Sermons

August 27: Twenty-First Sunday

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” Romans 11:33-36.

For the past few Sundays, we hear of gospel stories about the persistence and determination essential to our lives, and how Christ can help us stay on course.

 

Today we listen to a dialogue between Jesus and Peter who has been empowered by Christ to be this steadfast rock upon which the Lord builds the foundation of his church.

Interestingly, this is the only mention of the word “church” in the New Testament. Later in scripture we read about congregation and community.

But the intent here is that Jesus’s followers must rely on one another for the full benefit of his message and mission.

Jesus empowered Peter by giving him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.”

Your education forges keys that open doors to a full and rich life for you and others. You have not quite opened those doors as yet, but you will – in just a few years — you may be on to a career, creative or service opportunities, and life-long partnership in marriage.

It’s that grace we work towards now that education might also open doors of justice, peace, and even healing – in the name of an “invisible kingdom of the heart.”

Such grace can change lives.

Two years ago I sat down for a lunch at a small trattoria Da Gilda in the Trastervere neighborhood of Rome.

The restaurant is situated just across from John Cabot University where I was teaching that summer.

I happened to overhear two American college students that were sitting at the table next to me. As they were talking, I could hear a reference to something very familiar, and knowing that the college was a short distance away, just on the other side of an arch — I assumed the women were John Cabot student.

So I broke into the conversation, and introduced myself, only to find out that Allie and Laura were not from our college, instead two nursing students from Benedictine College of Atchison, Kansas.

They were returning thru Rome to home after an eight-week service-learning project in Calcutta, India where they worked with the Sisters of Missionary Charity, the order of nuns established by Mother Teresa.

Immediately I was taken with their positive spirits and their extraordinary adventure. I asked all sorts of questions, but primarily I wanted to know how “twenty-some things” and nurses-in-training coped in such a foreign and possibly difficult place.

It’s one thing to serve the health needs in Kansas City, and yet something else to work in the hot and humid expanse of India, so far from the everyday comforts of our American “bed, bath & beyond consumer culture.”

Allie told me: “Well, some things prepared us, and most things did not.”

I was curious about their well being of that of the dozen or so of their classmates. Were they and their fellow students adequately prepared for their duties in India?

Curiously I asked: “Did your group of nursing students appreciate the deeply religious aspects of Mother Teresa’s sisters?”

As they observed first-hand especially from the Sisters of Charity — to serve in this fashion, you must do it for the right reasons – it’s a deeply spiritual commitment to patients and to Christ.

And the poor, the primary clients of their care – while so worthy of our service – can have a bad day, be irritable.

Many these student nurses, but not all, came to understand that they are, like Christ in a “healing ministry.”

So here were young women opening keys to their own future profession – and trying to make a difference in a world, so much in physical and spiritual need.

That afternoon, Allie and Laura taught me about service

Saint Matthew’s gospel goes on to say: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We are anchored in the rich traditions of a gospel message whose church community is the rock that enjoys the “deep riches of the knowledge of God.”

This is the key that opens the door to a “kingdom of the heart” that must mark our lives and our work in the service of others.

 

Here’s a short passage “On Kindness,” from Mother, now Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier.

Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. 

In slums we are the light of God’s kindness to the poor.

To children, to the poor, to all who suffer and are lonely,

Give always a happy smile – Give them not only your care but also your heart.

 

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA

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