That We May Be Transformed

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 30, 2020

See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

As some of you may know, I came back to my faith during college.

And in those early days, when my fervor was high, I used to be obsessed with this Gospel.

For I was so concerned that I didn’t have enough of the cross in life.

And so I prayed for it.  I prayed each night that the Lord would send me his cross.  I prayed that I too would be worthy of dying for those I loved.

Until my spiritual director heard of this.

And in classic Fr. Hanley fashion, he sat me down and bluntly told me to stop.

And before I could protest.  He went on, with his characteristic wisdom and wit.

“Brian, you will get more than your share of crosses over the course of your life.

Don’t worry.  The cross will always be there.

The question is, will you be able to carry it?”

“Of course,”  I said.  With all of the bravado of our dear Peter.

And he said, “Well.  That is what I would pray for.  Is the grace to be able to carry the cross when it comes.”

Man, if I could only go back to my 18 year old self and tell him how important it would be to listen to this advice.

For Fr. Hanley was right.

The crosses certainly came.  In all shapes and sizes.

The betrayal of friends and their searing judgment over how I lived my Catholic faith

Holding the hand of a patient as she said her goodbyes in a sterile hospital hallway in Florida.

Sitting in my bedroom waiting for the phone call that never came inviting me to dinner on a Friday night.

Getting the evaluation that said I wasn’t good enough.  As a teacher.  As an Oblate. Being told I had failed.  Despite giving it everything I had.

Facing a job description that was far beyond reasonable.  Pushing myself to unhealthy extremes trying to keep up with the work.  And still watching as the balls I was frantically juggling kept crashing to the ground all around me.

Holding a student close as they cried.  Over the girlfriend who said it was over.  And the college who said no thanks.  Over the demons they battled.  And over the body of their friend as they said their final goodbyes.

Sitting in my office, after everyone else had left, and sobbing over the loss of my student. Feeling every ounce of weight as that cross pressed the breath out of my lungs and tore a hole in my heart.

Yup the crosses were certainly there.

What was much less clear was my ability to carry them.

If I am honest with myself, I probably have  responded to the cross more like Jeremiah or Peter on any given day.

Throwing up my hands and lamenting “why me?”  in one moment

Denying the cross even exists in the next.  Pretending that if I laugh loud enough or work hard enough or try to be good enough, I can escape it.

But Fr. Hanley’s invitation still remains.

The invitation to ask for the grace to carry the cross as it comes.

And when I do.  When I tap into that grace, I get glimpses of the true power of the cross.  The power the cross possesses to transform us, if we choose to carry it.

How in carrying the cross, I have learned how to accept myself for who I am, with all of my gifts and brokenness, all of my limitations and my potential.

How in carrying the cross, I have learned the depths of my strength.  And I have learned the limits of  it.  And how I must learn to trust in a God to bridge the gaps between what I have and what I need, between who I am and who I need to be.

How in carrying the cross, I have learned how to show compassion and receive another’s love.  I have learned to allow others to see my wounds and minister to them. And I have learned how to gently bring a healing touch to another.  

My friends, the cross is an unavoidable part of each of our lives.  A truth that seems abundantly clear to us all in 2020, as we labor under the weight of a global pandemic, a shattered economy, systemic racism and a poisoned political debate.  

No, we cannot avoid the cross.  But we do retain the choice of how we will carry it.  We retain the choice to cooperate with a God who always chooses to carry our cross with us.  

And so I pray.

I pray that each of us may we carry our crosses in such a way that we too may be transformed.

Transformed into a living reflection of the very Christ whose cross saved us all.

May God be Praised.

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