FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 8th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, February 27, 2022:
By a show of hands, how many of us wish that we were luckier in life? And I mean that in just about every way – not just the lottery, but luckier in work, in love, in friendships, and more. I think we all wish we were luckier in life. Interestingly, I came across a study recently out of the University of Hartfordshire in England that explored this question of luck. And, just when you begin to think that some people have all the luck in the world, this study shows that there are in fact some common qualities to lucky people.
Lucky people for example smile twice as often as unlucky people, and engage in more direct eye contact. Lucky people tend to be optimistic and have positive expectations for the outcomes in life. Unlucky people, on the other hand, have a much more negative view of the world, of people, of their lives, and of circumstances in general. They tend to see the very same situations and instead of seeing the lucky possibilities, they see only the negatives.
It reminds me of someone I lived with years ago in community. He was the type who always seemed to see the cloud around every silver lining. For example, faced with an unexpected warm, Spring-like day in the midst winter – like we had on Wednesday; as everyone else rejoices in this gift, his would sayd, “Well, it doesn’t really matter. I’ll just gonna snow on Friday.” Or after being being praised for a job well done, as anyone else would be happy with the kind words, he’d say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter. They praise you today, they tear you down tomorrow.” We all know someone like this, and if we’re honest, sometimes we are that person.
The British study found that luckiness and happiness go hand-in-hand. The people more inclined towards good luck, also tended to be happier. The study offered a few suggestions to increase both luck and happiness in our lives. First, keep an open mind that is always looking for opportunities, not one that sees only problems. Second, have an optimistic view of the positive things in life. Focusing on the negative crushes our spirits and lowers our expectations. Finally, try something new. Routines can quickly become ruts, but an openness to change can bring about new possibilities that we could never have imagined.
And I think Jesus is getting at something like this in our Gospel today as He speaks about splinters and beams in people’s eyes, and what kind of fruit a tree will bear. Jesus is asking us a very basic question today – what is your view of the world? Do you see the world as an inherently negative place where life is a drudgery and everyone is out to get us; a conspiracy around every corner? Do you have a view that only sees the things that are wrong with everyone? Or do you see the world through the eyes of God – a God who created everything and so sees the inherent goodness in everything; a God who desires goodness, and holiness, healing and joy for all of His creation? A God who only wants what is best for His people?
As Jesus said today, “A good person out of the store of goodness in their heart produces good.” Jesus reminds us that we can look only at splinters and be part of the negativity around us; or we can share in His light and shine that light to the world. We can produce goodness from the store of goodness He gave us.
This has been constantly echoed by Pope Francis during these years of his pontificate. For example, in his encyclical The Joy of the Gospel he speaks about the contrast between joyful proclaimers of the Gospel and what he calls “sourpusses.” He said, for example, “A Christian is a man or a woman of joy. Jesus teaches us this, the Church teaches us this. Joy is a gift from God. It fills us from within. It is like an anointing of the Spirit. And this joy is the certainty that Jesus is with us and with the Father. The Christian sings with joy, and walks with joy, and carries this joy everywhere they go.” It makes me think of a quote I heard many years ago from a speaker who said, “Why is it that some Christians go around looking as though they were baptized in pickle juice?”
Pope Francis is continually inviting us to live lives that are characterized not by negativity, not by conflict, not by conspiracy – but by the joy that is a gift from God. The Pope said, “Joy always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.” And, there is the heart of the matter – we are joyful because we know that we are infinitely loved by God. And we know this because we hear it in the First Letter of John, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us...We love because he first loved us.” God loved us first and best – and the certainty of that love is what gives birth to our joy. My friends, as we gather in this church today, do you know how much God loves you? Have you let that certainty sink into the depths of your heart? You are loved by God; you are His beloved. Nothing can change that or take it away – and that is the source of our joy!
“A good person out of the store of goodness in their heart produces good.” My friends, we are being called once again to reject the negativity that is swirling all around us. We are being called to be the people who proclaim peace in the midst of war and violence in our world; to be those who invite unity in the face of the political and cultural divisions all around us; to be brothers and sisters who live community and equality in a society filled with prejudice and racism, homelessness, drug addiction and poverty. Our world today lacks the joy that is a gift from God. And Jesus is inviting us once again to be His face, His hands, His voice to the world – He invites us to be the people who bring that joy wherever we go.
“A good person out of the store of goodness in their heart produces good.” With Christ, let us be the change, the peace, the joy, the healing, and the reconciliation that our world so desperately needs.
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.