Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ
at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 27 July 2015
Jeff Cavins, an internationally renowned speaker who had been an Assembly of God pastor for twelve years, but became a Catholic, in one of his talks told a story of a tight rope walker which I will adapt for my homily. He described how this tight rope walker had attracted a great crowd at the Niagara Falls. For simplicity, let us call him David. David asked the crowd. “How many of you believe that I will still walk across in spite of the strong winds today? Everyone raised their hands and cheered, “Yes, we all believe you can!” David turned around, braved the winds and started walking across. Several times along the way David looked like he was in danger of falling over. However, he finally made it over the other side to the great applause of the crowd.
David then asked the crowd, “How many of you believe that I will be able to walk back to the other side, but this time, blindfolded?!” The crowd was silent for a moment . . . realising that David was serious and not joking, one by one raised their hands and shouted, “Yes, we believe that you can do it!” Eventually, everyone was chanting, “Yes, we believe, yes we believe you can!” So, David blindfolded himself, got onto the rope and started walking . . . there was dead silence . . . because at every step that David took, it looked like he was going to fall over . . . especially, when the wind was blowing strongly . . . some started praying for David. . . Finally, with a great relief . . . when David made it over to the other side, the crowd broke into a thunderous cheer for a feat that was never achieved before.
To the surprise of the crowd, David again asked them, “How many of you believe that I would be able to walk across again, blindfolded and carrying someone on my back?! The crowd was shocked at what David had suggested, but because they now had such great faith in him, they shouted back, “David, yes you can . . . we believe you can do it.” David, punched both his arms into the air and said, “Thank you for your confidence in me!” “Yes, the crowd cheered even louder!” David then said, “Can I have a volunteer?” Everyone remained silent . . . David could not find a single volunteer . . . and eventually, everyone left . . .
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is one thing to believe and quite another to believe with a willingness to put our beliefs into action; and to sacrifice and even die for our beliefs. It is easy to come to Mass every Sunday, but quite another to live the faith daily in our lives, especially when the stakes are high and the challenges are painful. In today’s Gospel, when a scribe said to Jesus, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus answered, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.” In other words, Jesus is saying to the scribe and to all of us, “If you want to follow me, then are you all willing to experience what I experience, to suffer what I suffer and to carry the Cross that I am to carry?” If we say we believe and trust in Jesus and want to follow Him, then will we be like the crowd, who believed in David, but do not dare to climb on to his back while he walked blindfolded on the tight rope?
My sisters and brothers in Christ, today, we celebrate the Solemnity of St Ignatius of Loyola, the patron saint of our Parish family, and the founder of the Society of Jesus, our Jesuit Religious Order. Coming to Mass on a Sunday like this, in such large numbers as a parish family, is a sign that we each believe and desire to follow Jesus as His disciple in our daily living. St Ignatius’ life, our parish goal and the “Prayer of Generosity” that we pray weekly, constantly remind us that we are each called to live a more discerning life; a life that dares to follow Jesus with greater courage, care and compassion for every person needs Jesus and His Good News of Salvation. Do we therefore dare to make Jesus our first love in life and be willing to carry His Cross with Him?
In the “Parable of the Sower”, of Mark’s and Luke’s Gospel, did not Jesus remind us of those who receive the seed on patches of rocks, where these are people who “when they first hear the Word of God, welcome it at once with joy. But, they have no root in them, and they do not last; should some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, they fall away at once. Then there are others who receive the seed in thorns. These have heard the Word, but the worries of this world, the lure of riches and all the other pleasures of life come and choke the Word, and so produces nothing? Or, are we the ones who hear the Word and accept it and yield a harvest, thirty and sixty and a hundred fold?” (Lk 4:16-20).
In today’s Gospel, the Sea of Galilee where the disciples had to face a ferocious storm did not come as a surprise. The geographic terrain is such that the sea could be calm at one moment and in the next, a raging storm can threaten our lives. This can happen to any one of us in our lives too. Everything may seem to be at peace in our lives, and without warning, we may be hit by a crises in our family or of our finance or of our health. What do we do then?
In today’s Gospel, the Good News is the revelation that without Jesus our lives would be at the mercy of the unknowns of our lives that can threaten us at any time; and this we all know is very much part of our human living that we cannot deny, but have to face and accept. But, with Jesus’ Presence in our lives, within the storms of life there will be a calm, and the most terrible of tempests will turn to peace. Why? Jesus is divine and He loves us totally, personally and unconditionally. This is beyond any doubt and we hear this every time the Good News of Jesus is proclaimed.
My brothers and sisters, ultimately you and I have to ask ourselves the very fundamental questions that we have to answer in our daily living and when we meet God at the gates of heaven, “Do I truly love Jesus?” “Do I want to follow Him as His Disciple?” If so, then this personal love for Jesus does not come overnight, but has to be nurtured daily and consciously. I would like us to reflect on this poem that captures this spirit of loving Jesus daily and in simple ways that will help us follow Him more faithfully and selflessly, with love.
God teach me to be kind and good,
By the things I say or do.
God teach me to be tolerant
To those who prove untrue.
God teach me to show sympathy
To those who show despair.
God teach me in a humble way
To prove I love, I care.
God teach me to spread sunshine
When days are dull and grey.
God teach me to be thoughtful
Of those I love and meet each day.
God teach me how to hum a song
When things don’t go just right.
God teach me how to carry on
When my cross is not too light.
God teach me how to share my eyes
With those who cannot see.
God teach me how to lead the way
So they can trust in me.
God teach me to appreciate
Those blessings that I share.
God teach me to remember
When I say my daily prayer.
by Catherine Ryan
If we can nurture our love for Jesus in a very personal way daily, then over time we will grow into becoming a true disciple of Jesus that will find calm and peace, even in the storms of our lives, and be willing to carry the crosses of Christ with Him as His faithful disciple regardless of the challenges we may face in our lives.
“Happiness Manufacturers”, pub.: Hedwig Lewis,S.J.Gujarat Shitya Prakash, 2001; p. 161
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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