Homily – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Good morning, everyone. Can you hear me okay with this microphone? Does it sound all right or no? How about in the back? Yes. Now. Okay, I’m getting mostly thumbs up, so I’ll go with that. All right, great. So it’s great to be back in Brooklyn Heights. I’m Father John, for those who might forgot who I was or meet me for the first time, I teach out in San Francisco.

And there is, of course, nothing better than leaving 60 degree weather to come back here to New York where it’s sub freezing. So it was great to be back in a little part of home here, something that’s been a stable base for me for so many years. So it’s great to celebrate mass with you this morning. And as they say, I’ll be here all week, so you’ll see me next week in here as well.

So I’m covering for Father Joe, who’s taking a little time away. So not too long ago I saw an article in The New York Times and it spoke to me directly because it was written by someone who was my age. I’m 44, going on 45. I’ll be 45 in a few weeks. So for all intents and purposes, you can say I’m like a nineties kid.

That’s where I kind of came of age. That’s where I kind of have my point of reference as to the things that were part of my adolescence, my formative years, and the title of this article written by this woman named Holly Burns was Live music is a time machine. Live music is a time machine. And she reflects upon recently going to a Counting Crows concert, how many you might remember the Counting Crows, and she reflects on it by saying, as we mbelted out the lyrics of Mr. Jones together, a sea of fans singing a decades old song.

I could’ve sworn I was a teenager again. I forgot that I had a mortgage, two kids and a favorite brand of tea bag. I turned to my husband. It was a shock to remember that I even had one and said, Did we just travel back in time? We just traveled back in time. Now, you may not have grown up in the nineties or maybe that you did, but there’s one thing I think we can all universally agree on is that there’s certain music that instantly takes us back to a certain point in our time of growing up specifically, and usually our time of adolescence, the high school years, the college years, and as before mass,

the last mass, a 9:00 mass. I was talking to Sergio, our our well, our, well, fine musician here. I said, Sergio. So tell me, what is the song of your adolescence like? What would you go to that would bring you right back to, say, high school years? And he says, it’s going to be this song.

All I can say.

Is my life is pretty plain.

I’ve like watching the puddles gather rain.

OK, stop – they’re not paying me to sing. But that song right there was called No Rain by Blind Melon. Now, I haven’t heard that song in a long time. And the minute he mentioned it to me, I instantly went back to growing up and being in the backyard of my house, talking to my next door neighbor, Mark, who by the way, I haven’t thought about in years.

And him introducing that song to me for the first time. Isn’t it amazing how the power of music just kind of puts us right back into something. Now, this article goes on to say that there’s a reason for that. It’s not just simple sentimentality, it’s because our brain is actually doing something. Our brain has the capacity when it actually has memorable moments to keep them stored in such a way that when we have a similar experience, we actually relive the memory using the same exact neurons that we were using back then.

Now, I think for all of us, time in and of itself is a very interesting thing. There’s nothing probably more objective than time, right? Seconds are the same no matter how much you measure them. Right. And all of this happens the same way, but every single one of us realizes that there’s something subjective. About time we could be with someone who we really enjoy and the time flies by.

We could be doing something that we absolutely can’t stand. And the time just seems to go on forever, right? There’s something about time that just doesn’t seem to add up to being objective. It seems to be very subjective. You know, I mentioned I’m 44 going on 45, and I know that the time just seems to be going by so darn fast.

I cannot seem to catch up with it at times. Now, I say that because if you listen closely to the three readings that we just heard, they all riff on the on the aspect of time in some way. The first reading is just God speaking to this prophet Jonah and saying, Hey, guess what? You got to go into the city here in Nineveh.

It’s going to take you a long time to walk through it. But you got to tell everyone, then 40 days, this place is going to be destroyed unless they shape up. Right. This sense of urgency these 40 days, taking three days to walk through, It’s very it’s a very measured reading by all intents and purposes. And then we move to that second reading where Paul’s just saying, yeah, you know, time is going by, it’s passing away the world as you know, it will no longer be, Don’t wait for tomorrow.

What you can do today. Time is of the essence. And then of course, Jesus says in a very pithy way, the time of fulfillment is here as come the Kingdom of God is that hand. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Now, if there’s one type of phrase or concept that Jesus talks about a lot that we hear in the Gospels is this idea of the kingdom.

