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Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Homily Starter – December 22, 2013



First Reading:  Isaiah 9:2-7
Second Reading:  Titus 2:11-14
Gospel:  Luke 2:1-17

Last year at this time, all the hype about the Mayan prophecy served to divert the attention of many people.  In our part of the world at this time of year, every year, the diversion of shopping occupies people’s attention.  Today’s first reading contains another diversion, one of omission.  The omission is of this verse:  “For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.”  This verse is immediately precedes the announcement of the child who has been born to us, named Wonderful Counsellor, and Prince of Peace. 

People of faith must address people’s fears about apocalyptic diversions like Y2K and the Mayan prophecy.  This takes time away from raising people’s awareness of very real impending catastrophes such as global warming and dwindling potable water resources. 

Seasonal and consumerist diversions aided by lectionary omissions, enable us to remain in darkness about unfair labour practices, the oppression of people and the environment, and the warriors and the bloodied garments of the victims of our world’s ongoing wars.  Some of us caught up in the joy of the season are unaware that for some, this is an especially difficult time of year.  When we see the TV ads for the starving children in faraway lands, let us also remember to be a compassionate presence for our brothers and sisters closer to home.

But darkness is not permanent for us, as our first reading tells us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.”  What is that light?  It is the light of remembering that our Creator is with us, calling us to cooperation in working together for justice and cooperation rather than acquisition and conquest.  God is calling us to see our oneness, that our oneness is an outgrowth and sharing in the oneness of God, and, therefore sharing in God’s joy.  The foundational premise of Catholic Christian ethics is that God wants us to be happy.

The second reading reinforces that, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, telling us that Jesus Christ came to mould us as his own, to make us eager to do what is right; to teach us to live lives of humility, compassion and justice.  In so doing, we will have abundant joy.

In the Gospel, Joseph and Mary, whose pregnancy is near term, go to register for the compulsory census ordered by Rome.  When the time came for Mary to deliver, she gave birth to her firstborn son and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

Let our hearts not become inns that don’t have room for Jesus to be born in them.  Pope Francis says in the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.  Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” 

But through our faith, we have been called out of complacency and darkness.  Again, Pope Francis reinforces our hope.  He says, “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.” 

Seeking the good of others does not mean neglecting ourselves but it is as the Joan Baez song says, “Just take what you need and leave the rest.  But they should never have taken the very best.”  In other words, we can consume less so that others have enough to survive.  It means working to see that it indeed comes to pass that, “all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.”  In other words, work towards peace, towards the time when war are not longer fought so that some can have more and more, while others have less and less.

So this Christmas, every Christmas and throughout each and every year, let’s let the inns of hearts expand as we reach out to others and seek their good.  We love God by loving the world, and all its human and non-animals, minerals and plants.  The more we love, the more our hearts expand to be filled by the lushly blooming God-Seed within us.  Today in us is born our Saviour.  Glory to God in the highest, peace and good will toward all God’s creation!  Amen!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First Sunday of Advent - December 1, 2013

This Sunday I didn't write a homily because what Marcus Borg wrote in Thinking About Advent was something I thought the community would benefit from hearing.  See you next time, Blessed Advent.

34TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME



Feast of Christ the King - 24 November 2013


First reading: 2 Samuel 5.1-3
Second reading: Colossians 1.12-20
Gospel: Luke 23.35-43

For a long time now, the Feast of Christ the King has bothered me.  I wasn’t sure why.  Then one year, I think it was part of the 2000 Jubilee celebrations, the Feast of Christ the King was celebrated by whole the diocese at the Italian Centre near the PNE.  The homilist was extolling how the kingship of Christ was so different from earthly kings.  The words of the homily spoke of seeking heavenly riches instead of earthly riches.  These words were almost comical as the sunlight beamed on the sparkling jewels of the Eparchial Bishop’s mitre. 

