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Sunday, October 14, 2012

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter  - 14 October 2012

First Reading: Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90
Second Reading: The Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel: Mark 10:17-30

Today's First reading talks about the value of wisdom; how King Solomon prayed for understanding and God graced him with the Spirit of Wisdom.   The story of the two women claiming to be the mother of a baby and Solomon's wise ploy to determine the baby's true mother always came to mind when I thought of Solomon and Wisdom. But last week, when I was here for Ric's thanksgiving service, Ric spoke of the value of the present moment.  After listening, I began to expand my thinking on wisdom.  What I mean is, that instead of praying for understanding or wisdom to come to us in some future time, we should be awake to the wisdom that is given to us in the moments of our every day lives. 
Let me give you an example, two weeks ago at our First Nations Women's group, a woman came in who was very angry and rude.  The facilitator didn't react but kept on with the day's program.  She included the woman with her eye contact, by answering her brusquely asked questions with patience and respect.  By the middle of the meeting, the woman was calmed down and civil and actually began participating with ease.   The facilitator exercised the perfect balance of giving space, not giving undue attention yet being attentive enough.  It was amazing to watch.  In that moment, I learned what it meant to give a person the time and the space to become themselves. 
This interchange made me think that we should pray to be awake, to be aware of what is happening around us and to appreciate what is happening around and within us.  The Spirit of Wisdom within us grows and becomes more at home with us as we become more awake in how we live moment to moment. 
The second reading tells us that the Word of God is “living and active.”  We are told the God’s Word “is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  But God’s Word should also help us to bridge that insurmountable 18 inches between the head and the heart.  Because we are naked and laid bare to the eyes of God─ our minds, hearts and actions should reflect the love of our Creator’s gaze.
This is a perfect segue into Today’s Gospel… It begins with a man running up to Jesus, addressing him as “Good Teacher, and asking what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus rebukes him for calling him “Good” by telling him “No one is good but God alone.”  Jesus states some of the 10 commandments in answer to the man’s question, “You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.”   The man replies that he has kept all these commandments.  Jesus mentions these specific commandments intentionally because they deal with how we treat others. 
In Jesus’ time, most of those who were rich had gained their riches on the backs of the poor, that is, the peasants who had been and were being systematically defrauded of their lands.  Corrupt judges sided with the elite rather than protect the poor.  Peasants were also systematically forced into more and more debt, while the rich profited by their plight.  The rich also had the false impression that their riches were a sign of their good standing in God’s eyes.  So when Jesus asked him to sell what he owned and give it to the poor, it was more that he could take. 
Jesus was asking him to transform his way of thinking in three ways.  The first was that in giving what he owned to the poor, he wasn’t really giving anything, he was simply returning what rightfully belonged to the poor.  The second way Jesus wanted to transform his thinking was that he, like us, should be willing to give all for God─ without whom, we have nothing.  The third way the man needed to transform his thinking is to acknowledge that we cannot earn eternal life through our own efforts.  It is God’s love and God’s grace that gives us eternal life. 
The man in the Gospel, just like us, is caught up in a systemically inequitable societal system.  We can understand the disciples’ dilemma when they asked, “Then who can be saved?”  We are even more dismayed when Jesus says that we will receive persecution “in this age” for following him and spreading the good news.
But Jesus isn’t telling them this to be a downer.  But what he was telling them was to do good because it is good; to do good because of love; that the hope of reward should not be our motivation; that honest, loving and respectful relationships with our neighbour is how we should be in this world and how we live the good news.

Please add your own thoughts on the readings.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Shared Homily Starter – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

30 September 2012

First Reading:  Numbers 11:25-29
Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 19

Second Reading:   James 5:1-6

Gospel:  Mark 8:27-35

When I first looked at today’s readings, I was a bit taken aback because my first thoughts were of our Church.  Then, for my course at school, I had to research the new immigration and refugee law.  This caused me to look at the readings in a broader light.  I found that the readings really spoke to both of these issues.  I’m not going to say a lot today but I want to give you few things to think about.

In the first reading, Moses had called a meeting of the elders.  At that meeting God endowed the elders with the Spirit and they were given the gift of prophesy, which would better be understood in this instance, as the gift of preaching. 

Joshua is upset because the elders Eldad and Medad, had not gone to the meeting, yet he finds them preaching in the camp.   He complains about them to Moses.  But Moses understands correctly, that it is God’s Spirit, and God’s right to share It with whomever.  Church leaders today ─and I’m not just talking about Roman Catholic leaders, have forgotten this simple fact. 

The second reading might seem like wishful thinking because it may seem to us that the rich and greedy are not suffering in the least.  However, I would rather think of it as a cautionary tale.  Greed, exploitation, and injustice are crimes or sins against love.  These particular sins are addictive.  With each act of greed fuelled exploitation, with each act of injustice, we are killing our own spirits, our own spiritual selves in the same way a heroin addict does with each fix.

Today’s Gospel brings these concepts together.  In the first part of the Gospel, John is upset because someone who is not part of their group is healing in Jesus’ name.  Jesus tells John not to stop the person because, “Anyone who is not against us is with us.”  In light of what I’ve been researching on refugee claimants and Bill C-31, this passage tells me that Jesus is trying to get John past the “Us and Them” thinking that comes so naturally to all of us.  If we include “them” what happens to “us?” Will “they” take our jobs? If they are right, are we wrong? 

In the case of refugees there are people in positions of power and influence, who are telling us that the Romani people are criminals or that war resisters are shirkers and cowards.  They tell us that they will be a drain on Canada’s resources.  Incidentally, they say the same thing about the people in our neighbourhood.  The same people, who would turn away the stranger in trouble instead of offering refuge and hospitality, claim to be Christian.  How far, we have strayed from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Now in the second part of the Gospel, Jesus says, “Rather than make one of these little ones who believe in me stumble, it would be better to be thrown into the sea with a large milestone hung around your neck.”  This part made me think about the women in our church and this time I am talking about the Roman Catholic Church.  I think about the women in our church, who heard God’s call and were told to ignore it.   What greater way is there to make someone stumble, then to tell them to ignore the voice of God.  Likewise, how can we turn away people who are seeking a refuge from persecution and discrimination, or people who are seeking a life of peace rather than continue a life of war?

The third and last part of the Gospel tells us to remove those parts of us that cause us to sin.  Rather than think of sin in the traditional sense, think of sin as a falling out of right relationship with God, with our neighbour, with ourselves.  Sin is a transgression against love.  If we contemplate sin this way, it might even help us to “cut off” our “us and them” thinking.  Conversely, we may look at holiness as striving to be in right relationship and as trying to see the presence and action of the Spirit of God in our lives.  We might then attempt to look at our every day lives and our every day encounters, even the difficult ones, as enlightening opportunities.  It can enable us to begin to gain a better perception of the world around us, of ourselves and of our relationship to the Creator of all.  It can help us to begin to open our eyes to new possibilities and alternatives.  

Please share your own thoughts on any or all of the readings or on what you’ve heard.