“It’s a great joy to be here this evening with you. My name is Fr. Jared Leohr. I grew up in the parish here at Ascension when it was back over at St. Thomas Aquinas and so it’s a great joy to come here for one big hurrah before my new mission. I’m serving in Houston now with Youth Work and they’re sending me to be a chaplain in Manila in the Philippines, so I’m kinda getting everything all packed up and ready for a new adventure from OP here in Kansas out to a little island far away. The insight that I think God wants to tell each of us is that he wants to give us the best. He talks about rich food, choice wines, he really wants to give us the top notch, the top class. The curve ball is that when we have the body/soul dynamic that we live every moment, it’s hard to know what is the real good if we only live for that reflection of the good or for the eternal good and so what’s the way? How are we able to distinguish, to decipher all these natural goods that we can try to seek in this world, to be closer around family, to be able to be in a place that is very comfortable that has many things or to be called to a place that’s a lot hotter. They say there’s two seasons in the Philippines, there’s hot and there’s rainy, but the rainy is still hot you just add water. It’s going to be a little interesting, but the challenge is there are a lot of good things, but what about the spiritual good? How do we see that? And I think St. Paul gives us that key when he speaks about this gratitude, this ability to live in all circumstances when he has everything and when he has nothing that we’re not dependent on the externals and we start to see the good things that God wants to give us and it made me think about last weekend within a 24 hour gap we were out with fathers and sons at a camp out in a ranch in Texas and we’re cold, it’s smoky by the bonfire in little hammocks surrounded by coyotes all dusty and just stinky and then the next day there was a family that let us use a little lake spot there for our community where there was nothing to want. You couldn’t want anything. It was just peaceful and beautiful and clean and no little yippers around so it was amazing the contrast and yet the common thread in Italian they say the filo rosso, this red line that thing that connects it all when we have good things happen in our life and tough things happen that it’s that gratitude to be able to say thank you and that’s what these guests that this king was trying to prepare. Jesus is talking about this massive feast that’s a sense of eternity, of heaven that big family reunion, that big convocation we’re all called to be together and yet the gratitude of being able to see, what is it that God is offering? Is it a lot of comfort or is it something more? Is it something deeper that the comfort is a reflection of.
The other example that I always think about is Job and he really hits my heart when he has everything and then loses everything and his phrase is so spot on when he says, ‘The Lord gives. The Lord takes. Blessed be God.’ and so there’s a sense of knowing that everything comes from God and being able to bless him in the good, the bad, the ugly and to know that he’s going to bring the best, the most beautiful from even the ugliest. The fact that you can lose your son, have him be tortured and die and crucified and yet that’s our key, that’s our invitation for the greatest happiness ever and the greatest act of love into Heaven, so he’s able to tweak it, to convert it and so that way we don’t have to worry about if it fits in our scheme or if it’s as cozy as we’d like, so we don’t have to worry, we don’t have to have it all fit into our picture and then I think about Christ’s heart and what would really hurt God. What would really wound His love that He offers so vulnerably, so totally for each of us? It would be seeing us live halfway. It would be seeing his beloved kids, each of us not only to the full, but overflowing, maxed out and that’s what He wants us to have and He suffers when He sees us just on the status quo and that’s where I think of one of the Hebrew words for sin is hamartia which is missing the mark so it’s like God wants that bullseye and anytime we’re a little bit off we’re just not as happy as we could be and that’s what he wants and desires and so he wants us to have that feast and so He wants us to have that feast and how much He suffers. It’s not like, oh you blew it, he’s trying to bust us. It’s that he says, ‘No I want you to be totally happy and you’ve lowered your potential and that’s also that mixed suffering and injustice of this poor guy without his white shirt. It’s like coming in without the towel or something it’s like, ‘Oh man where’s my towel?’ There’s a sense of I’ve got to have what I need for this feast and this guy got in, he was able to get to a certain point, but he didn’t have his garment which theologians can talk about it being the baptismal garment can talk about it being in the likeness of God, being able to identify with His son,being saved, so there’s a lot of images there for the garment, but what’s amazing is that he’s silent and so it almost makes me think that if he had just asked for it that God would have dumped it on him, but there is a hesitance a lack of trust a lack of communion with God that even in the last moment we have a chance to get that spiritual good and yet God wants to give it to us, but we have to want it we have to have that desire, so let’s ask for that grace of being able to live through everything with great gratitude, the highs and lows of having everything or having nothing to be able to see that that’s what God wants us to be happy. He doesn’t just put us here just to suffer to be halfway just skirting by, but he wants us to be overflowing so let’s ask for that gift of gratitude, a life of eucharistia, a life of thanksgiving, a life of being grateful. I think about the end of life as being a giant thank you card. If our life story was just a big thank you card to God that would be a home run, that would be perfect and so if we can have that gratitude we will be able to cut through those curve balls of life and to know always never to doubt that feast that God wants to give us and to know that He offers it first here in the Eucharist and then He wants it to overflow in our life and to all those around us.”