Weekly Homilies

The Sacrament of the Present Moment (Mark 1: 14-20)

January 21, 2024 Fr. Mark Suslenko Season 7 Episode 5
The Sacrament of the Present Moment (Mark 1: 14-20)
Weekly Homilies

Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 5 of Season 7 for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 21, 2024. Our Gospel reading is from Mark, Chapter 1, verses 14-20.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

The Gospel of the Lord

“The Sacrament of the Present Moment,” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut

All of us have our stories to tell about what brought us to the Catholic Christian faith. For many of us, that starry begins with our very families. We were raised in the faith, and the traditions of our faith were passed down to us. Our families lived them,  and they were the way we conducted the business of our lives. The tenants of our faith and our association with the Church can run the risk of becoming a bit superficial and a bit surface if it's just the occasional ritual or the occasional giving lip service to this, and a nod to that. 

When faith becomes authentic, it becomes real. And it's the result of a lived encounter with Jesus Christ,  with a lived encounter with his teaching and the gospel. So much so that it intrigues us and captivates us. Maybe we're going down one particular direction in our life, making choices that are hurtful, and there is this voice that we hear somewhere within: "Follow me."  Maybe we're going through a period of struggle, and we don't know quite how to navigate our way through it, and we hear this little voice saying, "Follow me." 

And to consider the option of the Gospel, to consider a relationship with Jesus Christ as the way through the tenets of our lives then allows that faith to start taking flesh, and it goes from the mind into the soul and heart.  Follow me.  

We hear those words in today's Gospel as well, and we are very much aware of how they play out in the lives of Simon and Andrew.  And we hear Jesus calling to them and saying, "Come and follow me." And what do they do? They leave their livelihood, they leave their home, and their family, and they go and follow Jesus. And here we are, simple, humble folks who want to follow Jesus, who find meaning in our faith that want Jesus to give us direction. Does that mean that we, too, in order to do this the right way, have to leave our homes and leave our jobs, and the way we conduct the business of our lives to go and do something different and more dramatic?  

And so we sometimes take ourselves out of the picture, and we kind of convince ourselves that because leaving what we know to be true, what we know we have, and going off into the unknown is not reasonable or practical, then I can only follow Jesus just this much.  I really can't invest myself all the way because I'm not willing to let go of everything to do so as those disciples did.  But when we start thinking like that, we cannot be any more wrong because it is possible to follow Jesus with whole heart, body, mind, and soul and continue to conduct the business of our lives.  We just have to do so a bit differently.  

You see, when those disciples were listening to Jesus, they were intrigued by him.  They knew that when he spoke, they were hearing things that were different and new. They were changing the way they saw the world and saw life, how they saw themselves, and they wanted more of that.  So, when he came along, that "God invitation" that Jesus gave them rang true,  and what they did was they went with the moment and decided to embark upon the journey, leaving everything they have and going forward. 

And so, what is it that we have to leave behind and become detached from in order to follow Jesus?  Well, the answer to that is simple, but it's so difficult to do, and it involves our egos, our egos.  And those egos are very rooted in the agendas of our lives, our priorities, what we see to be important, how we frame the context of our lives and conduct the business of our lives.  We can become very self-preoccupied. Even the most gracious and holy among us can be absorbed in ourselves and what we want to accomplish, what we think needs to be done, where I wanna be and what I want to do. We're very driven and we're very time orientated.  We're always running late. We have to get to the next thing. We can only spend so much time in one place, and we can't wait for one thing to be over so that we can get on to the next.  And so we go about this trend.  And we are on this treadmill toward where?  

We can see it as we conduct even the simple things of our life, we have to go to the grocery store. Well, I only have so much time. I can't be distracted. I have to get in the car and get there and get back because they have to get to the next thing. And we're behind the person going 10 miles an hour, and what's our reaction?  And we get to the store, and I want to get in and get out because I have to go do things. And the place is packed, and the lines are long, and people are taking their time, and we find ourselves getting frustrated and angry because we can't do what we want to do, what we need to do when we want to do it.  And so we have this, these blinders on our lives as we go about life's business that blocks out everything that I can't attend to and focuses just on what I need to do and where I need to be at this particular moment, and this whole world passes us by,  

And we are our life's moments in all of that. Those little moments that seem to accumulate and turn from moments into days, into months, into years, and then before you know it, you look back, and we've missed so much.  Where did they go?  

Jean Pierre de Caussade, who I quoted before, says, "The sacrament of the present moment is where we encounter God." In one of his books, he was referring to God speaking to folks years and years ago in biblical times and basically saying that God is speaking to us in the same way. Still, we're in such a different place that we can't often hear God or experience God because those folks, years ago, allowed life to play out moment by moment as one thing revealed itself to them, another one came. They took life as it came,  and they weren't as driven by time and agendas and schedules and commitments. They weren't as torn and pulled as we are in our world today.  And so the moment became an opportunity, a moment of encounter, a moment to see beyond themselves and do what God was asking them to do at that time...the moments of life. 

I was watching this past week with a lot of interest on the internet.  It was a clip about what appeared to be a homeless person, a homeless man standing on a street in New York,  and he was simply positioned in the corner holding a sign. Obviously, this was all being videotaped, and it was staged on purpose. This homeless person was there holding a sign, and you could see people just keep walking by, and they knew he was there. They would, they would purposely turn their attention away to ignore him.  And one after the other was doing this. In fact, some of them even picked up their pace to get by a little quicker.  And of course, many of them all of a sudden found the agenda, their phone, more important than what's happening around them, and they're like this.

