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Friday, March 07, 2014

5 MARCH 2014 – ASH WEDNESDAY



Shared Homily Starter



First Reading:
Joel 2.12-18
Second Reading
2 Corinthians 5.20-6.2
Gospel
Matthew 6.1-8, 16-18

 
In today’s first reading we heard “rend your hearts and not your clothing.”  Similarly, in the Gospel, we heard, “Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them.”  The first reading and the gospel are advising us to attend to and do our inner work without outer displays─ without the desire for praise from others.  Through the years, most of you have heard a variety of sermons on today’s Gospel.  So instead of preaching on the Gospel, today, I’m going to talk about the second reading from 2 Corinthians, keeping in mind the spirit of the first reading and the Gospel. 

Paul starts with declaring that we are ambassadors for Christ.  Ambassadors function to represent and protect the interest of the sending state.  In this case, the sending state is the Household of God.  Ambassadors promote peaceful relations.  More importantly, ambassadors for Christ must always have respect for their hosts and use diplomacy not force or coercion to disseminate information about their faith.  Therefore as ambassadors of Christ we are called to spread the good new of Christ by actions of and for justice rather that by our words or acts of outward piety.  It is through our promotion of justice that we become the righteousness of God─ or more correctly the justice of God.

Paul declares, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”  James Baldwin puts what Paul says in contemporary terms, when he says “There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.”  However, I think, to work out our salvation, we must take another look at our understanding of salvation. 

The English word “salvation” comes from the Latin salvus, which means whole, safe, healthy and ─uninjured.  Looked at this way, we can see that Jesus came to heal us, that is, to make─ not only us but all of creation─ whole.  So, just like when we have a headache, or a cold or the flu, we don’t wait for some time in the future to work on returning to health.  We do it as soon as we are aware that we’re ill.  Likewise, the work on our inner and ongoing conversion to healthy members of God’s household, begins now.

Paul tells us we are to work together with Christ and urges us not to accept the grace of God in vain.  We are to use the grace God has given us to work on our ongoing transformation, so that as transformed people, we transform people.  By transform people, I don’t mean we are to try to convert to people to our faith. I mean that as we transform ourselves, we join in the great snow ball of transformation that God’s love has activated in the world.  Therefore, spiritual exercises such as alms-giving, prayer, fasting and other practices are not ends in themselves.  They are to open our hearts and our minds to the healing power of God.  They help break open our hearts.  Open hearts enable the Holy Spirit within us to expand so that we become co-creators with our God in the renewal of the Earth.  As that happens, we come to realize that salvation is the healing journey to which all of humanity is invited─ the journey to wholeness that Jesus came to teach us. 

Please share your thoughts.

 

2 March 2014 – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time



Shared Homily Starter



First Reading:
Isaiah 49: 14-14
Second Reading:
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Gospel:
Matthew 6:24-34


Today I’m just going to touch on a few points in the Gospel reading in the hopes that they stimulate more thoughts and questions for all of us.  To set the stage, look at the unrestrained resource extraction, our addiction to fossil fuels, and the consumerism that threatens to consume us and the earth.  Yet, we all have to earn a living and unfortunately, some people have no other choice but to work for industries and systems that are killing us.  We have been drafted into a system where we are trying to serve God but are enslaved by wealth─ quite a dilemma!  Upton Sinclair wrote “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” 

A response to Sinclair is found in Jesus’ declaration, “you of little faith” because, fear and anxiety for what the future holds is a lack of faith on our part.  Richard Rohr says the opposite of faith is not doubt, but anxiety.  If we are anxious and fearful, we lack faith.  Faith is the ability to trust that God is beneficent, that God will provide.  Faith is the willingness to give up the driver’s seat and give God control.  When we see ourselves as in charge of everything about ourselves and our surroundings, how could we help but feel anxious and insecure?[i]   Today’s Gospel is telling us that there is a way free of anxiety and fear─ that we humans are to learn from other members of the Earth community how God takes care of his creation.[ii]   Jesus is telling us that when we are in proper relationship with God, there is no reason for anxiety or fear since God supplies whatever is needed to live as a member of God’s kingdom.[iii] 

I want to stress here, that Jesus is not talking about some kind of prosperity Gospel, with its demand for our continued complicity in counter-creation behaviour, when he says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Remember that “justice” is a truer translation of the Greek word [dikaiosynÄ“”] that is usually translated into English as “righteousness.”  So to strive for the kingdom of God and God’s justice, according to Jesus, is the Gospel of cooperation and sharing. 

The prophet Isaiah says, “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed… If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.”  As members of the kingdom of God, we are called to do the will of the Creator, whose justice calls us to participate in the renewal process of all creation through social, economic, ecological and all forms of justice. 

Therefore, Jesus is teaching a Gospel of sharing, where we share our skills, talents, joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses.  This suggests cooperation with any and all who strive for justice.  Likewise, it suggests cooperation with creation so that the Earth and all her inhabitants thrive as God intended. 

Parts of today’s Gospel might sound like there is a hierarchy of creation.  But that’s because we are hearing it with our modern, disconnected-from-creation ears.  Jesus’ listeners understood their relationship with nature closer to that held by First Nations than our euro-anthropocentric understanding.  Their laws even demanded that animals killed for food or sacrifice had to be slain in a way that caused them the least pain and suffering.  Sports hunting would have been anathema. 

The ancients understood that in God’s kingdom, all beings have value.  Jesus is not speaking of a hierarchy of creation but he is calling his followers to observe and learn from nature, to hear the Creator’s voice in the beauty and diversity of creation.  As members of the family of God, we are to recognize not only kinship with other humans.  God loves and feeds and clothes the Earth community’s non-human members and we are to acknowledge our kinship with them.  This relationship of all things is an underlying assumption in today’s Gospel.[iv]

Please share your thoughts.

[i] Rohr, O.F.M., Richard and Feister, John Bookser. 1996. Jesus Plan For a New World.  Cincinnati:  St. Anthony Messenger Press, p. 118

[ii] Leske, Adrian M. “Matthew 6.25-34: Human Anxiety and the Natural World” in Habel, Norman C., and Vicky Balabanski. Earth Story in the New Testament and Apocalyptic. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002, p. 17

[iii] Ibid, p. 19
[iv] Ibid, p. 16