The theme of Jubilee is to release people from bondage and to let the Earth rest.  If we contrast West Georgia Street between Granville and Denman and East Georgia Street between Columbia and Commercial Drive, we see a micro picture of our nations and our Churches.   The burdens of the people and of the land are heavier than ever before in history.  When I think of the social, economic, political and religious hierarchies of today, the “Christ the King” metaphor just doesn’t fit, my Jesus.

For example, the first reading tells us about the beginning of David’s kingship.  We know from the stories how David misused his power, even arranging the death of one of his loyal soldiers so that he could take his wife.

The second reading tells us that Christ is the firstborn of all creation; that everything was created through and for him.  It is telling us, just as Jesus did, that Jesus is the way to wholeness.  We reach wholeness through the practice of love and justice.  Although wholeness may call us to die in some ways; it is a death to self that brings new life. 

We know that Jesus died because he was saying, doing, and living what is just.  He was a threat to the political and religious status quo.  The second thief actually emulated what Jesus taught when he spoke up in defence of Jesus.  I think it was this thief’s love of neighbour and sense of justice that led Jesus to say, ‘today you will be with me in Paradise.’  Salvation is gained in loving God by loving our neighbour. 

So to me Jesus as “Christ the King,” just doesn’t fit.   Jesus is the Holy One who became one of us, died to bring love of justice into the world and then, in the ultimate act of rule-breaking, rose from the dead.  I think “Christ the Anarchist” is a more apt metaphor. 

What are your thoughts on the metaphor of “Christ the King.”



30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME



27 October 2013 - Priesthood Sunday

Shared Homily Starter


1st Reading:       Sirach 35:15-17, 20-22
2nd Reading:      2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Gospel:                        Luke 18:9-14


Today is priesthood Sunday.  The thread that weaves through today’s readings is humility:  Humility in prayer, humility in actions and relationships. 

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend the liturgy for the installation of a local pastor.  During the service the Archbishop read the functions of a pastor from Canon 519, specifically “he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing.”  Obviously, I disagree with Canon 1024 that says, “Only a baptized man can validly receive sacred ordination” but I also disagree with the two of the three functions of a pastor stated in Canon 519.   First, I would substitute guiding for governing.  Second, one of the dictionary definitions of “sanctify” is “to make holy.”  Humility should tell us that God alone sanctifies.  One of the keys to holiness is humility.  Humility should further tell us that the only mediator between God and us is Jesus.  Canon Law, like the lectionary version of the first and second readings, leaves something out, humility.  Part of what was left out of the first reading is:

21 The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds,
   and it will not rest until it reaches its goal;
it will not desist until the Most High responds

Pastors, like everyone else, need to practice humility and speak honestly. 

The lectionary version of today’s second reading also has verses omitted from the scripture passage.  In these verses, we hear Paul pleading with Timothy to come soon because Demas has deserted him and their mission; Crescens, Titus, and, Tychicus have gone to spread the word in Galatia, Dalmatia and Ephesus, respectively; and, only Luke is still with him.  Paul asks Titus to bring Mark with him.  It must be chilly in jail because Paul also asks Timothy to bring his cloak, as well as his books and parchments.  Lastly, in the omitted part he warns Titus about Alexander the coppersmith, who is an opponent to their mission and message and has made trouble for Paul.

These omitted verses make Paul more human to me.  It’s Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  This time Paul’s circumstances have changed considerably for the worse.  He’s in prison in Rome─ and─ he’s feeling deserted and alone. 

With out these verses, it appears that Paul is just writing to Timothy about his trust and relationship with God.  If we don’t omit these verses, we get a glimpse of Paul’s relationship with the community as well as with God.  He reaches out and tells Timothy all that’s weighing on him.  Paul knows his letters are read to the whole community.  For me, this is another lesson for a Pastor.  God blessed us with and is present in the community.  When things overwhelm us, perhaps it’s God reminding us of that.   Paul writes,But God stood by me and gave me strength.”  I think the message for today is that there is strength that comes through community.  If Paul were writing today, the last part of that sentence mighty be, “so that through us the message might be fully proclaimed.”  This passage shows Paul’s humility in action, in his reaching out to Timothy and, by extension, the community. 

