September 29, 2019 – Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The following homily was delivered at the Praying With One Voice retreat at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, Indianapolis in 2013.
The retreat focused on praying together as a married couple – both the why and the how.
Woe to the complacent in Zion! (Amos 6:1-7)
But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)
Today’s readings tie in well with the topic of our first session – getting away from doing the minimum. When it comes to our prayer lives, we can become complacent. We take for granted what we have, sit back, and settle in.
Carol and I have gotten into the habit of watching a few of the competition shows on TV – like Survivor and Big Brother. Contestants compete in a variety of challenges, and at the end of each show, one of them is eliminated, voted out, by the others. Those who are trying to fly under the radar and not get noticed are referred to as “floaters.” They don’t make waves; they don’t draw attention to themselves; they work just hard enough to accomplish the minimum that is expected.
We can become “floaters” in our faith lives, doing only what we need to do to get by, allowing our faith life to just “happen to us.”
God doesn’t want us simply checking things off of a list. I went to Mass, check. I prayed before my meal, check. I told a sick friend I would pray for her, check. Anyone can go through the motions. God wants more from us.
God wants us to seek Him out. He wants us to engage with Him, to maintain an ongoing dialogue. He wants us, as Paul tells Timothy, to “compete well for the faith.” There is nothing passive about the word “compete.” There is no floating allowed.
We seek Him out when we live a prayerful life, when what we do in our daily lives is about Him and for Him. This is challenging for us. The world tells us that there are many other things for which we should be competing – the best job, the best house, the best car, etc. What if we expended the same amount of energy on attaining the best faith or the best relationship with God that we do on attaining the best “stuff”?
I led a retreat for 7th graders a number of years ago. We were in the chapel of the retreat house for a discussion on their lackluster approach to going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist.
“Mass is boring,” they said. They took their relationship with God and the Eucharist for granted and were complacent about their faith. They were floaters.
I asked them to call out the names of people they considered famous and who they would be excited to meet. The names of a few musicians, movie stars, and sports stars were called out. I asked if Jesus would be included on that list. “Sure,” they said, seeming to get excited. “It would be cool to meet Him.”
To which I responded by turning toward the altar and saying, “He is here! Fully alive and present every time you come to Mass. You meet Him every time you receive the Eucharist!”
We can lose sight of that fact at such a young age, and many of us never recover the excitement that should accompany this knowledge.
Competing for our faith means re-establishing our priorities. It means being deliberate, coming up with a plan, and removing obstacles that stand in our way. Competing for our faith means keeping our eye on the prize at all times.
There is strength in numbers. Praying together as a couple, living a prayerful life together, reduces the chances that either of you will become a floater.