Homily 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ Cyber-version

I was a teenager learning to drive a stick shift. But this was no fancy synchromesh tranny. It was an old, 3-speed stick on the column in a 1960 Ford pickup. An old, used Ford pickup. The clutch and tranny were fussier than a newly trained liturgist. To add to my driving pleasure and my Dad’s stress as he taught me, the steering was sloppier than a liturgist who has forgotten their important lessons. So picture it..I was driving down the country road, approaching a curve, and a one lane bridge when coming the other way is another car, a new, fancy car …my Dad calmly (or so it seemed to me) said.”.just keep your eyes on the road, on where you need to go.”..Somehow I downshifted, steered and made it across the bridge without hitting the walls, the other car or driving into a ditch. I was learning to keep my focus. This brings us to focus on the Gospel.
“So He was not able to perform any mighty deeds there…He was amazed at their lack of faith”. This sad commentary from our Gospel reading shares with us a lesson of the peril of misplacing the focus of our faith. Our Bible readings challenge us..WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? What is the focus of your faith?

LOOKING ALL AROUND: Jesus, God, come in the flesh was essentially handicapped in today’s Gospel account from doing any of the real dynamic works of His Kingdom. Why? The people in his hometown were looking at everything but what really mattered. They focused on family, the past, their limited knowledge. They looked to their expectations. They were simply focused on the externals. This is a vision problem we all must confront. We may be tempted to focus on the faults, the problems or our expectations or the appearances of an issue. All these things need to be recognized, dealt with and then we need to move on. But we can’t afford to be looking for the foolish distractions that hide what, Who is real.

FOCUSING INWARD: Our reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church helps us understand another hazard to our spiritual eyesight. Paul the Apostle, struggled with some deep, pervasive weakness. Scripture does not elaborate what it was and while scholars have enjoyed speculating the specific problem is unimportant. What is important is the lesson Paul learned…to allow his need, his weakness to be an opportunity for the grace of Christ. To put it another way. Paul learned to look beyond is inner-self, his need, to the grace and strength of the Crucified. And yet how we cherish our inner struggles. We myopically gaze in hypnotic fascination on self…our needs..our wounds..our expectations or hopes and all the while we miss the opportunity to see anew, more clearly He who arose to meet our deepest need.

LOOKING TO CHRIST: The Psalm proclaims..our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy. It is as we allow ourselves to seek and behold Christ, His holiness, His Love that we see our utterly foolish all the other things we focus upon can be. In the Light of His Truth, His Presence that we can start to see what is truly real, important, eternal. In that light we see, clearly the need we all share for His mercy. And it is as we seek His face we can know the sorrow of His tears when one of us falls or His smile when we share the embrace of His forgiveness. Let us seek Him then. Otherwise we face the peril of missing our Lord. St. Augustine understood this peril when he said” “I am afraid of Jesus passing. “ The people of Nazareth were missing an opportunity of eternity by their distractions. Jesus would not, nor will not, overstay His welcome. He abides where He is welcome.

So…What are we looking at? Looking all around? Focusing inward? Or looking to Christ? Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full into His wonderful face.
And the things of earth
will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.