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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 26 October 2014

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Exodus 22.21-27
Second Reading:
1 Thessalonians 1.5c-10
Gospel:
Matthew 22.34-40

Today's Gospel sums up the Exodus chapters on the Law, which include today's reading. In the First Reading, the author of Exodus presents just a few ways we show love for our neighbour. If I were to contemporize the first two, it would go something like this.

You shall not exploit, oppress or make life difficult for immigrants and refugees. Remember you or your ancestors were also once strangers to this land. You shall not refuse the necessities of life to anyone. Everyone should have security when it comes to their sustenance and health, especially single mothers, children, the disabled and the elderly.

Unfortunately the truth is, we, the ordinary folks of the world, are witnesses of oppression on a global scale. This mega-oppression operates as a pervasive erosion that touches all life and all aspects of life: the erosion of social safety net policies; the erosion of human and civil rights, especially for Indigenous peoples and marginalized groups; and, the erosion of the environment and environmental protection policies. Pope Francis was speaking of human trafficking and corruption but it also applies here when he said, none of this could happen “without the complicity, active or passive, of public authorities.”

When we consider all this, we may ask what about the part of today's text that says, “If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword” and so on. We know God doesn't go around smiting people. We also learn from biblical texts like Job that good people suffer and we know from our own experiences that oppressors don't seem to get punished. To get to some sort of meaning for us in the 21st century, I'm going to take a short detour using Ecclesiastes.

In Ecclesiastes (4.1), the author writes that he, “observed all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressorswith none to comfort them.” Now one biblical commentator translates the last part of this verse as, “and power rests in the hands of the oppressor, and there is no one to comfort the poor.1 However, elsewhere in the text the author of Ecclesiastes author suggests that power and riches don't necessarily bring happiness or even satisfaction. So I suggest what the scripture writer is saying is that although power rests with the oppressors, it brings them no comfort. More importantly, since by their oppression they have probably alienated everyone, “there is no one to comfort them”.

This brings us to the connections. If we love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, we act in concert with God. We too, hear the cries of which, the author of Exodus speaks. When Jesus says we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. It means were are meant to comfort the powerful along with the poor. You might say, why do the powerful need comfort. We have all heard the phrase “power corrupts.” Those with power who oppress lend truth to the phrase. Pope Francis said, “The corrupt one does not perceive his own corruption. It is a little like what happens with bad breath: someone who has it hardly ever realizes it; other people notice and have to tell him.” The Pope continues saying “Corruption is an evil greater than sin. More than forgiveness, this evil needs to be cured." So we can look at comfort for the powerful in terms of bringing them back to health. If they resist invitations to heal and persist in their death promoting ways, they ultimately learn that the single-minded pursuit of money and power is a lonely one. Therefore, it is not God who smites them. They themselves commit spiritual and emotional suicide.

But Jesus is telling us love of neighbour requires that we tell the powerful to restore health in all the areas mentioned above where they have caused erosion. In so doing we help them heal our world and themselves. Once again, I am not saying that we can change the world. But Jesus calls us to universal love and that requires we act as if our actions will change the world.


Let's not forget that we are to love ourselves. Right relationships with God, our neighbour and ourselves; community prayer and liturgy and communal play, all help us to live the Great Commandment of today's Gospel. An excerpt from the Message of the Hopi Elders of Oraibi, Arizona, encapsulates what I've been saying.

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel like they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off toward the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves! For the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.2

I leave you with this question to ponder and if you would like to please share your response. How does celebration and communal play help you live the Gospel?

1Shapiro, Rami. Ecclesiastes Annotated and Explained. Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Illuminations, 2010, p.39]
2The Elders. “A Message from the Hopi Elders”. Oraibi, Arizona: Hopi Nation

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Help me reduce the retail price



To reduce the retail price, I'm aiming to buy 20 copies. The list below shows how the number of copies and price per copy that I buy reduce the retail price. 1 € = $1.5 CAD.