Today’s Gospel brings us back to subject of that omitted verse in the first reading “the prayer of the humble.”  This parable should be required daily reading for all pastors and a suggested daily reading for many.  We need to remember that God’s love encompasses the “thieves, rogues, adulterers,” and everyone else that society negatively labels.  We need to remember that God loves the so-called “haves” as well as the “have nots.”  The AA saying, “there but for the grace of God, go I” is not sufficient for us in light of this parable in Luke.  Rather, we should say, “There too, goes a child of God, my brother, my sister.” 

As people who try to live the Gospel, judging what is in another’s heart is not our job.”  Our job ─pastors or not─ is as it says is Micah 6:8 is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” 

With God’s help, may I serve you well.


Please share your thoughts.



32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – 10 NOVEMBER 2013



Shared Homily Starter


2 Maccabees 7.1-2, 7, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2.16 – 3.5
Luke 20.27-38

The Second Book of Maccabees describes the struggle of the Jews for religious, cultural, and political independence from the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  Antiochus kingdom included present day Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and more.  He was a Greek, who by violence and persecution, sought to suppress the Jewish religion in his kingdom.   But the point of this book is to convey religious ideas or principles rather than historical facts.  Today’s reading shows that the some Jews believed in the idea of resurrection.   In the New Testament, we learn that the Pharisees did but the Sadducees did not.  More importantly, the message of today’s reading is that one should remain faithful to God even in the face of torture and death. 

These Jewish brothers didn’t give up their lives only because of hope in a hereafter but also because their brothers and sisters were suffering under an unjust regime.  Their love of God compelled them to love and suffer for their neighbours.  Oscar Romero and Chelsea Manning prove such love is still present in our world.

In today’s passage from Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul encourages the church in Thessalonica not to give up hope but to continue to live by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s statement, “But the Lord is faithful...” is a reassurance to hope for all Christians. 
The Trinity, God as Creator, Jesus as Saviour, and the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier, have invested their entire loving selves in the created universe.  Our Triune God is all about saving, treasuring and loving the entire creation.  “Divine Love and Wisdom are sufficiently large and grand to include universal salvation.  No one need be lost or left out.  None need be excluded.  Our hope must be this large, too!  We must embrace God’s victory in spite of small, hateful and fearful minds and hearts.  God hates no one.  How could God hate if “God is love”?
There are some we hear about in the news that claim to be Christian.   They preach hatred and fear and divine wrath.  They have twisted and misused the Gospel for their own purposes out of their own tragic fears. They seem to have missed the very point that because the word salvation comes from the Latin word salus, which means health.  So to be saved is to be restored to health, to be made whole.  God is love!!!   Love and hate cannot coexist simultaneously in the same location. God is loving![1]   God is love!!!  

In today’s gospel the Sadducees, who don’t believe in the resurrection try to trip Jesus up by asking him, which of the seven brothers will be the woman’s husband?  Jesus tells them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage” and that they are “are children of God, being children of the resurrection.”  I have always found this Gospel passage difficult to understand until recently. 
For example Ilia Delio writes, “Creation flows out of the dynamic, self-communicative love of God and, like God, goes forth in dynamic relationships toward greater unity in love.”  We are created from God’s love, and resurrection summarizes “the whole evolutionary emergent creations as a forward movement to become something new, a new reign of God, a new heaven on earth.  What took place in Jesus Christ is intended for the whole cosmos, union, transformation in the divine embrace of love.”[2]
If salvation is being made whole, then Jesus is the whole-maker.  One who lives in Christ, embraces death as sister as part of the family of life.  The seven brothers in today first reading knew that death is the transcendence of limits towards the fullness of life.   As for today’s gospel, and the dilemma posed by the Sadducee’s question, in the new reign of God, “the next act always anticipates something more creative, something new emerging out of the chaos of the old.”[3]

I don’t know what that “something new” may be.  Just imagine.  Could it mean that “children of the resurrection”, we will be so infused with God’s love that we fully realize our relationality?   Could it mean that our love “made whole” will transcend the limits of our present human relationships?  

