Homily for Thursday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
The other day, I was talking to someone about being a priest and they were asking me about what led me to enter seminary. I began sharing with them my vocation story, about growing up in the Church, being involved in various parish ministries, etc. Then I told them that there came a point when I was in seminary that I really started to doubt that this was my vocation and so I decided to take some time off. Many of you might know that I actually spent 4 years outside of the seminary. As I was sharing with them that part of my discernment, this individual stopped me and asked what it was that caused me to doubt. I told her that for me it was a feeling of being unworthy to be a priest. I felt as though I was too much of a sinner to stand in front of people and preach the Gospel when I was failing to live it completely in my own life. In other words, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I thought that I had to be perfect in my relationship with the Lord and in terms of being holy. But what I came to realize as I continued to discern was that my imperfection and my struggle for holiness were exactly why God was calling me to be a priest. It’s why He calls all of us to preach the Gospel.
In our readings today, we have examples of two individuals who felt a similar way. In our first reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, we have the greatest example of someone who was definitely not worthy of being called to lead the Christian community based on the things that he had done in his life. Paul persecuted the early Christian Church. He worked tirelessly to stop the spread of the Gospel. And yet, even in the midst of his sins, even in the midst of his unworthiness, the Lord still touched his heart and called him to go out and share the Good News to the world. In the end, Paul became the greatest evangelist in the history of the Church and became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
In our Gospel, we have this sinful woman. Now, we don’t exactly know what this woman’s sins consisted of, but there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Jesus was aware of who this woman was. And, he was likewise aware of the perception that having her around him would give off to the powers that be. And yet, he still insisted that she be allowed to stay in his presence at the supper. And because she was showing remorse for her sins and basically begging the Lord for forgiveness by caring for him, the Lord forgave her. Jesus was telling her that her life meant something to Him. The she was loved. That she had a purpose, despite her sinfulness. And that likely changed her life!
That’s the same exact message that the Lord is giving each of us today. All of us are sinners. No one here is perfect. I’m sure most of us have at times felt ashamed of something we have done and felt unworthy to be in the presence of the Lord. And yet, the Lord still calls us to be here. We have experienced his love; we have experienced His mercy; we have encountered Him and that encounter has changed our lives. Even so, we’re still not perfect. We are still flawed and broken in our own ways. But it is because of those imperfections, it is because of that brokenness, it is because of our unworthiness that God calls us to proclaim the Gospel. How is that possible? Because it’s in our imperfections, our brokenness, and our unworthiness where we experience God’s grace the most. And it’s from that grace that we preach all the good things the Lord has done in our lives, to share that with those we encounter. And so today, let’s thank God for our imperfections and our unworthiness because it is there that we experience Him. It is there that we receive our call to go out and preach the Gospel.