December 5, 2020

The Homily

mary-mother-of-jesusI have found myself starting most days by reading the homily delivered by Pope Francis during his daily Mass. This week he had this to say.

Are you able to find the Word of God in the history of each day, or do your ideas so govern you that you do not allow the Lord to surprise you and speak to you?

The surprises of God. Most of us would say we seek the Lord and want to do his will, but we want it according to our own script. When God comes to us in a way we didn’t anticipate, do we follow where he leads, or do we cling to what we think our lives should look like, what we think is normal and right?

Scripture is filled with stories of those who were surprised by God.

  • Abram was told to take his family and leave his homeland. Where was he to go? That was a surprise.
  • Jacob was running away from himself when he ran into the last person he was looking for—God himself. An all-night wrestling match with the Almighty was not on Jacob’s agenda.
  • Moses met God in a bush that burned but wouldn’t burn up, setting in motion a series of surprises that threw Moses’s life into chaos.
  • David was anointed king of Israel while he was just a lowly shepherd, the runt of the litter. He didn’t campaign for the job. God choose David because of what was on his inside, not his outside.
  • Jeremiah was called to preach a message no one wanted to hear. Responding to God’s surprise landed Jeremiah in prison and made him an outcast among his people.
  • Saul met the One he was persecuting in a flash of light that left him blind but, surprisingly, seeing.
  • Peter was busy trying to deal with thousands of new converts while protecting the faith from heresy when God showed him through a vision that the hated Gentiles were also welcome in the kingdom.

But the biggest of God’s surprises involved an insignificant girl engaged to an insignificant man living in an insignificant village in Israel. Talk about a surprise. Mary’s life was shattered by God and his plan for his Son to be born as a human through a human. From that day on, Mary was known as “that woman,” one of “those.” Trying to explain that it was God who made her pregnant was not a good line to take. Mary never again knew normal. She was on the run with her young son and her husband, fleeing to a land not her own. She listened as her son presented his ideas of “family values” that were so unlike what was accepted in their society. And she stood at the foot of the cross as her son, the son she and God together brought into this world, bled out his life. To say God’s surprise changed her life would be the greatest—and most horrible—understatement of all.

If Joe Walsh were our hymnmaster this morning, he might have us sing his song, Life Of Illusion.

Pow! Right between the eyes
Oh, how nature loves its little surprises
Wow! It all seems so logical now
It’s just one of her better disguises
And it comes with no warning
Nature loves her little surprises
Continual crisis

I don’t know about nature, but I do believe God loves his little surprises. We spend so much time and energy trying to cling to our plans for our lives that we miss out on what God brings our way. If it doesn’t appear “normal,” we ignore it or rebuke it. Yet God keeps bringing us surprises each day. As Pope Francis asked, are we able to find God in the history of each day, setting aside our ideas and accepting the surprises given us by God?

Let us pray.


  1. Daisey former Missionary and Carmelite says

    Wonderful homily Jeff…it fits right in with what the Lord has been so pressing on me of late, to focus more and more and then even more on the presence of God in each present moment of each day…. So, “are we able to find God in the history of each day” becomes ‘are we able to be open to God’s presence in the history of each moment of our days”…. Sometimes it’s only in looking back that we can “see what God has done..” Yet how wonderful it would be if we searched for God in the present moment to be fully aware of His surprising Graces. St Theresa of Avila went into ecstasy once while washing pots and pans in the Kitchen. Every moment can become and encounter with God but we do have to be open to the unexpected !! May God give us humility and a spirit of surrender before His Holy Presence .

  2. Christiane says

    Mary prophesied of the Coming of the Kingdom among us in her Magnificat
    . . . and little Therese of Lisieux saw that ‘everything is grace’
    . . . the humble are not blinded to the Presence of God in the day He brings

  3. Dan Crawford says

    Pope Francis’ question is a gem – it will go in my prayer book.

  4. David Cornwell says

    Again, the gospel proclaimed by Francis, pastor to the Church catholic and the world. Thanks for sharing his words once again. He himself is a surprise, and a good one.

  5. It would warm my cockles if God would surprise me….

  6. It surprises me, daily, that He keeps loving me and forgiving me, and giving to me so many blessings…in the midst of my constant unbelief and lack of gratefulness.

    Wow. What a God.