Sunday, November 8, 2015

All In

I'm leaving for my annual retreat this afternoon.  I'll be spending the week with the Trappist monks at the Abbey of the Genesee.  Thanks for your prayers...and for understanding why I won't be posting a homily next Sunday!

   Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time   B 

Listening to the news on public radio early Tuesday morning,
I heard a story coming out of the northern Italian city of Cesena.
It started as the dream of one man
to bring his favorite American rock band to play in his hometown.
He knew that if he was going to get their attention,
then he would need to pull off something big…
…and that’s just what he did.
It took him and a small team a little over a year to do it,
but in late July Fabio Zaffagnini
assembled 1,000 rock-and-roll musicians on a soccer field
to play one song together: “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters.
Out on that field were drummers, guitarists,
bassists, and vocalists from all over Italy.
The oldest was a 65-year-old blues man;
the youngest, a 9-year-old drummer.
They were there for a single purpose,
and—after a few rehearsals, lead by a great conductor—
they played together perfectly in sync.
I looked up the video online later that morning.
 Even if you don’t like loud rock music,
anyone who hears it would have to admit it’s pretty amazing.
But not only did these 1,000 people make an incredible sound;
as soon as I saw their faces, I thought:
I want to be there!  I want to part of this!
They were all so clearly present to the moment,
so focused on a common goal, so visibly joyful,
that it was downright infectious—even on my computer screen.
You should know that Fabio’s plan worked.
Just one day after he posted the video online,
the Foo Fighters had seen it—and promised to come to Cesena.
Last Tuesday night, they made good on their promise.

I’ve watched that video and listened to that song
again and again these last several days.
And the more I’ve learned about the project,
the more I’ve realized how much all those folks were invested in it.
When people heard Fabio’s plan, they could easily have said,
“Well, if you just give a little, and I just give a little,
maybe eventually we’ll have enough to make something happen.”
That, of course, is the perfect recipe for a broken dream.
Instead, what actually happened
is that everyone who got involved gave it their all
and that made all the difference.

Who would have guessed
that that field full of rock-and-roll musicians
could be such a magnificent image
of what the Church is supposed to be?

In the gospel passage we’ve just heard,
Jesus isn’t so much concerned
about the money the poor widow contributed.
Now, that’s not to say it didn’t matter to him at all;
elsewhere in the gospels we find Jesus has plenty to say about money,
and himself makes sure to pay the temple tax (Mt 17:24-27).
But what’s at issue here isn’t that she put two coins in the coffer;
it’s that she placed her whole life in God’s hands.
Being the Son of God,
Jesus could see what we often cannot—
what’s going on beneath the surface.
He knew she was all in.
Like the widow of Zarephath,
this woman could give all she had
because she knew it had come from God to begin with—
and that God would likewise continue to provide
anything and everything she might need.
It’s not a question of how generously she contributed;
it’s a question of her faith—of how much she trusts the Lord.

This is Stewardship Sunday,
and it’s often a time for giving the “sermon on the amount.”
The focus is generally on how much we’re giving—
meaning, how much money.
But I’d like you to ask yourself a different, deeper question.
What’s my level of commitment to this whole Church thing?
How much of my time and talent,
how much of my energy and attention,
how much room in my head and room in heart
am I willing to set aside exclusively for God and the things of God?
Can I truthfully say that I’m all in?

Now just imagine a parish where people approach their faith
the way those Italian musicians approached that one performance.
It would be absolutely amazing!
It’d be a community where people were so present to the moment,
so focused on a common goal, so visibly joyful,
that it’d be infectious.
It’d make other folks say, “I want to be there!  I want to be part of this!”

My friends, let’s not just imagine it.
We can make it real.

The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us
that Christ is not a priest
entering an earthly sanctuary again and again—
as did those in the temple of old—
to offer an animal’s blood.
No—Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice is perfect
because it’s his own innocent blood that’s shed.
He’s all in.
Christ gives 100%—and he gives it for you and me.

Let's, then, make sure we're all in for him.

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