I was trying to post this unsuccessfully yesterday. I try again now!
Here is my Homily for today's mass (mass readings: Philippians 2: 12 – 18, Psalm 26, Luke 14: 25 -33)
What matters in life? What really matters in life? This is a question that I think we must continually ask ourselves...again and again and again.
The psalmist shows us one important answer in today's responsorial psalm.
"There is one thing I ask of the Lord," he says ."For this I long, to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to savour the sweetness of the Lord".
We are made for God, to know God, to see God, and to experience God. We are made for a deep and intimate relationship of love with God, to be united to God through love, to have fellowship with God, to be in communion with God. On paper, or on the computer screen, this can sound very academic – especially if we use words like "communion" and "beatific vision". But the reality is far from academic. The reality is explosive, as those who have experienced even just a taste of it are impelled to declare. Without experiencing this reality there will always be something vital missing in our lives: - a hunger that cannot be satisfied, a thirst that cannot be quenched, an emptiness that cannot be filled.
How can we experience this reality? Actually, in it's fullness we will not, we cannot, experience this reality in the present world. We cannot experience it this side of heaven. That is reserved for when we see God face to face in the heavenly kingdom. In this world we will inevitably experience suffering. In this world, there will always be something missing. However, we can, and we should, right here and now experience a foretaste of this reality. But how?
The short answer is that this can only happen through God's grace. As today's first reading reminds us "It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into us". From beginning to end, our desire for God and our response to God's love is a matter of grace. It is God's work. It is only by the grace of God, which comes through Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit, that we can be brought into a relationship of love. However, through God's grace we also need to be active in responding to God's love and in deepening our love relationship through Christ.
The response we need to make is costly. God's grace is free and, by definition, it is a gift. But as Dietrich Bonhoffer famously said, the grace that Christ brings though free is most certainly not cheap. We want cheap grace. We want grace without the Cross, grace without repentance, grace without self denial. But that is not the grace of Christ! If we want to experience the great treasure that Christ brings, we will need, as he says in today's gospel, to carry his cross and come after him. If we are not willing to do this, says Christ, then we cannot be his disciples.
And so as we consider what matters in life, and whether we will live for what matters, we need to count the cost. This is the challenge Christ gives us in today's Gospel. Coming to Jesus and being his disciple is the way to God. It is the way, even now, to experience a foretaste of heaven. It is the way to God the Father, who alone brings life. Christ is calling us to receive this life, to receive God's love. But first we need to count the cost, the cost of giving up our possessions, the cost of giving up our families, so that they no longer take first place on our lives. It is the cost of repentance and faith. Repenting of anything that we put before God and turning away from sin and towards God. It is the cost of faith, believing faith, obedient faith, a faith that works itself out in love.
It is worth it, it really is worth it. What really matters in life is that, through grace, we respond and deepen our union with God, that we grow in our relationship of love with God, that we grow in holiness. If we do this, if we respond in repentance and faith it will be costly and it will need to be shown in our love for others and especially in our love for the poor. It will need to be shown in loving and costly actions. We tend to shrink away from this in fear. But why should we fear this? Do we not know that God is all-loving and wants the very best for us? Let us trust in him, it is this way that we will receive what our hearts truly desire. As the psalmist says in today's psalm "The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?...Hope in Him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord!"