24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 16, 2018)
“Let’s roll!” 17 years ago on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer spoke these two final words just before Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. He was on a phone with a GTE operator, explaining to her that their plane had been hijacked. Those on board Flight 93 were already hearing reports that 2 other planes had hit the World Trade Center Towers in New York. They knew that if they just sat by quietly, they too would have a similar fate. So the passengers on board came up with an action plan. It was believed they were going to try and rush the terrorists, break into the cockpit and try to regain control of the plane. It was then that the GTE operator overheard Todd on the phone say, “Let’s roll” as they put their plan into action. Shortly later, Flight 93 crashed into an open field. There were no survivors. The theory was that the hijackers were headed to Washington, D.C. Probably with the intention of crashing the plane into the White House. However, the plane never reached that destination because the brave men and women on board took action.
I thought today’s reading from James was very fitting to be proclaimed in church just a few days after the 17th anniversary of 9/11. In it, we hear St. Paul say, “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” He very clearly illustrates this when he says you can’t tell someone, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well” if you know they are without food or clothes as you walk right past them without lending a helping hand. You see, saying one thing, but not backing it up with action is a complete contradiction. Instead, St. Paul logically tells us that people who have a strong faith should also have strong actions that support their faith. For it is in these good actions that we see a faith that is alive.
What does this mean to us and how does it relate to Flight 93? There is so much negativity in the world. Let me ask you this… If you sit around and do nothing at all, do we humans tend to get excited or depressed? We get depressed and lethargic. We tend to go inward instead of outward. We also start to listen to the negative chatter in our minds. I’m sure that the people on board of Flight 93 were frightened. After all, they were starring evil and death right in the face. They could have turned inward and sat there doing nothing. But instead, “Let’s roll” was the battle cry they chose. Unfortunately, in the end, they never made it off that plane. But their actions allowed them to die as heroes because the plane wasn’t able to reach it’s target which would have undoubtedly lead to more innocent casualties.
Now, I’m not asking you to go out looking for a way to die as a hero. I am asking you however, starting today, to take on the battle cry, “Let’s roll” regarding your Christian faith. The time for sitting around and being complacent is over. We as a Church need to rise up and start putting our faith into motion.
People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding teaching our children and grandchildren the faith. You want a better church a decade or two from now? Then we need to take seriously the task of teaching our faith to the younger generation. I know that Mary Jane has asked many, many people to teach Sunday School catechism because we always seem to be shorthanded each year. I also know the most common reason people turn her down is because they claim they don’t know their faith enough to teach it. That’s an honest and valid reason. But why then don’t we have more adults in the adult formation class Sunday morning? We adults need to take the lead here and learn, or in some cases re-learn, our faith so we can pass it on to the next generation.
People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding supporting this parish. Studies continue to show that 1/3 of the people attending church donate zero dollars, 1/3 give some and 1/3 donate most of the money used to pay the bills. But it’s not just about money! If you look at the committees, it’s usually the same small group of people that volunteer for everything. To them I say, “Thank you!” To everyone else, I ask you to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer for something.
People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding participating in the Mass. If you aren’t excited to be at Mass… If you don’t see the value of saying the prayers and singing the hymns as a community… If you don’t do everything in your power to make Mass attendance the #1 weekend priority… then you need to have a serious heart to heart conversation with God and figure out what you are missing. Because God provides so much grace when you are fully here and receive the Eucharist with an open, God-loving heart.
People of God… I say to you, “let’s roll” regarding loving our neighbor. Let me say this loud and clear. Forgive one another. Drop the grudges. Encourage each other to be a better person and always lead with a loving heart. If we learned anything from the tragedy of 9/11 it is that we have no idea how much time we have left on this earth. So why in the world would you want to waste any time at all on negativity and nonsense?
Remember, “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Don’t live a life with a dead faith. Instead, choose today to up the game and live out your faith fully with the heart of Jesus.
People of St. Andrew’s… I say to you, “let’s roll!”