Rejecting the Idol of the Self-Made Man

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time | October 20, 2019

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons

It’s funny. I still remember the idealism with which I entered education.

Convinced that by sheer force of will, I could overcome any barrier that stood in the way of my students becoming who God called them to be.

I would walk into Nativity ready for anything, or so I thought.

    But man, was I wrong.

I realized you are never quite ready for when a parent calls and says they recently became homeless. Or a child mentions he had been abused. Or a text buzzes through saying that your student has been shot.

But if I have learned one thing over the years it is that sheer force of will is not enough. I am not enough.

    For pursuing one’s vocation is hard work.

        The to-do list never seems to get shorter.

        We seem to rack up more losses than wins on a given day

        We are often painfully aware of our limits, our inadequacies.

We seem perpetually exhausted. Worn down. Stressed

And there always seems to be another hurdle that emerges that derails our best-conceived plans.

So how do we do it? How do we become that relentless widow of the Gospel, steadfast in our convictions and in our labors. Refusing to give up. Refusing to surrender.

I was pondering all of this last Monday, as I walked two of my Nativity grads back to their cars after hearing them speak to a group of my Sallies guys.

For in listening to their stories, I was reminded of how hard their road is. And how powerless I often feel in walking beside them.

As we went to say goodbye, one of them turned to me and said, “You doing ok, Fr. Brian?”

“I’m hanging in, kid,” I casually replied.

He didn’t say another word.  But suddenly both of them had arms around my shoulders.  And the three of us just stood there. Holding each other up as the sky darkened into night.

And in that moment, I couldn’t help but think of our readings for this weekend.

For in them, I was reminded of the answer of how we do this work.  How we live out our own vocations.

    For when we picture Moses on that hillside, we see him supported on either side.

    Yes, he had work he was called to, but he was not asked to bear that burden alone.

And neither are we.

I know that our nation has too often held up the self-made man as the ideal. But I am convinced that this image is an idol that must be rejected.

        For none of us was made to walk this journey alone.

            We are not meant to be parents alone

            We are not meant to serve as caregivers alone.

We are not meant to be students alone.

            We are not meant to age, or work or dream alone.

            We are not meant to grieve alone.

In fact, when we feel stretched out on our own crosses, our arms are perfectly positioned to fall gently onto the shoulders of our sisters and brothers who promise to help carry us onward until we regain our footing.

And at the same time, these readings also remind us that success is not the ultimate marker of vocation.  Fidelity is.

Yes, each of us has a vocation in this moment that is uniquely ours. And all we are called to do is remain faithful to that vocation.

        Especially when that fidelity leaves us feeling like a failure

When we don’t get accepted into our top school or we fail to make the team.

When our children stop joining us for Church or our spouse walks out of the marriage.

When we grieve yet another miscarriage or witness another promotion pass us by.

When we relapse or our mental health craters or are told we are not allowed to drive anymore.

For it is in these moments that faith calls us forward. To stay in the fire. To remain persistent in our call.

        Trusting that our God remains beside us.  In the ones who journey with us.

Until the day when we all emerge victorious over every force of evil or death that stands in our way.  

May God be Praised.

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