14th Ordinary Year C – July 6 – With out HIM, you are just an ordinary Donkey (ASS)!
Bottom line: He uses his words to let us know what he wants us to do for the better of our lives. So I ask you today to let the risen Lord, the Lord who is here in His word and in the Eucharist, speak to us, touch our hearts and lead us – the ordinary people – into greatness!
It is good to be back! For those who arrived to St. Anne the past 5 years, you do not know who I am! I was here 5 years ago serving as a deacon! I was known as “Thong” – but now I am Martino – Martin with an O. Marti-NO. I thank Fr. Schreck for letting me coming back. I guess, I am not on his “black” list! I would like to open this homily by answering your question about my name change. It is not your fault. It is others parishioners’ fault. When I was first ordained a priest and assigned to St. Mary on the Hill in Augusta, I told them my name. They had a hard time pronouncing it or when they do, they laugh. I was Thong not “thonge.” So I became Martino from that time! Now let gets to the homily itself. Because I am telling you what Elizabeth Taylor told all her husband “I am not going to keep you long!”
The first reading today, remind us of Palm Sunday – when Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem. On my first homily here as a priest, I like to preach on the Donkey. Not any donkey, but the one that Jesus sat on.
He awakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride. He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought. But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind.
“Throw your garments down,” he said crossly. “Don’t you know who I am?” They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move. “Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me.” But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market place.
“The palm branches! Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches!”
Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. “Foolish child,” she said gently. “Don’t you realize that without Him, you are just an ordinary donkey? Without Him you are just an ordinary… ass!”
My very dear brothers and sister in Christ, without HIM, I am just an ordinary donkey and so be each one of us. God calls the ordinaries to make great! Here is another example. It was the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. In those dreadful days, after many failed attempts of conception, a Catholic couple was finally blessed with a pregnancy of one month’s duration. Because they were educated in South Vietnam, the parents were viewed by the communists as “enemies of the people” and were incarcerated in different jails.
The horror and the deprivation in prison were too much for the mother to be. In a few months, her frail body was broken to a level where she was unable to eat or move. She lay unconscious in the corner of the prison, where she was expected to die. At that time, the government chose not to initiate charges against her, but to release her to die among family. The local physicians expected the end of her life, which also meant the end for the unborn within her. Her younger brother carried her almost lifeless body, in his arms, away from the prison into the main street of Saigon. For “security reasons” their home had been confiscated by the “people’s government,” leaving the mother to be to wander the streets and fend for themselves.
The young mother barely survived; clinging onto life, she managed to save her baby. Ironically, her expected death was the liberating key for her. Their miraculous survival was dictated by powers beyond human capacity. The boy became the first born and only child of the middle age couple. Living in constant fear for their lives, the young mother remained spiritually centered by worshipping the Lord, reading God’s word, and praying daily.
Protecting and raising another seven children of her older brother, who was also incarcerated, this devoted group was forced to the jungle’s stormy border of Cambodia. There, the nightmare continued. They were the only Catholics in their deported community. To attend Sunday Mass, they had to walk many miles through the jungle, swim over many lakes and rivers, and sometimes had to spend the night on the way. On one occasion, they found a note on the door of the shack used as a church, it said: “The Holy Mass has been cancelled, as the priest guilty of his beliefs and Catholic actions have been arrested.”
On that day, the boy who was now six years old received the message of being called by God to the priesthood. That calling has been fulfilled. That boy is no longer a six-year-old boy; today he stands before you as a priest serving God’s people.
My very dear brothers and sisters in Christ, no one cares about the donkey, when Jesus was not on him; our lives are nothing without JESUS! Without Jesus, we are reduced to nothing! So to be great, Jesus has to be in the CENTER of our lives. I know I am not one of the holiest priest you ever met; not on the list of one of the best homilists you ever heard; and surely I am not one of the most handsome priest you have ever seen either. Because I am nothing, I am no body. But God has called me to BE a priest, and BE here FOR you and WITH you. So if you need me for any reason at anytime, you know where to find me!
So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God calls us, talks to us in different way and makes us great. He uses his words to let us know what he wants us to do for the better of our lives. So I ask you today to let the risen Lord, the Lord who is here in His word and in the Eucharist, speak to us, touch our hearts and lead us – the ordinary people – into greatness! But that will not happen until we allow Christ to be in the CENTER of our lives!
Fr. Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong