Homily - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time-2018

What "stones" do we each carry in our knapsacks?

Today's Homily by Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand


This is a knapsack.  And it’s heavy.  It’s filled with rocks.  If I went hiking with this, this afternoon, I don’t think I would get very far.  I would have to sit down and rest very often.  I would get tired pretty quick.

I often smile at little school children going to school with these huge backpacks.  I think if they would fall over they will never get up.  Sort of like a little turtle on its back.  Or like Charlie Brown with all his winter gear on with his arms sticking straight out and he yells out: “How am I supposed to get thru the door.”

We can all smile and shake our heads at these little kids carrying all that stuff in their backpacks or at Charlie Brown.  But we adults are the very worse for carrying heavy stuff in our backpacks, and we do it every day. We can’t get thru the door because we are carrying a lot of stuff.

In the Gospel today Jesus tells the 12 Apostles to travel lite.  “He instructed them to take nothing on the journey but a walking stick, no food, no sack, no money in the their belts.”  And he also gave them authority over unclean spirits. 

In a sense these two things go together.  Traveling lite, and authority over unclean spirits.

Most of us travel with way too much stuff.  I know I do when I travel.  I want to pack things for every possibility or occasion, for every kind of weather.  My suitcase is heavy and hard to carry.

But a heavy suitcase or knapsack is not what really makes us tired or wears us down.  We don’t carry them around every day.  What really makes us tired and wears us down and drains our energy are the heavy and dark thoughts we often carry around every minute of every day.  And we just get used to them being there, so we carry them around every day.  They weigh us down so much sometimes that we sometimes dread getting up in the morning, fearing the light of another day, dread going to work, hate meeting people.  We are tired all the time and even at night we toss and turn.

Remember way back when they were selling “Pet Rocks.”  How crazy is that. Selling pet rocks in stores when we can pick up a rock anywhere at any time.  But we do have pet rocks that we pick up.   We have pet thoughts that we  pick up and carry around with us all day.  We are jealous of someone for whatever reason.  We are really angry at a worker or a relative for what they did to us.  We lust after someone at work or among our friends.  We carry the heavy rock of unforgiveness in our heart against one particular person.

Or maybe we are just a worry wart.  We worry about everything.  What people think about us, how our children or grandchildren are doing, about our job or about money or our health. 

So what are we going to do about all these “Pet Rocks” that we carry around all day?  These pet thoughts that we cuddle and feed all day long, and weigh us down.  What do we need to do in order to travel lite as Jesus tells us in the Gospel?

We need to do 4 things.

1) BE AWARE – Always we need to be aware and alert to the thoughts in our head, to the fantasies in our imagination.  There are two kinds of thoughts.  Thoughts that pull us down and thoughts that lift us up.  And we have to be alert to them.  The thoughts that pull us down, those dark and brooding thoughts, those sinful thoughts, those heavy “pet rocks’ have to go.  They are toxic, they are poisonous.  They will make us sick.

2) BE QUICK – When these dark and heavy thought come into our mind, thoughts of anger, jealousy, self-pity, lust, fear, anxiety,  we must throw them out immediately.  Don’t give them a second thought.  If we do they will quickly take over our mind and heart and spread like a wild-fire.  Tell them to go to hell immediately.  St. Benedict tells us to smash them against the rock which is Christ.  And Christ is the one “pet rock” and the only “pet rock” that we should carry around with us every minute of every day.  That rock will save us.   Pope St. John XXIII tells us how to deal with temptations. He said: “Shoo them away like a pesky fly or mosquito.”  And do it quickly.

3) BE FIRM – Don’t be like good, ole wishy-washy Charlie Brown.  When it comes to these toxic, poisonous thoughts, we need to say “No” to them and stick to it. If we try to do mental battle with them, if we try to play around with them, we will lose every time and the devil will win.  The Devil loves to play with our mind, and if we let him.  He wins and we lose.

4) STOP THINKING – START PRAYING.    We think almost every minute of every day.  We think way too much, we over think especially our hurts, our anger, we over think that particular person we hate, we lust after, we are jealous of.  We lick our wounds. We keep picking at them and they never heal. We often throw a pity-party for our self.  We think way too much and pray way too little.  We need to wrap our toxic, poisonous thoughts in prayer. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have to overcome the Devil.  It puts Jesus in charge and we get out of the way.  We get out of the boxing ring with the devil and let Jesus take over.  

“Jesus sent out the 12 and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick and a pair of sandals.”  If we travel lite we will have authority over our unclean spirits.  Just carry one “pet rock”, and that rock is Jesus.