Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Responsibility and Faith
Great is your faith.
I want to begin with two examples of superstitious faith. The first is from Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret." Her basic point is that if you "ask the universe" for whatever you need, the universe will give it to you. Of course, she quotes Jesus, where he says pretty much the same thing - "Ask and you will receive." Even in mundane things, like looking for a parking spot at a busy mall at Christmas. "Ask the universe," a nice close parking spot will magically appear. This principle is the great "secret" of all successful people through time.
Similarly, I remember a new-age store in the McKinley Mall over the river that sold all kinds of crystals and do-dads to help you achieve prosperity. I like the pyramid - I have no idea what that did. Maybe if I put it on my head, my hair will grow. I tease. But I assure you, none of that works the way they say. For me, it's a science; we must lose this superstitious thinking.
I wonder if this is some of what Jesus encountered in today's Gospel in the Canaanite woman. She was desperate to have Jesus heal her daughter - and persistent. But that's not the way mature prayer works. Jesus, I believe, wanted to transform her prayer into something deeper. But what is the difference between shallow prayer and deep prayer? In a word, shallow faith is self-centred and magical.
A shallow faith is a superstitious faith. If I ask loudly enough or do this certain thing this certain way, my prayers will be answered. Unanswered prayer is totally on me because the universe is there to serve me and to meet my needs.
A shallow faith is a merciless faith. I don't get what I want when I want it because I have so badly sinned. If I can only get to confession and have my sins forgiven, I will get what I need. If I don't get what I need, it must be because I didn't confess right.
A shallow faith is a faith without responsibility. I have needs and wants, but the way to get those needs and wants is to pray to a God who will answer me if I pray right. My responsibility is not in life; it is in how I pray. My life is, then, out of control; it is in the hands of a random God. This leads to irresponsibility and, ultimately, misery. Then we say, “I’m miserable because God must want me to be miserable.”
This is a mistake. What is the difference between shallow faith and deep faith? The difference is in this last point: responsibility. You have more control over your life than you think, and this comes under the category of responsibility.
There are three different kinds of responsibility:
Promise keeping. Faith in others and other's faith in you. It is something we must do and has nothing to do with asking the universe for anything.
Initiative. Every day, probably every hour, you will be presented with an opportunity to serve, give, and think originally. In my homily, I used the example of my early days as a teenager working on a farm, thinking of a more efficient way to do a certain task and wondering if I would get in trouble with my boss. Of course, he commended me for my original thinking. Had I not taken that initiative, the job would not have been done either, and I would not have acted responsibly, ironically. Faith in self. - farming example.
Generosity. This is giving without counting the cost. This type of responsibility makes a marriage work - its commitment. This type of responsibility requires deep faith in God, which is the main difference between shallow and deep faith. Wandering around the parking lot, seeing a space emerge, the Christian response is to give that space to someone else. The universe is not at your beck and call; on the contrary, God is calling you to serve.
The difference between shallow faith and deep faith is between the Canaanite woman's first and second responses. Her first response was, "Give me what I need." Her second response went much deeper: Lord, I surrender to you. It reminds me of Peter’s response when he was sinking: Lord, Save me. Jesus transformed her prayer from what she needed into accepting responsibility for her own life and understanding who she really was in the presence of Jesus.
I conclude with the Healing Prayer of Surrender
Dear Lord Jesus, it is my will to surrender to you everything that I am and everything that I’m striving to be. I open the deepest recesses of my heart and invite your Holy Spirit to dwell inside of me. I offer you my life, heart, mind, body, soul, spirit, all my hopes, plans and dreams. I surrender to you my past, present and future problems, habits, character defects, attitudes, livelihood, resources, finances, medical coverage, occupation and all my relationships. I give you my health, physical appearance, disabilities, family, marriage, children and friendships. I ask you to take Lordship over every aspect of my life. I surrender to you all my hurt, pain, worry, doubt, fear and anxiety, and I ask you to wash me clean.I release everything into your compassionate care. Please speak to me clearly, Lord. Open my ears to hear your voice. Open my heart to commune with you more deeply. I want to feel your loving embrace. Open the doors that need to be opened and close the doors that need to be closed. Please set my feet upon the straight and narrow road that leads to everlasting life. Amen.