Please share your thoughts.



[1]
[2]   Delio, Ilia. 2011. The emergent Christ: exploring the meaning of Catholic in an evolutionary universe. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, p. 77
[3]   Delio, Ilia. 2011. The emergent Christ: exploring the meaning of Catholic in an evolutionary universe. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, p. 77

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - 13 OCTOBER 2013

Shared Homily Starter


1st reading: 2 Kings 5.14-17
Psalm 98:1,2-3ab,3cd-4 (R.2b)
2nd reading: 2 Timothy 2.8-13
Gospel: Luke 17.11-19

This Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and Columbus Day in the United States.  Today’s readings relate to the act of giving thanks but could also speak indirectly to the myth of Columbus. 

Today’s first reading is a continuation of the story that began with Naaman, a member of the military elite, who suffers from leprosy, and travels from Aram to Israel to seek a cure from the prophet Elisha.  Elisha sends a messenger to tell Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River seven times.  Naaman becomes irate.  Such a demeaning task is beneath him.  To top it off, Elisha doesn’t come to him ─ a man of his station─ but sends a messenger.  Naaman’s servant, having a somewhat cooler head, reminds Naaman that had the task been harder, he would have done it, why balk because it’s easy.  So Naaman calms down and does as he was told.  This, as we used to say at the movies, is where we came in. 

In today’s reading, we catch up with Naaman, and see that when he obeys, his leprosy is cured.  Humbled, he goes to Elisha.  Elisha’s response to Naaman’s offer to pay him reminds us that all gifts come from God─ not from a priest, or a bishop, or the Pope or anyone else.  Gifts may come through them but, ultimately, God is the Giver of all Gifts. 
From Naaman’s actions, we can glean that to be healed is to do and be what we are called to do and be.  Further, we can’t earn or pay for God’s love and care for us.  It is there, if we are willing to say “yes” to it.  Unlike Naaman, we know that God is not the God of one people or dwell only in one land.  We don’t have to have mule-loads of earth to bring God home with us.  God is already there.  So this Thanksgiving and every day, let us acknowledge and be grateful for God: God in the natural world, God in each other, God in us and God all around us.

The second reading suggests that faith, calls for action on our part.  We have to look beyond a faith that confines God to Jesus’ work of forgiving our sins, beyond a faith where God is concerned primarily with individuals and their personal faults.  Our faith should tell us, as Sallie McFague writes, that─

Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love and power, the manifestation of the source from which everything comes, the goal toward which everything yearns, and the presence in whom everything exists and flourishes.  Jesus Christ is “God’s heart” made known to us…  Jesus Christ is God’s prophet and incarnation, preaching a ministry of liberation to the oppressed and embodying this ministry in his death and resurrection (by accepting the consequences of his total identification with the world’s pain and in manifesting God’s glory in, through and in spite of it)[1].

If we look at the second reading through this lens, we can see that “the resurrection is a promise from God that life and love and joy and health and peace and beauty are stronger than their opposites, if we work to make it that way”[2]; if we will follow the way of Jesus of living that Jesus taught us, which means we meet God in the face of a starving person, in the remains of a clear-cut forest, and the people who are still suffering the devastating effects of being “discovered” by Columbus.  The example of Jesus calls us to help that starving person and that devastated forest, and, to work for the rights and dignity of First Peoples. 
In spite of all they have endured, right now, it is the example of the First Peoples that is pointing the way.  For example, think of all the different people who inhabit North America as the lepers in today’s Gospel story.  Like the lepers in the Gospel, they have all enjoyed the gifts that God has bestowed on this beautiful land.  In this metaphor, the First Peoples could be seen as the Samaritans.  First Peoples, similar to the Samaritans in scripture, were discriminated against and thought of as less than because they worshipped in a different way than Columbus and those who followed after him. 

