HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B

HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B.

HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31)

BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

 

HOMILY:

Mark 12:28-34

It’s November, that month when what was once bright orange fluttering on a maple is now crisp and crackle underfoot, reminding us that we, too, will one day crisp and crackle. For us Christians, November is when we remember all those who have gone before us and, perhaps, when we shutter a bit at the prospect of our own upcoming demise. While the first day of the month is a remembrance of the officially declared saints in heaven, the second day remembers those humbler souls for whom heaven is reward enough. On this second day we also offer prayers for those still in need of such as they await heaven’s glory.

In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus distills the tenets of religious faith when he addresses the scribe. “Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31) It would seem to follow, then, that to love God is to trust God, especially through life’s shadowy transitions, death being the big one. And loving others would seem to insist that we prepare them to face these same transitions with faith in the eternal and all-loving God. Let the witness of one man speak to such loving:

Dr. Chris Feudtner, husband of Lynda and father of 4-year-old Jack and 3-year old Hank, is a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, specializing in palliative care for dying children. In an article entitled “To My Young Sons,” he muses about the day he’ll try to explain to his own kids what it is he does. “Someday I suspect you'll ask me what I do. You'll ask, ‘What is pediatric palliative care?’ I wonder what I'll say, whether I'll try to explain the important yet difficult truths of this job or simply recollect the encounters of that day. “This morning, for instance, having gently knocked, I step into a patient room and close the door, leaving behind the hospital hubbub. The mother sits on a blue sofa by the window at the far end of the room, her baby in her arms, wrapped in a white blanket. Standing next to her is her own mother, hands on her daughter's shoulders. I approach, passing the empty crib, the tray of medical supplies, the silent monitors, and I sit at the edge of the sofa. Midmorning sunlight cascades through the window, enveloping us. The mother looks at me, tears on her checks. We say nothing. Then, after a while, she says, ‘It happened so peaceful. I never knew someone could die so peacefully.’

“Several hours later, in another hospital room, bending over to examine a teenage boy, I see a maroon line of dried blood where his teeth meet his gums. Pale lips open, sallow eyelids closed, the sound of his unconscious breathing fills the otherwise quiet room, his chest rising and falling conspicuously yet adagio. His bedside is ringed with family. One holds his limp hand; another strokes his black hair. I check the doses on the medication pumps infusing drugs through the IV line. The father steadies his gaze on me, and I ask him the question that we agreed earlier was, at this juncture, the most important question: ‘Do you think your son is comfortable?’ He nods. “In the car driving home, I weave through the traffic. So many thoughts, feelings, images, decisions from work clutter my mind. Navigating is always a challenge. I pull into the driveway, stopping short of the yellow kickball and red tricycle. Walking towards the door, I ready myself, trying to be as present and mindful as possible. From the foyer, I hear both of you shout out, ‘Daddy!’ and come tearing around the corner, running up to me with your arms outstretched. Savoring my favorite part of the day, I pick each of you up and jostle you around in the physical play of love.

“Just how I will answer your questions about my job is not for now, but for another day, a day I look towards with uncertainty, yet with conviction that, despite the inscrutable and often cruel workings of fate, we must work to create our hope.” (From Penn Arts & Sciences Magazine, Winter, 2006)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31) Dr. Chris Feudtner might one day tell his young sons that fulfilling the great commandment requires more stamina and courage than most of us think ourselves capable. And as he pulls Jack and Hank close to him he adds, “Fulfilling the great commandment insists that we lead others into God’s embrace. That’s what I do each day. That’s Daddy’s job.”

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