These past few weeks, the theme of my homilies has been our life struggle trying to determine what is enough. So many areas of life make demands on us. Family, friends, careers, finances, health concerns, even our faith life all need attention. It often seems we can’t give enough consideration to everything life calls forth from us. We can become frustrated and overwhelmed. Yet, to live a successful life, we have to try to juggle all these demands at once.
I’ve been telling you that the question of what is enough isn’t the right one for us to be asking. Think about it. Doing barely enough in any phase of our lives is no measure of success. Doing just enough to get by is a sign of failure.
I’m dating myself, but I still like to read a hard copy of the newspaper. Every day one of my distractions is reading the comics. The Cape Cod Times prints one called Delbert, which chronicles the work-life of employees in a high-tech firm. One of the characters is Wally, the office slouch. Wally does just enough not to get fired. No one wants Wally to be assigned to their project or associate with him because he never wants to excel or accomplish anything. He comes along for the free ride. No one should want to live that way.
The truth is doing enough is not the right goal. Putting too much emphasis on accomplishing enough causes us to miss out on the real purpose of life. It is following Jesus and being obedient to God.
Last week we spoke of the fact we can’t do enough to get to heaven. The upside is we don’t have to. Jesus has already done enough for us. By his obediently going to die on the cross for our sins, Jesus has won us our place in heaven. Our response is to be imitators of Jesus and be obedient to God the Father. To take up the cross doesn’t mean God wants us to suffer in life. No, it means we listen to God, develop a loving relationship with God, and do the will of God to the best of our abilities.
When we take up the cross, the emphasis on life changes from worrying about making life work for us, doing our will, and doing it our way to focusing on God’s plan for us. It means we focus on learning to trust God will give us enough of everything we need in our lives. That reduces the stress and pressures in life. It helps us feel more relaxed to take pleasure in life and enjoy everything life offers us. It helps us grow spiritually by recognizing we can surrender control of our lives to God, who truly loves us and wants to give us every gift. A satisfying, loving relationship with God transforms all our relationships and helps make them rewarding and life-giving.
That is the lesson our reading from Genesis teaches us today. The Book of Genesis often gets caught up in conflict because some Christians want to take it literally. Modern science reveals the world’s creation was a long process that took more than just seven days. Genesis doesn’t intend to be a literal account of God’s creative process. It is a myth. By myth, we don’t mean it to be a childish fairy tale. It is not a lie. No, it is a very human story that explains much more significant issues. The creation stories in Genesis illustrate in human terms points of great depth and insight. It explains eternal truths and realities of our human condition in stories more understandable to people’s minds.
Genesis’ two creation stories explain the development of relationships. In the first story, we read God made human beings in God’s image and likeness. It describes how humans could have a relationship with an unseen God. Remember, most of the neighbors who surrounded the Jewish people worshiped gods they depicted in stone. The Jews were prohibited from carving graven images to represent God. For them, God is present in their fellow human beings. Humans are to see God in each other and our relationships with others. Recognizing God in each other is the focus of the second creation story, the one we read today. Here we learn we are one with each other. God makes himself present in our relationships with each other. Therefore our relationships are sacred.
Genesis’ creation stories tell us God created the world and everything in it. Several times the sacred author tells us that God created it all good. There was no sin, war, disease, tension, or controversy. It was a complete paradise, and God gave the man Adam a job caring for and cultivating this garden. It is a perfect world in all respects but one.
God sees something is missing. God sees the man is alone. God hates loneliness because God is a community. God is a community of three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God knows the need for a community because God experiences the satisfaction community brings. Yes, Adam has a relationship with God, but God recognizes that is not enough. Adam needs others to be a community of his own. Adam needs others that are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh to share the garden with him.
Spiritual growth and spiritual health depend on more than a good relationship with God. It needs community. A good prayer relationship with God is essential, but we also need to be joined to a community of faith. We have all heard people tell us they don’t need to go to church. They don’t need to be part of a parish community. They can find God at the beach or in the mountains. Genesis tells us that is only half a relationship with God. A whole, loving relationship with God requires us to meet God in a community of fellow worshipers. We need to meet God here at Mass and receive God’s grace in word and sacrament.
The pandemic has disrupted our parish community and limited our ability to join together as a community of faith. Now is the time to start making plans to return to Mass as soon as you feel safer and more comfortable going out. Viewing Mass over our Livestream and partaking of spiritual communion is acceptable for those still vulnerable to the Coronavirus. Still, it is not enough. It is not the same as participating in person and receiving the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ. We need to begin to return to be part of the Holy Redeemer community of faith.
As Genesis tells us today, we need friendships in faith to live a successful faith life. We need a relationship with God and a faith community to live our faith to its fullest. In the wake of the Coronavirus, the Church needs rebuilding. Pope Francis has announced plans to do that throughout the world. Our bishop is establishing a diocesan program for our local Church. I plan to implement that plan here at Holy Redeemer. I hope you, too, will lend your support so our parish will flourish again. Together we will rebuild our community.
As we get deeper into Fall, we notice more and more flocks of birds heading south for the winter. Birds fly away in flocks because none has the energy to cover the thousands of miles they must go to get to their winter homes alone. But in a flock, the individual bird can go 70% further, faster. They can make the journey when they are part of a community. Working together, they achieve more. We need friends in our journey of faith too. Together we go further faster.
In today’s first reading, God presented Adam with many possible partners. Adam rejected all of them because they were not like him. He continued to feel isolated even with them, but he finally felt an immediate kinship with Eve. With her, he felt a bond he knew would help them face the future together. She was someone with whom he thought he could share the burdens and joys of life.
That is the purpose of our parish. It is a community of faith meant to be our source of friendship and strength to do God’s will here in Chatham. As the pandemic eases, do your part to encourage parishioners to return to church. Please invite your family, friends, and neighbors to return so we can all gather to support each other and grow in faith. None of us has enough to live our life of faith alone successfully. The good news is we don’t have to do it alone. We have a parish community of faith to do it with us.