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Monday, June 24, 2013

23 June 2013 - 12th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME


Shared Homily Starter

First reading: Zechariah 12.10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 62
Second reading: Galatians 3.26-29
Gospel: Luke 9.18-24


The scene for the first reading is part of an oracle or warning given by Zachariah to the people who have returned from the Babylonian captivity.  The part of the warning just before today’s reading is that God has intervened to protect Jerusalem from invading armies.  The bodies of the slain would-be invaders are strewn everywhere.  It is at this point that the reading begins. Notice, God has not put a spirit of rejoicing in the hearts of the people.  No, God has poured out a spirit of compassion and supplication for their slain and wounded enemies.

Think of the people of Jerusalem as people of any era, including our own.  This reading suggests that our God inspires us to have compassion for the fallen, even those that may be perceived as enemies.  Our God want us to weep for them as if they were our own children or members of our families.  Further our compassion is to be communal.  We should mourn for them as the ancient community lamented the death of King Josaih at a village in the plain of Megiddo.

In our day, the common folk of the world are a beleaguered people.  We are assaulted by corporate and political policies that promote overconsumption, especially of commodities with built in obsolescence; policies that treat whole populations of people as disposable obstacles to the economic progress of a transnational few.  

We have witnessed some of the ecological disasters that result from these policies: nuclear reactor accidents; oil spills, global warming, etc.   It is easy to have compassion for the innocent victims of disasters, like our brothers and sisters in Calgary.  They have suffered immense loss due to the flooding.  We are not only called to keep them in our prayers, we are called to go three steps further.

First, we are called to work together to change the current unhealthy corporate and political landscape.  Second, we are called to have compassion as we would for an errant child, rather than demonize the business and government leaders, who put profit before people.  Lastly, as a community we have to support each other in the first two steps. 

Our second reading enhances this theme.  We should have compassion because we all house the Breath of God, even though some of us may have forgotten.  This passage in Paul’s letter to the Galatians is usually taught to mean that because we are Christians, there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  However, let us consider that the passage has a broader meaning; and that is: because we believe in Jesus, we are to see the Divine spark within all people. 

We are all made in the image and likeness of God, including corporate and political leaders, and all those that cause harm.  We don’t have to agree with what they do; but love requires that we care enough to help them open their minds.  Unbridled accumulation and lust for power creates a veil that impairs inner vision.  This veil prevents them from seeing that the image of God and the Oneness of God is reflected in the oneness of creation.  The desire for money and power has blinded many to the True Object of their Desire.  As Saint Augustine states “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Today’s Gospel tells us that it’s not going to be easy.  Jesus tells us that he was rejected by the powers of his day; that he is to suffer greatly and die at their hands.  Further, Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it”.

Although some are called to give their lives, most of us are not called to be martyrs in the literal sense.  But we are called to take up the cross of stripping ourselves of those things within us that keep us from becoming members of the Beloved community.   

For most of us, our busyness makes us negligent in caring for each other.  Jesus said, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily”.  Jesus was talking about transforming our daily lives.  For example, e-mail has made us negligent.  How often these days do we just pick up the phone or take the time to actually visit our friends?  Not that I’m calling friends or family “a cross”, but following Jesus can be as simple as taking the time to call a friend or family member to see how they’re doing.  If we don’t care about those close to us, how can we care about others?  If we can’t give what love asks of us by giving a little of our time, we will be ill-prepared if Love ever asks more of us.  Great transformations begin with small steps.

Please add your own thoughts
 


Sunday, June 09, 2013

9 JUNE 2013 – 10TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME



Shared Homily Starter


First reading: 1 Kings 17:17-24
Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 30
Second reading: Galatians 1.11-19
Gospel: Luke 7.11-17

Those of you, who know me, know that I’m a sci-fi fan.  Have any of you seen the film, The Mummy?  Well, there is line recurring line in the film, “Death is only the beginning.”  That line seems to be an appropriate theme for today’s readings.  In the first reading, we find the woman of the house whose son has died, saying “O God, what I’ve I done that you’ve taken away my son.”  Then we have Elijah saying, “O God, did you have to take her son while I’m staying with her.” 

