A FEW GOOD MEN!

Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflection
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
July 25, 2010

The little, the seemingly insignificant, the few, and the powerless … those who don’t seem to count; the perpetual underdogs; those whose lives don’t make waves: the widows, the orphans, the poor, and the lowly … these are those who can make a difference, those whose presence – and persistence – can mean life, fullness of life both for themselves and others, or the utter lack of it for everyone.


I refer to the “power of one.” I speak of the riches behind the widow’s mite, the force of puny David’s stone that spelled defeat of the mighty Goliath. I point to the authority of the twelve – the Lord’s “few, good men” whose conviction and faith, despite the onrush and crushing weight of the worldly power of kings, emperors, and tyrants over the past two thousand years.


The faith that we celebrate this morning in this church and all over the world is a testimony of the power of these “few good men” – and women – whose lives (and deaths) spelled life for all of us women and men of good will, life in all its fullness, as the good Lord would have us inherit.


Our faith, which we share with all brothers and sisters in the whole Christian world, deserves this weekly (daily for some) gathering of prayer, praise, worship, and thanksgiving. As we do Eucharist, though, we are all aware that the world we live in, is in a situation that, to be honest, leads us to ask this burning question: “Should not the judge of the world act justly?”


When we see what we are capable of doing; when we behold what we all are guilty of; when we are face to face with the reality of human depravity and sinfulness; when we acknowledge the fact that two thousand years after the coming of the promised One, the world is nowhere near being fully and definitively redeemed; when we cannot but stand as helpless witnesses to the ravages of war, terrorism, corruption, and the all-pervading signs of a “culture of death” in our midst, we are led to ask: “Should not the judge of the world act justly?” Should God not finally intervene in this messy world that everywhere seems to reek of personal, social, and structural evil?


Today stands out as a day of persistence. On the one hand, we see Abraham’s consistent and constant pleadings before the Lord for the sake of “a few good people” in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. On the other hand, we see also God’s own brand of persistence in His answer that was as firm as it was gentle: “I will spare the whole place for their sake.” “I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.” “I will not destroy it, for the sake of the twenty.” “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”
Abraham’s perseverance in prayer is matched by God’s infinite justice. In a society and culture that prizes a kind of “corporate personality” and where “social responsibility” is highly valued, the presence of a “few good people” – along with the persistent and faith-filled intercessory prayer of one on behalf of the whole, occasions God’s justice that then overflows in mercy. “I will not destroy it,” says the Lord of mercy and justice.


This is definitely good news for us all. At a time when “hope grows grey hairs” and patience wears thin, when more bad than good news fills our TV screens and daily papers, when all we see seems to be the triumph of not a “few good people,” but a whole lot of evildoers, when “all I endeavor in disappointment end,” and faith almost becomes mere wishful thinking, the Church invites us to pray along with Abraham and the psalmist, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.”


You answer us, O Lord God. You definitely do. But we know all too well, that your answer has to be matched by a call on our part. We do know that reciprocity is part and parcel of the dialogue of salvation that you have come to grant us in Christ, Your Son. We do realize that this gift of salvation is both a gift and a task – Your work and ours; Your grace and our cooperation. You have done justice to us, O Lord God. Even where we were dead in transgressions, you brought us to life along with Christ, Your Son. You forgave us all our transgressions; you obliterated the bonds against us, with its legal claims, and Christ, Your Son removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.


Today is a day of persistent prayer. Today is a day when the light of faith ought to overcome the darkness of hopelessness and cynicism. And the good news is … the Lord Himself gives us THE model of persistence prayer – the Our Father. Persistence is the character of this prayer. Perseverance is etched in the very language of this prayer that asks, not for food for tomorrow and for the distant future, but only for “today,” and only for what is strictly necessary to maintain oneself in “being” (epiousion).


Today’s good news includes a blanket authority for us to “pray without ceasing.” Today’s good news gives us the right to pelt God with prayers, for “we have received a Spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father.” Today’s good news offers us the privilege of drawing near to God, for “[we] were buried with [Christ] in baptism, in which [we] were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Today’s celebration seals our right to “give thanks with all [our] heart,” “because of His kindness and His truth,” for “on the day [we] called for help, God answered us.”


There are reasons galore for us to approach this loving, merciful, and just God. There are enough reasons to continue on believing, to go on hoping, even against hope – even if, alas, there are so “few good people” left on this earth.


A few good people … These are the men and women who continue to show that God is alive and well, and working in our midst. These are the men and women who live unheralded lives of indomitable heroism and quiet faith. These are the men and women who pray fervently and faithfully behind closed doors, before flickering candles in dark and dingy churches. These are the men and women whose earthly lives may be surrounded by every imaginable type of darkness – the darkness of personal suffering, of poverty, powerlessness, and pain – but whose hearts are aglow with the resplendent assurance that can only come from a God who declares: “I will not destroy it.”


A few good people … a few good men and women … a few persistent souls before a God of permanent love, justice and overflowing mercy. A few good people is all we need. For their sake, for the sake of those who seek, for the sake of those who knock, and for the sake of those who ask, God and His love will remain steadfast forever!


Can we be counted along with these “few good people?”

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