I buy at least 3 copies: 46.67 €/copy (retail price 54.90 €)
I buy at least 5 copies: 38.17 €/copy (retail price 44.90 €)
I buy at least 20 copies: 34.77 €/copy (retail price 40.90 €)
I buy at least 50 copies: 32.22 €/copy (retail price 37.90 €)
I buy at least 200 copies: 25.42 €/copy (retail price 29.90 €)
I buy at least 500 copies: 22.87 €/copy (retail price 26.90 €)
I buy at least 1000 copies: 16.92 €/copy (retail price 19.90 €)

If you would like to help, please click here 
thank you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

12 October 2014 - Thanksgiving Weekend

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading
Isaiah 25.6-10a
Second Reading
Philippians 4.12-14, 19-20
Gospel Reading
Matthew 22.1-14

 

Sometimes in our dedication to being good Christians, we forget that Jesus was a Jew. We forget that much of what Jesus says in the New Testament is an expansion of themes found in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Prophets. We also forget that Paul's writing comes from a man grounded in the Torah and the Prophets. One of the central themes found in the Hebrew Scriptures is justice.
Jesus' parable in today's Gospel can be viewed as a prequel of sorts to today's passage from Isaiah, in which the Prophet tells us of the feast God will prepare. But our God is not content just to feed our stomachs and relieve our thirst, God is going to soothe the hurts we have received. God “will wipe away the tears from all faces” and take away the disgrace of all the earth and it's people. Our God is a generous God and it is right to shout our thanks and praise.
In the second reading Paul tells of going through good times and bad, sustained by faith. However, the lectionary omits the middle verses of the passage for today. In those verses Paul, praises the Philippians for their support of his mission. Paul clarifies what he means and says to them, 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. ...I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” When Paul says, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches,” he is not advocating that you give so that you can get. Rather, he is saying that if everybody gives or shares, everybody will have what they need. He is saying all gifts are from God. Generosity with our gifts imitates God's generosity with us.
The phrase, “many are called but few are chosen” at the end of today's Gospel has often been used as an exclusionary device. But if we look at it in the context of the whole parable, we see it shouldn't be. Jesus is familiar with the writing of Isaiah and, of course, with God's will for us. “ The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast.” Put in today's terms, our Creator invites us to participate in making the Kindom a place of plenty, a feast. Therefore, justice is key to one's participation.
The rich and important folks are invited but they are too busy with agribusinesses or corporate affairs to accept the invitation. The poor of the world are crying out, extending God's invitation to governments and corporations to be just. We hear of Coca-Cola or Monsanto executives that hire paramilitaries to silence those cries and the government of Canada ignore the rights of Indigenous Peoples and refuse deal fairly with refugee claimants. They refuse to be part of the feast. After their refusal, the invitation is extended to the ordinary folks. But even among these, there are those who refuse to put on the clothes of justice and compassion.
The distinction made in the Gospel between “those who have been invited” and “those invited from the streets” does not mean that God invites the important people first and then the ordinary people last. Jesus uses this to show that acceptance to participate in God's plan for us doesn't depend on one's station in life, but more importantly, to show that those with more power have a greater responsibility to use that power for the good of all but usually don't.
God invites us all to help “wipe away the tears from all faces” and it can start with little things. A particularly significant example for this weekend, is the issue of Columbus Day. In 1992, the city of Berkeley, California, has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day. Since then, other cities including Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, California; Dane County, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington, have done the same.1 This may seem trite or insignificant but as a Seattle city councillor said, “Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day is about taking a stand against racism.2” These city governments didn't decide to do this on their own. There were those, who like in the parable, refused to change but most peoplethe people in the streets took a stance of solidarity with Native Americans. Their concern and perseverance for justice finally got their municipal governments to act.
I now return to “many are called but few are chosen”. The Greek, κλητός (klétos) translated as “called” could also be translated as “invited”. Likewise, ἐκλεκτός (eklektos) translated as “chosen,” typically describes people who choose to follow God, to follow in the footsteps of Christ. God's gifts are always dependent on our acceptance. We show our gratitude and thanksgiving for God's invitation and gifts by the way we act, by the way we treat our neighbour. Rather than a declaration of the superiority of the few or endorsing exclusion, Jesus is saying, “many are invited but few make the right choice.” Our God is a generous God and it is right to shout our thanks and praise in word and most of all in deed.

Point to Ponder: Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Let's take a moment and think of something that we take for granted, then express our thanks to God, and/or, think of something that God may be inviting us as individuals to do and name it.
1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_Day#Non-observance
2http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2014/10/07/Columbus-Day-now-Indigenous-Peoples-Day-in-Seattle/9581412715558/