Now, let’s fast forward to today.   Everyone could and should enjoy God’s gifts to this land ─ but ─the political, corporate, and unfortunately, some of the religious elite, have forgotten the concept of gift.  They can only see the gifts as sources of profit for the benefit of the few.  Only the Samaritans still see that the Earth is God’s and its bounties are a gift.  The voice of that lone Samaritan in today’s Gospel, is echoed in the words of the late BC Elder from the Carrier Nation, Sophie Thomas, who said: 

  • You do not change what the Creator has made… it is a gift
  • If we look after our earth, it will look after us. If we destroy it, we'll destroy ourselves.

Instead of thanking the Creator for everything like the First People’s, we don’t let the earth heal, we poison our waters.  We are proceeding to destroy our planet.  The North American First Peoples, the ones we have not alienated from their culture and traditions, still remember to thank the Creator for everything as part of their individual daily lives and in their communal ceremonies.  That’s what I mean by, they are pointing the way.  To follow Jesus, we too should show our thanks and gratitude for the Earth and its gifts.  The Earth is God’s household and we are called to be thankful, protective members of it, keeping it clean and healthy for all who dwell in it, now and for the next seven generations. 
When Columbus set foot on the shores of the Americas, a wheel of oppression was set in motion that has wreaked havoc on the earth itself, Indigenous people, and the less affluent among the non-indigenous population.  As followers of Jesus, who showed his love for the outcasts, we can work together stop the oppression of this land and its people. 
Most of all let us remember that as Christians our communal ceremony, the Eucharist, means thanksgiving.  Therefore, we imitate Christ when we remember every day, to acknowledge and be grateful for God’s gifts: the Bread and Wine that we will share today; God’s gifts in and of the natural world, God’s gifts in and of each other and ourselves, and all God’s gifts that surround us. Thanks be to God, amen.



[1]   McFague, Sallie. 2001. Life abundant: rethinking theology and economy for a planet in peril. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, pp. 131-2.
[2]   Ibid p.179
 

Theological Reflection for Praxis


Sunday, September 29, 2013

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 29 September 2013

Shared Homily Starter


1st  Reading:          Amos 6:1a,4-7
Psalm:                   146:6c-7, 8-9a, 9b-10
2nd Reading:          1 Timothy 6:11-16
Gospel:                  Luke 16:19-31

Today’s readings invite us to think about indifference and to remind us that our actions and interactions with others are an expression of our spiritual selves.  For example, in the first reading, Amos is talking to the elite, who have acquired their wealth and all its trappings and privileges, through exploitation of their underlings, the peasants and the poor.  Even their temple life has become an ostentatious show of wealth rather than worship.  Amos tells us they “sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,… drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!”  If Amos were speaking today, it would go something like this.  “They have finest choirs and musicians, whose hymns are more about entertainment and feeling good than God.  Their church furnishings and altar ware are of the finest gold, yet they are indifferent to the poverty and suffering around them.  Even worse, they make their money by not paying their workers a living wage.  In other words, their outward shows of devotion are just that, shows without substance. 

In the second reading, Paul provides a curative prescription by telling us to pursue justice, “godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Our pursuit of justice is to be rooted in and motivated by faith and love.  We are called to endurance as an antidote for despair.  Our pursuits are to be tempered by gentleness.  These are the armaments of “fighting the good fight”, which would be better described as following in the footsteps of Christ, or working to bring forth the God’s kindom.  Paul says this is what we signed on for when we “made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”─ and we make this confession every Easter when we renew our baptismal vows.  In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the Gospel warns of the consequences of indifference, of not living our baptismal call. 

Now, biblical literalists might argue that this parable is about the good man going to heaven and the bad man going to hell.  But, I think that when Jesus told parables, it was about how to live right here and right now; to teach us to act with justice, compassion and love.  So with this in mind, let’s revisit today’s Gospel.  The Gospel implies that the rich man ignored the poor man at his gate day after day as he ate his sumptuous meals.  This Gospel is about indifference, where there should have been compassion, charity and love. 

