Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019

     In yet another war of ethnic cleansing, a young mother was murdered, leaving behind only her husband and her little boy.  The man traveled far and wide, looking for work while his little son stayed with friends. After a long absence, the father came home only to find that his village had been destroyed, and that all his friends were gone.

     He searched the rubble where his friends’ house had been and found some small bones – surely the remains of his little son.  So he wrapped them carefully in a cloth and carried them with him everywhere he went.

     Years passed, and one night the father (now an old man) heard a knock at his door.

“Who’s there?” he called out.

     “It is I, your son!” came the reply.  “I was kidnapped and escaped, and I’ve spent years searching for you.”

     “You cruel, vicious imposter!” yelled the old man.  “My son is DEAD! Leave me alone!” And he refused to open the door.  The pounding continued for a long time; but eventually it stopped — and the son — for that is who it was — went away.

     The old man wept – as he did every night – hugging the bag of dry old bones.

     And all he had to do was to put down the bag and open the door!

     Jesus is talking to us about this very same thing in today’s Gospel.  As he sends us out as his disciples to share the GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL with the world, he gives us some crucial advice: “TRAVEL LIGHT.”

     “You’re going to be walking a long hard road.  So GET RID of your EXCESS BAGGAGE! LET GO OF whatever can STEAL LIFE away from you.  Don’t bring along anything that can slow you down or prevent you from reaching your destination and finishing the important work that God has given you to do”. 

     Now, THIS is a particularly “hard saying” for ME, personally, because I’m a chronic “over packer”!  I live and PACK by the words my Father IMPRESSED UPON my HEART as a small child: “BETTER TO HAVE IT AND NOT NEED IT; THAN NEED IT AND NOT HAVE IT!” — (And there have been many times, in my life when I’ve been very GLAD that I paid attention to Dad’s advice!) — So WHAT could Jesus possibly have against a few more dollars in my wallet; a “just in case” extra pair of undies, or a spare pair of flip-flops? 

     The “short answer” is: PROBABLY NOTHING! — WHAT CONCERNS Jesus are the attitudes that make it difficult to stay “focused” on the LIFE’S WORK that he’s given each of us to do! — What Jesus is concerned with is the EXCESS “EMOTIONAL” BAGGAGE that we’re DRAGGING ALONG – that’s SLOWING us down, or that has brought us to a PARALYZING STOP! — And this EXCESS BAGGAGE comes in as many different shapes and sizes as we do, and is DIFFERENT for each of us!

     For some of us it’s paralyzing FEAR or WORRY (usually over things that we’ve got absolutely no control over!) — For some of us, our “excess baggage” is old HURTS and GRIEVANCES or a GRIEF that we cling to as if it was a treasure. — For some of us it’s dead, shrunken IDEAS that have OUTLIVED their TIME; and that blind us to the riches of life, that are right there in front of us; staring us in the face! — For some of us, our “excess baggage” is the stupid way we respond to life’s invitations and challenges, with the MINDLESSNESS of a two-year-old who habitually says,“NO!”, no matter what the question! — For some it’s CRIPPLING feelings of SELF-DOUBT – or a FEAR that we may not be “GOOD ENOUGH” for GOD TO LOVE US! — For some of us our “excess baggage” is a poisonous, addictive attachment to a PERSON or THING that’s NO GOOD for US; but to whom we cling “DESPITE” all that COMMON SENSE tells us! — AND for some of us it’s a HEART OF STONE that weighs us down; and STOPS us COLD! 

     These old hates; unproductive habits; and harmful illusions are only a “representative sampling” OF the “EXCESS BAGGAGE,” that Jesus is encouraging us to “GET RID OF” today BECAUSE our tendency is to CLING to these things as if we couldn’t finish our life’s journey and our life’s work, without them! ——— And the IRONY, of course is that we’re often so “OVERPACKED” that GOD can’t squeeze anything else into our suitcases! — We’ve got such a “DEATH-GRIP” on the TRASH – that we CAN’T open our hands wide enough to RECEIVE the TREASURES that God wants to give us! 

     So here’s the CHALLENGE that the LORD has for each of us TODAY! — Take some time to look at what’s in the KNAPSACKS of our LIVES! — Do we really “NEED” everything we’re hauling around; or are there “things” in our knapsack that are simply SLOWING US DOWN, and WEARING US OUT, and DISTRACTING US from the IMPORTANT WORK that the Lord has given us to do?

     And IF THERE ARE, then we need to “NAME THEM” as something or someone who’s “robbing us of life,” DECIDE that we really DON’T NEED them anymore; and THEN – go to the Lord, in PRAYER, and hand the “junk” in our lives, over to him! — Tell him to take it away; or if that’s not possible; then, ask God to keep reminding us that we are NOT ALONE; that he’s walking our life’s journey with us; and that he is on our side, and WILL NOT let the “junk” destroy us – if we trust in his promises! 

     God WANTS us to be FREE to do the work of His Kingdom!  He wants us to be FREE to love more; to FORGIVE more; to BUILD PEOPLE UP more; to be more COMPASSIONATE and UNDERSTANDING with others, just LIKE HE IS. — But only WE can UNPACK and LEAVE BEHIND: the fears, the hates, the sorrows, the sick friendships, the overdose of stuff, or the habitual “no” to life — that weigh us down and distract us from what is really important!

     Lucky thing for many of us that (Monday/tomorrow) is “TRASH DAY” in La Jolla!