Sunday, September 29, 2013

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

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