Now think of acts of indifference as a river wearing away the solid ground of our ability to perceive our connection to God and the Godseed within us and within others.  The river gets stronger and grinds deeper with each act of indifference until there is a gulf or chasm between us and All-That-Is, that is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon.  That gulf is a blindness that inhibits our ability to see another’s pain and the connectedness of all things.

An example of this is the media coverage, or rather, lack of mainstream media coverage for the TRC events.  The only event publicized on Global TV was the Walk for Reconciliation.  This was not only a post TRC event; it was the easy event, where bringing our open hearts was not required, where we didn’t have to witness the pain in the stories of the residential school survivors and their families.

Indifference to residential school situation has been and still is a national blindness.  The media had the potential to help open the eyes of the Canadian public but the big stories on TV news during the TRC were a train/bus crash in Ottawa and a deadly motorcycle accident in Surrey, BC.  The chasm caused by our national indifference is so deep and so wide that the mainstream media was focussed on death rather than giving at least some focus to something that had healing potential for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike. 

But, unlike the news media, we are called to be points of light and life in our society and our communities.  Willingness to participate in the work of reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters is living into that call.  So as God says in today’s Gospel, we have Moses and the prophets─ and as Christians─ we have the Gospel.  One of the Indian residential school Survivors, Geraldine Shingoose, who spoke at the TRC said, “Healing and reconciliation is reconnecting with your spirit.  Today’s readings are telling us that when our inner and outer lives reflect compassion and love instead of indifference, we reconnect our spirits.  Because of and in spite of our own brokenness, we can become God’s instruments of reconciliation and healing, living into the Kindom of God within us and around us.

These are few of my thoughts on the readings.  I now invite you to share yours.

 

24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME



15 September 2013 – Shared Homily Starter


First Reading: Exodus 32.7-11, 13-14
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1.12-17
Gospel: Luke 15.1-32

When I pondered this week’s readings, a theme began to emerge.  Before I delve into the theme, I’d like you to consider a quote from Thomas Berry.  He said, “[O]ne of the basic difficulties of the modern West is its division into a secular scientific community, which is concerned with creative energies, and a religious community, which is concerned with redemptive energies.  So concerned are we with redemptive healing that once healed, we look only to be more healed.  We seldom get to our functional role within the creative intentions of the universe” (Berry 1988:25).

When I considered this and looked at the readings again, I saw that what we need to be is not only co-creators but co-redemptors.  For example, in our first reading, have God’s promises to Noah and to Abraham been committed to forgetfulness or is there something else at work in the mind of God?  What if God was testing Moses to see if he had the compassion necessary to be God’s emissary?  But Moses is equal to the task and gathers all his courage and his faith and asks God, “why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with power and with a mighty hand?”  And in the verse that’s omitted from the reading, Moses says, “Turn from your fierce wrath, change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 
Now, Moses has seen God’s power and yet had compassion enough for the people that he was willing to argue with God.  I think God was proud of Moses, who through his compassion saved/redeemed the people.

The second reading tells us that neither our past good or bad actions nor any our own efforts  can exclude of from the call to be co-creators and co-redemptors.  Worthiness and unworthiness are meaningless concepts when it comes to God.  What matters is that we, like Paul say, “yes” to what calls us to do.  Further, that when we lapse or screw up, to get up dust ourselves off and re-affirm our “yes” each time, as many times as it takes.  The form and substance of our call is different for everyone but everyone is called.

The Gospel tells us that heaven rejoices over the sinner who repents.  The Hebrew word for sin, "Het" literally means something that goes astray. It is a term used in archery to indicate that the arrow has missed its target.   We all need to know, however, that there is hope that someday, we will be able to reach the target.  For example, take the case of people with addictions to drugs or alcohol.  Now some get clean and sober and some don’t.  One of the things researchers have found that contributes to the difference is “the possibility of a better future.”  Research has also found that the tendency to relapse into criminal behaviour among people released from in prison is also reduced by the same factor, “the possibility of a better future.”  

