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Monsignor Yennock's Homily July 30, 2017 - Treasure in a Field

Jul 31, 2017

TREASURE IN A FIELD

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

JULY 30, 2017

A WIDOW IN SYRIA, THE MOTHER OF NINE CHILDREN WHOSE HUSBAND WAS KILLED BY A SNIPER SAID: “WE’RE JUST LIVING ON THE EDGE OF LIFE. WE’RE ALWAYS NERVOUS, WE’RE ALWAYS AFRAID”.

THE UN HAS REPORTED THAT OVER 250,000 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED IN SYRIA. MORE THAN FOUR AND A HALF MILLION HAVE FLED THE COUNTRY AND 6 MILLION HAVE BEEN DISPLACED INSIDE SYRIA.

THE CONFUSING WAR IN SYRAIA IS OVER FOUR AND A HALF YEARS OLD. THE SUNNI MAJORITY, THE SHIA SECT, THE JIHADIST ISLAMIC STATE AND WORLD POWERS ARE ALL INVOLVED.

WHEN YOU READ ABOUT THE UNIMAGINABLE SITUATIONS OF VIOLENCE, OPPRESSION AND THE WORST OF THE HUMAN CONDITION YOU HAVE TO BE MOVED BY THE FAITH OF COURAGEOUS WITNESSES. THEY BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL CARRY THEM THROUGH TO A BETTER LIFE.

IN 1984 JEREMY LEVIN, A CABLE NEWS NETWORK BUREAU CHIEF IN BEIRUT WAS KINDNAPPED BY SHIITE MUSLIMS.

HIS CAPTORS BLINDFOLDED HIM AND DROVE HIM TO A DINGY COLD HOUSE IN THE BEKAA VALLEY. THERE HE WAS CHAINED TO A WALL IN SUCH A WAY THAT HE COULD ONLY SIT OR LIE DOWN. HE REMAINED THAT WAY FOR FOUR WEEKS.

JEREMY TRIED TO KEEP HIS SPIRITS UP BY POSITIVE THINKING. BUT HE SOON DISCOVERED THAT NO AMOUNT OF POSITIVE THINKING WOULD TAKE AWAY HIS TERRIBLE LONELINESS. HE LONGED TO TALK TO SOMEONE—ANYONE.

IT WAS IN THIS SITUATION THAT JEREMY BEGAN TO THINK ABOUT GOD. THOUGHTS OF GOD WERE UNUSUAL FOR HIM BECAUSE HE HAD SAID THAT HE DIDN’T BELIEVE IN GOD. FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES HE WAS AN AVOWED ATHEIST.

HE CONTINUED TO THINK ABOUT GOD AND THE THOUGHTS OF GOD WOULDN’T GO AWAY. THEY BECAME MORE AND MORE FREQUENT. THEN ONE DAY THIS QUESTION CROSSED HIS MIND: “I WONDER IF I COULD ACTUALLY TALK TO GOD.”

JEREMY TRIED TO PUT THE IDEA OUT OF HIS MIND. AFTER ALL IF THERE IS NO GOD HOW COULD HE TALK TO HIM?  

BUT THOUGHTS OF GOD CONTINUED. JEREMY BECAME PREOCCUPIED WITH PHRASES LIKE:”GOD LOVE YOU” AND “GOD BLESS YOU” THAT KEPT FLASHING ACROSS HIS MIND.

LATER, REFLECTING ON THIS NIGHTMARE OF HIS LIFE IN CAPTIVITY HE WROTE:

“EVEN SNATCHES OF WHAT LITTLE I HAD READ IN THE BIBLE CAME BACK TO ME…..HE SAID:

“I WAS LIKE A THIRSTY MAN HOLDING HIS MOUTH OPEN FOR RAINDROPS….I HAD SO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS THAT I WAS CONSUMED WITH PONDERING OVER EVERYTHING I HAD HEARD ABOUT GOD AND JESUS HIS SON”

IT WAS IN THIS FRAME OF MIND THAT JEREMY AWOKE ON TUESDAY, APRIL 10. ON THAT DAY—JUST 12 DAYS BEFORE EASTER—JEREMY DID SOMETHING HE NEVER DREAMED HE WOULD EVER DO. HE SAID OUT LOUD: “GOD I BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE HERE.”

HE SPOKE HIS FIRST WORDS TO GOD. THEY WERE VERY SIMPLE. HE SAID, “OH FATHER, PLEASE TAKE CARE OF MY WIFE AND FAMILY. PLEASE REUNITE US.”

THEN JEREMY SURPRISED EVEN HIMSELF WHEN HE FOUND THE GRACE TO FORGIVE HIS CAPTORS. HE ASKED GOD TO FORGIVE THOSE WHO ROBBED HIM OF HIS FREEDOM.

THE FASCINATING THING ABOUT THIS MOMENT IN JEREMY’S LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM IN HIS CELL THAT NIGHT. HE SAID: “FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE I FELT WHOLE”.

IN THE MONTHS AHEAD JEREMY WAS MOVED TO SEVERAL OTHER LOCATIONS. HIS GUARDS BECAME FRIENDLIER.

THEN CAME CHRISTMAS EVE. ONE OF HIS GUARDS ASKED HIM, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS?” JEREMY LOOKED AT HIM IN AMAZEMENT AND BLURTED OUT: “I WANT A BIBLE.”