Let’s look at this reading through the lens of dream therapy, where each character in the dream represents the dreamer.  Looked at this way, the woman’s reaction mirrors how most of us respond when something tragic happens in our lives, namely, “what did I do to deserve this.”  Elijah then reminds us of our probable next response and that is, “why now?”  Now, you may be thinking, well, what about the dead son?  In this interpretation, the dead son represents something gone dormant.  Something in our lives that we want to cling to is no longer working for us as it is and needs to be transformed.  Now although, the first responses of the woman and Elijah were a critical questioning of God’s motives, Elijah maintained his trust in God’s love and goodness, “and cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”  It is also like that with us.  When we trust in God and ask for help, whatever it is that was troubling us, even if it is us, can be transformed into something revitalized and inspiring, even if not always in the way we expect. 

Paul gives us an example of transformation in the second reading.  Things were really going well for Paul.  He tells us that he advanced in Judaism beyond many among his peers of the same age, because he was far more zealous for the traditions of his ancestors.  To put it in another way, “it’s always been done this way and nobody can change it”.  In an effort to destroy the new movement that was seen as a threat to religious orthodoxy, he violently persecuted the followers of Jesus.  Subsequently, as we know, on the way to Damascus, he was struck blind.  We also know Paul’s period of blindness led to the opening of not only his eyes, but his heart and mind were opened.  Paul’s new openness made room for Jesus to take Saul’s religious zeal and transform it into a zest to spread the Good News.  The second reading shows that even when we’ve done terrible things, we can be transformed into something revitalized and inspiring. 

Last Sunday, I was at an interfaith discussion on the Spirit of Love.  One of the things that Imam Bode Drame said really struck me.  He said the two main roadblocks of our opening to the Divine are fear and grief.  Now, we have all heard that love casts out fear but I had never thought of grief in this way. 

When I reconsidered today’s Gospel in light of this new insight.  You might say, “Something clicked.”  Now Jesus was on his way to the town called Nain and he was at the threshold of his destination, when he saw the funeral procession.  He knew the woman was a widow and this was her only child. 

Now we can look at this literally or we can look at a broader meaning.  For example, we all suffer many types of loss during our lifetime.  Whenever, we suffer a loss, it means a change in our lives, in our routines and the loss of someone or something that is intimately familiar.  Sometimes the loss is felt so intently that it paralyzes us. 

Now let’s examine how Jesus deals with the situation of the widow and her dead son.  In the first place, he must have been tired from his journey but that didn’t matter to him.  He didn’t ask the woman if she was a Jew or if she was in a state of grace.  He didn’t ask her anything at all.  No, the gospel tells us that “He had compassion for her.”  Then he revived her son and gave him back to her.  Jesus took the time to stop and Jesus acted upon his compassion.  Jesus’ love transformed grief.

In order to imitate Jesus, we have to realize that in each of us dwells, what an acquaintance of mine call’s the God-Seed.  Now before we can really love our neighbour and show genuine compassion, we have to nurture our God-Seed.  This calls us to internalize deep in our hearts as well as our minds, that God loves us.  We have to truly believe that God loves us, warts and all, and be open to that love.  We may have suffered exclusion from society or the church, or made to feel shame about this or that, or “less than” than in some way.  Today’s Gospel is calling us to have compassion for that part of ourselves that is paralyzed by the grief caused by any of that.  God’s love for us is never conditional.  There are no limits on God’s healing and transformative love.  If we love ourselves enough to be open to God’s love, we in turn become more compassionate; we are revitalized and inspired to act with love.  If we allow fear and grief to die within us, then indeed, death is only the beginning.


Please share your thoughts.