Okay, you may be thinking what has that to do with me?  Well, to repent means to return to our true self. The core of every person is good and it is only a superficial reflection of the self when a person behaves badly.  The solution to any lapse is to revert back to our original state of goodness.   This is where we come in, each time we let another person know we can see the goodness within them and each time we help another person see the goodness within themselves, we contribute to their seeing the possibility of a better future. 

Most of us when we hear the parable of the prodigal son identify with the wayward son.  But let’s look at the older son who complains to his father saying, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fatted calf for him!”

Now, Luke, like the other Gospel writers, was addressing his community.  I imagine there were those in the community saying, “look at so and so, why is everybody making such a fuss about her or him.  Don’t they know what she or he is like?  Don’t they know what she or he has done?”   This kind of thinking brings us back to the worthiness/unworthiness dichotomy, which is, in fact, a paradox when it comes to our relationship with God.   By this I mean that in and of ourselves, we are all unworthy.  But paradoxically God’s love for each and every one of us makes us worthy, so that we are all worthy.   God says to each one of us, “you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” 

I haven’t said, of course, all that can be said.  What are your thoughts?
 

20th Sunday In Ordinary Time - 18 August 2013

Shared Homily Starter

First reading: Jeremiah 38.4-6, 8-10
Second reading: Hebrews 12.1-4
Gospel: Luke 12.49-53

If we look at the first reading in terms of today, we could say that the officials are synonymous with the heads of the military-industrial complex.  They ignore the warning signs and want to silence anyone who speaks out about what should be obvious.  In Jeremiah, we hear them say, “This man ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers and everyone left in the city, by speaking such words to them. He’s not looking our for the  people, but wishes them harm.”  We hear this echoed today in words such as, “These people don’t care about the economy, or jobs.  They are anti-progress, anti-capitalism, anti-American or anti-Canadian. 
In the reading, there is one man in the king’s house, who has seen through the rhetoric and tells the king as much.  Ebed-melech has also noticed the signs, the early warnings of what Jeremiah foretold, and says, “There is no bread left in the city.”   We too, have warning signs of what our environmental prophets have been telling us.  For example,
§       Fukushima nuclear plant operator TEPCO, has finally admitted that there is a “state of emergency” as the radioactive water from the plant has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean since May 2011[1].
§       There was an oil spill at Fort St. John on Canada Day weekend[2]
§       Oil has been spilling unabated for weeks at four separate sites at an oil sands operation in Alberta, near the home of the Cold Lake First Nation, killing dozens of animals and 30,600 kg of oily vegetation has been cleared from the latest of the four spill zones.[3]
Despite all this, the second reading gives us hope.  Yes, these catastrophes are threatening our lives and our planet but we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”  Now, like never before there is worldwide grassroots concern about the environmental, ecological, and economic threats to us all.  The global occupy movement is a positive response to the negative signs of the times.  Likewise, all around the world, there are groups of women coming together in circles across racial and religious lines to work and to pray for a better world.
Let me be clear, the work takes place among all of God’s people.  There are people of all faiths and of no faith, gathering together to do God’s work of peace and justice.  But we are a Christian people and Paul tells us to look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who endured hostility against himself for our sake.  When we feel alone in our struggles, let us remember our model, Jesus, as we pray for, work with and support the work of faith-based as well as secular organizations, whose purpose it is to work for peace and justice. 
This brings me to today’s Gospel.  Jesus says he came to bring fire to the earth and how he wishes it were already kindled.  We are the kindling!  We are to become ablaze with desire to honour the prophetic role in our baptismal call. 
The next part of today’s Gospel has always been a problem for me before.  How could Jesus have come to bring division?  But as I was preparing for today’s homily, a new insight took form.  I’ve come to understand that sometimes when we follow the Gospel of love and justice, our family members may not agree with us.  For example, when the North American Free Trade Agreement was being discussed and promoted, my cousin and I had a huge disagreement.  He really believed that the profits to be made would trickle down to those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.  I vehemently disagreed.  He ended up shaking his head and looking at me as some poor deluded creature before calling me a communist.  He is still waiting for the trickle down.
That is a minor example of the division Jesus is talking about in the Gospel.  Another example is St. Clare whose feast day was last Sunday.  When she left home to become a nun, the men in her family went to retrieve her by force but she was already tonsured.  As a result, she alienated not only the men in her family but many other members of her social class in Assisi.
So the gospel is telling us that sometimes following Jesus will require sacrificing peace in the family.  But we can be consoled by the fact that we are not alone in this, we have Jesus and we have each other.  And because Jesus speaks of division and not enmity, we can also live in the hope that the long-range vision of our detractors will be improved by our love.   