And so, one after the other passed by.  Now, what's interesting about this whole thing was the sign that he was holding wasn't asking for anything other than just to be noticed,  And it was a directive to simply notice me and ask me who I am.  But no one paid any mind except one man.  One man decided to take the risk and go up and actually read the sign and encounter this gentleman.  Well, as it turns out, this wasn't a homeless person at all, but it was a man of great means who took the cup in his hand, which was loaded with cash and gave it to this person who decided to stop, and he said to them,  now, go and do something good for someone else.  A great lesson was learned that day,  but how many folks passed this person by?  He didn't have a face and didn't have a name. And was paid no mind.  

St. Teresa of Calcutta says one of the hardest things for people to deal with is being ignored,  and how many people in our world are simply ignored?  Maybe you're here today feeling like the world ignores you.  

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about some parishioners I hadn't seen in a while, and all of a sudden, there they were. And I said, wow, you know, this is a coincidence. I was just thinking about how I haven't seen you in so long. I was wondering how you were. And so we had this brief interchange, nothing spectacular, just a common conversation.  And I went about my business, they went about theirs, and they saw me after Mass, and one of them said to me in tears,  you don't know how much that meant to me.  You don't understand, father, we're not people that others notice.  No one ever misses us.  No one ever asks us how we are.  And that one little moment had a profound impact, and I realized how important these moments of life are and, how quickly they go by, and how easily they are ignored because we always have something better to do or another place that we need to be. 

I've told the story before about opening ourselves to welcome, especially as those moments come to us, of this woman many years ago,  and she was a visitor in a town wanted to go to a Catholic church to celebrate a holy day.  She never had been to the church before, so she got there early and went in, there were not many people in the church. So she sat down, and the next thing you know, somebody's coming up to her and tapping around the shoulder.  Excuse me, ma'am,  you're in my seat. Could you please move?  I always sit there.  So she said, okay. She gets up and she moves.  This is a true story.  A few minutes go by, tap on the shoulder again.  Excuse me, ma'am,  this is my seat.  Do you think you could move?  She's in the middle of her rosary. She packed everything up again and went to a third seat.  Did she know she was picking the usher's seat? No.  Tap, tap, tap.  Excuse me, miss. I'm the usher. We need to sit in that seat. There's nobody in this church. There's plenty of places to sit, but this one has to be here. So up again, she goes. Now, simple gestures, in retrospect, it's humorous, but can you imagine how that woman felt associating herself for that first time in that community? She basically was overlooked and ignored.  How often do we do this because we have a greater agenda to attend to  

Another story. True.  A woman who was handicapped but only handicapped so much that she was wheelchair bound, but she could work her hands, and she was able to drive herself, and her van was retrofitted so that she could get herself around.  And so she found her way to church. It happened to be a little bit busier, but she got there early enough to find a parking place, so she thought. And when she got to the parish, she discovered that all of the handicapped places were filled.  And so she was trying to maneuver her van so she could position it to at least be able to get out and attend mass.  And then one person comes over and says, ma'am, you can't park here.  Well, she said, I'm wheelchair-bound.

I can't get out. They said you can't park here.  So she's now trying to navigate around again. Somebody else comes over,  ma'am, you can't park. I'm wheelchair-bound. I need to go to church.  No, you can't park here.  A third time, somebody comes to her and says, ma'am,  you can't park here, but I want to go to Mass.  So she said to herself, well, I can make, I can navigate. She said I'll go around the back, I'll park, and I'll find a way to get up to the church.  So she did.  But, of course, the van had to take up three spaces. You know how it is when you people take your parking space.  That was not received well by some of the folks in the back lot, who kind of gave her the stare.  So she got herself out of her van, found her way up around the side of the church, and was able to come to Mass.  No one offered to help her.  Not one soul. Because everyone's so busy and so preoccupied with their lives, they have to get where they want to go when they want to be there. 

Oh, by the way, that did happen here.  

And so, as we go about the business of our lives and as things play out, we miss all of these moments when we can have encounters and get out of our agendas and welcome the soul of another.  Now, you know how this works because we've all do it. We're all well-meaning people, and we all want to love Jesus.  But we allow our lives to get into a place of doing so so much.  And so, when we open ourselves to be available to someone,  even if it's just a kind gesture, a routine, hello, a gentle, how are you?...those moments bring us to a place where we encounter something special,  where we encounter joy.  And you know, as well as I, when we put ourselves out there and truly make ourselves available for someone,  certainly they have reaped the fruit of that kindness, but it comes back a hundredfold to you,  and you have touched something that grounds you,  that is holy,  that just feels right and makes you feel extremely good.  And that happens because those moments are of God.  You see, God's not going to reveal himself in that agenda of our lives. He's not going to come by when we're; our nose is in our phone. He wants us to look up and out and around and see what's going on around us.  

We have a church full of people here today. Some of you are here for the first time.  I hope that someone who is here all of the time reaches out and says "Hello" or "Welcome" or, "I've never seen you before. My name is Bob. Who are you?"  I hope that as you get to know those who are in our community, you begin to understand a little bit about them and that they're not just nameless faces. They're people you welcome and people you miss when they're not here.  Those little associations turn our faith into something that is just something we do into something that indeed transforms us, transforms us more into the image and the likeness of Jesus Christ.  

And so, yes, it does cost to follow Jesus. It costs us ourselves and the sacrifice of our own personal agendas to put ourselves at the service of others and to recognize most, especially those who are ignored in our very complicated, crazy, and hectic world. 

Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.