TWO DAYS LATER JEREMY RECEIVED A SMALL RED-BOUND NEW TESTAMENT. HE PROCEEDED TO DEVOUR IT. HE WAS ESPECIALLY MOVED BY JESUS’ WORDS: “ALL THAT YOU ASK FOR IN PRAYER, BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL RECEIVE IT AND IT SHALL BE YOURS.” (Mark 11:24)

FROM THAT MOMENT ON JEREMY PRAYED FOR A CHANCE TO ESCAPE.

ON THE NIGHT OF FEBRUARY 13, 1985, 11 MONTHS ATER HIS CAPTURE THAT CHANCE CAME. A GUARD GOT CARELESS, AND JEREMY BOLTED FROM THE HOUSE AND ZIGZAGED BAREFOOT DOWN THE FROZEN MOUNTAINSIDE TO SAFETY.  

A CORRESPONDENT FOR CABLE NEWS NETWORK, TOLD REPORTERS AT THE FOREIGN MINISTRY THAT JEREMY HAD ESCAPED BY TYING THREE BLANKETS TOGETHER, SLIDING DOWN A WALL AND FLEEING TO A SYRIAN ARMY POSITION IN LEBANON'S BEKAA VALLEY.

IN FREEDOM JEREMY LEVIN BECAME CNN BUREAU CHIEF IN WASHINGTON, D.C. IN HIS SPARE TIME HE TRAVELS ACROSS THE COUNTRY SHARING HIS FAITH WITH AUDIENCES EVERYWHERE.

JEREMY REMINDS US OF SOLOMON IN TODAY’S FIRST READING. LIKE SOLOMON, HE PRAYED TO GOD FOR HELP AND GOD HEARD HIS PRAYER.

JEREMY REMINDS US OF THE MAN IN THE GOSPEL WHO FOUND A TREASURE IN A FIELD. JEREMY FOUND HIS TREASURE IN LEBANON. HE FOUND GOD. AND GOD TURNED HIS LIFE INSIDE OUT TO MAKE ROOM FOR HIS NEW FAITH.

JEREMY’S EXPERIENCE INVITES US TO ASK OURSELVES HOW WE RESPOND TO TRIALS AND TRAGEDIES IN OUR LIVES.DO WE BECOME ANGRY AT THEM. DO WE BLAME GOD FOR THEM? OR DO WE KEEP AN OPEN MIND AND AN OPEN HEART AS JEREMY DID?

  1. PAUL SAYS IN THE SECOND READING: “FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD.”

WHEN TRAGEDIES HAPPEN IN OUR LIVES WE ASK THE SAME QUESTION THAT JEREMY AND THE PEOPLE OF SYRIA ARE ASKING TODAY. WE ARE ASKING THE SAME QUESTION THAT THE PEOPLE IN THE SECOND READING ASKED: WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

GOD EVENTUALLY ANSWERED JEREMY’S QUESTION. JEREMY’S KIDNAPPING EXPERIENCE LED HIM TO THE GREATEST BLESSING ANY MAN OR WOMAN CAN RECEIVE. HE WAS BLESSED WITH FAITH. HE FOUND GOD. HE FOUND FREEDOM AND HE FOUND PEACE. HE FOUND A TREASURE HIDDEN IN THE FIELDS OF LEBANON.

PAUL’S MESSAGE IN TODAY’S SECOND READING IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE. IT’S THE GOOD NEWS THAT FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, ALL THINGS, INDEED, DO WORK TOWARD GOOD.

THE REVELATION THAT GOD HAS A PLAN FOR US IS SO AMAZING THAT, AT FIRST, WE FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE. BUT TIME AFTER TIME, WE SEE IT VERIFIED IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE KEPT THEIR HEARTS AND THEIR LIVES OPEN TO GOD.

AND SO TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READINGS INSPIRE US TO INVITE GOD INTO OUR LIVES. TODAYS READINGS REMIND US NOT TO LET TRAGEDY DESTROY US BUT TO LET GOD TURN TRAGEDY INTO A BLESSING.

IF YOU HAVE SUFFERED TRAGEDY IN YOUR LIFE, OPEN YOUR LIFE TO CHRIST. LET HIM SPEAK TO YOU IN THE WORDS HE SPOKE TO SOLOMON: “I GIVE YOU A HEART SO WISE AND UNDERSTANDING THAT THERE HAS NEVER BEEN ANYONE LIKE YOU UP TO NOW AND AFTER YOU THERE WILL BE NO ONE EQUAL TO YOU.”

LET’S CLOSE WITH A POEM. WE’VE HEARD IT BEFORE BUT IT’S A POEM WE NEED TO HEAR OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

“FOR EV’RY PAIN WE MUST BEAR, FOR EVE’RY BURDEN, EV’RY CARE, THERE’S A REASON.

“FOR EV’RY HURT, FOR EV’RY PLIGHT, FOR EV’RY LONELY, PAIN-RACKED NIGHT, THERE’S A REASON.

“BUT IF WE TRUST GOD, AS WE SHOULD, IT WILL TURN OUT FOR OUR GOOD. HE KNOWS THE REASON.”  (AUTHOR UNKNOWN)

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