Please share your thoughts.


[1] Torres, Ida.  Japan Daily Press, August 6, 2013
[2] Stodalka, William. Alaska Highway News, July 4, 2013
[3] Pullman, Emma and Lukacs, Martin. Toronto Star, Published on Fri Jul 19 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FEAST OF ST. CLARE OF ASSISI - 11 August 2013



In Solidarity with LCWR


First Reading:   2 Corinthians 4:6-10; 16-18
Gospel:     Matthew 5:13-16  

Today, along with Saint Clare, we are celebrating in solidarity with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  Right now, under the scrutiny of Vatican-appointed Archbishop Sartain, they are holding their 2013 annual meeting.  Our Roman Catholic Church might persecute and abandon their own.  But, when we are doing the will of God, as the first reading says, we may be struck down but never destroyed. 

In April 2012, the LCWR was chastised and put under the supervision of Archbishop Sartain.  They were charged with not speaking out enough against abortion and gay marriage, and for their radical feminism.  God, I think, saw things differently.  The sisters were honoured not only by the overwhelming support of people in the pews, but, last November, in "recognition of its extensive efforts in helping the poor, the marginalized and people in difficult circumstances”, the LCWR was awarded the Herbert Haag Prize for 2013 by the Catholic-based Herbert Haag Foundation.  The Foundation awards recognition prizes to persons and institutions in Switzerland and worldwide who expose themselves through free expression of opinion or courageous actions within Christianity.

I salute the sisters but my initial thoughts on the first reading were much closer to home.  When I read the passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, each of you came to mind.  I see the light of Christ shining in each of you.  Personal sorrow, health issues, internal doubts and struggles with the church you love, yet each of you continue to follow Christ’s teachings of love and justice. 

Laura’s painting expresses what I mean.  When I look at the beauty of that painting, I see it as an expression of the inmost Laura shining out in gift to us─ but I also see it as an expression of who we are as a community: a sanctuary, loving, warm, welcoming, yet contemplative.  That said, today’s Gospel tells us that we are to share who we are as individuals and as community beyond ourselves. 

In Saint Clare’s day all women’s religious orders owned land and property.  They were landed gentry, albeit, in monastic garb.  Saint Clare fought for her community to live differently.  Although, poverty was important for Clare, it was not the main reason that she wanted to live without owning land and property.  She sought Vatican permission to live without land ownership.  They refused.  In response, Clare went on a hunger strike.  The Holy See, afraid that she might die, finally granted what is known as, the Privilege of Poverty. 

In those times, when you owned land, you were also the master of the people who lived and worked on those lands.  Clare did not want her and her sisters to be mistresses of others.  It was a matter of justice.  They would work and grow food themselves on land they were given permission to use but not own.  So although the Poor Ladies, now known as Poor Clares, were cloistered, their light of love and justice was an example that went beyond the convent walls into a world where mercantilism or capitalism-in-infancy, was quickly taking root.

Clare didn’t think she was doing anything big.  She was doing what she thought was right, even though her contemporaries probably thought she was nuts.  The point is, in order to let our light shine, we don’t have to do grandiose things.  We just have to do the little things that we know are right and express ourselves through the gifts that God has given us.  That is what it means to live the Gospel values of love; love of God, our neighbour and ourselves.  That is what it means to let our light shine.

Please share your Response to the Word of God