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Monday, September 07, 2015

6 September 2015 – Labour Day

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


First Reading
Proverbs 9:1-6
Second Reading
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

A few words and phrases stood out for me in today's readings. The phrases of the first reading, “a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!” speak to the conflicting moods of North America and Europe today. Our leader's are promoting a climate of fear, especially fear of the other. Yet, there are those who are inspired to be strong and refuse be paralyzed by fear. They refuse to give up hope for the world. They believe things should and can be better.

The words from today's Gospel, “‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened’”, just would not leave my consciousness. Could Jesus be speaking to us as well as the deaf and speech impaired man in the gospel? Is Jesus asking us to open our ears and hear the cries of the strangers, widows, and orphans asking the greed-world countries for asylum from wars, poverty and oppression? Is He asking that we open our ears and hear the peacemakers and climate activists pleading for an end to the war on nature and an end to wars between and within nations? Could Jesus be asking us to to open our ears and hear the cries of migrants and the working poor for fair wages and working conditions? Likewise, is Jesus asking us to loosen our tongues and speak plainly against all that is unjust?

This is Labour day. So today, I'll focus on labour injustice by reading “Our Path Forward” an adapted excerpt from the Labor Day Statement issued by Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It states:

We share one common home as part of a larger, single family, so the dignity of workers, the stability of families, [] the health of communities [and the health of the natural world] are all intertwined. The path to a renewed society is built on authentic solidarity and rooted in faith. It rejects the individualism and materialism that make us indifferent to suffering and closed to the possibility of encounter.

Individual reflection and action is critical. We are in need of a profound conversion of heart at all levels of our lives. Let us examine our choices, and demand for ourselves and one another spirits of gratitude, authentic relationship and true concern. Pope Francis reminds us that “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship . . . [and] break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” (no. 230). The changes we make to how we live and interact with each other [and nature] can help change the world.

Yet individual effort should not stand alone. Our faith calling to love one another impels us to share that vision of charity and justice with others, and to go forth and encounter those at the margins. Through collective action and movements, we have to recommit ourselves to our [relatives] around the world in [our] human [and non-human] family, and build systems and structures that nurture family formation and stability in our own homes, neighborhoods [and in our relationship with Mother Earth]. Sufficient decent work that honors dignity and families is a necessary component of the task before us, and it is the Catholic way.

In demanding a living wage for workers we give hope to those struggling to provide for their families, as well as young workers who hope to have families of their own someday. Unions and worker associations, as with all human institutions, are imperfect, yet they remain indispensable to this work, and they can exemplify the importance of subsidiarity and solidarity in action. This Labor Day and always, let us pray, reflect, and act, seeking to restore our work and relationships to the honored place God has ordained for them.

Please share your thoughts.

2 August 2015 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Second Reading:
Ephesians 4:17-24
John 6:24-35

The Vancouver Pride Parade is taking place this afternoon. I'm wearing my rainbow stole as a sign of our community's inclusiveness. In this community of Christ, in all our diversity, we are one. As such God's commands and God's love includes all of us.

Today's reading from the Book of Exodus described the time after God through Moses has led the Israelites from slavery and saved them from Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea. They are ungrateful for their deliverance. They have no food and fail to trust in God's faithfulness and that God will provide. Instead of anger, God responds with food and another chance to follow God's instructions.

This is a pattern that has echoed through the ages down to our times. We are ungrateful for what we have. We sometimes even vilify God for some mishap in our lives. Yet the Creator never ceases to be their for us and provide us with another chance.

The second reading tells us that we are not to live like those who are ignorant of the gospel and the will of God. But the Lectionary text omitted the two verses that Paul uses to describe living in “the futility of their minds.” Paul characterizes this way of living as “darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.” The last verse has also been translated as, “ They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practise every kind of impurity.” The biblical idea of impurity was not confined to matters of sex. Rather impurity relates to matters of intemperance, such as over indulgence, self-indulgence, selfishness, insensitivity and greed.

So Paul tells us we must we put away our old selves prone to the excessive desire to acquire and possess more, especially material wealth, than we need or deserves. Instead we are to put on our original selves that God created bathed with true justice and holiness. We are to live lives of kindness, generosity, and compassion, not only human to human, but also human to all other forms of life.

This brings us to the gospel. The author of the Gospel of John uses every day things like bread and water as symbols with multiple meanings. When he writes, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life,” we know immediately that we're not being told about ordinary bread.

Most Christian commentators suggest that “bread of life” refers to the Eucharist. What they don't often mention is that to follow Christ is to be Eucharist to and for each other. Jesus says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” and “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

To come to Jesus and to believe in Jesus means to live into our Christ selves and to live with hearts and lives full of love, kindness, generosity, and compassion. So that we who eat become bread for others and so with our God become co-providers of life to the world.

Please share your thoughts.