Ascension Church

Homily, Sept. 3, 2017


I. This past Friday, September 1st, was my 60th birthday. I don’t typically read my horoscope in the newspaper, but I check it out when it reads, “Your birthday today.” Here’s what it said:
The love coming into your life will grow and grow. You’ll sail the uncharted territory and make your own map in October. In November, choices that seem monumental are actually as silly as worrying about choosing which side of the bread to butter…Sagittarius and Pisces adore you.



“The love coming into your life will grow and grow.” That sounds great, and it is. But Dostoevsky says that, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”


Even though it’s a holiday weekend, today’s gospel is tough: it’s that pesky cross again. By marking ourselves with the sign of that cross, which we’ve already done four times in 15 minutes, we proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and everything else is not lord. It confesses that our first allegiance is to Jesus Christ, that we are willing to meet whatever comes as a result of imitating his life of service and sacrifice. The sign of the cross is the offering of our bodies, St. Paul says today, “as a living sacrifice”—that is, making all that we do an act of worship. Stunning!


II. After two years, two months, and two days at Ascension, I sometimes wonder how I got myself into this deal with all the mess of bilingualism and multiculturalism, the distress of immigration and racism. I just want to say Mass! Someone said to me the other day, “I’d love being a pastor if it weren’t for all those people.” Love in practice is something quite other than love in dreams.


III. Like Peter in today’s gospel, I prefer no-pain, cost-free discipleship. Today’s gospel calls us to stand up for the reign of God, no matter the cost. Dying with Christ is not a matter of being strong enough, but being weak enough. Resurrection comes, not from the exercise of our own capacities and resources, but in and through our openness, our emptiness, our powerlessness. No matter how prevalent the violent forces we face, our faith holds fast to the truth that Resurrection prevails, and that the love coming into your life will grow and grow—whether it’s your birthday today or not.
h/t: Mary McGlone