Friends, some news items of this past week:
- The Synod on the Family is meeting now in Rome and through most of the month of October. This synod is comprised of lots of celibate men— bishops, apparently “experts” on the family, representatives from religious orders, and 17 married couples. The outlook so far isn’t too good for change, seems to be the opinion of Phyllis Zagano, writer for the National Catholic Reporter, as none of the lay people has a vote at the proceedings.
- The major Republican candidates for president basically agreed with Jeb Bush who responded to the latest mass shooting at a community college with, “Stuff happens!” There has been another mass shooting since this writing! Hillary Clinton has a comprehensive plan to make our country safer from gun violence.
- Women are continuing their fight for equality in our Church against the odds.
- A young man born without arms lives his life as normal because no one ever told him he couldn’t do whatever he tried to do—he makes due with the body parts he has.
- Gavin Quimby, 5 year-old Winonan who lost his battle with a rare form of brain cancer in September has become the poster-child in the fight for early detection in infants of this form of cancer.
Friends, all of the above, in one way or another are examples of how God’s word, as the writer of Hebrews says today, is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,” and divides even soul and spirit, basically cutting to the bone.
The Gospel calls each of us to walk in our brother, Jesus’ footsteps, both when it is easy and when it is not so easy, and chances are; there will be more times when it won’t be so easy.
If we look at the news items I have lifted up for this week, a random sampling; we get a sense of this:
- The Synod on the Family, in preparation for two years, gathering the thinking of the Church Faithful, yet in the power structure, the voices of the faithful have no voice, no vote, no power.
- With regard to those running for office—the connections must be made to the real concerns in people’s lives whether it gets you elected or not—kowtowing to big money falls short of the Gospel message.
- Taking on the Church hierarchy in the fight for equality for women may not be the politically correct thing to do, but it is definitely in line with the message of Jesus.
- The young man with no arms, who rides a bike, drives a car and operates his computer, working as a vehicle engineer for the NASCAR Racing Team at Hendrick Performance does it all with his feet! We might ask on any given day, how will I get through this day?—this is literally a whole different question for Richie Parker. From the beginning, his parents said, “We’re going to make this work!” Less strong people wouldn’t have been able to give their son what he needed to negotiate his life so well. It all seems to come back to love and doing what seems impossible, but for love, where nothing really is. This story said nothing about this couple’s faith, but one has to believe that there was strength beyond them.
- To lose a child as the Quimbys did this fall is something none of us can know the pain of without that experience. To allow their child to live on through advocacy for other children is what life and love calls forth from each of us.
Living the Gospel message is always going to call us to a bigger world view than the meeting of our own needs or as Thomas Aquinas said, “The things we love tell us who we are!”
The first reading from Wisdom literature today asks us to decide what is most important in our lives. My friends, sometimes, as in this reading, the choice is between good and good, not good and evil. The choice is more difficult then, but we must never lose sight of Jesus’ message that we remember and care for those in our midst who can’t care for themselves.
For all the proclaimed Catholics and Christians who populate the seats of our U.S. Congress; you wouldn’t think this is the case as we watch the budget being cut around social programs that give aid to the disadvantaged as the military budget continues to grow.
The Wisdom writer seems to suggest that when our view is bigger than our own personal needs, we receive “all good things”—almost as if the giving, the moving out beyond ourselves has its own reward, which we know to be true.
Wisdom also calls us to apply the law of love, always, even if it conflicts with Church and State laws. So, we might ask why our Church would ever tell us not to question—that certain doors are closed! Our human walk draws us always to God—that is the part in our human lives that feels unsettled—we will always be restless until we rest in God, as St. Augustine wisely said.
I mentioned last week that I was reading the story of a woman who left the Mormons in her search for God. Faith should lead us to love and love, ultimately, to God. Our faith must always move us outward to God as it did Martha Beck—outward to what we can name as life and love.
The present national discussion around gun violence that is beginning to get steam is a case in point. When we consider that 1.45 million deaths have been caused since 1970 from fire arms and this includes mass shootings, suicides and accidents to people trying to “protect” themselves as compared to 1.4 million deaths in all the wars since 1776; we have a national disaster that has moved well beyond the 2nd Amendment to bear arms!
And if all this is not enough my friends; Jesus challenges us around the difficulty of the rich entering into the kin-dom of heaven. Again, this is an issue of focus, of balance in our lives. The Wisdom writer in encouraging choices that reflect the needs of others, above and beyond our own, and the Hebrews’ writer who states that such choices are like a two-edged sword, cutting to the bone, know the difficulty of living a life of balance.
With regard to the material goods of this world, Jesus’ caution is that we don’t get lost in the acquiring of these goods—it can be an addiction like anything else, wherein we lose sight of what is most important. Many a love song, past and present, speak of the times before the wealth that were the happiest—when the two depended more on each rather than the luxuries of life. Balance.
This is the sorrow that our brother Jesus feels for the rich, young man when he looks on him with love—he knows how difficult a choice he has to make–choosing between a good in life, for a much greater good. My friends, lots of challenges and choices—let us pray for each other that we can be strong and choose wisely.