Homily: Solemnity of the AnnunciationBy: Bishop Edward M. Rice West Plains MO
Saturday morning presentation
Diocesan Youth Conference, March 25, 2017
As we contemplate the theme of our gathering, “The Narrow Road” I think it is important to sort of define what we are talking about. Now each speaker will do their part to shed light on the theme, but overall, with the different paths people can take, there are consequences. There is the “easy” way, the “whatever” way, the “my” way and the “narrow” way.
Let’s look at the “easy” way. That sounds easy, doesn’t it… and that’s because it is. Because “easy” is rarely good. Think for a moment, would you want a doctor who went through medical school taking all the easy courses? I’ve had over $3,000 work of dental work done over the past few months. I have a good dentist. I’m sure he didn’t take the easy way through dental school. When it comes to such things, don’t we want people who have done their best? Don’t we want people who have the highest standards? The opposite is the easy way. And when you take the easy way, with every challenge, you back down, because it’s easier to back down than to challenge yourself. And before you know it, you settle for less and you stop trying. And the same can happen with the faith. The easy way of faith, “Oh, I’m Catholic, but I sleep in on Sunday.” “ I’m Catholic, but I don’t follow the rules, no big deal.” “I’m Catholic, but the rules of marriage and sex, oh, lets just take the easy way.” Before you know it, you are able to justify anything and you destroy your life of faith, all because it’s “easy.” The easy road leads to a dead end.
What about the “whatever” road? I should be able to do “whatever” I want. I want it, even if it may not be good for me, I want it. I want it now. I want it the way I want it. This is the mistaken understanding of freedom. I want to be free to do whatever I want. The problem with that is you can hurt yourself and you can hurt others along the way. Freedom is not in doing whatever you want – that is chaos. Freedom is making a choice, hopefully for the good, and then standing by that choice. Freedom is tough. Freedom draws out the best in us. But when I go down the “whatever” road, I am constantly looking for more because I am never satisfied, because the “whatever” road isn’t going in the right direction, it only leads to emptiness. Like the “easy” road, the “whatever” road leads to a dead end.
Then there is the “me” road. It’s all about me. That could also be called the lonely road, because everyone else is seen as an inconvenience to “me.” And I may not get my way with you, so I keep you away from me. And my heart begins to die a slow and stingy death. I can’t conceive of doing something for someone else because it’s all about me. My heart becomes lifeless and selfish. Pope Benedict once said that the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is selfishness. That road – the “me” road, along with the other roads, leads to a dead end.
The narrow path: Discipleship
But then there is the “narrow” road. At first glance it may sound unappealing, something narrow, maybe even difficult to travel. And it is! It is called “discipleship.” Discipleship is the Lord inviting us to “renounce self, take up the cross daily and follow in his footsteps.” That is the narrow way. It is the call to forgiven not 7 times but 77 times. It is the call to love, to turn the other cheek, the “narrow” road is “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink.” The “narrow” road, as difficult as it may be, is actually an invitation to walk through life not alone but with Jesus. The “narrow” road is seeking the pearl of great price; it is loving God with all our heart and then loving our neighbor as yourself. It is putting yourself last and other first. It is to seek that one thing that Jesus wants to give to us, a relationship with Him. That is the “narrow” way.
St. Augustine said “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance! To seek Him, the greatest adventure! To find Him is the greatest human achievement.” That is the “narrow” way. And who took the “narrow” way? Our Lady did. She rejected the “easy, whatever, me” way and took the “narrow” way. In fact, Our Lady, Mary, defined the narrow way for us with her powerful words, “Let it be done unto me.” With those words she took the “road less traveled” down the narrow way that leads to the fullness of life. She brought Jesus into our world and the world has never been the same.
It is my hope and my prayer for each of you gathered here this weekend to take some time to think about how you are living your life and ponder what road you are on right now. For some of you, it may be the “easy, whatever, me” road and you are looking for more than the dead end. For some of you, you have been traveling on the “narrow” road and you wonder if it is worth it. Today, the Feast of the Annunciation, remind us that the “narrow” road is worth it. We celebrate the “yes” that Mary made in embracing the will of God when she offered her response, “Let it be done.”