Weekly Homilies

The Puzzle of Faith (Mark 1: 12-15)

February 18, 2024 Fr. Mark Suslenko Season 7 Episode 8
The Puzzle of Faith (Mark 1: 12-15)
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 8 of Season 7 for the First Sunday of Lent - February 18, 2024. Our Gospel reading is from Mark, Chapter 1, verses 12-15.

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

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.”

The Gospel of the Lord

“The Puzzle of Faith,” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut

Very often,  it is incredibly difficult to translate what we know in our minds about our faith into our hearts and souls so that what we know to be true in our brains becomes a reality that we deeply embrace and live.  Such is the case, especially with our teaching, that God has made each and every one of us in his image and likeness and placed his divine life in each of our souls. 

While we hear those words over and over again, and we know them to be true in our brains. How do we now have them make sense in our hearts and our souls so that we truly live them?  In other words, how does my life then reflect the image of God that is within?  

St. Bonaventure has some wise words to tell us.  A great mystic, theologian, philosopher,  spiritual author, and director.  He says we are so plunged, deeply plunged into the life of sense, that it is not possible for ourselves to discover the image of God within.  We are so deeply plunged into the life of sense that it is not possible for us to discover the image of God within the life of sense, the human condition. 

So, in other words, on our own, we can achieve just a certain amount of enlightenment.  On our own, using our human terms and looking at our human condition, we can only gain so much knowledge.  But there's nothing in the human world that is going to tell us that deep within our souls is the very image and likeness of God. 

St. Bonaventure further tells us where we lie is where we stay until somebody comes and raises us up, that we're chained, so to speak, and tethered to our human concerns and our human preoccupations. We are so immersed in the secular world that it's difficult to see more than is just around us. And we know this to be true because, as our lives unfold day after day, we get so consumed with the human constructs, with what we can see just in front of our face with what is preoccupying us, looking for our attention, occupying our minds and hearts.  Our anxieties, our fears, the whole ball of wax is what we see and what is what captivates us, and tethers us to a myopic vision.  And so if we need to be pulled out of this and raised up,  who can do that for us?  

Well, the answer to that question is Jesus Christ.  He alone can point us where we need to go and cause us to reflect on the image of God within and encounter that image.  Only Jesus is the latter between earth and heaven.  Only Jesus is the gate to eternal life and God's kingdom. So if we're going to find the more of life, if we're going to find the truth of who we are,  then the only way to do that is to go through Jesus.  And He is the one that can help us climb that ladder to heaven and show us the gate to eternal life in God's kingdom.  And that gate is constructed of three very powerful virtues that are often referred to as the virtues of faith,  the virtues of hope, and the virtues of love and charity.  It is only by those three virtues that the image of God can be revealed in us, perfected,  and discovered.  

So we have this season of Lent, and we have the condition of our lives, and it's a wonderful opportunity to put the brakes on things for a bit and to examine once again who we are and where we're going.  You see, we often live out of this persona that the world expects of us. I am who you need me to be. I am who I think I need to be. And so we're following after and running after all of these false images of ourselves.  Well, Lent calls us back to remember who we are.  And ultimately before anything else, we are a child of God made in his image and likeness.  And so now the question becomes, how can that become real for me? How can I begin to have that make sense so that what I project to the world is not the false image of myself but the true one of who I really am in Christ?  And that's where the disciplines of Lent come in handy and are there to help as a resource,  not to just be superficially dealt with, but really embraced and delved into as we journey through these 40 days.  Those disciplines that involve prayer, fasting,  and arms giving.  Those are the ways we put the brakes on our lives and change the tapes just a bit. 

Consider this:  if we're a Lenten discipline, I choose to create more prayer time in my life.  Well, that as I change up that routine and I embark on that change when I do so, it's going to naturally cause me to reflect on something that I may not have often realized: who I am in God. It's going to help me realize the importance of, first and foremost, my relationship with God above all else.  And that one action, done with diligence and perseverance, can begin to focus us on our true self and where we're actually going.  

When I take upon the discipline of fasting,  and I deprive myself of some earthly pleasures that I normally rely upon and enjoy. When I change it up a bit and change up my routine, stay away from something that often, I obsess with,  it's going to then cause me to stop and reflect and consider the greater dimension of myself and where my satisfaction really comes from, not in earthly things, but in God.  

When I take upon the task of almsgiving and truly give to the poor, to the needy, to my brothers and sisters in Christ,  when I take upon that task and do it,  I'm going to stop and reflect upon the bigger picture of life, of how we all are brothers and sisters, who our Father is, and our responsibility to one another. 

So those disciplines connect to those virtues and help us uncover and reveal the image of God within so that it's not veiled by the cares and concerns of the world but open and accessible now to my consciousness, into my being.  

The virtue of faith is directly connected to how we hear and how we see.  So that when we nurture that virtue, and it becomes real, and it's owned, then the words of the Gospel are going to have so much more relevance and meaning. When I hear Jesus assure us of eternal life, it's gonna help me put my earthly cares in check and realize the greater depth of who I am.  As I hear the Lord's words, I'm going to re-embrace them more deeply. And then I'm also gonna look out at the world and how I see the world, and I see life is gonna be not through my eyes, but through God's eyes, and things will sparkle and glisten with that Divine Light.  And the eyes of faith will illumine my steps as I go out into the world.  Through the virtue of hope, I begin to realize as that takes root in my life.  That is not the things of this world that are going to ultimately complete my life. These are just limited things that are gifts along the way. Ultimately, my hope lies in Christ when all things are one in Christ, and all things become one in God's eternal kingdom. It is there and only there that my soul, the essence of my being, will find its true fulfillment and its true happiness in God.  

When I truly nurture and unfold the gift of charity in my life, I realize that my desire, my longing, is really for God. That the relish of my life,  what I truly enjoy and delight in, isn't found here in this life, but in my relationship with my Creator, the one who has made me the one who cares for me and sustains me, and the one who will one day save me. And I begin to delight in that presence so that it's not a burden to embrace my relationship with God, but it's something that's freeing and life-giving and empowering and orientates me to my truth. 

And in addition,  when we get all of these things straight with God, then we look at one another. And not only then do we see ourselves as responsible to and with one another, but we're deeply, deeply connected by that same relationship we all share with God: that we're not really as different as we sometimes may think, that we all sparkle with that same divine DNA, that essence of God within, and we're all really very much the same in God's sight and image. 

You know, when you get something new, a new product where you wanna know how to operate something, it always comes with an instruction manual.  And you consult that manual in order to find out how things operate.  And when something is not working properly, you either consult that manual or you bring it back to the original manufacturer, who can then hopefully fix it or set you straight in terms of how to operate it.  Well, such is true with our lives.  Who is our original manufacturer?  The answer to that question is God. God is the one who has ordered all things, who has designed and fashioned us and created us in his image and likeness. If we want to know how to operate our human life, if we wanna know how to put it together, to sort things out, to put that in perspective, and to know what we need to do and how we need to do it, then we need to go back to that owner's manual, to that original manufacturer to find out how it's supposed to work.  It is not something we can do on our own.  

And so the question then becomes for each one of us today as we embark upon this season of Lent.  Who do we want to be?  Do we want to be who the world asks us to be? Do we want to be who we think we need to be? Or do we want to be who we are?  Well, if the answer to that question is yes, I want to be who I am, then we have this very brief but powerful period to walk into the desert, remove some of the distractions, consult the owner's manual, and our original manufacturer for some directions on how to achieve that goal and to find our way to the kingdom. 

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.