The kingdom of God. Now, when we hear it, it sounds so lyrical that in some ways we may just kind of say, Well, this is just Jesus talking about heaven in some ways that, you know, when we go to heaven, it’s like God’s kingdom, everything’s great, everything’s beautiful. And Jesus is announcing that, yeah, heaven’s a real thing. So, you know, do these right things that you can go to heaven.

But honestly, that is not really what Jesus came here to reveal to us. He did not reveal to us that you have to kind of shape up or ship out. He did not come here to reveal to us, you have to do these certain things to earn a place in heaven. That’s not what he came to reveal. Believe it or not, he came to reveal that this idea of heaven, this idea of, say, the perfect kingdom actually exists here and now, right here and now, that somehow there is no separation between what we think is heaven and what is earth.

It’s all one. Now we may say, Well, Jesus, how’s that possible? Because clearly all of us look around at this world saying, well, this is clearly not heaven. There’s so many darn things happening here that seem to take us away from that. But Jesus insists that it is here where we are able to encounter the very presence of God.

And I think that time is a way for us to maybe wrap our heads a little bit around this very difficult reality. And I think that that music is a very good point of entry in helping us to wrap our heads around time that just as you are able to kind of somehow transcend time and space between what you did in the past and also what may you remember in the future, because I’m sure you know, 30 years from now, I’ll hear no rain.

I’ll think about Mark. All right. But the thing is that what we have that transcends time and space is the presence of the kingdom. And what does the kingdom offer us? It offers us one thing. It offers us freedom. Freedom. The Kingdom of God is not oppressive. The kingdom of God is not something where we have to kind of make sure we’re worthy subjects in order to get the spoils of the land.

So to speak. The Kingdom of God allows us to be in a container where we can fully become the people we’re meant to be. It offers us the security and the comfort to know that we don’t have to worry about trying to do something to oppress another person or even oppress God that we have are firmly rooted and planted in a place, a physical place that allows us to be ourselves.

You know, I was speaking to my friend Les last evening and I was talking about this article, and she said, You know, John, as you’re telling me the story, I just think about how recently I was listening to the Grateful Dead. And my friend is 51 years old and she says, you know, I was taken back to the time when I would follow the dead.

And I remember being like, you know, a 20 something kid and just being in full freedom and ecstasy, dancing at the concert, just somehow being totally taken out of anything that I thought was somehow important and be able to just be completely alive and free in that moment, she said. That’s what it reminded me of listening to the music today.

Now we may hear that and say, Well, that’s a nice that you had that kind of moment of nostalgia or something like that. But that type of freedom is the type of freedom that were made to have were made to be dancing through life. That’s really what we’ve been offered the opportunity to do. But yeah, in some way, shape or form, we feel as if we have to take things a little bit too seriously.

Why? Because the world seems to be serious. There are serious problems to solve and there are serious things that have to be contend with. And clearly there are things that happen to us that are outside of our control, that are great injustices, and we have to do things to work, to change society and make it better. All true.

But when we are able to realize that heaven and earth are one thing, we know that in the midst of the vision and conflict and problems, everything has already been healed to be harmonious. It’s happening at the same time. Believe it or not, you pray it every time you pray to our father and kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

That is what allows us to be people of hope, not because we’re waiting for something to happen, but but to fully believe that it has happened, that it is happening, and it happens when we are just allowed to allow the person in front of us to be themselves. One thing I always like to say is that everything is one song.

Everything. The entire cosmos is one song. Everything is interrelation with everything else. What are we doing to be able to know what our part is so that we can bring even more harmony to the one song? So maybe today you got your old cassette tapes. Maybe you made a mix tape for someone your life way back when and listen to that again and just ask yourselves, am I free?

Do I feel free? Do I feel free the way that I was when I was listening to that music 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? And then ask yourself, what has happened since then? How do I lose my freedom? Maybe How did I gain it? What if it’s been lost? What has been gained and have full confidence in knowing that the time is now to affirm the freedom that is being offered to us because we are members of the King?

All of us here have the ability to affirm that one person at a time. When we let the person in front of us sing out in harmony with us. Amen. I bless you.