This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 24, 2022. The audio is available here.
A husband comes home one night to find his wife there in the kitchen.
She’s turned away from him, washing up the dishes.
As he comes closer for a kiss, he’s startled to see her crying in the dishwater.
“Honey, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she cries, wiping away the tears with the back of her hand. “I’m fine.”
Sometimes, we all put on a false front.
Like an actor wearing a mask, we cover our own struggles, our fears, and our longings with a carefully constructed image of respectability.
Over many years, we learn the difficult art of maintaining this image, keeping the mask in place no matter what.
We learn early on that if we allow it to slip, and someone glimpses the truth beneath the mask—that we are weak, and scared, and wounded—more than likely, they’re just going to hurt us even more.
Our fear, founded on experience, of being rejected, being misunderstood, being taken advantage of or abused, as well as the shame of being told “that’s not a big deal,” “get over it,” all keep the mask firmly in place.
And like the wife, crying in the dishwater, when our hearts are broken and everything in life seems to be going wrong, we find ourselves saying the world’s most common lie: “I’m fine.”
But deep down, we long to be known in the truth of who we are.
We sense that we are made for it: for love, for communion.
The more we hide, the stronger grows that ache in the heart.
Back in the kitchen, the husband gently turns off the faucet and puts his arm around his wife.
Without saying a word, he leans in, resting his head against hers.
And he whispers: “I love you. I’m here.”
She falls apart, sobbing uncontrollably.
At last, the mask has fallen off.
And as he holds her, and she gradually runs out of tears, she begins to tell him the whole story.
Like the husband, God is near us when we are broken-hearted.
He is not fooled by our false fronts.
He knows our deepest longings and struggles, the pain of our hearts that we strive to keep hidden, as well as our often-sinful attempts to deal with it.
God had no need to go down to Sodom to learn about their sins; he only goes to teach Abraham a lesson, not to prejudge others before seeing the evidence himself.
But God, who knows our hearts, also will not force us to take off our masks.
Instead, like the husband, he abides with us, covering us with his love, and waiting patiently for us to tell him ourselves.
Because what matters most is not the particular problem of the day…
It’s that we trust him enough to tell him about that problem and let him help.
Vulnerability, the choice to set our masks aside and reveal our hearts to another,sets us free from the self-made prison of shame and fear.
In fact, trust and vulnerability are the essential foundation of any close relationship, whether between spouses in a marriage, close friends, or the spiritual life between God and man.
And where trust is lacking or difficult, the choice on our part to risk vulnerability is what begins to build it up.
Today, at this Holy Mass, dare to be vulnerable.
Dare to ask for what you really need from God.
As we pray the Eucharistic Prayer, lift up your hearts to the Father along with the bread on the altar, which is first broken and then transformed.
As we pray the Our Father, asking him to “give us our daily bread,” ask him in your hearts for what you most deeply long for.
The conversion of a family member.
The healing of a loved one.
Or maybe just to feel His love for you.
Whatever you may need.
And as we receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, who makes Himself our true “daily bread,” trust in the Father, who gave us His Only Son, to give us everything else we need along with Him.
As we pray boldly, with trust and vulnerability, we begin to learn the truth:
That our Father is trustworthy.
That He gives us what we need.
That “everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
And on the last day, as the doors of Heaven open to receive us, we shall enter into that communion of love, of which this life is only a foretaste and a preparation, with our faces unmasked and our hearts wide open, to know Our God as we have been known by Him, and to love as we have been loved, by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, world without end.