Self-Gift or Selfish

This homily was given at St. Mary’s Parish, Eugene, OR on the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 26, 2022. The audio is available here.

“My body, my choice!”

It’s true, you know.

These are two of God’s greatest gifts to us: that we each have a body, and we each have the freedom to choose what we do with it.

The body is a kind of sacrament of the person.

In and through our bodies, we express the truth of who we are, what we think and believe and feel and choose.

We speak, we listen, we bless, we hug – we care for one another – in and throughour bodies.

But in and through our bodies, we also choose to curse, to wound, to turn a blind eye or a cold shoulder.

Behind all the choices we make daily, in and through our bodies, is ultimately one choice: 

Self-gift, or selfish? 

Now, it’s only natural to be selfish. 

Self-gift is uncomfortable.

When a friend isn’t acting like himself, do we take the time to ask him how he’s doing, and really listen to the answer?

Or do we cut the awkward conversation short?

When that annoying neighbor comes knocking at the door for help after a long day at work, do we answer, or duck under the couch and pretend we’re not home?

And when a surprise comes along—a person in need, an unplanned pregnancy—that derails our carefully scripted plans, do we respond with generosity?

Or do we turn away, preferring our preexisting projects and preoccupations to the inconvenient need of the person in front of us?

St. Paul puts the choice starkly in today’s second reading:

Do I choose to serve others in love, and so glorify God in my body? 

Or do I gratify the desires of the flesh, and put my body to shameful use? 

What we do with our bodies, after all, is really a question of life and death.

The daily decisions we make in this world—self-gift, or selfish—shape our eternal destiny.

If we choose selfishness, over time, we become more and more selfish, curved in on ourselves, hard-hearted, bitter, angry … and unsatisfied.

We become the kind of people, in the end, who are not fit for the kingdom of God, because the currency of that kingdom is love, and our hearts are bankrupt and barren.

But this, dear friends, this is the freedom for which Christ set us free.

Freedom in Christ means we are set free from the natural inclination of our bodies and spirits toward selfish self-preservation, in order to choose freely to give ourselves away in love, as Jesus does.

On the cross, Jesus gave us everything, holding nothing back for himself.

There was not an ounce of selfishness in Him.

He was pure self-gift, to his last breath, to his last drop of blood.

On the night before he died, he faced for the last time that one choice that all of us face every day: self-gift, or selfish.

How did he choose?

“Take this, all of you, and eat of it; this is my body, which is given for you.”

His body given for us, His blood and water poured out for us, His love on the cross, invites a whole-hearted response from us: a gift of self in return, holding nothing back.

And His Spirit in us is like a sword, cutting us free from the downward trajectory of the selfishness of our flesh and setting us free to choose whole-heartedly the glorious way that leads to life.

Today, at this Holy Mass, we commit once again to the way of self-gift.

As we receive the Body of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, we offer our bodies, our lives, everything we have and everything we are to Him in return as a gift of love.

And as we choose to give ourselves away in love, in daily, little ways, we glorify God in our bodies and become like Him whom we have received.

We begin to taste that peace the world cannot give, because the world does know the secret of peace.

Peace of heart cannot be purchased at any price.

It comes like the dew or manna from heaven only when we are emptied out from loving and giving ourselves away.

On the last day, when we who have chosen self-gift and followed Our Lord on the path to life enter at last into His kingdom, we will delight in the fullness of peace and joys in His presence, and delights at His right hand forever.

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