Inclusive Text- Readings- Jeremiah 20: 10-13 / Psalm 18: 2-3ABC, 4-7 / John 10: 31-42
Inclusive Text- Readings- Hosea 14: 2-10 / Psalm 81: 6C-8ABC, 9-11AB, 14 & 17 / Mark 12: 28-34
Sisters and brothers, I don’t know about you but I find it very difficult at times to follow one of the instructions of St. Benedict. St. Benedict says, “Welcome all as if they were the Christ”. (Paraphrased) Without sounding as if I am bragging, I could honestly say that I would give the shirt on my back to anybody. I am sure, as we all have in one way or another done this. However, there are the times when I have said those words but have not carried them out. Our actions always speak louder than words. I have learned from my own experience and from what others have mentioned to me, that it is not so much what people say that has an effect on me but by who they are and how they live that really speaks volumes?
rev. Michael Theogene
Once again today we are reminded of wealth and poverty and our responsibilities in using worldly goods. Why, we might say, are we always talking about the poor? Poverty is a relative term and means different things in different parts of the world. Wherever we go in the world, we are going to find poverty and poor people. It is just a proven fact that no society or country can simply eliminate poverty from their midst. Even in our own country, if we recall the “War on Poverty,” we know that while it helped poor people, it did not eliminate poverty. Yet, Jesus keeps reminding us that we have a responsibility to those around us, a responsibility born out of a love of God and a love of neighbor that should fill us as we make our commitment at baptism. Not all of us are called to live a life of poverty or a religious life in some religious order. But all of us are called to be responsible to ourself and others in our daily life. How we live and how we act toward others, is certainly reflective of our beliefs and values. What are we to do, if a hungry man is before us? There is no easy answer, but have we done what we can or do we simply leave it to others? Can we really live in comfort if we can see and experience the discomfort of others? The important thing is that we try, and that we do
not forget. If we truly love our neighbor, we can’t forget that we all have needs and wants. Christ often reminds us we should not get too comfortable but to reach out to others in need, whether it be physical, psychological, or spiritual. We are called to share what many call our time or treasure or talent. It doesn’t mean we are called to invest our whole lives, but certainly at times we can give of one or more of these. In reality, it means we are giving of ourself, of what I am and what I have and can share out of love of Jesus and his love for all of us. Never forget that often it is not the grand gestures that captures the hearts and heals others, but the simple day-to-day things to bring a sense of comfort to another. Openness, loving and sharing, sometimes just presence or listening is the best formula for a loving peaceful life.
Today’s readings seem to be rather harsh and divisive. Jeremiah the prophet is thrown into a cistern and left to die. Jesus talks today of fire and division as opposed to peace on earth. Both Jeremiah and Jesus knew that in carrying out their mission, there would be opposition, oppression, exile for Jeremiah and Jesus knew he was to die. More than anything Jesus knew that his preaching and teaching would meet opposition and be attacked by the authorities because he challenged them and their interpretation of what the law meant and how it was oppressing the people. Certainly, the authorities had made peace with the Romans and had made themselves comfortable in a bad situation for the people. Jesus concern wasn’t the authorities and their laws, but the people and their lives and relationships and most especially their relationship with God. The fire he speaks of is the fire within the heart, like the fire that cooks and purifies our food. It is meant to come from the baptism of his death to purify and bring God’s embracing love to all. That love doesn’t always mean peace, it rather is to bring a union of our heart to God. That certainly means at times there will be discussion, and even conflict. The poor, the marginalized, the ones Jesus always reached out to seem to be always present in every age and time. What peace and contentment is there on earth if any are hungry, displaced or uncared for. To follow Christ doesn’t mean we should feel at peace or comfortable. Christ called us to love, an unconditional love. But if we truly love, we should constantly inquire is it enough. None of us is perfect, all of us fall short at times in one way or another. Institutions and laws and rules don’t protect us from failing in seeking out our brother or sister in need. I think at times, we think the institution or the state or the laws of church or state protect or shield us, when Jesus’ call to love, to forgive, to have mercy can be put aside. Sure this can bring division about, but such love brings peace, a peace beyond what many can understand.
I find it ironic, having just returned from my brother’s funeral, to listen to today’s readings. In biblical times and before and after, one of the prime questions after someone dies is what happens to the possessions, how will they be divided. We see today that Jesus is asked to judge and arbitrate a dispute about an inheritance. But Jesus asked who appointed ME to judge? But then he cautions against greed. Although someone might be rich or have many possessions, this is not what life is about. Accumulating money or “stuff” is not a fulfilling life. Money and possessions are certainly a help in life, but who we are and what we are, can not be defined by fancy possessions or wealth. Family and how we relate in the real world of our peers, in our faith community and our interactions with all we come in contact with is what really defines us as a person. The parable of the rich man clearly tells us that. To be steeped in the things of God, means to know and share the love and spirit of Jesus. God has bestowed on us the life we have and only asks we live it out as he has disposed us to do. Jesus never condemned the rich or never criticized the having of things. His concern was that we live, and love and share in a way that showed and shared God’s love with one another. This is truly how we will avoid those words addressed to the rich man and hear rather “enter the home of my father”
The Reading from Ecclesiastes has a similar theme, and I reference to say that Blake’s parents today have chosen to come and show their faith and love and most importantly share it with their son beginning his spiritual journey as Blake is baptised and received into the body of Christ with the love of our community and the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill him up with God’s love and the shared faith we all have. Today we pray for Blake and for his parents.
After reading the Passion, it is very difficult for a homilist to add to the account of Jesus’s passion, death and resurrection. The whole concept of what he endured would seem foreign to us today for the most part. The founders of our country forbade in our constitution cruel and unusual punishment. Torture, whipping, extreme cruelty and to a degree death are forbidden. In Roman times, these were seen as ways to control unruly masses of people to make them fear a nation of conquerors, namely the Romans. Their execution by crucifixion was meant to be bloody, painful and a slow dragged out process, sometimes taking days. It is one of the reasons Rome was able to rule for so long
In today’s world punishment is not supposed to be the ideal, but rehabilitation is what our prisons are called to do. The death penalty is not really common and is now carried out in the US in a sterilized non threatening, non suffering way. Strangely, we carry it out like we are doing a kindness in making it easy for the condemned and our conscience by anesthetizing the person to sleep.
That aside, Suffering and death is something foreign to us. Yet God chose to use the darkest side of humanity’s barbarity to extend his forgiveness and love through his very own Son. No one can miss the singular act of a Father giving his son to make whole what is broken. We heard today the account of Jesus following out the will of his Father, even feeling reluctant as any of us would be, but in the end He said “Your will be done”.
So today, let us reflect that Christ freely gave himself to be taken and condemned by the Jews, sentenced by Pilate and scourged and crucified. This was a giving of himself for all time, for all men and women, for reparation of all sins against God for all time. When we fail, fall short remember to ask Please forgive me.