Change and conversion from within
Below is the homily I gave at Sacred Heart Parish here in Sedalia the weekend of August 29/30th. It was my first weekend celebrating Mass at that parish.
Greetings again. By way of you all getting to know me, let me say that before I entered seminary I was a journalist. Also, I’m 26 years old, though I’ll turn 27 this coming week. I’d didn’t do my fact checking on this, but I’d venture to say that roughly half of my friends are Facebook are journalists, between the ages 24-27. Those are the ages of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. The two tv journalists who were killed on live television this week. So I must admit that I was particularly moved or touched by this terrible tragedy.
What stuck me as I continued to watch the news coverage throughout the rest of the week was how quickly the conversation turned to laws and regulations. And if were honest, anytime one of these tragedies occurs, that happens. We immediately turn to laws, rules, regulations, policies etc.
Now I’m not saying that rules, laws, etc. are all bad, no I think in many cases they can do a great deal to help our society. But there can be a tendency to create a sort of scapegoat. That is, every time something bad happens, well, lets just fix it with some new laws, policies and it will never happen again. How often do we hear, “If this change, then this…” We turn outward, all our attention away from ourselves.
Today’s readings call us to do the opposite. To turn inward on ourselves. To recognize that it is not merely policies which much be changed, but rather hearts which must be transformed. As long as our hearts remain full of hate, if we fail to recognize, as Paul writes, the “love of God which has been poured out into our hearts,” then we’ll be left pointing outward at policies, instead of looking inward, allowing God to transform us. To recognize that all of these struggles, evils, murder etc. come from within, so if we want to provide a solution, we must not look elsewhere but rather we must turn inward.
To provide a more local example. This week we started school, and we had a new policy in place for pick up. The first day, there were a lot of difficulties and it took some time. But then the next day I was out running errands and as I came back I looked at my clock and said, “oh no!” But when I turned onto 3rd st, the traffic was already gone. Why is that? It would have been easy after the first day for everyone to start pointing fingers, complain, or go back to the drawing board. But something different happened. As a community, we looked inward and tried something which seems novel these days, patience. People looked not at policies written down but at the inner values such as safety, patience and cooperation, which were most important. The results were stunning.
We live in a world which seeks instant results and gratification, perhaps in the school case we got lucky. But it’s important to remember that the seeking of instant gratification is what leads to an attitude which turns outward, because we don’t want to look in on ourselves and acknowledge our mistakes, our weaknesses. We want the quick fix, the easy out. But we have to be willing to put in the hard, and often long work of turning inward to work to remove all that prevents from being as we heard in today’s second reading, “doers of the word and not hearers only.”
This is why I’m here with you now as associate pastor. To help you all look in, open your hearts and allow the love of Christ to fill your hearts so you become impelled to share that love with others. So I’m here to help. Anything I can do to help you with the process and through the difficulties of turning into to examine our individual lives and the whole community so that we can continue to grow closer to Christ, together. So please don’t be afraid to ask me for something. I also ask for your patience with me. For not only am I new to Sedalia, but I’m new to being a priest.
But to be clear on my role in all this is, it’s not to be your savior, I’m not here to save you, you already have a savior, he is the one that loves you and wants to transform your heart. My role is to help facilitate this work, nothing more.