Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
August 19-20, 2017
Sacred Heart, EGF – 5:30 PM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 8:00 AM; Holy Trinity, Tabor – 10:00 AM
Focus: God surpasses every human desire.
Function: Increase your desire for God.
It had been a long day at work, and he was starving. But he was about to be filled. My uncle had bought a choice cut of meat, and the steak had been marinating for 24 hours. The charcoal was lit and the temperature was finally right. He threw the steak on the grill. As the steak sizzled and the aroma of the cooking meat filled the air, his mouth watered. He watched it closely. Not yet…not yet…ok, now. He flipped it over at the perfect time. It sizzled some more. Finally, it was time to take the steak off of the grill. He ran inside to get a plate and some silverware. This was going to taste so good!
He came back outside, picked up the spatula, and…
The steak was gone.
He looked around in disbelief, and then it hit him.
There sat Winzer, his year-old rambunctious Doberman Pincher, and he was licking his chops.
And the words of the Lord never seemed clearer:
It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.
Our desires are meant to be fulfilled, and our desires move us, they push us forward, to pursue the end that we desire. For every natural desire that we possess, there exists something to fulfill that desire.
We experience hunger – the desire for food, and it is satisfied by eating a meal.
We experience thirst – the desire for a drink, and it is satisfied by water.
We experience loneliness – the desire for communion with another – and it is satisfied by a meaningful relationship.
Most importantly, we experience a desire for the infinite. We recoil at the idea of death. We experience a desire for eternity. We experience a desire to live forever.
And there is something to fulfill that desire.
CS Lewis put it this way:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world (Mere Christianity).
And yet, we know that not all of our desires are good. Some of desires are disordered. They propel us toward something that ultimately will not satisfy. These desires need to be reordered. They need to be redirected. They need to be purified.
This is what the pursuit of holiness is all about. Holiness is about the purification of our desires. It is about becoming pure of heart. Our hearts are where our desires lie, and our hearts have been wounded by original sin as well as our personal sins. Our hearts need to be purified so that they can receive what God desires to give us. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”
Yet too often, rather than purifying our hearts, we spend our time giving into misdirected desires thinking that they will satisfy us, and they do satisfy us for a short time, but then, at some point, we experience the ache of our hearts again. We experience a desire for something more. What temporarily fulfilled that desire no longer works, so we move onto something else. We try to fill the infinite hole in our heart with finite things, and we’re always left feeling empty. We’re always left wanting more.
Saint Augustine knew this experience well. He spent years pursing empty relationships, giving into lust, and taking pride in his intellectual achievements. It left him empty. When he experienced his conversion and finally began to pursue holiness – to purify his heart – he put his realization this way:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
God is the one who promises to fulfill our deepest desires, and God is the only one who can fulfill our deepest desires. Our opening prayer for Mass stated it so beautifully:
O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.
During my deacon summer, I had the privilege to work with many couples who were seeking to come into the Church or to come back to the Church after some time away. They had a longing, a real desire, to receive Holy Communion. But they were living in an irregular marriage situation, and it took some time to go through the annulment process and then to go through their marriage preparation in the Church.
Yet, in all of this, they went about it in the right way. They knew they couldn’t receive communion until they were in right relationship with God and each other, and so they waited. And while they waited, they prayed.
And their desire grew stronger.
This is what prayer does. It stretches our hearts. Prayer enlarges the desires of our hearts so that they are able to contain what God desires to give us.
When the annulments came through and we celebrated their marriage in the Church, and the time came for them to receive Holy Communion, they were in a daze. You could see the ultimate fulfillment that they were experiencing on their faces. It was so good! It made all of the waiting worth it, because the time of waiting increased their hunger for the Eucharist and now they have a greater appreciation for it than many of us probably do.
Our desires are meant to lead us to God.
Brothers and sisters, where are your desires leading you?
Are you seeking to purify your desires? Are you pursuing what will ultimately satisfy? Or are you pursuing things that only leave you empty and hungering for more?
Do you desire the Eucharist? Do truly desire the Eucharist? Or have you become complacent and lukewarm?
Do you examine yourself before you receive the Eucharist and go to confession when your examination pricks your conscience?
Or do you numb your desire by making excuses, by filling up your mind with other thoughts so that you do not have to face your conscience?
Careless and ignorant reception of Communion without examining ourselves will blind us to the greatness of the gift and make us lukewarm. It will decrease our desires and shrink our hearts.
But careful and reverent reception of Communion after examining ourselves will help us recognize our unworthiness and thus will magnify the greatness of the gift. It will increase our desires and stretch our hearts.
Let us not be like Winzer the Doberman Pincher who felt that he was entitled to the steak and took it for himself. No, let us instead be like the Canaanite woman who knew she was unworthy of such a great gift.
She knew she was unworthy, but she asked for it with faith, with perseverance, and with humility. Her prayer showed both her great faith and her great desire, and the Lord fulfilled her desire because of her great faith.
She didn’t take it for herself, she received it as a gift, and how great is the gift that she received.
God surpasses every human desire. And God has a desire too.
God desires your heart.
Purify your heart so as to awaken your desire for Him, the only One who can truly satisfy every longing of your heart.