By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Shake It Off and Step Up"

That is the theme of the best Catholic homily I have ever heard. The homily was by an African priest at St. Augustine Catholic student parish at the University of Florida. (By the way, the other priest I heard there today was a Hispanic Jesuit; moreover, the local bishop is Bishop Felipe Estevez, another Hispanic. The demographic changes in the Catholic clergy in the U.S. are bearing good fruit in Florida.)


But back to the A plus homily. The homilist was obviously well-educated, articulate, and precise in his language. He also gave a homily with a careful structure that tied up all the loose ends in a masterful way, even with appropriate, highly effective pauses in speaking. Yet, it all was quite direct and spontaneous in its impact and manner. 


What about the theme "Shake it Off and Step Up"? The theme is from an African folk tale that the priest used to illustrate today's Pauline reading "My grace is sufficient for you." Here it is. 


The mule of an African farmer falls in a well. The farmer can't get him out and concludes that it is not worth the effort to get the mule out of the well. So the farmer gathers his neighbors to help bury the mule in the well. As the shovelfuls of dirt start hitting the mule's back, the mule panics. Then the mule gets an idea: shake off the dirt on his back and step up. You can guess the outcome: the mule slowly ascends out of the well as the dirt piles up under his hoofs.


Lesson: how you respond to adversity makes all the difference. If you respond with the eyes and perspective of faith, you will overcome.


Finally, let me share the African touch by the homilist that captured the message in a rhythmic gesture. As the homilist spoke about "shaking it off," he gracefully swung his shoulders back and forth. A little movement goes a long way. I think many of his U.S. colleagues could use some of his gift for eloquence and some of his personality traits.