co-workers…

You see when we start putting Christ first, all those things that we’ve displaced and allowed to become front and center in our lives, start to lose their grip on us. We stop fixating on things we can’t control, things that are just a part of our lives and routines and simply look for ways to live as if He truly is first in my life.

Then we start to see, we start to experience how Blessed we truly are, because we are following Him. We are living for Him as life continues on around us. We recognize we are indeed Blessed… Yes, Blessed even when we’re not able to find a parking space, when upon seeing one we don’t fight and drive like a lunatic cutting people off, maybe even giving that up for someone else… We’re blessed when maybe we don’t get along with that roommate but try to find ways to be kind, to get along, to not talk badly about them…We’re blessed to be receiving a college education whether it’s at 8 am on a Monday or 8 pm on a Friday night… We’re blessed when the boss isn’t the best person to work with…. We’re blessed when we our families aren’t getting along…

We’re blessed in so many different ways, not because we’re trying to pretend those different things don’t annoy us or aren’t burdensome to some extent. But rather, because we see how our whole life’s perspective has shifted by putting Jesus Christ at the center.

When we do, we’re constantly and consistently looking for ways to simply REJOICE over that fact.. Realizing as we do that carrying our cross is not something extra we do, some extra burden to take up, but it is our lives, the good and the bad of them, the things we love and the things we would rather not be there – in short, all of us, everything about us. That is what we take up, what we carry – and when we give that, all of that, the good, the bad and the ugly, give that to Christ unreservedly, asking Him to transform that, to draw good out of it, even our mistakes, even our sins, all with the Hopes, that it will bring us closer to Him and His love. Well, then, then we’ve started down the right path,
the path to happiness,
the path to Him.