Homily 6-30-2012 God and Mission before Country and Freedom (and guitar)
Today we are presented with the dilemma of freedom and mission. We, like Christ, are invited to freely accept the mission that God has for us. Last week, Jesus told us that although he was the Christ, he was going to be rejected, suffer, and die – and we were commanded to take up our cross and follow Him.
Now today, He turns to Jerusalem. Perhaps Our Lord has seen enough suffering and pain in this world and now knows that He must once and for all see evil conquered definitively by the Cross. Although Jesus is free, he does not use this freedom, in the words of St. Paul “as an opportunity for the flesh,” that is, for worldly comforts and avoidance of pain. No, He has a sense of mission that places demands on His freedom.
Freedom. This one word summarizes the “great experiment” that is the United States of America. Freedom is worth fighting for, but freedom is not our God, and freedom cannot be separated from truth and from Goodness, especially from the common good. Freedom is not absolute for the Christian, because we always, at every moment and in every part of our life, have a prior relationship that makes demands on us: our life is a gift, our freedom is a gift, our talents are gifts, and they must be used well.
So what is freedom for? Well, Paul tells us and Christ shows us. Saint Paul says to us: “Do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” Jesus shows us: he looks to Jerusalem, “setting his face like flint” meaning “never turning back or getting distracted,” embracing His Passion because He knows it is His Mission.
What is our mission? As Christians in this time and this place, what are we called to? How are we asked to use our freedom?
In college, I was taking a guitar class, where I was individually instructed by a very good teacher who especially played Jazz music. Since I never took classes at this college before, he was a bit unsure of my skill level, but when he saw I had a good foundation, I could tell he was excited about the prospect of having an ambitious student. However, there were definitely times when I didn't practice as diligently as I should because I was getting distracted by other responsibilities, and it was clear that he was in some ways deflated by the fact that we wouldn't get as far as he hoped during that semester.
My teacher wanted a committed student who would practice every day, not some days, for 15-30 minutes. The United states wants full-hearted citizens who buy in to the “american dream” and care for their country. Jesus wants committed disciples, not half-hearted “fans” who might every once in a while “like” his Facebook status (if He had one) or follow Him on Twitter (if He had one). (By the way, the Pope has a Twitter acount: https://twitter.com/Pontifex)
So what happens when the world demands the same thing God demands of me? It goes to God. I read my theology and do my prayers when my teacher says “practice guitar.” I promote Church teaching on human life and the family when the media says “hooray, supreme court,” and separates freedom from truth. I make the sign of the Cross and genuflect to the tabernacle before I salute the flag and sing the national anthem, or even better, “God Bless America.” For indeed we have and cherish our freedom. But even more, we have and cherish our mission to follow Christ, even to the Cross.