19th Sun [C] 2007

Fr. Charles Irvin


Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19; Luke 12:32-48

In a Press Conference back in the early 1960’s President John F. Kennedy spoke about life’s unfairness. “Some men,” he said, “are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some men are stationed in San Francisco. It is very hard in the military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.”

When John F. Kennedy made that statement there were many who thought he was a prime example of unfairness. He was born into a very wealthy family. He was the youngest man ever elected president. Few, however, knew of his bouts with horrible back pain, and few knew that just twenty months later he would be assassinated. Life, it seems, was unfair to him and unfair to all of those who admired him and wanted him to be our president for a long time.

And why is it that God calls some to do Him great service, and not others. Isn’t that unfair?

Today’s first reading was about Abraham and his call to greatness. Why was he chosen and not some other? Why didn’t God call some Egyptian? Or some other Jew? Why not a woman? Later on, however, from Abraham’s descendents God called a little Jewish maiden to be the mother of the Messiah. Why her and not some other woman?

Then there are those called to represent God to His people. Twelve particular men were chosen to be Christ’s apostles. Others were called to be disciples. Still others formed the early Church in Jerusalem. Why were they chosen and not others?

Inequity and unfairness disturb us. Yet in the natural world, from which we came and of which we are a part, unfairness abounds. Nature is marked by a terrible unfairness. Storms, earthquakes, natural disasters strike some but not others. When a predatory animal, a lion for instance, attacks another animal he goes after the slowest and weakest in the herd he has been stalking. Is the lion being unjust? But when a human predator preys on a young child everyone considers him to be the lowest of the low. When such predators end up in prison their lives are continually subject to the most hateful of things. They live in a constant state of abuse. Do we consider that to be good, only right, just and even fair?

Fairness is one of the first things on the mind of children as they grow up. What parent has not heard long and loud complaints from their children about fairness? Yet life is unfair, sometimes in baffling and horrible ways. This causes some folks to question God’s existence. How can there be a good God when life is so terribly unfair?

When asked that question you might ask the questioner why he even knows about fairness. After all, if the world is that way, then from where do we get our notions of fairness? Obviously our idea of fairness comes from somewhere else other than the natural world of which we are a part.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, from which today’s second reading was drawn, tells us: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Such things as Justice, Truth, Beauty, Knowledge and Goodness exist in an ordered universe that far transcends our natural world. They are ideals, ideas that are found in God, not in our world. They are things hoped for, not yet fully realized. Fairness is one of them.

We must, then, be prepared. We must be prepared to deal with the world and the people in it just as they are. We must accept all that God has given us in His only Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died in ultimate unfairness, suffering the greatest injustice in all of human history – unfairly. Can we fairly expect to have a better life than Christ had?

The wisdom, the teachings, the love and the power that we have to deal with life in its unfairness come to us from Jesus Christ. So in answer to St. Peter’s question posed in today’s gospel account – yes, these parables and teachings are meant for everyone, not just the apostles.

Times of testing and trial will come upon us all, and they will beset us unfairly and unexpectedly. Much of life’s “unfairness” comes to us as a result of mindless chaos and this world’s disorder. Jesus, however, has given us talents and abilities… treasures and values… and His everlasting presence within us in His Church and its Sacraments in order to equip us to deal with life in all of its unfairness.

The richest and most powerful asset we have at our disposal is our faith. It is God’s most singular gift to us. That some have apparently not received that gift is not for us to judge. Only God knows what is in the heart and soul of those who appear to us to have no faith.

But you and I have been entrusted with much. You and I have been given a wonderful worldwide Church in which to work out our salvation. You and I have been given the privilege and the blessing of belonging to this parish. Jesus has gifted us with His Body and Blood which we receive here on this altar. And you and I have been gifted with each other. Would you say that we have been unfairly blessed by such overwhelming generosity on God’s part, such unbounded generosity to us?

Well… we have been given much, consequently much more will be asked of us. Are you prepared? Only faith will equip you to meet all that life throws at us. Moreover, your faith will gift others and, when shared with them, perhaps even empower them to face life’s unfairness as Jesus did. For faith is something we share with each other, and together we can face all that life hurls at us. It is there, in our shared faith, that our hopes are realized.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”