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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.



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