Homily — 21st Sunday OT A 8/24/8
At my first parish assignment in Cranston, there was a cute elderly couple both in their 90s named James and Katherine Quinn. They had married each other in their late 40s, and in 2004 when Jim passed away at age 97, they had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the previous October.
Jim and Katherine had been married for at least a couple of years — it might have been as much as 8 years, I can exactly remember — but in any event, some time into their marriage Katherine was cleaning out the closet, and she comes across a Gold Medal that says “1928 Olympics, Amsterdam.”
She says to her husband “what’s this?” “Oh,” he says “That’s mine; I won that in the 400 meter relay in the 1928 Olympics. We set a World Record at the time also. That was long before we met of course.”
I don’t know if Katherine said to him “Gee, what else haven’t you told me?” But it’s a true story, back in 2000 he was the oldest living Olympic medalist in the country.
I was reminded of my old friends the Quinns not only by the current Olympic games going on, but also by the last line in today’s Gospel, where it says (Jesus) strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
You would think that if a person had won a Record setting Gold Medal in the Olympics 20 years ago, he would want to tell everyone, including his wife, about it. And you would also think that if God became a man to save the human race, he would also want to tell everyone, especially God’s people, about it.
But time and again in the Gospels we find Jesus trying to hide His Divinity, and telling people he healed not to tell anyone who it was who healed them, and telling his disciples and even the demons not to tell people he is the Messiah.
And even when Jesus does work these miracles, He does them in out of the way places usually — in the middle of the desert, or in some hick town by the shores of Galilee, far from a big city like Rome or even a small city like Jerusalem.
And while at first this might seem a strange way for Jesus to act, forbidding His disciples to tell people He’s the Messiah or about His miracles, really Jesus is just practicing what He preached. For Jesus on numerous occasions in the Gospel states that He who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
Jesus never did anything for the purpose of drawing attention to Himself. He rather did everything with the purpose of giving glory to His Heavenly Father.
It’s really this genuine humility of Jesus that caused the faith to spread so fast, and continues to draw people to our Lord today. And certainly, the virtue of humility is something you and I should pray for in our life. May we imitate Jesus and not flaunt our talents in order to get praise from others.
I’m not positive, but it might have been out of humility that my former parishioner didn’t tell initially his wife about winning a gold medal. He probably didn’t so much want her to marry James Quinn the Olympic Gold Medalist as to marry James Quinn the whole man.
I also remember a story about Bl. Mother Theresa that illustrates her great humility. In the seminary, one of our field assignments was to work in one of Mother Theresa’s homeless shelters in Washington DC. A seminarian once told me that he was there one day, and I guess he asked a group of Indian nuns who lived several years with Mother Theresa if they ever seen her work any miracles. And they all proceeded to tell of the time when this very sick person was brought to Mother, and after praying over him for healing he was immediately restored to full health. And they ended the story by saying “and then Mother told us never to tell anyone about this. And we said ‘yes, Mother, we will not tell anyone!’”
May we also Live and Profess our Faith that Jesus is the Christ in a humble way.
When Simon that day in Caesarea Philippi made that statement of faith in Jesus, the first person ever to publicly do so, Jesus said to Him “Blessed are you Simon. And because of your stepping out in faith and professing this, I am making you not a tall lighthouse that everyone will see and praise; rather, I make you a Rock which will lay hidden deep in the earth, a Rock on which I will build my Church.”
“For the gates of hell cannot prevail against one who is humble and does all things not for self glorification, but for the glory of God the Father.”