(This is a homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, preached by Fr. Kevin Mann, S.J.C. I love the way it moves from the natural, to the supernatural, and then to the very practical. )
Before Texas became a part of the United States it had sought to gain independence from Mexico, so as to become an independent republic in its own right. By that time, Texas was comprised of both Mexican inhabitants and American settlers.
In the1960 motion picture, The Alamo, the historic figure, Colonel James Bowie, has a conversation with Davie Crockett, congressman turned frontiersman, also an historic figure (played by John Wayne). Expressing his admiration of the Texans, Colonel James Bowie describes them as a people who are not afraid to die, but also not afraid to live. They had a hearty hunger for life. They worked hard and valued a good time.
…not afraid to die and not afraid to live…
In fact, Davie Crockett and Colonel James Bowie, together with about 150 volunteers from among the Texans, many of which were not trained soldiers, all died in battle at the Alamo, fighting to defend the life they wanted to live.
They considered what it meant to live, weighed its value, and committed themselves, not knowing what the future would behold.
They were willing to die in order to live.
Granted, the life that some wanted to live may not have necessarily been in complete harmony with the Law of God.
Nevertheless, like Colonel James Bowie, we can all admire this hearty hunger for life. Yet, would we be willing to die to satiate such a hunger? Would we be willing to die to truly live?
If we want to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we want to say yes to this question. Indeed, our Lord takes it a step further and declares that we, of necessity, must die in order to truly live… in order to enjoy the fullness of life for which He has created us:
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”
This is nothing other than the lived reality of God’s love, which we received in Baptism. In Baptism we died with Christ mystically and rose with Him to a new life that blossoms into eternal life.
The principle of the fullness of life that our Lord wants us to enjoy is, indeed, the love He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a committed love that denies itself and even dies for the sake of communion… particularly, restoring us to communion with God.
To the degree this love takes hold of our lives, it moves us to commit ourselves to God and the well-being of others. This love proves its commitment in self-denying fidelity… self-denying love. We are sustained in this committed love by a living Faith and trust in God… sustained by prayer.
What might this look like in our lives? What might it look like when our desire to truly live meets with the grace and truth of Jesus Christ?
…like persevering in Faith in the face of tragedy, prioritizing Sunday Mass at the top of the week, and even seeking the Mass when not obligated.
…like people reaching out to help support each other in need, reaching out to help each other celebrate God’s gifts.
…like people sacrificing their time and energy to help make life more joyful for others.
…like people praying for parents and their preborn children, and for doctors and their staff outside of abortion clinics.
…like putting in an honest day’s work and absenting oneself from rings of gossip.
…like following your conscience in accord with the Catholic Faith, when not popular and in the face of persecution.
…like couples saving themselves for marriage and not moving in with each other before, despite financial strain and cultural pressure.
…like married couples working out their difficulties together, despite pain, frustration, and humiliation.
…like an individual courageously struggling against his or her vices and sins and persevering in humble repentance.
In short, it looks like carrying out the duties and responsibilities of one’s state in life, including the spontaneous needs we do not plan for and those needs which, strictly speaking, may not be our responsibility, but which God might inspire us to take on anyway… and all this while keeping the moral precepts of God whether convenient or not, whether noticed or not… relying not on our own strength, but on God’s… confident that God will fulfill our hope. This is the beginning of the fullness of life.
To the degree that we value the fullness of life, we will deny ourselves, take up our Cross and follow Jesus in loving trust and fidelity, and we will truly live… even now and eventually in life eternal.