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Sermons > Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

20 Sep 2009

 9/20/09                                                                                                   SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Fr. Randy Calvo   2009

“[Jesus and His disciples] left from there and began a journey through Galilee …” (Mark 9:30)

In the name …

We’re now into the football season. A friend of mine was at the Monday night football game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. After Buffalo scored their last touchdown in the fourth quarter, he decided to beat some of the traffic and leave the game early. The Patriots hadn’t been playing too well that night and he thought the game was lost. Out in the parking lot he came to find out that New England scored two touchdowns and came from behind to win that night. I heard Tom Brady the next day on the radio talking about the fact that football games last for 60 minutes, and that you have to play for the whole 60 minutes. That’s part of the discipline of the sport. My friend was walking back to the car with literally thousands of other fans who had thought that the game was all over for New England. They wanted to see them win; they paid a lot of money to watch them win; but they thought it was all done and they left. The players on the field, however, weren’t thinking that way.  The difference is discipline. It changes a person’s perspective and attitude, and it takes a great deal of training to build that kind of discipline. 

President Obama went down to Wall Street that same Monday. There wasn’t a lot of applause or cheering out in the audience for what he had to say to them. It’s been one year since Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and the whole financial system seemed in danger. The President went down to speak to the power-brokers of Wall Street and told them of discipline: “ “Those on Wall Street,” he warned, “cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.” He was talking to the chairmen of investment banks and hedge funds, the ones whose business models nearly broke the economy, and who are still in business only because the government bailed them out. Maybe we should or shouldn’t have saved their businesses, but the point is the President reminded them of their need for discipline, to run their businesses more responsibly, because he told them the next time they’re on their own. That message of discipline may have been hard to swallow for those on Wall Street, but it had to be said.

We’re now praying for three men in the military who are stationed in warzones who have connections with this parish or our parishioners. Discipline seems synonymous with the military. How do you keep your wits about you when an explosion hits your convoy or someone starts shooting at you in the streets of some faraway city? It’s discipline. You start to do what needs to be done on automatic. Your training takes over before you even think about it. You’re doing before you’re thinking. That’s the work of discipline, and that’s what may keep our soldiers alive.

Families need discipline to run well. Schools need discipline to run well. Businesses need discipline to run well. Even join a voluntary organization where people are there just because they want to be, and they also need discipline to run well. And it may come as a surprise to some, but personal faith and the community of the church also need discipline to run well. In today’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus is beginning a journey through Galilee. The first-time reader of the Gospel doesn’t know where that journey is going to end, but we do, and so does Jesus. He’s heading to Jerusalem and that final confrontation with His enemies, and with this in mind Jesus tells His disciples: “‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after His death He will rise.’” (Mk 9:31) Luke words this episode a bit more strongly so that we can’t miss that feeling of determination. We read there: “When the days for [Jesus’] being taken up were fulfilled, He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” (9:51) Jesus knows what He’s heading into, and yet He continues. He could have disappeared. Instead of heading south, Jesus just as easily could have gone north, but it was His spiritual discipline that carried Him forward to His destiny. It was His spiritual discipline that helped Jesus to face down the terror and pain of crucifixion so that He could fulfill His ministry of salvation.

In today’s Lesson, James repeats the message of spiritual discipline. He warns against the conflicts and passions that seem to emerge out of nowhere and nothingness. He teaches believers to “cultivate peace,” in other words, to find the discipline to live as believers in God should live, to follow rules of behaviour that go beyond natural instincts. Every church relies on the authority of conscience, the instinctive voice of what is right and good, but it is the discipline of practicing the faith that gives conscience a loud enough voice to be heard over all the other noise that is out in the world. Who’s ever raised a child and hoped that he or she would learn to make good and healthy decisions without some parental guidance? This past Friday the Frontier Middle School had a dance. Who would imagine inviting those teenagers to come together, good kids all I’m sure, but who would bring them together without some provision for chaperones? In similar fashion, it just makes sense that conscience needs to be cultivated, in the words of today’s Lesson. It doesn’t emerge magically out of thin air. It needs discipline.

It makes sense everywhere else, but for some reason some people think it’s not as necessary when it comes to faith and church. Why? We need to cultivate the discipline of the religious life, from prayer at home to Sundays in church, from reading the Bible on our own to Christian education at church, from following our conscience in our daily lives to helping the community of the church work for the good of her members and those around us. This spiritual discipline cannot be avoided. If we want to take our faith seriously, then we have to be serious about our faith, and this takes time and effort, in other words, it takes discipline. Let us pray this morning for the discipline to cultivate our religious lives so that we may grow secure in our faith, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)

Fr. Randolph Calvo


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