Making the Most of Our Opportunity, 20th Sunday after Pentecost (EF), October 11, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Agnes Church, Manhattan
20th Sunday after Pentecost, Extraordinary Form
October 11, 2015
Eph 5:15-21, Jn 4:46-53

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following text guided the homily: 

Today St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians and each of us not to waste the gift of life God has given us but to take full advantage of the time God has given us, the means of salvation with which he has blessed us, the opportunities he has placed before us to do something great, holy, life-giving and life-saving. Most people sleepwalk through human existence, osmotically taking in their environment, adapting themselves to what everyone else is doing, wasting so much time doing things that in the final analysis matter very little. St. Paul is trying to wake us up, to help us to mature spiritually, and to make full use of the time we have. “Watch carefully then how you live,” he tells us today, “not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” We can live as fools or we can live by God’s wisdom. We can cozy up to the evil things of the age, or we can be the seeds of sanctification. And St. Paul is calling us to live like Christ did in the midst of what he called a “wicked and perverse generation,” as Paul did in the midst of the sins of his own epoch, as St. John XXIII — whose feast the Church marks today on October 11 and who gave us the extraordinary form the Mass that we’re celebrating today — did last century and as Christians as salt of the earth and light of the world are called to do in every age. And so St. Paul gets practical: “Therefore,” he says, “do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” Real wisdom is doing God’s will, seeking his kingdom, hallowing his name. To live ignorantly is to just do as one pleases, without reference to God’s will, as if God doesn’t really care how we spend our day or dedicate our life. To live wisely is constantly to discern what God is asking in the concrete situations and places in which God has placed us, to be alert to his presence, accompanying us, guiding us, strengthening us, precisely to understand and do his will and help him save and sanctify the world.

And so St. Paul says, “Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery.” That’s both a concrete counsel against getting hammered as well as a metaphor to depict what it means to live foolishly. When we get drunk, we are impaired not just from driving as well as could but living as God wants. So many get drunk in order to escape stresses and situations that they should rather turn to God and others for help to face head on. Others get drunk because they do not have adequate self-control, so that one drink soon becomes four. And we know that once we’re drunk our guard is down to say no to things to which we would never consent otherwise. That’s why St. Peter would say to the first Christians, “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith” (1 Pet 5:8-9). Drunkenness is the opposite of spiritual vigilance and many of us get drunk by imbibing too much worldliness, getting addicted to entertainment and distractions, setting our hearts on Friday and Saturday night rather than on Sunday, eating, drinking and being merry as if human life is a cocktail party with nothing really important going on outside the club.

When St. Paul says this, he’s not at all playing the part of a kill joy. Exactly the opposite. He’s trying to get us to change from the logic and morals of a frat party to those of the unending banquet of the kingdom. He points us to a different type of inebriation, what the early saints called the “sober intoxication of the Spirit,” and a lifestyle that leads not to passing pleasures of debauchery but rather to the enduring joy of sanctity. In contrast to not getting slammed on booze and worldly addicitions, St. Paul tells us today for God, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” He is telling us to make our whole life a beautiful liturgy led by the Spirit, not only becoming so familiar with God’s word that it influences more and more the way we speak to each other, but loving it so much that we’re almost singing those beautiful words to each other, just like Mary’s soul gave glory to the Lord and spirit rejoiced in God her Savior in her Magnificat when she greeted her cousin Elizabeth.” This is a song of gratitude to the Lord for the gift of every day, every relationship, even the Crosses that help conform us ever more to God and make us co-redeemers.” The fruit of this type of life, St. Paul says, is that we become “subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That means we see Christ in each other and then seek to serve each other as we would seek to serve Christ with devout, grateful love. This is the path to make the most of our opportunity. This is how we live wisely. This is how St. Paul today is calling us to watch carefully how we live.

Today in the Gospel we see an example of someone who made the most of his opportunity, whose example of wisdom and faith the Church puts forth perennially as an example for our own. A Royal Official, a centurion, upon hearing that Jesus had returned to Galilee from Judah, left Capernaum to go to Cana in order to beg Jesus for a miracle for his son who was dying. The distance between the two places was 22 miles, but with fatherly love, the man hastened on the journey to do something that a centurion and royal official would rarely ever do: to beg. But even though he was not a Jew, he was already a believer. He had heard of Jesus’ miracles before and he was too down-to-earth and commonsensical not to put two-and-two together and to recognize that Jesus wasn’t a magician, but someone who over and over again had been able to effect cures that were humanly impossible. He implored Jesus to make the return trip with him to heal his son, but Jesus wanted to give this man not only the miracle he was requesting but an even greater gift. So Jesus told him, “You may go; your son will live.” He was challenging the faith he already had and providing the occasion for it not only to grow within him but to spread to his whole household. The man trusted in the Lord and left. The synoptic evangelists record that this man had said to Jesus that he was not worthy to receive him into his home, but “just say the word and my son shall be healed,” leading Jesus to marvel that he had not found such faith in Israel. And while he was on the 22 mile journey back, he received word that his boy had been healed, and he asked for confirmation of the precise time he got better, and it was at the very moment Jesus had told him that his son would live, something that led the entire household to come to the gift of faith.

What do we learn from this scene that can help us make the most of our opportunity? We meet the same Jesus here that the Royal Official met in Cana. Like him, we bring to him a request for someone who needs to be healed, namely, first and foremost ourselves. With the Centurion’s own words we pray, “Domine, non sum dignus,” “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” And Jesus gives us a gift greater than the healing of the Centurion’s son, the gift of himself, and he wants, like with the Centurion and his family, to give us the grace, too, of a huge upgrade in our faith. To watch carefully how we live, to understand the will of the Lord, means that we order our life to what Jesus is doing here. Few of us would have to walk 22 miles to get here, but even if we needed to crawl 2200 miles it would be worth it. What we receive here is worth more than all of the most precious wine kept in guarded vaults. This is where we come to understand better the will of the Lord as he speaks to us in Sacred Scripture and we carry out what he commanded, to “do this in memory of me.” This is where, filled with the Spirit, we address each other in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. This is where the instrument of our hearts sings and plays to the Lord in thanksgiving. This is where we help each other to do everything in the name of Jesus, united in communion with his person and with everyone in communion with him. Recognizing him in the host, this is where we learn how to recognize him in each other and are strengthen to be subordinate to each other out of reverence for the Christ we see and love.

It’s true that we’re not worthy of any of this, but the Lord has said the word, he has brought us here, and he’ll give us all he knows we need to live by faith. To make the most of our opportunity in life, to understand the Lord’s will, to live not as fools but according to the way of wisdom, we need to come here to receive the sober intoxication of the Spirit that will help us to lead truly Eucharistic lives, making a continual “eucharistein,” a thanksgiving to the Lord in our hearts, and going out not only to revere others as we do Christ but to echo in our own body language Christ’s words, “This is my body,” “This is my blood, given for you.”

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians
Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

The continuation of the Gospel according to St. Matthew

Jesus returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While he was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe.

 

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