Sunday, August 03, 2014

July 20, 2014 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Downtown East Village Pride Week

Shared Homily Starter

The Lectionary Readings were not used this week.  Instead readings that emphasized the unconditional love of God were chosen. 

First Reading: Isaiah 49.1-7
Second Reading: Romans 8:28-31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 139
Gospel Reading: John 14.1-28

Today we heard messages that should make us all confident in God's love for us.
  • We are fearfully and wonderfully made!
  • If God is for us, who can be against?
  • I will not leave you orphaned.
  • Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

This should reassure us of God's constancy and love for each one of us. Deep within us we know these things about God's love for us are true. Yet, we have let other soul-killing messages dominate our opinions of ourselves and often of others. For some of us these messages led us to self-hatred and by extension a loathing of those like us as well as those who demean us. This is especially crushing when the disdain of others is prompted by something about us that we were born with or something we can't change.

As an African American child in the 1950s Brooklyn, I experienced thinly veiled segregation in the Catholic churches and in school. On the TV news I saw police attacking Black People with dogs and fire-hoses and Black churches bombed. What could we Black people have done to warrant such hate?

Similarly and contrary to Gospel values, who one loves can be criminalized. Until as late as 1960 in 22 U.S. states, it was illegal for anyone except married, heterosexual, same race couples to have sexual relationships. Homosexual relationships were criminal code violations in Canada until 1969 and were illegal in some U.S. states until 2003. Although things are changing slowly with regard to these issues, the messages and the attitudes of the intolerant still echo in that stubborn voice at the back of our heads.

Many of our churches persist in making sure that everyone is tainted by self-devaluation. They stress our unworthiness, sinfulness and complicity in the death of Jesus. Secular society, not to be outdone, tells us we are too fat or too thin or shouldn't look old, shouldn't have grey hair or wrinkles, or we need this, that or the other. One is telling us they have the cure for our unworthiness and the other is telling us they have the cure that will help us to be who and what we are not. Both fail in encouraging us to love who and Whose we are.

Nevertheless, somewhere deep in our hearts, we know God loves us-- just as we are. Today's Psalm and first reading tell us that God formed or knit us in our mother's womb and that we are wonderfully made! This means God has made us and through God's intention, we are worthy and that God has made us innately good. Jesus was sent by God to remind us that we are alive with the breath of God. It was not for atonement that Jesus came, but to teach us how to live in a way that returns us to wholeness. Because God truly is for us.

Jesus taught that every person and all of creation is precious to God, even people who hurt us or do horrible things. God's love is like the warming rays of the sun on a cloudless spring day. The only way to separate oneself from it is to will-fully move into the shade of a closed heart and mind. To get back into the flow of that Love, one only has to step back into the Light by opening one's heart and one's mind will follow. So, even people who do horrible things can choose to return to the Light.

Jesus doesn't talk about race or sex or one's looks, but he does talk about love. He says those that love him will keep his commandments and become the dwelling place of God. Jesus' commandments are to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself. We often forget the “as yourself” part. To love yourself is to love the artistry of God. To love your neighbour is to follow Christ. To do both is the act of loving God.

When we acknowledge that God dwells within us, we have the peace of Christ. This peace and God's love, Jesus tells us, is not given to us as the world gives, but is given to us unconditionally. So my relatives, let us not have hearts that are troubled but hearts and minds at peace, confident in God's love for each one of us.

So I end with this question, which you can respond to now out loud or just ponder it silently. The question is:

Can you recall an experience where you could almost taste or touch the reality of God's love?


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