Homily – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends, last weekend we talked about the importance of doing extraordinarily well our ordinary tasks—that therein lies our salvation, our happiness, our mission as Christians, baptized followers of our brother, Jesus, the Christ.

That theme of attempting to live extraordinarily well our ordinary lives—making the best of whatever comes our way is a goal worth striving after.  The readings this week speak to this goal and really are about being our best selves.  Let’s take a closer look.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, the writer talks about the fact that prophets are called by God to speak God’s words.  The responsibility of the rest of us is to listen, and then try to do our piece, which might indicate a change in the way we do things.  We might wonder how we will know who the prophet that we should listen to is.  We get an idea about this from Mark’s Gospel today in the person of Jesus.

Mark tells us that “Jesus taught with an authority that was unlike their religious scholars.  I believe most of us know truth when we hear it.  We stop and reflect something like, “Wow, that is right—I have thought that this needed to be said, and now someone has said it!”  The prophet does not care what speaking the truth might do to them, but just knows that they must say, do this particular action.

Just this morning, one of our women priests shared a story about a woman in Los Angeles who recently, under the heading of #Timesup posted a homily that she wrote advocating that every church, mosque, synagogue or otherwise, places of worship, include women in its leadership as priests, rabbis, imams, and so on, concluding with traveling to Rome to post this message on the doors of the Vatican.  She makes a point of saying that she does this not in the name of any religion, but having been raised as a Lutheran feels that she has license for this action.  Her basic message overall is that “Time is up” and that women too are called!  On the political scene, would that our elected officials would be more prophetic and less selfish—would think less about getting re-elected and more about doing, in this fashion, what is right!

If we are to be more like our brother Jesus; we will need to look with compassion upon one and all that we see suffering in our world.  Jesus, in all his miraculous cures did what he did out of compassion for the one suffering.  It was never about him, his fame, his glory—but about alleviating the suffering that was ever present in his world.  I always cringe when I hear of someone “wanting” a position of power.  Those who are called to serve others don’t necessarily want that position, albeit; they may be willing to serve.

In today’s gospel, it was about expelling a demon that made a young man’s life so miserable.  In Jesus’ time, the people spoke of a person who was ill, not well, as being possessed by a demon.

Anyone who has struggled with an addiction of any kind, or known someone who has,   knows of the “demon” that it can be.  I reflect on the compassion of Jesus and his desire to alleviate the suffering that people live with, especially when it is from no fault of their own when I try to make sense of the actions of our pope this last week.

You will recall that this is in regard to the Chilean man who was abused by a priest , abused again by a bishop who covered up the crime, abused a third time when he came forward to speak of the crime and object to the naming of bishop one who had witnessed the crime when he was a mere priest.  And to add to the victim’s pain, the pope has essentially called him a liar stating that he will not remove the bishop because there is no evidence.

This old loyalty of always believing the cleric over the victim speaks of clericalism, not compassion.  Francis has done great damage because now it is highly unlikely that others will come forward only to be called liars. No apology over hurting the victim will suffice until Francis can hear, really hear, the truth.

The psalmist cries out today, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” It would seem that Francis has hardened his heart in this regard. The National Catholic Reporter speaks of him having “a blind spot” with regard to this issue.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians today is concerned about the difficulty of doing the right thing, of letting anything stand in the way of hearing the Word of God and acting upon it.  He takes issue with marriage for that reason, not because he is against marriage, but he prayed that those listening to him “would have no worries.”  Also, we must remember, as we discussed last week, Paul believed that they weren’t long for this world, that Jesus’ Second Coming was to be soon, thus, be single-minded, don’t let anything get in your way of devoting yourself entirely to God.

It would seem that Jesus had something else in his mind, when he left this earth, physically.  We should never forget that he said, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you always, helping you to enjoy the gift of life, to share it with others, to look with compassion on those who have less than you, to speak your truth whether it be to presidents or popes.  All this is about living our ordinary lives, extraordinarily well! Amen? Amen!