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Sunday, July 19, 2015

19 July 2015—16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Second Reading:
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34

Theologian Diarmuid O'Murchu recently gave a 2-day workshop in Vancouver. In one of his talks, he questioned why King David is held up as an icon and why the Gospel writers would want David as part of the genealogy of Jesus. David may have been a good shepherd boy but as a king, he was a tyrant and he set in motion events that would 'destroy and scatter' God's people. For example, David had at least seven wives not counting his concubines yet he coerced the wife of one of his most loyal soldiers to sleep with him. Then in order to hide his adultery, he sent the soldier on a mission on which he knew the outcome would be the soldier's death. David's lust is a metaphor for greed. He has more than enough but he still wants more even if it means another has to die.
Today's first reading suggests that perhaps world leaders have like David traded in their shepherd boy goodness for kingly power, ruthlessness and injustice. Today as always there are exceptions to unholy power-seeking but historically, we can see that religious as well as secular leaders are also prone to greed and the pursuit of power. Today, the injustice and ruthlessness of those in power all around the globe is more lethal than ever before. But the first reading is also telling us this is not then end of the story.
God will “raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing”, that is no one will be excluded. So I think the Gospel writers place King David in the genealogy of Jesus to show that Jesus is, as the prophet Jeremiah tells us, the First of the righteous Branch that God whom raised up to execute justice and righteousness. Just as Jesus is often referred to as the “new Adam,” the gospel writers may be suggesting that Jesus is the “new David”, who shows leaders how to get it right. The second reading appears to back that up. Paul tells the Ephesians and us that Jesus came to proclaim peace to and for all the “us's” and all the “thems.” If we take Jesus' teaching to heart, we will know that we all have equal access to God's love.
The setting of today's gospel is just before the feeding of the five thousand. Now remember that in the first reading God promised to “raise up shepherds” plural. What Jesus is doing in today's gospel is teaching his followers to be shepherds and care for the sheep. The gospel says he showed them compassion “because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus teaches them compassion by modelling compassion. When you consider that this is the prelude to feeding the five thousand, maybe one of the things he taught them was the value of sharing.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where today, 80 people own as much wealth as half the world's population and nearly a billion people can barely afford to feed their families.1” We live in Canada where the richest person in our country owns more wealth than the bottom seven million people.2” These statistics make me want to agree with Parker Palmer when he suggests the real miracle in the feeding of the five thousand was getting everyone to share the little food they had and in so doing everyone was fed.
Today more than any other time in history, people in countries all over the world, people of all faiths and no faith, are waking up. People not blinded by wealth or the pursuit of power are beginning to realize that we are all in this together. Perhaps now is the time promised in Jeremiah, when God's flock is united in the quest for justice, equality and wholeness. Not just for themselves but for nature and for everyone, everywhere, that is, justice and well-being for the Earth and all her inhabitants. All creation sings when we remember that when we share no one goes hungry.

Please share your thoughts.
2Oxfam Canada. “Voices for Change” Donor Newsletter, Summer 2015, p. 4

5 July 2015—14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Ezekiel 2:3-5
Second Reading:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 6.1-6

Today is one of those times when the readings seem to fit together beautifully. For me, today's readings form a sort of, “User's Guide for Prophets” or “Prophesying 101”.
What is a prophet? In Biblical terms, a prophet is not one who predicts the future. Rather, a prophet is one who critiques their current society using futuristic terms or futuristic imagery. They call attention to deviations from God's plan for a just world. In today's world, we call them economic, environmental and social justice activists, liberation theologians. They feel impelled to speak truth and some even use science fiction writing and film as the vehicle for prophetic truths.
In today's first reading, God is talking not only to Ezekiel but to us. Today, just as in Ezekiel's day, people are transgressing against God. But instead of a 'nation of rebels', rebellion against God has has taken on global dimension because of commercialization and the systematic normalization of greed. As believers, we are called to speak truth to the powers that perpetuate this situation. What is the truth that we are called to speak? It is to cry out against any and all injustice, wherever it is.
Through our commitment to live in accordance with God's will, we are charged with speaking God's truth. We must speak out for climate and environmental justice for the Earth, our home. We must speak out for racial equality and for economic and social justice for our relatives, that is, all of humanity. We are called to speak out whether or not we are heard; whether or not we encounter those who refuse to hear us. We are charged by God to be prophets.
The second reading addresses our feelings of not being good enough or smart enough or whatever enough to be prophets. Like Paul, we too have our weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Our foibles should serve to curb any self-righteousness we might lean towards. But more importantly, through the admission of our powerlessness and weakness to God and to each other, powerlessness and weakness are transformed into a whole and healthy and healing power rooted in God's justice.
Similarly, we know that Christ resides in the collective or community as well as in each and everyone one of us. It is our 'we-ness' in Christ that strengthens us. Gratitude for our we-ness enables each of us to join Paul when he says, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul's words “for the sake of Christ” implies and should be understood also as “for, with and in the community.” The one beneficial offshoot of globalization is we now know that “community” is to be understood as the global community because we are related to all that is.
But just because we know we are related to all that is, it doesn't mean that others agree with us. And so, today's Gospel tells us that as prophets, we can expect to be rejected by the very people whom we thought should be our allies. The gospel also reinforces the encouragement given in the first reading. We speak the truth and try to teach regardless of whether or not our message is received or heard. We speak—and just maybe—our message may help to cure the ignorance of at least a few people.
For example, how often do we hear people we dearly love say things like,
    • Why don't they just get over it? or,
    • Why should we taxpayers have to foot the bill for.... whatever?”
As prophets and speakers of truth, we must be combination history teachers and proponents of the return to the philosophy of the common good. Most of us move in many different circles. Like Jesus, even though we may be “amazed” by the refusal of some to hear what we are saying, we must move on and keep on.
As prophets we are called to speak the truth. Speaking, like preaching doesn't always call for words. We can speak the truth by the way we live our lives. We speak truth by living free. When we pour or invest our energy into the well-being of people, places and things rather than acquiring power over people, places and things, we are free. When we resist the societal norm of gluttonous consumption, we exercise freedom. With freedom comes the ability to see that for each of us, our personal well-being is tied to the well-being of the Earth and all its inhabitants. With freedom comes the ability to speak truth whether anyone chooses to hear us; to speak truth regardless of our own weaknesses; and to speak truth even when we are ridiculed by our families and friends. That, my relatives is Prophesying 101; that is what the Spirit said to me through today's readings.
Take a moment, then please share your thoughts.